If a modern Christian is asked to draw a picture of who Satan is, Christians will probably draw a horned half-goat creature sitting in a throne in the pit of hell. This image is deeply imbedded into the American psyche. The origin of this image is not the Bible, but Greek mythology. Although the devil is called the dragon, and other creature names, he appears as an “angel of light” and he is often referenced as beautiful.
Satan is also depicted by modern Christians as the source of all evil. Satan is depicted as the polar opposite of God. Whenever evil is found on earth, people blame Satan, as if he is not a temporal being but instead some sort of mystical force that produces evil. This is a pagan concept: that of Manichaeism. Mani, like Platonists before him, taught dualism. That there were forces of good and evil, and those forces continually strove together. This is not a concept from the Bible. The Bible teaches that there is no evil force other than individuals who choose to do wrong (James 1:14). Satan might want us to sin and persuade us to do so, but only to extent that it serves his personal goals (domination of heaven).
In Ezekiel, there appears to be an allusion to Satan:
Eze 28:12 …”You were the seal of perfection, Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.
Eze 28:13 You were in Eden, the garden of God; Every precious stone was your covering…
Eze 28:14 “You were the anointed cherub who covers; I established you; You were on the holy mountain of God; You walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones.
Eze 28:15 You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, Till iniquity was found in you.
Eze 28:16 “By the abundance of your trading You became filled with violence within, And you sinned; Therefore I cast you as a profane thing Out of the mountain of God; And I destroyed you, O covering cherub, From the midst of the fiery stones.
Eze 28:17 “Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; You corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor; I cast you to the ground, I laid you before kings, That they might gaze at you.
Eze 28:18 “You defiled your sanctuaries By the multitude of your iniquities, By the iniquity of your trading; Therefore I brought fire from your midst; It devoured you, And I turned you to ashes upon the earth In the sight of all who saw you.
Eze 28:19 All who knew you among the peoples are astonished at you; You have become a horror, And shall be no more forever.” ‘ “
Some key elements to be noted:
– this individual was in Eden.
– this individual was anointed and established by God
– this individual was perfect
– this individual was in the “mountain of God”
– this individual was prideful
– this individual was destroyed by God
Take this in relation to Isaiah:
Isa 14:12 “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations!
Isa 14:13 For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation On the farthest sides of the north;
Isa 14:14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.’
Isa 14:15 Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, To the lowest depths of the Pit.
Some key elements to be noted:
– this individual fell from heaven.
– this individual attempted to rule “the stars of God”
– this individual attempted to supplant God
– this individual will be sent to hell
While the greater context of the Isaiah passage is in reference to the King of Babylon, the Old Testament often makes allusions to other subjects without explicitly stating it (see Eze 28, above, or Exe 31). It is not unreasonable to think Lucifer (Latin word for Morning Star) is indeed Satan. He is elsewhere described as a star (Rev 9:1) and also other angels are described as stars (Rev 12:3-9).
If Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 refer to Satan, we can see who Satan is on a personal level. Satan was a beautiful arch-angel. He was perfect and adored by God. But he became prideful. He began to think he could overpower God, or at least resist God’s authority. He attempted to lead an angelic rebellion against God, but he failed. He was then thrown out of heaven.
From this picture we can build a better picture of reality:
-Satan was once good. This means that he is not the eternal prince of evil. There is no overriding force of evil.
-Satan attempted to overthrow God. This means that he, along with one third of all the angels, believed he has a chance at winning. Might God, if rejected by all his creation, leave us to our own devices?
-Satan’s punishment is hell. Satan is not the ruler of hell, nor does he want to go to hell. See Revelations 20:10.
-Satan is not all-seeing, but is a temporal being. He can be cast down, he walks the earth (Job 1:7), and he can be cast into hell. If a Christian claims the devil is tempting him, and not saying it in a figurative way, a proper response might be to say “with 7 billion people on earth, the Devil doesn’t have time for you.”