Dear Church Family and Friends,
This past Sunday, I preached to you out of Isaiah 14, most specifically from verses 12-15. In preparing for this message, I had to confront some long-standing beliefs of my own (and perhaps yours) concerning how these verses addressed “Lucifer” and the fall of Satan. These beliefs were in line with the teachings of early church fathers – Origen, Tertullian, and Augustine – who often interpreted the Bible allegorically (symbolically), as well as the very imaginative English poet, John Milton. (think: Paradise Lost)
The problem, as I pointed out, is that Satan is nowhere mentioned in Isaiah 14, and nowhere else in the Bible is the name Lucifer (or its Hebrew equivalent) to be found. Also, I don’t think it is found in any English Bible translation since the King James Version. What’s more, Isaiah 14 clearly gives the name “Lucifer” to the king of Babylon (v. 4), who is a man (v. 16). And it is about a man that Isaiah was warning. My concern is that when we overemphasize any Satanic application of these verses, we miss the real point.
Of course, I realize that the language does sound quite supernatural. “Lucifer” is an exotic-sounding name; his boasts sound like something a rebellious angel might say; and then there are those dead people talking to him. To this, I would simply say that “Lucifer” is just a Latin word used to translate the Hebrew helel, meaning “light bringer” or “morning star.” His boasts would be quite at home in the mouths of ancient eastern rulers, who often thought of themselves as godlike. As for people in hell talking to him, hell was created as a place of torment for Satan; why would he even be there…yet? And that reminds me of one more thing: everything Isaiah said was about the future, not the past.
Now, none of this is to deny that Satan fell! In Gen. 1:31, everything was good, including the angel that would become the devil. He fell, and apparently a bunch of angels fell with him. (Jude 6) His sin was indeed pride. (1 Tim. 3:6) He was – or will be – cast out of heaven, though he seems still to have access to accuse the saints. (Job 1:6; Luke 10:18; John 12:31; Rev. 12:7-12) He is very bright and beautiful. (2 Cor. 11:14) He is real, dangerous, and defeated. (Eph. 6:10-18; James 4;7; 1 Pet. 5:8)
So if Satan resembles the character described in Isaiah 14, why go to such lengths to show that it’s not about him? First, because we want to be serious students of God’s Word, not led astray by fanciful interpretations, no matter how long-standing they may be. The results may be minimal in a passage like Isaiah 14, but we run a grave risk when we substitute “what I’ve always been taught” for what the Bible actually says. And second, because if Lucifer is a man, then his sin could easily be ours, and we need the warning, so that we may receive the grace that God only gives to the humble.
For His glory and your joy,
I realize there’s a whole lot more going on in Isaiah 14, so I’d love to discuss this further with you if you think I’ve missed something! Is there anything you would add? Correct? Say differently?