No matter how apparently chaotic, how seemingly out of control, human history is not unfolding in a vacuum. There’s a story behind it, a drama, a struggle between two radically different principles. We’re talking, of course, about the great controversy. Only with that background can we even begin to get an understanding of human history and what it all means.1
Satan is real, the battle is real, and only at the Cross was he defeated and his destruction made certain.
“Heaven viewed with grief and amazement Christ hanging upon the cross. . . . Yet there stood men, formed in the image of God, joining to crush out the life of His only begotten Son. What a sight for the heavenly universe! . . .
“Satanic agencies confederated with evil men in leading the people to believe Christ the chief of sinners, and to make Him the object of detestation. . . .
“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. . . . The last link of sympathy between Satan and the heavenly world was broken.”—Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, pp. 760, 761.
Why was Satan not destroyed then?
“The angels did not even then understand all that was involved in the great controversy. The principles at stake were to be more fully revealed. And for the sake of man, Satan’s existence must be continued. Man as well as angels must see the contrast between the Prince of light and the prince of darkness. He must choose whom he will serve.”—Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 761.
What the Bible teaches, and Ellen White, too, is that events here on earth are linked to the wider conflict, the great controversy between Christ and Satan. This controversy forms the background motif for all that happens here, whether in our individual lives or in the larger course of human history. Everything unfolds in the context of the great controversy. And the good news is that, after the Cross, Satan’s defeat was guaranteed, and this controversy will end, and with it all the pain and suffering and violence and fear and uncertainly that fill human history.