Patrick Heron is a brother in Christ and nice enough fellow from what I can tell. However, he has been writing lately that Satan is still in heaven as the accuser at Rapture Ready here and has posted it on his blog here. I believe he is sadly mistaken for many reasons. This essay will show that it is bad exegesis because it does not handle the grammar and context of the biblical material accurately and that it is bad theology because it diminishes the victory of the cross and the power of the Gospel.
First, Satan in the divine council scene of Job 1:6ff is not a proper name but a title “the Satan.” It means “the accuser” and Hebrew Bible scholars are divided on whether this is one in the same as the devil in the New Testament. Still yet, I tend to agree that “the Satan” is the same entity due to Revelation 12:10 which identifies the devil as the “accuser of our brothers.” But the vision in Revelation 12 is clearly a flashback which includes the birth of Jesus and Satan’s expulsion from heaven is also presented in the past tense. Satan’s days in the divine council are over, he is no longer in God’s presence. Please read the passage and see for yourself:
“And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death. ” (Re 12:9–11)
When was Satan thrown down? The text says when the salvation, power, kingdom and the authority of Christ have come. When did that occur? Satan was conquered by the blood of the lamb when Christ was crucified, resurrected and then ascended to the right hand of the Father. Thus, Satan is already defeated and cast down.
Second, Heron builds his entire case by comparing “that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places,” (Eph 1:20) with Ephesians 6:12 which says “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.” But this sort of proof texting is hardly sufficient to prove that Satan and his demons are in the throne room of heaven with God. First of all, Christ has been exalted to the “Father’s right hand in the heavenly places” which is obviously more exalted than the mere “heavenly places.” Furthermore, the Greek rendered as “heavenly places” is a broad term which also includes the plain old sky above your head. In fact, its first order definition is “in the sky” and it secondary meaning is heaven proper:
ἐπουράνιος (epouranios), ον (on): adj.; ≡ Str 2032; TDNT 5.538—1. LN 1.8 in the sky, related to or located in the sky, celestial (1Co 15:40); 2. LN 1.1 2. heavenly, related to the location of heaven (Heb 12:22); 3. LN 12.17 from God, heavenly calling = a calling from God (Heb 3:1); [i]
Hence, it makes sense that after the cross, Satan is described by Paul as the “prince of the power of the air.” (Eph 2:2). Satan is cast down to this world and its heavens — the sky. In contrast, Jesus is at the right hand of God as the Father makes his enemies his footstool (Ps 110:1). Paul speaks of this in Romans 8 and asks rhetorically, “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect?” inferring that no one can (Rom 8:33). It seems that Paul taught that Satan was defeated and cast out by the power of the Gospel.
Third, in Luke 10:18 Jesus is responding to the return of the 72 who just proclaimed the Gospel:
“The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. ” (Lk 10:17–18)
The context of this passage is very clear that Satan fell as a consequence of the successful mission of the 72. The Greek rendered “Fall” is an aorist participle, it’s past tense. Heron is wrong. It is not a prophecy. The Gospel triumphed over Satan then and it still does today.
Fourth, John chapter 12 is decidedly conclusive to this matter. I think the context is essential, so please read carefully. Jesus says,
“Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” (Jn 12:27–29)
Here Jesus speaks of his imminent passion and says that his purpose is to glorify the Father’s name. The narrative continues and this passage settles the debate. Jesus answered,
“This voice has come for your sake, not mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die.(Jn 12:30-33)
As one can see, referring to his passion, Jesus said very clearly that now the ruler of this world is cast out. Not in the distant future end times… he said it was now, way back then. It’s plain enough, Satan and his minions only have the power that you give them by sin and fear. This is why Paul describes then as “weak and worthless” (Gal 4:9).
Additionally, I must acknowledge this is not in any way an original interpretation. I first learned from Dr Michael Heiser’s scholarly eschatological treatise Islam and Armageddon. Other commentators are in wide agreement. Speaking of the Revelation 12 passage Craig Keener offers, “Here, however, his accusations against the saints have been silenced, for Christ’s victory is sufficient to silence all objections of the once-heavenly prosecutor.”[ii] Finally, when you consider that Jesus is now in heaven sitting at the right hand of the Father, do you really think that after the defeat of the cross, Satan is there with him? Of course not! Satan only has the power that you grant him through sin and guilt. But God has nailed that to the cross.
And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, by canceling the record of debt that stood against us with its legal demands. This he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him. (Col 2:13–15)
[i] James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages With Semantic Domains : Greek (New Testament), electronic ed. (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).
[ii]Craig S. Keener, The NIV Application Commentary: Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2000), 321.