Lucifer

Jupiter and Venus

image by Thomas Bresson on Wikimedia Commons

How you are fallen from heaven, Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, who laid the nations low! You said in your heart, “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; and I will sit on the mountain of congregation, in the uttermost parts of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.”

Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, to the uttermost parts of the pit. Those who see you shall gaze at you, they shall consider you: “Is this the man who made the earth to tremble, who shook kingdoms; who made the world as a wilderness, and overthrew the cities of it; who didn’t let loose his prisoners to their home?”

All the kings of the nations, all of them, sleep in glory, everyone in his own house. But you are cast forth away from your tomb like an abominable branch, clothed with the slain, who are thrust through with the sword, who go down to the stones of the pit; as a dead body trodden under foot. You shall not be joined with them in burial, because you have destroyed your land, you have killed your people; the seed of evil-doers shall not be named forever.

Isaiah 14:12 – 20

This passage is not about Satan. I know some translations say Lucifer is being addressed here, but have you ever wondered why we even call Satan Lucifer? Basically, it’s because of this passage, but why do we apply this passage to Satan? Because it refers to something called Lucifer. It’s completely recursive.

So Who Is It About?

The passage is talking about an unnamed king of Babylon. Pretty much all of chapter 13 is condemning a king of Babylon. Isaiah takes a break in the first couple of verses in Isaiah 14 to reassure the children of Israel they will return from captivity, and then he gets back on the Babylonian king’s case. Isaiah doesn’t change subjects until he gets to verse 24, where Assyria becomes the subject of judgment.

Also, look at some of the language. “You are cast forth away from your tomb … You shall not be joined with them.” This is a reference to kings being traditionally buried with their ancestors. Also, “Is this the man who … shook kingdoms; who made the world as a wilderness, and overthrew the cities of it; who didn’t let loose his prisoners to their home?” This is a description of a conquering king, possibly Nebuchadnezzar II or a whole line of Babylonian rulers.

So What’s Up with the Lucifer Thing?

When the first English translations of the Bible started popping up (the Tyndale Bible and the original King James Version among the most notable examples), some of the translators chose to anglicize certain words instead of directly translating them. βαπτιζω (pr. baptizo) is one such word. Baptize didn’t exist in the English language prior to the Bible being translated, and it came from anglicizing a Greek word. If it had been simply translated, everywhere we read baptize would instead read submerge.

The same basic thing happened with Lucifer. Lucifer is the Latin equivalent to הֵילֵל (pr. Heylel). It literally means “morning star” or “bringer of light” and makes reference to one of the brightest objects in the morning sky. We would call it the planet Venus. In the context of Isaiah 14, this king’s fame makes him shine brightly in the minds of the nations around him. He has grown proud because of this reputation, and Isaiah calls him by a name that reflects the magnitude of his pride.

How Did We End Up Making This About Satan?

I half-jokingly wrote that Satan getting pegged with the name Lucifer is recursive reasoning, but there’s probably a bit more at work here. First, we could be seeing some influence of Roman mythology (which has a lot of influence on many Catholic traditions). Prometheus was the bringer of godlike knowledge to man as symbolized by fire. He was a light-bringer. Satan does something similar in the Garden story. Therefore, the “bringer of light” in Isaiah 14 could easily be connected to Satan via Prometheus.

Canaanite mythology could be influencing tradition here as well. Ancient Canaanites called the morning star Attar, and Attar was a god who tried to overthrow Ba’al. He failed and instead went to rule the underworld. Historically, Satan has been depicted as an angel who wanted to usurp Jehovah. Perhaps this Canaanite legend melded with ancient Judaism and informed how Satan has been interpreted through the ages. (There are other similar legends throughout ancient Mesopotamian civilizations.)

Then there’s a small passage from the pseudepigraphic book of II Enoch:

And from the rock I cut off a great fire, and from the fire I created the orders of the incorporeal ten troops of angels, and their weapons are fiery and their raiment a burning flame, and I commanded that each one should stand in his order.

Here Satanail with his angels was thrown down from the height.

And one from out the order of angels, having turned away with the order that was under him, conceived an impossible thought, to place his throne higher than the clouds above the earth, that he might become equal in rank to my power. And I threw him out from the height with his angels, and he was flying in the air continuously above the bottomless.

II Enoch 29:2 – 4

Even though many Christians today don’t consider books like II Enoch to be canon, their influence can be felt in a number of traditional mythologies we carry alongside our faith. Here is a perfectly encapsulated retelling of the common Satan tradition, and, if you substitute Satanail with Lucifer, it would feel right at home in Isaiah 14. (Also, Prometheus imagery again. Just saying.)

I don’t know exactly when Lucifer became synonymous with Satan. It certainly wasn’t common in the time of Augustine. However, both Calvin and Luther condemn interpreting Isaiah 14 as referring to the devil. So the name became popular sometime after Saint Augustine of Hippo but before Martin Luther’s writings. That gives us a possible window of something like a thousand years.

What’s the Point?

We Christians should be making a habit of differentiating the Bible’s teachings from popular trends and mythology. We live in a culture where we share posts and images on social media without first checking the veracity of the content, and we therefore perpetuate popular myths and urban legends without thought. We should be holding ourselves to a higher standard — even moreso in matters pertaining to faith.

Instead of simply repeating what we’ve heard from pulpits or read from others’ writings, we need to be able to separate faith from fiction. And no matter how long we have held to a certain story, belief or doctrine, if the scriptural evidence doesn’t back it up, we have to be OK with letting it go. Let’s strive to be more like the Bereans of Acts 17 who not only received the apostles’ teaching with gladness but then also researched God’s word for themselves. Then we will all have far fewer confusions like this.

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to determine if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

I John 4:1

The Spiritual Battle

Lessons at South Boone: The Spiritual Battle We are involved in battle every day. This battle, however, is not one over resources, freedoms, representation, or any of the other numerous reasons people may wage war in this life. It’s not a battle where artillery, drones, body armor, or any other physical means of offense or […]

Departed for a Season

And when the devil had completed every temptation, he departed from [Jesus] for a season (Luke 4:13).

Jesus’ temptations by the devil in the wilderness are a famous part of His work and life. Even though Jesus was physically weak and hungry, He did not give into the temptation to turn stones into bread, to test God by falling, or to bow down to the Evil One. Instead, He refuted the Devil by quoting Scripture (cf. Luke 4:1-12).

The victory, however, was not complete. Luke provides a telling detail not found in the other Evangelists: while the Devil did depart, it was only for a season.

Even though Luke indicates that the departure was only for a season, neither he nor the other Evangelists ever explicitly relate another time in which Satan tempted or tested Jesus. Nevertheless there are many instances in the life of Jesus where we can find a significant temptation in which Satan was most certainly involved.

There is Peter’s rebuke of Jesus on hearing that He will die – “this shall never happen to you” (Matthew 16:22). Jesus speaks of Peter as “Satan” in response, indicating that he is focused on the things of man and not on the things of God (Matthew 16:23). It is not necessary to believe that Satan was personally indwelling Peter – Peter is motivated by his passion for Jesus and his mistaken impressions about the nature of His Messiahship and Kingdom and needed no devilish inspiration to come up with such a remark. Nevertheless, Peter was acting as the Opposer, providing a significant temptation for Jesus. Satan could have very easily said the same thing – “far be it that the Son of God should die for sinful men!”

Temptations also came when the time drew near. Satan may have been tempting Jesus while in the garden; without a doubt he was about to tempt the disciples (cf. Luke 22:39-46). While on the cross, the words of the people represented another similar temptation – “He saved others; let Him save Himself if this is the Christ of God!” They may have said it in a mocking and derisive manner, but it is a temptation nevertheless.

Again, we do not know every point at which Satan tempted or tested Jesus, but we have great confidence that he did. Jesus was ultimately victorious – He died and was raised again in power – and the power of sin and death was broken (1 Corinthians 15:54-57).

As Jesus Himself said, it is enough for the disciple to be like his master, and if the Master of the house was tempted by the Devil, then most certainly the disciples will also (cf. Matthew 10:24-25). We know that we suffer the temptations of the Evil One constantly (1 Peter 5:8)!

Let us learn from the example of our Lord. Lord willing, there will be times in our lives when we successfully overcome temptations to do evil or to avoid the good. When we do the will of God and not the will of Satan, God is glorified, and Satan is compelled to flee (James 4:7). Yet, as long as we live, the victory is not complete. The Devil will return at another season to tempt us again!

We must remember that the Evil One does not play fair. In overcoming one temptation we may fall prey to another temptation. On the other hand, even when we are weak, having fallen for a temptation or in distress and turmoil, the Evil One does not lighten up– temptations are sure to come (cf. 1 Peter 5:8). In good times or bad, in prosperity or poverty, in victory or defeat, the Devil has plenty of temptations available to cause us to stumble and, if we allow it, to lead us away from God.

This is why we must be perpetually on guard against temptation. We must always be clothed with the armor of God in order to resist the Evil One (cf. Ephesians 6:10-18), and if we ever slacken, we will find ourselves in sore distress.

When we are in that distress, it is good for us to reach out to fellow Christians and to be lifted up (Galatians 6:1-3, Hebrews 10:24-25). We must look to help lift up fellow Christians in distress, not with attitudes of superiority or arrogance, but humility and love, knowing full well that we may be the next ones that need lifting up.

Our conflict with evil is not one that any of us chose or would ever want to choose; nevertheless, it is ours to fight. We must stand firm against the Evil One at all times, knowing, as Jesus did, that temptations are sure to come at any moment. Let us stand firm for God no matter what and resist the Devil!

lesson by Ethan R. Longhenry

Knowing Satan’s Devices

In Luke 14:31, Jesus is speaking about preparation and counting the cost of discipleship. One of the illustrations He uses discusses a king preparing for battle, and this carries with it the idea of knowing the opposition one is up against. Throughout history, we can see examples of successful military commanders who anticipated and outmaneuvered the enemy he was up against. In our Christian life, we need to know the opposition we are up against and who is our true enemy. We have to be prepared to face our enemy. We have to know what he is capable of and how we can withstand him.

In I Peter 5:8, the apostle Peter (once chastised by Jesus as behaving like Satan) warns us against the devouring nature of the devil. Satan is referred to as our adversary, as a liar. He is the complete antithesis of Jesus in our spiritual lives. II Corinthians 2:11 reminds us to remain aware of Satan’s techniques. When Jesus is tempted in the gospels, He recognizes the advantages Satan is trying to gain, and our enemy will try to gain a hold over us. We should be knowledgeable about him so we can be adequately prepared in resisting his temptations in our lives.

The Tools of Satan

He manipulates our desires. In II Corinthians 2, Paul might be referring back to the events of I Corinthians 5 where a man was living in an immoral relationship with his mother. Paul admonishes their tolerance of such sin in that chapter, and, back in II Corinthians 2:1-7, Paul seems to directly reference the action the congregation took against this individual and his subsequent repentance. However, prior to that repentance, Satan was using this own man’s desires against him. We can desire and strive for good things, but Satan can take those urges and turn them toward things that will draw us from God (II Timothy 2:22). In James 1:15 warns us that our desires open us to temptation, but in chapter 4:7 encourages us that resisting Satan will drive him away. I John 2:16-17 reminds us that much of sin can be boiled down to desires, but these desires will one day pass away while our souls live on.

He exploits our grief. Returning to II Corinthians 2:7, Satan can utilize the opposite end of the spectrum. Once we realize the error of our ways and we view the consequences, sorrow may set in. In this verse, Paul warns Christians that this sorrow can also bring about bad results. Judas and Peter stand as contrasting characters in dealing with regret. Judas’ regret led him to suicide while Peter’s grief strengthened his resolve. Sorrow can become self-destructive and lead us to believe that we are useless to God and to others, but we should be prepared to lift each other out of grief and encourage one another toward good works. What if David had been consumed by his sorrow after being confronted by his sin? What if Paul had been consumed in grief after being confronted by Jesus? Satan makes things seem darker than they actually are. How many of us have head the expression, “God has forgiven me, but I cannot forgive myself.” To this Paul says to forget those things that are in the past in Philippians 3:13. Once we repent, our sins are the past. We cannot let them consume us. We must press forward.

He makes sin seem tolerable. Remaining in context of the events in Corinth, the congregation was tolerating the sins within their walls. In Galatians 6:1, Paul encourages Christians not to accept sin but to rather work on restoring such an individual to God. When sin seems tolerable, Satan gains an advantage over an individuals and other members of a congregation. Tied in with this is our own pride. In the case of Corinth, there was a rapidly growing congregation with much to be proud of. I Corinthians 5:2 calls the congregation as puffed up, and he chastises them for their pride in verse 6. This pride and toleration will prevent us from being able to admit wrong or regret for actions. Instead, our hearts must remain open to God’s word and open to ourselves when we see sin in our own lives or those of others.

He uses false teachers. This is not someone who makes a sincere mistake. To be false carries an idea in it of intentionally and willfully teaching incorrect concepts with full knowledge of his or her error. In II Corinthians 11:13-14, Paul warns us that Satan will wear the clothes of an angel. Falsehood can be wrapped in an attractive passage, even quoting scripture to make it seem more palatable. Someone teaching falsely will not be obvious or warn a congregation of his or her intentions. We must be willing to test what we hear and search the scriptures to see if the things being taught are true.

Conclusion

Desires, guilt, tolerance, pride, falsehoods – Satan uses all of these techniques to gain an advantage over us, be can withstand him. We are not ignorant of his devices, and our faith can stand against him – driving him from our lives. Our Father is there to support us and take on our burdens. We can proactively keep Satan from taking over our lives if we keep our focus on God and the goal we have to spend eternity with Him. The struggles we have here are temporary and short-lived when compared to the eternity we can share with our Lord.

lesson by Tim Smelser

The Fall of Satan

There are a lot of questions and a lot of speculation regarding the origin and role of Satan. There are two passages we’ll being with. I John 3:7-8 identifies Satan as a sinner from the beginning, and Hebrews 2:14 describes him as one with power of death. Each step in the fall of Satan is a step toward Christ’s goal to defeat evil.

When entering into this study, some of what we will be drawing out of scriptures will be speculation. The Bible does not give us every detail about our adversary, but there are lessons to learn from an examination of this material.

Satan’s Progression

  • Created. Satan is a created being. Colossians 1:15-17 makes it clear that all, seen and unseen, were created by God through Christ. Also, the last chapter of Genesis 1 reinforces the totality of God’s creation. It is safe to draw from these passages that Satan too was created – possibly as an angelic being.
  • Sin & Fall. Jude 5-6 warns of the fact that those chosen of God can fall from grace, and the author goes as far as to illustrate angels that have been cast away due to disobedience.  II Peter 2:4 reinforces this illustration. I Timothy 3:6 describes pride as the sin of the devil. In Ezekiel 28, God is condemning the king of Tyre of exaulting himself. Notice verses 13-19, and you will see some descriptions that may be referring back to Satan’s fall. Isaiah 14:12-19 also uses very similar language. These come together to paint a composite picture of angels that have rebelled and have been cast away.
  • Cursed. Genesis 3:14-15. Though cast down, Satan is apparently still active, and he is also depicted as being in Heaven before God. Job 1:6 and 2:1 descibe Satan coming among the sons of God. Furthermore, in Zechariah 3, Joshua is being symbolized as a high priest with Satan set as His adversary. Satan set himself as adversary to God’s plan to reunite man and God.
  • Defeated. Matthew 4:1-11 records Satan’s defeat in tempting Jesus. Matthew 12:25-29 illustrates Jesus’ intention to defeat Jesus as does Matthew 16:18. Luke 10:17-19, John 12:30-31, John 16:33 reinforce this effort. Finally, Revelation 12 paints a vivid picture of Satan being defeated at every turn.
  • Bound. Revelation 20:1-3 illustrates Satan being restrained, and Romans 16:20 gives a specific example of a congregations whose works will harm the devil. Still, passages like James 4:7 and Ephesians 6:11 warn us that Satan is still active in this world. Though restrained, he is a formidable foe.
  • Cast Away. Revelation 20:10 records the final defeat of Satan as the final judgment comes. Matthew 25:41 speaks of eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.

Conclusion

The Bible may be scarce in detail, but we can see a story here of one created being who wished to elevate himself to equality with God. He became God’s adversary, was cast away from Heaven, still active in the world, but destined to defeat at the hands of Christ. Christ has made it possible for us to resist Satan, and we can choose to do so if we choose Christ over the temptations of His adversary.

lesson by Tim Smelser