And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. (Revelation 12:7-9, N.K.J.V.)
I’ve been preaching a prophecy series on Sunday mornings at the church, doing more or less a survey course of the book of The Revelation. Like many other preachers, I interpret the events of the book to be the apostle John laying out a chronological timeline of events (with just an exception or two here and there) that will take place in the future. This means that I preach that Jesus will rapture away His church from this earth before the seven-year tribulation period begins, and that He will visibly return to walk this earth again at the end of the tribulation period just prior to the beginning of His 1,000 year reign upon the earth.
Okay, so why am I telling you this? I’m doing it to lay the groundwork for a question that arises from Revelation 12:7-9. Follow my logic here. If John truly is presenting a chronological timeline of future events, those verses must then refer to a second war in heaven that will take place at the midway point of the tribulation period. (For the record, the first war in heaven is referenced by way of the symbolized characters of Revelation 12:3-4.)
Of course, someone might object to this idea of there being a second war in heaven by saying, “But if Satan and the other rebellious angels were cast out of heaven long ago after the first war there, how could they ever get back into heaven to mount a second war?” While that sounds like a perfectly reasonable objection, it’s one that is easily answered by scripture. I say that because Job 1:6, Job 2:1, and Zechariah 3:1-2 all teach that Satan (and by implication the other fallen angels) still have some type of limited access to heaven if they chose to temporarily ignore their banishment from the place.
Therefore, we believe the midway point of the tribulation period will see a second war in heaven, and we believe the outcome of that war will be the same as the first heavenly war: Satan and his angels will lose and be kicked out of heaven. Satan will then come back down to the earth and, as John puts it, will have “…great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time” (Revelation 12:12, N.K.J.V.). That “short time” will be the last half of the seven-year tribulation period.
But all this gets me up to my question: Does Satan know the future? Specifically, if he knows that God’s written word prophesies that he and the other fallen angels will lose a second war in heaven, why would Satan forge on ahead with the war when the time comes? I mean, if you knew for a certainty that what you were planning was doomed to fail, wouldn’t you forego your plan? And if we have that much common sense, doesn’t Satan?
As my answer, let me first say that Satan does surely know what the Bible says about his future. For one thing, he’s had plenty of time to learn scripture. For another, even if he doesn’t know how to read (which I’m sure isn’t a problem for him), all he has to do is listen to preachers and teachers read passages of scripture and explain what the passages mean. Consequently, there’s no doubt that Satan knows what the Bible teaches. If you don’t believe that he knows scripture, let me remind you that when he tempted Jesus he actually quoted Psalm 91:11-12 to Jesus. Along the same lines, if you want to classify as scripture God’s words to Adam and Eve about not eating the forbidden fruit, Satan quoted (actually purposely misquoted) that scripture to Eve.
Obviously, then, Satan does know what the Bible declares about his future. That’s indisputable. But as for the question of whether or not he knows specific future events that aren’t mentioned in the Bible, I would have to say that he doesn’t have that much knowledge. Putting it simply, his knowledge of the future isn’t limitless. For example, does he already know that you are going to say a cuss word after you hit your hand with a hammer tomorrow? No. Does he already know that you are going to be involved in a car accident next week? No. Does he already know that you are going to buy a new house next year and what house you will buy? No. Only God has perfect foreknowledge of all future events (Isaiah 42:9; 46:9-10). That’s one of the things that makes God unique.
I will say that Satan has been around a long time and has been observing human tendencies for thousands of years. This makes him very good at predicting our behavior. He also has virtually unlimited access, through his vast network of demons (fallen angels), to incredible amounts of information, much of it supposedly secret or private. This explains how clairvoyants, fortune tellers, psychics, and seers can on occasion predict future events with incredible accuracy. These people are indeed channeling into a very real current of information, but it’s a current created by Satan and his demons based upon conversations, writings, etc. in which they’ve either heard or watched people engage. This explains why God’s word strongly warns against dabbling in the dark arts (Leviticus 19:31; 20:6; Deuteronomy 18:9-14). As a matter of fact, in ancient Israel being a soothsayer/medium/psychic/interpreter of omens was actually a death-penalty offense (Leviticus 20:27)!
In the end, I don’t know with certainty why Satan goes ahead with all his anti-God plans even when he knows full well that his prophesied future is:
- a second failed attempt to take over heaven (Revelation 12:7-9)
- a failed attempt to prevent Jesus from returning to this earth and establishing His 1,000 year reign over it (Revelation 19:1-21)
- a thousand years of imprisonment in God’s bottomless pit during Christ’s 1,000 year reign (Revelation 20:1-3)
- a final failed attempt to overthrow the reign of Jesus immediately following his release from that bottomless pit at the end of the thousand years (Revelation 20:7-9)
- a formal sentencing to spend eternity in God’s lake of fire (Revelation 20:10; Matthew 25:41)
One possibility is that Satan hates God so much that he’d rather play out a doomed hand rather than submit to Him. Another one is that Satan is arrogant enough to think that he can still somehow beat God and in so doing rewrite prerecorded history. Another one is that despite the fact that Satan loves to think of himself as the ultimate rebel, even he must play his assigned role in God’s great plan for the future.
I myself like the thought of that last possible interpretation. Sure, Satan and those other rebel angels once went rogue by their own choosing, but once they had done that God said, “Alright, now that you’ve made your choice, not only am I going to seal you eternally in that choice, I’m also going to use you in your rebellious state in my far-reaching plan for the human race.” You see, under this interpretation, Satan and all his rebel angels must dutifully do the bidding of God even if they know that bidding won’t end well for them. This means that even though Satan does know the future — at least what the Bible says about his future — he really has no say whatsoever in doing anything to change it. He’s just a captain who sails a doomed ship, even if he does seem to be a captain who is immensely enjoying his limited time at the helm.