I never imagined years ago that we would still be here on this earth at this time! But just because we are here now does not mean that we are going to be here very much longer. The work is closing up. The title I have given this article could just as well have been, “The People Who Will Cry When They get to Heaven.” But I entitled it, “I Saw a Great Tumult,” and I want to state at the very beginning that many of the people in Adventism who never figure out the issues presented herein will lose their souls.
Now, please notice carefully what was just stated. It did not say that everyone who does not figure out these issues will lose their souls, but that many Adventists, who do not figure out the issues that we are going to study, will lose their souls. I pray that the Lord, by the instruction of the Holy Spirit, will help you to see how dangerous it can be if you do not understand what we are going to study.
When I was 19 or 20 years of age, I was reading the book, The Great Controversy, for the second or third time. I read again a statement on page 591 that I could not figure out: “Satan’s policy in this final conflict with God’s people is the same that he employed in the opening of the great controversy in heaven.” How is it that the issue at the end is going to be the very same as it was at the beginning?
Then Ellen White says that from the very beginning Satan’s object has been to overthrow the Law of God, and that is what his object will be at the end. I could not figure that out either. I just did not understand it. I had read Patriarchs and Prophets; I had read the chapters in The Great Controversy about the origin of evil and the development of the rebellion in heaven. Hopefully most of you are not as slow to get things figured out as I have been!
It actually was not until about 1988 that things became crystal clear in my mind as to what really had happened in heaven when Lucifer rebelled. Lucifer wanted to change the first commandment in God’s Law. The first commandment says, “You shall not have any other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3); Lucifer wanted God to change that and to allow him into the inner council with the Godhead. But God said, “No.”
In this article, we are going to study, in miniature, the great controversy between Christ and Satan. The story of the great controversy has been told to us on a human level in miniature in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. We will study the example in the Old Testament.
Jesus Christ is called the Morning Star. (See Revelation 22:16.) If you have read the Book of Job, you know that the angels are also called morning stars. (See Job 38:7.) But Lucifer, the Latin name for Satan before he was cast out of heaven, was not just one of the angels; he was the chief angel. He was one of the sons of God. In fact, in his unfallen state, he was referred to in terminology very similar to that of Jesus Christ. He was also called a morning star. One of his original names was, in Hebrew, Halal. This word is found in the Hebrew Bible in Isaiah 14. Halal means “the shining one, the luminescent one.”
Isaiah 14:12 says, “O shining one, the son of the dawn! [That is the son of the morning; in other words, the morning star.] How did you fall from heaven?”
The Lord said, concerning this being, “You were perfect in all your ways from the day that you were created, until iniquity was found in you.” Ezekiel 28:15.
Is not Halal, the shining one, the son of the morning, the morning star, a beautiful name? Satan, in-deed, had a beautiful name. He was not called Satan, which means “the adversary,” until after his fall from heaven. Neither was he called the devil, which means “a slanderer,” until then.
In the Old Testament, there is a king who also had a son who was perfect. The Bible says that from the top of his head to the sole of his foot there was no blemish in him. (11 Samuel 14:25.) The extended story is found in 11 Samuel 14–18.
This son of David also had a very beautiful name, Absalom, or, in Hebrew, Abiyshalowm, which means, “my father is peace” or “father peace.” How beautiful!
Because of how things turned out, today we do not ever call our sons Absalom, nor do we call our sons Lucifer. However, before the King James Bible was translated and the translators chose to translate the word Halal into the Latin word Lucifer, Lucifer was a common name. If you have read church history, you may know that one of the church father’s name was Lucifer. Lucifer never meant “the devil” in the days of early church history. It meant “the one that was the shining one, a star.”
Lucifer went out from the pres-ence of God and talked with the angels. He proposed that though he was loyal to the government of God, he would improve the government of God if he could be placed in charge. If you study 11 Samuel 14–18, you will find that Absalom did the very same thing. He professed, for many years, to be loyal to the government, and he said, “Oh, if you could only make me a judge, I would make certain that you are taken care of and given justice.”
Lucifer promised the angels a better, higher, improved situation if they would follow him. He told them that they would be free to do anything they pleased; they would be more free. They would be just like God. You see, God is free to do anything He pleases.
Concerning Jesus Christ, Ellen White says, “He is the eternal, self-existing Son, on whom no yoke had come.” The Youth’s Instructor, June 21, 1900. The angels could not come and pay the price for a fallen world; they were under the Law of God. They were under the yoke of obedience to the Law of God. Jesus was not under any yoke. The Godhead was not under any yoke. The Godhead could do anything they pleased, but the angels were not able to do anything they pleased. They were under the Law of God. It was not burdensome to keep the law until Lucifer introduced the idea that they would be freer if they got out from under it.
Absalom did the very same thing with the people of Israel. He would grab people, kiss them, and say, “Your cause is right.” By the way, is everyone’s cause right? No.
Lucifer stole the affections of the angels in heaven—between one-third and one-half pledged allegiance to him. Absalom stole the hearts, the Bible says, of the children of Israel.
A Loyalty Scam
Lucifer publicly proposed to be loyal to the government of God, but secretly he was trying to overthrow the government of God. Absalom did the very same thing. Publicly he was a true, faithful, loyal subject of David’s kingdom, but privately, he was trying to overthrow the government.
Displace the Ruler
Satan wanted to displace God as ruler. Absalom wanted to displace David as ruler.
A controversy developed between Lucifer and the God of heaven. A controversy developed between Absalom and David.
This controversy went on for a long time. We do not know how long it went on in heaven, but Ellen White says that it was a very long time. “God in His great mercy bore long with Lucifer. He was not immediately degraded from his exalted station when he first indulged the spirit of discontent, nor even when he began to present his false claims before the loyal angels. Long was he retained in heaven.” The Great Controversy, 495, 496. Why did it go on so long? Because God was merciful; He was long-suffering. But God’s mercy and His long-suffering were misinterpreted.
In Absalom’s case, the controversy continued for many years. David’s mercy and his long-suffering were misinterpreted. Incidentally, if you attempt to exercise mercy in this world, your mercy will be misinterpreted too. You will be thought of as a wimp. People will think that you do not have any backbone.
Because of the mercy and long-suffering that was manifested in both cases, both Lucifer and Absalom thought that if they persisted long enough, they would get their own way.
I hope you are seeing that every point being presented has a direct application for the end of time.
The controversy in heaven developed into a civil war. The Bible says, in Revelation 12:7, “War broke out in heaven, and Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon fought and his angels.”
Civil war also broke out in the land of Israel. We are coming to some of the most important points now that we need to understand.
Profession of Loyalty
In both cases, in heaven and in Israel, each side claimed to be loyal and true. If you had asked the people in Absalom’s army, “Are you a true child of Israel? Are you part of Israel?” they would all have said, “Yes.” The people that were following Absalom in his rebellion claimed to be loyal and faithful, and the people following David claimed to be loyal and faithful.
In heaven, Lucifer’s followers certainly felt they were being loyal and true to God, but there was only one side that was really the true and loyal followers of God. The other side, although they professed to be, were not really so.
It is one thing to look back and envision this happening, but when it happens right in front of our eyes, it is very difficult for God’s people to understand. It is extremely important to understand that both sides made a profession of being true and loyal to God. Ellen White said that the devil maintained that he was faithful and loyal to the very end, until he was cast out of heaven. (See The Great Controversy, 497, 498.) Such false loyalty was all very mystifying and confusing to the children of Israel, and it is still today.
True or Professed
Today, there is the true church and the professed church, and the true church and the professed church both make the same profession. It is very difficult to differentiate. Ellen White makes a sharp distinction between the true church of God and those that profess to be the true church of God but really are not. She refers to the nominal church, or the nominal believers, in contrast to the true. In her writings, she has a lot to say about the nominal church and the nominal Adventists at the end of time. (See, for instance, Manuscript Releases, vol. 5, 290; vol. 14, 177.)
In the last days, the nominal church will claim to be the true church. They will claim to be the remnant, but in the Scriptures, the true church is distinguished from the nominal church as being the remnant—the elect or the chosen. “And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went out to make war with the rest of her seed [or the remnant of her seed], those who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus.” Revelation 12:17.
What we need to understand before we go farther is this: How can you tell the difference between the true and the faithful and those who profess to be the true and the faithful but are not? They have the same name. They profess the same faith. They profess the same religion. Which one is true and which one is nominal?
Let us go back to the beginning. In heaven, the time came when the members of the angelic host had to get on one side or the other. They either had to choose for Lucifer or for God. Do not ever forget that. Personally, I do not believe the decision for the angels was nearly as easy to make as I at first thought when I was a young man. The more I have studied this, the more I have realized that the choice was really, really tricky, because both sides claimed to be true and faithful. I have come to understand that there was only one way an angel could tell the difference—one side was faithful and loyal to the Law of God; the other side wanted the Law of God, specifically the first commandment, changed. Those who were faithful and loyal to God said, “No, we are going to stick with the government of God, with the Law of God, just the way it is. We do not want it adjusted.”
This was the deciding point. I do not know of any other way that a decision could have been made. The final choice was over the Law of God.
From a human point of view, it was even trickier in David’s time than it was in heaven, because David was not God; he was a sinner. It was well-known throughout the nation of Israel, at the time of Absalom’s rebellion, that David was a murderer and an adulterer. He had Uriah the Hittite killed by treachery after having lain with his wife. Not only that, it was also well-known that David had another son by the name of Ammon who had raped his own half sister, Absalom’s sister. According to the old covenant, Ammon should have been stoned to death, but David did not execute judgment on Ammon. So, Absalom had taken the law into his own hands and had justice executed on Ammon and had him killed. This also was well-known throughout the nation of Israel.
I have trembled in my own soul when I study this story, and I have asked myself what side I would have chosen, because, by popular opinion, it appeared that Absalom was much more righteous than was David.
If you would have said, “Absalom killed his brother”; they would have responded, “He killed his brother because he was a rapist; he was supposed to be killed. Since David did not do what he was supposed to do, Absalom had to take the law into his own hands, because his father would not do what was right.” It was all very confusing because they were both lawbreakers. How would you have been able to tell on which side to join?
It was confusing enough that the vast majority in the nation of Israel joined Absalom. Ellen White says that the forces of Joab, when they went out to meet the forces of Absalom, looked like a little company facing a whole mighty armed host. (See Patriarchs and Prophets, 743.)
How could you have been able to tell? I know of only one way. In this situation, you could not have decided from the Law of God, because David looked like a worse sinner than Absalom. The only way I know that you would have been able to tell the difference was through the Spirit of prophecy. You see, Samuel, who was a true prophet, had anointed David as the king of Israel. Neither Samuel nor any other prophet had anointed Absalom as king of Israel.
By the way, you could not have told by church organization either, because one of the high priests went along with Absalom too. If you were dependent upon the Law of God or upon your church organization, you could have gone with Absalom. You could not have been able to tell who was the true church or who was the nominal church by either the Law of God or church organization, but only by means of the Spirit of prophecy. The only people who could have remained stable on the right side in the civil war between the true church and the nominal church, under the leadership of Absalom, were those who had confidence in the Spirit of prophecy.
In the controversy at the end of time, there will only be two anchors that can hold you—the Law of God and the Spirit of prophecy, the testimony of Jesus. That will be all. If you do not have those two anchors, you will not make it to heaven.
There was a civil war between the true remnant church and the professed or nominal remnant church in David’s time. Will it be like that in the end? Yes.
There was a long time when you could not tell on which side the angels in heaven were, but there came a time when war broke out, and every angel was forced to get on one side or the other. There was a long time when you could not tell on which side the sons of Israel were, but there came a time when war broke out, and every single man was forced to decide on which side he was going to be. He was forced to make it known publicly on which side he was going to be, because the war was being waged between the remnant and the nominal church. The Spirit of prophecy shows that this is the way it is going to be at the end of time as well.
“If we hope to wear the crown, we must expect to bear the cross. Our greatest trials will come from those who profess godliness. It was so with the world’s Redeemer; it will be so with his followers. I [Ellen White] should doubt whether I were a child of God, if the world, or even all professed Christians, spoke well of me. Those who are in earnest to win the crown of eternal life need not be surprised or disheartened because at every step toward the heavenly Canaan they meet with obstacles and encounter trials. The opposition which Christ received came from his own nation, who would have been greatly blessed had they accepted him. In like manner the remnant church receive opposition from those who profess to be their brethren.” Review and Herald, August 28, 1883.
How interesting! From where does the opposition come? It comes from the nominal church. The nominal church and the remnant church claim that they are the same. They make the same profession of faith. They both claim to be loyal.
Incidentally, in every single case—in heaven, in David’s time, and at the end of time—who is it that fires the first shot? Who is it that wages war? Have you ever thought about this? Who initiated the battle in heaven? Did God initiate the battle? No. Who initiated a war with David? Did David initiate a war against his son? No. Who initiates the war at the end? Does the remnant church initiate a war with its brethren who are nominal? No. God’s remnant church is not a persecuting church. God’s remnant church does not take its professed brethren to court.
In 1989, my brother, Marshall, wrote an article entitled, “Declaration of War,” which went over these very principles. It was published in Steps to Life’s newsletter, In His Steps, because he saw our professed brethren choosing to initiate a war against us. That has not ceased.
Take a Position
The time came when every angel in heaven had to take a position. The time came in the life of David when every single person had to take a position, had to take a side. And a time is coming at the end when every single person will have to take a side, because a war is going on, right now.
Some people say that they are just going to be neutral. If you say that you are going to be neutral, you have already made your choice. Jesus said, “He that is not with Me is against me.” Matthew 12:30.
You will be judged as being one of the most dangerous enemies of God in the Day of Judgment if you attempt to take a neutral position.
[Bible texts quoted are literal translation.]
Pastor John Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by e-mail at: email@example.com, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.