Ask A Pastor: If Satan Never Fell, Would Man Still Fall?
I have a question out of curiosity and not to hold man up or anything, but if Satan never fell, would man still fall? If there was no temptor in the garden, would there still be temptation to sin? Also, I know this may be a question unanswered, but I still am not able to wrap my mind around why Satan would fall in the first place, being he had no temptor like man and how, knowing his end result of everlasting hell, would still try to make and tempt people (including the Lord Jesus) to try to sin.
Hi there and thanks so much for your questions. I think we have all had questions relating to the creation and the fall that we wonder about – when were the angels created? When did they fall? How could they fall? When did man fall? What would happen if Eve fell but not Adam? Of course, we have to stick as close as we can to what the Scriptures teach. In the case of some of these questions, the Scriptures are not 100% clear, in which case we either have to say: “I simply don’t know the answer to that question,” or, “We can’t be 100% certain about this.” So, let’s look at your questions.
“If Satan never fell, would man still fall?”
The short answer is: “I don’t know.” However, here are some things I think we can say. If Satan never fell, then certainly man would not have fallen in the manner in which he did. Yet, it would still be possible for man to fall if Satan did not fall. The terms of the Covenant of Works would still be: “If you obey you will live; if you disobey you will die.” Adam in innocence has free agency – that means, he is not forced to obey, and he is not forced to disobey. Whatever he does, he does because he wills to do it. If God had made Adam in such a way that it was completely impossible for Adam to disobey, then you would have to say that Adam was being forced to love God. He had no choice – he had to. This is not real love. Think about a husband and a wife. She exclaims with delight, “You bought me flowers today.” He replies, “Well, I have no other option. I have to buy you flowers on your birthday. You get upset if I don’t.” What the wife wants to know is: “He bought me flowers because he wanted to, he didn’t need to, but he did, and he did with great willingness and delight.” All this to say – Adam is not a robot programmed to obey, he is a real man, who though he was capable of falling, he was made in such a way that obeying should have been the easy and natural thing for him to do.
If there was no tempter in the garden, would there still be temptation to sin?
Yes. Temptation can come from yourself without any external tempter like Satan. For example, you see a class mate drive down the road with a Mercedes Benz and the temptation to covet your classmate’s car comes into your mind. Nobody put it there but yourself. You can resist that temptation – “I will be content with the car God has given me,” or you can fall to it – “Not fair! Why can’t I have a car like that?” So, without Satan, the possibility of sinning would still be there, though there would be no “outside influence” tempting Adam and Eve. This would be more like the sin of the angels who fell – they had no one from the outside tempting them.
Why did Satan fall when he had no tempter like man?
Ultimately, I don’t know. However, sin is irrational. Sin never “makes sense.” It probably shouldn’t surprise us that we struggle to understand how Lucifer could sin – because sin doesn’t make sense. However, as with Adam in the answer above, Lucifer had free choice. He could choose to obey/love/serve God or he could choose not to. He was made in such a way that loving and serving should have been easy and natural. It seems that his fall was connected to pride (see Isaiah 14:12-15). Some have suggested that Lucifer was jealous of the creation of man – though he was a brilliant angel, yet he was not made in God’s image like Adam. Maybe he said, in a sinister way, “What is man that God is mindful of him? He is made a little lower than the angels, and yet he is crowned with glory and honor. This is not fair” (Psalm 8:4, 5). Then he would aspire to be greater than man – and what is greater than God’s image? God Himself. Isaiah 14:14 – “I will be like the Most High.” This is somewhat speculative, but hopefully it helps you see the possibility of doing evil does not require an outside tempter.
It appears that the angels and Adam both had a time of testing (sometimes called a time of probation). If they obeyed, there would come a time when they would be secured in holiness. They would then be unable to sin. They would have passed the test. For Adam, this was the promise pictured in the tree of life. Jude speaks of the angels which “kept not their first estate” (Jude 6). This implies the other angels (Gabriel, Michael etc…) did keep this “first state” and so will never fall. This is also the wonderful thing about a sinner who believes in Jesus – “They will never fall, neither will any man pluck them out of my hand” (see John 10:27-30).
Why does Satan tempt people (and Christ) to sin when he knows his end is everlasting hell?
In some ways, I ask this question of myself – why do I sin? Sin is so irrational, but worse than that – it is evil. As you say, it leads to everlasting death, it dishonors my Lord and God, God says it is something that He hates. Why would anyone sin when they know the consequences of sin?
But I think the answer is here. Jesus said: “He that doeth sin is the slave of sin” (John 8:34). So Satan is a slave to sin. It controls him. He is unable not to sin. Indeed, it is the height of arrogance, folly, and sheer wickedness to tempt the Son of God to sin. I don’t know if Satan thought he could get Jesus to sin however, as I think Jonathan Edwards said, “He that had so much success with the first Adam had none with the second.”
Some of these questions are hard, aren’t they? And we have to admit that we are not always 100% sure about the answers. Where did sin come from? Why did holy angels/man sin? However, it’s a wonderful thing, isn’t it, that where sin abounded in all its confusion, grace has much more abounded in all its clarity. How thankful we should be for the Lord Jesus Christ and his clear gospel that shows us the way of salvation from our Fall! “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous” (Rom. 5:19).