2 Corinthians 11:14 gives us one of the more characteristic discussions of Satan’s deceptiveness when Paul says: “And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light.” Recently, in the discussion to another writing of mine, one of my readers commented on the fact that there is a distinction in the Bible between different kinds of light. It so happens that Satan is referred to as a light-bringer in Isaiah 14:12, most notable for giving Satan one of his commonly used names of Lucifer: ““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!” Here it is significant to note that halal, which means among other things to give light, often has a negative meaning relating to behaving foolishly, being angry, and seeking glory. In this case, the -al ending of this nickname of Satan can be compared to the -el ending of the two named angels we have in Gabriel and Michael, which signify their loyalty to God. It appears in the Bible that not all light sources are created equal.
For a variety of reasons, light is a subject that comes up from time to time in my conversations. This past weekend, for example, I had a conversation with a couple of people and the subject came around to the question of light. One of the people commented that they were unusually sensitive to florescent light, at which I commented that I was quite sensitive to me and that unless there were diffusers that the pattern of pulsing light was something that bothered me a great deal with florescent light. The other person then commented that sometimes companies like to keep their employees off balance and one of the ways this is done is through the control of light, and through the use of light that is somewhat off-putting, somewhat maddening at least. Keeping people off-balance through light sources is definitely something that struck me as diabolical, and it led me to ponder a bit on the question of light, and what makes it warm or off-putting. Light is by no means a straightforward matter.
For example, we are often used to thinking of light that comes from its own source as preferable to reflected light. People are quick to comment that the sun generates its own light while the moon only provides reflected light. Yet the reflected light of the moon is calming and peaceful, while the sun is blazing hot without clouds to block it, or without a way of viewing it indirectly so that it does not blind someone. A lightsource being direct as opposed to indirect is not necessarily superior on those grounds. The skillful use of indirect light can allow people to light and warm their houses for less money through passive solar heating and lighting, and can magnify the effect of light through the use of reflective materials. To be sure, the use of indirect light sources means there must be at least some sort of direct source at the bottom of it, but reflecting the light of others is no less a worthwhile task than shining a light for oneself.
Indeed, when we look at direct sources of light, we must examine what it is that causes them to shine. An indirect source needs only to reflect light to be useful and beneficial to others. The moon needs no furnace within, no fuel to burn, in order to provide a pleasant glow. The sun, on the other hand, burns fuel at an alarming rate, turning hydrogen into helium through fusion, and eventually carbon from the helium that it will burn after exhausting its hydrogen, until it has nothing left to burn. And that is what is true of all of our direct light sources–they all require some sort of fuel and energy to burn to create their light. A fireplace burns with energy from wood and gives a warm glow. Florescent and incandescent bulbs give off their glow from the electricity they burn and the filaments within that eventually burn out and have to be replaced. And so it goes for anything that we use for light–all of it requires fuel to run and all of it will burn out and have to be refueled and replaced in time. No light under heaven shines of its own accord.
And we know that angels are associated with light, not only from our own artwork, but from the pages of scripture itself. As it is written in Acts 12:7-8: “Now behold, an angel of the Lord stood by him, and a light shone in the prison; and he struck Peter on the side and raised him up, saying, “Arise quickly!” And his chains fell off his hands. Then the angel said to him, “Gird yourself and tie on your sandals”; and so he did. And he said to him, “Put on your garment and follow me.”” One of the obvious questions, at least as it relates to our present discussion, is what the source of this light is. When we examine the interactions of human beings and angels, it is pretty clear that angels of God are quick to disclaim worship and being the source of their own glory, pointing to the God whom they serve. On the other hand, we saw in 2 Corinthians that Satan himself pretends to be an angel of light and that he is clearly not reflecting light from God, but is rather seeking to pretend to be his own source of light, his own authority in rebellion against God. This would suggest that Satan and the demons seek to use others as fuel, and the fact that they are fond of possessing human beings (and other creatures) suggests the way that false spiritual light can come from using the suffering of living beings as their fuel. Just like the fires of Molech shone with the light that came from the fuel of innocent children, and just like the crematorium fires burned with the light of Jews and other victims of Hitler’s regime, so too the demonic fires of this corrupt world burn with the suffering and torment of people. It is better by far to shine with the reflected glory of God than to burn up others so that we may shine brighter ourselves.