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What Is God Up To?

Lucifer’s Greatest Blunder

Dr. Erwin W. Lutzer | October 28, 1990

Selected highlights from this sermon

When God created the universe, everything was in perfect harmony—until one angel named Lucifer made a big mistake. In pride, he tried to steal glory from God. But God did not crush him. Instead he was given rule over Earth, and to this day, Satan still tries to oppose God’s purposes. 

My topic today is Lucifer’s Greatest Blunder. And I was in a clothing store yesterday and a man came to pick up some clothes, and he was asked his name, and he said, “It is Mr. Lutz – L-U-T-Z.” I pointed out that my name was a little longer than his, but we must be related somewhere along the line. And I simply mention that so that once again you keep Lucifer distinct from Lutzer. (laughter)

In the beginning, as we know, there was God, as we learned last week. And we talked about God being alone, and the greatness of God and His incredible immensity. Did you notice the article in the Tribune this past week – “Astronomers Discover the Largest Galaxy Ever?” It said that they discovered a galaxy 60 times the size of the Milky Way. It embraces more than a hundred trillion stars. Did you know it’s possible to have a star named after you? I think we could make money that way. Just tell people we’ll name a star after you. Just pay us a hundred dollars.

But notice this. You know that light travels at 186,000 miles a second. In a year it travels roughly 6 trillion miles. Now think about that. And this galaxy is 6 million light years in diameter. So if you want to find out how far it is in diameter, what you do is you take 6 trillion and you multiply it by 6 million. I didn’t because I know I probably would make a mistake. And when it comes to arithmetic I’ve always said, “As long as I’m right 90% of the time, who cares about the other 5%? (laughter) It’s not my great strength.

But I want you to notice that the scientists say this is an organized mass of light and energy, and here’s the good news, folks. God is bigger than this galaxy. It is unthinkable that He would create galaxies and universes that are greater than He is. They say that the universe is infinite. Perhaps that is possible. If the universe is infinite, God is beyond the infinite.

Do you know what I think? I don’t think He’s worried about the budget deficit in Washington. I really don’t think that’s any big deal to God. He’s not even worried about the budget deficit at Moody Church. You know, that’s no big deal to Him either. He’s interested in it, but all of these things that concern us are really of no great moment to our almighty sovereign God. And when He decided to create, He already knew that He would be putting into motion a series of events, a series of dominoes that would produce eventually the Holocaust, and would cause child abuse, and all of the injustices that plague the world. So what is it that God is up to? What is He doing that He would think would justify a planet with this incredible amount of hurt throughout all the years of war and misunderstanding, hatred and grief?

You know, of course, that God’s first agenda was to create spirit beings. We call them angels. They are personal. They are personal because they have intelligence. They have sensibility. They have will. They could choose against God. They are powerful, able to travel from one end of this planet to another very, very quickly. In fact, that’s also true of demons – fallen angels. Did you know that there is a university in Texas where there is a man who concentrates and meditates at a certain time, and a guru in India also concentrates and meditates? And they send messages back and forth. And they think it’s the power of the mind. Well, if this is happening, I want you to know that it is not the powerful minds that we have. It is because there are evil spirits in the world that can travel that quickly from one continent to another, and bring messages to people who are into the occult.

We find also that when God decided to create angels, they were plentiful. There are millions of them, tens of millions. Possibly there is one for every one of the stars that we have talked about – the hundreds of trillions of stars. And the greatest of all of these beings that God created evidently was Lucifer, and we’d like to look at his career, as it is outlined for us in Ezekiel 28.

The prophet of the Old Testament was speaking about the king of Tyre, and suddenly he ends up speaking about a spirit being that is awesome and beautiful. Stage one in his career is his creation in Ezekiel 28. I want you to notice that his appearance first of all is given. Verse 11 says, “Moreover, the word of the Lord came to me: ‘Son of man, raise a lamentation over the king of Tyre, and say to him, “Thus says the Lord God.”’”

You say, “Well, Pastor Lutzer, this is a reference to the king of Tyre, not to Lucifer.” But if you read it, you soon find out that there’s no way that this can refer simply to a king. Behind the king of Tyre is Satan, and that’s why the writer begins to say things that could never possibly be true of any man, and that’s why commentators and theologians throughout the centuries have said that this is a reference not to a man, but ultimately to Lucifer.

Notice his appearance. This is the middle of verse 12. “You were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.” Think about that. You see God could never create a being that was as beautiful as God Himself is. Any being that He creates has to be a lesser being, but evidently Lucifer was the best that God could possibly do, perfect in wisdom and beauty.

What about his location? Verse 13, “You were in Eden.” This was not the Garden of Eden with its vegetation, but this was a mineral Eden with all kinds of beautiful stones. “Every precious stone was your covering, sardius, topaz, and diamond, beryl, onyx, and jasper.” All of these beautiful accompaniments were given to Lucifer.

I want you to notice his responsibility in verse 14. “You were an anointed guardian cherub who covers.” Some translations say, “You are the cherub who spreads out His wings.” It reminds us of the Ark, doesn’t it?

Do you realize that Lucifer had some very interesting priestly duties? I happen to think that his assignment was Planet Earth. I know that Milton has told us that Satan was tossed out of heaven, and that’s true, but he was tossed out of heaven when he said, “I want to be like the Most High. I will ascend into heaven.” And God threw him out. But it may well be his territory. His sphere of influence was already then Planet Earth, which God was making ready for a tremendous drama, in which all kinds of issues were going to be settled and played out.

And here he is. He has the responsibility of being a priest, in effect taking all the worship, all the adoration of the angelic beings beneath him and making sure that these items of praise and the works that they do go directly to God. He was like a mediator, making sure that everything on the planet contributed to the glory of God.

Notice his privileged position. It says, “You were on the holy mountain of God.” Wherever you have the mountain in the Bible you always have political influence, and he had that. “In the midst of the stones of fire you walked,” it says in verse 14, implying that he had immediate, direct access to God. What a place of great beauty and privilege!

We don’t know how long it was that Lucifer continued in this responsibility. Maybe it was for millions of years. We do not know. But stop to think of the realization that at that period of time the entire universe was a place of great harmony and unity because there was only one will in the universe, and that was the will and the purpose of God. And all of creation fell in line with God’s intention, His glory and His purpose. Not only was there harmony, but there was also a sense of fulfillment. You see, it’s impossible to think that God would create angels without giving them assignments. They had assignments undoubtedly throughout the whole universe, and the entire universe was fulfilled because every individual angel was doing exactly the task that God had outlined. What a sense of beauty and harmony! Well that’s his creation!

Secondly, I want to say a word about his fall. It says in verse 15, “You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created…” And then follows one of the most puzzling probing statements in all of the Bible, one that has vexed the minds of theologians throughout the centuries and taxes our imagination and our theological acumen. It says, “until unrighteousness was found in you.” Why would unrighteousness be found in a perfect being that did not have a sin nature? Here he was created with wisdom and beauty and obedience (an obedient nature) and then suddenly (and we can’t explain it) it is as if it was spontaneous combustion. Suddenly unrighteousness is found in God’s perfect creation. We may not understand the whys and the hows, but we do have in the text here an indication as to how this happened.

What was the cause of the unrighteousness? We know it was pride because Paul says in 1 Timothy 3, “When you have a new convert in the Church do not elevate him to become an elder because he may be lifted up with pride and fall into the condemnation of the devil.”

In Isaiah we have a parallel passage and it says seven times that Lucifer said, “I will ascend. I will ascend into heaven, I will be like the Most High, I will, I will, I will.” But how did the pride manifest itself? First of all, it began by theft. He began to steal. I say that because it says in verse 16, “In the abundance of your trade
you were filled with violence in your midst, and you sinned.” This is the way I read the passage. Here’s Lucifer, responsible for what is happening on the earth. There is praise being offered up to God. There are works that are being offered up to God. He has the responsibility of making sure that it all gets to God. And the key word there is all, and he begins to allow some of it figuratively speaking to stick to his fingers, and he says, “I want a piece of the action.” That’s what happened.

“Yes, God is deserving of praise, but so am I. Look at how high I am on the totem pole. Look at how beautiful I am.” And he began to keep some of it. “Yes, God is worthy of all of these works, but I also am worthy to be served, even as God is being served because of who I am.”

So he became a thief, taking what belonged to God, keeping it for himself. He was filled with vanity. It says in verse 17, “Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor. I cast you to the ground; I exposed you before kings, to feast their eyes on you.” You were corrupted because of your beauty.

You know that those of you who are beautiful in appearance have tremendous struggles. Some of the deepest struggles that you’ll ever face will be if (because) you are naturally good looking. Why? It’s because we face the same temptations as Lucifer. And when I said “we” I did not mean to say that I was included in the field I was talking about. I make a sharp distinction here between me and the people on the platform and all of you folks out there. (laughter) Oh boy!

My dear friend, we have the same temptations as Lucifer. God gives us the ability to earn money. He gives us gifts. He entrusts us with great responsibility on earth, and we begin to take credit for what God does through us. We begin to say, “This is mine, and you’re not going to get it,” as if to think somehow that all of the gifts that we give have not been given to us by the living God, and that we have absolutely nothing of ourselves. Everything that we have, whether it is our physical appearance, whether it is our wealth and our ability, all of it is derived from God’s loving, generous hand. How dare we say, “It’s mine?” How dare we say it? And we only say it because a drop of his rebellion has fallen on every single human heart. And ever since Lucifer we all have the same struggles, and that will be expanded upon in next week’s message as we go through this series.

Have you ever thought of this? When Lucifer decided to sin, he had no idea what the consequences were going to be, because there was no other example of rebellion in the entire universe. He couldn’t look back and say, “Well now, I know that this might happen because look at what So-and-So did, and look at what happened to him.” No, this was the first being to choose against God. I’ll tell you what he didn’t know. He did not know the devastation that was going to come to him. He did not know the ultimate total incredible humiliation that he is going to have to endure throughout all of eternity. There was no way that he could foresee what was going to happen in his life and in his experience. He should have obeyed God’s bare Word, and believed that God knew better than he as to whether obedience was optional, or whether it should be done with love and gratitude.

Could I say parenthetically that you and I don’t know that either, do we? We sin and we think that we can control the consequences, but I want you to know that God has created a universe in which that is not possible. When you and I deliberately sin, the consequences of necessity are always out of our control and our hands.

Now let’s look at the conflict in his career. We’ve spoken about stage one, which is his creation, and stage two, which is his fall, and now stage three, his conflict. Think of God’s options. What could God have done now that sin had entered into the universe through Lucifer? Well, God could have said, number one, “I’m just going to exterminate you. I’m just going to obliterate you. I’m just going to vaporize you so that you aren’t going to be in existence anymore.” I guess that’s one thing God could have done. He could have just simply said, “Lucifer, I just crush you by raw power.” Poof, and he’s gone!

Or else God could have said, “You know what, I’m going to do? I’m going to confine you to another planet. I’m going to set the bounds of your limitation, and you are going to be there on that other planet, and you’re going to have all of eternity to do nothing but contemplate the utter stupidity and horror of what you’ve done.” That would have been another option. God didn’t see fit to do it that way. He came up with another plan.

He said, “Lucifer (and now we can speak of him as Satan) – Satan, you can continue to rule planet earth. I’m not going to take away your power. The same power that you had before you sinned is going to be the same power that you have after you sinned. And I’m going to let you become the ruler of the world, and I want you to try to see (and I’m going to give you lots of time to see it) whether or not it is even possible for you to bring some kind of order out of the chaos that you have created. I want to give you plenty of time to find out whether or not it is possible for a creature to oppose me and still come out okay on the other end.” And so he was allowed to have awesome power.

There’s a staggering passage of Scripture found in the fourth chapter of Luke. And you may turn to that if you would for a moment, because if you don’t turn to it you may not even believe that it is there. In Luke 4 Jesus and Satan are having that famous confrontation. And you’ll notice that the devil is asking Christ to worship him. It’s very important for you to realize that the reason is because Satan is just absolutely consumed with pride. He is so full of envy. You know when he sees us being able to approach God, when he sees people redeemed, he is utterly frustrated and angry, but I’m ahead of myself. That’s to come in another sermon somewhere along the line in this series.

But notice what Jesus says to him in verse 4. “Man shall not live by bread alone.” Verse 5: “And he led Him up and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. And the devil said to Him, ‘I will give you all this domain and its glory (notice) for it has been handed over to me and I give it to whomsoever I wish.’” Awesome! Unbelievable! Now if he were saying this to us, we’d rebuke him. We’d say that he’s a liar. And he always lies. He almost always lies. The only time he’s telling the truth is when he says, “I am lying.” Then you know he’s telling the truth.

But he’s not talking to you. He’s not talking to me. He’s talking to Jesus. And Jesus would have known better if He had been lying. And he says, “All the kingdoms of the earth have been handed over to me, and I can give them to whomsoever I wish to give them.” And Jesus didn’t rebuke him. Awesome power! God says, “Retain your power over the earth.”

But God also said, “What I’m going to do is to end up taking mankind, who was created there in the Garden of Eden, and through the line of mankind, I’m going to bring a Redeemer who is going to crush you, and it’s going to be a moral, spiritual battle – not just a crushing by raw power, but we’re going to tough it out, and you are going to come out on the short end of the stick.”

So we have the Garden of Eden, which is part of our message next week. And then Satan tries to kill Jesus when He is born there in Bethlehem, when all of the boys two years old and under are killed in that vicinity. Evidently he tried to kill Jesus there in Gethsemane because he doesn’t want Christ to go through with the cross, and yet there was a part of him that wanted Christ to be crucified. It’s the conflict of evil.

But then Jesus Christ is put into that grave, and He ascends into heaven, showing Satan, who has the power of death, that Jesus Christ can outdo him, and that Christ is the God of life and is stronger than Satan, so much so that Jesus could say just before He died, “Now is the judgment of this world, and now shall the prince of this world be cast out.” And Paul says that Christ disarmed all principalities and all powers and made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it.

A total crushing took place at the cross. You say, “Well if that’s the truth then why is it that Satan is still so active today? Why is he able to have so much power?” Well, he’s basically out on parole, and God is allowing him a long leash to do his thing because God is trying to prove a point. And Satan knows the point that God is trying to prove, by the way. This is not, you know, as if he’s ignorant of what God is up to, but he keeps trying to prove the point anyway. And he keeps trying to oppose God, even though God’s point is that He wants to show the utter total futility of any will that is opposed to God – the utter, total (may I use the word?) stupidity of any will, whether it be human or angelic, I should say, who wants to take on God. What foolishness!

You see, Satan is the prince of this world, and yet he cannot organize this world. You know what he’s proving? He’s proving that he can only be a destroyer. He can never be a builder. He’s proving that even with his awesome power, he cannot bring about unity. He can only bring about division, confusion and conflict. And he is proving ultimately that he is not wise. I say that carefully. He is very intelligent, but he is not wise, and what a difference there is.

Do you realize that Satan is so intelligent that, while I can’t prove it, I would suspect that he knows that I am preaching about him this morning at Moody Church? He’s probably been told that by some of his underlings who are under his authority that are assigned to this part of Chicago. He probably knows it. He doesn’t like what I’m going to say, but he knows it. He is very intelligent but he isn’t wise, because if he were wise he would cease and desist all activity against God instantly. Do you know why? It’s because every time he wins a battle he loses. Every single time he wins a battle he loses. Of necessity he loses or God would not be God.

You say, “Well, wait a minute. I don’t know if I agree with that because after all, look at the havoc he is causing. Look at the Christian leaders who are falling into sin. Look at the Christians who are bound by satanic spirits. Look at the way in which he is blinding the eyes of the world, lest they see the Gospel. And you are telling me that every time he wins, he loses?” Absolutely, because I want you to know that among other things, every time he opposes God and gains so much as an inch, his judgment in hell is going to be all the greater. He is heaping up a tremendous amount of torment. He would be better off to give up the battle right now and stop all activity against God. But he doesn’t do it because evil says, “No matter how bad it’s going to be in the future, I get some perverted satisfaction of taking on God now, and that’s all that counts.”

And now we come to the final point of the drama.

Stage four – everlasting torment! Turn to Revelation 13, and then also chapter 20. Keep your finger in both passages of Scripture because I want you to see the highs and the lows. Revelation 13:7! We’re in the middle of the Tribulation Period in this discussion in Revelation and Anti-Christ is ruling - controlling totally. Anti-Christ is Satan, and it says in verse 7, “Also it was allowed to make war on the saints and to conquer them. And authority was given it over every tribe and people and language and nation.” Isn’t this mind boggling that Satan has authority over every tribe and people and tongue and nation? And all who dwell on the earth will worship him, except a few - everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the Book of Life by the Lamb who has been slain. Everybody else is worshiping him. This is his most glorious moment.

Here’s a proud egotistical being, consumed with the sense of his own beauty and importance, hating God with an incredible passion, and hating us with the same passion because we are standing with God. Therefore, Satan has tremendous fury against the saints. And for one brief moment, all of the things that he has ever wanted have come to him. All that dwell upon the face of the earth worship him - every tribe, every family, and he’s getting all the glory. Do you think he’s enjoying it? Oh, only in a very, very perverted way because he is in torment even when this is happening because he knows that this moment of glory is so incredibly short, so short! Gone – just like that!

Turn to Revelation 20:10. “And the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur where the beast and the false prophet (his accomplices) were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever (and ever, and ever, and ever, and ever and ever).” And that’s what happens when somebody takes on God and says, “I want a piece of the action. All this glory going to God! What about me in this? I get some glory too!” That’s where it ended.

We’ve entitled this series What Is God Up To? So, what is God up to? A number of different things! There’s just one thing for you to remember today. God is proving the utter total futility, as I’ve already said, of any being that stands in opposition to Him. Anybody who takes on God and resists the Almighty and says, “I will not submit to His authority; I’m going to do my own thing,” of necessity, by divine law and sovereign decree must lose, or else God wouldn’t be God. And God is taking thousands of years to give man a good chance to take Him on, and to give all the demons of hell who fell with Lucifer a good chance to take God on, and to organize rebellion, and look how far he has come. Nothing but despair and futility!

And so, you see, Satan reaches out, and he wants to take that exotic bit of pleasure and put it in his mouth. And so way back when, he reached out and he took it, and he put it to his lips and it turned to ashes, degrading substance in his mouth. And so he reached out, and he wanted to be God, and so he took his hand and he went for the handle of the sword because he wanted to rule, and he discovered that as he reached out and he went for it, he actually caught the blade and is wounded and humiliated.

You know that, in addition to the pain and the torment in hell, one of the greatest torments that Satan will have to deal with is not just the pain that he is going to face, though that is awful. It is the total, abject unbelievable shame and humiliation, and all that he’s going to have to prove to himself how great and wonderful and beautiful that he is.

Now I want you to know today, folks, that every promise that Satan ever makes, every promise that the world ever makes of necessity must be proven to be false, and that only what God says is true. Some of you are believing lies that say this: “If I take care of myself first, if I don’t yield all of my life to God, if I keep a compartment of it to myself, I will be better off because this is the way to happiness. After all, I cannot endure yieldedness to the Almighty.” His demands are impossible, because you know right well that if you submitted to Him you would have to break some relationship you are involved in, and it’s a nasty process of breaking it. And some of you say, “Well, you know if I really submitted to God, what about all of the things that he’s given to me? I’d have to think about what to do with the gifts and the money that he’s given to me. I would have to reorganize my time, and submission to God is not where it’s at. I need to keep a part of my life to myself, and keep it under my control, rather than yielding to the will and the purposes of the Almighty.” And you know to that extent, you are deceived and will find that of absolute necessity (I don’t want to repeat myself but I need to say it one more time), that of necessity, you will lose out because no one who opposes God ever wins – period – and that’s it.

There was a young woman who lived in immorality - rebellious! She knows better than God. She knows better than the Church. She knows better than the elders and the deacons. I heard this story many years ago. The young lady’s name was Toni Jo Henry. She lived somewhere in the south. And one day in a relationship with her boyfriend, which didn’t work out (and they never really do work out, do they, come to think of it?) she ended up killing him because of a dispute that arose. And later on when someone visited her in jail, she made this profound statement. She said, “You know, I knew that God ran the whole show, but I thought I could steal one small act.” That’s all that I want - one small act!

Oh boy! Isn’t that the commentary on all of us? We know that God runs the show, but oh, we need one small act to ourselves, and it is that small act that becomes the seat of a whole host of troubles because God says, “No person pitted against Me can ever possibly win.”

Do you know what the good news is in this conflict? Not only did Jesus Christ win a moral victory, but also when Jesus Christ died on the cross and He won that victory against Satan, God was able to remain just, and justify people, to cleanse them from sin. You say, “Well, Pastor Lutzer, I come today to Moody Church with all kinds of things in my life that are impure and that are wrong.”

Jesus Christ’s death was such a sacrifice for sin that God says, “I can acquit any person who believes in Him, so that the past can be wiped out and so that the future can become a future filled with the blessing of the living God.” That’s why God’s greatest gift in all of the mess of this world is His Son. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” What good news to proclaim in a world that is filled and torn with evil and strife and uncertainty and rebellion. There is hope through Christ, our Savior and our King.

Join me if you would, and let us pray.

Father, as we have prayed so often, in moments like this we know that You need to do what no man can. You know those who have brought with them today to this auditorium pockets of rebellion, issues that they are not willing to turn over to You no matter what. And in this moment I pray that You will cause them to give them up, and to say, “Lord, I surrender. It’s game over! I put down the weapons of a rebel, and I bring my will in harmony with Yours.”

For those who do not know Christ as Savior, we pray that they may understand that really what they need to do is to simply look to Jesus and be saved. They don’t need to bring anything with them except the faith to look to the Son of God. For those who know You, who already know exactly what it is that they are holding out on You, I pray that today may be a day in which they give it all up. Do that, Lord, we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.

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