When we considered the marvels of creation which point to an all-wise and all-powerful Creator, we called these evidences "The Footprints of God." In this lesson we are going to study the other side of the picture, for the world abounds with "footprints" of a vastly different kind! Consider these examples: Fear, pain, poverty, waste, filth, ugliness, cruelty, accidents, hatred, war, disease, death.
Are these the footprints of God? If not, whose footprints are they? And why are they present in a world that is supposed to be governed by a wise and loving God?
Does the Bible shed any light on these questions? It certainly does. It explains how evil began, why God has permitted evil, and how it will end. The Bible's answer is concentrated in two verses found in the 13th chapter of Matthew.
Verse 28: "An enemy hath done this."
Verse 39: "The enemy is the devil!"
The Bible traces all the evil in the world to a malignant, super-human personality called the Devil, or Satan, who was originally created as a perfect angel, but fell from his high position, and now lives in a state of hardened rebellion against God.
1. The History of Satan Here is a brief summary of the Bible's history of Satan:
- Lucifer created perfect (Ezek. 28:12-15).
- Lucifer's heart lifted up (Ezek. 28:17).
- Coveted the throne of God (Isa. 14:12-14).
- Lied about God. Deceived angels (John 8:44).
- War in Heaven. Lucifer cast out (Rev. 12:7-9).
- Invaded this world. Usurped man's kingdom (Gen. 3:1-6; I John 5:19).
- Final victory over evil promised (Gen. 3:15).
- Satan's doom sealed at Calvary (John 12:31).
- Great wrath in last days. Knows he has only a short time (Rev. 12:12).
- Arrested and chained for 1,000 years (Rev. 20:1-3).
- Destroyed in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:10).
2. The Mystery of Satan\
The mystery of Satan can be summed up in four puzzling questions:
(a) How could a perfect, sinless angel become a devil?
Answer: Lucifer made himself into a devil by the wrong use of his freewill. There was no external tempter. He became his own tempter. Honoured and loved by God and his companions, with every incentive to do right and with no excuse for sinning, Lucifer chose to withdraw his affections from God and focus them upon himself. Little by little, by welcoming these selfish thoughts and repeating these selfish actions, he at length became infatuated with himself. His whole existence became self-centered instead of God-centered. He came to live in one narrow dimension. Thus, by a long succession of selfish choices, Lucifer, the Archangel, debased himself into Satan, the Devil.
(b) Why didn't God make Lucifer without freewill, so that he could not sin?
Answer: God could have made Lucifer without freewill like a piece of clockwork, a puppet, or a machine. In this case, Lucifer would have been incapable of choosing evil, but he would also have been incapable of choosing good. Voluntary worship and obedience, and the development of character, would have been impossible. God did not want mechanical angels, any more than we would want mechanical children. God wanted beings who could give Him spontaneous, chosen love and affection. This could be possible only among creatures endowed with freewill.
(c) Why didn't God kill Lucifer at the very beginning of his sin?
Answer: If God had done this. He would have nipped Lucifer's sin in the bud, but He would have been misunderstood by the other angels. No satisfying explanation of sin and its consequences could have been given to them at that early stage. They loved and trusted Lucifer, and his sudden and unexplained disappearance would have given rise to uneasiness, suspicion, and alarm. Other angels would have asked: "Who will be the next to disappear without explanation?" God would have killed one rebel, but He would have aggravated the spirit of distrust and discontent. So He chose the wiser course to give sin time to grow, like a seed, and produce its own baleful harvest. Thus Lucifer would publicly expose his true character and condemn himself.
(d) When Satan is finally destroyed, can we be sure that sin will never rise up again?
Answer: Yes, we can be absolutely sure. At the final judgment day, when Satan is about to be cast into the lake of fire, the universe will be in a totally different position from what it was at the beginning. Then, sin was a masked intruder a dark, inscrutable mystery and even God could not fully explain its nature or consequences. But at the judgment day, the universe will have seen sin develop, mature, produce its fearful harvest, and thus unmask itself.
Every question concerning the love and justice of God will have been finally answered. Every false accusation of Satan's will have been successfully met. Every shadow of suspicion will have been allayed. Every doubt will have been dispelled. Sin will have given birth to its own antidote Calvary's Cross and Calvary will have proved the monstrous cruelty of Satan, on the one hand, and the boundless love of God on the other.
Because of this public demonstration of the true nature of sin, in stark contrast with the true nature of God, the universe will be forever secure.
3. The Mastery of Satan
One question remains to be answered an urgent, personal question: "What about us? Has God left us to fight the battle with Satan single-handed?"
We have been born without option into a world where Satan is master. What chance have we got against such a crafty, super-human foe? Are we just helpless pawns on the Devil's chessboard?
No, thank God! He has provided us with a supernatural armour which makes us impregnable against the assaults of Satan.
Eph. 6:10-17: "The whole armour of God."
Luke 10:19: "Over all the power of the enemy."
1 John 4:4: "Greater is He that is in you."
In view of what we have learned in this lesson, our deepest concern should be: "Have we got the armor on? The whole armor? Have we availed ourselves to the full of God's provision?"
No Christian author has written more wisely or positively on this subject of personal victory over Satan than Ellen G. White, in her well-known book, The Desire of Ages. Her words are worth memorizing:
"There are Christians who think and speak altogether too much about the power of Satan. They think of their adversary, they pray about him, they talk about him, and he looms up greater and greater in their imagination. It is true that Satan is a powerful being; but thank God, we have a mighty saviour, who cast out the evil one from heaven. Satan is pleased when we magnify his power. Why not talk of Jesus? Why not magnify His power and His love?" (p. 493). Revelation 12:11 says, "And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony."
Frank Breaden writes from Australia.