Scripture Reference: Isaiah 14, Ezekiel 28:12
The Falling Star Bites The DustDr. Erwin W. Lutzer | October 1, 1995
Selected highlights from this sermon
When people think of Lucifer, more than likely they think of him in his fallen form: Satan. But Lucifer was an anointed cherub. He was the prominent angel in God’s creation. His role was to deliver the praise of the angelic choir to God.
So what happened? What caused his fall from this prestigious position?
In this message, Pastor Lutzer will explain the rise and fall of Lucifer, along with the lessons we can learn from Lucifer’s mistakes.
You were in Eden, the Garden of God.
With that statement we are thrown into a world with which you and I are not familiar. It is a world of beauty, a world of harmony, a world in which there is only one will in the universe, and that will is the will and the purpose of God. It is a world that we can scarcely imagine. But it was in that world, of all places, that one of God’s creation, one of God’s creatures, decided that he would take a cosmic gamble, which in the end backfired. He actually tripped over a series of dominoes, and he did not understand how those dominoes were inter-related, and he could not fully appreciate the consequences of his decision.
Who was this being that stood against God? Who was this being who decided to trade peace for war, and to take on the Almighty? The Bible says that his name was Lucifer. That word Lucifer means light bearer or shining one. Now he did not have any natural light of his own, but he was supposed to reflect the glory and the light of Almighty God. Just like today the moon has no light of itself, but it simply reflects the glory and the light of the sun, so Lucifer was to reflect God, and evidently he did.
Take your Bibles and turn with me to Ezekiel 28. What a description there we have of Lucifer before he became Satan. Now you need to understand that God would never create a being who was as great and wonderful as God Himself is. That’s unthinkable. God would never create a being that was omnipresent, omnipotent. God would not do that, but He will create a creature with creaturely perfections. And evidently Lucifer was the very best that God could do. He represented the apex, the strong apex of God’s remarkable creation.
Now, let’s go through this passage of Scripture, first of all, finding out who this creature really was. Who was he? Now I need to tell you that in Ezekiel 28 there is a lament or a judgment against the king of Tyre in the first verses. And then beginning in verse 11 the prophet continues to speak against the king of Tyre, and now Bible interpreters come to a problem. What shall we do? The prophet is saying things that could never possibly be true about a human being. And that’s why throughout the centuries commentators have always seen in this a description of Satan who was really controlling the king of Tyre. And it’s as if the prophet, Ezekiel, is going back and not only seeing the career of Satan, but even going through the corridors of time and seeing those days when Satan was really Lucifer, son of the morning, the shining one. And what we need to do is to either begin to interpret the Bible very figuratively at that point, or if we want to interpret it literally in any way, we must understand the text that way, because now what follows could not really be a reference to the king of Tyre, but must be a reference to Lucifer himself.
Verses 12 and 13: “Son of man, raise a lamentation over the king of Tyre, and say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord God: “You were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God.”’”
This was not the Garden of Eden, about which we shall speak in the next message. This is a mineral Eden, a garden filled with beautiful stones. Notice it says, “Every precious stone was your covering, the ruby, the topaz, the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, the jasper,” and it lists other stones. And what it is saying is that Lucifer was, in effect, the apex of God’s beautiful creation. All of the beauty of God, the creaturely perfections that would be possible, were poured into this one creature.
Now, it’s very interesting as we read this text of Scripture that we find that he was God’s masterpiece, but notice not only the creature he was, but the duties that he performed. What was he doing way back when? Well, let’s pick up the text in verse 14: “You were an anointed guardian cherub. I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God; in the midst of the stones of fire you walked.”
What was he doing? That expression the anointed cherub could be a reference to the fact that he was simply a servant, but a scholar by the name of Barnhouse many years ago makes a suggestion which I find plausible. And that is that Satan, before he was Satan in the days when he was Lucifer, actually had a priesthood, if you please, because you’ll notice in verse 18 in the middle of the verse it says, “You profaned your sanctuaries.”
What was that priesthood? Evidently he had the responsibility of taking the worship of all of the angels that God had created, and taking that worship and making sure that it got to God. He was to make certain that all the praise and the adoration, of which God was so eminently worthy, would make it to the throne of the Almighty to which it all belonged. That was his responsibility.
Now, when you stop to think of it, you realize that he was doing this, but from what point in the universe? Possibly the earth! And now it’s true that he had access to the very throne of God. He could enter into the presence of God, as evidently can all the angels. But the sphere of his activity was the earth. That was his abode. That was his assigned position. Later on we’ll see that he is still given that responsibility even after the fall and the entrance of sin.
And so we have here someone who was the cheerleader of the Almighty. He operates from an earthly base. He has access to heaven and his responsibility is to coordinate all of the singing and the glory and the wonder of the angelic choir, leading it to make sure that God got praise.
Well, so far, so good! How long did he do that, by the way? We don’t know. It could have been millions of years. But now let’s look at the gamble that he took. Verse 15: “You were blameless in your ways; from the day you were created, till unrighteousness was found in you.” What a statement!
“You were blameless in all of your ways until unrighteousness was found in you.” What was the manner of that unrighteousness? Well, we know it to be pride. It was pride. It was jealousy. God was getting all the glory. Notice it says in verse 16: “By the abundance of your trade you were internally filled with violence and you sinned.” This was pride at its worst, just like traders who traded in Tyre.
You see, what happened is here was Lucifer who was supposed to take the worship of all of the created creatures and make sure that that worship got to God. That was his responsibility, but he allowed some of it to stick to his fingers. It’s just like there are traders who keep a portion all of the money that goes by them because they are cheating. In the very same way, Lucifer must have thought to himself, “It’s okay for God to get the honor and the glory and the praise. That’s no problem, but does He have to receive it all? Why can’t I take some of it—maybe at least ten percent?”
Now we come to a theological problem that no theologian to my knowledge has ever been able to solve. Here’s the question. You’ve thought about it—that stunning statement, “You were perfect and blameless in all of your ways until unrighteousness was found in you”? And the question is this: Why would a perfect being suddenly have unrighteousness erupt from inside of him? Or to put the question differently, why would a being who had all of these creaturely perfections, who supposedly was satisfied, how would it be that he then would become dissatisfied? Certainly the origin of evil was to make a choice, but why would he want to choose against God? Was not serving God the greatest honor that any creature could ever possibly have? Was not the responsibility of being the highest of God’s creation, and making sure that He would get all glory and honor, a privilege of wonder and incredible grace? Why be dissatisfied, and why choose unrighteousness? Well, the answer to that is that for us as human beings, there is no answer. There is no answer. Only God knows the real answer. All that we know is that explosive statement: “You were blameless in all of your ways until unrighteousness was found in you.” He decided to make a decision, and that decision, based on pride and arrogance and jealousy, landed him in a situation from which there would be no escape.
Your Bible is open to Ezekiel 28. Could you now turn to Isaiah 14? It’s always easy to remember these passages because 14 has to be multiplied by two to get 28. In Isaiah 14 you have the very same story, except this is against the king of Babylon, and once again we face an interpretive question. Either we interpret it literally, in which case we have to apply it to a being other than a human being, or else we try to see all kinds of symbols that don’t make a whole lot of sense.
In Isaiah 14 we pick it up in verse 13 where there are five “I wills” of Lucifer. “I will ascend to heaven.” Well, he already had access to heaven, but now he’s saying, “I want to ascend into heaven because I want to take the place of God.” That’s what he means by ascending into heaven. “I will raise my throne above the stars of God.” Who are the stars of God? The angels! And now what does he want to do? He wants to raise his throne above them. He already was above them, but that’s not what he wants. He was above them but that was a derived responsibility. That was something that was given to him of God. He wants to be above them by virtue of his own nature, by virtue of who he is. He wants to be among them so that he can really control them according to his own way. That’s what he meant when he said, “I will exalt my throne above the stars of God.”
“I will sit on the mount of the assembly.” Wherever you have mountains in the Bible it has to do with kingdoms. He’s saying, “I want to sit up there and I want to rule the kingdoms of the universe.” And then he says, “I will ascend above the heights of the clouds,” and perhaps there it is even a reference to the Shekinah Glory, which is spoken of in the Old Testament as being a cloud. And then finally you get to the bottom line: “I will make myself like the Most High.” I will be like God. There you have it in a nutshell.
Now I want you to know today that the decision that he made was the most colossal disaster and failure that one could ever possibly do. This was the mother of all foolish gambles. What was the chance that he could take on God and win? Less chance than there would be that I would win in the lottery! Did you know that? And I want you to know that I don’t buy so much as a single ticket.
Lucifer’s chance here was nil. It wasn’t one over a hundred trillion in googolplex. Is there a word like that? There is now. There was no chance like that. It was zero. To take on God meant undoubtedly that he would lose. No matter how he spun the wheel, it was God who controlled the outcome. No matter how he threw the dice, it was always God who determined how those dice landed. Colossal mistake!
Now, what I’d like to do today is to give you five limitations that Lucifer had, five limitations that guaranteed his doom. And you might want to write these down somewhere. Five limitations—five reasons why this gamble was absolutely doomed to fail and became an unmitigated disaster for him and for those who follow him!
Number one! Think this through. He was limited in what he could achieve. Now you just think of that statement: “I will be like the Most High!” In what sense could he be like Almighty God? You know, theologians have certain words that they use to describe the attributes of God. And there are many attributes, but a few of those words are words such as omniscience. That word om means all. Omniscience—all knowing! Omniscient—knowing all things both actual and possible!
Could Lucifer ever be like God in the sense that he would know everything? The answer is no—N-O, no! Satan can know that somebody in Dallas, Texas, is planning the assassination of the president. He may have access to the perpetrator’s mind, assuming that the perpetrator was not a believer in Jesus Christ, and therefore not having any protection over his mind. So he knows what is being planned. He sees that the gun is being loaded, but he has no assurance whatever that it’s really going to come off. Maybe percentages, but he can’t know it for sure! The gun might jam. The man might be caught before he goes into the Dallas School Book Room Depository Building. The motorcade might take a different route than was planned. There are all of these options that Satan cannot control, and therefore, he can have some probability in terms of predicting the future, but he cannot predict the future infallibly. Only God can do that. And that’s why most of the predictions that President Kennedy would be assassinated in Dallas, if you remember, were made after the assassination rather than before.
Now, this is why the Bible says in the Old Testament that the difference between a prophet of God and a false prophet is this: A false prophet may be right nine out of ten times, but he will not be right all the time because there are too many factors that he cannot control. Satan cannot see into the future, and therefore, he may be wrong. And a prophet of God, speaking under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God can never be wrong. He is infallibly right because only God knows the future with certainty—apodictic certainty. I use that word because I don’t get a chance to use it very often. Apodictic certainty! There’s something about it that I love, so there you have it. I’ll say it one more time. Apodictic certainty! That’s God, but not Satan.
So he can never be omniscient. Can he be omnipresent? God fills the whole universe simultaneously. The answer is no. If Satan is fighting a battle in Korea, he cannot be fighting a battle in Chicago at the same time. He can through his demons, as we’ll be learning in this series of messages, but he himself personally cannot be present. He can travel through the earth at a very quick speed, and around the earth. He has that ability to be suddenly present over here, and then present over here, but he cannot be in two places at one time. He can never be omnipresent like God.
Can he be omnipotent? No! God apparently has given him the ability to actualize himself in a physical way. All angels seem to be able to do that. But he cannot create something out of nothing in and of himself. He cannot create Ex nihilo. He cannot create human life. He cannot create the sun, the moon, the stars, so in that sense he can never be like God.
Well, let me ask you a question then. In what sense then can he be like God when he says, “I will be like the Most High?” Only in one regard! Only in one, and that is independence. He can say to himself, “I can do my own thing. I can rebel against God. I no longer have to look to the Almighty for my orders,” or at least that’s what he thought was going to happen.
Now I find this to be a scandal beyond irony because just think this through, folks. Satan rebelled that he might no longer have to be God’s servant, but he is still God’s servant, even today. He’s a different kind of a servant, to be sure. Before he served willingly. He served voluntarily. Now he serves non-voluntarily, but he serves nonetheless. He can only exercise that independence within the circle of God’s divine providence, and he cannot step outside of those bounds without the express permission of the Almighty. Sure doesn’t sound like independence to me—at least not much.
He wants to harass God’s servant, Job, and he can’t do it except God says, “Alright, you’ve asked us about Job, and we’ve talked together. Go ahead, and you can do thus and so to him, but you can’t touch his life. You can do A, B, C, but you can’t do D, and on and on.” So, what does he have to do? He has to get permission from God. He can take one of God’s servants and he can debilitate him. He can also give him perhaps dizziness, but in the end, if God chooses to raise him up as the result of the prayers of God’s people, God’s will always triumphs! And so Satan, with his will and with his independence, it turns out, is not very independent at all.
Somebody asked me a question. They said, “In this series of messages are you going to show that God actually uses the devil towards God’s own ends?” and the answer is yes. It doesn’t seem like independence to me, but he was limited, therefore, in what he could achieve. You know, Milton says that Satan would prefer to be a king in hell than a servant in heaven. And actually, as Satan discovered, there is no king in hell. There is no king in hell! What a disastrous decision.
Number two, he was limited in what he could foresee. Now, I’ve already hinted at that, but let me explain what I mean by this second limitation. He was limited in what he could foresee. He could not foresee the consequences of his decision for one good reason. There was no other example of rebellion in the universe. You see, you and I today can say to somebody, “Now, if you don’t obey God, there’s this possibility and this possibility,” because we’ve seen these options played out so often. But there was no example of someone who had defied God, so he was limited in being able to foresee the consequences.
He couldn’t foresee that only one-third of the angels would side with him according to Revelation 12. Possibly he thought, “When I go against God, and when I say, ‘I will be like the Most High’ because all of the angels were under my authority and I had the responsibility of making sure that worship got to God, they all will side with me.” And now just think of it! For every fallen angel that rebels and curses God, there are two who still sing God’s praises. He could not have predicted that it would turn out that way.
He didn’t know anything about the Lake of Fire and Brimstone in which he is going to be tormented and humiliated forever and ever and ever. That was beyond his ability to project and predict. All that he knew was that there was this doorway that he was going to go through, hoping that it would be a new kind of existence, a new kind of freedom, a new kind of life, and suddenly he discovers that it is God who keeps the last cards. It is God who writes the last chapter. And now suddenly he finds himself trapped in a decision that he can’t get out of, and that is the third limitation.
The third limitation is that he was limited in damage repair. I have no way of proving this from the Bible, but it is my own strong suspicion that he deeply regretted his decision the moment it was made. When he began to see how corrupt he became, when he began to see that no matter how he spun the wheel that it was always God who controlled the outcome, when he began to understand that now suddenly he was taking on the Almighty, and some of the effects of sin became clear to him, he might have regretted his decision. But at this point there was absolutely nothing that he could do about it, nothing from now throughout all of eternity. Nothing could possibly change it!
“Oh,” you say, “well what if he would repent?” No chance, for two reasons! Number one, he could not repent. He would have no desire for repentance. Now, follow this carefully. When he was a creaturely creation with all of the beauty and the perfections with which God created him, at that moment he had the capacity also for evil, as we learned. But now that he had chosen against God he would never again have the capacity for good ever. He was thoroughly and totally corrupted.
There is no truth in him. When he speaks, he speaks a lie. He is in darkness at all times. He is thoroughly corrupt and totally evil—irredeemably evil. That’s one reason. The second reason is because there’s been no provision made for his forgiveness. We won’t take time to do it, but you can do this on your own. Read Hebrews 2 where it says expressly that when Jesus came to this earth he took not upon himself the form of an angel, but He took upon Himself the form of a servant, and of the seed of Abraham, that He might redeem those who are the seed of Abraham.
You see, God just can’t say, “Well, he made a bad decision, but I am merciful. Therefore, I forgive him.” No! The question is, “Who would provide a sacrifice for his sins?” It was not covered with Christ’s death. Your sin was covered by Christ’s death. My sin was covered by Christ’s death, but not Lucifer’s sin. And therefore, there was no possibility ever that he could rectify the mess that he had created, and he learned a very important lesson. And the lesson is that God’s creatures can create a mess, but God’s creatures cannot clean that mess up. And that’s why we who are human beings are so fortunate. It is because God chose to clean up the mess through the coming of Jesus Christ, an event which again Lucifer could not possibly foresee. And the conflict of that will, of course, becomes apparent in future messages in this series, but at this point all that he could do is make the mess. He could not take that mess and he couldn’t put it together again.
Humpty Dumpty sat on the wall.
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
Humpty Dumpty (How does the rest of it go?)
At any rate, whatever happened to Humpty Dumpty I do remember this about the guy. Nobody could put him back together again. (Laughter) He was limited in damage repair.
Number four, he was limited in his understanding of God. Now, folks, I believe that he miscalculated. I believe that Lucifer miscalculated. I don’t think that he understood something. He did not understand how thoroughly God hates sin and is going to judge it.
I’ve been thinking about this series of messages for a long time, and I have been trying to imagine what it would be like to be Lucifer. And there you are. You see God in His beauty. All that you see is love. All that you see is grace. All that you are acquainted with is mercy. You have never seen one single example of His justice because there was no need for that. No need for it! As long as everyone did the will of God, as long as there was harmony and beauty and symmetry, there would be no need whatever for God’s justice. There would be no way that he could possibly predict that God was going to be so exceedingly careful and judgmental of sin. He did not know that that lake of fire lay ahead.
And nor could he have known that in God’s economy the higher a person ascends and exerts pride, and the more we aspire to be like God, the more we need to be crushed and will be crumbled. He did not know that. I think he miscalculated, just like people today. They think to themselves, “Well, you know, God is a God of love. God is a God of mercy, and because He’s a God of love and mercy why indeed there’s no possibility that He is going to have any human beings in hell. And they miscalculate because they trade on the good side. All of God is good, but from our standpoint they trade on the mercy and the compassion and the love and the grace of God. And there’s a whole other part of God’s character of justice and judgmental reactions and the hatred for sin that is unknown. I think that he was limited in his understanding of God. He had no idea He would judge sin so severely.
Number five, he was limited in his understanding of the difference between time and eternity. You see, there’s no doubt that Satan (now that he is Satan) does receive worship. That’s what he wanted. But my dear friends today, no worship on earth can ever make up for eternal humiliation in hell. He desired honor and exaltation, and he has some honor and exaltation today, but there’s no way in which that this little sliver of time in which he receives honor and exaltation… There is no way that that is ever going to be made up by eternal contempt in hell. The contempt in hell simply will prove that the gamble—this cosmic gamble—was not worth it. Imagine a proud being, who just seethes independence and authority, biting the dust of humiliation and contempt forever and ever. Will you remember something today, folks, that I hope you never forget? No decision on earth can ever be good if it is not good also in eternity. Let me say that again. No decision on earth can ever be good unless it is good in eternity.
And whatever benefits may have accrued to him in this small segment of time, because of the disastrous consequences of eternity, he would have been so much better off to simply believe God. If he’d have simply said, “You know, God has told me to be obedient. I’m going to be obedient. I’m not even going to question whether or not He knows better than I. I’m not going to try to get out there to test to see whether or not rebellion is as bad as it might appear to be.” If only he had chosen to do that, what a different story we would have to tell today. But within himself he said, “I have to try it for myself,” just like some people today who say, “I have to try it for myself,” and the consequences are disastrous.
Now I have a question I have to ask you. What were God’s options? Well, He could have exterminated the devil. He could have crushed him with raw power. He could have banished him to another planet and let him contemplate his fate. He could have thrown him into the lake of fire immediately, and that would have been just and true. But God did not do that. Here’s what God decided. He said, “Satan is now going to continue to be the prince of this world. He will be known as the prince of the power of the air and the prince of this world, so he’s going to continue. Earth will continue to be his sphere.”
But secondly He said, “I’m going to give him time to see whether or not he can organize his kingdom, whether or not he can bring order out of chaos. I’m going to give him time to see whether or not any good can possibly come out of his decision. I’m going to give him time to test his abilities to see exactly what his limits are and to know what will be accomplished as the result of his rebellion.”
And God says, “I’m not going to win a victory over him with raw power, which I could do immediately just like that, but rather I’m going to win on the basis of righteousness. There’s going to be a whole class of beings created (which Lucifer knew nothing about). They are going to be human beings, and they are going to side with Lucifer, but out from among them I’m going to purchase some for myself, and exalt those beings higher than Lucifer himself was exalted.”
Oh, how it hurt that proud being. And so what God decided to do was to allow earth to become a drama on which would be played out good versus evil, righteousness versus unrighteousness, darkness versus light. And in the end, when the final curtain call comes, God is going to be completely victorious. Indeed, He is already victorious, and all that is still needed is for the end time to be wrapped up until the whole universe agrees that God is victorious.
Now where do you and I fit into this? The Bible says that we are born into a kingdom of darkness. We are born under the condemnation of sin, as we’ll learn in the next message. We are born really under Satan’s dominion in the sense that we are born rebels. But the Scripture says that He has translated us from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of His Dear Son. And that is something that only God can do. You can’t do that by living a good life. You can’t do that by saying, “Well, I’m as good as the neighbor next door.” You need a miracle to translate you from the kingdom of darkness, with all of its prideful intentions, into the kingdom of God’s blessed Son. And that’s what redemption is all about.
And today God gives you and me the wonderful opportunity to believe on Christ so that He might do it. If there is anything that is clear in the Bible, it is that nobody ever saves himself. Nobody ever says, “I’m good enough now finally for God.” It is something that God must do. And God can now do something for you and for me that He could never do for Lucifer and never will do for Lucifer, and that is to translate us into the kingdom of His Blessed Son. We come under new ownership. Jesus Christ becomes our owner. We are given a new nature. Our sins are forgiven, and we are reconciled to God, and that’s what only God is able to do. But remember if you don’t let God do that you will die as a member of Satan’s kingdom with all of the awfulness and terror and shame and humiliation connected with it. That’s clear. Just two kingdoms—the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of light—the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan.
And today, every one of us who is listening to this message is in one kingdom or the other. If you are in his kingdom—Satan’s—let God do in you what only God can do.
And let us pray.
Our Father, we thank You today for the triumph of Jesus Christ. We thank You, Father, that Satan’s decision, though terrible, is not irreversible for those of us who know Christ as Savior. We thank You that Satan is a model today of the disastrous consequences of disobedience, and we thank You that his doom is sure. We pray in these moments, Lord, that You will speak to every heart. And for those who have never believed on Christ, may they do that, that they might be in the kingdom of light. We pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.