When Lucifer / Satan fell, did one third of the angels fall with him?

The idea of one third of the angels falling from heaven is found in Revelation 12:4: "His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth." This passage is often interpreted to mean Satan and a third of angels were removed from heaven to earth. Interpreters differ whether this refers to a past event (referring to Satan's original rebellion against God), a future time during the tribulation period when Satan and his angels will be sent to operate on earth, or involves aspects of both (one third fell in the past, yet will not be not sent to operate on earth as Revelation 12 states until the future).

It is clear angels have existed since the beginning of creation (Job 38:7). Sometime prior to Genesis 3, Satan (then a leading angel) rebelled against God and was judged (Ezekiel 28; Isaiah 14). It is believed many other angels rebelled with him during this time, becoming the fallen angels or demons mentioned throughout the Bible.

A close look at Revelation 12 does clarify some aspects. It is clear one third of the angels are fallen or have become demons. Since the number of angels is "innumerable" (Hebrews 12:22), one third includes a vast number of demons who have rebelled against God. In Mark 5 Jesus met a man possessed by so many demons that they called themselves "Legion." Jesus allowed the demons to enter pigs when they left the man; the herd of about 2,000 pigs rushed off the steep bank and drowned in the sea (Mark 5:9-13). Mary Magdalene was freed from seven spirits (Luke 8:2). Jesus also mentioned another account of seven spirits together at one time (Matthew 12:45; Luke 11:26).

Ephesians 6:12 acknowledges these demonic powers and the difficulties they can present: "For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places." Believers are called to "wear" the full armor of God to protect against these forces of evil.

Though powerful, believers need not fear these many demons. As Peter notes, "For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment" (2 Peter 2:4). This verse, part of a larger argument about God's ability to rescue, shows that every fallen angel will one day be judged along with Satan. Their power and time are limited.

Just as evil spirits fled at the power of Jesus Christ, Christians have the power of God's Spirit living within them today. Though evil spirits may seek to tempt or attack a believer, they are no match for the Holy Spirit. First John 4:4 teaches, "Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world."

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