March 31 - April 6
Christ and Satan: Contenders for Control
READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: John 1:1, 2; Ezek. 28:12-15; Isa. 9:6; Rev. 12:9.
MEMORY TEXT: "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father" (John 1:14, RSV).
KEY THOUGHT: The two forces contending for control of planet Earth had both existed in heaven's perfect environment. Yet Satan's jealousy over Christ's authority started a controversy that would involve every member of the human race. Bible biographies are, in essence, a holy record of the choices people made in this conflict and of how God honored those choices, either for or against Him.
THE TWO FORCES DO BATTLE. Sin began in heaven, in Lucifer, whose pride and vanity pushed him into rebelling against the authority and government of God. Beautiful, brilliant, highly regarded in the heavenly courts, Lucifer nevertheless was not satisfied with all that he had been given. He coveted what he could never have: the authority of Christ Himself. And here, in heaven, with Lucifer, is the place where all the trouble began.
"'How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn!...You said in your heart, "I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high;. . . I will make myself like the Most High"' "(Isa. 14:12-14, RSV).
Though this controversy started in heaven, it moved to the earth, bringing a new set of characters (the human race) into the conflicteven if, in the end, the basic issue is the same: Who will rule, Christ or Satan?
"Thou art the anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so: thou wast upon the holy mountain of God; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee" (Ezek. 28:14, 15).
The Bible says that Lucifer (depicted in this context under the image of the king of Tyre) was created perfect. And yet iniquity was found in him? How could a perfect being have iniquity, especially one living in a perfect environment like heaven?
The answer, of course, must be that "perfection" included the potential for imperfection. Whatever Scripture meant when it said that Lucifer was "perfect" in his ways, it didn't mean that the potential for evil wasn't there. The potential must have been there because evil eventually arose, even in a perfect creature living in a perfect environment. Whatever being "perfect" meant, it obviously didn't exclude the possibility of doing wrong.
How could sin arise in a perfect environment like the one that existed in heaven?
No one knows. In fact, to explain sin is, in a sense, to excuse it. However, one point is clear: God is a God of love (see 1 John 4:8, 16), and for love to be love, it can never be forced. In other words, even God cannot force love; for the moment it is forced, it is no longer love. In the same way that a triangle, in order to be a triangle, must have three sideslove, to be love, by its very definition as love, must be free. And if love is the foundation of the environment of heaven, then it's clear that the potential for not loving, for not obeying, had to exist. Thus, God created Lucifer free, and Lucifer, using that freedom, made wrong choices.
Likewise, we have the same free choices as well.
|God didn't force obedience in heaven. He doesn't force it here on
earth as well. While in the flesh, Jesus never forced anyone to follow Him.
What implications does that freedom have for us today? How can we use it for good or for evil?
Originally united in purpose, Christ and Satan forever diverged when Lucifer rebelled. Christ remained the eternal way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6), and Satan became the "father of lies" (John 8:44, RSV). In fact, one of the earliest scriptural accounts of Satan establishes him as a liar: "But the serpent said to the woman, 'You will not die' "(Gen. 3:4, RSV). These words were spoken in blatant contradiction to the words of the Lord, who specifically warned that if Adam ate of the forbidden fruit he would "surely die" (Gen. 2:17). Early on in the Bible, then, the contrast between truth and lies is established.
The father of lies has passed his perverted skill along to his followers, even tempting prophets to lie: " 'I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in my name, saying, "I have dreamed, I have dreamed!" ' "(Jer. 23:25, NKJV).
Lying is deemed so bad by God that its prohibition is placed in the Ten Commandments, right along with warnings against adultery and murder (Exod. 20:16). In other words, God cares about not just what we do but what we say as well.
Give some examples from the Bible of the devastation that believing and/or telling lies have wrought. Give some examples from modern life about the effects of lies. Isn't it easy to see just how damaging this sin can be? Why do you think that even in non-Christian societies lying is deemed an evil? How could any society or social unit exist if lying were not deemed an evil to be avoided?
What do these texts say about truth?
Ps. 117:2 ________________________________________________________________________
Ps. 119:142 ______________________________________________________________________
Prov. 16:6 _______________________________________________________________________
John 17:19 ______________________________________________________________________
2 Thess. 2:12 ______________________________________________________________
|What did Jesus mean when He said," 'and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free' "? (John 8 32, RSV). In what way does truth make us free? Share some practical examples from you own life on what this text means.|
From His birth, Jesus was identified as Savior of the world: Mary is told that she" 'will bear a son . . . you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins' " (Matt. 1:21, RSV).
In contrast, Revelation 12:7-13 establishes Satan early on as the adversary to Christ and the accuser of humankind.
|The Hebrew verb stn, from which the name "Satan" is derived, means "to accuse, " or "to act as an adversary."|
The clearest example of Satan's work as the "accuser" appears in Zechariah 3. "Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him" (Zech. 3:1, RSV). The verb translated "accuse" in the text comes from the same three-consonant root (stn) as "Satan" itself. Thus the name "Satan" means the "accuser." (For a fabulous commentary on this story, and Christ's work in our behalf in meeting these accusations, read "Joshua and the Angel," in Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, pp. 467-476).
Why is the depiction of Satan as "Your adversary the devil prowl[ing] around like a roaring lion, seeking some one to devour" such an appropriate one? (1 Pet. 5:8, RSV). In what ways does Satan seek to "devour" us?
Even people who don't necessarily believe in a literal Satan often sense a battle going on between good and evil. Centuries before Christ, the Greek philosopher Empedocles wrote that there were two forces contending in the world, "friendship and strife." American jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes once wrote: "We are all soldiers in a great campaign, the details of which are veiled from us" (Quoted in Anchor Points [Hagerstown, Md.: Review and Herald Publishing Assoc., 1993], p. 59). Thus many people, even without the "details," sense the existence of a conflict between good and evil.
|Even those people who sense a struggle between opposing forces often don't believe in a literal, supernatural struggle between real forces. How do you make real to someone, particularly someone from a secular background, the reality of the battle between Christ and Satan? And though we ourselves believe in the literalness of this struggle, how does our awareness of that reality impact our lives?|
Biographers prefer to write about what they call "round characters," those with many-sided, complex personalities, rather than "flat characters," those with limited change or development.
Both Christ and Satan classify as round characterswhich is probably why the Bible writers use dozens of different names to describe them.
Fill in the contrasting names:
|1. John 10:11 ________ Shepherd _______||l. John 10:12 _______ Wolf _____________|
|2. Luke 7:34 ________________________||2. Matt. 13:39 ________________________|
|3. 1 Tim. 2:5 ________________________||3. Rev. 12:10 _________________________|
What's in a Name? By definition, all metaphors compare two things basically unalike. Hence, all metaphors fall short of completely explaining anything. How could two different authors label Jesus so differently, one calling Him a Lamb (1 Pet. 1:19) and another calling Him a Lion? (Rev. 5:5). In fact, the same author, John, in Revelation 5:6, calls Jesus a Lamb, then calls Him a Lion in the next verse.
|It's fascinating that Jesus has so many different names. He is the Bread of life, the High Priest, the Second Adam, the Son of God, the Son of Man, the Savior, the Rock of Ages, the Lord our Righteousness, Immanuel (God with us), the Bright and Morning Star, our Advocate, the Anointed, the Author of our salvation, the Alpha and Omega, the Passover, the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, the Faithful Witness, the Good Shepherd. He is the Way, the Word of God, the Truth. He is our Creator, our Wonderful Counselor, the Cornerstone. He is the Redeemer and the Resurrection and the Life. He is the Vine, the Captain of our Salvation, and our Righteousness. He is also a King, a Lamb, and a Lion.|
|What do all these names tell us about Christ and the work He has done, is doing, and will do? Which names of Christ most appeal to you personally? Because we are all so different and all relate to our Lord differently, could these various names have been given in order to help us each connect to the Lord in ways that best suit our unique personhood? If so, what should that tell us about not trying to force people into spiritual molds, one size for all?|
At the end of time, what a curtain call! The entire cast will be on stage to witness the climax to the drama called Planet Earth. Each actor will have supported one of the two, the false god of this world (Matt. 4:8, 9) or the "Lord of lords and King of kings" (Rev. 19:16, RSV).
Contrast the two different fates of Christ and Satan at the Second Coming:
Rev. 19:7 ________________________________________________________________________
Rev. 20:2, 3 ___________________________________________________________________
If Christ is all-powerful, in what sense is the whole world "in the power of the evil one"? (1 John 5:19, RSV).
"He is called the 'god of this world' because it is his purpose to secure complete control of this world and its inhabitants. He is the 'god of this world' because the world is largely under his control. He rules in the hearts of most of its inhabitants (cf. Eph. 1:1, 2). The world obeys his dictates, yields to his temptations, takes part in his wicked ways and abominations. He is the author and instigator of all sin, and the very embodiment of it. Willful sinners are said to be given over to Satan (1 Cor. 5:5; cf. 1 Tim. 1:20). He is the 'god of this world' because of his control, even though limited, of the forces of nature, the elements of earth, sea, and sky."The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 854.
Unconditional Defeat. One thing the Bible makes clear: At the end of the age, sin, Satan, and evil will forever be destroyed. In this war, there will be no compromise, no sort of middle ground, with each side giving a little here and there in order to come to a truce. Instead, there will be a complete and total victory of one contender, Christ, against His enemy, Satan, who will be totally vanquished. It will be the same with their followers: total victory for those with Christ, total defeat for those with Satan.
How should the finality of the great controversy between Christ and Satan influence our lives now, when we are so often faced with situations that seem to demand compromise?
FURTHER STUDY: Temptations of Power. For a list of over one hundred forty titles or names of Jesus, read Harold Monser, ed., Monser 's Topical Index and Digest of the Bible (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1960), pp. 330-332. For additional names for Satan, look up the references under "Satan" in The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 1142.
Note: The great controversy started over pride, over the desire for the power for supremacy. Satan may have been the first, but he certainly was not the last to succumb to power's temptations. Like Lucifer, Pilate knew he was wrong but did not resist its intoxicating appeal. "Pilate trembled as he heard that Christ had risen. He could not doubt the testimony given, and from that hour peace left him forever. For the sake of worldly honor, for fear of losing his authority and his life, he had delivered Jesus to die. He was now fully convinced that it was not merely an innocent man of whose blood he was guilty, but the Son of God. Miserable to its close was the life of Pilate. Despair and anguish crushed every hopeful, joyful feeling. He refused to be comforted and died a most miserable death."Early Writings, p. 185 (emphasis supplied).
SUMMARY: Satan fell by abusing the freedom inherent in love; as a result the great controversy started. As humans, we have that same freedom. In the end, we must use it to make one of two choices: eternal life in Christ or eternal destruction with Satan.
In the mountain village of Lapangon, on the island of Mindanao in the southern Philippines, the villagers decided that their school needed to be replaced. The old one was leaning dangerously and threatened to collapse. The villagers wanted to build a school from materials that would last more than a year. But to do this they needed to raise money to hire a chainsaw operator to cut the trees and for the galvanized iron roofing sheets.
The adults began gathering and selling abacca fiber from which hemp rope is manufactured. The children wanted to help raise money to build their new school. Their mission teachers had taught them to sing, and they wanted to present a concert to raise funds for their school.
The children and their teachers, Romel and Rendy, student missionaries from Mountain View College, planned a fund-raising concert tour in churches in the lowlands. The reluctant parents waved as the excited children and their teachers started down the mountain toward the city. The children, ranging from 9 to 12 years old, had never left their mountain homes before, and their parents wondered if they would ever see their children again.
The children arrived at the bus terminal in the capital city. They were curious about all the strange sights and sounds around them. They wrinkled their foreheads in disbelief at the many people running and shouting directions. They clutched their bundles of clothing and stayed close to their teachers as they walked through the noisy terminal. Most of the children were barefooted and many were dressed in rags, as they dress in the mountains.
As Romel gave the children instructions on proper behavior on the bus, suddenly five policemen approached and spoke to Romel and Rendy.
"You are kidnappers!" they accused.
The children did not understand what the men were saying, but they sensed that something was terribly wrong.
(continued next week)
Daryl Famisaran is director of the student missionary program at Mountain View College in Mindinao, Philippines.
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