Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. 2And he seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, 3and threw him into the pit, and shut it and sealed it over him, so that he might not deceive the nations any longer, until the thousand years were ended. After that he must be released for a little while. The Revelation of Jesus Christ 20:1–3
Some of Satan’s most impressive lies are lies about his own nature. I’ve heard this attributed to various people, that the greatest trick or lie of Satan is that he has convinced the world that he does not exist.
Honestly, I think that if you disbelieve in Satan, you have far worse things to worry about than that, particularly your trust of God’s Word.
Far worse, I think, is believing that Satan exists but grossly misunderstanding his nature. For instance, there is the lie that Satan was once a magnificent angel named Lucifer who led a great revolt in Heaven, causing a great many angels to fall from glory with him. I call that a lie knowing full well it is the majority view among Christians, although minor details may very from church to church and individual to individual.
When you start with a lie, though, it’s very difficult to ever built to a point where truth is able to be seen, appreciated, and even loved. The base lies corrupt everything which depends upon them.
Find it no surprise, then, that the Son of the Most High Yahweh has said, “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” ((John 4:24, emphasis mine.))
Lies corrupt everything they come in touch with, even something as holy as worshiping Yahweh. Consequently, we must seek to expunge untruths, falsehoods, superstitions, and folklore from our doctrine and practice. Misconceptions regarding Satan are no exception, though he revels in our misunderstanding him, “for he is a liar and the father of lies.” ((John 8:44.))
I want to help clear the air of some of the mythos surrounding Satan so that truth may prevail in our hearts and minds. The first issue I want to look at is whether Satan was the one called “Lucifer.”
Is Satan the one called “Lucifer”?
According to MarkBeast.com, “Lucifer was created by God as a perfect angel. He was called Lucifer while he lived in heaven. After he sinned and persistently refused to repent he was thrown out of heaven. When Lucifer was cast out of heaven he lost his name Lucifer and he became known as Satan.” ((http://www.markbeast.com/satan/lucifer-satan-devil.htm)) This view seems fairly common among Christians, but is it valid?
The name Lucifer can be found in certain translations of the Bible, such as the King James Version, in Isaiah 14:12. In more reliable versions, such as the English Standard Version, instead of “Lucifer,” we are given the epithet “Day Star” instead.
“How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! 13You said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far reaches of the north; 14I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’ 15But you are brought down to Sheol, to the far reaches of the pit. 16Those who see you will stare at you and ponder over you: ‘Is this the man who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms, 17who made the world like a desert and overthrew its cities, who did not let his prisoners go home?’ The Book of Isaiah 14:12–17
Where does that passage mention Satan? Actually, that passage picks up in the middle of a larger passage, a passage which earlier makes it clear just who is being spoken of: “…you will take up this taunt against the king of Babylon.” ((Isaiah 14:4, emphasis mine.))
A little over half of Isaiah 14 is this taunt against Babylon’s king, with no indication that the target of the taunt ever changes.
So where do well-meaning Christians get the idea that at verse 12, the subject of the taunt switches from the king of Babylon to Satan?
Quite honestly, I don’t know for sure. I can only assume ((And yes, I know what assuming gets me…)) that the idea comes from two possible sources, assuming a biblical source for the notion:
The seventy-two returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name!” 18And he said to them, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. The Gospel According to Luke 10:17–18
The logic must be that because Christ said He saw Satan fall from Heaven, then if a fall from Heaven is mentioned within the Scriptures, it must refer to Satan’s fall. And so, such a fall is wedged into Isaiah 14, forcing a break in the rant concerning the king of Babylon.
However, if that is the case, and Isaiah 14 describes Satan’s fall, then we have a very interesting situation.
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. ((Genesis 3:1.))
From Genesis, we know that Satan was wicked; we know that he was present in the Garden with our first parents, tempting them to disobey Yahweh. ((“Wait a minute,” you may say, “where does Genesis 3 refer to Satan?” Fair question. The opening of Revelation 20, quoted above, establishes Satan as “that ancient serpent,” which is a fitting description if he were truly in the Garden of Eden some six to ten thousand years ago.))
The problem with those who would believe the passage in Isaiah refers to Satan is this: How many humans were alive at the time Satan tempted Adam & Eve in the garden?
I’ll give you a hint: more than one, but less than three.
How many people had even existed up until that point? You guessed it: three.
But what does the passage in Isaiah say? Whoever the Day Star was, he “laid the nations low”, ((Isaiah 14:12.)) “made the earth to tremble”, ((Isaiah 14:16.)) and “shook kingdoms.” ((Ibid.)) He “overthrew [the world’s] cities, [and] did not let his prisoners go home.” ((Isaiah 14:17.)) All of this the Day Star did in prideful antagonism to Yahweh, as Isaiah 14:13–14 states, and for it he was cut down, cast into destruction.
If the Day Star was Satan, then when did he fall? It couldn’t have been any time prior to the events in the Garden of Eden, for there were no cities, kingdoms, or people from which to take prisoners.
I suppose at this point, some people ((Yes, I’ve seen it happen.)) will attempt to reconcile the facts by claiming that a pre-adamic ((“Before Adam.”)) race of humans once existed which
Satan Lucifer was granted to rule over, but he grew in pride until he rebelled against Yahweh, somehow causing the destruction of those most ancient of peoples.
Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned. ((Romans 5:12.))
Romans 5 should serve as the death knell for such an idea, that there were a race of humans before Adam which Lucifer ruled over. The fact of the matter is that there was no death prior to Adam and that Adam’s responsibility — not the responsibility of nameless pre-adamic men — in bringing death into the world is tied inseparably to Jesus’ bringing redemption.
The Day Star could not have been Satan.
So because Satan was already wicked prior to there being kingdoms and nations of men, the Day Star (read: Lucifer) could not have been Satan.
Secondly, I think people get the idea that the Day Star was Satan’s original name or description from a passage in Revelation:
Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, 8but he was defeated and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. 9And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. The Revelation of Jesus Christ 12:7–9
As above, the same sort of connection is made: Here is a description of Satan being cast down from Heaven, and so a link to Isaiah 14 is made to support the presumption that the Day Star, or Lucifer, was Satan.
A more careful examination of this Revelation passage, though, reveals that Satan was cast out of Heaven after the “male child” ((Revelation 12:5.)) was born. This was the birth of Jesus, the “one who is to rule all nations with a rod of iron, but was caught up to God and to his throne.” ((Ibid.))
Therefore, because Revelation describes Satan’s fall from Heaven at the hands of Michael & his angels as occurring after Jesus’ birth, it makes no sense for it to have been described as a past event in Isaiah 14.
Actually, what Revelation 12 describes is Satan’s final fall from Heaven, when he will no longer be permitted to accuse the brethren, just as he did Job thousands of years ago.
I disbelieve that Satan was Isaiah’s “Day Star,” but I don’t find it hard to accept at all that Isaiah was describing the actual king of Babylon. How often do human rulers fall into the prideful sin described by Isaiah? They lift up their eyes to the heavens and believe they can achieve anything, without God, better than God.
Humanity is amazingly consistent: We see this behavior making its first huge step onto the scene at Shinar, when mankind got together and sought to build a tower to the heavens. ((Genesis 11:4.)) Because of the judgment of God upon the men of Shinar, the place became known as Babel, the beginnings of Babylon. ((Genesis 11:9.))
And we see this behavior come to its culmination in Revelation, where we learn that in the unspecified future, “Babylon the great, mother of prostitutes and of earth’s abominations” ((Revelation 17:5.)) meets its ultimate judgment: “Rejoice over her, O heaven, and you saints and apostles and prophets, for God has given judgment for you against her!” ((Revelation 18:20.))
I hope you’ll join me in refusing to call Satan “Lucifer,” and I hope you’ll be willing to correct those who do so by pointing out that “Lucifer” (or better, the “Day Star”) in Isaiah’s context refers not to Satan but to the king of Babylon in a taunting, mocking manner.
There are a great deal of other questions I’d like to take a look at regarding Satan. Was Satan ever an “anointed cherub”? What is Satan’s origin? What is the leviathan? And more, I’m sure. If you want to be notified when these are written, be sure to subscribe to my syndication feed!