What is the angelic conflict doctrine, and is it biblical?Question: "What is the angelic conflict doctrine, and is it biblical?"
Answer: The angelic conflict doctrine is the idea that our creation as human beings was essentially God’s reaction to the fall of Lucifer and the angels that followed him. According to the angelic conflict doctrine, the earth was originally made for the angels; however, the highest angel, Satan, chose to rebel. In the process of the rebellion and God’s subsequent judgment, the earth was ruined, making it “formless and empty” (Genesis 1:2). This was the beginning of the “angelic conflict,” which continues today and will continue until Satan is finally cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10).
According to the angelic conflict doctrine, Satan and the demons had a chance to repent of their sin, but they refused. God held a trial in heaven and sentenced Satan to an eternity in hell. But Satan appealed the ruling, stating that it was not fair. The trial is currently in the “appeal stage,” and Satan is free to roam the earth.
To show that Satan’s claim of God’s unfairness was baseless, God offered proof of His eminent justice. He reformed the earth and created another, inferior race of beings (humans) who were like the angels in that they had a free will. Mankind, like the angels, had a choice to follow God or rebel, and, like one third of the angels, they rebelled. However, when given a later choice to repent and be saved, Adam and Eve did. Every person throughout history who accepts God as his Savior is further proof that Satan has no excuse for his rebellion. Every believer in Christ stands as a witness to the goodness of God and the abject evil of Satan.
The angelic conflict doctrine is associated with the gap theory (or old-earth creationism). We do not believe that the angelic conflict doctrine is true. It may not be an overt contradiction of orthodox Christian doctrine, but it has some inherent flaws:
1) God does not “react” to sin as though He lacks sufficient knowledge to anticipate it. The angelic conflict doctrine leads to an implicit denial of God’s sovereignty and omniscience. God’s creation of mankind was His plan from eternity past. There is no biblical indication that God was motivated to create anything due to the angels’ rebellion.
2) The angelic conflict doctrine teaches that the fallen angels had a chance to exercise faith and be “saved,” but they refused. (Some versions of this theory say that all the angels rebelled, but that two thirds of them repented and were saved). The Bible never hints at such a thing. In fact, 1 Peter 1:12 says that the preaching of the gospel through the Holy Spirit is something “even angels long to look into”—seeming to suggest that salvation is a mystery to the angels.
3) The angelic conflict doctrine teaches that Satan ruined the earth, destroying the original creation and requiring a “re-creation.” Yet there is no solid biblical evidence for an “original” earth before the current one was made.
4) The angelic conflict doctrine attempts to link certain epochs of human history (e.g., the Old Testament era, the Church Age, the tribulation, etc.) with various phases of the heavenly “trial” of Satan. The result is a complex, highly speculative narrative only weakly tied to Scripture. The whole angelic conflict doctrine relies on assumptions and much “reading between the lines” of God's Word.
As with many errors, the angelic conflict doctrine comes from a doctrinal imbalance. While most Christians underemphasize the issues of spiritual warfare as Paul describes in Ephesians 6, this doctrine errs in the other direction. In this case, people place an overemphasis on the activity of angels.
The motivation for God’s creation was not the sin of angels or a courtroom objection of Satan. God willed to create all things in spite of the rebellion of men and angels.
Recommended Resource: Angels: Elect & Evil by C. Fred Dickason
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What is the angelic conflict doctrine, and is it biblical?