The Origin of the Trial
There was a time when all of God’s creation was in harmony with God. Everyone was aware of God’s great love for them. At that time, there was no question in anyone’s mind regarding the goodness and integrity of God. Yet, this harmony and peace would soon be broken by the rise of sin in the heart of Lucifer, whom we now call Satan.
The Bible says that Lucifer was created perfect. God said to him, “Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee.” (Ezekiel 28:15) Lucifer means “Light Bearer,” and was the name of Satan before he fell. God also said to Lucifer: “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!” (Isaiah 14:12) Lucifer was perfect when God created him. He obviously obeyed the first and greatest commandment, which is to love God with all his heart, all his soul, and all his mind. In order for Lucifer to have loved God with all his heart, he must have understood God’s love for him, because the Bible says, “We love [God], because he first loved us.” (1 John 4:19) Love for God always begins with an understanding and appreciation of God’s love for us.
We are not told how long Lucifer remained in a perfect condition, but the Bible says that “iniquity was found” in him. It is hard to imagine how Lucifer, who lived in a perfect universe with a perfect God of love, could come to a point where he would sin against God. While this is a great mystery, God revealed to Ezekiel a few details regarding Lucifer’s fall into sin that help us to understand what took place.
God said to Lucifer, “Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness.” (Ezekiel 28:17) When God said that Lucifer’s heart was lifted up, that was another way of saying that he became proud, and God said this happened because of how beautiful and good he thought he was. This pride, God said, corrupted his wisdom. When God said that Lucifer’s wisdom became corrupted, what wisdom was He referring to? The only wisdom that would be relevant in this context is Lucifer’s wisdom about God’s character of love. This is the wisdom that became corrupted in Lucifer as a result of his pride.
While Lucifer was perfect, he viewed God as a Person who is loving, just, and fair in everything He does and, therefore, Lucifer loved God with all his heart. However, Lucifer began to turn his eyes upon himself and realize how beautiful, how perfect, how wise, he was. He started to become proud of himself, his beauty, and his abilities. As this went on, he started to believe that he deserved a more exalted position than God had given him. He started to think that since he was so wonderful, and deserved a better position in heaven, God was not being fair to him for withholding from him what he deserved. After this, Lucifer began looking upon God as a Person who is unfair, unjust, and selfish. No longer did he recognize God’s character of love. His wisdom about God’s character of love became corrupted; he began to doubt God’s love, causing his love for God to diminish.
Lucifer’s wisdom about God’s love became so corrupted that he thought he could do a better job of ruling the universe than God Himself. Lucifer finally said, “I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.” (Isaiah 14:14)
After Lucifer cherished evil thoughts about God, he was not content to keep his new views to himself. Soon he started to sow seeds of doubt in the minds of God’s faithful angels. He wanted others to have the same distorted picture of God’s love that he had come to behold. The Bible says that Lucifer was so successful in his campaign to misrepresent God’s character of love that he convinced one third of the angelic host to accompany him in his rebellion. (See Revelation 12:4, 7-9)
It was Lucifer’s lie from the beginning that God was not as loving and caring as He made Himself out to be. Sin began with a disbelief in God’s love, and Lucifer knew that if he could get others to disbelieve God’s love they would join him in his rebellion. He took up the unholy task of bringing God’s love into question; of putting God’s love on trial.
Eve in the Garden of Eden
Finally Satan was cast out of heaven, but he had not given up on his campaign against God. The controversy was continued on this earth. In the form of a serpent he tricked Eve into accepting his distorted view about God’s character. The Bible says, “Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.” (Genesis 3:1-3) At this point, Eve innocently and completely believed that God loved her with all His heart. She had every reason to trust that God was looking out for her best interests in withholding the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil from her. God had told her not to eat the fruit of that tree because if she did it would have a very negative effect upon her; she would die. Eve understood that the fruit was harmful to her and, therefore, she believed that God was good and loving to withhold it from her.
Here is where Satan seized the opportunity to share his distorted picture of God’s character. “And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:4, 5)
Please notice the intention behind Satan’s lie. He was not merely contradicting God’s Word, by stating that Eve would not die, but his real intention was to give Eve a distorted picture of God’s character of love. Satan knew that as long as Eve understood the fruit of the tree to be bad for her, she would look upon God as good for withholding it from her. So Satan tricked Eve into thinking that the fruit of the tree was actually good for her, which would mean that God was bad for withholding it from her. This is what Satan wanted. He wanted Eve to look upon God in the same way that he did, as a Person who is unjust, unfair, unkind and unloving. This was the real intention behind Satan’s first lie to mankind.
Satan planted a seed of doubt in Eve’s mind. She began to wonder why God had withheld the fruit of that tree from her. She had understood that it was for her own benefit, but now she began to wonder. Gazing at the fruit, Eve thought something like this, “Could it be that God is withholding this fruit from me because He doesn’t want me to become wise, and be elevated to a higher level?”
“And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.” (Genesis 3:6) Satan succeeded in getting Eve to join him in his rebellion against God. What was it that caused Eve’s fall? How could Satan convince a perfect, sinless being to openly rebel against God?
Up until that time, Eve was convinced that God loved her very much. God had done many wonderful things for her. He always provided for her needs, and everything was wonderful in that beautiful garden. At Satan’s instigation, Eve began to wonder if God really did love her. She wondered if there was something good that God was withholding from her. Soon she believed Satan’s lie and doubted God’s love. She ate of the fruit, and we all know the rest of the story.
The Great Controversy
It was a disbelief in God’s love that started Satan on his downward path. It was a disbelief in God’s love that convinced Eve to sin. It is a disbelief in God’s love that keeps us in sin today. It is only through a revelation of God’s infinite love, and our appreciation of it, that we can be brought back to God in a loving relationship surpassing any we have yet had.
For many years the people of the world lay in darkness regarding the immense love that God has for them. It was to make clear God’s love, and redeem His children, that God sent His only-begotten Son into the world. Jesus came to declare the wonderful character of love that God has for each one of us. He came to clarify once and for all that God is love, and His love is so great that He is willing to give up everything dear to Him in order to save those who rebelled against Him.
God’s character of love has been at the heart of the great controversy between Christ and Satan. It has been Satan’s goal to deceive men concerning the true character of God. Satan would have us believe that God is not as loving as He claims to be. Satan knows that if he can convince us on this issue, we will never completely surrender our lives to God enough to have a hatred for sin so great as to cause us to stop sinning and gain the victory over the mark of the beast crisis so soon to be unleashed upon this world. It is only through receiving a true picture of God’s love that we can ever love Him enough to fulfill the commandment that Jesus called “the first and great commandment.” Jesus said, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment.” (Matthew 22:37, 38)
An Angel With a Vital Message
Because the controversy over God’s character is so fierce, and gaining momentum as we near the end of this world and the mark of the beast crisis, God sent a very special message to His people, symbolized by the first angel of Revelation 14. This message will enable us to gain “the victory over the beast, and over his image, and over his mark, and over the number of his name.” (Revelation 15:2)
Immediately following John’s account of the mark of the beast crisis in Revelation 13, he wrote, “I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people.” (Revelation 14:6) This angel represents God’s work through human agents to preach a message to “them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people.” This is the same message Jesus referred to when He said, “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.” (Matthew 24:14)
Just before the end comes the everlasting gospel will be preached in all the world. What is the everlasting gospel? The word gospel means “glad tidings” or “good news.” “As it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!” (Romans 10:15) So this message, that is to go to all the world at this time, is everlasting good news of good things. What good news could be everlasting good news? Someone might tell you, “I’ve got good news! You’ve just won a million dollars!” This might be good news, but it is temporary good news; it is not everlasting good news. Everlasting good news is good news that will be good news throughout all eternity.
Paul shed light on this question when he wrote, “I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith.” (Romans 1:16, 17) The gospel reveals the righteousness, or the goodness, of God. Truly this is everlasting good news; good news that will still be good news a million years from now, and for all eternity.
Paul stated something else in these verses, which we need to particularly notice. He said the gospel is “the power of God unto salvation.” When the goodness and love of God is revealed to you it becomes the motivating power that changes your life. Paul expressed it in another place in this way: “the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance.” (Romans 2:4) Understanding the goodness of God, His love, compassion, gentleness, and mercy, leads us to repentance and motivates us to continue serving Him. Love is the agent that God uses to remove sin from our lives.
Now that we have a good understanding of what the everlasting gospel is designed to do, we can look at what this angel with the everlasting gospel has to say to us. He cried “with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.” (Revelation 14:7) Two more angels immediately follow this angel, with additional information to help us gain the victory over the mark of the beast, but this is the only one that directly instructs us to take action. There are three things we are instructed to do:
“Give glory to Him”
“Worship Him that made heaven and earth”
We can see that the first angel’s message is calling people to the acknowledgment and worship of the true God of heaven. Based upon what we just learned about the everlasting gospel, we know that this message is designed to reveal the goodness and love of God. It is calling people to know God’s identity and His character of love, which will enable them to love God with all their hearts and gain the victory over the mark of the beast. Only those who understand the everlasting gospel will be able to worship God in spirit and in truth, thus obeying the first angel’s message.
The Most Important Trial of All Time
Satan has called into question God’s love. He has put God’s love on trial, and you are a member of the jury. It is up to you to decide who is right in this controversy. The trial has come to you for a decision. Your decision will have everlasting consequences because it will determine how you relate to God, the depth of your love for Him, your obedience to His commandments and, ultimately, your eligibility to enter the kingdom of heaven.
Will you be one of those over whom God triumphantly proclaims, “Here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus”? (Revelation 14:12) Will you be one of the blessed ones who “do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city”? (Revelation 22:14) If you are going to be in that number, you will need to make the right decision in this great trial that all of us have been plunged into. You will need to examine the evidence for yourself, and come to appreciate God as He is revealed in His Word and through His Son, Jesus Christ. Only then will it be rightly said of you that you are a “true worshiper.” (John 4:23)
Please read on, because the evidence in this trial must be examined thoroughly before an accurate decision can be made. Solomon wrote, “He that answereth a matter before he heareth it, it is folly and shame unto him.” (Proverbs 18:13)
Continue to Chapter 2
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