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.
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?