Evaluating Evil: What’s in a Name?
Rev. Sandy Johnson
January 24, 2016
We continue our evaluation of evil this week by looking at the names that evil is called and discover how evil was created and how it interacts with us in our day to day life. Names are an important part of who we are and whose we are. Proverbs 22:1 says “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.”
There is power in a name and in naming. Imagine what naming your fears do to dispel them. When we can identify something that causes fear and put a name to it, it loosens the power it has over us. That’s the power of a name.
Most often we are named by our parents. Sometimes the names are family names. For instance I named Calvin after my grandfather, his middle name is Everett. Some parents have fun when naming their children. The internet had a list of the funniest names that parents name their children:
- Jed I Knight
- Bud Light
- Chris P. Bacon
- Dr. Joelle Rolo-Koster Professor at University of Rhode Island
- New York Attorney, Sue H. Yoo
- Dentist Dr. Ken Hurt, Dr. Hurt
- Alma Knack
- Brock Lee
I can only imagine how these names have affected these persons in their day to day life. “The power of naming and its value has long been immortalized in prose, poetry, and religious ceremony. Everyone recognizes himself or herself by name.” I was in my thirties before I realized that my name was an adjective. It seems I have been “sandy” all my life!
What about the names of evil or the evil one? Adversary, antichrist, beast, Beelzebub, deceiver, devil, dragon, enemy, evil one, father of lies, liar, Lucifer, ruler of the darkness, Satan, serpent of old, tempter, or wicked one. There are forty-one names in the bible for the evil one and these represent just a few. How have these names impacted us? How have we paid attention to or ignored the evil in the world and the names they are called?
We talked a few weeks ago about the origin of evil and learned that much of the evil in this world comes from within us. We are all prone to evil and fight daily to make good and Godly decisions, to choose God’s way versus man’s way. What about this “evil one” that we have named here this morning? Is there a supernatural being that answers to these names that is working among us? Where did it come from? Where does it live? What is its role in our life?
So where did Satan come from? We have often heard of the “fall of Satan” and many believe that Satan was an angel of God who was cast out of heaven. The bible doesn’t have a nice, neat story about this fall from heaven, but there are scriptures which might support this idea. The idea of falling from heaven likely represents a separation from God rather than a literal fall from the heavenly realm. Think of it like “falling from grace.” We see in Job that Satan still has access to God’s throne, however he has lost his former role or power.
In Luke 10 Jesus greeted the seventy disciple when they had returned from their mission. They came back rejoicing because they had been successful in their ministry. “In your name even the demons submit to us!” But then Jesus said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. 19 See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
“Other Biblical scholars find Satan’s fall described in Isaiah 14:12-14 and Ezekiel 28:12-18. Jewish interpretation of these verses state that in Isaiah the verses are about the King of Babylon, while in Ezekiel the verses are about the prophecy against the King of Tyre. However, many but not all Christians, see a double reference in these verses and believe they describe both the ancient kings and the fall of Satan.”
Let’s look at it. Isaiah 14:12a reads “How have you fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn.” “Instead of “morning star” some translations read “Lucifer,” even though Lucifer is not a Hebrew name that would have been written in a Hebrew manuscript. How, then, did a Latin name get substituted for the words “morning star”? Since the time of Jesus the early church developed a new understanding of the war between good and evil that differed from Old Testament Jewish concepts. For the church, Satan (or the devil) was understood to be a fallen angel and the personification of evil. When Jerome translated the Bible into Latin he used the term “Lucifer,” which meant Venus, to translate “morning star.” Jerome’s translation made “morning star” a proper name and the name of Satan. The translators of the King James Bible used Jerome’s translation, and Lucifer became a part of the English language.
“Satan’s name, then, became Helel in Hebrew, Lucifer in Latin, and Morning Star in English. This verse is the only place in the Bible where the word “Lucifer” has been substituted for Satan as a name. Many English translations have stopped using “Lucifer” in this verse in favor of literally translating the Hebrew as “morning star.”
12 How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! 13 You said in your heart, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit on the mount of assembly on the heights of Zaphon;[c] 14 I will ascend to the tops of the clouds, I will make myself like the Most High.” 15 But you are brought down to Sheol, to the depths of the Pit.
“Is the prophet Isaiah only saying that the King of Babylon was evil like the devil? Or are we to interpret these verses as recording the fall of Satan? If the latter is true, then the five “I will” declarations – I will ascend to heaven, I will raise my throne above the stars, I will sit on the mount of assembly, I will ascend to the tops of the clouds and I will make myself like the Most High – these five “I will” declarations depict the sin of Satan and show his rebellion and desire to be like God.” In Ezekiel 28 we read about the lamentation over the king of Tyre. But in verse 14 – 17 it appears that the writer is talking about Satan, because we know the king of Tyre never was in heaven. It reads:
14 With an anointed cherub as guardian I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God; you walked among the stones of fire. 15 You were blameless in your ways from the day that you were created, until iniquity was found in you. 16 In the abundance of your trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned; so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God, and the guardian cherub drove you out from among the stones of fire. 17 Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor. I cast you to the ground; I exposed you before kings, to feast their eyes on you.
We read here that he was cast out due to pride, filled with himself because of his beauty and his desire to be like God. Then we have Revelation 12:7-10 that Pat read for us. We have a war raging in heaven, Michael and his angels defeat the great dragon which scripture says is “the ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world – he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.”
So Satan was cast out of heaven, where does he live? If not in heaven, where does he reside? Where does he hang his hat? Our first response might be, “Satan lives in hell.” Scripture doesn’t support that thought however. First Peter 5:8 says, “8 Discipline yourselves, keep alert. Like a roaring lion your adversary the devil prowls around, looking for someone to devour.” Ultimately scripture says that Satan will be defeated and thrown into the lake of fire.
What about this lake of fire? We have all heard tell of the place called “Hell” and its fiery depths. Is it the final resting place for those caught up in evil, those who reject God and who will spend an eternity burning in hell? I find the idea of God condemning anyone to this type of torture and suffering to be inconsistent with the idea of a loving, forgiving and merciful Heavenly Father. I find three dimensions of hell disturbing.
First, it is difficult to wrap my head around the idea that good people are sent to hell. If heaven is reserved for those who are God’s followers, does it follow that everyone else is sent to hell? I can understand those who are evil, who abuse others, rapists, child molesters, and such, certainly those who turn against the Godly way of living. But what about those who live what we would say is a “Godly life,” but who don’t claim Jesus as their Lord and Savior? What about those who have never heard about Jesus? The idea that “a loving grandfather, or a mother of small children, or a best friend might be sent simply because they did not understand or believe the gospel when it was presented to them is disturbing to many.”
Second, being punished for eternity doesn’t really fit the crime. As a parent I can understand punishment; natural and logical consequences were my mother’s favorites. An eternity in hell seems a bit extreme. We would not torture our child for their misbehavior but rather apply corrective discipline and then offer redemption and forgiveness. It is unsettling to think of a God whose nature is love, creating a place where people would be tortured by fire, or worse.
Lastly, it disturbs me to think that its inhabitants will be punished for an eternity. Seems like over kill to me, again the punishment doesn’t fit the crime. Most of us here think of hell in a metaphorical way rather than a literal way. Perhaps Jesus is making a point that hell is to be taken seriously, but not literally. Perhaps all the hoopla about hell is to remind us to avoid evil, to keep our hearts and minds securely focused on God. Perhaps we need reminding that we are potentially under attack and that the devil will use our own hearts desires against us.
Regardless of whether you believe the scriptures about hell, the devil or Satan as literal or metaphorical; Jesus had a lot to say about them and we are to be aware of the potential dangers of evil lurking and the consequences of stepping away from God’s way. We can take encouragement from James 4:7 where it says “7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
Sisters and brothers the battles are blazing; we must stand firmly together and encourage one another to keep the faith. We must call on the name of the Lord and receive his protection.
Let us pray: Gracious God, we thank you for the lessons we are learning about evil in the world. Help us to guard our hearts against both the evil within and without. Keep our eyes always focused on you. Lead us not into temptation Lord, but deliver us from evil. Let these words be more than something we recite without understanding. Make these words come alive for us, as we fiercely resist evil. We submit ourselves to you now in all we do and we thank you for loving us, in spite of ourselves! Amen.
 Luke 10:17
 Revelation 12:9
 1 Peter 5:8
 Hamilton, Adam. Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White. Thoughts on Religion, Morality, and Politics. Abingdon Press, Nashville. 2008. Page 113.