The End of the Great Controversy
We live in a world that seems to be governed by the law of “cause and effect.” For each cause there is an equal and opposite reaction or effect. Holy Scripture, God’s word to us, presents the evidence and confirms the truth that the great controversy began with the Character of God being misrepresented. Satan’s extension and continuation of the struggle has been by the same means. Thus, is revealed the cause and effect – the cause being the establishment of an erroneous view of God, and the effect, the proliferation of iniquitous rebellion.
How is this proliferation of iniquitous rebellion quelled? After all, it is a sound principle that once the cause of a problem has been established, the remedy for it is in view. Therefore, it would seem logical that the reversal of rebellion can be accomplished by presentation of the truth in regard to God.
How then is this accomplished? If Satan misrepresented the character of God, then to quell the rebellion, one must then reveal the true character of God. But how could this be accomplished? It was Jesus Christ that became preeminent in this work of divine restoration. When He came to earth, He came not only to save humanity from the penalty of sin by sacrificing Himself but to save people by revealing the character of God in contrast to Satan’s propositions.
Christ’s role as the revealer of the true character of God was as necessary to ending the great controversy and the salvation of the lost as was His supreme sacrifice on the cross. Jesus came expressly to show God’s character to the angels and people exactly as God is.
John in his letter to the Christian church makes this point clear where he wrote: “It is also written that “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil” (I John 3:8).
In our human thinking we often wonder, why didn’t God just use force to do away with this sin problem and Satan. Then we could live in a world full of happiness and love. But to do this would not have revealed God’s true character and would actually have played into the hands of the deceiver. It would have proven Satan’s point, and caused all unfallen being to worship God out of fear, rather than love.
Truth be told, the unfallen angels were not completely convinced Satan was wrong until Jesus death upon the cross. To them this fully developed the character of Satan and showed the contrast between Satan and God.
But there is one more reason God could not just start over or wipe out those that attempted to assassinate His character. You see, at first there was only the Word of God. That Word came under challenge. God explained the situation to the heavenly host in detail. Thus, the word of Satan was met by the Word of God. But this failed to really settle the question, for it was not accepted by Satan and his followers. Therefore, time had to be given in which Satan could demonstrate the true nature of his claims while God and Christ, on the other hand, could unfold the real character of their position. It was for this purpose that God has permitted the great conflict to continue through all these ages, and until that purpose has been fulfilled, the controversy will continue.
Therefore the sad news, yet good news is that this struggle will go on, Christ shall not return, sin will not be ended, and death will continue to reign, until both angels and humanity see for themselves the real nature of God’s character. Not only must they see the for themselves the true nature of God’s character but also the sharp contrast between Satan’s government and that of God’s government. When that point is reached, then and only then will the end come and Christ return.
Yet for the heavenly angels and all the unfallen, the contrast has been shown and accepted. All the reasons for doubt were wiped away upon Satan’s cruel crucifixion of Christ, upon what else, but a tree. Which was the most disrespectful death a person could endure. And was it not through a tree, God attempted to teach respect? But for the angelic host and all the unfallen, the Character of Satan was fully revealed. But strangely, the human race, did not fully grasp the nature of God, choosing still to continue to believe the lie as told by Satan about the character of God.
Before the cross, although Satan had only drawn one third of the angels with him, the other two thirds held serious doubts. These uncertainties about God, His character, and the principles of His government were generated in them to the point where a definite sympathy for Satan’s cause was present. Throughout the long centuries elapsing between the fall of Lucifer and the cross of Calvary, that sad state of affairs continued. During this period the holy angels served God with definite reservations and felt that Satan had something of a case to be argued.
As one author has stated it: “God could have destroyed Satan and his sympathizers as easily as one can cast a pebble to the earth; but He did not do this. Rebellion was not to be overcome by force. Compelling power is found only under Satan’s government. The Lord’s principles are not of this order. His authority rests upon goodness, mercy, and love; and the presentation of these principles is the means to be used. God’s government is moral, and truth and love are to be the prevailing power.
It was God’s purpose to place things on an eternal basis of security, and in the councils of heaven it was decided that time must be given for Satan to develop the principles which were the foundation of his system of government. He had claimed that these were superior to God’s principles. Time was given for the working of Satan’s principles, that they might be seen by the heavenly universe” (Desire of Ages, pp. 758, 759).
At the cross the last link of sympathy between Satan and the heavenly world was broken.
Revelation 12:10 gives us a wonderful picture of this. “And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ; for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night”
For Satan, his administration was laid open before the unfallen angels and before the heavenly universe. It revealed to all that Satan was a murderer, incapable of reform. By shedding the blood of the Son of God, he had uprooted himself from the sympathies of the heavenly beings. From this point forward his work was restricted. Whatever attitude he might assume, he could no longer await the angels as they came from the heavenly courts, and before them accuse Christ’s brethren of being clothed with the garments of blackness and defilement of sin (ibid p761).
Finally, the angels saw and understood the character of God as it truly was. Christ had destroyed the works of the devil in them, and for them, the purpose of the great controversy had been achieved. There, for if only angels were involved in the struggle, Satan’s end would have come at the cross. But what had been done for the angels had to be done for humanity too, for while angels saw the real nature of the character of God and of Satan at the cross, humanity certainly did not and still has not. Even today, those who walk nearest to God still have a measure of sympathy with Satan and his ways. Not until the final time of testing will this at last be removed from us. For this reason, because this work has yet to be accomplished in the hearts of human beings so that the purpose of the great controversy is fulfilled for them as it was for the angels, the battle was not terminated at the cross.
The mystery of salvation although it revealed the Character of God and the Character of Satan, was and is still not fully understood. There was more to be fully revealed. Therefore, as cruel as it may seem, the existence of Satan must continue until man as the angels have seen the full contrast between the light of this world and the prince of darkness.
Revelation 12 gives us a glimpse of this struggle of ideology that took place in heaven which resulted in Satan’s removal from the heavenly realm.
“And war broke out in heaven: Michael (the Pre-incarnate Christ) and His angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, call the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him” Revelation 12:7-9).
At the cross, the decision of all the heavenly host had been reached and therefore they were placed beyond the temptation of Satan. This happened when Christ bowed his head and died, but He held fast His faith and His submission to God. “And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of God, and power of His Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night (Revelation 12:10).
“Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them!” (Revelation 12:12). Although the unfallen universe rejoices with joyous songs, upon earth, because Satan’s attention is focused only on one group: humanity. I addition, his fearful losses sustained at the cross did not discourage Satan they only maddened him into a frenzy of desperate and determined activity. Verse 12 concludes by saying, “Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time” (Revelation 12:12).
Therefore another great battle must be fought for the achievement of full recovery in order to accomplish for humanity that which was accomplished for the unfallen universe. This victory will be gained exactly as it was gained by Christ, for we are to overcome as He overcame (see Revelation 3:21).
Counter-accusation is unproductive, because a contest of confusing words only leads to more confusion. And the use of force often generate sympathy for the rebel though the natural tendency to take up the cause of the underdog.
I find this interesting, for it is the way Christ dealt with it while on earth. The only way to reveal evil is to expose it to righteousness. Jesus sojourn here was to signal defeat of Satan to the point where the unfallen universe was completely and eternally delivered from the power of Satan’s deceptions. But for the human beings the purpose of the great controversy has not yet been fulfilled.
Christ is not returning to this earth to repeat the demonstration already given. He has other plans. This full and final display of merciful, gracious, kind, good, and just character of God is to be regenerated through His people. Only as He is able to do this will the purpose of the controversy be finally achieved for humanity as it was for angels. Then the Savior can and will return.
The book “The Great Controversy” states it so well. In order to endure the trial before them, they (the people of God who will live through the final time of trouble and conflict must understand the will of God as revealed in His word; they can honor Him only as they have a right conception of His character, government, and purposes, and act in accordance with them (P. 593).
What does this mean for you and me? John in the book of Revelation makes this clear that the final movement of people will provide the Lord with the means of making ultimate manifestation of His character and this is described in Revelation 18:1: “After these things, I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having a great authority; and the earth was illuminated with his glory.”
You see the message of the angel was given by a movement of people, not by a literal angel. Hence the movement symbolized by the angel coming down from heaven, lighting the earth with his glory and crying mightily with a strong voice announcing the sins of Babylon (Ibid, p. 604).
With whose glory will the earth be lighted? To be sure, it is the glory of God, but that is not what the verse says. It says, “another angel (came) down from heaven . . . and the earth was lightened with his glory.”
It is the glory of the angel that lightens the whole earth. It is true that this is also and primary the glory of God, for it is from God that this glory is acquired. But it has been truly given to the angel that it has become his own and can be described as being his glory.
So, what is the glory of the angel and the glory of God? Is it merely a physical manifestation of brightness? There are numerous Scripture references to this kind of glory as an attribute of God, but there is a meaning to the word “glory” other than the outshining of radiant light and pulsing power. When Moses asked the Lord to show him His glory, the Lord hid Moses in a crack in the rocks and covered him in protection, while revealing in passing only His “back,” not His face, in order that the physical glory not overpower him, causing harm. But this is not the glory God was eager to share with Moses. The Lord revealed to Moses His character. Here is God’s response to the request.
Then He said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before you. I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion (Exodus 33:19)
Perhaps you like me thought that God showed Moses his outward glory and splendor of His being and countenance, but instead he showed Moses the wonder of His great and lovely character. From this we deduce that the glory of God is His character. When Jesus came to this earth, He left behind all physical glory. This is illustrated so well for us in Isaiah 53:2 where it says; “He has no form or comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. Yet despite the plainness of His outward appearance, He revealed the glory of God to those with spiritual vision, enabling them to see it.
John the beloved disciple of Jesus describes it in way. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14).
A little book titled Christ’s Object Lessons uses the word “glory” and directly equated it with the character: “the light of His glory – His character – is to shine forth in His followers” (p. 414).
This brings us back to the message of Revelation 18:1, which is summarized as follows:
- This is the final message to be given to the world
- The angel is the symbol of a movement of people
- The glory of the angel is the glory of the character of God
It is the angel’s glory, and therefore, the character glory within the people of the movement that shall lighten the whole earth.
When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them as His own (Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 69).
I don’t know about you, but I find it difficult to believe, as we look at ourselves with all our defects, that Christ could so reproduce Himself within a human agent so that when we see that person it is as if to see the very character and nature of God. Yet, this is how it must be, for if it required a faultless manifestation of God’s character to deliver the sinless beings of heaven and the unfallen worlds and thus achieve the purpose of the great controversy for them, it will require nothing less than the same faultless and complete manifestation of God’s character to deliver humankind from Satan’s deceptive power and accomplish the purpose of the great controversy for fallen humanity. Nothing less than this will bring the finishing of the work, and this is why “Christ is waiting with longing desire for the manifestation of Himself in His church. When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them as His own” (Ibid.).
So it will be that “the church, being endowed with the righteousness of Christ, is His depository, in which the wealth of His mercy, His love, His grace, is to appear in full and final display” (Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, P.18).
If therefore, is of paramount concern that we appreciate the gravity of the matter. In the final work on this earth, the true understanding and manifestation of the character of God will play a vital role. Let every child of God move forward, making this topic a priority not only in study but in the living work of putting on the character of Christ and making His righteousness our own.
Again, I have waxed long and apologize for it. I promise the next post will be shorter. I do hope you have enjoyed and will continue to read the rest of this series.