Written by Ángel Manuel Rodríguez
Is there any biblical evidence to support the idea that before Satan and his followers are destroyed they will acknowledge their sins and their deserved sentence?
In attempting to answer any biblical question, it is good to find a biblical passage or narrative that could provide an immediate explicit response. In the absence of an explicit passage, one could present a good case by bringing together several texts that linguistically and contextually suggest a probable answer.
In this case we have a passage that seems to express the idea contained in your question: “That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10, 11, NIV). Let’s examine its content.
1. The event described takes place at the end: Philippians 2:6-11 describes the status of Christ before the Incarnation (verse 6), during the Incarnation (verses 7-8), His death on the cross (verse 8), His exaltation by the Father (verse 9), and the final subjection of all to Him. This last event takes place at the close of His work of redemption and will result in the healing of the universe.
2. Heavenly beings participate: John describes angels and other celestial beings as falling down before God’s throne and praising Him for His wisdom and power manifested in the lorious way in which He saves His people (Rev. 7:11, 12). They witness the judicial proceedings in heaven and they are absolutely persuaded that God is just in His judgments against evil (Dan. 7:10; Rev. 16:5; 19:1-10).
3. Humans participate: Paul includes the human race among those who will acknowledge the Lordship of Christ and glorify God. This eschatological expectation finds its roots in God’s Old Testament call to the nations to praise Him. His people were expected to come and bow down before Him (Ps. 95:6, 7), and the kings of the earth and all nations were invited to praise the name of the Lord (Ps. 148:11). Even nature was commanded to join this cosmic choir in praise to the Creator and Redeemer (verses 7-10).
4. Evil powers participate: The phrase “under the earth” may sound strange to modern ears, but in the ancient world it was commonly used to designate the realm of spiritual, demonic powers. Paul refers to those evil powers in order to emphasize that even they will finally recognize and confess that only God and Jesus are worthy of praise and worship. At that moment the cosmic conflict will come to an end.
We find in Israel’s history an interesting parallel to Paul’s description of the experience of those demonic powers. Joshua 7 narrates the incident of Achan’s hidden sin against the Lord and the people of Israel. After careful investigation the culprit is finally identified and confronted with his sin and its consequences. But just before the death sentence is executed to restore social and spiritual order, Joshua speaks to Achan: “My son, give glory to the Lord, the God of Israel, and give him the praise. Tell me what you have done; do not hide it from me” (verse 19, NIV).
In this context, to give glory to the Lord and to praise Him means that Achan accepts responsibility for his sin and declares that God’s judgment against him is deserved and righteous. This is not a confession of sin leading to forgiveness, but a recognition of the fact that the person is guilty as charged and that the verdict is just. God’s name is cleared before the death penalty is inflicted on the high-handed sinner.
Achan’s experience could be used to illustrate the experience of evil forces at the end of the conflict. The judicial process will conclude when those powers acknowledge that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are worthy of praise and worship. They will finally recognize that the sentence pronounced against them is righteous.
It would appear that it is God’s intention to persuade even the archenemy, Satan, that he is indeed a God of justice and love. No intelligent creature will go into eternal extinction thinking that God is not who He claims to be. They will all give glory to Him before giving up the breath of life.