SATAN (First of two)
T PIERCE BROWN
Since I have not seen anything recently written in any gospel papers about Satan, and yet I find he is still operating, I decided it would be appropriate to call attention to him again. 1 Pet. 5:8 says, “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour.” Many operations are “downsizing” for economic or other reasons. His seems to be adding workers from all sections of society.
Almost always when we are studying with a person who knows little about the Bible, the question is raised about the origin of Satan. Is he eternal or co-existent with God? If he is not eternal, then why did God create an evil being? The answer is reasonably easy if we read all that the Bible has to say about the matter. It may surprise us that the Bible says so little about how he began to operate. There are many things the Bible does not say that are assumed by preachers and theologians. First, let us look at the simple answer, and then examine various aspects of the question of Satan and his work.
God did not create an evil being, but created both superhuman and human beings with the power of choice. One of those superhuman beings with the power of choice rebelled against God and became His adversary (which is the meaning of the term “Satan”). It is assumed by many Bible scholars and theologians that the words in Isa.14:12-14 where the term “Lucifer” is used, is talking about Satan. In the New Unger’s Bible Dictionary we find the following “LU’CIFR (lu’si-fer; Heb. helel, “brightness”). This designation, referring to Satan, is the KJV rendering of NASB, “star of the morning,” that is, “bright star” (Isa.14:12-14), probably what we call the “morning star” (so NIV). As a symbolical representation of the king of Babylon in his pride, splendor, and fall, the passages goes beyond the Babylonian prince and invests Satan, who, at the head of this present world-system is the real though invisible power behind the successive world rulers of Tyre, Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome.” This is merely an assumption and his interpretation of the meaning of a prophetic passage, although there may be no particular danger in that assumption. He continues, “This far-reaching passage goes beyond human history and marks the beginning of sin in the universe and the fall of Satan and the pristine, sinless spheres before the creation of man. Similarly (Ezekiel 28:12-14), under the figure of the king ofTyre, likewise traces the fall of Satan and the corruption of his power and glory. In the Ezekiel passage Satan’s glorious and splendid unfallen state is described. In Isa. 14:12-14 his fall is depicted. In both passages representation is not of Satan as confined to his own person but working in and consummating his plans through earthly kings and rulers who take to themselves divine honors and who, whether they actually know this or not, rule in the spirit and under the aims of Satan. Daniel10:13and Eph.6:12show that there are human as well as superhuman agencies in world governments in the satanic world system.” Although this position is widely held, we believe it to be in error in terms of the exegesis of the passages. It is not a very serious error because the language seems to depict very well what appeared to have happened in Stan’s case, although our judgment is that it is not a proper exegesis of either Isaiah 14 or Ezekiel 28. The danger in that sort of exegesis is that it allows an arbitrary and false method of interpreting prophecy to take the place of the proper way to understand them. A far better understanding of the prophecies is obtained by letting Jesus and the Apostles interpret them. When this is done, then these prophecies aboutBabylonand the prince of Tyrus can easily be seen to refer to them, as the text says it does, but the usual type of prophetic language is used to make the prophecy more dramatic. Surely if we can understand Peter’s language from Joel that the sun shall be turned into darkness and the moon into blood (Acts2:20) we should not have trouble understanding these references in Isaiah and Ezekiel.
The idea that the passage is speaking of Satan is probably because these scholars assumed that it would be improper to use such exalted descriptions of the kings ofBabylonand Tyrus. Since the literal descriptions do not fit any human beings, it is assumed that they must refer to some superhuman being. Most of those commentators and scholars do the same thing with all the prophecies that relate to the Messianic kingdom and assume that since the desert has not blossomed like a rose (Isa. 35:1), the lion and lamb have not lain down together (Isa. 11:6), and no one has beaten their swords into plowshares (Isa 2:4) that the kingdom has not yet come. If one reads carefully those and other similar passages and sees them fulfilled in Christ and His kingdom as the New Testament plainly shows, he should be able to better interpret all such prophecies.
Adam Clark stated my position reasonably well in his comments on Isa. 14:12 when he said, “And although the context speaks explicitly concerning Nebuchadnezzar, yet this has been, I know not why, applied to the chief of the fallen angels, who is most incongruously denominated Lucifer, (the bringer of light!) an epithet as common as those of Satan and Devil. That the Holy Spirit by his prophets should call this arch-enemy of God and man the light-bringer would be strange indeed. But the truth is, the text speaks nothing at all concerning Satan nor his fall, nor the occasion of that fall, which many divines have with great confidence deduced from this text. O how necessary it is to understand the literal meaning of Scripture, that preposterous comments may be prevented!”
However, since Peter says in 2 Pet. 2:4, “For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment,” and Jude says in Jude 1:6, “And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day,” we think it logical to conclude that at some time angels had an “estate” in the presence of God, but sinned and were cast down. So much of the language of Isaiah and Ezekiel used in speaking ofBabylonand Tyrus could be applied very well to what happened in Satan’s case. God probably used that language to suggest that those kings were in the same category as Satan, somewhat as Jesus did when he said to Peter in Mt.16:23, “Get thee behind me, Satan; thou art an offence unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.” It may be an error to say that a passage means something, and a truth to say that it suggests that. In my judgment, the passages in Isaiah and Ezekiel do not refer to Satan, but they suggest the same kind of pride he apparently had that caused him to sin against God.
T. Pierce Brown
1068 Mitchell Ave.