So, what does the great controversy between Christ and Satan have to do with the sanctuary? Does the sanctuary really help us understand the battle between good and evil? If we believe that this conflict began in heaven and that God’s true sanctuary is in heaven, then we will see this connection as we study the themes of the sanctuary service.
We will also see that pride was Lucifer’s original sin and that his primary strategy in winning the battle has always been to misrepresent God’s character before the universe. Can the sanctuary clear up our misconceptions about God?
Memory Text: “And I heard another out of the altar say, Even so Lord God Almighty, true and righteous are thy judgments” Revelation 16:7 KJV
This verse comes to us in the middle of the seven last plagues. God has been blasphemed all along and He’s finally triumphing over His enemies. God will ultimately be seen by all as a righteous judge.
Notice the words “out of the altar”, alluding to the sanctuary in heaven we studied previously. A few verses before this we find in Revelation 15:8, “And the temple was filled with smoke from the glory of God, and from his power; and no man was able to enter into the temple, till the seven plagues of the seven angels were fulfilled.” KJV More sanctuary language.
We have seen that the main lesson to be learned from the sanctuary is the story of the redemption of mankind through the death of Jesus Christ. But how does that fit in with the meta-narrative–the overarching story that explains our world?
Sunday: Revolt in the Heavenly Sanctuary
There are two key Bible passages that are used to explain the origin of evil–Ezekiel 28:12-17 and Isaiah 14:12-15. I’ve wondered if all Christians saw these verses as descriptions of Satan, because it appears that the king of Tyre is the subject of Ezekiel’s prophecy and that the doom of Babylon might be spoken of in the book of Isaiah.
Just what is it about these verses that has some Christians, and not just Adventists, convinced that Satan is actually described here and that the location of the troublesome event is the heavenly sanctuary?
First, Ezekiel 28:12-17 says:
“Son of man, take up a lamentation upon the king of Tyrus, and say unto him, Thus saith the Lord God; Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty.
“Thou hast been in Eden the garden of God [where Satan tempted Adam and Eve]; every precious stone was thy covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold [similar to the precious stones on the high priest’s breastplate]: the workmanship of thy tabrets and of thy pipes was prepared in thee in the day that thou wast created.
“Thou are the anointed cherub that covereth [as over the ark of the covenant in the Most Holy Place–Lev. 37:7-9]; and I have set thee so: thou was upon the holy mountain of God [obviously in heaven itself where God dwells]; thou hast walked up and down in the midst of the stones of fire. Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee.
By the multitude of thy merchandise [other versions call it ‘abundance of your trade’–in other words, he was trying to ‘sell’ his ideas to the other angels] they have filled the midst of thee with violence, and thou hast sinned: therefore I will cast thee as profane out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire [a violent battle seems to take place, with Satan cast out of heaven].
“Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty[pride definitely played a part in Lucifer, or Satan’s, fall], thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness: I will cast thee to the ground, I will lay thee before kings, that they may behold thee.”
And now to take a peek at Isaiah 14:12-15:
“How art thou fallen from heaven [from heaven to earth, indicating a supernatural, rather than an earthly, origin], O Lucifer, son of the morning [Lucifer means ‘lightbearer’]! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!
For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north:
I will ascend above the heights of the clouds: I will be like the most High [the same pride as we saw in Ezekiel 28].
Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit [showing a future second fall for Lucifer, from earth to Sheol, or the grave].”
Discussion Questions: If Lucifer was created a perfect being, why was it possible for him to sin? What are the implications of having moral freedom throughout the universe? How does it reflect on the kind of God we have?
Monday: The Accusations
After Satan’s fall from heaven, he continued his campaign to slander God’s character, but His territory was limited to this newly created earth. Unfortunately, Adam and Eve soon fell for his devious lies about God, and a plan of salvation, not just for our earth, but for the entire universe, kicked into operation.
Job 1:6-12 reveals this fallen being called Satan appearing before God in heaven, “when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord”. Their dialogue ends with Satan accusing God of protecting Job so much that his righteous behavior is not motivated by love, but by selfishly receiving all the blessings God has given him.
We know the story of how God took the challenge and allowed trials to almost overcome His servant, but with Job remaining firm and true to his faith, proclaiming “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” Job 13:15 NKJV
Another time when God was put to the test by Satan was in Zechariah 3:1-5, when Satan resisted the qualifications of Joshua, the high priest. God came to his defense by asserting that “Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?” v. 2
In both of these instances, God was really the one Satan was accusing. But Satan had a valid reason to question Job and Joshua’s service. There are several reasons for us to “be good”:
- to escape punishment
- for the reward of eternal life
- out of gratitude for what God has done for us
Our choice of these three are critical for God to be able to stand up to Satan’s accusations.
Discussion Question: How can God be both loving and just? Why is it so vital that He is? What does this have to do with God’s character, especially in relation to the law of God?
Tuesday: Vindication at the Cross
Since God’s justice demands a penalty for sin, and His love demands a way to restore humanity if they are willing, so God fulfilled both requirements by Jesus’ death on the cross. His justice and love were both evident in the sacrifice made at Calvary.
It’s easy to see the love of God through Jesus’ death on the cross, and it’s wonderful and necessary to bask in that love often. But there is another attribute of our Savior we might overlook, and that is His justice. God Himself would bear the punishment that His own justice demanded. What an amazing and just provision for our redemption!
Discussion Questions: How did the cross become the turning point for Satan? How did it seal his fate, and could it account for his being restricted to this planet now and not having access to the heavenly courts any more, like he did in Old Testament times?
Wednesday: Vindication in the Judgment
In addition to getting some vindication at the cross, God will get further and complete vindication at the judgment. This judgment isn’t just for us, or for Satan and his fallen angels. The whole universe is waiting to hear the verdict on God’s character. He has allowed everyone the ability to see that He is both loving and just, and that we are better off following Him than when we follow Satan.
And that’s why there is an open-book investigation taking place.
- The first phase has already begun, with the heavenly angels being allowed to see and question the evidence in the pre-Advent judgment.
- The next phase of judgment will be for the righteous, who are taken to heaven at His second coming, to see the books during the millennial judgment in heaven.
- And the final phase, after the thousand years, will be for the unsaved, as they witness the majesty of the Holy City coming down, and realize that their efforts to take the city are fruitless and their fate is sealed. (See Revelation 21:2, 8.)
Some verses in Philippians 2:9-11 describe this vindication for Jesus at the final phase:
“Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven [the unfallen angels in the rest of the universe], and things in earth [all humanity, even the unsaved], and things under the earth [Satan and the fallen angels (thought to be one third of the heavenly host, see Rev. 12:4)]; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” KJV
Discussion Questions: If everyone will acknowledge His authority and kingship at the final day, why is it still necessary to destroy the wicked? Why isn’t belief and even the admission of God’s majesty enough to save us?
Thursday: The Cosmic Spectacle
Jesus invited us to “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). But the truth of the matter is that we are not just performing, or shining, for those around us here on this earth. There are countless unfallen beings in the universe who are watching the drama of our world unfold. And our individual lives can bring glory or shame to God.
If you think this cosmic spectacle is just something a mother invented to get her child to behave, you can read about it in the Bible. For example:
“…for we are made a spectacle unto the world, and to angels, and to men.” I Corinthians 4:9
“…whilst ye were made a gazingstock both by reproaches and afflictions…” Hebrews 10:33
God’s plan to vindicate His name through ancient Israel included taking out their stony hearts and giving them a new heart by the power of His Holy Spirit. See Ezekiel 36:23-27.
Discussion Question: David prayed that God would not cast him away from His presence or take the Holy Spirit away from him (Psalm 51:11). Why is the Holy Spirit so important in our lives?
Thought Question: What kind of spectacle does my life present to other people and to angels?
Next Week: Exhortations From the Sanctuary