Lesson 12

March 13 - 19

The Great Controversy Theme

READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: Gen. 3:15; Job 1, 2; Isa. 14:12-14; Rom. 5:6-11; Phil. 2:5-11; Rev. 12.

MEMORY TEXT:  "And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the devil and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him" (Revelation 12:7-9).

KEY THOUGHT: A great cosmic controversy rages between Christ and Satan over the character of God, His law, and His sovereignty in the universe. This conflict originated in heaven with Lucifer, who became Satan, God's adversary. He introduced the spirit of rebellion there and, later, into this world when he led Adam and Eve to sin. This world became the theater of the universal conflict. This great controversy between Christ and Satan and the final vindication of God form the central theme of the Scriptures.

Sabbath Afternoon March 13

WHY DO BAD THINGS HAPPEN TO GOOD PEOPLE? Why do rosebuds exist with thorns? Why are innocent people killed in accidents and natural disasters? Why do people in some parts of the world have too much food while people in other parts are starving? Such questions have been asked in a variety of forms ever since sin began. Philosophers' answers have proved inadequate to provide meaningful explanations. The question of why our world is afflicted with evil can be adequately answered only by our acceptance of the worldview outlined in the Bible. Here the term worldview refers to the integrated view of reality based on the Scriptures. 

Sunday  March 14


The grand central theme. Ellen White clearly sets forth the grand central theme of the Bible and an analysis of how to focus on it: "[1] The student should learn to view the word as a whole, and [2] to see the relation of its parts. [3] He should gain a knowledge of its grand central theme, of God's original purpose for the world, of the rise of the great controversy, and of the work of redemption. [4] He should understand the nature of the two principles that are contending for supremacy, and should learn to trace their working through the records of history and prophecy, to the great consummation. [5] He should see how this controversy enters into every phase of human experience; how in every act of life he himself reveals the one or the other of the two antagonistic motives; and how, whether he will or not, he is even now deciding upon which side of the controversy he will be found."—Education, p. 190 (bracketed numbers supplied).

Complete the chart below by applying the above five ways of finding the great controversy theme to John 14:1-3.  

Word as a whole  
Relation of its parts 1. Don't be troubledtrust Me
2. I won't forget youprepare a place for you
3. I will come againtake you
Grand central theme  
Two contending principles Troubled (result of sin)
Trust (result of grace)
How it enters into every phase of human experience


The true integrated view of reality as found in the Bible (see Job 1, 2) is centered in the great controversy theme. God would not have created this world unless He already had worked out a solution to the sin problem. Sin was allowed to run its course so the entire universe might realize how devastating the cancer of sin is. At Calvary, God gave all in order to be able to eradicate sin and its results from this universe forever. When our world is restored to what God intended it to be, no one will ever question God's goodness again.   

Monday  March 15

WHERE SIN BEGAN (Ezek. 28:15; Isa. 14:12-14; Rev. 12).

Before this world was created, evil originated mysteriously in the heart of Lucifer, the most exalted of the angels in heaven. The fault was not God's, for Lucifer was created perfect. (See Ezek. 28:15.)

Why was Lucifer dissatisfied with his status? Isa. 14:12-14.  

Lucifer permitted envious thoughts to control him. He should have recognized that as a created being he had no right to the respect and worship accorded Deity. But instead, he harbored jealous thoughts, even confiding them to his angel companions. He raised questions designed to sow seeds of dissatisfaction. "Don't you think that heaven is too tightly structured? Why do holy beings need laws? I don't think God loves us as He claims. He's unjust and unfair."

These kinds of suggestions continued until one-third of the angels were committed to Lucifer's rebellion. Misled by his sophistries, they felt that he could set up a government superior to God's. With infinite patience God attempted to explain His actions—to persuade Lucifer and his sympathizers to abandon their disastrous course. He attempted to make clear that heaven's laws, grounded in love, were essential to happiness. But the rebels refused to accept God's explanations or to respond to His entreaties. God did not at once destroy Lucifer and his followers but gave them an opportunity to show whether their charges against His character and law were justified. (See The Great Controversy, pp.495-499.)

What event then took place in heaven, and what happened to Satan and the angels who followed him? What happened in connection with the Cross? Rev. 12:7-9.  

"John now presents briefly the history of the great controversy between Satan and Christ in heaven, from its origin to the time of Christ's victory at the cross (Rev. 12:7-9; Col. 2:14, 15), the final casting out of Satan at that time to this earth (Rev. 12:10-12), and the course of the controversy on earth down to the time of the end (Rev. 12:13-16; see Dan. 11:35)....

"Though the revelator is focusing primarily on the turning point of the controversy reached at the time of the cross, it is proper to under-stand the words, 'there was war in heaven,' as referring also to the time prior to the creation of the earth, when the hostility of the dragon began, and Lucifer aspired to be like God."—SDA Bible Commentary, vol.7, p.809.     

Tuesday  March 16


Following Satan's rebellion in heaven (see The Story of Redemption, p.19), God created Adam and Eve, placing them in the Garden of Eden.

What simple test of character did God set up through which Adam and Eve could demonstrate their loyalty to Him? Gen. 2:16, 17.  

God warned our first parents that disobedience would bring death. Satan saw this as an opportunity to tempt the first humans to eat the forbidden fruit and join him in rebellion. Tragically and incredibly, Adam and Eve yielded to Satan's temptation. In mercy, God spared their lives so they might have opportunity to repent, but the results of breaking God's law could not be reversed. Thus Christ determined to come to this earth and die, taking the place of repentant sinners.

What happy ending did God promise to the continuing conflict between good and evil? Gen. 3:15.  

As time passed, the effects of sin became more and more evident, not only in the human race but in all of nature. The principles promoted by Satan bore a harvest of evil fruit. When Satan inspired human beings to murder Jesus, the beings in other worlds saw clearly that God was right and Satan was wrong. The inhabitants of heaven and the unfallen worlds recognized as never before that God is love and that His law is just and necessary.

"Now the guilt of Satan stood forth without excuse. He had revealed his true character as a liar and a murderer.

"Satan's lying charges against the divine character and government appeared in their true light....

"All heaven saw His [God's] justice revealed, both in the condemnation of Satan and in the redemption of man... "—The Great Controversy, p.502. (See also pp.501-504.)

As the drama nears its close, the Holy Spirit and the angels of heaven are seeking to help us put love and loyalty to God and His truth above life itself. The Bible makes it clear that the ultimate outcome will be complete victory for God and the vindication of His character and law.

For reflection:  Do I realize how intently Christ and Satan are contending for my eternal destiny?  What must I do today, this week, to be on Christ's side of the conflict?  

Wednesday  March 17

WHY DID JESUS COME? (Phil. 2:5-11; Rom. 5:6-21; John 12:31, 32).

What did Jesus give up, and what did He gain by coming to the world and dying for us? Phil. 2:5-11.  

The basic question answered by the biblical worldview is "Why did Jesus come to this planet?" Seventh-day Adventists believe that the cross of Jesus has universal, as well as earthly, significance. Jesus came to live and die for our salvation. But He also came to answer Satan's charges against the love and justice of God that were raised before the creation of this world. After the Creation, Satan claimed that it is impossible for created beings to keep God's law. One of the main reasons why Jesus became a human being and lived in this world for more than thirty years was to prove Satan wrong and to demonstrate that human beings, by God's grace, can keep His law.

How was Satan's charge proved to be wrong? Rom. 5:17-21.  

In order to demonstrate the possibility of living a life in harmony with the will of God, Jesus had to live as a human being on earth. Satan had no quarrel with the fact that God could keep His own law. Jesus lived as a man, having emptied Himself of the use of His own divine powers while here on earth. He was fully God but depended fully on His Father. Seventh-day Adventists believe that created beings from the unfallen populated planets, along with heaven's unfallen angels, watched with intense interest as Jesus came to earth. They, too, had a stake in His life and death. In Jesus, God would demonstrate to them that He is just and that Satan's charge of injustice is false.

"The sacrifice to which infinite love impelled the Father and the Son, that sinners might be redeemed, demonstrates to all the universe—what nothing less than this plan of atonement could have sufficed to do—that justice and mercy are the foundation of the law and government of God."—The Great Controversy, p.503.

Why did Jesus die, and what does His risen life mean to us today? Rom. 5:6-11; John 12:31, 32.  

The real issue in the great controversy is whether created beings can trust God to do what is best for them. Have you resolved this issue in your life?  Explain your answer. If you have resolved it, how does that help you in your daily life? 

Thursday  March 18

THE COSMIC ISSUE (1 John 3:4; Matt. 5:17-19; 1 John 2:3-6).

How is the basic issue in the cosmic conflict explained in the Scriptures? 1 John 3:4. 

It is rooted in rejection of God, His government, and His laws that are designed to protect and bless us. Rather than taking the blame for lawlessness, Satan tries to blame God for giving His law. He challenges the laws of God as not being in the best interests of created beings and as being impossible to keep. But God's eternal law represents His character. Those who oppose His law really oppose God. (See Matt. 5:17-19; 1 John 2:3-6.)

Insight into this issue is found throughout the Bible. The Gospels, for example, tell how Christ and Satan came face to face. Satan invited Christ, after His forty days' fast, to change stones into bread in order to satisfy His hunger. Christ replied: "Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God" (Matt. 4:4, NIV). As He did with Eve in Eden, Satan was urging Christ to act on His own and not to depend on God's Word and will. Christ upheld God's Word in every act of His life.

Read Revelation 12 in more than one Bible version, then match the following:

____ The woman
____ The dragon

____ The man child
____ The wilderness

____ The sun
____ The moon
____ The twelve stars
____ The flood of waters
____ The earth
a. Persecution
b. Types and shadows of the Old Testament

c. A sanctuary, protection
d. Satan
e. The apostles
f. Christ
g. Haven, Protestant lands
h. The Church
i. The gospel  

Focus on verses 7-16 until you are sure you understand their meaning. Identify the "remnant" of verse 17, KJV.  

Why is understanding the verses above significant to Seventh--day Adventists?  Why is it meaningful to you personally, and how does it affect your daily life?  

Friday March 19

FURTHER STUDY:  Study Romans 1:19-32; 2 Peter 3:8-14; 1 Corinthians 4:9. We are soldiers in the greatest war ever fought. We are actors in the greatest drama ever played. Our earth truly is the battle zone and theater of the universe. Satan's studied strategy in this great war is to make God look bad. He hopes that by heaping upon us pain, violence, disease, and death he can incite us into blaming God for our troubles-into giving God the credit for Satan's own diabolical doings. But for every lie Satan tells about God, Christ responds with an even clearer revelation of God's love. Lies and love are the contrasting weapons of the two adversaries in the war of the ages.

Read the chapter in Patriarchs and Prophets entitled "Why Was Sin Permitted?" pp. 33-43. 

1. In this lawless agea time when absolutes are being thrown to the windswhat will enable me to gain a proper perspective of the issues involved in the cosmic conflict?  
2. What can I do to help others adopt a worldview that adequately handles the problem of where sin came from, why God allows it, and what He plans to do about it? 
3. If I continue to live my life as I am now, where will that place me in the drama of the great controversy? Where do I want to be?  Knowing that life is fragile, what do I need to change in order to reach my goal? 
4. In what ways do I desire to be like God, and why? 
5. What can I do this week to make practical what I have learned? 

TERM FOR REVIEW: Cosmic controversy.  This term designates the universal scope of the battle between Christ and Satan.

SUMMARY: Seventh-day Adventists have a cosmic worldview of the great controversy that brought Christ on His costly but successful mission to planet Earth. The sin problem involves Satan's rebellion, his charge that God made a law that created beings cannot keep, and Christ's coming to earth—in human form—to demonstrate that the law can be lived. The truth as it is in Jesus is broader than many Christians realize. We need to look beyond a humanity-centered, planet-centered worldview to a biblical and universal worldview.  

My Hands Are My Gods, Part 1

Andrejs Arinsh and Baldis Zilgalvis

Sofia is a new believer who lives in Latvia. She invited her prayer and Bible-study group to meet in her home. Her husband, who was not a Christian, came home and found the believers praying. He did not want Christians in his home and threatened to call the police.

"What kind of Christians are you?" he shouted angrily. "You destroy families! My wife used to come with me to the theater, but now she won't come; she goes only to church!"

The pastor invited the man to join the group and learn more about God, but the man grew more heated. "I don't need your God. Look at my hands!" he demanded, holding out his muscular arms. "These are my gods. They provide everything I need!"

After the man stormed out of the room, the believers knelt and prayed that the Holy Spirit would touch his heart and turn him toward God. As the pastor prepared to leave, he reached for his coat and felt something wet. He found the remnants of broken raw eggs seeping from his coat pocket. He said nothing but walked to his car. As he neared the car, he found that all four of his tires had been slashed. He was certain that the person who had put eggs in his pockets had slashed his tires.

With the help of some of the believers, the pastor repaired the tires. As he drove off, he saw the angry husband watching him. He smiled and waved a friendly farewell toward him. Something good must have happened in that house, the pastor thought. Satan surely is angry!

The believers said nothing about the confrontation at the man's home but continued to pray for the angry husband. Several believers invited the angry husband to the church for an orchestra concert and were delighted when he came. But still his dislike for Christians did not mellow.

Then one day Sofia approached the pastor. "My husband is in the hospital," she said. "His hands are paralyzed! At first he felt pain when he tried to move his fingers, but now he cannot move them at all. The doctors say he has nerve damage, and they want to keep him in the hospital for treatment." The pastor could not help but wonder if God had stricken the man's hands because of his angry words.

(continued next week)

Andrejs Arinsh is director of Global Mission in the Baltic Union, and Baldis Zilgalvis is president of the Baltic Union.

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