Satan had slipped into the Garden of Eden. He crouched down beside the ear of Eve and troubled her dreams. Angels drove him away before he could do further harm.
In the morning, Adam awoke, refreshed by a peaceful sleep. He was surprised to see that Eve apparently had not slept peacefully.
Adam gently awakened his wife with words of love. She embraced him, and told him that her dreams were far different from the pleasant visions that she had enjoyed on previous nights. In her dream, a pleasant voice called her forth to walk. She thought that it was Adam who had called her. She rose at his call, but did not find him. As she looked for him, she came to the tree of knowledge. As she was admiring its beauty, an angel came and praised the virtue of the tree. He expressed determination to eat it, even though it was forbidden.
After eating, he described it as fruit fit for the gods that was able to make gods of men. He urged Eve to eat some also. If she did, she would be happier. She would be able to fly through the air like the angels and ascend to heaven when she wanted. He held part of the fruit to her mouth. It smelled so sweet that she thought that she would have to take a bite. Then she flew up with him to the clouds and enjoyed a panoramic view of the earth below. Suddenly her guide disappeared, and she sunk down and fell asleep. She was glad when she woke up and learned that it was only a dream.
After Adam heard about the dream of Eve, he felt sad. He recognized that the dream had an evil source. This puzzled him. He knew that there was no evil in Eve, so where did it come from?
After uttering some speculative thoughts concerning the dream, Adam encouraged his wife with the words: “Yet be not sad. Evil into the mind of God or man may come and go, so unapproved, and leave no spot or blame behind: which gives me hope that what in sleep thou didst abhor to dream, waking thou never wilt consent to do.”
These words brought cheer to her heart, but a tear silently fell from each of her eyes. She brushed them away with her hair. Two more tears were about to fall, but Adam kissed them before they emerged. He regarded them “as the gracious signs of sweet remorse and pious awe, that feared to have offended.”
Adam and Eve went outside, bowed down and began their daily orisons. They praised the Lord and His wonderful works. They pointed out that since the works of the Creator were glorious, the Creator Himself must be far more glorious. They urged the angels to sing His praises. They commanded all creatures on earth to extol Him, and urged the sun and all the other heavenly bodies to do the same.
Then they went out to work in the garden. While they labored, God felt pity as He watched them. He called Raphael and commanded him to have a conversation with Adam. Raphael was to tell Adam about Satan and his deceitful plans.
Raphael flew to the Garden of Eden and landed on its eastern cliff. The angels who were guarding the garden recognized him and showed him due respect. Raphael then approached Adam, who was sitting at the door of his bower. The hot noonday sun was sending its rays directly downward, and it was time to rest.
Eve was inside preparing dinner. When Adam caught sight of Raphael, Adam directed her attention to their heavenly guests and urged her to examine their stores and provide him with fitting hospitality.
Because of the abundance of the garden, they had not felt the need to store much food. Therefore, Eve went into the garden to gather fruit for their heavenly guest.
While Eve made preparations, Adam went forth to meet his guest. In his state of innocence, he was not afraid of the angel. However, he bowed to Raphael with due respect.
After a brief conversation, Adam brought Raphael to his bower. When the angel saw Eve, he used a salutation similar to the words that Gabriel later addressed to Mary. He said: “Hail mother of mankind, whose fruitful womb shall fill the world more numerous with thy sons than with these various fruits the trees of God have heaped this table.”
Adam invited Raphael to partake of their bounty. Raphael did not hesitate to taste what Adam offered him, and he ate with real hunger. [Note that Raphael only pretends to eat in the book of Tobit.]
After eating, Adam and Raphael engaged in conversation. Raphael explained that all things proceed from God. Moreover, all things return to Him, provided that they are not depraved from good. Beings closer to God have a substance that is more refined and pure. Using these principles as a springboard, the angel broached the subject of his mission, saying: “Perhaps your bodies may at last turn all to spirit improved by tract of time, and winged ascend ethereal, as we, or may at choice here or in heavenly paradises dwell; if ye be found obedient, and retain unalterably firm His love entire Whose progeny you are.”
Adam naturally wondered why the angel said: “if ye be found obedient.” He asked: “Can we want obedience then to Him, or possibly His love desert Who formed us from the dust, and placed us here full to the utmost measure of what bliss human desires can seek or apprehend?”
In reply, Raphael pointed out that God had made Adam perfect but not immutable. He explained free will and pointed out that some of the angels had made the wrong choice and had fallen from heaven to deepest hell.
Adam considered it inconceivable that he would disobey the just command of his Creator. However, he asked Raphael to tell him exactly what happened when the angels fell.
It was difficult for Raphael to comply with Adam’s request. He said: “How shall I relate to human sense the invisible exploits of warring Spirits; how without remorse the ruin of so many glorious once and perfect while they stood; how last unfold the secrets of another world, perhaps not lawful to reveal?” Nevertheless, Raphael agreed to relate as much as the human mind could understand.
He explained that these things took place before the creation of the world in which Adam was living. One day, God summoned the empyreal host of angels. When all the angels were assembled before Him, God said: “Hear My decree, which unrevoked shall stand. This day I have begot Whom I declare My only Son, and on this holy hill Him have anointed, Whom ye now behold at My right hand; your Head I Him appoint; and by My Self have sworn to Him shall bow all knees in heaven, and shall confess Him Lord.”
Everyone seemed pleased with the decree, and the heavenly host spent the day in song. In the evening, they dined. When night set in, everyone rested except Satan. He disliked the decree that God had promulgated that day. He envied the Son of God and plotted rebellion.
He awakened his next subordinate and asked him how he could sleep after hearing the hateful decree that God had pronounced. He infused evil influence into the unwary breast of his associate and commanded him to assemble their hosts and withdraw to their homeland in the quarters of the north. They were to leave while it was still night.
Satan told his associate to pretend that the legions were moving northward by the command of God, supposedly to prepare fit entertainment to receive the Son of God, the anointed Messiah. By such lies, Satan drew after him one third of the heavenly hosts.
The plot of Satan did not escape the attention of God. In a conversation between the Father and the Son, it was decided that the Son would deal with the rebels.
The hosts of Satan assembled at a structure known to men as the palace of great Lucifer. When Satan addressed his followers, he kept up the pretense that God had commanded that they undertake this hasty midnight march to their homeland to make preparations for the arrival of the Messiah. However, he presented it as an odious duty that had been forced upon them. He suggested that instead of bowing the knee, they cast off their yoke. He pointed out that their imperial titles clearly revealed that they should be governing rather than serving.
At this point, the flaming seraph Abdiel rebuked Satan: “O argument blasphemous, false and proud! Words which no ear ever to hear in heaven expected, least of all from thee, ingrate.” He pointed out that the decree of God was just. The Son deserved their homage.
Abdiel pointed out that God had created Satan, just as He had formed all the other powers of heaven and circumscribed their being. Therefore, Satan had no right to make himself equal to the begotten Son, “by Whom as by His Word the mighty Father made all things, even thee, and all the spirits of heaven.”
Abdiel urged Satan to cease his impious rage and hasten to appease the incensed Father and the incensed Son before it was too late.
No one supported Abdiel, and Satan taunted him. He asked where Abdiel got the idea that they were created beings. He claimed that the angels were “self-begot, self-raised, by our own quickening power.” He haughtily declared: “Our puissance is our own, our own right hand shall teach us highest deeds, by proof to try who is our equal.”
In conclusion, Satan commanded Abdiel: “These tidings carry to the anointed King; and fly, ere evil intercept thy flight.”
Satan’s words were greeted with a murmur of applause. Though alone and surrounded by enemies, Abdiel boldly said: “O alienate from God, O spirit accurst, forsaken of all good; I see thy fall determined, and thy hapless crew involved in this perfidious fraud, contagion spread both of thy crime and punishment: henceforth no more be troubled how to quit the yoke of God’s MESSIAH; those indulgent laws will not be now vouchsafed, other decrees against thee are gone forth without recall; that golden scepter which thou didst reject is now an iron rod to bruise and break thy disobedience.”
Abdiel told Satan that he would flee, not because he feared Satan’s threats, but to escape the devouring fire that would soon consume these tents of wickedness.
Of all the assembled hosts, Abdiel alone was faithful. He passed from their midst and turned his back on the proud towers doomed to destruction. With his departure, book five came to an end.
In a posthumous essay, Milton expressed sentiments that do not agree with the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity. Let us examine whether anti-Trinitarian views occur in Paradise Lost.
I put two crucial passages in italics in the above summary. Each leads to a different conclusion.
Orthodox Trinitarian doctrine teaches that the Son was begotten by the Father from eternity. There was never a time when the Son did not exist. In contrast, the first passage that I put in italics seems to say that the Son was begotten after the angels were created.
However, note that this is a great way to explain the rebellion of Satan. Milton may have looked on this passage not as a statement of doctrine, but as a mere dramatic device. Remember also that Milton represented Raphael as saying that it was hard to describe heavenly events in such a way that the human mind can understand them.
If Milton intended to place the begetting of the Son after the creation of the angels, he contradicted himself in the second passage that I have put in italics. Here Abdiel states that God made all things, including Satan, through the mediation of His Son.
Personally, I hope that Milton’s anti-Trinitarian paper was just a passing fancy that does not represent his true beliefs.
Literature.Org: Paradise Lost