One of the many brutal episodes in world history was the assassination of Julius Caesar by the Roman senator Marcus Junius Brutus, who conspired with some 60 other men to kill the Roman dictator. Caesar was due to appear at a session of the Roman Senate on March 15, 44 B.C., but as he approached the meeting place, the conspirators surrounded him and stabbed him 23 times with their daggers.
History is replete with accounts of kings and emperors being challenged by those who wished to usurp their thrones. However, none is more compelling than the biblical story of Lucifer, who challenged the Creator of the universe! Isaiah quotes him as saying, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; . . . I will make myself like the Most High” (Isaiah 14:13, 14; italics added).
Who is this “Lucifer,” anyway?
In the Hebrew language, his name is helel, which means “shining one.” However, our English word Lucifer comes from a Latin word by the same spelling that means “light bearer.” Isaiah provides no other clue to his identity, but most conservative Bible scholars identify him with Ezekiel’s “anointed cherub who covers” (Ezekiel 28:14, NKJV).1 In other words, Lucifer was heaven’s most exalted angel, who stood in the very presence of God. And this angel rebelled against the King of the universe!
Brutus’s rebellion against Julius Caesar was small potatoes compared to that.
John the revelator gives us another glimpse of this conspiracy. Revelation 12:7–9 says, “There was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.”
So Lucifer wasn’t the only one who rebelled against God’s government. A large number of heaven’s other angels joined him—possibly as many as a third (Revelation 12:3, 4). And this raises three interesting questions.
First, how did it happen that so many of heaven’s angels joined with Lucifer in his rebellion against God? Did he manage somehow to force them to join him? Not very likely. Did God make them join him? Certainly not! While the Bible doesn’t comment on this issue, it’s reasonable to conclude that Lucifer, through deceit, persuaded these other angels to join him against God. After all, Jesus called Satan “the father of lies” (John 8:44).
Second question: In political debates on this earth, many people have strong views on one side or the other while others are uncertain what to think. So wouldn’t the same have been the case with Lucifer’s rebellion against God? The answer is almost certainly Yes. If Lucifer’s deceptive reasoning caused a third of heaven’s angels to join with him, it’s realistic to conclude that even after he and his angels were cast out of heaven, major questions about God remained in the minds of many angels who maintained their loyalty to Him.
Third, how should God have responded to Lucifer’s rebellion? An option that seems reasonable to us is that God should have destroyed Lucifer and his angels on the spot. Why send them down to plague our earth with their evil? Think of the suffering this has caused, when God could have stopped it from the start. Boom! The rebellious angels are all toast!
However, there’s a huge problem with that option. Imagine how the loyal angels would have felt had God destroyed Lucifer and his followers immediately. They’d have exclaimed, “Wow! Look what happened to them! From now on, we’d better toe the line, or look what’ll happen to us!” And from then on, they’d have served God from fear lest they suffer the same fate.
But God’s government is based on love, and love is the opposite of fear. Had God immediately destroyed Lucifer and the angels who sided with him, He would have caused the very problem He was trying to solve. In order to ensure that the loyalty of the angels who remained in heaven was based on love rather than fear, God had to allow them to see for themselves the outworking of Lucifer’s plans. That way, instead of being afraid of God, they would praise Him for the great wisdom He showed in dealing with the problem.
The Greek word for God is theos, and it has provided the basis for numerous theological terms, such as theology (the study of God) and theocracy (a state with God as its ruler). Another of these words is theodicy, which Webster defines as “a system of natural theology aimed at seeking to vindicate divine justice in allowing evil to exist.”
I propose, however, that God is not content with simply explaining why He allows evil to exist. God wants to bring evil and all the suffering and death it has caused to an end! God wants to resolve the problem of evil, not merely explain it. He has allowed evil to exist so that every intelligent creature in the universe—humans as well as angels—can see for themselves its terrible results. With this solution to the problem of evil, instead of fearing God, the angels will praise Him for the way He dealt with Satan’s rebellion.
The prophet Daniel describes a judgment scene in heaven that can best be understood in the light of theodicy. After describing the Ancient of Days (God) seated on His throne, Daniel said, “A thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood attending him. The court sat in judgment, and the books were opened” (Daniel 7:10, NRSV).2
Who are these “thousand thousands” and “ten thousand times ten thousand”? Revelation 5:11, using identical terminology, identifies them as angels. This gives us a profound insight into heaven’s judgment process: It isn’t just for God’s benefit. It’s also for the benefit of the angels!
This idea is reinforced by the fact that “books” are opened in this judgment process. We needn’t think of these books as dusty tomes sitting on a shelf. After all, Daniel would have seen scrolls, not books with pages like we have today. Rather, these “books” are symbols of heaven’s record keeping system, which is surely more sophisticated than our most powerful computers.
But God, who knows everything—even down to the smallest sparrow that falls to the ground (Luke 12:6), obviously doesn’t need books in order to remember anything. Notice, however, that Daniel introduced these books, not immediately after his description of God, but after telling us about the millions of angels involved in this judgment process. While angels are intelligent, they, like us, have limited minds that need help in order to remember everything. And I propose that these books are for their benefit.
This doesn’t mean that the angels will have veto power over God’s decisions. But it does mean that God will reveal the reasons for His decisions to them so they can understand them. I believe this is why Paul said that a day is coming when “every knee will bow before [God]; every tongue will confess to God” (Romans 14:11; see also Philippians 2:10, 11). They will praise God because they have an intelligent understanding of His wisdom, justice, and love. After all, they’ve seen it in heaven’s books, which record the way He’s dealt with the rebellion of Satan, his angels, and rebellious humans.
When every intelligent being in the universe, both humans and angels, can bow before God and confess that Jesus is Lord and that God truly is right, then He will be justified in destroying Satan, his angels, and all rebellious human beings. Then evil will be wiped away throughout the entire universe.
No more evil! No more wars, suffering, and death! Can you imagine it? The Bible assures us that a day is coming when these hopes will be fulfilled. God has a plan for a better world, and He has a plan for you to be a part of it!