Lesson 13

March 23 - 29

The End of the Great Controversy

Lesson graphic

Sabbath Afternoon   March 23

READ FOR THIS WEEK'S STUDY: Rev. 12:17-14:20; 19:11-21; 21:1-4; 22-26; 22:1-5.

MEMORY TEXT:   Great and marvelous are Your works, Lord God Almighty! Just and true are Your ways. O King of the saints!  Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify tour name? For You alone are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You, for Your judgments have been manifested (Revelation 15:3, 4, NK.JV).

KEY QUESTIONS: How will the great controversy end? What issues will climax at the end? How will God's people be involved, and what will be the most important aspect in this—the conclusion of the greatest battle the universe has ever known?

FULL CIRCLE. The first book of the Bible tells us how the great controversy began on earth; the last book of the Bible describes how it will end. The pages in between have taught us how the great controversy started in heaven, what the issues were (and are), what Satan's ploys are, how God remedied the catastrophe caused by Satan and the Fall, how we can maintain faith under Satan's attacks, and how we as individuals and the church are involved in this great controversy.

As we've said all along, because of Christ and the Cross, victory is assured. At the Cross, Jesus defeated the devil, exposed him to the universe as the liar he is, and guaranteed all who come to Him, Jesus, in penitence and faith, a place in the new earth. This week we will see final results of that victory, which leads to the demise of sin, Satan, and death..  

*(Study this week's lesson to prepare for Sabbath, March 30.)

Sunday  March 24

SATAN'S LAST ATTACK (Rev. 13:1-17).

This verse tells us that Satan is planning one last battle before the end of the great controversy. Chapters 13 and 14 outline how this conflict will occur.

What two earthly powers will Satan use in the last days to wage war against God’s people? Rev. 13:1-17.  

The first beast characterizes the church-state union that dominated the Christian world for many centuries and was described by Paul as the “man of sin” (2 Thess. 2:2-4) and by Daniel as the “little horn” (Dan. 7:8, 20-25; 8:9-12). The image of the beast (Rev. 13:14) represents that form of apostate religion that will be developed when churches, having lost the true spirit of the Reformation, shall unite with the state to enforce their teachings on others. In uniting church and state they will have become a perfect image to the beast.

How does Satan use the system established by these two powers to help him fight the last battle of the great controversy? What tactics will these powers employ?  

Verse     How the Two Powers will Be Used by Satan    
  Dan. 7:25  
  Rev. 13:12  
  Rev. 13:13, 14  
  Rev. 13:15  
  Rev. 13:15-17  

In his final attempts to destroy God and His church, Satan will inspire the system created by the two beasts to change God’s laws, to persecute those who remain loyal to God by obeying His laws anyway, and to kill these steadfast disciples.

The early church, through compromise and apostasy, lost the power of God.  As a result, it used force to promote its beliefs.  How does this same principle work in our personal lives?  

Monday  March 25


Revelation 12:17-13:18 depicts Satan’s final efforts in the great controversy to discredit God and destroy His church. Yet, even as he attempts to destroy the church, the church is involved in proclaiming a message to the world that will help, ultimately, lead to the destruction of Satan. No wonder Satan wants to destroy these people.

What part do God’s people play in delivering these messages?  Vss. 6, 8, 9.  In other words, are these literal angels, or are they symbolic of something else?  If so, what?  

The angels represent “God’s saints engaged in the task of proclaiming the everlasting gospel, especially the features mentioned in [verse 6], at a time when the ‘judgment is come’ (v. 7).”—The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 827.

The first angel’s message announces the “everlasting gospel.” Why is this the first thing the verse talks about? What is this “everlasting gospel,” and why must all the world hear it?  

The second angel cries that Babylon has fallen because it “made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication [adultery].” Babylon symbolizes rebellion against God (Gen. 11:1-9; Isa. 14:4, 12-14). In Revelation, Babylon stands for all false religious institutions and their leaders, especially the system created by the beast and his image, which will trigger the crisis in Revelation 13:15-17 (review yesterday’s lesson).

The third angel’s message gives a fierce warning to everyone not to worship the beast and its image. In fact, it presents one of the starkest and most fearful warnings in all the Bible. Thus, it behooves anyone who takes Scripture seriously to learn the content and meaning of these three messages (which are linked), in order to know what the issues are and how to be on the right side of this, the climax of the great controversy, as it’s being played out here on earth.

The second angel’s message regarding Babylon’s fall finds special fulfillment when Protestantism in general departs from the everlasting gospel of righteousness by faith, proclaimed by the first angel.  Do you see such a departure occurring today?  If so, in what ways?  Can we see it even in our own church, or even in your own life?  What’s the only solution?  

Tuesday  March 26


“Saying with a loud voice, Fear God, and give glory to him; for the hour of his judgment is come: and worship him that math heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters” (Rev. 14:7).  

One thing is clear: The message of the “everlasting gospel” includes a message of judgment. Usually such references te the judgment refer to the close of human probation and the end of the church’s task in preaching the gospel. But verse 7 has the saints fulfilling their great commission (Matt. 28:19, 20) at the same time this judgment begins. Thus the judgment is something that is happening while the great controversy is still being fought here on earth.

The angel’s announcement of judgment in Revelation 14:7 points to the beginning of the final judgment just before Christ’s return. We know that Daniel’s vision of judgment in chapter 7 depicts the final judgment because, when it is over, “one like the Son of man” (Christ) receives the eternal kingdom (Dan. 7:13, 14), an act that we understand results from Christ’s second coming.

Thus, Revelation 14:7 announces what Daniel 7 reveals, and that is a judgment in heaven that precedes the second coming of Christ. Both are talking about the same thing, though from different perspectives. Either way, as a result of this judgment, the saints receive the kingdom: “Until the Ancient of days came, and judgment was given to the saints of the most High; and the time came that the saints possessed the kingdom” (Dan. 7:22). However one understands the details of the judgment, it’s something that turns out well for God’s people.

Compare Revelation 11:16-19 with 14:7.  What is it about 11:16-19 that suggests it is depicting the pre-Advent phase of the final judgment? What is significant about the ark of the covenant appearing in the judgment scene of 11:16-19? (See Exod. 25:16; 17; Deut. 8:1-5.)  

How do you understand the role of this pre-Advent judgment in the context of the great controversy?  The first angel’s message announces that the judgment of God is come.  Could this mean it also will be the hour of God’s vindication, as well?  

Wednesday  March 27

ISSUES IN THE JUDGMENT (Rev. 12:17; 14:7, 9-12).

(Because the issues in the judgment involve the same issues over which the great controversy started, you might want to review lesson 2 before you study today’s lesson.)

How does Revelation 12:17 characterize God’s people as they face Satan’s last attack in the great controversy?  How does this characteristic relate to the first angel’s message in 14:7?  

The first angel invites all people to fear God, give Him glory, and worship Him as the Creator of the earth, heaven, the sea “ ‘and the springs of water’ ” (NIV). Because God designed the Sabbath to help people remember that He is the Creator and because His commandments urge people to keep the Sabbath (Gen. 2:2, 3; Exod. 20:8-11), it seems clear that the obedience of God’s people during this last battle includes keeping the biblical Sabbath.

But this obedience is more than a mere observance. Revelation 14:1 says that God’s people have Christ’s and the Father’s “name written in their foreheads.” God’s name symbolizes His character (Exod. 34:5-7; 1 Corinthians 13; Gal. 5:22, 23), and with His law written in their hearts (Heb. 8:10), His people will reflect His character as they obey Him.

What other issue dominates the last battle of the great controversy? Rev. 14:9-12.  

The final issue involves true and false worship, the true and the false gospel. When this issue is clearly brought before the world, those who reject God’s memorial of creatorship—the Bible Sabbath—choosing to worship and honor Sunday in the full knowledge that it is not God’s appointed day of worship, will receive the “mark of the beast.” This mark is a mark of rebellion; the beast claims that its change of the day of worship shows its authority over even God’s law.

Either one’s choice of righteousness by faith will be revealed as one participates in a form of worship that God has endorsed, or one’s effectual choice of righteousness by works will be revealed as one participates in a form of worship God has forbidden but which the beast and his image command, a humanmade worship.

Consider:  How ironic that Adventists are accused of being legalistic for keeping the Sabbath when the Sabbath is the sign of those who truly have embraced the everlasting gospel, in contrast to those who have embraced a theology of works.  

Thursday  March 28

THE GRAND FINALE (Rev. 19:11-21).

How does Revelation 19:11-21 picture Christ at His return?  

This passage “portrays Christ as the victorious warrior descending from heaven on a white battle horse (verse 11). He comes to claim our planet as His rightful domain: ‘on his head are many crowns’ (verse 12). Neither the dragon with his seven crowns (Rev. 12:3) nor the sea monster with its ten (Rev. 13:1) have received from God the authority to rule over mankind. Christ returns as the ‘King of kings, the Lord of lords’ (Rev. 19:16). Him alone the Father authorizes to govern the earth, and He alone will execute the holy will of God, for He is ‘the Word of God’ (verse 13).”—Hans K. LaRondelle, Chariots of Salvation (Hagerstown, Md.: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1987), pp. 129, 130.

“The title ‘King of kings, and Lord of lords’ (v. 16) applies in a special sense to Christ at this time. . . . All power has been given into His hands (1 Cor. 15:25). Satan selfishly aspired to the exalted position that had been reserved for Christ as the Son of God (Isa. 14:12-14; Rev. 12:7-9. . . .) But the latter, not counting equality with the Father a thing to be grasped, had voluntarily relinquished the full exercise of the attributes and prerogatives of Deity for a time . . . ,and thereby demonstrated His worthiness to receive the honor and dignity implicit in the title ‘King of kings, and Lord of lords.”—The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 874.

At Christ’s return, the leopardlike beast and the two-horned beast (Revelation 13; Sunday’s lesson) are captured. In addition, Satan is apprehended and imprisoned for a thousand years (Rev. 20:1-3).

Based on the texts listed below, outline these following events:

  Rev. 20:4-6  _______________________________________________________________________

  Rev. 7-10; 11-15 ___________________________________________________________________

  Rev. 21:1-5___________________________________________________________________  

During the final, or executive, phase of judgment, both the evil angels and humans who remained unrepentant will be punished and destroyed. The fire that destroys them will cleanse the earth of sin, and God’s desire “to unite all things in him [Christ], things in heaven and things on earth,” is finally a reality (Eph. 1:10, RSV).

Review Revelation 19:11-21. List the four names Christ is called in this passage. How does each name give you comfort now and assure you of the outcome of the great controversy?  

Friday  March 29

FURTHER STUDY:  When the great controversy is over, God’s people will live with Him for eternity. The Bible uses much more space to persuade people that eternal life is a divine gift than it uses to describe that gift. Still, it is good to meditate on the pictures of eternity we do find in Scripture. As you think about the following passages that deal with eternity, remember that they use ideas from human experiences that can only hint at the marvels of our Creator and Redeemer: John 14:2, 3; 20:19, 26; 1 Cor. 2:9; 15; 1 John 3:2; Rev. 21:1-4, 22-27; 22:1-5. Which of these descriptions means the most to you, and why?

“Christ is the truth of all that we find in the Father. The definition of heaven is the presence of Christ.”—Ellen G. White Comments, The SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 989.

“Now the church is militant, now we are confronted with a world in midnight darkness, almost wholly given over to idolatry. But the day is coming in which the battle will have been fought, the victory won. The will of God is to be done on earth, as it is done in heaven. Then the nations will own no other law than the law of heaven. All will be a happy, united family, clothed with the garments of praise and thanksgiving—the robe of Christ’s righteousness.”—Page 988.  

1. God’s message to the church in Laodicea also is a message to the church that exists just before Christ returns.  Based on what we have learned this quarter about the great con-troversy, why is this message so crucial?  Rev. 3:14-22.  (See also Matt. 25:1-13.)  
2. Matthew 25:31-46 is Jesus’ description of the executive phase of the final judgment.  Upon what are people’s rewards based?  How does this basis fit with salvation by faith in Christ?  Provide texts to support your answer.  

SUMMARY:  Satan’s last effort to win the great controversy involves the formation of a system that will attempt to force all people to cease worshiping God and obeying His commands. God responds in two ways: (1) by issuing through His followers three great messages that invite all people to accept His salvation and warn them against Satan’s last efforts; (2) through the final judgment that, in all its phases, vindicates not only His character against Satan’s charges but the faith of His devoted followers, as well.  

InSide Story

The False Prophet

J. H Zachary

Marco Martinez often preached in his Protestant church in Santa Lucia, Honduras. The congregation appreciated his efforts until he began quoting from a book that his wife had brought home. The book, The Great Controversy, had a strong impact on Martinez’s sermons. But some of the church members began questioning his theology, and some even called him a false prophet.

One thing bothered Norma. Their church taught that women should not hold leadership roles or take an active part in the local congregation. When she accepted an invitation to visit the little Adventist congregation in town, she was attracted by the members’ freedom to use their spiritual gifts. She began attending the Adventist church regularly. Norma rejoiced in the love, fellowship, and opportunities to serve in her new church. And her husband enjoyed reading the books she brought home. Martinez was touched by the love of Jesus as he read Steps to Christ. He longed to learn more about the Bible.

When the leaders of the Protestant home church realized that Norma was attending the Adventist church, they voted to punish Martinez for allowing his wife to leave their church. He was ostracized, and members avoided him. Martinez missed the close fellowship he had once enjoyed in his church.

About this time the Adventist church sponsored evangelistic meetings. Marco attended with his wife and decided to join his wife in this church. Not one to sit in the pew for long, during the altar call one evening, Martinez circulated through the audience, encouraging others to take their stand for Christ and join the Adventist church with him.

After his baptism Martinez organized a Bible study group in his home. In his free time he hikes over the steep mountain trails looking for interested persons with whom he can share his faith. Martinez takes his turn preaching, for his home church shares its pastor with several other congregations. His sermons are similar to those he preached in his former church, but now when he quotes from Ellen White, he is no longer called a false prophet.

J. H. Zachary is coordinator of international evangelism for The Quiet Hour and a special consultant for the General Conference Ministerial Association.

Join the SSNET moderated email discussion group.  You are also warmly invited to join a group discussion of this lesson Sabbath morning with your local Seventh-day Adventist congregation.

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