*December 29 - January 4
War in Heaven
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: Isa. 14:12-15; Ezek. 28:12-17; Revelation 12.
MEMORY TEXT: "God is love, and those who abide in love abide in God, and God abides in them" (1 John 4:16, NRSV).
KEY QUESTIONS: Where did the great controversy begin? Whom and what did it involve? What were the initial consequences?
GOD IS LOVE" (1 John 4:16). God's dwelling place is characterized by His love, and all who abide with Him live in such a way that glorifies His character.
But here is a great mystery. Lucifer, an angelic being abiding in God's presence, chose to question God's loving character. Little by little this being spread his dissatisfaction among other angels, causing a "war in heaven. Michael [Jesus] and his angels fought against the dragon [Lucifer], and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he [the dragon] was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven" (Rev. 12:7, 8, NIV).
This week's lesson provides "a history of the origin, initial position, and downfall of the angel who later became known as the devil and Satan."The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 4, p. 675. How God chose to handle this conflict exemplifies further His loving character. As you study and begin to understand how the great controversy is won in your own life, remember that Lucifer was "not strong enough" then (when he first rebelled against Christ), and he is not strong enough now-because God's "love endures forever" (Ps. 107:1, NIV), a love that is perfected in those who abide in Him (1 John 4:17).
*(Study this week's lesson to prepare for Sabbath, January 5.)
Sunday December 30
In each of the following verses, what one word does the author repeatedly use to describe God's creation? Gen. 1:4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31. What does this word imply about His character?
In Psalm 34:8, David invites us to "taste" (experience) for ourselves this aspect of God's character. In Psalm 145:7, he describes a time when people will celebrate this goodness with joyful singing: "They shall abundantly utter the memory of thy great goodness, and shall sing of thy righteousness."
What applies to God's earthly creation applies to the entire cosmos. If He made the earth so "good" and created human beings without any tendency toward evil, surely heaven and its inhabitants reflect these same attributes.
Even though the origin of sin is a mystery, what characteristics in particular helped bring it to fruition? The following verses provide clues.
Isa. 14:12-15 __________________________________________________________________________
Gen. 2:16, 17; 3:1-6 ____________________________________________________________________
|God can force all creatures in the universe to worship Him, He can force all creatures in the universe to obey Him, He can force all creatures to fear Himbut He cannot force even a single one to love Him. Love, to be love, must be free. In what ways do we experience every day this freedom that God's love has given to us? How do you day by day use, or abuse, this freedom? What principles motivate your actions? Ask yourself this hard question, tooWhat are you doing with the freedom that God has given you?|
Using the king of Tyre, an evil and morally bankrupt monarch, as a metaphor, Ezekiel portrays the king of all evil.
Ezekiel 28:12-16 points to the fall of Lucifer from "anointed cherub" to God's adversary. Answer the questions below regarding this event.
1. How did the anointed cherub come into being? (vs. 15).
2. What was his responsibility? (vs. 14).
3. Where was his dwelling place? (vs. 14).
4. Describe his original character (vs. 15).
5. Explain the meaning of "filled with violence within" (vs. 16, NKJV).
6. What was the iniquity found in him? (vss. 16, 17).
Before his fall, this angelic being is described as "the covering cherub," a figure related to the mercy seat in the sanctuary (Exod. 25:8-22; 37:6-9; Heb. 8:5). How could iniquity occur in a being who occupied such a lofty position, a being who was, in fact, created "perfect"? How does the role of freedom fit into this situation?
The fall of Lucifer shows that neither ecclesiastical position nor power is a safeguard against sin. Such safety is found only in a nurturing relationship with the One who creates and sustains. (See Rev. 12:11.) Thus, even a perfect being like Lucifer needed to maintain a humble, submissive relationship to His Creator. How much more so, then, should we?
|Ezekiel 28:15 states that this highest of angels was a created being. What is wrong with a created being claiming or striving to be equal with the Creator? Can we fall into a similar trap, even in more subtle ways than openly claiming equality with God? If so, how?|
Compare Isaiah's description of Lucifer's sin with the description in
Ezekiel by listing five comparable elements.
|Isaiah 14:12-15||Ezekiel 28:12-17|
First and foremost, Isaiah and Ezekiel were addressing the rulers of Babylon and Tyre. But some details in each prophecy are true only of someone more powerful than these two fleshly kings. We can understand the details of the prophecies when we understand the nature of biblical writings. Just as God was behind Israel's Davidic throne (Isa. 41:21; Zeph. 3:15), Satan was behind the throne of these pagan monarchs. Just as Israel's kings were to reflect the characteristics of their true King, so the kings of Tyre and Babylon exhibited characteristics of the one who ruled them. Also, just as the Davidic psalms give details pointing to the Messiah that are not true of David, so, too, these prophecies detail things that are not true of the kings of Babylon and Tyre but refer instead only to Lucifer. (See Peter's argument in Acts 2:14, 22, 25-36 that Psalm 16:8-11 refers to Christ, even though David wrote the passage as though he were speaking about himself.)
The title applied to Lucifer in Isaiah 14:12 reflects the position he once held in heaven as leader of the angels. But because he was a created being, his position always would be lower than that of his Creator, Christ (John 1:1-3; Eph. 3:9; Heb. 1:2). Lucifer refused to acknowledge this fact.
|No matter how much God gave Lucifer, it obviously wasn't enough. He wanted more. And all this in a being who from the start had been created perfect! What warning should Lucifer's fall have for ussinful, selfish, and defective beings from the startabout the danger of self-exaltation, pride, and covetousness, especially when they arise in a very subtle manner?|
Lucifer's claims began in the heartthat is, in the mind. God created the mind as the seat of all emotions, decisions, and actions. As is the mind, so is the life. "Your word I have hidden in my heart," says the psalmist, "that I might not sin against You" (Ps. 119:11, NKJV). A mind filled with God's thoughts and His will serves as a shield against sin. But Lucifer filled his mind with rebellious, prideful thoughts:
" ' "I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God" ' "(Isa. 14:13, NKJV). Lucifer's ultimate presumption was that he could seize the sovereignty that Christ had above all other created thrones. His presumption was not only false but in direct revolt against the basic law of the created order: Only the Creator can be sovereign.
" ' "I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north" ' " (vs. 13, NKJV). Psalm 48:2 describes Mount Zion as being "on the sides of the north." Lucifer's ambition was to sit on the mount of the congregationan ambition that once fulfilled would no doubt win the angels' allegiance and their worship. But worship is the prerogative of God and Him alone (see 1 Chron. 16:29; Ps. 96:9; Rev. 14:7).
Upon what other presumption did Lucifer dare to act? Vs. 14.
What is wrong with this particular presumption of Lucifer's? After all, doesn't the Bible itself tell us we should seek to be like God, to love like Him, to serve like Him, to forgive like Him, to hate sin like Him, to be a source of hope like Him? (Gal. 5:22-26; Col. 3:12-14). The problem, instead, is what it was about God that Lucifer wanted for himself. Lucifer desired God's power, position, authority, and glory; not His love, His benevolence, His mercy.
Lucifer's rebellion did not begin as a full-blown revolt; it rarely does, even in us. It starts small, unperceived, a little doubt here, a little hatred there, a little greed or jealousy somewhere else. Soon it all adds up into something that we never imagined at first. Unless we guard our minds with God's Word and commit ourselves daily to Him, revolt will not be far away.
|All of us have harbored, at one time or another, the germs of mutiny and revolt. How can we quickly recognize these problems within ourselves, so that we can, through surrender to God and death to self, exterminate them before they lead us to our eternal ruin?|
When Michael and His angels crushed the rebellion in heaven, what happened to Lucifer and his angels? Rev. 12:7-9.
Revelation 12 provides a dramatic overview of the great controversy between Christ and Satan. Given in three major scenes, that are not in chronological order, the chapter provides the basic background of a conflict that involves every one of us (no one is neutral in this war).
Verses 1-6 focus upon Satan's attack on earth, first against the Christ-child and then against Christ's church, which has to flee into the wilderness for "one thousand two hundred and sixty days" (vs. 6, NKJV).
Verses 7-12 focus upon the original war in heaven, when Satan first rebelled and with his fallen angels fought against Christ, a battle they lost.
Verses 13-17 focus back on the earth, where Satan, cast out of heaven, continues his war against Christ (whom he was unable to defeat) by attacking Christ's church, the next best thing to attacking Christ Himself.
As best you can, go back through Revelation 12 and write down the sequence of events chronologically, starting, for example, with verse 7, which describes the war in heaven. What follows, and in what order do they come? (Remember that some events are repeated.)
Centuries ago, a German theologian and philosopher named Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz coined the word theodicy, meaning "the justification of God," the idea being that, in the end, all His ways will be justified before the universe. How do you understand this notion of God being "justified" in His actions before creatures of His own creation? What does that tell us about His character? How does the idea of theodicy help us understand the continued existence of Satan, even after his defeat at the Cross?
FURTHER STUDY: The great controversy is a study in contrasts: Satan's character of pride and self-glorification as opposed to Christ's character of unselfish love and service. Proverbs 6:16-19 gives us a picture of one. Philippians 2:5-8 portrays the other.
"Satan's rebellion was to be a lesson to the universe through all coming agesa perpetual testimony to the nature of sin and its terrible results. The working out of Satan's rule, its effects upon both men and angels, would show what must be the fruit of setting aside the divine authority. It would testify that with the existence of God's government is bound up the well-being of all the creatures He has made. Thus the history of this terrible experiment of rebellion was to be a perpetual safeguard to all holy beings, to prevent them from being deceived as to the nature of transgression, to save them from committing sin, and suffering its penalty. "Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 42, 43.
To learn more about the topics discussed in this week's lesson, read any or all of the following: Early Writings, "The Fall of Satan," pp. 145-147; Patriarchs and Prophets, "Why Was Sin Permitted?" pp. 33-43; The Great Controversy, "The Origin of Evil," pp. 492-504.
SUMMARY: The great controversy began in heaven when Lucifer attempted to exalt himself above his Creator. Calling into question God's loving character, he was able to deceive a third of the angels. Because pride and self-glorification cannot by its very nature live in harmony with God's selfless love, Lucifer, along with those he seduced, was cast from heaven. Even though the great controversy still rages on global and personal levels, we should not despair. "God is love," His "love endures forever" (1 John 4:16; Ps. 107:1, NIV), and His love has defeated the foe in our behalf.
When Clara Smith, a single parent living on the Navajo reservation in New Mexico, learned about a prophecy seminar that the All Nations Adventist church in Gallup, New Mexico, was conducting, she decided to attend. She took her three teenage children with her. Night after night Clara and her children, Alexis, 18, Dana, 17, and LaCora, 14, made the 80-mile round trip to attend the meetings. They were thrilled by the clear explanation of Bible truth that the pastor presented, and in November 1999, Clara and her children committed their lives to God in baptism.
Every Sabbath Clara and her teenagers faithfully made the trip in her aging auto to worship God with her new church family. Then late one night as the family returned home after prayer meeting, a black cow wandered across the dark highway in front of her car. There was no time to stop, and Clara hit the cow.
No one was seriously injured, but the car was totaled. Clara had no insurance, and the cow's owner refused to repay her loss. Clara could not work because of rheumatoid arthritis, and had no money to replace the car. And no other church members live anywhere near her to give them a ride to church.
But Clara and her family refused to let this setback keep them from their weekly appointments with God. Clara and her children prayed that God would help them get to church some other way.
Early on Sabbath morning Clara and her children set out on foot toward the highway. A few minutes later a car stopped, and the driver offered them a ride into town.
Week after week the family prayed for a ride, then set out for church. God is faithful, and the family did not miss a single Sabbath. And they are never late, in spite of their irregular mode of transportation. They even attend prayer meeting, and once a month Clara and her children hitchhiked to the church to take their turn cleaning it for Sabbath.
One Sabbath a driver stopped to offer the family a ride. He asked where they were going, and when Clara replied that they were going to church, the driver said, "I am on my way to work. When I reach my job, you may drive on to church. Just bring the car back to me when church is over."
(continued next week)
Gladstone Simmons is pastor of the All Nations Adventist Church in Gallup, New Mexico.
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