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.
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)
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.
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!