How Could Satan Enter Heaven?
“God summoned the ‘sons of God,’ which refer to angels in this instance, before Him and Satan also came … ‘Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan came also among them’ (Job 1:6). My question is, How can sinful Satan enter into heaven when a ‘sinner’ can’t do so? I know God is sovereign and He can do what He likes, but would this not defile heaven?”
The questioner is correct that no sinner can enter or even see heaven (John 3:3, 5; Eph. 5:5; Heb. 3:18-19). Yet Job 1:6 and Revelation 12:7-12 make it clear that Satan had access to heaven to bring his accusations against Job. So he appears before God among the unfallen angels (called “sons of God” in Job 38:7) to charge Job with the most mercenary of motives in serving God. Though Job’s name comes up in the conversation between God and Satan almost as an afterthought, there can be no doubt that Satan’s presence in heaven was the beginning of his evil attack against this godly man.
How was this possible? First, heaven was Satan’s home in the beginning (Isa. 14:12; Jude 6). Second, though he was cast down by sin, there is no evidence in Scripture that he was banned from heaven until the time of Christ’s ascension (Rev. 12:5-12).
That Satan had access to heaven in the Old Testament is unquestionable. Revelation 12:5-12 helps us to answer the question how Satan’s access to heaven was possible, as we shall see shortly. There Satan is called “the accuser of our brethren … which accused them before our God day and night” (10) and he most certainly appears in that role in the book of Job, as he did also with Joshua the high priest in Zechariah 3:1-2.
Satan lived up to his name in the story of Job, for Satan means “slanderer” or “accuser.” He is that especially in his charge that Job served God only for what he got out of it, that is, only because God had made him wealthy. That charge must be slander because the true service of God cannot possibly be motivated by self-interest. It is always and only the fruit of God’s amazing grace.
Revelation 12:7-9 tell how all this accusing in the presence of God came to an end. Upon the exaltation of our Saviour, there was war in heaven between Michael and his angels, and Satan and his. What a war between angels and demons is like we can only imagine, but it must be, in light of Jude 9, a war of words. In that war, Michael and his host prevailed, through the power of the ascended Christ, and Satan was cast out. No doubt it is the finished work of Jesus that is Satan’s downfall for there is no longer any room for such accusations as Satan brought against Job. “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us” (Rom. 8:33-34). Satan’s access to heaven, therefore, was possible because Christ had not yet come and provided a sacrifice for sin that would put an end to Satan’s work in heaven as the accuser of the brethren.
Satan did exactly what Romans 8:33-34 says is no longer possible. He brought charges against one of God’s elect, and that can only be because Christ had not yet come in the flesh and His atoning sacrifice for sin had not yet been offered. Job had no doubt, however, that Christ was his all-in-all and so confessed a living Saviour in Job 19:25-27. The Messiah would deliver him not only from the vicious attacks of the great deceiver but from all his sins. He would give Job life everlasting in the presence of God, that is, in the very place where Satan was then able to stand.
Satan still accuses us in our own consciences. But when he tempts us, we know that Christ’s finished work took away whatever right he had to appear before God and to bring his slanderous accusations before the Judge of all. Who indeed can now lay anything before God as a charge against one of His elect? Christ not only died for our sins and rose again for our justification, but is now in heaven as living proof that all such charges are baseless. There He prays for us to deliver us from Satan’s attacks here on earth.
It is worth noting that, even though he was still able to bring his wicked accusations against Job, he could only do so under the sovereign direction and control of Almighty God. As one writer puts it, Satan comes “to offer his homage, to receive his commissions, to render his stated account of work done and service performed … in the attitude of a servant of God, and made subservient to the discipline and training of his people … In all his blasphemous designs he is, in spite of himself, doing the work of God … In moving heaven and earth to accomplish the perdition of those whom Christ has ransomed, he is actually fitting them for glory.”
God’s sovereignty over Satan is revealed in Satan’s inability to do anything against Job without God’s permission. Jehovah strictly limited what Satan was able to do. In this first trial, Satan is forbidden to put forth his hand against Job’s person, though he was able to take everything else away from Job. Nor must the word “permission” cause us to stumble and question God’s sovereignty. The word describes what we read in the story of Job, but there is no difference between God permitting Satan to act against Job and God Himself acting, surely not when Satan is entirely in the hand of God.
This comes out especially in Job 1:11, where Satan invites God to put forth His “hand” to “touch” Job’s possessions and family. When God says to Satan, “all that he hath is in thy power” (12), He makes it clear that Satan is merely His instrument. Satan’s own words show that he himself recognized this. Job, whether aware or not of Satan’s agency, understood that it was God who afflicted him and he speaks of this often.
There is a lesson for us: Satan’s activity, even when successful, is under God’s direction and control, so we can be sure that our transgressions, though inexcusable, are nevertheless used by our sovereign God for our good. Certainly that was true in the case of Job. Though he fell prey to the roaring lion who is Satan, even his sin brought him to a better confession of God’s sovereignty and to a humble confession of his sin.
Nevertheless, we ought to tremble when we think of Satan’s power, given by God to be sure, but great indeed. God said of Job to Satan, “Behold, he is in thine hand” (2:6). He is indeed the prince of this world and an enemy to be reckoned with. Only by the grace of the risen and exalted Christ, received by faith and through prayer, is he to be resisted and overcome. Rev. Ron Hanko