In John Milton’s masterful Paradise Lost, the devil sullenly proclaims, after having been expelled from heaven, that “…It is better to reign in hell than to serve in heaven.” The phrase captures the petty petulance of satan marvelously – and his lying nature at the same time. For satan knows that no one, including him, will ever reign in hell. Hell is eternal isolation: no light, no warmth, no joy, no companionship. Just agonized misery, stretching on forever. No kingdom, no lieutenants, no henchmen. Satan will be as agonizingly isolated as everyone else there, reigning over nothing.
Yet foolish people, even some scholars, imbue satan’s nihilistic self-immolation with a dark glamour that does not exist, imagining themselves as his right-hand men ruling over a kingdom that will never be. A maggot is more likely to be henchman to a mob boss than a human to the devil.
When he was Lucifer, satan was a stunningly beautiful angel, much favored by God. Since he fell, you might deceive yourself that God erred, made Lucifer with a flaw. To the contrary, God has imbued every sentient being He has ever created with free will. God makes no automatons. All of our little choices come ultimately to define us. Satan’s vanity persuaded him that he was great, that it was by his own special characteristics, that he was greater than the other angels, rather than just different.
Then God got ready to create man – and satan was outraged. While in the little cocoon of this life, man is as far from the angels as maggots are from men. But men who serve God well and endure to the end will emerge from the cocoon of this life as a higher order of being than the angels. Man is the only being God made to share in the fulness of His own dignity, made truly in His own image. Satan raged. He was to bring light (Lucifer means bringer of light) to these filthy maggots?! And to serve the disgusting creatures only to see them raised higher in God’s order than even he was?! Satan rebelled. He was determined to prove that God had erred in making man and imbuing him with His own dignity. It is why he is often called “the accuser,” for he ceaselessly tried to discredit man throughout the Old Testament.
When satan refused to give up his rebellion after the resurrection, his damnation became irrevocable. The Eternal Son of God had made common cause with mankind, taking on our flesh. You must understand that God did not just put on a Halloween Mask to play Jesus. While remaining truly God, He became truly man as well. Amazing…the God who made us in His image, in the fulness of time, fully took on our image as well. Jesus was not just one of us: without forfeiting a whit of His Godhead, He is now eternally one of us. When satan refused to repent after that, he was no longer just making the arrogant claim that God had erred; he chose to actively wage war on God, Himself. There was no return from that rebellion. Even then, even now, God could forgive him; but because his self-will and vanity became more important to satan than God’s Word, he is eternally blinded now to the truth and mercy of God. And so, the angel who was created to be the bringer of light became the bringer of darkness – and the first being he shrouded in darkness was himself.
Satan is pure malice. It drives and blinds him. It is why his attacks are so subtle and brilliant, yet always end in defeat and unwittingly accomplish God’s ends. All satan wants is to negate that which God has created, to destroy and torment man. He gains nothing from his attacks. He will get no lieutenants, no citizens for a dark kingdom. It pleases satan to encourage man to think he will have some glamorous dark kingdom, the better to lure them to their destruction.
If a serial killer on the prowl flattered you on how smart or pretty or impressive you were, what would he really be doing? If he feigned injury or fear, what would be his aim? A serial killer on the prowl may have hundreds of gambits, some brilliantly clever and persuasive. But they all tend to the same end: to lure you away from your fellows and, after he has isolated you, murder you. That is satan’s entire game, only thousands of times more subtle and brilliant than the most infamous serial killer. He will flatter you that you are special, or tell you that demons are subject to your mighty command, or that everyone else is against you. It is all to the same end; to isolate and murder your soul – and it gives him pleasure to murder your soul with as much lingering physical agony as he can. That is not usually his plan. It is ALWAYS his plan.
The only kingdom satan gets is what he can muster in this world before time ends. After that, there is no kingdom; only darkness, emptiness, agony and despair. The idea that satan gets a dark anti-kingdom is just a tool to seduce vain fools to their doom.
When next I write of the bastard (and that is truly what he is. He had a glorious Father, yet chose, with full awareness, to reject Him. He and his demons are the only true bastards in the universe), I will write of his insanely obsessive envy of man and how it destroyed him – and can destroy you if you do not hold tight to God.