Debating Bible Basics Duncan Heaster  


An Angel Of Light

2 Corinthians 11:13-15: “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works”

Popular Interpretation

This is taken to mean that Satan is an angel who deceives Christians by pretending to be righteous.


1. It is also commonly believed that Satan was originally an angel of light and then transformed himself into a serpent or became a sinful angel of darkness. This is the exact opposite of what this verse teaches. This transforming of Satan occurred in Paul’s time - not in Eden, nor in 1914.

2. We have seen that an “angel” in some cases can refer to a man

3. Concerning Satan’s ministers, we are told “whose end shall be according to their works”. This recalls Paul’s words about false Christians in Philippians 3:19: “whose end is destruction”, and also Revelation 20:12-13, which speaks of the resurrected dead believers being “judged every man according to their works”. If Satan’s ministers are to be judged and destroyed, then they cannot be angels, seeing that angels cannot die or be destroyed (Lk. 20: 35-36).

4. These verses speak as though the believers to whom Paul was writing were in contact, literally, with Satan’s ministers. The believers were being troubled by “false apostles”, not sinful angels.

Suggested Explanations

1. Verse 4 speaks of some who had entered the church preaching a wrong Gospel and another Jesus. This sets the context for the rest of the chapter. A comparison of verses 13 and 15 clearly shows that these “false apostles” are the “ministers of Satan” - thus they are men, not angels.

2. “Satan” often refers to the Jewish system, especially in its being opposed to Christianity (see 2.3.2 “The Jewish Satan”). These ministers of Satan were therefore people working on behalf of the Jews who were infiltrating the Christian churches spreading wrong doctrine. There are frequent references to this infiltration and undermining:

- “False brethren (cp. “false apostles”) unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage” (Gal. 2: 4). “Bondage” in Galatians refers to the bondage of keeping the Law of Moses (Gal. 3:23; 4: 3 & 9). “After my (Paul’s) departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock” (Acts 20:29 - the leaders of apostate Israel are likened to wolves in Ez. 22:27 and Zeph. 2: 3).

-As there were false Jewish prophets among Israel in the wilderness, so there would be the same types among the Christian Jews to whom Peter wrote (1 Pet.1:1), “who privily shall bring in damnable heresies” (2 Pet. 2:1).

- “These are spots in your feasts of charity (i.e. the love-feasts; the Breaking of Bread), when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear...these speak evil of those things which they know not” (Jude vs. 12 & 10 ), i.e. they spoke falsely about Christianity, which they really knew little about.

- “His (Paul’s) letters, say they, are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak” (2 Cor. 10:10 ). Thus Paul showed that he was “not ignorant of (Satan’s) devices” (2 Cor. 2:11) to undermine Christianity.

- “Him whose coming in (Greek) is after the working of Satan” (2 Thess. 2: 9) probably refers to these people too. Their possession of “all power and signs” was due may be to some of the apostate Jewish Christians still possessing the miraculous Spirit gifts (as in Heb. 6: 4-6; 1 Cor. 14).

3. The apostles or ministers of John are called his “angels” - Luke 7: 19 & 24 (cp. v. 14-15 of 2 Cor.11). Thus we can understand the parallel between the apostles of Christ and the angel (apostle) of light. Remember, too, that Christ is the light (Jn.1: 8; 8:12).

False apostles

transforming into Apostles of Christ


transforming into Angel (apostle) of light (Christ)

His ministers

transforming into ministers (angels) of righteousness (Christ)

4. The application of these ministers of Satan to Jews infiltrating the Christians is confirmed by Paul saying in v. 22 (of 2 Cor. 11) that he was also a Jew as they were.

5. That the ministers of righteousness are to be interpreted as ministers, or apostles, of Christ, is confirmed by Paul saying that he was also a minister of Christ, as they claimed to be (v. 23).

6. The individual “Satan” in the singular referred to in v. 14, can either be the Jewish system as a whole trying to give a Christian facade (an angel of light, i.e. a minister of Christ, the true light), or an individual leader of the Jewish system. Bearing in mind the reference of “the prince of this world” to the High Priest (see 2.3.2 “The Jewish Satan”), there may be a reference here to some unrecorded pronouncement by the High Priest concerning Christianity which would give the implication that a bridge could be built between Judaism and Christianity.

7. The “deceitful workers” of v. 13 who were ministers of the Satan are clearly defined in Philippians 3:2 as “evil workers...of the circumcision”, i.e. those who were teaching that Christians had to be circumcised and thus keep the Law of Moses to be saved. This faction of Jewish believers in the church is described as “them which were of the circumcision” (Gal. 2:12).