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The Great Controversy
By David B. Smith

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iBelieve: The Forgiving Army Commander | PDF Version
Here are six galactically fascinating words: And there was war in heaven.

That goes against everything we’ve heard about Paradise, especially the placid, pastoral paintings where all is tranquility, the grass is lush, and the rivers flow smooth. But the book of Revelation isn’t the only place where we read about actual combat in the heavenly courts.

It has been a painful foreign-policy lesson for America in recent decades. Our generals are all in agreement now: if you go into battle, you either go all-in for complete victory . . . or you just plain don’t get on the choppers. But please consider this. Many thousands of years after Lucifer’s rebellion against God burst into the open, God hasn’t killed him yet. Revelation 12:4 is cloaked in military code — [The dragon’s] tail swept a third of the stars out of the sky and flung them to the earth — implying that possibly a third of the angelic hosts were in on Satan’s coup d’etat. Here in the 21st century, how many has God slain with his sword of vengeance? Zero. Not a single enemy casualty. Adam sinned against God in Eden, thus declaring himself to be in the enemy camp as well. What happened next? He continued to live for another nine hundred fifty years.

What kind of cosmic war is this where a mighty, omnipotent Deity holds back, destroys no enemies, and actually gives His adversary life for the thousands of years it takes for the war to draw to an honorable close? Consider first how the war began.

Who is Satan? It is accepted Christian teaching that one key Old Testament passage, though obliquely making reference to a king from Tyre, is actually lamenting the archangel Lucifer. Ezekiel 28:12-15: You were the model of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God. You were on the holy mount of God. You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you.

Isaiah 14:12 adds more about this talented leader’s moral collapse: How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! You said in your heart, “I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.” It’s no wonder C. S. Lewis muses in Mere Christianity, “The essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil. Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.

A war over who holds the throne. It seems clear that Lucifer, with his position as archangel, and with all of his abilities, was not content. He persuaded other angel beings that God’s government was biased against their interests, that they were being kept in a lowly position. Finally, as Revelation records the battle, There was war in heaven. Michael [the archangel] and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.

By the beginning of our world’s creation, Satan and his forces have already established a beachhead on earth’s shores. The NIV text notes for Genesis 3 describe the Eden confrontation: “The great deceiver clothed himself as a serpent, one of God’s good creatures. He insinuated a falsehood and portrayed rebellion as clever, but essentially innocent, self-interest.” We see that while Lucifer desires the power of God and also His dominion over vast worlds, he disdains the pure principles of heaven: love, honesty, sacrifice, humility.

The war continues. Throughout the history of our planet, the Bible describes the devil as a very real enemy who is at war with God and also with His saints. Ephesians 6 is a blunt battle plan for protecting ourselves against Lucifer’s assaults, and casts the ongoing struggle in very galactic terms: Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. James 4:7 advises: Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. In addition to the stealth and wily nature of a serpent, New Testament writers also characterize our enemy as a roaring lion, prowling around . . . looking for someone to devour.

What grand issues are involved in this struggle to the death?

1. A government. The passages in Ezekiel and Isaiah give us a picture of fallen angels in rebellion against a government. They want a proverbial piece of the pie and foment an insurrection against God’s kingdom, which is upheld by His own character and declared law framework. Even in his whispering through a snake’s hiss, Satan hints to Eve that God has lied, that death is not the sure result of sin, that God is selfishly and needlessly withholding insider favors and heightened insights. The entire book of Job is a sort of HBO theater-of-the-universe, where Satan bitterly accuses God over whether He is just and reasonable in how He treats one particular follower on earth.  

2. A salvation plan. Matthew 4 records a trilogy of temptations where Lucifer tempts his archenemy Jesus in the wilderness; all three ploys are designed to get Jesus to doubt God’s Word and take a shortcut approach to the matter of saving a lost world.

3. The Word of God. All through the New Testament and then in the full history of the Christian Church, Lucifer has attacked the Bible: casting doubt upon it, accusing God of misrepresentation, even seducing the people of God to abandon faith in the reliability of Scripture. Many theologians today approach the 66 books of the Bible with this as a cynical starting point: there is no such thing as miracles. The virgin birth of Jesus and His resurrection are quickly sacrificed along with the wonderful stories where Christ healed and raised people up to new life.

4. Jesus our Savior. If the OT stories portraying the fall as an issue of pride are trustworthy, we can be sure that Lucifer’s prime target in the war is Christ Himself and His position as Son of God. Satan was unmasked during the wilderness trials, and he unleashed the full fury of his deceptive rage on Jesus in Gethsemane (Luke 22). His greatest objective as an “antichrist” is that he seduces people away from coming to Jesus for salvation.

Good News! The glorious reality is that Satan is already a defeated foe! The Bible is clear that Jesus has triumphed over evil and that death is has lost its sting. Revelation ends with a clean universe and the great dragon destroyed for all eternity. In addition, we are promised two potent allies in the last stages of battle.

1. The Holy Spirit. John 14:16: I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Comforter to be with you forever the Spirit of truth.

2. Loyal angel forces. Hebrews 1:14 (Message): Isn’t it obvious that all angels are sent to hep out with those lined up to receive salvation?
So why a war where God doesn’t kill His adversary? The mercy and fairness of God are why He allows this struggle to continue even into a 21st century. God cannot lie; He refuses to coerce worship. He wants to draw people to His lasting kingdom of grace by appealing to their innermost longings and a desire to be whole. God wants to not only win the war, but to win it in a noble fashion that will inspire our love, worship, and lasting loyalty.

View related article: The War to End All Wars

David B. Smith writes from California. (8 of 28) His web page is davidsmithbooks.com. Biblebay Copyright © 2014. Click here for content usage information.