The Great Controversy

On the day when Jesus comes, as we look back over our lives at the things we’ve done, what will we see? A lot of things that are important today will then seem unimportant and worthless. But before that day, Satan is, and will be, working with great power (2 Thessalonians 2:9, 10) to keep us from seeing the truth. However, God is working with a greater power than is Satan.

This great controversy, this all-out war, between God and Satan for the souls of mankind, is being fought beyond the sight of mortal eyes, but we must not be fooled, for the enemy of God and man is a great strategist. He has many plans with which to deceive and tempt every man, woman, and child to follow him, but God will make the hidden visible.

“There is nothing that the great deceiver fears so much as that we shall become acquainted with his devices.” The Great Controversy, 516. If we know the devil’s plans, then how can we be deceived? And this he fears the most.

“So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world. … Therefore rejoice, O heavens, and you who dwell in them! Woe to the inhabitants of the earth and the sea! For the devil has come down to you, having great wrath, because he knows that he has a short time.” Revelation 12:9, first part, 12

Satan is the master deceiver. For 6,000 years, he has studied man. He comes in ways we least expect. His wisdom, knowledge, and power are bent to just one thing: How can I cause each one to be lost? He plans actual strategy, intelligently arranging affairs and circumstances that will cause us to be confused, discouraged, deceived, and hopefully, lost. And, unfortunately, he has been and is very successful. The Bible says that soon he will come as an angel of light, his greatest deception of all, and almost the whole world will be deceived, including many who say they know and love Christ.

Lucifer was created by Jesus, the Creator (Colossians 1:16; James 1:17), just as Adam was created, not born like we are. “You were perfect in your ways.” Ezekiel 28:15. Lucifer was created perfect in his love, loyalty, humility, and reverence toward God. His character was maturing, as Adam’s character was maturing. But at that stage of his development, before he changed, he was perfect in his thinking, actions, and the motives of his heart. He was perfect in all his ways from the time that he was created.

Everything that comes from the hand of Jesus is good. When Jesus created Lucifer, he was holy. Jesus loved him. “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning!” Isaiah 14:12, first part. In prophecy, morning is a symbol of Jesus. So, Isaiah is really speaking of Lucifer as “O son of Jesus.”

We know that Lucifer was the highest angel in heaven. Being called the son of Jesus could very well mean that he was the first created. So his betrayal in heaven caused great sorrow for Jesus. He had developed a deep friendship with Lucifer, as deep as His friendship with you or me. Lucifer was Jesus’ special friend. “Son of man [Jesus], take up a lamentation for the king of Tyre [Lucifer].” Ezekiel 28:12. A lamentation is a “passionate expression of grief or sorrow; weeping.” Here the Bible depicts Jesus as weeping over Lucifer’s betrayal.

“You were the anointed cherub.” Ezekiel 28:14, first part. God Himself anointed Lucifer to be the covering cherub. In the sanctuary service in heaven, you find there were two covering cherubs. They were the two angels closest to God, His special messengers. But Ezekiel says: “Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty.” Verse 17, first part. Lucifer became proud—proud of his intelligence, his beauty, his physique, his ability and wisdom, and his position, forgetting it had all come from God.

Soon pampered pride became raging jealousy. “For you have said in your heart: ‘I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.’ ” Isaiah 14:13, 14

Lucifer wasn’t perfect one day and then prideful and jealous the next. The transformation from a perfect being to a selfish creature warring against God took time, likely a long time. At first, he felt only the desire to be equal with the Creator, to be included in counsels with God and His Son. But then, no longer content with just equalness, the tiny seeds of jealousy and resentment were nurtured day after day, maybe for hundreds or thousands of years, until he desired the unthinkable—to be greater than God. He said, “I will be like the Most High.”

“Little by little Lucifer came to indulge the desire for self-exaltation. … Not content with his position, though honored above the heavenly host, he ventured to covet homage due alone to the Creator.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 35

As his own pride and jealousy grew, he began a behind-the-scenes campaign among the angels, to drive a wedge between them and God.

“Taking advantage of the loving, loyal trust reposed in him by the holy beings under his command, he had so artfully instilled into their minds his own distrust and discontent that his agency was not discerned. Lucifer had presented the purposes of God in a false light—misconstruing and distorting them to excite dissent and dissatisfaction. He cunningly drew his hearers on to give utterance to their feelings; then these expressions were repeated by him when it would serve his purpose, as evidence that the angels were not fully in harmony with the government of God. While claiming for himself perfect loyalty to God, he urged that changes in the order and laws of heaven were necessary for the stability of the divine government. Thus while working to excite opposition to the law of God and to instill his own discontent into the minds of the angels under him, he was ostensibly seeking to remove dissatisfaction and to reconcile disaffected angels to the order of heaven. While secretly fomenting discord and rebellion, he with consummate craft caused it to appear as his sole purpose to promote loyalty and to preserve harmony and peace.

“The spirit of dissatisfaction thus kindled was doing its baleful work. While there was no open outbreak, division of feeling imperceptibly grew up among the angels.” Ibid. 38

Pride is never satisfied. The richest person is never rich enough; the powerful person craves still more power; the most famous person must have more adulation. More money, more power, more, more, and still more.

“Instead of seeking to make God supreme in the affections and allegiance of all created beings, it was his [Lucifer’s] endeavor to secure their service and loyalty to himself. And coveting the glory with which the infinite Father had invested His Son, this prince of angels aspired to power that was the prerogative of Christ alone.” Ibid., 35

God made everyone on earth to be accountable to someone. It doesn’t matter who you are—however important or insignificant—we all answer to someone, and ultimately, to God. This was a lesson that Lucifer did not learn. He answered only to God, and he was jealous of Him. He sought praise, attention, power, and control. But he could not let the angels see his selfishness, so he began to clothe God with his own attributes claiming that God craved all the power, demanded all the praise, controlled everything with an iron fist.

Lucifer was so insidious and skillful—Mrs. White calls it mysterious secrecy—in implanting these ideas in the minds of the angels, that it appeared to them that what he was saying was true by the very fact that Jesus and the Father were actually in charge.

“He worked with mysterious secrecy, and for a time concealed his real purpose under an appearance of reverence for God.” Ibid., 37. He himself of course was loyal. He was simply interested in the welfare of heaven, simply interested in God’s glory and the welfare of the angels. His purposes were all so noble. “He began to insinuate doubts concerning the laws that governed heavenly beings. … It was his object to secure freedom for all.” Ibid. He, after all, only had the welfare of heaven at heart, and sadly, many of the angels were blinded by his deceptions. There were no open accusations, only insinuations. He asked only honest questions that needed to be answered.

Imagine how he went about it. He first sought out his best friends. First one and then another, and then to this group of angels and the other group of angels. Lucifer was perfect, they had no reason to question his motives. They completely trusted him. He simply asked a few questions, which instilled some doubts, until to many of the angels it seemed that discontent could be seen everywhere. His words gave the impression that he wished to end the discontent when in reality it was his purpose to foment it and spread it as far as he could, to build an army of malcontents to rise up against the government of God and make him, Lucifer, their leader.

“He cunningly drew his hearers on to give utterance to their feelings [feelings he had instilled]; then these expressions were repeated by him when it would serve his purpose, as evidence that the angels were not fully in harmony with the government of God.”

“While claiming for himself perfect loyalty to God, he urged that changes in the order and laws of heaven were necessary for the stability of the divine government.” Ibid.

Mrs. White says that Lucifer sought most for unity and harmony, not to the government and law of God, but to his own leadership and government.

“While secretly fomenting discord and rebellion, he with consummate craft caused it to appear as his sole purpose to promote loyalty and to preserve harmony and peace.” Ibid.

Lucifer was proud and selfish, seeking to serve only himself, and to have, if possible, all the angels of heaven to serve him in opposition to the government of God.

However, that isn’t what he told the angels. To them he gave flowery speeches about loyalty and harmony, peace, and unity. Something was wrong in heaven and God wouldn’t see it, so he, Lucifer, had to do something because he loved God and heaven too much to just sit by and let things fester.

His real purpose was to dispute the supremacy of the Son of God and he bent all his energies to it behind a mask of concern and benevolence. He insinuated doubt about the commandments. They might be necessary for the people of the worlds, but as exalted angels, there was no need for such restraint; their own wisdom was a sufficient guide. It was not possible for them to dishonor God because they were holy just as God was holy (Patriarchs and Prophets, 37).

“The spirit of dissatisfaction thus kindled was doing its baleful work.” Ibid.

And Lucifer suggested that it was because God wanted absolute control. Once all of heaven was filled with happiness and praise, but now the angels had become discontented and unhappy. That should have told them that something was wrong with what Lucifer was saying.

“Lucifer had presented the purposes of God in a false light—misconstruing and distorting them to excite dissent and dissatisfaction.” Ibid.

God knew what Lucifer was doing. Lucifer’s desire to see the singular supremacy of the Son removed and himself made an equal to Him, God would not grant. And He did not leave the angels unaware of Lucifer’s sophistry and malicious intent.

“But He who would have the will of all His creatures free, left none unguarded to the bewildering sophistry by which rebellion would seek to justify itself. Before the great contest should open, all were to have a clear presentation of His will, whose wisdom and goodness were the spring of all their joy.” Ibid., 36

“The spirit of discontent and dissatisfaction had never before been known in heaven. It was a new element, strange, mysterious, unaccountable. Lucifer himself had not at first been acquainted with the real nature of his feelings; for a time he had feared to express the workings and imaginings of his mind; yet he did not dismiss them. He did not see whither he was drifting.” Ibid., 39

As the affections of some of the angels began to be drawn from Jesus to Lucifer, God had to make it plain that Jesus is the head of all things and all beings in the entire universe, even head over Lucifer. Jesus had been with God from the beginning. Lucifer was a created being, albeit an exalted one. All praise and honor were to be given to Jesus, the same as to the Father Himself.

With love and adoration, the angels fell to their knees and with great joy acknowledged the supremacy of Christ. Even Lucifer bowed with them, though his heart remained conflicted. And when the angels rose and lifted their voices in songs of praise to the Son, Lucifer joined them. The spirit of evil seemed to have disappeared and unspeakable love took its place in Lucifer’s heart, but only for a short time. Pride and envy returned once again.

God bore long with Lucifer. Love and reason, mercy and justice pleaded with him. The angels who remained loyal to Jesus, and Jesus Himself, tried to reach him, but to no avail. He continued to spread discontent until the time came that God had to take open measures against him, and he was removed from his position as the head of the angels and a covering cherub.

A significant number of the angels sympathized with Lucifer, even shed tears at this unfair change of circumstances. They listened to him as he took them into his confidence. They took his side against God. Thus, he and these angels—and soon most of mankind with them—became known as “Satan and his sympathizers.”

 “There are ever to be found those who will sympathize with those who are wrong. Satan had sympathizers in heaven, and took large numbers of the angels with him. God and Christ and heavenly angels were on one side, and Satan on the other. Notwithstanding the infinite power and majesty of God and Christ, angels became disaffected. The insinuations of Satan took effect, and they really came to believe that the Father and the Son were their enemies, and that Satan was their benefactor.” Gospel Workers (1892), 86

Lucifer took four steps that took him from being a “son of the morning” to becoming Satan, the great deceiver:

he became proud;

he became jealous;

he worked to influence others and gain sympathizers;

he made war.

Once he was removed from his position in heaven and his sympathizers were secured in his grasp, he declared war against God. “Then war broke out in heaven: Michael and His angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought.” Revelation 12:7

“God permitted Satan to carry forward his work until the spirit of disaffection ripened into active revolt. It was necessary for his plans to be fully developed, that their true nature and tendency might be seen by all. …

“It was therefore necessary to demonstrate before the inhabitants of heaven, and of all the worlds, that God’s government is just, His law perfect. Satan had made it appear that he himself was seeking to promote the good of the universe. The true character of the usurper and his real object must be understood by all. He must have time to manifest himself by his wicked works.

“The discord which his own course had caused in heaven, Satan charged upon the government of God. All evil he declared to be the result of the divine administration. He claimed that it was his own object to improve upon the statutes of Jehovah. Therefore God permitted him to demonstrate the nature of his claims, to show the working out of his proposed changes in the divine law. His own work must condemn him. Satan had claimed from the first that he was not in rebellion. The whole universe must see the deceiver unmasked.

“Even when he was cast out of heaven, Infinite Wisdom did not destroy Satan. Since only the service of love can be acceptable to God, the allegiance of His creatures must rest upon a conviction of His justice and benevolence. The inhabitants of heaven and of the worlds, being unprepared to comprehend the nature or consequences of sin, could not then have seen the justice of God in the destruction of Satan. Had he been immediately blotted out of existence some would have served God from fear rather than from love. The influence of the deceiver would not have been fully destroyed, nor would the spirit of rebellion have been utterly eradicated. For the good of the entire universe through ceaseless ages, he must more fully develop his principles, that his charges against the divine government might be seen in their true light by all created beings, and that the justice and mercy of God and the immutability of His law might be forever placed beyond all question.

“Satan’s rebellion was to be a lesson to the universe through all coming ages—a perpetual testimony to the nature of sin and its terrible results. The working out of Satan’s rule, its effects upon both men and angels, would show what must be the fruit of setting aside the divine authority. It would testify that with the existence of God’s government is bound up the well-being of all the creatures He has made. Thus, the history of this terrible experiment of rebellion was to be a perpetual safeguard to all holy beings, to prevent them from being deceived as to the nature of transgression, to save them from committing sin, and suffering its penalty.” Patriarchs and Prophets, 41–43

And so began the great controversy between God and Satan.

 “Satan has the same power and the same control over minds now, only it has increased a hundred-fold by exercise and experience. Men and women today are deceived, blinded by his insinuations and devices, and know it not. By giving place to doubts and unbelief in regard to the work of God, and by cherishing feelings of distrust and cruel jealousies, they are preparing themselves for complete deception. They rise up with bitter feelings against the ones who dare to speak of their errors and reprove their sins.” Gospel Workers (1892), 86

Satan succeeded in heaven. Even the honest and loyal angels were affected to a certain extent by his insinuations—by quoting what others said, by creating feelings of sympathy, by appearing to try to help. In fact, so well did Satan succeed, that it took 4,000 years to undo the harm done to these angels; not until Jesus’ death on the cross was the extent of Satan’s malice and hatred, his lies and deception, finally and completely revealed to them.

At Calvary, Satan’s disguise was torn away and his administration was laid open before the unfallen worlds and the angels of heaven. Satan revealed himself to be a murderer. “By shedding the blood of the Son of God, he had uprooted himself from the sympathies of the heavenly beings. Henceforth his work was restricted.” The Desire of Ages, 761

So successful were Satan’s insinuations and so strong the sympathy for his circumstances, that a horrible price had to be paid to show Satan for who he truly is—the great deceiver, the father of lies, and the murderer of Jesus Christ. “The last link of sympathy between Satan and the heavenly world was broken.” Ibid.

Satan, who began in glory next to Christ, attempted to exalt himself above Christ, and ended up with nothing. We are told that the day is coming, burning like an oven, in which all the proud will be burned up. Satan, the root, along with all those who follow him, the branches, will then be ashes under our feet (Malachi 4:1).

Satan left glory and will soon become ashes. However, Jesus began life on this earth as a humble babe born in a barn, to become the Saviour of the world, and will soon return as triumphant King.

There are only two paths to follow in this world. One is the path of selfishness which leads to self-exaltation and eternal death. The other is the path of humility, the path that Jesus followed. This path leads us to a perfected character, one like Jesus’ character, one that we must have if we are to be with Him in glory. “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.” Revelation 3:21

Which path will you choose?

Pastor Marshall Grosboll, with his wife Lillian, founded Steps to Life. In July 1991, Pastor Marshall and his family met with tragedy as they were returning home from a camp meeting in Washington state, when the airplane he was piloting went down, killing all on board.