Bible Study Helps and Lessons
By Pastor George Rice
Suffering in all its forms as well as death is something that men have wrestled with for thousands of years. Very often people reap what they have sown, but how many times has the question been asked, “Why do the innocent suffer?” All world religions have submitted their answers to the nagging problem of sin, suffering, and death. But the only true answer can be found in the Bible.
We are engaged in a war. A war between two supernatural powers. The fallout of this war is seen in the misery endured by humanity. This war is between Christ and Satan. We call it, THE GREAT CONTROVERSY.
Revelation 12:7-12 introduces this conflict to us and tells us why the human race is caught in the middle of it. These verses tell us the following:
1. The great controversy began in heaven v 7.
2. Michael (Christ) and His angels fought with the dragon (Lucifer/Satan) and his angels v 7.
3. Satan did not prevail and was cast out of heaven v 8.
4. He was isolated to Planet Earth v 12.
5. Humans on earth that are loyal to God overcome Satan by the blood of the Lamb (Jesus) and by their verbal testimony of their love for Jesus v 11.
6. Many sealed their relationship with Jesus by martyrdom v 11.
One of the keys to understanding the great controversy is the knowledge that God knows the end from the beginning. He lives in the past, present, and future at the same time. Whenever God created the first living being in the universe, He gave that being the freedom to obey or disobey. Every created being since then has been give the same option. God knew that one of these beings would choose to rebel. He knew that it would be Lucifer, the highest ranking angel, and He knew that earth would be the planet that would follow Lucifer in his rebellion.
Rebellion in heaven began with Lucifer’s desire to be like God. Isaiah 14:12-15 outlines his selfish ambition and his strategy. Lucifer boasted, “I will be like the most high.”( v 14). Through lies about God, His government, and His law, Satan sought to win the universe to his cause. None of the inhabitants of the planets followed him, but a group of angels did (Rev. 12: 4). These angels alone with Lucifer were placed on earth immediately after its creation. By leading Adam and Eve into rebellion, Lucifer now claims earth as his territory (Luke 4:5-7), and the inhabitants of the universe now witness how he would have ruled them if they had followed him in rebellion.
The divine plan to redeem those who live on earth from Satan’s power involved Jesus, the second person of the Godhead. He became a human being and died as our Substitute, i.e., He died the death that we should die. The great controversy, then, is a struggle between Christ, our Vicarious Sacrifice, and Satan. In other words, the Trinity confronted Satan’s lies, hate, and selfish ambition in the person of Jesus. So when Satan boasted, “I will be like the Most High,” he coveted the power and position of the One who represented the Godhead, i.e., Jesus. Thus Lucifer became Satan, the great antagonist, and the original rebel and antichrist.
Antichrist comes from two Greek words, the preposition αντι which means “in the place of”, and χριστος which means Christ. The antichrist is one who works to take the place of Christ. It is Satan’s desire to be worshiped as Jesus, the Representative of the Godhead, is worshiped. He wants to be like the Most High. He works today through many religious organization and people to divert worship way from Christ. He stands behind these religious “fronts” and accepts the worship and adoration that should be given to Jesus.
How does all of this affect us? Satan was successful in getting Adam and Eve to join his rebellion against God by leading them to doubt God’s word and disobey Him. Satan asked Eve if she was permitted to eat of any tree in the Garden of Eden. She said, Yes, except for the tree in the middle of the garden. If she or Adam ate of that tree, God told them they would die. Satan replied, “You will not surely died. For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God [Satan’s personal, selfish ambition], knowing good and evil.” (Gen. 3:1-5). When she ate the fruit of the forbidden tree and gave some to Adam and he ate, Adam, as the federal head of the human race, transferred his allegiance and his position as God’s viceregent on earth to Satan. So Satan now claims the earth and its inhabitants as his.
Adam’s disobedience resulted in a character change. He had lost his innocense. He was now a sinner and possessed a sinful, fallen nature. As the children of Adam and Eve, we are born into this world alienated from God with tendencies to do evil. Paul says that we are by nature children of wrath (Eph. 2:3). As the inhabitants of Planet Earth, we have suffered the result of Adam’s disobedience. Sin has brought misery, emotional and physical suffering, and finally death.
There is only one way out of this horror. The way provided by God, i.e., Jesus’ vicarious death that frees us from the penalty of eternal death (Rom. 5:6-10). Salvation and life is only possible through Jesus. He is the only way back to the relationship with God from which we have fallen. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (John 14:6).
Those who do restore their relationship with the Father through Jesus will have to face a barrage of lies from Satan. But the followers of Jesus have truth with which to defend themselves. And that truth is the Word of God, the Bible. As Jesus prayed to His Father concerning His followers, He said, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth” (John 17:17). Those who ground their lives upon God’s word will not be moved by the controversy that rages around them (Mt. 7:24, 25), while those who neglect or oppose biblical truth will lose out (Mt. 7:26 27).
The issue for us in the great controversy is the choice as to who we are going to believe and obey–Jesus or Satan. Jesus said that at the end of time many will appeal to Him as “Lord, Lord.” And they will recite wonderful things they have done in His name. But Jesus reply will be, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness” (Mt. 7:21-23). The issue in the controversy is obedience, and the standard of obedience is God’s eternal law. Jesus will empower His followers to obey His law as well as implant a deep desire to obey.
The same issue in the great controversy is laid out by Jesus as it is recorded by Luke. Jesus said to those who claimed to be His followers, “But why do you call Me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do the things which I say?” (Luke 6:46). In the great controversy, there is no middle ground. We are either on Jesus’ side or Satan’s. As Jesus said, “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad” (Mt. 12:30).