Editor's Note: Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople, or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at email@example.com.
I’m just confused on one point, where does it say that Satan has open access to Heaven? And, there are scriptures that say no sin can dwell in the presence of God, so Heaven isn’t where God is right now?
We hear all the time from people that there is no sin in Heaven! Who says so!? Most people don’t realize that Satan has open access to Heaven even now. We think of Heaven as a place of perfection and peace where there is no more sorrow and no more sin. We are thinking of the permanent Heaven and not the present Heaven. God will one day erect a new Heaven and Earth because the present Heaven is soiled with sin.
Unfortunately there is pain and suffering in the present Heaven. For example, in Revelation 6 we see in the present Heaven a group of martyrs who are weeping as they plead for God to wreak vengeance on their persecutors.
God does not remove all the tears from Heaven until Revelation 21 (when He puts the permanent Heaven into place.).
We must be careful not to confuse the present Heaven with the permanent Heaven. At the "end time God" will create a new permanent Heaven and a new Earth where there are no longer any tears or sins.
Don't misunderstand me. The present Heaven is intimacy with Jesus Christ and all that implies. I can hardly wait to talk to Jesus--and see Jessie and mom and dad again! I want to kneel before the Savior and declare, "Jesus Christ is Lord” with countless millions. Jesus has work for me to do based on how well I managed the resources that He gave me to work with while I was alive on Earth. I am looking forward to my new responsibilities and getting to work!
Let me answer your questions succinctly.
Three times the Bible shows us Satan in Heaven. In Isaiah 14 he was living in Heaven when He rebelled. God cast him out of Heaven. Then, in Job 1 and Job 2 Satan is allowed back in Heaven where he argued with God concerning Job's righteousness and loyalty to God. Finally, in Revelation 12 God will cast Satan permanently out of Heaven and down to Earth where he fosters Great Tribulation on the Earth.
By the way, I don't know the answer to your question about reconciling Satan being in Heaven with the fact that God will not allow sin in His presence. This is a mystery to me. I think that we will just have to ask God when we get to Heaven.
In terms of practical application, let me tell you why your question is more important than you probably realize. These passages make clear that we are involved in an intense spiritual battle with Satan here on Earth. He blinds the eyes of unbelievers so that they cannot see the glory of Christ. He can bring us pain, suffering and devastation. He is out to steal, kill and destroy our abundant life in Christ. We are the "pawns" in the game of Heavenly chess as God and Satan fight over our loyalty and commitment to Christ.
As we mature in Christ, we enter into intense spiritual battles because Satan now has access to Heaven--and to Earth.
OK, Seth, you can stop reading here. I hope I have answered your question satisfactorily.
However, if you’re interested, I have taken time to write below a short theology of Satan's fall and ultimate end. I hope you will read it. I think you will find the rest of my letter both helpful and informative.
Isaiah 14 is an ode to the fallenness of the King of Babylon who destroyed Jerusalem and kidnapped the Jews into captivity. Many see it as a double fulfillment for Satan’s fall as well as for the destruction of Babylon. In describing the fall of the Babylonian king we see the fall of Satan himself from Heaven.
“How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to Heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; ....I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ But you are brought down to the grave …” (Isaiah 14:12-15).
Many view Satan as the praise leader in heaven whose arrogant pride enticed him to rival God for ascendancy and worship. This passage describes the moment God cast the self-infatuated devil out of heaven. Tradition seems to indicate that Satan seduced about one-third of God’s angels to join his rebellion. God tossed these angels—now demons—aside as well.
Satan and two-thirds of his followers were cast to the Earth where they are causing much mischief and destruction. The remaining third were cast into “Tartarus” which is the lowest level of Hell. During the Great Tribulation these venom-slinging locusts (Revelation 9) will be released from “Tartarus" when the fifth trumpet (also identified as the "first woe”) sounds. They bring great torment on those who acquiesced to the pressure and allowed themselves to be stained by the Mark of the Beast (666) (Revelation 9:1-11).
Jesus acknowledged that He witnessed the fall of Satan from Heaven to Earth:
And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him (Revelation 12:7-9).
This passage refers not only to the original fall from Heaven but also to the expulsion from Heaven which will occur during the Great Tribulation when Satan indwells the Anti-Christ and the “Abomination of Desolation” is erected in the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem—and all Hell breaks loose on Earth.
Satan’s fall explains the origin of sin and suffering on Earth. He seduced Adam and Eve in the Garden and now is in charge of this Earth. Jesus confirmed this when He did not nullify Satan’s offer to give him the kingdoms of this world. This is also confirmed in the Book of Revelation. The purpose of opening the Seals is for God to take back the title deed to Earth which is now in Satan’s possession.
Also, Paul taught that Satan "whispers in the ear of God" accusations about God's people concerning their sins and shortcomings.
As you can see, the present Heaven is stained by horrendous sin. We will certainly enjoy it when we arrive there because the greatest attraction about Heaven is God Himself. Nevertheless think of how exciting will be the sight of the creation of the permanent Heaven. John declared:
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’" (Revelation 21:1-4).
Thanks for your question, Seth. I hope my answer is helpful.
Dr. Roger Barrier retired as senior teaching pastor from Casas Church in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to being an author and sought-after conference speaker, Roger has mentored or taught thousands of pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders worldwide. Casas Church, where Roger served throughout his thirty-five-year career, is a megachurch known for a well-integrated, multi-generational ministry. The value of including new generations is deeply ingrained throughout Casas to help the church move strongly right through the twenty-first century and beyond. Dr. Barrier holds degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Golden Gate Seminary in Greek, religion, theology, and pastoral care. His popular book, Listening to the Voice of God, published by Bethany House, is in its second printing and is available in Thai and Portuguese. His latest work is, Got Guts? Get Godly! Pray the Prayer God Guarantees to Answer, from Xulon Press. Roger can be found blogging at Preach It, Teach It, the pastoral teaching site founded with his wife, Dr. Julie Barrier.