Most people are familiar with the Biblical story of Lucifer. The greatest of the angels, he rebelled against God, did battle with the Archangel Michael, and was thrown out of heaven. Little is known about the details; we learn bits and pieces of the story from books of the Old Testament and from the New Testament book of Revelation.
While fascinating as a story of good versus evil, these accounts are also troubling. As an acquaintance put it: “What would cause a being who was so close to God to make such a decision? Yes, it makes sense that free will has something to do with it, but where did the initial temptation come from? Where, specifically, did the first germ of the idea to rebel come from? What marked the turning point from ‘heavenly bliss’ to rebellion?”
These are, without a doubt, very challenging questions to address. Indeed, definitive answers are simply not available to us from the limited record in the Biblical account. Without direct access to the history of creation or to the spiritual realm, and without a specific answer in the Bible, there is no way to know for sure.
We can, however, draw from our own experience, and from our own understanding of such things as free will, rebellion against God and temptation. As a human being, I have a limited picture of reality. I cannot see the future, although I can use imagination to predict how things might develop. I interact with other human beings, usually in an interdependent manner, but often in a competitive one. I seek to form relationships that will give meaning to life. And I am affected by emotions, which color my decision-making and affect my moods.
Buy what about angels? What were they doing in heaven? The image that most of us have from childhood has angels in the clouds singing at the feet of God. These stories and pictures leave us with vague notions of simply being, perhaps, of not doing anything. But we know God created numerous angelic beings, and he endowed them with free will. It’s clear that the angels are different from us, but exactly how that is is not made clear.
So, the first question is, what do free will beings do? They seek relationship, usually. At least that’s what humans do, and the trinity of God and the existence of multiple angels suggest that relationships also exist in the spiritual realm. And what emerges from groups of people who are experiencing relationship? Usually comparisons, perhaps competition, eventually a hierarchy. For human beings, one of the motives for competition is the desire to be applauded, to be viewed as successful, to be respected. In a word, for far too many people, there is a desire to be recognized as great and worthy of praise – to be worshipped. And if human beings are any example, being worshiped is a really bad thing for created beings. One need look no further than to celebrities and potentates to see how messed up people get when they start to think that they are, well, gods of some type – better than their peers, worthy of adulation, set apart from the common man. Without much difficulty, they begin to believe that they somehow deserve the attention and devotion they are receiving. And what occurs when they begin to fear that it will not last? That perhaps there is one greater still that will eventually displace them?
Simply put, man was not meant to be worshiped, and by extension, neither were angels. It’s not good for them, because only God is worthy of worship. Created beings lose their proper orientation toward God when they want to be on the receiving end of worship that they do not deserve. They lose balance, and perspective, when they fall out of right relationship with Him.
Could this have been the genesis of Lucifer’s fall? His free will embraced his exalted status among the angels. Was he not the utmost in beauty and supremacy? He began to relish the adulation the “lesser” angels gave to him. Rather than recognize his true place as a created being, he began to toy with the idea of how much better being God would actually be. Whatever joy he experienced from his status as the greatest of the angels, every time he contemplated or interacted with God, he realized that compared to God, he was nothing. However futile, he began to conclude that the adulation, the worship, which he was receiving was something he wanted more and more of. And there were those who would follow him.
Why this is has always puzzled me, I must admit. These lesser angels should no doubt have seen God in all his glory as greater than Lucifer. Perhaps God somehow distanced himself from them, so that (as with us) they could not fully experience him. Perhaps they too sought adulation, or perhaps Lucifer promised them something. Whatever the case, they left with him, and we humans were also thrown into the mix. We were given free will as well, and the opportunity to develop a love relationship with God, or reject him.
So, to answer the specific question: the temptation came from desire. Lucifer saw what he wanted – adulation and power – and knew that something – no, someone – stood in his way. So, he made his choice to rebel.
These meanderings may shed no light on the actual nature of the spiritual realm. I share them here simply because they serve to remind us of something we should know – the temptation to displace God and make our own lives the center of the universe is part of the human condition. Seeking adulation and worship harm us in the here and now… but the greater harm may be still yet to come.
Posted by Al Serrato