Finding Lucifer…At Long Last (and I do mean “Last”)

King Louie

Who cares?

Really, who cares about whether or not Isaiah 14 depicts the fall of Satan under the name of Lucifer?

Is that going to help heal a marriage? Call a prodigal child home? Give someone strength to face one more day with terminal cancer? Is it on the new convert’s top ten list of must-know Bible facts? Are Christian soccer moms meeting over coffee to discuss this question? Is it the topic that is swelling church small groups with new attendees nationwide? Will it be the main focus of an engaged couple’s pre-marital counseling? Of course not! So why bother?

Because it’s worthwhile to make sure we’re reading what the Bible actually says instead of blindly following tradition. Because it’s worthwhile to read the Bible in its own context to make sure we’re actually hearing what God has said. Because all Scripture is profitable to our walk of faith with the Lord. (2 Tim. 3:16-17) And because, whether we realize it or not, the fall of Lucifer is extremely relevant to every person living on this globe. It’s relevant because his future affects ours.

Lucifer’s Future

In my previous posts, I have given numerous reasons – both simple and complex – for why the fall of Lucifer in Isaiah 14 does not refer to the fall of Satan. But one reason seems so obvious that I am amazed not to have seen it before, and it is the simple fact that everything Isaiah says about Lucifer, he says about the future.

(Did you catch that? Isaiah is talking about the future, not the past. Satan fell in the past. Lucifer will fall in the future. Am I missing something here?)

In Isaiah 14, God speaks of a time when he restores his people Israel to their land and causes them to live in peace, triumphant over their enemies. In fact, at that time, God’s blessing upon them is so evident that all nations will want to join them to share in their inheritance. Unless I’m mistaken, that hasn’t happened yet. (Yes, I realize that some people think it happened either historically in the 6th century BC, or spiritually through Jesus Christ and the church, but both approaches would have to acknowledge that the fullness of God’s Kingdom promises still has yet to be experienced.) It is still in the future.

And in that future, God’s people taunt their fallen foe, Lucifer. That’s the gist of the whole “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer…!” part. However, when Isaiah wrote, he had not yet fallen. (14:20-21) In fact, I’m pretty sure he had not yet taken his throne as the King of Babylon. (14:4)

Babylon’s Future

That’s because when Isaiah wrote, Babylon was not really much of a threat. In fact, they were more likely to be seen as an ally to God’s people than an adversary, which is why Isaiah prophesied of their doom. God didn’t want his people looking to other nations and their false gods for the protection that only he could provide them. (Relevant)

Of course, they would become a threat. After Isaiah’s time, Babylon would become a mighty empire, the dominant power in that part of the world. They would defeat Israel’s main enemy, Assyria, and they would utterly decimate Israel herself, taking many of her citizens into exile beyond the Euphrates River. Jerusalem and the Temple of God would be completely destroyed. In response to this, God spoke many times about destroying Babylon and its King. One of those places is Isaiah 13.

That’s right. Isaiah 13 and 14 actually form one single address, and together they prophesy the future destruction of Babylon. The problem is that they do it too well. The destruction that Isaiah foretells goes far beyond what actually happened in history, meaning that there is a lot that hasn’t happened yet.

Oh, Isaiah anchors his prophesy in history; he includes the Medes, who conquered Babylon and allowed some Jews to return him.(13:17) And he even talks about the destruction of Assyria. (14:25). But he also uses terms that refer to the Day of the Lord (13:6, 9, 13) and great signs in the sun, moon, and stars (compare 13:10 with Matt. 24:29), and he describes a total desolation that has never really occurred. The point is that while ancient Babylon is no longer with us, there is a Babylonian destruction that is yet to come. And when Babylon falls, so will her King.

I don’t think this means that the ancient city of Babylon will necessarily be rebuilt, only that Babylon filled a role in history that has been taken up by many other players since then. The prophet Daniel saw Babylon as the head of a long line of world empires that would oppose God and his people until they were conquered by the reign of Christ. (Dan. 2:37, 44) In fact, the book of Revelation describes the world’s powers standing against Christ, headquartered in a city named…Babylon. (Rev. 17-18) Want to guess who its King is?

The World’s Future

The world has always had its powerful leaders, and there have been some who have acted as if they might conquer all. From Nimrod to Nebuchadnezzar, Alexander the Great to Antiochus Epiphanes, and from Rome to the Reich, there have always been men to cause the nations to tremble. In their pride, they have exalted themselves and persecuted the people of God. Some have even gone so far as to demand worship for themselves.

That’s what Isaiah says of Lucifer, and it is what the Apostle Paul says about him, too, though he uses a different name. Repeatedly, the Bible points to the last days, the end times, and describes it in terms of the people of God, led by Christ, opposed by the kingdoms of this world and their leader. In 2 Thess. 2:4, Paul calls him the Man of Sin; Revelation calls him the Beast; today, we typically call him Antichrist.

He is the future leader of the world’s power that is directly opposed to God. In Isaiah 13-14, God denounced a future world power under the heading “Babylon,” and he also described the fall of its King. As I said before, there have been many world powers since the Babylon of Isaiah’s day, and there have been many powerful rulers. But they were all of a piece, culminating in the time when the armies of this world’s kingdoms will be marshaled by their leader to make war against Jesus Christ and his saints. They will lose.

Your Future

That’s why this is so relevant. It’s one thing to read John Milton’s fanciful account of Satan’s fall from heaven; it’s another to recognize that the powers of this world are doomed, despite all their attempts to impress or intimidate us into pledging them our allegiance. The fall of Lucifer teaches us that the greatest of men – whether celebrity, executive, or President – are but men. Their greatest ambitions will fail. Their opulent show is but a façade.

I won’t deny that Satan is surely behind all of this. Antichrist comes in the power of Satan. (2 Thess. 2:9) But he will work through a man, just as he has (almost) always worked through men and women to bully God’s people away from their faith or barter them out of their birthright.

When God describes the fall of Lucifer, he is warning us that there is a choice to be made. Fear God and trust in Christ for salvation, or believe the promises of worldly men and women to satisfy all your heart’s desires. You cannot have it both ways, but know that all the power, pleasures, possessions, popularity, and even protection that Lucifer offers you in exchange for your love will fail with him when he falls. Every day we choose between the offerings of the world’s leaders and the offerings of grace from Christ, the Lord. Whom will we love? Whom will we worship? To whom will we turn for those things we need most deeply? Who will guide our lives? Who will determine what is most valuable? Whose voice will woo us?

Every day is a battle for our hearts, but for the saints of God, the battle was won long ago on a cross. If the fall of Lucifer teaches us anything, it is that there is only one true bright and morning star, and his name is Jesus. And he calls on us to come, turn our back upon the world and its kings, and receive his grace through faith in him alone.

I realize that this may be something of a minority report, a dissenting opinion. So, I’m quite interested in any comments you may care to make!

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5 Responses to Finding Lucifer…At Long Last (and I do mean “Last”)

  1. George Lugjuraj says:

    You said that everything Isaiah says about Lucifer, he says about the future, but the passage seems to indicate that the fall of Lucifer had already taken place. We see the present tense “how art thou fallen…how art thou cut down” in verse 12 and then in verse 14 he uses the past participle “thou hast said”.

    Also, you said in another place that hell is a reference to the grave but I’m having a hard time understanding verse 9 if it’s referring to the grave. “hell…is moved for thee to meet thee at thy coming…it stirreth up the dead for thee”. You said that it can not be talking about Satan because he has never been to hell, but neither has the person who is being addressed in verse 9.

    Can you please elaborate on these two observations? I think I know how you are going to answer, so I’m looking forward to you’re response. In the mean time, I’m still leaning towards the ‘double application’ theory I talked about before. I see no reason to insist that Isaiah was not revealing a past event that would be reenacted by the king of Babylon. There is a clear parallel between Lucifer’s (assuming Satan was Lucifer before his fall) magnificence, power, and position as God elevated him above the other cherubs, and the excellency of the kingdom of Babylon which God also exalted above other kingdoms. So then just as Satan was cast down because of pride so the king of Babylon would follow in the folly of his father the Devil. I know it’s a little fanciful, but it’s fun. lol

    • Hey, George, thanks for your comments. Great observations. And let me say how much I appreciate your peaceful manner! (Some guy last week called me an “infidel.”)

      So, first thought – future tense. As you mentioned, verses 12 and 14 aren’t speaking of the future. However, verse 4 says that they will be spoken in the future. It seems to me that there is a taunt-song that is recorded from verse 4 through, at least, verse 20. This is something that would be spoken by God’s children in the future. I believe that that future, as described in verses 1-3, has not yet been fully realized (though it may perhaps have been inaugurated at Christ’s resurrection). In short, you have a future people taunting fallen Lucifer. Of course, you might say that this future people will be looking all the way back to the beginning of Creation, but verses 21-23 seem to clarify that the destruction of which they sing is still future, at least from Isaiah’s perspective, and, I would argue, from ours as well. And that’s not to forget that everything we read in Isaiah 14 (up to v. 23) is part of a prophecy (also future) begun in chapter 13.

      As for my comments about hell / the grave. First, let’s assume, for sake of argument, that the word refers to a place of eternal torment. If it does, then I certainly don’t see how it can apply to Satan. Remember, the traditional interpretation says that this refers to something that happened to Satan in the past. However, the rest of Scripture seems to indicate that Satan has not yet been consigned to his prison. Therefore, if it refers to Satan and refers to a place of eternal torment, then it cannot be referring to his fall at the beginning, and the whole traditional interpretation falls apart, IMO. Second, if we assume that Isaiah was simply using Sheol in the normal way – to refer to the grave without any specifics as to damnation or blessedness – then it still doesn’t refer to Satan, because he doesn’t die like a man, which verses 15-16 say that Lucifer is. Assuming Lucifer is a man, then he hasn’t been to the grave, but when he gets there (and you and I both know that it is a place of eternal torment for him) he will find himself to be no better off than any of the others he had slaughtered during his reign. And that’s kind of Isaiah’s point – the proud are humbled.

      One more thing – double application. I believe this is a legitimate interpretation of some Scriptures. Ezekiel 28 is a possibility. Also, many of David’s psalms apply more fully to Jesus than to David. However, in that case, they only apply as far as David is speaking of himself in the Messianic line, specifically as the anointed King of Israel. In a way, the whole Davidic line is being spoken of, culminating in Christ who fulfills it all. I think Lucifer and Babylon are being used in the same way. Babylon is the head of a long line of world Empires, and Lucifer is its leader. Thus, it may well refer to Nebuchadnezzar or Belshazzar, perhaps Xerxes or Alexander the Great, certainly Antiochus Epiphanes, maybe Nero or Domitian, and I think whoever the Antichrist may be. Or, as one of my seminary professors once suggested, because Satan doesn’t know when Christ will return, he always has “an” Antichrist waiting in the wings. Whoever he is, he will conquer nations, demand to be worshipped, and die like a dog.

  2. George Lulgjuraj says:

    I’m aware of the “infidel” comment. I think it was premature and stupid.

    I see your point about the future tense of the passage. Please take the time to read Ezekiel 3I, I think you would find it to be quite fitting to your exegesis of Isaiah 14. Ezekiel uses almost the same exact wording to describe the fall and destruction of Pharaoh. There is no doubt that Isaiah 14 is a prophecy of the king of Babylon, and you are correct in saying that Lucifer is the king of Babylon in this passage as far as it’s literal interpretation goes. (I’m keeping the notion of a spiritual interpretation alive, for now at least. It’s good for suspense.)

    With regards to the grave, I agree with your refutation of the traditional view that Satan has already been cast into hell. However, I was not arguing for the traditional view; quite frankly, I wasn’t even aware of it. My perspective is purely from reading the text itself. Assume for just a moment that verses 12-14 are addressing Satan. “Thou hast said” past tense, Satan is cast out of heaven (Luke 16:18); “Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell”, future tense. It is possible from the text, in consistency with the rest of scripture, to hold to the interpretation that Satan fell from heaven, but is still waiting to be cast into hell . There are other places in scripture where prophecies are fulfilled in parts, sometimes spanning thousands of years apart.

    Interesting thought came to me as I pondered my response. The king of Babylon praised and extolled the God of heaven after he had been humbled. How does this effect your understanding of Isaiah 14 with regards to his ultimate destruction and damnation. What about Mystery Babylon mentioned in Revelations? Is there a spiritual application to Isaiah 14 which can be related to the Great Whore or can I take what you have already said about the kings of the earth apply it to those passages? I hope I’m not annoying you with my continual questions of things that you have already addressed.

    • Just so you know, George, I really do enjoy this kind of discussion!

      I think that Ezekiel 31 and 32, by using such language tend to reinforce the view that the destruction of an earthly empire and ruler may be spoken of with highly symbolic and even “cosmological” language. (Some might call it “apocalyptic” language.) So, yes, I think that passages like these tend to support my interpretation of Isa. 14.

      I also see what you’re saying about the great distances of time that may separate different elements of prophecy. If I understand you correctly, this taunt is taken up in the future, refers to an event in the far distant past, and then prophesies a future judgment. Could be. Of course, you have to assume that vv. 12-14 are talking about Satan, and I personally don’t think that is the case, for the simple reason that the overall context doesn’t even suggest it. There is a paragraph break at the start of v. 12, going to v. 17, but it sets up a parallel paragraph to vv. 4-11. In these parallel paragraphs, the king’s actions and intentions are contrasted with the actual result, and in both sections there is a man who conquered nations and cities. Could this spiritually be referring to Satan? Again, there’s nothing in this chapter to suggest it.

      Of course, that’s not to say that God’s people couldn’t have had to wait 800 years to learn from Jesus (Luke 10:18) that that was what Isaiah was really referring to. (Although if that’s the case, then Isaiah’s audience wouldn’t have benefitted from it.) But think about this: Jesus never said he was quoting Isaiah, as he did in other places. He just happened to use three words that are found in Isaiah 14: “fall,” “from,” and “heaven.” He also said, “like lightning” and “Satan,” which Isaiah never mentioned. (And he actually used a slightly different word for “fall.”)

      Here’s the real issue as I see it. We’ve been taught to see Satan’s fall here, and so that’s what we see. It’s hard to get this idea out of our heads, especially when Satan seems far more relevant to us than any ancient Babylonian king. This is true in many areas of life; once an idea has been planted in our minds, it’s difficult to see things objectively. I’m arguing that if we can get Satan’s fall out of our heads long enough to study Isaiah in his own context, we’ll never find Satan’s fall there. That idea was placed there long ago by men who rejected the literal-historical-grammatical study of Scripture in favor of an allegorical approach, and because (on the surface) it sounds plausible, many people have unquestioningly accepted it and passed on down from pulpit to pew. (BTW, I’m not finding fault with anyone who has preached this – it would take more than a lifetime to study all of the Bible the way we should, and we all bring our preconceptions to the Scriptures anyway. It’s the walk of discipleship that replaces error with truth, and that’s an ongoing process. I certainly don’t have all the answers.) And I find it interesting to note that when the Reformers came out of the Roman Catholic church in the 1500s and they attempted to return to a literal approach to Scripture against a millennium of papal tradition, the “Satanic” interpretation of Isaiah 14 was something they vigorously rejected. (Of course, they weren’t always this successful, but old habits die hard.)

      As for Nebuchadnezzar’s repentance, as I’ve mentioned and you’ve alluded to, Isaiah 13-14 refers only partially to historical figures. I wouldn’t expect to see total fulfillment in anyone from the past, though Nebuchadnezzar did lay the nations low and his grandson, Belshazzar, was defeated ignominiously. I believe we’re meant to see more than this, though certainly not less. Hezekiah should have taken warning from this not to trust the Babylonians and Merodach-Baladan, just as Christians today should not set their hopes in the offerings of the world or any of its celebrity leaders. I think this does find fulfillment in Revelation 17-18, not a “spiritual application” but a real prophetic reference. I’m aware of those who try to see a one-world religion in these chapters – “the Great Whore” – and link it with Catholicism or Islam or something else, however I think a better understanding of the idea would be a combination of Ideal Man-worship and materialistic excess. And we’re really not all that far removed from it, which is what makes John’s vision so immediately relevant.

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