Crisis & Choice, Pt 7: “The Origin and Destiny of Evil”
THE ORIGIN AND DESTINY OF EVIL (EZEKIEL 28:11-19)
The biggest winner after the events of 911 did not show up to claim the prize. Oddly, people stop noticing, blaming or challenging him once a war or disaster breaks out. He is not a Taliban official, an Al-Qaeda fighter or a suicide bomber. George W. Bush did not want him, dead or alive; America did not offer $25 million cash reward – as she did for Saddam Hussein - for information leading to his arrest or ratting on his hideout, and America’s Most Wanted did not put his photo on TV. Who is he? The biggest winner was undoubtedly the devil, Satan himself. He seemingly took a vacation, ducked out of sight and the citizens of the world were left attacking one other and calling one another names.
To the Arab coalition, America is the Great Satan and Israel is the Lesser, Small or Little Satan. To the Americans, Hitler was the embodiment of Satan. The senior Bush demonized Saddam Hussein in the 90s.
Two passages in the Bible point to the devil’s origin, undoing and condemnation. Ezekiel 28 is one of two passages that give us the clearest understanding of the Satan; Isaiah 14 is another. Ralph Alexander, the commentator of Ezekiel in the Expositor’s Bible Commentary, says that this passage is the hardest passage in the Bible to understand. The chief problem is the debate on the identity of the subject in this passage. The three possibilities are the devil, man himself and the king of Tyre. However, a regular reader of Ezekiel 28:11-19 may not see the devil in the details. The probable answer may be that the rise and fall of the king of Tyre is emblematic of Satan’s downfall and doom, and the passage is a restatement and reenactment of the devil’s fate.
Tyre was an eye-catching, a breath-taking and a well-watered city by the coast northwest to the land of Israel. It was a unique city; part of Tyre was on an island a short distance from the shore and the other on the opposing mainland. The Bible refers to Tyre as the “strong” or “fortified” city (Josh 19:29). International Standard Bible Encyclopedia states that the city’s borders on the mainland were protected by a 150 feet wall. Tyre was famous for her fertile land, her busy ports and her enormous affluence (Ezek 27:3-7).
What was the devil’s original status? Why was he rejected by God? When will God complete His judgment on the devil?
Satan was a Captivating but Created Being
11 The word of the LORD came to me: 12 “Son of man, take up a lament concerning the king of Tyre and say to him: 'This is what the Sovereign LORD says: “'You were the model of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. 13 You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone adorned you: ruby, topaz and emerald, chrysolite, onyx and jasper, sapphire, turquoise and beryl. Your settings and mountings were made of gold; on the day you were created they were prepared. 14 You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones. (Ezek 28:11-14)
A young woman who had recently undergone somewhat of a religious transformation sought the advice of her pastor on a matter of great urgency. Previously she had lived her life occupied and obsessed with the latest beauty secret, the newest fashion and the best weight loss program.
The woman said, “Reverend, I need advice to overcome grievous sin.” The minister asked, “What is it, child?” The young woman confessed sheepishly, “I have committed the sin of vanity. Twice a day I gaze at myself in the mirror and tell myself how amazingly beautiful I am. I can’t help it. It is an ungodly preoccupation. Now that I have found God, I know that this is not the way to live. Will you please pray for me?”
The preacher turned to her, took a good look at the girl and replied, “My dear, I have good news. That isn't a sin - it's only a mistake.”
It’s been said, “The devil entangles youth with beauty, the miser with gold, the ambitious with power, the learned with false doctrine.”
Satan himself had three fascinations: good looks, bright lights and fine things. The devil is infatuated, captivated, attracted, possessed and lovesick with none other but himself. He does not need make-up or touch-up, a supporting cast or an adoring public; all he needs is an endless supply of mirrors. Of course, the devil’s biggest admirer, promoter and believer is also himself.
The devil, originally, was the closet thing to a heavenly celebrity or celestial superstar. His obsessions were fame, vanity and power. Originally, he was a guardian cherub (vv 14, 16) with outstanding qualities. He was “the model of perfection” (v 12), or in the NASB: ““You had the seal of perfection…” (Ezek 28:12). Satan was also “full of wisdom,” the kind that not even Solomon’s relative “wisdom” (1 Ki 4:30) or any person’s practical wisdom could match (1 Ki 7:14). Satan’s wisdom was considered “full” of wisdom, not just “filled” with wisdom; the two words differed slightly in Hebrew.
Finally, Satan’s beauty was celebrated in verse, singing and poems. God extols his beauty in Hebrew song as “perfect beauty,” (Ezek 27:3), “perfected beauty” (Ezek 27:4, 11) and “perfect in beauty.” (Ezek 28:12) No individual had that kind of perfect beauty, not even the “lovely to look at” Queen Vashti (Est 1:11). Further, precious stones covered this creature (v 13). By the way, the devil was gold-plated (v 13)! God gave him the highest compliment among angels. The word anointed (v 14) is an offshoot of the word Messiah (Isa 61:1).
However, twice in this passage, Satan was described as a created being (vv 13, 15). Unlike the Creator, Satan did not have a divine nature; he was not preexistent and had no power to create out of nothing. Satan was brought, fashioned and ordered into existence by his Creator. Satan did not speak, will or evolve himself into existence. Whatever he had was given. The Hebrew verb “gave” is the word for the translation “ordained” (v 14), “made a spectacle” (v 17) and “reduced you” (v 18) – the three words contrast his condition before, during and after the fall. His role was to be the guardian angel, his place of assignment was God’s holy mountain and his authority was to walk back and forth in the fiery stones (v 14). Though Satan had some powers, he was never omnipotent, omniscient, or omnipresent. Instead, he was envious of God’s power, knowledge and sovereignty.
Satan was a Conceited and Cunning Being
15 You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you. 16 Through your widespread trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned. So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you, O guardian cherub, from among the fiery stones. 17 Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor. So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings. (Ezek 28:15-17)
A young, gifted, outstanding young preacher was once asked by the renowned nineteenth century Puritan preacher Alexander Whyte to preach in his place at Whyte’s church in Edinburgh. The young man went up to the pulpit to great expectations from the crowd that was gathered to hear the bright, promising young man.
However, when the invited speaker took his place on the lectern, his worst nightmare occurred: his mind went blank, he was speechless and could not think of what to say. It was a disaster none expected, an embarrassment to the church pastor and a shock to the church. A hushed silence fell on the crowd as he came down from the pulpit after the broken-hearted man’s further attempts to continue yielded the same result.
The dejected young man privately confided with the more experienced pastor, “What went wrong, sir?” Whyte said gently, patiently but truthfully to him, “Well, laddie, if you have gone up the way you came down, you would have more chance of getting down the way you went up.” (Adapted, Eric Alexander, 1985 Keswick Convention “Giving God the Glory” STL Publications)
Do you know who committed the first sin in the Bible? Adam and Eve were not the first transgressors in the Bible. Who is the first violator in the Bible and what is the worst sin of all? Satan is, and his sin was pride. Adam and Eve’s disobedience was not original with them; it wasn’t their brainchild. Satan’s favorite tool is not discouragement, godlessness or riches; his best-liked, most powerful and all-too-familiar tool to tempt humankind in the garden is to dangle the carrot of god-likeliness before Eve, “You will not surely 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.” (Gen 3:4-5) Pride in Hebrew is a verb, meaning “to lift up, to mount up, to raise up” - the flight of the heart to lofty and unprecedented heights. Instead of planting our feet on the ground, proud people have their head in the clouds, their nose in the air and a chip on their shoulders. Satan’s heart was proud, exalted, raised or lifted up to great heights. The Chinese characterize a proud person as having eyes placed on their heads, instead of their face. Pride is the covert, hidden and underground operation that leads to the devil’s fall.
How did pride lead to Satan’s downfall and kings’ destruction (2 Chron 26:16, 2 Chron 32:25)? God created Satan blameless (v 15) or undefiled, without spot or blemish, but wickedness (v 15) was found, appeared or showing in him. The word wickedness in Ezekiel’s usage, unlike other books of the Bible, refers not to the inward state of the heart, but the outward act of sin. Most translators translate this word “wickedness” elsewhere in Ezekiel as committing “sin” or doing “wrong” or ‘evil” (Ezek 3:20, 18:8, 24, 26, 33:13, 15, 18). He was created unblemished, but wickedness was found in Satan when he was caught harboring secret ambition in his heart and open rebellion in his behavior. The wickedness that was a quiet affair led to brazen pride and violent insubordination – he actively sinned against God (v 16). Of all prophets, Ezekiel was the prophet who condemned pride most severely – 10 times. Tyre alone accounted for three references (Eze 28:2, 5, 17).
1 Timothy 3:6 says conceit or pride is the snare or trap of the devil; it leads to his downfall. The conceited falls under the same judgment as the devil (1 Tim 3:6).
Satan, who was perfect in beauty, full of wisdom and radiant in brightness, became the personification of pride. Pride in what? Beauty, wisdom and “splendor” or grandeur (Eze 28:17). The devil’s beauty descended to vanity, his wisdom led him to think he was omniscient and his grandeur made him a grandiose or grandstanding creature. 1 John 3:8 reveals that the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The devil’s trademark violence (v 16) or cruelty, tyranny and oppression appears the next time and the first time in the Bible in Noah’s generation that incurred God’s wrath and destruction (Gen 6:11-13).
Satan is a Culpable and Condemned Being
18 By your many sins and dishonest trade you have desecrated your sanctuaries. So I made a fire come out from you, and it consumed you, and I reduced you to ashes on the ground in the sight of all who were watching. 19 All the nations who knew you are appalled at you; you have come to a horrible end and will be no more.'“ (Ezek 28:18-19)
The widely-respected Gallup organization (gallup.com) conducted a poll in the new millennium to determine people’s belief in God, heaven, angels, hell and the devil. A high 90% of those who responded expressed belief in God. In the same poll, 83% said they believe in heaven and 79% believe in angels.
When it came to the question on hell and the devil, 71% said they believe in a literal hell and 68% said they believe in the existence of the devil.
Satan is God’s unforgivable, impenitent, and overthrown enemy. Satan was superior, but not sinless; glorious but proud; awe-inspiring but power-crazy, power-corrupting and power-grabbing. The devil’s true face is an undomesticated beast who cries crocodile tears and is hell-bound with his allies (2 Pet 2:4). Even Judas can be forgiven, but not Satan.
The devil’s horrible end in verse 19 is described by the Hebrew word for terror. Satan, the first terrorist, will experience the last terror on earth (also Ezek 26:21, Ezek 27:36), the same terror that awaits the wicked (Ps 73:19). Satan was judged for the multitude, the gravity and the scope of his sins (v 18). God not only dismissed Satan, but evicted and banished him from his spot; not only pluck, hurl and smash him to the ground, but make an example out of him.
Satan, with all wisdom, however, has no foreknowledge of the future. Not only is he not omniscient, he is not prescience and his information is second-hand. The devil and his demons do not know God’s next step nor do they believe in God’s revelation. Satan’s plan of events, judgment of character and opinion of things are flawed. His greatest joy and ultimate downfall was the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. 1 Corinthians 2:7-8 states that the rulers of this age did not understand God's secret wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. For if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
Revelation records Satan’s defeat once again, at the hands of the angel Michael (Rev 12:7). Satan’s first judgment by a scorching fire that consumed, ate or burnt him – from inside to outside, not outside to inside (v 18 “fire come out from you”) - and reduced him to ashes, as recorded in Ezekiel, will be replaced by the lake of burning sulfur that welcomes him on the last days, found in Revelation 20:10. Satan’s origin and destiny is synonymous with fire (vv 14, 16, 18). He who despises walking among fiery stones (Eze 28:14) will be thrown into a sulfur lake or about 832 degrees F/444 degrees C literally (water boils at 100 degrees C), as a jokester remarked on the boiling point of sulfur. The truth is that not only Satan was second in command and that his information was second-hand, he also has no second chance.
Conclusion: Praise the Lord, God has an intimate relationship with humans that angels do not have. One of the theories for the angels’ rebellion is that they did not have fellowship with God nor had the capacity to love God. They were servants, but never children of God. They were awesome creatures, but not the object of God’s love.
It’s been said, “What causes any battles to be lost is the needless fear of the enemy’s strength.” The evil one cannot harm us (1 John 5:18). Are you submitting yourselves to God and resisting the devil? (James 4:7). Have you allowed Satan to outwit you (2 Cor 2:11) or give the devil a foothold (Eph 4:27-28)? It’s been said, “Avoid evil and the appearance of evil.” The devil’s fate and end is sure. Jesus Christ has appeared to destroy the devil's work (1 John 3:8). God will soon crush Satan under our feet (Rom 16:20). Christians will use him for a place mat! Have you done your part to open the eyes of the world and turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, so that they may receive forgiveness (Acts 26:18)?
Small Group Discussion:
1. Do people in today’s society believe in the existence of the devil? Why?
2. Is Satan perfect? In what aspect is he perfect and how is he not (v 12)?
3. Where did angels such as Satan come from? Where did they get their powers? How do you describe their powers?
4. What is the role of angels (vv 13-14)? What is God’s intent for them?
5. How could wickedness be found in beings “perfect in beauty” (v 15)?
6. How did the devil fall from grace (v 16)? What are the consequences?
7. What is pride (v 17)? How is it manifested (vv 17-18)?
8. What instrument of punishment does Satan fear most (v 18b)? How is Satan’s fate in his original fall (v 18) similar to his eventual doom, and how is it worse (Rev 20:10)?
9. How do you describe Satan’s existence, power and reign? Why is friendship with the devil a bitter loss and the biggest loss?
10. Do you fear the devil? Is it biblical? What are believers’ choices?