Question: "Is Lucifer Satan? Does the fall of Lucifer describe Satan?"
Answer: In common usage, Lucifer is another name for Satan. Famously, John Milton used this name for Satan in Paradise Lost. There is no verse in the Bible that says, “Lucifer is Satan.” In fact, there is some dispute as to whether Lucifer is even a proper name in the Bible.
A character referred to as “Lucifer” appears in Isaiah 14. The setting is a “taunt against the king of Babylon” (Isaiah 14:4). The wicked king, who oppressed other nations, is brought to ruin. God has broken the king of Babylon’s scepter (Isaiah 14:5) and laid him low (verse 8). The defeated king of Babylon is pictured as entering the place of the dead, where other departed kings await him with glee:
“’You also have become weak, as we are;
you have become like us.’
All your pomp has been brought down to the grave,
along with the noise of your harps;
maggots are spread out beneath you
and worms cover you” (Isaiah 14:10–11).
The prophecy against the king of Babylon continues with this interesting passage:
“How you are fallen from heaven,
O Lucifer, son of the morning!
How you are cut down to the ground,
You who weakened 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 also sit on the mount of the congregation
On the farthest sides of the north;
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds,
I will be like the Most High.’
Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol,
To the lowest depths of the Pit” (Isaiah 14:12–15, NKJV).
The King James Version and the New King James Version have “Lucifer” in Isaiah 14:12, but other translations have “morning star” (NIV), “Day Star” (ESV), or “shining one” (NET). Is the term meant as a proper name, or simply as a metaphor for the king’s greatness? Scholars are divided on the issue.
Clearly, the primary interpretation of Isaiah 14 is that of a prophecy against the human king of Babylon. However, the poetic descriptions of his grandeur, his sin, and his fate are so extravagant as to cause many scholars to consider a secondary interpretation, viz., a reference to Satan.
We note that the following things are true about the king in Isaiah 14:
• he falls from heaven (verse 12)
• he is cast down to the earth (verse 12)
• he had destroyed nations (verse 12)
• he sought to ascend to God’s throne (verse 13)
• he desired to be like the Most High (verse 14)
• he is relegated to the lowest part of the Pit (verse 15)
In a clear reference to Satan, Jesus uses some similar wording in Luke 10:18: “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” The link between Satan and Lucifer seems to be supported by Satan’s fall from heaven, mentioned by Jesus; Satan’s temptation of Eve that suggested she could be like God (Genesis 3:5); Satan’s work as a destroyer (Job 1:12–19; 2:7); and Satan’s masquerading as an “angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14).
We believe the best way to look at Isaiah 14 is as a dual condemnation: the human king of Babylon and the spiritual force behind him are both facing God’s judgment for their pride and wickedness. The human king had occupied a glorious throne in this world—he was a “star” among rulers—and the spiritual entity had occupied a glorious position in the heavenlies—a true “Lucifer,” or “star of the morning.”