The Bible mentions Satan a good deal. Much of what we know about him, however, is after his fall. What about before his fall? Who or what was Satan before he fell from grace?
The name Satan comes from the Latin “Satanus”. This means “the enemy”. It is a fitting name, because that is exactly what Satan is. He is the enemy of God, but not of God alone. Satan is the enemy of mankind. Even those who worship Satan are hated by him. Satan is so full of hate that he even hates himself. What else would you expect from someone who hates his creator? If you hate the One who created you, how can you love yourself, or anyone else? But was Satan always this way?
Originally, Satan was a good angel. He is still an angel, with all the intelligence and power that comes with being such a being. He is still an angel, but he is a bad one. Initially, Satan’s name was Lucifer. Lucifer means something like “bright star”. In Scripture and other ancient writings, stars are symbolic of angels. So, based on his name, we may assume that Lucifer was a particularly great angel. We don’t actually know much of anything about this “period” of Satan’s existence. Scripture is silent. Yet, allow me to give what seems to be (at least to me) the most popular scenario.
We know there are nine choirs of angels. The highest choir are the Seraphim, and the lowest are the Angels. Based on his name, it is quite plausible that Lucifer was among the Seraphim; but we can not be sure of this, and no one is bound to believe it. Such a belief is a mere opinion. In any event, at some point, Lucifer chose to rebel against God. What was his reason for rebelling? Did Lucifer see his own “greatness”, his “brightness”, and believe he was greater than God? Did Lucifer know that the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, God the Son, would become human, but retain His divinity; thereby forcing Lucifer to bow down to a God-Man? Did Lucifer know that a mere woman would bear Christ, and eventually become Lucifer’s queen?
As I said, we do not know for sure why Lucifer and his angelic followers rebelled. We only know that they did. Allow me, however, to explain what I think happened.
God is eternal presence. He has no past, and no future. He always was, always will be, and He always remains the same. In other words, God is eternal. God is also a pure, uncreated spirit. Man, on the other hand, is a composite being, created by God. Man has both a physical body, and a spiritual soul. Properly-speaking, man has no present. Man is in a state of constant flux. We are constantly becoming what we were not before, and ceasing to be what we once were. So, technically-speaking, one could say man has only a past and future.
Angels are like an intermediate being between God and man. Angels are pure spirits, but unlike God, angels are creatures. They are not eternal, but neither are they in a state of constant flux. Because of our fleeting physical existence, man’s knowledge (even before the fall of Adam and Eve) is limited. We have never completely understood the full consequences of our choices. Angels have a past, but it is my opinion that they do not experience a future. Sure, angels do operate within our experience of time, but they do not actually “reside” in, or inherently experience, our time. Once angels are created, everything happens at once. So, they have a past, but no future. This is why angels understand completely the consequences of their choices. This knowledge, in turn, is why angels can not repent of sin. Once an angel chooses for God, or against God, their choice is final.
Furthermore, I believe Lucifer had to have known about the Incarnation, and the Queenship of Mary. I think Lucifer refused to submit to either Jesus or Mary. He would not be subject to any human in any way, because Lucifer believed humans to be inherently inferior to himself. I also believe that the angels initially underwent a sort of test, not entirely unlike what we undergo in life.
I do not believe angels ever experienced a physical existence, but, in order to rebel against God, angels must have initially been kept from the full experience of the Beatific Vision. If you do not know, the Beatific Vision is the seeing of God face to face in Heaven. If the angels had experienced the full Beatific Vision, the sheer fullness of the glory of God would make rebellion practically impossible. The angels would still possess free will, but they would realize the futility of resistance against God. So, in order to rebel, the angels could not have experienced the full Beatific Vision.
This leads into the name of Lucifer. Since he did not have the full Beatific Vision, Lucifer may have appeared (at least to some of the angels, especially himself) to be greater than God. It is entirely possible that, though Lucifer knew he was God’s inferior, that he convinced himself and others that he was greater than God. This would be both the ultimate manifestation of pride, and the ultimate lie.
We must also remember that Sacred Scripture tells us that Lucifer was a liar “from the beginning”. This would be in accordance with what I have said about both angelic knowledge, and how angels experience time. As soon as angels are created-due to their great knowledge, and their not having a future-they make their choice either for or against God. It isn’t like with mankind. We all have time on Earth in which to choose God, or to choose ourselves. Angels, understanding all of the consequences of any choice they might make, choose as soon as they come into being.
So Lucifer was intended by God to be a good angel; but he responded to selfishly to God’s request. Lucifer said, “Non servos.” He would not serve. Lucifer chose something that did not exist…his own greatness. The only greatness is God. It is from Him that all glory stems. All else is fleeting and insufficient. It is truly that, upon his transformation from a good angel to a bad angel, that Lucifer’s name also transformed to Satan. He went from being a “bright star” to being “the enemy”. He is the enemy of the Creator, so he is the enemy of all creation!
Peace in Christ,
David J. Pollard
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