There is a question asked by many. Did Satan's apostasy and expulsion from heaven take place before our world was created? The Scriptures do not reveal too much on this point, but sufficient is stated to enable us to get an answer.
The duration of man's primeval state of innocency was evidently very brief, for in Genesis 5:3 we read, that "Adam lived an hundred and thirty years, and begat a son . . . and called his name Seth." Of the birth of this child we read that Eve "bare a son, and called his name Seth: For God, said she, hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew" (Gen. 4:25). Two things stand out clearly: (1) Adam was 130 years old when Seth was born, and (2) Seth was born after Cain had slain Abel.
Cain and Abel had already reached the age of accountability when they brought the offerings in worship to God. Their actual age is not recorded, but they had become adults of responsibility. They could well have been twenty-five or thirty years of age when the crime occurred. That would make Adam's age about one hundred years before Cain was born. From this it would appear that mankind's plunge into sin took place very shortly after the world was created—at most one hundred years, probably even less, and certainly not more.
The Scripture indicates that when Lucifer rebelled against the government of God he led with him about one third of the angels (Revelation 12:4). As a result these rebels were all expelled from heaven. Just when this occurred in relation to the history of our planet is not revealed in Scripture, although the real cause of sin is clearly stated in such passages as Isaiah 14:12-15 and Ezekiel 28:12-19. Ellen G. White makes some interesting statements bearing on this subject, some of which read like a paraphrase of the well-known Scriptures cited above. She says:
Satan was once an honored angel in heaven, next to Christ. . . . But when God said to His Son, "Let us make man in our image," Satan was jealous of Jesus. He wished to be consulted concerning the formation of man, and because he was not, he was filled with envy, jealousy, and hatred. He desired to receive the highest honors in heaven next to God. Until this time all heaven had been in order, harmony, and perfect subjection to the government of God.—Early Writings, p. 145.
Before the fall of Satan, the Father consulted His Son in regard to the formation of man They purposed to make this world, and create beasts and living things upon it, and to make man in the image of God, to reign as a ruling monarch over every living thing which God should create. When Satan learned the purpose of God, he was envious at Christ, and jealous because the Father had not consulted him in regard to the creation of man. . The envy and jealousy of Satan increased. Until his rebellion all heaven was in harmony, and perfect subjection to the government of God. Satan commenced to insinuate his dissatisfied feelings to other angels, and a number agreed to aid him in his rebellion.—Spiritual Gifts, vol. 3, p. 36.
Before the assembled inhabitants of heaven, the King declared that none but Christ, the only begotten of God, could fully enter into His purposes, and to Him it was committed to execute the mighty counsels of His will. The Son of God had wrought the Father's will in the creation of all the hosts of heaven; and to Him, as well as to God, their homage and allegiance were due. Christ was still to exercise divine power, in the creation of the earth and its inhabitants. But in all this He would not seek power or exaltation for Himself contrary to God's plan, but would exalt the Father's glory, and execute His purposes of beneficence and love.—Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 36.
The Creator, our Saviour, did not seek to exalt Himself, but rather to exalt the Father's glory. How different this was from the attitude of Lucifer! Now when did divine justice deal with Satan and his hosts? That also is something not definitely revealed; but in His dealing with sinful man God has revealed His character. He is a long-suffering and forgiving God who would sacrifice Himself rather than betray His creatures. We read that He is "longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9).
Ellen G. White's comment on this is arresting. She says:
God, in His great mercy, bore long with Lucifer. He was not immediately degraded from his exalted station when he first indulged the spirit of discontent, nor even when he began to present his false claims before the loyal angels. Long was he retained in heaven. Again and again he was offered pardon, on condition of repentance and submission. Such efforts as only infinite love and wisdom could devise, were made to convince him of his error.—The Great Controversy, pp. 495, 496.
He [Satan] was not immediately dethroned when he first ventured to indulge the spirit of discontent and insubordination, nor even when he began to present his false claim and lying representations before the loyal angels. Long was he retained in heaven. Again and again was he offered pardon on condition of repentance and submission. Such efforts as God alone could make, were made to convince him of his error, and restore him to the path of rectitude. God would preserve the order of the heavens, and had Lucifer been willing to return to his allegiance, humble and obedient, he would have been re-established in his office as covering cherub. But as he stubbornly justified his course, and maintained that he had no need of repentance, it became necessary for the Lord of heaven to vindicate His justice and the honor of His throne; and Satan and all who sympathized with him were cast out.—The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 4, pp. 319, 320.
This break in relationships must have brought sad and far-reaching reactions among the heavenly host. Love is always deeply wounded when relationships are strained, and all true love is of God. On this point we read:
Angels in heaven mourned the fate of those who had been their companions in happiness and bliss. Their loss was felt in heaven.—/bid., vol. 1, p. 23.
The rebellion, however, did not change God's purpose concerning the creation of this world.
After the earth was created, and the beasts upon it, the Father and Son carried out their purpose, which was designed before the fall of Satan, to make man in their own image.—/bid., p. 24.
The rebel angel, however, was now more determined than ever to thwart the purposes of God. So he concentrated his efforts upon newly created man.
Lucifer desired to be first in heaven. Thus he introduced sin into the universe. Entering the Garden of Eden after his expulsion from heaven, he succeeded in deceiving our first parents.—ELLEN G. WHITE in The Signs of the Times, June 10, 1903.
When we consider the history of our race and how in love God has borne with sinful man for these thousands of years, patiently working out the problem in a way best for all concerned, who would venture to assert that He was any less long-suffering in handling the problem of sin among "angels, which are greater in power and might" than men (2 Peter 2:11)?
We all know the tragic results of sin. And concerning Satan and the apostate angels it appears that their expulsion from heaven occurred before the earth was created. The account of Satan's first contact with humanity, as given in Genesis 3, shows that he was already a hardened sinner and a determined enemy of God; that he had no scruples whatsoever against the use of falsehood and slander in fomenting disloyalty and disobedience to the Creator; and that he was cruelly bent on the enslavement and ultimate ruin of humanity by sin. When he tempted man he was then on earth, having already been banished from the dwelling place of God. Could we not safely assume, even on the basis of the few scriptures we have, that his venture into sin began long before the creation of our earth? We do know that the plan of redemption was made before the world began (2 Timothy 1:9-11). But the actual expulsion of Lucifer from heaven, it would seem, occurred not very long before our world was made.