Can you think of anything that was perfect when it was made? The most serious artists and crafters aim for perfection in their work. Master sculptors devote their lives to fashioning immaculate works of art. Weeks or months—even years—can be spent rough cutting, chipping, smoothing and polishing a single piece of marble into a flawless statue. Every proportion must be accurate—every drape of clothing must look as if it is in motion and facial expressions must appear genuine and convey emotion.
Similarly, everything God creates is perfect. Think of the recreated Earth—which God described as “good.” Mankind himself was made without imperfection, although he degraded himself over time (Ecc. 7:29).
Among all God’s perfectly created beings, however, there is one who could be considered a zenith. Ezekiel 28 describes this extraordinary entity: “You seal up the sum [the Darby Bible reads, “You who seal up the measure of perfection”], full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty…You were perfect in your ways from the day that you were created” (vs. 12, 15).
Of course, this is referring to Lucifer, the archangel God created to be a pinnacle masterpiece of angelic beings. He was full of wisdom (skill and knowledge) and perfect in beauty. He was flawless inside and out!
It is possible no other of God’s creations could qualify to “seal the sum” of features Lucifer was given.
But as we know, Lucifer did not remain that way…
This perfectly created being is today the most corrupt, evil, deceived and imperfect being the world has ever seen. He is the destroyer.
Ezekiel states that “iniquity was found” in him (28:15). Once named the bringer of light, he is today the bringer of all that is dark, evil and against God.
How can a being go from having all beauty and wisdom to becoming the father of murder and lies?
The answer to this reveals one very specific problem Satan developed that becomes a cautionary tale for God’s Church. In order to understand this problem, we must first grasp the enormous power Satan held before his fall—power he can still wield against us today.
Authority and Power
When Lucifer was created with perfection, God intended that he would be made to serve in some of the most important roles in the universe.
Ezekiel 28:14 reveals this being worked directly with the God of the universe as an anointed chief archangel who spread his wings to cover God’s throne. He had access to the two God beings—the Father and the Word (who would become Christ).
The only other two archangels, Michael and Gabriel, may have held lower positions.
Aside from being a fixture in heaven, however, Lucifer was granted authority over vast legions of angels, in the same way military generals command entire armies of soldiers.
And Lucifer was exceptionally glorious. His name, which means “bringer of light,” hints that he was brighter than all of the other angels. Think about some descriptions throughout the Bible of the glory of angels, for example the ones carrying God’s throne described in Ezekiel 1. Verse 13 describes: “Their appearance was like burning coals of fire, and like the appearance of lamps.” Lucifer, by contrast, was also adorned with “every precious stone” as his covering.
He was even made with tremendous musical capabilities. Ezekiel 28:13 states: “the workmanship [employment] of your tabrets [tambourine or drum] and of your pipes was prepared in you in the day that you were created.” All musicians must learn their craft over years of intensive practice. Imagine being born with the skills that Lucifer would use to compose and perform music for God.
Clearly, the God of quality designed Lucifer to be the apex of splendor, beauty and talent. He qualified to cover His throne.
It is for all these reasons Lucifer is the only being so perfect as to parallel Christ. Just as Jesus Christ is called the Morning Star, Day Star, Dayspring from on High, and the Sun of Righteousness, Lucifer was called the Son of the Morning. He is the only other being the Bible describes in such a way.
When Lucifer rebelled, God cast him “as profane out of the mountain of God” (Ezek. 28:16). Though Satan’s influence has been restrained (II Pet. 2:4) and his mind has warped, it is important to grasp that he continues to carry all of the intelligence, sway and abilities he did when he was made. Paul aptly labelled him the “god of this world” (II Cor. 4:4). He can continue to wield his craft against anyone God allows him to oppose—as the story of Job shows.
After his fall, his name was changed to Satan—meaning opponent—as he became the chief defector in all God’s Creation. Think of someone who defects in war—a soldier who betrays his country to join the opposing army. In some nations, this is considered treason and warrants the death penalty. But imagine a five-star general imbued with military secrets and authority over operations—next in power to the head of state—switching sides and armies of millions of subordinate troops following him. That is akin to Lucifer’s defection from God.
Again, how does a being “perfect in his ways” for perhaps millions of years succumb to the ultimate act of treachery?
From Lucifer to Satan
Isaiah 14:12-14 opens the door to understand what led to Satan’s fall: “How are you fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How are you cut down to the ground, which did weaken the nations! For you have said in your 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.”
Lucifer knew he held great authority but wanted more. He believed he was greater than God—his Creator! Imagine a puppet designed and fabricated by a puppet master that one day decided to be greater than the person who created it. That alone sounds ludicrous. Yet it is no more ludicrous than Satan sincerely believing he can and should be over God.
This is why Paul wrote the Romans: “Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why have you made me thus? Has not the potter power over the clay?” (9:20-21). God is the Ultimate Potter who designed and formed everything that was made. Just as a puppet has no say in how it is designed or used, nothing created by God has say in its role. No person or angel can look to their Maker and say, “Why have you made me thus?” Yet Satan still believes he can be greater than God.
What led to this thinking?
Ezekiel 28:17 cuts to the core of the matter: “Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty, you have corrupted your wisdom by reason of your brightness.”
In other words, Lucifer allowed his masterful perfection to corrupt him. Being made the greatest in God’s creative capacity was simply not enough for him. He wanted more.
Knowing he was exceptional, he began to think he deserved to be in the ultimate position and could exercise authority over God. Isaiah 14:11 shows that his “pomp”—meaning his arrogance and excellency—were the underpinnings of his change of mind. In other words, Lucifer became discontented with his place in life and believed he should be given even more authority and power than what God already granted him.
Satan’s greatest problem was simple, and Paul described it aptly to the Galatians: “If a man think himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceives himself” (6:3). Lucifer and everything in God’s Creation are nothing without God. Yet he somehow chose to believe he was something—even everything—and forgot that he was created by a Supreme Being.
Origins of Vanity
Vanity is by definition something that is empty, useless, deceitful and false—perceived to have worth, but in reality is worthless.
Just think of idol worship: crosses, pot-bellied Buddhas, pictures of Mary holding Christ, statues of Hindu gods—the list goes on and on. God warned ancient Israelites not to forget their Creator, yet they made golden calves and sacrificed to false gods time and again. This was vain—empty—worthless. Yet on its surface the physical idol contained great meaning and purpose to them. To ancient Israel, idols seemed to be valuable when in reality God says they are worthless.
Satan is the author of vanity. He was the first to look at himself and believe he had value beyond God’s purpose for creating him. His self-conceit developed when he felt undervalued.
Feeling underappreciated is a sinful idea that Satan now works to instill in every human being. That lie has pervaded society for nearly 6,000 years and it is the cause behind almost every rebellion described in the Bible.
Consider the account of Korah who, alongside 250 elite men in ancient Israel, rose up against Moses saying, “You take too much upon you, seeing all the congregation are holy, every one of them, and the Lord is among them” (Num. 16:3).
Korah’s vanity blinded him. He believed God should have worked through him and the rest of Israel in a more powerful and direct way, and that Moses was selfishly grabbing all the authority for himself. He felt undervalued and underappreciated, and demanded that Moses relinquish some of his power.
Just as God sets every member in the Body of Christ today as it pleases Him, Korah and the leaders who joined him were already set in Israel’s governmental structure according to God’s design. Rather than being thankful for their lot in life, these men desired to have more.
Moses saw through Korah’s plot, and responded, “You take too much upon you, you sons of Levi” (Num. 16:7). Moses saw that these men came to believe that they made themselves holy—forgetting God Himself sanctified them!
Just a few verses later in the chapter, God proved Moses right. The earth swallowed Korah and the 250 princes whole, serving as a dire warning to the rest of Israel and showing all Bible readers for thousands of years that vanity ultimately destroys you.
Satan is doomed to the same end. God foretells his fate in Ezekiel 28: “I will cast you to the ground, I will lay you before kings, that they may behold you…I will bring forth a fire from the midst of you, it shall devour you, and I will bring you to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold you. All they that know you among the people shall be astonished at you…and never shall you be any more” (vs. 17-19).
As with Korah, God has no choice but to remove those who fight against Him. One of His most perfectly created beings who defected is no exception.
Neither are we. It is crucial we understand what vanity is and how to combat it once it comes…
Defeating Satan’s Greatest Weakness
Lucifer’s fall proved that while God can create perfect features, He cannot create perfect character by divine fiat. Although Lucifer may have been the most beautiful, talented and powerful individual being in all Creation, he could not maintain perfect character. He succumbed to vanity.
Now as the god of this world, Satan’s spirit influences every corner of Earth and can even affect God’s people. We can easily fall into the same trap as Satan—thinking that we are something when we are nothing.
Think back to the article’s introduction. Unlike the devil, human beings have many imperfections. No one on Earth is perfect. The flaws in our appearance, intelligence, skillsets or personalities are there to help us remember that we are nothing.
But this does not automatically keep us humble. In order to overcome vanity, we must see and acknowledge our imperfections. Seeing our spots, blemishes and scars will in turn help us rely more on God and remember that He created us for His own great purpose.
The apostle Paul is an example of someone who could have puffed himself up, but who instead had a proper view of himself. He told the Corinthians he would not glory in himself—view the things he achieved in life as important—but rather “glory in his infirmities” (II Cor. 12:5). He took stock of his flaws and used them as a constant reminder that he was imperfect and needed God’s power to get through his difficult life. In Philippians 3:8, Paul wrote that he considered all of his accomplishments to be “dung.”
If we find ourselves overly focused on our personal achievements, or even any abilities or features with which we have been born, we are taking a vain and narrow view. The quick antidote to this thinking is to remember God created us and our talents. He can at any point take them away.
Note Paul’s warning in Romans 11:20-22 to the gentile converts who were tempted to think they had a special privilege due to Israel’s downfall. He states: “Be not highminded, but fear…for if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest He also spare not you. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God…toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness: otherwise you also shall be cut off.”
The same can apply to any person privileged to be called by God.
A Final Warning
Never forget that even one of God’s most perfect creations defected, becoming the embodiment of all that is evil and destructive—and it all stemmed from vanity. If a being so great as Lucifer can fall into the vanity trap, so can we.
If we want to prevent vanity, heed the apostle Peter’s words: “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time: casting all your care upon Him; for He cares for you. Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour” (I Pet. 5:6-8).
Although the devil wants us to think just as he does, humbling ourselves under God will revoke Satan’s temptation.
Before God gives us awesome power to be part of His Family—far beyond anything Lucifer ever had—He must know we will not fall into the same trap of vanity that Satan did.