This world is not a place of peace, joy, or happiness. We all long for something better, a place where there is no anxiety, sorrow, suffering and death. There is a better place; a place of peace, joy, happiness and pure love. We find the promise of this better place through Jesus Christ and His plan to restore us to that place, called the kingdom of glory. Consider these practical steps on how to reach that kingdom.
Let’s begin with a brief history of how things changed from the kingdom of glory to a kingdom where sorrow, suffering and death reign. It is called the controversy between Christ and Satan. Long before the creation of the earth the universe was perfect, no taint of evil, sin, sorrow, pain or sadness. But slowly, subtly, a change took place in the angel standing in the highest rank, right next to Jesus Himself.
“You were the seal of perfection,
Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.
You were in Eden, the garden of God;
Every precious stone was your covering:
The sardius, topaz, and diamond,
Beryl, onyx, and jasper,
Sapphire, turquoise, and emerald with gold.
The workmanship of your timbrels and pipes
Was prepared for you on the day you were created.
“You were the anointed cherub who covers;
I established you;
You were on the holy mountain of God;
You walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones.
You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created,
Till iniquity was found in you.
“By the abundance of your trading
You became filled with violence within,
And you sinned …
“Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty;
You corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor …
“You defiled your sanctuaries
By the multitude of your iniquities,
By the iniquity of your trading.”
Ezekiel 28:12–18 NKJV
Here we see from the Bible the fall of Lucifer, the covering cherub in the kingdom of glory; the angel second in command to Christ Himself. Isaiah records Satan’s fall like this: “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!” Isaiah 14:12.
Because this evil thing arose, God had to deal with it. A God of purity and love could not allow sin and rebellion to continue. In Revelation 12:7, 8 we read a very sad account of what happened in heaven. “And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer.” Lucifer, the covering cherub, with his followers no longer had a place in heaven. Rebellion had driven them from the presence of God. But Satan did not let his rebellion end there. It was his studied purpose to overthrow the government of God. Satan needed a headquarters, a place from which to run his program of rebellion. And he found just what he wanted.
Lucifer, now known as Satan, desired to ruin God’s work of creation and to cause the same misery and woe and unhappiness in this world that he himself was experiencing. So, in the form of a serpent, the most beautiful of all creation, he disguised himself, and through lies and deception succeeded in causing the fall of Eve and her husband Adam.
Now ruin, woe and misery were the lot of the human race. Satan was exultant. He was making progress in his plans to “dispute the supremacy of the Son of God, [attacking His kingdom of glory and its laws] thus impeaching the wisdom and love of the Creator.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 36.
But our God, our wonderful, loving, patient Creator did not stand by allowing Satan to retain rulership of this world. In Genesis 3:15 we find that immediately after Adam and Eve sinned, God gave them a promise. We know this promise by many different names, but in this article it will mostly be referred to as the new covenant. “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” KJV.
Let’s do just a little outline here of this verse. First of all, who is speaking and who is being spoken to? If we go back one verse to Genesis 3:14, we find that God is speaking, and He is speaking to the serpent, or Satan. God says to Satan that He is going to put enmity between Satan and the woman. Then God concludes by giving a promise. He said “it,” that is, the seed (singular, meaning Jesus), would bruise the head of the serpent, and that the serpent would bruise the heel of Jesus. This promise, this covenant was given to Adam and Eve immediately after their fall. When God gave Adam and Eve this promise, this was the institution of the kingdom of grace. In this kingdom, Jesus, the innocent, the pure, the holy One would bear the guilt and sin of the sinner, and the penalty of that sin which is death, in order that the sinner, the guilty, the defiled, might have Jesus’ life, His eternal life. This is the new covenant. This is what the kingdom of grace is all about. There is a very clear definition of this new covenant and what it is to do. It is found in Patriarchs and Prophets, 370. “This covenant, which was simply an arrangement for bringing men again into harmony with the divine will, placing them where they could obey God’s law.” In the book Education, 125, another definition is given. It is “the restoration in the human soul of the image of God.”
These two definitions for the covenant really say the same thing. If we are in harmony with the divine will and obeying God’s law, will we not again reflect the image of God?
So, how does this take place? What is involved with this work of being brought back into harmony with God’s will, obeying His law, having His image restored in us?
Before we answer these questions, let us first establish, through inspiration, that God is love. Why would that be necessary? It is necessary because Satan hates God. He hates Jesus. He hates anything that is good. He wants to do anything he can to get people to believe lies about God.
In speaking of the evidences of God’s love, Steps to Christ, 10, 11 says: “Though all these evidences have been given, the enemy of good blinded the minds of men, so that they looked upon God with fear; they thought of Him as severe and unforgiving. Satan led men to conceive of God as a being whose chief attribute is stern justice—one who is a severe judge, a harsh, exacting creditor. He pictured the Creator as a being who is watching with jealous eye to discern the errors and mistakes of men, that He may visit judgments upon them.”
How do we know that God is love? First of all, consider nature. Look up into the night sky and see the beauty in the massive space. It will awe you by the grandeur of what you see in the heavens. What about the beautiful flowers that grow on trees and shrubs and dot the landscape with their delicate, and often fragrant, beauty? The clouds that grace the blue of the sky and the rainbow that spans the heavens and the green of the hills, and the rich brown of the earth, all these speak of a loving Creator’s care for us.
There are problems and there is evidence of degradation and scarring. But friends, have you stopped to consider what people have done to this earth in six thousand years of wickedness and evil? It is a miracle that there is any beauty left at all, and that miracle is wrought only by God.
In addition, rather than blaming God for the suffering, let’s ask ourselves a question. If Satan had not rebelled in heaven and did not exist as Satan, would there be any of this evil, this wickedness, this pain and suffering and degradation? No, of course not; so then, we can truthfully say that God gives only beauty, joy, happiness, peace, and love.
But there is an even more mighty argument in favor of the belief that God is love. In spite of the goodness of God in the gifts He gave to Adam and Eve, in spite of the fact that He spent time with them daily, teaching them of creation and His love, they chose to follow another leader. They committed treason against the kingdom of glory and their Creator. The Bible tells us that God warned Adam and Eve to obey and that if they didn’t they would “surely die.” Genesis 2:17, and in Romans 6:23 we read that “the wages of sin is death.” When Satan was chosen as their ruler, misery and woe was the result.
For a person who commits treason or betrays the government, the penalty is death. It is a very serious act to commit treason. God had every right to simply cut off Adam and Eve and allow the just consequences of their choice to follow. But He did not do that. Instead, He instituted a plan whereby His enemies, the very ones who had betrayed and committed treason against His government and joined themselves to His worst enemy, might one day be brought back into harmony with Him. God the Father and Jesus, His only begotten Son, had a plan all prepared for this terrible emergency. It is called the new covenant. This plan has many other names, such as the plan of salvation, the plan of redemption, the covenant of grace, the covenant of mercy, the everlasting covenant, the irrevocable covenant, the mystery of God, the Abrahamic covenant, the second covenant, justification by faith, to name a few. This plan called for a change in government. You see, sin in this world could not exist in the kingdom of glory. In order to institute this plan immediately upon the entrance of sin, as we saw earlier, the kingdom of glory had to be interrupted. The kingdom of grace took its place.
What is this kingdom of grace? First of all, let’s look at what the word grace means. The definition of the word grace is unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification. So grace is divine assistance that is unmerited. What does unmerited mean? Unmerited means not deserved. So this kingdom is a kingdom where we receive divine assistance that we don’t deserve—in order to be regenerated! You may ask what regenerated means. It has several meanings that are applicable here. It means
- to effect a complete moral reform in,
- to re-create, reconstitute, or make over, especially in a better form or condition,
- to revive or produce anew; bring into existence again.
In this kingdom of grace, we can receive help from God, the very One that we have rebelled against and deserted. We can receive help from Him to be re-created, to be brought into existence again, to have a complete moral reform. Is that not beautiful?
But just how could this take place? How is it possible that God, divinity, could, 1) justly release us from the penalty of death? Remember, God is just, perfectly, unswervingly just, and the wages of sin is death. And 2) how could He effect a complete moral reform in a being who had through sin become “so depraved that in themselves they … had no power and no disposition to resist Satan.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 53. It was a plan that only Divinity could conceive and only Divinity could carry out. Friends, here is the plan, and what it cost our Creator, and the whole universe to provide what was necessary for our restoration. We find this description in Patriarchs and Prophets, 63–65.
“The Son of God, heaven’s glorious Commander, was touched with pity for the fallen race. His heart was moved with infinite compassion as the woes of the lost world rose up before Him. But divine love had conceived a plan whereby man might be redeemed. The broken law of God demanded the life of the sinner. In all the universe there was but one who could, in behalf of man, satisfy its claims. Since the divine law is as sacred as God Himself, only one equal with God could make atonement for its transgression. None but Christ could redeem fallen man from the curse of the law and bring him again into harmony with Heaven. Christ would take upon Himself the guilt and shame of sin—sin so offensive to a holy God that it must separate the Father and His Son. Christ would reach to the depths of misery to rescue the ruined race.
“Before the Father He pleaded in the sinner’s behalf, while the host of heaven awaited the result with an intensity of interest that words cannot express. Long continued was that mysterious communing—‘the counsel of peace’ (Zechariah 6:13) for the fallen sons of men. The plan of salvation had been laid before the creation of the earth; for Christ is ‘the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world’ (Revelation 13:8); yet it was a struggle, even with the King of the universe, to yield up His Son to die for the guilty race. But ‘God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life’ (John 3:16). Oh, the mystery of redemption! the love of God for a world that did not love Him! Who can know the depths of that love which ‘passeth knowledge’ (Ephesians 3:19)? Through endless ages immortal minds, seeking to comprehend the mystery of that incomprehensible love, will wonder and adore.
“God was to be manifest in Christ, ‘reconciling the world unto Himself’ (II Corinthians 5:19). Man had become so degraded by sin that it was impossible for him, in himself, to come into harmony with Him whose nature is purity and goodness. But Christ, after having redeemed man from the condemnation of the law, could impart divine power to unite with human effort. Thus by repentance toward God and faith in Christ the fallen children of Adam might once more become ‘sons of God’ (I John 3:2).
“The plan by which alone man’s salvation could be secured, involved all heaven in its infinite sacrifice. The angels could not rejoice as Christ opened before them the plan of redemption, for they saw that man’s salvation must cost their loved Commander unutterable woe. In grief and wonder they listened to His words as He told them how He must descend from heaven’s purity and peace, its joy and glory and immortal life, and come in contact with the degradation of earth, to endure its sorrow, shame, and death. He was to stand between the sinner and the penalty of sin; yet few would receive Him as the Son of God. He would leave His high position as the Majesty of heaven, appear upon earth and humble Himself as a man, and by His own experience become acquainted with the sorrows and temptations which man would have to endure. All this would be necessary in order that He might be able to succor them that should be tempted (Hebrews 2:18). When His mission as a teacher should be ended, He must be delivered into the hands of wicked men and be subjected to every insult and torture that Satan could inspire them to inflict. He must die the cruelest of deaths, lifted up between the heavens and the earth as a guilty sinner. He must pass long hours of agony so terrible that angels could not look upon it, but would veil their faces from the sight. He must endure anguish of soul, the hiding of His Father’s face, while the guilt of transgression—the weight of the sins of the whole world—should be upon Him.
“The angels prostrated themselves at the feet of their Commander and offered to become a sacrifice for man. But an angel’s life could not pay the debt; only He who created man had power to redeem him. Yet the angels were to have a part to act in the plan of redemption. Christ was to be made ‘a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death’ (Hebrews 2:9). As He should take human nature upon Him, His strength would not be equal to theirs, and they were to minister to Him, to strengthen and soothe Him under His sufferings. They were also to be ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who should be heirs of salvation (Hebrews 1:14). They would guard the subjects of grace from the power of evil angels and from the darkness constantly thrown around them by Satan.
“When the angels should witness the agony and humiliation of their Lord, they would be filled with grief and indignation and would wish to deliver Him from His murderers; but they were not to interpose in order to prevent anything which they should behold. It was a part of the plan of redemption that Christ should suffer the scorn and abuse of wicked men, and He consented to all this when He became the Redeemer of man.
“Christ assured the angels that by His death He would ransom many, and would destroy him who had the power of death. He would recover the kingdom which man had lost by transgression, and the redeemed were to inherit it with Him, and dwell therein forever. Sin and sinners would be blotted out, nevermore to disturb the peace of heaven or earth. He bade the angelic host to be in accord with the plan that His Father had accepted, and rejoice that, through His death, fallen man could be reconciled to God.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 63–65.
It cost the Father and the Son dearly to put this plan into effect.
- Christ would reach to the depths of misery
- Christ would take upon Himself the guilt and shame of sin
- It must separate the Father and His Son
- Cost their loved Commander unutterable woe
- Descend from heaven’s purity and peace, its joy and glory
- Come in contact with the degradation of earth
- Endure its sorrow, shame, and death
- He was to stand between the sinner and the penalty of sin
- He did this though He knew that few would receive Him as the Son of God
- He would leave His high position as the Majesty of heaven
- Appear upon earth and humble Himself as a man
- By His own experience become acquainted with the sorrows and temptations man would endure
- He must be delivered into the hands of wicked men
- He must be subjected to every insult and torture that Satan could inspire them to inflict
- He must die the cruelest of deaths
- He must be lifted up between the heavens and the earth as a guilty sinner
- He must pass long hours of agony so terrible that angels could not look upon it
- He must endure anguish of soul
- He must endure the hiding of His Father’s face
- While the guilt of transgression—the weight of the sins of the whole world—should be upon Him.
In addition, on the night of His betrayal He endured seven trials. He was betrayed by one of His twelve disciples, with a kiss!! All of His disciples deserted Him. The Desire of Ages, 687, portrays a heart-wrenching scene. “The human heart longs for sympathy in suffering. This longing Christ felt to the very depths of His being. In the supreme agony of His soul He came to His disciples with a yearning desire to hear some words of comfort from those whom He had so often blessed and comforted, and shielded in sorrow and distress. The One who had always had words of sympathy for them was now suffering superhuman agony, and He longed to know that they were praying for Him and for themselves.” But rather than finding them in earnest prayer as He had pled with them to do, He finds them asleep. They deserted Him in His hour of need. And when the mob came to arrest Him, they all fled. They ran away.
That same night He was scourged twice. A scourge is a handle with leather cords attached in which are affixed metal pieces with barbs. As this is brought down on the victim, the handle is pulled back in such a way that the barbs catch and tear the flesh. Twice that night Jesus endured scourging. Then with a back lacerated, torn, bleeding, He was crucified with His back to a rough wooden beam, and nailed there, through His hands and feet, all the while enduring scorn, mockery, abuse from the very ones He had come to rescue and save.
In spite of this we read of Him, “So devoted was our Redeemer to the work of saving souls that He even longed for His baptism of blood.” Testimonies, vol. 5, 132. Can you imagine a love greater than this? But it does get deeper, fuller.
Think on this. The Desire of Ages, 49, says, “Satan in heaven had hated Christ for His position in the courts of God. He hated Him the more when he himself was dethroned. He hated Him who pledged Himself to redeem a race of sinners. Yet into the world where Satan claimed dominion God permitted His Son to come, a helpless babe, subject to the weakness of humanity. He permitted Him to meet life’s peril in common with every human soul, to fight the battle as every child of humanity must fight it, at the risk of failure and eternal loss.” God the Father and Jesus endured all these things, at the risk that Jesus would fail. If Jesus had sinned in the slightest thought, even by admitting that there might be an excuse for sin, He would have never seen the courts of heaven again, never seen His angel friends again or had their worship. He would have never been reunited with His Father, nor again been the Sovereign of the universe. All would have been over, forever.
Can there be any doubt of God’s yearning love and pity for us as we contemplate these themes? With such a costly sacrifice can there be any doubt of the love of God? “The Lord God of heaven collected all the riches of the universe, and laid them down in order to purchase the pearl of lost humanity. The Father gave all His divine resources into the hands of Christ in order that the richest blessings of heaven might be poured out upon a fallen race. God could not express greater love than He has expressed in giving the Son of His bosom to this world. This gift was given to man to convince him that God had left nothing undone that He could do, that there is nothing held in reserve, but that all heaven has been poured out in one vast gift.” Lift Him Up, 232.
After Jesus’ triumphant death, He was raised the third day and ascended to His Father to hear if His sacrifice had been enough, if the covenant was now secure. You see, up to that point, the covenant was simply a promise. Jesus had to actually pay the price of death that sin demanded. In addition, when Jesus ascended, He opened the heavenly sanctuary, the place where the real work of forgiveness and restoration takes place. He has been working there ever since.
Now, if sin caused all these terrible things, do you think that sin, or those who cling to their sin, will be restored to a relationship with God? Absolutely not! It was sin that caused the separation and the terrible sacrifice in the first place. God would not go to that extreme expense only to then allow what caused it to continue to exist. If we think this through, we have a response to make. We have a part to play in this restoration process.
“It is man’s part to respond to His great love, by appropriating the great salvation the blessing of the Lord has made it possible for man to obtain. We are to show our appreciation of the wonderful gift of God by becoming partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. We are to show our gratitude to God by becoming a coworker with Jesus Christ, by representing His character to the world.” Ibid.
Brenda Douay is a staff member at Steps to Life. She may be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.