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Lesson 12 December 14–20

The Cosmic Conflict Over God’s Character


Read for This Week’s Study: Ezek. 28:12–17, Isa. 14:12–15, Job 1:6–12, Zech. 3:1–5, 1 John 4:10, 2 Tim. 4:8, Ezek. 36:23–27.

Memory Text: “And I heard another out of the altar say, Even so Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments” (Revelation 16:7).

Seventh-day Adventists understand reality through the biblical concept of the “great controversy between Christ and Satan.” To use a phrase from philosophy, it is the “meta-narrative”—the grand, overarching story that helps to explain our world and the things that happen in it.

Central to this controversy is the sanctuary, which, as we have seen, presents a recurrent theme that runs from the beginning to the end of salvation history: Redemption of humanity through the death of Jesus. Properly understood, the sanctuary message also helps to illustrate God’s character, which Satan has been attacking since The Great Controversy first began in heaven.

This week we will study some milestones in the great conflict between Christ and Satan that reveal the truth about God’s character and that expose Satan’s lies.

Study this week’s lesson to prepare for Sabbath, December 21.

Sunday December 15

Revolt in the Heavenly Sanctuary

Read Ezekiel 28:12–17 and Isaiah 14:12–15. What do these verses teach about Lucifer’s fall?

At first glance, Ezekiel 28:12 seems to be talking about only an earthly monarch. Several aspects, however, suggest that this is really referring to Satan.

For starters, this being is referred to as the anointed cherub “who covers” (Ezek. 28:14, NKJV), which recalls the Most Holy Place of the earthly sanctuary, where two cherubim covered the ark and the presence of the Lord (Exod. 37:7–9). This celestial being also walked in the midst of the fiery stones; that is, on the “holy mountain of God” (Ezek. 28:14) and in the center of “Eden, the garden of God” (Ezek. 28:13, NKJV)—both being expressions of sanctuary imagery. The covering of precious stones described in verse 13 contains nine stones that are also found in the high priestly breast garment (Exod. 39:10–13); thus even here we have more references to the sanctuary.

After having described the surpassing splendor of the cherub, the text moves to his moral fall. His glory went to his head. His beauty made his heart haughty, his splendor corrupted his wisdom, and his “trading”—which probably refers to his slandering of the character of God and stirring up rebellion—made him violent.

Also, arrogant earthly powers seek to move from earth toward heaven. In Isaiah 14:12–15, the “son of the morning” (Latin lucifere, from which comes the name Lucifer) goes in a different direction: he falls from heaven to earth, indicating his supernatural rather than earthly, origin. Other phrases like “throne above the stars of God,” “mount of the congregation” in the far north, and “Most High” reinforce the impression that this is a celestial being. While verses 12 and 13 are in past tense, verse 15 suddenly changes to the future. This change in time signals that there was first a fall from heaven to earth (Isa. 14:12) and that there will be a second fall, from earth to Sheol (the grave), sometime in the future (Isa. 14:15). This does not refer to any Babylonian king; it is, instead, a clear reference to Lucifer.

A perfect being created by a perfect God falls into sin? What does this tell us about the reality of moral freedom in God’s universe? And what does such freedom reveal to us about God’s character?

Monday December 16

The Accusations

After his fall from heaven, Satan attempted to distort and slander God’s character. He did this in Eden (Gen. 3:1–5), in the midst of the first “sanctuary” on earth. Satan brought his rebellion, which originated in the heavenly sanctuary, down to the earthly sanctuary of Eden. After initiating contact with Eve through the medium of the serpent, he openly planted the idea in her mind that God was depriving them of something that would be good for them, that He was holding something back that they should have. In this way, however subtly, he was misrepresenting God’s character.

The fall of Adam and Eve set Satan temporarily on the throne of this world. Several texts suggest that Satan had gained access to the heavenly court again, but now as the “ruler of this world” (John 12:31, NKJV), as one who possesses the earth but does not own it, much like a thief.

Read Job 1:6–12 and Zechariah 3:1–5. How is The Great Controversy revealed in these texts?

These texts give us a glimpse of the heavenly side of The Great Controversy. Satan presents Job’s righteousness as simply self-serving: if I am good, God will bless me. The implication is that Job doesn’t serve God because God is worthy, but because it’s in Job’s best interests; once it becomes clear that serving God won’t bring blessing, Job will abandon his faith.

In the case of the high priest Joshua (a sanctuary motif) and of other believers (see Rev. 12:10), Ellen G. White says that Satan “is accusing the children of God, and making their case appear as desperate as possible. He presents before the Lord their evil doings and their defects.”—Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 167.

In both cases, though, the real issue is the justice of God. The question behind all accusations is whether or not God is fair and just in His dealings. God’s character is on trial. Is it fair when God saves sinners? Is God just when He declares the unrighteous to be righteous? If He is just, He must punish the unrighteous; if He is gracious, He must forgive them. How can God be both?

If God were only a God of justice, what would be your fate, and why would you deserve it?

Tuesday December 17

Vindication at the Cross

From the very beginning, God left no doubt that He would invalidate Satan’s accusations and demonstrate His ultimate love and justice. His justice demands that there be payment of the penalty for mankind’s sin. His love seeks to restore humanity into fellowship with Him. How could God manifest both?

How did God demonstrate both His love and justice? 1 John 4:10, Rom. 3:21–26.

God’s character of love and justice has been revealed in its fullest manifestation at the death of Christ. God loved us and sent His Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins (1 John 4:10, John 3:16). By paying in Himself the penalty for violating the law, God showed His justice: the demands of the law had to be met, and they were at the cross, but in the person of Jesus.

At the same time, by this act of justice, God was also able to reveal His grace and love, because Jesus’ death was substitutionary. He died for us, in our stead, so that we don’t have to face that death ourselves. This is the amazing provision of the gospel, that God Himself would bear in Himself the punishment that His own justice demanded, the punishment that legitimately belonged to us.

Romans 3:21–26 is a biblical jewel on the theme of God’s righteousness and the Redemption in Jesus Christ. Christ’s sacrificial death is a demonstration of God’s righteousness so “that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26, NASB).

Again, sanctuary imagery provides the framework for Christ’s death. In previous weeks, we have seen that His death is a perfect, substitutionary sacrifice and that Christ is the “atonement cover” (Rom. 3:25). In short, both Testaments reveal that Christ’s mission was typified by the earthly sanctuary service.

“With intense interest the unfallen worlds had watched to see Jehovah arise, and sweep away the inhabitants of the earth. . . . But instead of destroying the world, God sent His Son to save it. . . . At the very crisis, when Satan seemed about to triumph, the Son of God came with the embassage of divine grace.”—Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 37. What does this quote tell you about the character of God?

Wednesday December 18

Vindication in the Judgment

As Scripture has shown, God’s judgment is good news for those of us who believe in Him, who trust in Him, and who are loyal to Him, even though “we cannot answer the charges of Satan against us.”—Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 472. However, the judgment is not only for us. It also serves the purpose of vindicating God before the entire universe.

How is God’s character presented in the following texts about judgment? Ps. 96:10, 13; 2 Tim. 4:8; Rev. 16:5, 7; 19:2.

God’s character will be revealed in His judgment. What Abraham had already understood will, in the end, be manifest to all humanity: “ ‘Shall not the Judge of all the earth deal justly?’ ” (Gen. 18:25, NASB). The different phases of judgment, with their open-book investigation, make sure that the angels (in the pre-Advent judgment) and the righteous (in the millennial judgment) can prove and be reassured that God is just in His dealings with humanity and that He has been merciful in each case.

Read Philippians 2:5–11. What amazing event do these verses depict?

Verses 9-11 predict the exaltation of Christ. The main two actions express the same thought: Jesus is Lord, and all creation will acknowledge Him as such. First, “every knee should bow” (vs. 10, NASB). The bowing of the knee is a customary act for recognizing the authority of a person. Here it refers to rendering homage to Christ, recognizing His supreme sovereignty. The dimension of the homage is universal. “In heaven and on earth and under the earth,” (NASB), comprises every living being: the supernatural beings in heaven, the living on earth, and the resurrected dead. Those who will pay homage don’t seem to be limited to the saved. Everyone will acknowledge His lordship, even the lost.

The second action is that everyone “should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord” (vs. 11, NASB). In the end, all will acknowledge the justice of God in exalting Christ as Lord. In this way all creation will acknowledge the character of God, which has been at the center of The Great Controversy, as just and faithful. Even Satan, the archenemy of Christ, will acknowledge God’s justice and bow to the supremacy of Christ (see Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, pp. 670, 671).

Thursday December 19

The Cosmic Spectacle

During the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus utters these amazing words: “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matt. 5:16). With this, He reveals a principle that, though easily misunderstood, is nevertheless seen throughout the Bible. It tells how, as followers of Christ, we can bring glory or shame to God by our actions.

Read Ezekiel 36:23–27. How was God going to vindicate His name in ancient Israel?

These verses comprise one of the classic passages on the new covenant. God desires to work a dramatic transformation among His people. He will cleanse them (vs. 25) and grant them a new heart and a new spirit (vs. 26) so that they will become a holy people who will follow God’s commandments. What God wants to accomplish is to justify and sanctify believers, and by their lives they will honor God for who He is and what He does (vs. 23).

Of course, the key element in vindicating God’s character before the universe is the Cross. “Satan saw that his disguise was torn away. His administration was laid open before the unfallen angels and before the heavenly universe. He had revealed himself as a murderer. By shedding the blood of the Son of God, he had uprooted himself from the sympathies of the heavenly beings.”—Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 761.

At the same time, the New Testament followers of Christ are called a “spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men” (1 Cor. 4:9, NKJV). That is, what we do is being seen not only by other people but by heavenly intelligences as well. What kind of witness do we present? By our lives we can make known the “manifold wisdom of God . . . to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places” (Eph. 3:10, NASB). Or our lives can bring shame and reproach on the name of the Lord whom we profess to serve.

What kind of spectacle, both to other people and to angels, does your life present? Is it one in which God is glorified, or one in which Satan can exult, especially because you profess to be a follower of Jesus?

Friday December 20

Further Study: Ellen G. White, “Why was Sin Permitted?” pp. 33–43, in Patriarchs and Prophets; “The Character of God Revealed in Christ,” pp. 737–746, in Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5.

“There stood in the world One who was a perfect representative of the Father, One whose character and practices refuted Satan's misrepresentation of God. Satan had charged upon God the attributes he himself possessed. Now in Christ he saw God revealed in His true character—a compassionate, merciful Father, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to Him in repentance, and have eternal life.”—Ellen G. White, Selected Messages, book 1, p. 254.

“The mission of Christ, so dimly understood, so faintly comprehended, that called Him from the throne of God to the mystery of the altar of the cross of Calvary, will more and more unfold to the mind, and it will be seen that in the sacrifice of Christ are found the spring and principle of every other mission of love.”—Ellen G. White, In Heavenly Places, p. 319.

Discussion Questions:

Inside Story~  West Africa Division: Benin

The Ghost Dancer, part 2

Shortly after my baptism, my father called me to dance in a big ghost festival in our home village. I was shaking as I told my father, “No, I don’t dance anymore.” Father urged me to dance, but I took a deep breath and told him, “I have found a power that is stronger than witchcraft.” I knew that my words were a challenge to my father and the ghost dancers. I prayed that my God would protect me from whatever evil would befall me.

When I didn’t show up for the ghost dancers’ practice session in the bush, some dancers came to remind me it was time to dance. I told them I wasn’t going to dance. They argued and tried to convince me to go with them, but I refused. Then these dancers grabbed me and forced me to go with them.

We arrived at the place where the ghost dancers were preparing for the dance. I told them again that I wasn’t going to dance. Someone forced me to drink something, and I lost consciousness. They tried to wake me, but I didn’t wake up until the next day, the day of the ceremony. The ghost dancers tried to get me to dance, but I couldn’t even stand up. Finally my father came and told them to leave me alone. I slept through the entire ghost ceremony.

After the ceremonies ended, my father took me aside and reminded me of vows I had taken to not tell anyone what we did in our dancing. Then a friend told me that I must leave the village or face death. I left my village and haven’t returned.

I was 18 years old. I had no job and no money. I’d had just three years of education and wasn’t sure what I could do. I prayed, and God hasn’t abandoned me. I am learning a trade now so that I can support myself.

It’s not safe for me to go to my father’s village, for I know that there are people there who would try to kill me. I’m not afraid of them, for I believe that Jesus is stronger than voodoo gods. But until God sends me back to my parents’ village, I feel it’s wise to stay away.

I found Christ when a pastor shared God’s love with me. Your mission offering helps spread the good news that Jesus is the only true God. Millions in Benin and around the world are waiting to hear. Thank you for giving them a chance.

Daniel lives in southern Benin.

Produced by the General Conference Office of Adventist Mission.  email:   website:


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