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Most people are aware that there is a controversy between good and evil in the world. But who are the contending parties? What are the issues? And how will it end?
It is generally accepted that God is good and that the enemy who is behind evil is Satan. The Bible describes a part of the conflict in the following words:
“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.” (Rev. 12:7-9)
At the outset, it must be established that there is no issue of Satan matching power with God. God is the Creator. “By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth.” (Ps. 33:6). He who created the angels and brought the heavens and the earth into existence can just as easily remove them and take them out of existence. Devils tremble at the very thought of God because they are aware of His awesome power – “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.” (James 2:19).
So, there is no contest between God and Satan on terms having to do with the exercise of power. People speak broadly about a conflict between good and evil. But what is good and what is evil? How are these defined? To those, like Satan, who feel that they have a cause to pursue, they may well think that it is their side that is good and the other side evil. In fact, the serpent’s accusation against God, to Adam and Eve, represented God as being the evil one and he, Satan (the serpent), as the one that was good and sought good for Adam and Eve.
The issues of the conflict
The real issue of the controversy is about the character of God. And the controversy is not between God and Satan per se; it is between Christ and Satan over the character of God. “Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels” (Rev. 12:7). Further, the weapons of our warfare are not physical weapons. As we are told:
“For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:3-6).
The knowledge of the truth about God will lead us to love Him and submit to Him. Lucifer, who was an exalted angel in heaven, by taking his eyes off God and focusing on himself, developed an overblown concept of himself and a diminished or warped perception of God. The result was that he rebelled against God and became Satan and was cast out of heaven. The prophet Isaiah described the fall of Lucifer as follows:
“How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit. (Isa. 14:12-15).
His wisdom was corrupted because of his focus on and concept of himself – “thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness” (Eze. 28:17). “Behold, the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom; and to depart from evil is understanding.” (Job 28:28).
If we have a wrong concept of God and end up, like Lucifer, rebelling against God, it is we who are the losers, not God. Through Christ, God seeks to save us by extending His grace to us in the form of a revelation of Himself to us, through Christ, who looks like Him and behaves like Him. It is an information war. It is all about what we choose to believe about God. The conflict between Christ and Satan is a battle for the hearts and minds of intelligent beings. Those who believe Christ, believe the truth, and will be saved, while those who believe otherwise, as promulgated by Satan, believe a lie, and will end up as losers. Satan cannot give life. So, there is no future in buying into his deceptions and false representations of God.
Having usurped the dominion that God originally gave to Adam, Satan is now described as the “god of this world” and his purpose to deceive is described as follows: “In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.” (2 Cor. 4:4).
Sifting truth from error
Establishing the truth is like fitting up a jig-saw puzzle where many extraneous pieces are mixed up on the table with the genuine pieces. These pieces that do not belong, are deliberately placed there to throw us off to prevent us from being able to fit the puzzle together. Such is the nature of the many erroneous ideas that Satan places before us. We must sift out the truth from the error, diligently. That is what will determine the outcome for us – whether belief in the truth that aligns us with God so that we can receive eternal life from Him or belief in a lie that places us with Satan, with the result that we will die like him and with him. The choice is ours. The appeal is to choose life by seeking and believing the truth and joining the fight as an ambassador for the truth, preaching the gospel of truth whereby souls can be saved.
How do we sift out the puzzle pieces that do not belong to the picture and retain those pieces that belong? By having an idea of what the overall picture looks like. If, for example, you are fitting up a puzzle that forms a picture of green trees and the blue sky in the background, then you can remove from the table the red and purple pieces that clearly do not belong. Of course, the closer the erroneous pieces look like the correct pieces, the more effort and diligence must be applied to differentiate.
The overall picture
The overall picture is provided by the following sequence of activities: first, the fall of Lucifer from heaven; then, his enticing Adam and Eve to sin against God; next, God’s Son coming to earth to win back the hearts and minds of human beings by revealing the truth about God to us; after that, Satan being exposed by his stirring up the multitude to kill the innocent Son of God; subsequently, Christ being raised from the dead by His Father and, as our Advocate, pleading our case before God and the angels, by His own merits as the Faithful Witness and by virtue of our repentance, making the case for the repentant sinner that we were only deceived and not genuinely rebellious. Christ will then return to earth to reclaim this territory from Satan and resurrect those who died in a state of acceptance of the truth, changing to immortality those who are alive and faithful and taking all the faithful to heaven for a thousand years. God will then re-create the earth, making it a paradise again for all the faithful to live forever. This is the framework that allows us to sift out the erroneous ideas that Satan throws in our way to deceive us.
Words and deception
Words are sometimes used as an effective tool of deception by distorting Biblical reality. Words change in meaning over time; and there are differences in the translation of words. The form of words, therefore, represents a margin of error. The most accurate determination of the actual truth is based on seven (7) elements of the reality that make up the context, namely: who; what; where; when; how; what was happening at the time; what was being addressed. To focus on the form of words is to dwell in the plus or minus range surrounding the actual truth and reality of a matter. Beyond information, we should seek understanding; that is, we should seek to know why. This is best known from the seven (7) elements of reality that make up the context.
In the information war between truth and error, we must be vigilant, in assessing people’s use of words (Biblical and otherwise), lest the form of words be used to change meaning and cause deception. Jesus, for example, was crucified because He was accused of plotting to destroy the temple in Jerusalem, with false witnesses testifying against Him, saying, “We heard him say, I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and within three days I will build another made without hands.” (Mark 14:58). “But he spake of the temple of his body” (John 2:21). Jesus said that deception will be so strong in the last days that “if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.” (Matt. 24:24).
The final conflict
The final conflict will be between the commandments of God and the commandments of men – “And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” (Rev. 13:8). We are told the characteristics of those who will be on God’s side – “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” (Rev. 14:12). The commandments of men represent Satan’s formula for governing people’s behaviour. Nothing is wrong with trying to govern the world in an orderly way, except that men try to put themselves where God should be. This condemns their efforts to fail, since the wisdom and power of God that created and keeps the universe cannot be replaced. Only God has what it takes to run the world in a sustainable way, but men fail to recognize this, and try to govern in ways that are directly contrary to God’s instructions. Hence, the current mess the world is in.
The commandments of men are an imitation of the commandments of God, except in one main point. God says: “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.” (Ex. 20:8). This is God’s sign that, if embraced, will signal to the universe that we have aligned ourselves on God’s side – “And hallow my sabbaths; and they shall be a sign between me and you, that ye may know that I am the Lord your God.” (Eze. 20:20). Further, the Sabbath provides us with special time with God that He uses to sanctify us and make us holy – “Moreover also I gave them my sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord that sanctify them.” (Eze. 20:12).
Whereas the commandments of God require that we rest from our labours on the seventh day Sabbath as a sign that we believe in and give allegiance to the Creator, the commandments of men, as are almost universally embraced, regard another day. This point of difference will identify those who Christ will claim as His. We might not be there yet, but this is where the controversy is heading. As with Adam and Eve who got one simple instruction from God that, if followed, would have protected them from Satan, we today have one simple instruction that sets God’s people apart as those who give their primary allegiance to Him – “Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy.” (Ex. 20:8). The other instructions such as, “Thou shalt not steal” (Ex. 20:15), are common to both the commandments of God and the commandments of men.
Many sincere and genuine Christians are misled into disregarding the Sabbath because the issues are not clear to them at this time. However, the Bible indicates that the Devil will lead the world into denying God’s sovereignty by enforcing the commandments of men and denying freedom to those who would keep the commandments of God. The issues will then be made clear, before Christ returns, and everyone will have to make a choice. The choice we make will have eternal consequences.
Jesus said: “Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.” (Matt. 7:21). Further, He says: “But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” (Matt. 15:9). And again: “If ye love me keep my commandments.” (Matt. 14:15).
Today, many professed Christians are saying that all we need to do is just accept Jesus. You do not have to consider anything else. To them, keeping the commandments of God is legalism. But that is contrary to what Jesus said. Remember, it is an information war, and we must be vigilant so that we might not be deceived. May the Lord help us to align ourselves under His banner so that when Christ returns, we will be among those who would have accepted Christ and His revelation of the truth about God, and be faithfully keeping His commandments.
“He that hath ears to hear, let him hear” (Matt. 11:15).
For further information, please visit Patience of the Saints at http://thecommandmentsofgodandthefaithofjesus.com/
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