“Is Satan Lucifer?”

“How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!”

Isaiah 14:12 (KJV)

The short answer is, not exactly. Satan is another name for the devil (slanderer) which means adversary. We see that adversarial relationship with God and his people throughout Scripture when he lies (Gen. 3:4; Jn. 8:44), blinds (2 Cor. 4:4), tempts (1 Cor. 7:5), devours (1 Pet. 5:8), contends (Job 1:10), destroys and otherwise tries to disrupt the relationship between God and humanity.

He is the leader of disobedient angels (Mt. 25:41; Rev. 12:7). Angels are created heavenly beings. They were originally created, like everything God made, “good.” Like humanity, angels were given freewill and, also like us, they “sought out many schemes” (Ecc. 7:29). But unlike humans, when angels sin against God there remains no known means of forgiveness. Instead, when angels abandon their submissive roles to God (Jd. 1:6) they are “cast into hell… and committed… to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment” (2 Pet. 2:4).

Many people refer to Satan as “Lucifer” due to Isaiah 14:12. Lucifer is a name which means “Helel son of Shachar”, which was probably a name for the morning star (Venus) or the crescent moon. Newer translations favor “morning star” (NIV), “Day Star” (ESV), or “the shining one” (NET). But in this text, the remnant of Israel is taunting, not Satan, but the “king of Babylon” (Isa. 14:3-21). No single individual is being addressed. Rather the king of Babylon is a composite of all the proud despots who rule on the earth. Such kings shine brightly like the “morning star” but eventually fall from their lofty throne of arrogance (13-14) to a “bed of maggots” and a “cover of worms” in total disgrace (11, 15, 19-20).

That a human ruler(s) is in view, there is no doubt. He is called a “man” (16) and possesses a corporeal body (19-20). Isaiah is using the image of this tyrant king as a poetic symbol for all the oppressive kings of Babylon the world over. This prophecy teaches that all who exalt themselves over God’s rule and oppress others will suffer the same fall and disgrace as “the king of Babylon.”

If Isaiah is talking about a human king, then why do most people assume “Lucifer” is the devil? Our culture has adopted this meaning largely because of John’s Milton’s famous epic poem Paradise Lost. Milton applies the term to the devil, popularizing the idea. But where did he get the connection from?

Jesus uses language from Isaiah 14 to describe Satan’s fall in Luke 10:18: “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” The similarities are striking: the “Day Star” fell from heaven (12), was cast down to earth (12), had destroyed nations (12), sought to ascend to God’s throne (13), desired to be like God (14), and was relegated to the pit (15). Add to this, the Bible’s symbolic use of Babylon as a type of any earthly power that exalts itself and opposes God (Rev. 14:8-9) and it is easy to see the connection to Satan.

The similarities suggest a dual condemnation may be at work in Isaiah 14: the earthly kings of “Babylon” and the spiritual forces of darkness behind them (Eph. 6:12) are bound up together in their doom. Pride was what condemned the devil (1 Tim. 3:6) and all who follow his example will suffer the same fate (Prov. 16:18).

Many powerful people occupy a glorious throne in this world, are “stars” among the rulers. But when they seek to overthrow God or work against him all such “stars” will fall because they’ve thrown in their lot with Satan. On the other hand, “those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” (Daniel 12:3)