By Michael C. Wells
Throughout history, one of the prominent activities of nations has been conquest and war. Men have desired power over their fellow men since Cain, the first son of Adam, slew his brother, out of jealousy. He desired the blessing that his brother received from God, but was not willing to follow the conditions of obedience and humility that God required. His selfishness caused him to hate his brother and eventually to kill him. One day, he, and all who treat others unjustly, will face the judgment of God, Who will set up His court to try all that have dwelt on the earth.
A grand judgment is being held as you read this book. The magnificence of this court is only surpassed by the glory and majesty of the Judge. Daniel records this in Daniel 7: 9,10. “I watched till thrones were put in place, and the Ancient of Days was seated; His garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head was like pure wool. His throne was a fiery flame, its wheels a burning fire; a fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him, a thousand thousands ministered to Him; ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him. The court was seated, and the books were opened.” This judgment will put an end to all the injustice man has done to his fellow man. Why, then, did God allow these things to take place in the beginning? Where did this controversy start, and why is there so much injustice and war in the world today? These are legitimate questions. The Bible tells us all about the origin of the greatest war ever fought anywhere.
The Origin of Suffering
It all began before the earth was created. In the heavenly courts, next to the throne of God, stood an angel who possessed great beauty and wisdom. He was a leader of angels and the “covering cherub.” He stood with his wings spread over the heavenly throne where the Lord God sat. Ezekiel 28: 14 describes him this way: “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 the fiery stones.” The God of heaven had established this angel in a position of great honor in His kingdom. He had created him to be one of the leading angels in heaven. God had created him for service and praise. “You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created . . .” verses 12, 15. This angel’s name was Lucifer. Not only was he intelligent and beautiful, but he could sing like no other.
Unfortunately, terrible changes started to occur in Lucifer. He became dissatisfied with his position. As the covering cherub, Lucifer could go no higher. He stood next to God, but he was not satisfied. He wanted to be part of the inner circle. He wanted to become “as God,” to be part of the counsel with Christ. Lucifer became jealous of Christ and the relationship He had with the Father and believed that he was just as qualified to give counsel as Christ. His dissatisfaction led him to murmur about his misfortune to some of his fellow angels, causing them to doubt God’s fairness. It is inconceivable that a created being, like Lucifer, would exalt himself above his Creator, yet that is exactly what he tried to do.
Isaiah 14: 12– 14 describes this sad event. “How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations! 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. ’”
Using the King of Tyre to represent Lucifer, Ezekiel writes of his fall: “Because your heart is lifted up, and you say, ‘I am a God, I sit in the seat of gods, in the midst of the seas, ’ yet you are a man, and not a God, though you set your heart as the heart of a God . . . there is no secret that can be hidden from you! With your wisdom and your understanding you have gained riches for yourself, and gathered gold and silver into your treasuries; by your great wisdom in trade you have increased your riches, and your heart is lifted up. . . . 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; therefore I cast you as a profane thing out of the mountain of God; and I destroyed you, O covering cherub, from the midst of the fiery stones. Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor; I cast you to the ground, I laid you before kings, that they might gaze at you.” Ezekiel 28: 2– 5,15– 17.
The first war did not start here on planet Earth, as many people believe, but originated in heaven. As Lucifer (now called Satan, which means deceiver and accuser) rallied his angels to battle for his so called “rights,” Michael (which means “one who is like God,” or another name for Christ), and His angels fought against this once glorious angel. “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. So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” Revelation 12: 7– 9.
Satan’s Plan for Our Earth
Satan lost the first battle and was cast out of heaven to the earth. His mission ever since has been to turn the people of this earth against the God of heaven, by convincing them, with his deceitful lies, that God is unjust and unfair. In Revelation it is written, “therefore rejoice, O heaven, and you who dwell in them!” But to the earth, John the Revelator warns, “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: 12. If mankind had heeded the warning God gave to them in the beginning, if they had recognized the immense fairness of God, and how His truth brings happiness, they would never have fallen to the deceit of Satan. Yet, even to this day, mankind has a hard time believing God and His infinite wisdom.
Rebellion spread across the earth as Satan went forth to deceive the nations. He encouraged pride in the hearts of men and caused them to covet wealth and power. God’s people were even snared in the traps of Satan as he used lust to cause the downfall of the sons of God. We can read in Genesis 6 how the sons of God looked upon the beauty of the daughters of Cain and took them as wives. No doubt they thought they could convert them to God’s way, yet just the opposite happened. Soon God’s people were becoming as corrupt as the descendants of Cain. The “thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” Genesis 6: 5. They became so wicked that God decided that the only way to purify the earth was to destroy it with water. God started over with mankind, but found again that “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.” Jeremiah 17: 9.
The result of the first sin in heaven was the spread of greed, pride and selfishness. This resulted in war, poverty and the suppression of people. Kings were set who ruled without mercy or compassion. Misery became the handmaiden of injustice, and poverty the result of war.
Maybe you wonder why God allowed such things to take place? Why didn’t God just wipe Satan from existence? We can turn that question around and look at it from a different perspective. Why doesn’t God just wipe us out of existence as soon as we sin? God made provision for the sinner through Christ, His Son. It is written that He was “slain from the foundations of the world.” (Revelation 13: 8.) He made that same provision for Satan. God could have stopped him anytime, but that would have given weight to the allegations of the adversary. Satan was alleging that the God of heaven was unfair, a dictator who set up unjust laws that need not be followed. If God had disposed of the devil immediately, the angels of heaven would not have followed God out of love and admiration, but out of fear of the penalty of disobedience. He had to let sin come to full fruition before the entire universe could see where Satan’s doctrine would lead, and the true nature of sin. Satan could have turned from his course, back toward God and forgiveness, but instead he turned his heart inward and rejected the counsel of the Holy Spirit to repent and be forgiven. Now the last stronghold of sympathy for Satan is confined to this earth. Except for the inhabitants of our earth, the whole universe has seen his true character.
Satan set himself on a path to bring pain and suffering to all mankind. He used wars of his own creation, in which he controlled all sides, in order to fulfill his mission— the greatest amount of suffering for the greatest number. He is out to destroy you and me by deception and enticement into sin. When he had accomplished the seduction of Eve in the garden, and Adam and Eve were cast out of the Garden of Eden, because they rejected God’s law of love, Satan devoted his life to bringing misery and hatred to all of their off- spring.
God Reveals His Plan
God, on the other hand, had a plan to bring Satan and sin to an end. He saw far into the future and developed a plan to bring salvation to everyone who would receive the free gift He was to offer. He saw the rise and fall of nations, and the course that each man would take. He gives us free choice to live as we want, but He is ever at hand to guide and lead if we will submit to His will. He wants to bring happiness and peace to those who will allow Him to work in their lives.
Since God knows the end from the beginning, He sent a prophecy to His servant Daniel, to explain His ultimate plan. In Daniel 7, we see four beasts coming out of the sea, one like a lion, one like a bear, another like a leopard, and the last, a beast too hideous for Daniel to describe.
As we begin to study this prophecy, we must remember that prophecy is given in signs and symbols. Revelation 1: 1 says, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John.”
Notice that these beasts come from the sea. Since many terms are symbolic, we must look for the meaning of each symbol in the Bible, for the Bible interprets itself. What does water represent in Bible prophecy? Revelation 17: 15 says, “Then he said to me, ‘The waters which you saw, where the harlot sits, are people, multitudes, nations, and tongues.” Here we see that water represents many nations and languages that have come together, a continent of many different countries with multitudes of people. So then, these beasts were to arise from an already populated area.
These beasts represent kingdoms according to Daniel 7: 23. “Thus he said, ‘The fourth beast shall be a fourth kingdom on earth, which shall be different from all other kingdoms, and shall devour the whole earth, trample it and break it in pieces. ’”
In Daniel 2, we see the same kingdoms depicted in the dream, of the image, of King Nebuchadnezzar. Just as Babylon was symbolized by the head of gold, so this first beast, a lion, also represents Babylon. (If you research the history of Babylon, you will find that this symbol is very appropriate, for they often used lions to represent themselves.) The second beast that came from this same region, and that conquered Babylon, was Medo- Persia. It is represented by a bear, because of its slow, but powerful, army. It crushed Babylon, in 539 BC, when Belshazzar, then Emperor of Babylon, defied and mocked the God of heaven. God sent a prophecy, the handwriting on the wall, to show him his soon coming demise. That very night Belshazzar was slain and Darius the Mede became conqueror of the most powerful kingdom in the known world. In Daniel 7: 5, we see that the bear is lifted up on one side. This represents the predominant authority of the Persian part of the alliance over the Medes. The Persian Empire went forward and conquered all the territory of Babylon, including Lydia and Egypt. The three ribs, in the mouth of the bear, depict these three territories.
God continued His prophecy of war and conquest in verse 6. Daniel saw that another great warrior was to arise from this region who would conquer so quickly that he was represented as a leopard. A leopard is known for its sleekness and speed as well as its great agility and strength in the attack. This describes the conqueror of the Persian Empire to the letter. Almost everyone has heard of Alexander the Great. At age 33, Alexander had conquered not only the territory that Persia had obtained but had also expanded his territory into Europe. His kingdom was divided when, after a successful campaign, he indulged too heavily in alcohol, at a wedding, and died. His kingdom was divided into four sections and became weak after a time. The four heads represent the four kingdoms of divided Greece.
The Dreadful and Terrible Beast
After the Grecian Empire, God shows Daniel a kingdom so vicious, so terrifying, so malevolent, that no beast could adequately describe it. The fourth beast was a “dreadful and terrible” beast, “exceedingly strong.” “It had huge iron teeth; it was devouring, breaking in pieces, and trampling the residue with its feet. It was different from all the beasts that were before it, and it had ten horns.” Daniel 7: 7. As we look at history, it is not hard to figure out what kingdom enslaved Greece and the rest of the world. It brought in what we call the “Iron Age.” It was the Roman Empire.
Rome did indeed trample the known world into residue under its feet. Rome built roads all over the empire so that its armies could move more freely and quickly. It devoured and fed on the spoils of other nations, and it became the master of the world. From 168 BC to 476 AD Rome held the world in the palm of its hand. It became wealthy from the tribute that it received from other nations.
Rome was originally set up as a republic, with a senate and court system similar to ours in the United States, but eventually it became a dictatorship. The freedoms of the Roman citizens were taken away gradually until only a word of condemnation could cause one the loss of his life. Greed took hold of the empire and it became the most brutal and cruel monarchy the world has ever known, even to this day.
Rome is known for the development of methods of torture. The cross was one of its crowning achievements. Men could remain alive for days under this form of excruciating torture. During Nero’s reign, Christians were made into living candles and set on fire to give light for the arena. People were slaughtered by the sword and by animals, for the enjoyment of the people. Barbarism knew no limits.
When Rome began to fall in 351 A. D., the kingdom was eventually divided into ten kingdoms. The ten horns of this beast represented ten tribes or kingdoms. These kingdoms became what we know today as Europe. They were the Franks (France), Anglo- Saxons (England), Alemanni (Germany), Suevi (Portugal), Visigoths (Spain), Burgundians (Southern France), Lombards (Switzerland), Ostrogoths (the area of Greece and also moved to conquer Italy), Heruli (Italy), and the Vandels (Northern Africa).
In Daniel 7: 8, 20, 24, we see a little horn (kingdom) who destroys three of the original kingdoms. This was done when the Heruli, Ostrogoths, and the Vandels were eliminated. This little horn power was to speak “great words against the Most High” and “persecute the saints of the Most High.” Daniel 7: 25. This is a religious power that will try to bring the whole world under its authority, dictating religious values and worship under penalty of death! (See Revelation 13: 4– 8,15.) This power has been around for many centuries, and is emerging again, not only as a religious power, but with quite a lot of political leverage, also.
We can see by looking at identifying marks of the little horn in Daniel 7 and the beast in Revelation 13 that these are the same power. We already notice that in Daniel 7: 25, the little horn speaks pompous (blasphemous) words against the Most High. In Revelation 13: 6, we see the beast also has a mouth that speaks blasphemy. Both the little horn and the beast also persecute the saints (Daniel 7: 25; Revelation 13: 7) and both continue for 1260 years.
In Bible prophecy, a day equals a year. (See Numbers 14: 34 and Ezekiel 4: 6.) When the Bible speaks of a time (one year), times (two years), and half a time (half a year) it is speaking of three and a half years. In the Bible times a year was 360 days. So by using this criteria, we can multiply 3 ½ by 360 and we get 1260 days. A day for a year brings us to 1260 years. In Revelation 13: 5, we have 42 months. By using this same rule and multiplying 42 by 360, the answer again is 1260. So in both Daniel and Revelation we can find several identifying marks that show that this is the same power.
It is the grievous sins of this power that will bring great judgment on its head. It has a blasphemous name on its head (Revelation 13: 1). The Bible definition for blasphemy is to claim to forgive sin, and to claim to be equal with or to be God. Jesus made these claims (which was His right as Sovereign of the universe) in Mark 2: 7 and John 8: 58, but for a earthly power or man to make such a claim will bring great judgment to him. We already saw that he would persecute (kill) the saints (God’s people), and that he would cause the world to “marvel and follow the beast.” “So they worshipped the dragon who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying ‘Who is like the Beast? Who is able to make war with him? ’” Revelation 13: 3,4. Can you imagine God not judging such a power with the ultimate sentence? “God is jealous, and the Lord avenges; the lord avenges and is furious. The Lord will take vengeance on His adversaries, and He reserves wrath for His enemies.” Naham 1: 2.
How Will You Be Judged?
God is sitting up a judgment and declares that this message should be proclaimed to all the world. “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come and worship Him who made heaven and the earth, the sea and springs of waters.” Revelation 14: 7. In Daniel 7: 26, we see that when the court is seated, this little horn power (or beast power as described in Revelation 13) will have its dominion taken away and will be consumed and destroyed forever. All who have followed this false religious power will pay the price with him. This little horn (or anti- christ) is the earthly agent of Satan who comes with the power of Satan, yet God is setting up a judgment that will bring him to utter ruin. How do we avoid this condemnation and the destruction that will follow? What exactly will be the evidence presented in this judgment, for or against us? It will be the very thoughts we have thought, the deeds we have done, and God will judge our hearts.
God Himself is the judge, not any human being. We are never to judge the motives of a person. This is left to God alone. Paul writes about this very subject: “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts . Then one’s praise will come from God.” “But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother. For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ.” I Corinthian 4: 5; Romans 14: 10. When we judge our brother, we are actually judging ourselves. “But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the Day of Judgment.” “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Matthew 12: 36; 7: 1– 3,5.
Judgment of the motives belongs to God. We cannot read the heart as God does. We may think that the people around us have rejected God and His counsel, yet, only God truly knows the heart of another. We are here to give encouragement and support to those who are suffering under the attacks of Satan. “Your words are to soothe, not harass. Let your hearts be filled with love for souls. With a deep, tender interest, work for those around you. If you see one making a mistake, go to him in the way Christ has pointed out in His Word, and see if you cannot talk the matter over with Christlike tenderness. Pray with him, and believe that the Saviour will show the way out of the difficulty.” Evangelism, 637, by Ellen G. White.
Yet this does not discount the fact that you and I will one day be judged by the God of heaven. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.” II Corinthians 5: 10. This judgment will take place in the heavenly courts, as we read in Daniel 7: 9,10. As the angels gather around, the books are brought out (the Book of Remembrance and the Book of Life) and the Ancient of Days is seated along with the rest of the court.
The Law of Liberty
God’s court of justice is a court of law. The government of God is based around a system of immutable laws that govern the conduct of each person in His kingdom. These laws cannot be changed. They are perpetual; they do not end. These same laws will be the standard by which we will be judged in the judgment. This is called the law of liberty. This does not mean we have liberty to break God’s law, but that we are freed, or given liberty, from sin when we keep God’s law. In James 2: 8– 12, we are shown that this law of liberty spoken of is none other than the Ten Commandments. God says through James: “For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumbles in one point, he is guilty of all. . . . So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty.”
God is ever so fair in His judgments. That is why only He can be our Judge. “There is one Lawgiver and Judge, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?” James 4: 12 NAB. Jesus warns us not to fear man, for what can man do to us if we are the Lord’s? “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.” Matthew 10: 28. Only the Lord has power over our eternal destiny. Only He can give us eternal life or eternal death. The price for sin, which is death, must be paid either by ourselves or by the sacrifice that Christ made on the cross. Jesus will stand up as the Defense Attorney for all those who have been faithful. He will bring His blood before the Father as the price that was paid for the sins of each person who has given himself or herself fully to Him.
This, then, will be the theme of the judgment. Have our sins been covered with the blood of Jesus? Have we allowed Him to take our lives and shape them? Are we overcoming sin by the blood of the Lamb of God? “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” Romans 6: 23; I John 1: 7.
Man has a duty to perform before the judgment closes. “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all. For God will bring ever work into the judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil.” Ecclesiastes 12: 13,14. Jesus will bring every work into judgment, whether good or bad. The kingdoms, we read about in Daniel 7, will all be judged by the standard of the Royal Law, the Ten Commandments.
The wicked will receive their just reward from heaven. As we read in Revelation 20: 12,13, “And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works .” The cases of each person will be brought before God’s throne and all will receive their sentence. The ungodly will pay with their lives for the misdeeds that they participated in on this earth. “Then Death and Hades [the grave] were cast into the lake of fire, this is the second [and final] death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.” Revelation 20: 15.
God shows Daniel that when the little horn, the religious power which thinks “to change times and law,” puts forth its power to persecute God’s people for the last time, God will bring it to its knees. Judgment will be executed against the wicked and the righteous will be delivered by the power of the Lamb from the hands of injustice and persecution. Jesus will stand up and gather His people to Himself.
More Than a Profession
Obviously, Jesus will not defend those who do not love Him and follow Him, but what about those who claim to be His people? Jesus warned us that not all who claim to be His people will be saved. Look at what He says, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, ’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your Name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your Name? ’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!” Matthew 7: 21– 23.
In the judgment, it is not enough to invoke the name of Jesus, we must do His will and obey His commandments. Satan’s agents will use “power, signs, and lying wonders,” but Jesus says that this is not a sign that we are His people. The only true test of fellowship with Him, the only standard to be used in the judgment, will be whether we keep His commandments out of a true love for Him. Those who do not will be told, “Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.”
With our cases soon to come up for judgment, how are we to prepare? Paul says, “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you?— unless you are disqualified.” II Corinthians 13: 5. Every one of us must give an account of ourselves to God at the day of final judgment. God has been keeping a record of each person’s life. This information will be used in the judgment to see whether we truly are one of God’s people. Our recorded life will be put into contrast with God’s law. It will not only show those things we have done in the body, but also if we have let Jesus cover our sins with His blood. It will show whether we have overcome sin in our lives through the power of God’s Holy Spirit.
Those who have overcome will have their sins blotted from the books. Those who have not overcome, who only have a profession of faith and not the corresponding works, will be blotted out of the Book of Life. “But when a righteous man turns away from his righteousness and commits iniquity, and does according to all the abominations that the wicked man does, shall he live? All the righteousness, which he has done, shall not be remembered; because of the unfaithfulness of which he is guilty and the sin which he has committed, because of them he shall die.” “And the Lord said to Moses, whoever has sinned against Me, I will blot him out of My book.” “But if a wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed, keeps all My statutes, and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the transgressions which he has committed shall be remembered against him because of the righteousness which he has done, he shall live.” “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.” Ezekiel 18: 24; Exodus 32: 33; Ezekiel 18: 21,22; Revelation 3: 5.
Salvation is a free gift, yet we cannot receive it unless we come to Jesus, as He requires, not as we think is appropriate. God makes the rules, not us. He requires the combination of faith and works to prove we are truly His people. Have you given everything over to Him? Are you holding back part of your heart that is reserved for sin? Sin is the transgression [breaking] of God’s law. (I John 3: 4.) If we have not given all to the Lord, our whole heart, mind, and soul, we have given nothing at all. We cannot be partially God’s and partially of the world. We cannot let our ideas and desires dictate to us the path we will follow, for that path will lead to destruction. God is bringing an end to war and injustice, and the case of each human being alive today will very soon be brought to final judgment. Will you give all to Jesus today? Will you submit to His authority and work with His grace to transform your life? Will Jesus say to you in the judgment, “Well done faithful servant,” or will He say, “Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness”? The court is being seated and the Ancient of Days is ready to look through the books to see who will be called by His Name. Where will you be found?
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