“God is love.” His nature, His law, is love. It always has been, and it always will be. Every use of creative power is an expression of infinite love. The history of the great conflict between good and evil from the time it first began in heaven also reveals God’s unchanging love.
The King of the universe was not alone in His work of doing good. He had an associate who could appreciate His purpose and share His joy in giving happiness to created beings (see John 1:1, 2).
Christ the Word was one with the eternal Father, one in nature, in character, in purpose. “His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). His “goings forth are from of old, from everlasting” (Micah 5:2).
The Father worked by His Son in the creation of all heavenly beings. “By Him all things were created …, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers” (Colossians 1:16). Angels are God’s ministers, speeding to carry out His will. But the Son, the “express image of His person,” “the brightness of His glory,” “upholding all things by the word of His power,” holds supremacy over them all (see Hebrews 1:3, 8).
God wants the service of love from all His creatures—service that springs from an appreciation of His character. He has no pleasure in forced obedience. He grants freedom of will to everyone, that they may freely give Him service. So long as all created beings were loyal through love, there was perfect harmony throughout the universe of God. There was no note of discord to mar heaven’s harmonies.
But a change came over this happy situation. There was one who wrongly used the freedom that God had given to His creatures. Sin began with him who, after Christ, had been the most honored of God and was highest among all those in heaven. Lucifer, “son of the morning,” (Isaiah 14:12) was holy and undefiled. “Thus says the Lord God: ‘You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. … You were the anointed cherub who covers; I established you. You were upon the holy mountain of God; you walked back and forth in the midst of the fiery stones. You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you.’”
Little by little, Lucifer indulged the desire to exalt himself. “Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor” (Ezekiel 28:12-15, 17). “You have said in your heart … ‘I will exalt my throne above the stars of God … I will be like the Most High’” (Isaiah 14:13, 14). Though honored above the heavenly host, he dared to covet worship due only to the Creator. This prince of angels wanted power that was the right of Christ alone.
Now the perfect harmony of heaven was broken. In heavenly council the angels pleaded with Lucifer. The Son of God presented before him the goodness and justice of the Creator and the unchanging nature of His law. In departing from it, Lucifer would dishonor his Maker and bring ruin upon himself. But the warning given in infinite love and mercy only aroused resistance. Lucifer allowed his jealousy of Christ to prevail, and he became even more determined.
The king of the universe called for the heavenly hosts to come before Him, that in their presence He might explain the true position of His Son and show His relationship to all created beings. The Son of God shared the Father’s throne, and the glory of the eternal, self-existent One surrounded both. The holy angels gathered around the throne, “ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands” (Revelation 5:11). In front of everyone in heaven, the King declared that no one but Christ could fully enter into His purposes and carry out the mighty counsels of His will. Soon Christ was to exercise divine power in the creation of the earth and its inhabitants.
The Battle in Lucifer’s Heart
The angels joyfully acknowledged Christ as supreme, and they poured out their love and adoration. Lucifer bowed with them; but in his heart there was a strange, fierce conflict. Truth and loyalty were struggling against envy and jealousy. The influence of the holy angels seemed for a time to carry him with them. As songs of praise filled the heavens, the spirit of evil seemed overcome. Unutterable love thrilled his entire being and his soul went out in harmony with the sinless worshipers in love to the Father and the Son. But again his desire to be supreme returned, and once more he indulged his envy of Christ. The high honors given Lucifer did not make him more grateful to his Creator. He gloried in his brightness and wanted to be equal with God. Angels delighted to carry out his commands, and he was clothed with more glory than them all. Yet the Son of God was exalted above him. “Why,” questioned this mighty angel, “should Christ have the supremacy?”
Lucifer went out to spread the spirit of discontent among the angels. For a time he hid his real purpose under an appearance of reverence for God. Subtly he planted doubts concerning the laws that governed heavenly beings, suggesting that angels needed no such rules, for their own wisdom was a sufficient guide. All their thoughts were holy; it was no more possible for them to do wrong than for God Himself to err. The exaltation of the Son of God as equal with the Father was made to appear as an injustice to Lucifer. If this prince of angels could only attain to his true, exalted position, great good would come to the entire host of heaven, for it was his purpose to secure freedom for all. Subtle deceptions through the wicked schemes of Lucifer were quickly growing in the heavenly courts.
The true position of the Son of God had been the same from the beginning. However, many of the angels were blinded by Lucifer’s deceptions. He so artfully instilled into their minds his own distrust and discontent that they did not recognize what he was doing. Lucifer had presented the purposes of God in a false light to excite dissent and dissatisfaction. While he claimed to be perfectly loyal to God, he urged that changes were necessary for the stability of the divine government. While secretly stirring up conflict and rebellion, he made it appear that his only purpose was to promote loyalty and to preserve harmony and peace.
Though there was no open rebellion, divided feelings gradually grew up among the angels. Some agreed with Lucifer’s subtle criticisms and suggestions. They were discontented and unhappy, dissatisfied with God’s purpose in exalting Christ. But angels who were loyal defended the wisdom and justice of the divine decree. Christ was the Son of God, one with Him before the angels were called into existence. He had always stood at the right hand of the Father. So why should there now be opposition?
God was patient with Lucifer. The spirit of discontent was a new element, strange, unaccountable. Lucifer himself did not see where he was drifting. But efforts, such as only infinite love and wisdom could develop, were made to convince him of his error. He was led to see what would be the result of persisting in revolt.
Lucifer was convinced that he was in the wrong. He saw that “the Lord is righteous in all His ways, gracious in all His works” (Psalm 145:17), that the divine statutes are just and that he ought to acknowledge them as such before all heaven. If he had done this, he might have saved himself and many angels. If he had been willing to return to God, satisfied to fill the place given to him in God’s great plan, he would have been restored to his high position. The time had come for a final decision; he must yield to the divine sovereignty or place himself in open rebellion. He almost decided to return, but pride prevented him. It was too great a sacrifice for one who had been so highly honored to confess that he had been wrong!
Lucifer pointed to the long-suffering of God as an evidence of his own superiority, an indication that the King of the universe would yet agree to his terms. If the angels would stand firmly with him, he declared, they could still get everything they wanted. He fully committed himself to the great controversy against his Maker. This is how Lucifer, “the light bearer,” became Satan, “the adversary” of God and holy beings.
Satan Leads in Rebellion
Rejecting with scorn the appeals of the loyal angels, he called them deluded slaves. He would never again acknowledge the supremacy of Christ. He had determined to claim the honor that should have been given him. And he promised those who would enter his ranks a new and better government under which all would enjoy freedom. Great numbers of the angels declared their purpose to accept him as their leader. He hoped to win all the angels to his side, to become equal with God Himself, and to be obeyed by the entire host of heaven.
The loyal angels still urged him and his sympathizers to submit to God, setting before them the inevitable result if they refused. They warned everyone to close their ears against Lucifer’s deceptive reasoning and urged him and his followers to seek the presence of God without delay and confess the error of questioning His wisdom and authority.
Many were inclined to repent of their discontent and seek to again be united with the Father and His Son. But Lucifer now declared that the angels who had joined with him had gone too far to return; God would not forgive. For himself, he was determined never again to acknowledge the authority of Christ. The only course remaining was to assert their liberty and gain by force the rights that had not been granted them.
God permitted Satan to carry forward his work until the spirit of discontent ripened into active revolt. It was necessary for his plans to be fully developed, that all might see their true nature. God’s government included not only the inhabitants of heaven, but all the worlds that He had created. Lucifer concluded that if he could carry the angels with him in rebellion, he could also carry the worlds. All his acts were so clothed with mystery that it was difficult to see the true nature of his work. Even the loyal angels could not fully understand his character or see where his work was leading. Everything simple he shrouded in mystery, and by spinning the truth he cast doubt upon the plainest statements of God. And his high position gave greater force to his assertions.
Why God Did Not Destroy Satan Immediately
God could only use methods that were consistent with truth and righteousness. Satan could use what God could not—flattery and deceit. So it was necessary to demonstrate before the inhabitants of heaven and all the worlds that God’s government is just, His law perfect. Satan had made it seem that he himself was seeking to promote the good of the universe. His true character must be understood by everyone. He must have time to reveal his true self by his wicked works.
He declared all evil to be the result of the divine administration and it was his own purpose to improve God’s law. So God permitted him to demonstrate the nature of his claims, to show the working out of his proposed changes in the divine law. His own work must condemn him, and the whole universe must see the deceiver unmasked.
Satan’s Rebellion a Lesson for the Universe
Even when Satan was cast out of heaven, Infinite Wisdom did not destroy him. The loyalty of God’s creatures must rest upon a conviction of His justice and love. At that time, the inhabitants of heaven and of the world could not have seen the justice of God in the destruction of Satan. Had he been immediately blotted out of existence, some would have served God from fear rather than from love. The influence of the deceiver would not have been fully destroyed, nor would the spirit of rebellion have been completely eliminated. For the good of the entire universe through eternity he must be allowed to more fully develop his principles. In this way Satan’s charges against the divine government might be seen in their true light and the justice of God and the unchangeable nature of His law might be forever placed beyond question.
Satan’s rebellion was to be a lesson to the universe through all coming ages—a testimony forever to the nature of sin and its terrible results. The history of this experiment of rebellion was to be an eternal safeguard to all holy beings to prevent them from being deceived regarding the nature of transgression.
“His work is perfect; for all His ways are justice, a God of truth and without injustice; righteous and upright is He” (Deuteronomy 32:4).
This is Chapter 1 in The Beginning of the End (Free reading link, Kindle and hardcopy versions on Amazon.com | Amazon.ca), a modern revision of From Eternity Past (Free reading link), an out-of-print condensation of Patriarchs and Prophets (Free link, Kindle and hardcopy versions on Amazon.com | Amazon.ca).