What is Lucifer’s role in the world? What power or authority does he hold that we should fear? The most common belief that I have encountered is that Satan has no real power over us but can deceive and tempt us. Satan deceives us, places temptations in our paths, and works to undermine our belief in Christ. Think of the qualities that are needed in order to accomplish this, to deceive over nine billion people on this planet. To tempt each of us as individuals, Satan must be omnipresent. To ensure that we notice the object of our temptation, in order to place it in our path, Satan must be supernaturally powerful. Is this the Satan that you believe in?
We Are Responsible
What is temptation? The Cambridge dictionary describes temptation as the wish to do or have something that you know you should not do or should not have. This doesn’t seem to involve Satan, at least not Satan as a being created by God. This definition requires only yourself. It involves you and your ability to control yourself, and it also involves God who has placed prohibitions on certain activities. Unless we are claiming that Satan has the ability to create desire within the hearts of people. Does Satan have some supernatural ability to change the nature of a person, to corrupt them against their will? It is possible but it would require God to allow Satan to do such a thing, and no one should say that God is tempting them.
When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when by his own evil desires he is lured away and enticed.James 1:13-14
According to this verse in James, God does not tempt us and neither does the Devil! We do it to ourselves. We choose to focus on what we cannot have, what we should not have, rather than what is best for us. We choose what we pursue in life, we choose our own actions and we are responsible for those actions. We are responsible for our decision to pursue that which we should not obtain. Satan does not create our desires, we do. Satan does not force us to pursue our desires against our own will, we alone are responsible for that decision.
Satan’s Power In Job
So, we have addressed desires and temptations, two of the most common things that we tend to attribute to Satan, and we have found that the Bible attributes those things to us as humans rather than Satan. What about disease, disasters, or even death? These things are frequently attributed to Satan, and evidence is usually provided from the book of Job. While not everyone agrees that Job is literal history, we can at least agree that if it is not history, it is a book which was intended to teach us something about our relationship with God.
In the book of Job we find a man of the same name who is faced with many trials and tribulations at the hands of a satan who has been granted, by God Himself, the authority to test Job. This test results in many catastrophes for Job. His livelihood is utterly ruined, a roof collapses and kills all of his children, and finally, he is given boils and sores all over his body. While these events are commonly attributed to the satan, we find that Job and his friends attribute these events to God. In fact, God Himself takes ownership of these events.
Then the LORD said to Satan, “Have you considered My servant Job? For there is no one on earth like him, a man who is blameless and upright, who fears God and shuns evil. He still retains his integrity, even though you incited Me against him to ruin him without cause.”Job 2:3
In this verse, we find that God was incited to ruin Job. Satan did not kill Job’s children or ruin his business, God found it necessary to do these things. In the story, Satan responds to this by challenging God to cause boils and sores all over Job, stating that this will cause him to curse God.
It appears that Satan, if such a being literally exists, has no supernatural power or authority granted to him. In fact, he fully relies on God in order to do the things that we attribute to him. If such a being as Satan does indeed exist, I may go so far as to say that he has more faith in God than much of humanity, which is quite sad given the narrative we are told about him. How could a being that has no power, no authority, expect to over power God and rule heaven, especially if he cannot even cause boils on Job without the help of his maker?
Of course, there is one final power that we attribute to Satan, and that is the authority over demons. Now, before we move on to a further analysis of Satan, I would like for you to ponder something: If Satan has no authority over humanity, no powers to harm us, or even to tempt us, then why would demons ever follow Satan? Demons are attributed with the power of possession, we are told that they can literally take control of our bodies, but Satan never demonstrates power even remotely close to that. What reason do Demons have for following such a being?
God Creates Evil
I know that this statement feels controversial, but it really should not. Especially after reading the earlier verse from Job where it is Satan that accuses Job, but it is God who creates the disaster and disease. If this is hard to accept, then we must clarify some things. God is the creator of all things, this includes light and darkness, peace and evil. It includes all things.
I am the LORD, and there is none else. I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.Isaiah 45:6-7
We read verses like this, but then we go out in to the world and call Satan the prince of darkness. We attribute evil to him when God claims it as His own doing, we blame the devil for our own actions when the Bible makes it clear that we are responsible. It appears as though Satan, if there is such a being, is credited for far more than he deserves.
And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.1 Chronicles 21:1
Here we have King David, having just defeated the Philistines, being provoked to perform a census of Israel. According to this verse, it is Satan who provokes David to perform the census, most likely to understand how much money could be raised in taxes and how large of an army that could be drafted. So, David calls for the census, regrets it, and is punished by God. An angel is sent to destroy Jerusalem and kills 70,000 people before being stopped by the Lord.
This story in Chronicles is similar to the narrative that we give to Satan. Satan tempts us, we cave in to temptation and act, then we are punished for those actions. The devil makes us do it, or does he?
And again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah.2 Samuel 24:1
Here in 2 Samuel we see the same story, with one very noticeable difference. The Lord moved David to go and take a census of Israel. This drastically changes the lessons that we might learn from this story, and it certainly does not fit the “devil made me do it” mentality. Whether you believe that God is the satan (meaning adversary in Hebrew) in this story, or you believe that God allowed Satan to provoke David in this story, changes the entire lesson of the story. No matter how we look at it, God planned for this to happen, and that changes how we interpret satan in the story. Satan, typically portrayed as the enemy of God, cannot be seen that way here. Just as in the story of Job, the being we think of as Satan (if such a being exists) has no power, no authority, and God is the one doing (or at least authorizing) the work.
The Fallen Angel
The Hebrew word satan is used to describe an adversary, an opponent, or an accuser. As such, it is actually used quite often in the Bible to describe things which are not the fallen angel Lucifer. Satan is used to describe the sons of Zeruiah in 2 Samuel 19, as well as Hadad and Rezon (stirred up by God) in 1 Kings 11, and it is even used to describe the Angel of the Lord in Numbers 22.
I’m not going to go through every verse of the Bible which uses the word satan in Hebrew or English, but I want you to realize that this word is used to describe a great deal of things, and by far the majority of them are not what we would typically think of as Lucifer. In fact, the single verse in the Bible which uses the name Lucifer, is only translated that way in the King James Version.
How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!Isaiah 14:12 KJV
O Lucifer, son of the morning! Would it surprise you to learn that this entire phrase is derived from one Hebrew word, helel? Jerome of Stridon, who translated the Vulgate (a 4th century Latin translation of the Bible), inserted the name Lucifer here. In Latin, the adjective Lux-Fero means light-bringing. This name somehow became attributed to Satan in the following centuries, and the name found its way into the KJV translation of the Bible as well. Now that we have explained where the word Lucifer came from, where does the rest of the phrase come from? Helel is translated a bit differently in other versions of the text, with day-star, shining-star, and morning-star being among the most popular.
We were talking about Lucifer, however, weren’t we? A great deal of people have pointed this verse out to me as evidence for Lucifer’s existence as a fallen angel. I must admit, at first glance this appears to be true, but once we remove the name Lucifer from the verse, the matter becomes a bit more complex. As I stated earlier, the name Lucifer is not in the Hebrew text, it was added to the Latin and English texts unnecessarily, so now we must ask who the morning star is that’s mentioned here. It turns out that this entire chapter of Isaiah is a message intended to be delivered to king of Babylon.
On the day that the LORD gives you rest from your pain and torment, and from the hard labor into which you were forced, you will sing this song of contempt against the king of Babylon:Isaiah 14:3-4
In context, this passage about the morning star is in reference to the king of Babylon, and if we read through the chapter we can see that the Lord is not pleased with this king. He is being told that he will be knocked down, removed from power, destroyed, and sent to Sheol where maggots will be his bed. Ezekiel 28 contains the same form of imagery and again, is addressed to a king who is about to knocked down from his high stature, the king of Tyre.
For those who continue to cling to the idea that Lucifer is the morning star, I have another verse to share.
“I, Jesus, have sent my angel to give you this testimony for the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, and the bright Morning Star.”Revelation 22:16
Here we have biblical text, plainly translated, where Jesus is called the Morning Star. It should be apparent then, that this phrase is intended to be symbolic, to reference the grandeur of someone, someone like the king of Babylon who should have been a beacon of light and hope for his people. Unfortunately, this king was not a beacon of hope, and fell far from the top of his pedestal.
So, who is the devil? Who is Satan? Who is this fallen angel called Lucifer? A myth perhaps. The greatest deceiver in the world may actually be the greatest deception in the world. How poetic that would be!
Who Is Satan?
Satan will be released from his prison, and will go out to deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth […] And the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fireRevelation 20:7-10
Here, the devil or Satan deceives the nations and is then thrown into the lane of fire. Who is being talked about here, who is Satan that is being released from his prison?
And the great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world.Revelation 12:9
Earlier on in the book of Revelation we see that the great dragon is referred to as the devil, and Satan. This dragon is described in Revelation 12:3 as a huge red dragon with seven heads, ten horns, and seven royal crowns on his heads. In Revelation 13, this dragon transfers its power and authority to a beast with seven heads, ten horns, and ten royal crowns. This same beast is found in Daniel 7, where its meaning is explained to Daniel.
This is what he said: ‘The fourth beast is a fourth kingdom that will appear on the earth, different from all the other kingdoms, and it will devour the whole earth, trample it down, and crush it. And the ten horns are ten kings who will rise from this kingdom. After them another king, different from the earlier ones, will rise and subdue three kings.Daniel 7:23-24
It becomes clear that this beast, found in Daniel and Revelation, is symbolic, it represents something other than a literal beast. One should assume that the same applies to the dragon, very similar in appearance, falls into the same category.
The dragon, or Satan, transfers its power and authority to the beast. The beast itself represents a kingdom, and its horns represent kings. What I find interesting here, is that the both the beast and Satan have the same number of heads and horns. The beast has ten crowns, while Satan only has seven. According to this passage from Daniel, three of the kings from the Beast will be subdued, leaving only seven of the original kings, or horns, wearing their crowns. Again, Satan has ten horns, with seven crowns.
While it is fun to speculate about these things, my larger point is that the beast is a symbol, representing a kingdom and kings, and is cast into the lake of fire in Revelation 20. I doubt we need to debate about whether or not Death is an actual being or not, and yet, it too is cast into the lake of fire. Hades is referred to biblically as the underworld, or a place, and it too is cast into the lake of fire. Death, Hades, and the beast are symbols, representing something other than a single being or person, and are cast into the lake of fire. Why would Satan, who is counted among them, be any different? What would Satan be the only being which is not a symbol in this passage?
I submit to you that the Satan of Revelation is not a being, but a symbol. Perhaps a symbol of a kingdom of sorts, and ten kings, seven of which have crowns. Or perhaps a symbol of something else, a kingdom to which we all belong. The kingdom of the flesh, of sin. After all, as we learned in James, we are each tempted by our own evil desires and lured away. In this way, our fleshly desire is our satan, our adversary in life. Our satan desires to keep us in the kingdom of the world, not of heaven.