The Origin of the Adversary (Satan)

Continuing chapter one of Conversations About God, by Graham Maxwell, edited from the oral text by Jon Paulien.

Conversations About God 1:2

Looking far in the past when there once was peace, a crisis of distrust broke out in God’s family. Sin in its essence is a breach, a breakdown of trust. And thus sin entered our universe for the first time. We all know the story if we’ve ever read the Bible through. It begins with the most brilliant of all God’s creatures. He is pictured in Ezekiel 28 as standing in the very presence of God. He is pictured in Isaiah 14 as knowing God so well that he went forth from the presence of God bearing light and truth to his fellow angels. That is why he was given the name Lucifer (Isa 14:12, KJV), which is a Latin term for “bearer of light” or teacher of truth. A Greek version of the same name is applied to Jesus Christ Himself in Revelation (Rev 22:16 [morning star], see also John 1:4-5). So Lucifer had a Jesus-like role among the angels before sin.

But moved by jealousy and pride, this brilliant, most trusted, even revered angel, set out to undermine trust in God by circulating misinformation and lies about our heavenly Father. And thus he became, not a bearer of light and a teacher of truth, but a bearer of lies. The name Lucifer no longer applies to him. He no longer bears light, he is now the bearer of lies. His real name is Satan, the opponent, the adversary.

And how this adversary worked among the angels! In a pious manner he insinuated that God Himself was an untrustworthy liar. Specifically, he charged that God did not respect the freedom of His children; He was arbitrary, exacting, vengeful, unforgiving, and severe. With carefully chosen words he hoped to turn his fellow angels away from God, and win them to worship him instead. It seems unbelievable that a creature could presume to think of himself as God, and suggest that angels worship him. But the Bible records that Satan (Lucifer) is actually capable of such insanity (Isa 14:12-14):

How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, (Lucifer in the KJV) son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! You said in your heart, “I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will make myself like the Most High.” (RSV)

Later on Satan even asked his creator to get down on His knees in the wilderness of temptation and worship His own creature (Matt 4:8-11):

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them; and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Begone, Satan! for it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’” Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and ministered to him. (RSV)

The angels watched that whole experience. They must have been stunned to see one of
their fellow angels, a created being, asking God to get down on His knees and worship.

God bore long and patiently as He watched this insurrection developing in His family. He watched until one-third of His brilliant, intelligent angels agreed with Satan that God was not worthy of their trust. This means that even God, though infinite in power, could not persuade one-third of the brilliant angels that Satan’s charges were false. Finally, as we saw in Revelation 12, war broke out in Heaven.

Satan not only shared these false charges (that God is an untrustworthy liar) with the angels, he wasted no time passing them on to our first parents in the garden, thus involving us in the conflict as well (Gen 3:1-5):

Now the serpent was more subtle than any other wild creature that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree of the garden’?” And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden, but God said, ‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’” But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (RSV)

The word “subtle” in this text means the serpent was more cunning or crafty than any other creature God made. I don’t blame Eve for wanting to be like God, isn’t that your prayer as well? But here the serpent (Satan) deceived her into thinking there was a miraculous shortcut to becoming like God.

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