The Holy Scriptures teach that besides the visible, material
world there exists a vast and varied spiritual world. This world is so
different from ours and so much richer that we cannot completely understand its
state; we cannot even satisfactorily imagine it. Nevertheless, regardless of
the existing separation, the spiritual and physical worlds interact with one
another in known ways.
The spiritual world falls into two different and
even contradictory spheres of being. One of these is called Heaven this is
the kingdom of light in which God reveals His glory to the blessed spirits. It
is inhabited by angels and the souls of the righteous. The other sphere this
is hell is the kingdom of darkness and the place of suffering, in which are
tormented the demons and the souls of unrepentant sinners.
The demons, like the angels, are not
self-existent. Although they are immortal, they are not eternal. Only God alone
is eternal. Long before the foundation of our physical world, God created the
spiritual world and inhabited it with angels, intelligent and kind creatures
that He endowed with intelligence, free will, and different capabilities
similar but more perfect than ours.
At a certain point in its existence, obviously
before the foundation of our own material world, a tragedy occurred in the
angelic world. A certain part of the angels, headed by Lucifer one of the
angels closest to God abandoned its obedience to the Creator and initiated a
rebellion. The Apostle John the Theologian describes the event in this way:
"And there was war in Heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the
dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was
their place found any more in Heaven. And the great dragon was cast out that
serpent of old called the Devil, and Satan, who deceiveth the whole world. He
was cast out onto the earth, and his angels were cast out with him"
(Rev. 12:7-9). The Lord Jesus Christ refers to this incident only briefly,
saying that He "beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven"
(Luke 10:18). The Apostles Peter and Jude mention this occurrence also very
briefly, communicating only that a few of the angels did not preserve their
worthiness but left the abode appointed to them. For this, they were bound with
the chains of eternal darkness in the expectation of the final judgment of God
over them (2 Peter 2:4, Jude 6).
Note: At a first reading of the text quoted just above, the
reader might think that the war in the angelic world occurred when the earth
already existed. However, it should be taken into account that in not a few instances
the book of Revelations unifies in one vision several events connected with one
another not chronologically but conceptually. It is thought that this
apocalyptic picture does not indicate that the world already existed when the
devil fell away from God but that a war which the devil now prosecutes against
us on earth actually began in Heaven and that he lost that war just as he loses
the present war when the Lord comes and completes His judgment upon him.
From a comparison of different passages of Holy
Scripture, it is gathered that the reason for the fall of Lucifer was his pride
(Sirach 10:15, 1 Tim. 3:16). The prophet Isaiah colorfully illustrates the
arrogance of Lucifer when he depicts him in the form of a pagan ruler: "How
art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut
down to the ground, who didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine
heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God;
I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north.
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High.
Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit"
(Isaiah 14:12-15). This picture by Isaiah is supplemented by the prophet
Ezekiel, painting Lucifer in the form of a proud, tyrannical king: "Thou
sealest up the sum, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. Thou hast been in
Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was thy covering: the sardius,
topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx and the jasper, the sapphire, the
emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold; the workmanship of thy taborets and of
thy pipes was prepared in thee the day that thou wast created. Thou art the
anointed cherub that covereth, and I have set thee so; thou wast upon the holy
mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of
fire. Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till
iniquity was found in thee. By the multitude of thy merchandise they have
filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned; therefore I will
cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God; and I will destroy thee, O
covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. Thine heart was lifted
up because of thy beauty; thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy
brightness. I will cast thee to the ground; I will lay thee before kings, that
they may behold thee" (Ezekiel 28:12-17).
So, one of the highest angels, a bearer of the
divine light, fell by pride away from the Source of Light and became darkness
and a sower of gloom. He wanted to be equal to his Creator, to carry off His
glory and might, but he only revealed his pettiness and ingratitude. Being
powerless to give others anything truly of value, he made the lie his most
important instrument of seduction because it was as if the lie had become his
essence. Everything that he says, does, and promises are most impudent lies,
though at times cleverly clothed in the toga of genuineness. Because he
continuously lies, Holy Scripture named him Satan, which in Hebrew means
slanderer. In Greek this corresponds to devil. Others of his names, such as
serpent, dragon, Beelzebub, Belial, prince of darkness, prince of demons,
adversary, prince of this world, enemy of the human race, liar, and so forth,
show his ferocity and the destructiveness of his activities. The Scriptures
call the angels that followed him demons, devils, and unclean or evil spirits.
Having lost access to Heaven, the devil
concentrated all his attention on Adam and Eve, who were created clean and
innocent. The third chapter of the book of Genesis brings out the details of
the temptation of the first human beings. Thinking that Eve appears to be more
pliant than Adam, the devil addresses himself to her with this evil question:
"Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?"
(Gen. 3:1). Eve, not noticing the wickedness in the question, explains to the
tempter what is permitted and what is forbidden. Finding Eve to be naive and
talkative, the devil begins to win her over explaining that God does not want
them to taste of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil out of selfishness,
because if they did eat of the tree they would become like gods themselves and
understand all secret things. Having persuaded Eve to break God's commandment,
with her help he also seduces Adam. So with the deadly poison of sin, the devil
strikes at human nature. Pointing at this tragic moment in the life of our
ancestors, the Savior calls the devil "a murderer from the beginning"
Having sinned, Adam and Eve were deprived of the
joy of communion with God and the possibility of living in Eden. The balance
between the spiritual and physical forces in them was broken, and they became
morally weak and inclined to sin. Having become sinners, they lost their access
to the tree of life and they became mortal. The author of the book of the
Wisdom of Solomon sees in the devil the first cause of all the unhappiness of
mankind: "For God created man to be immortal, and made him to be an
image of his own eternity. Nevertheless through envy of the devil came death
into the world" (Wisdom of Solomon 2:23-24).
Having struck at naive humanity with his deadly
sting, the serpent celebrated. But the Lord foretold to him that the war begun
by him had not ended but had just begun and that he, the tempter of the woman,
would suffer a blow from her Descendent:
"And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed
and her Seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise His heel"
(Gen. 3:15). This notable prophecy made in the distant history of humanity
became a reality a war between the spirit-seducer and human beings seeking God.
In the narrowest sense, this prophecy was fulfilled when the Lord Jesus Christ,
having suffered on the Cross (having endured the bruise of his heel), smashed
the head of the old dragon. Then on the Cross the Lord "having
despoiled principalities and powers (the kingdom of darkness), he made a show
of them openly, triumphing over them in it" (Col. 2:15). In a wider
sense, this prophecy is also fulfilled in the life of every Christian when he,
armed with the strength of Christ, repulses the tempter (Luke 10:19), although
he, like Christ, sometimes also undergoes physical sufferings. The earliest
narrations of the Old Testament speak little about the devil. Nevertheless,
they continually describe him as the evil seducer and sower of every iniquity.
So, for example, the devil inflicted the righteous Job with terrible
puss-forming sores from head to foot (Job 2:7), and he seized King Saul and
tortured him (1 Samuel [1 Kings LXX] 16:14-15). The devil inspired in David the
vain thought to conduct a census of his people (1 Chr. 21:1). The demon
Asmodeus killed the husbands of Sara, the daughter of Raguel (Tobit 3:8). Also
in the book of Kings (1 Kings [3 Kings LXX] 22:19-23) and in the book of the
prophet Zecharaiah (Zech. 3:1-2), the evil spirit is described with these very
affinities of envy, cunning, and wickedness.
Taking into account the natural religiousness of
humanity, the devil tries to pervert this religiousness, steering it in the
direction of superstition and fanaticism. For this he taught humanity to deify
all possible kinds of false gods forces of nature, stars and planets,
legendary heroes, animals, prodigies, and all that was able to agitate the
imagination of primitive man. The gentiles, muddled by superstitions, did not
understand that by deifying different objects they gladdened the demons, who
took these reverences as pertaining to themselves (Deut. 32:17; 1 Cor. 10:20).
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