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To many minds the origin of sin and the reason for its existence are a source
of great perplexity. They see the work of evil, with its terrible results of woe and
desolation, and they question how all this can exist under the sovereignty of One
who is infinite in wisdom, in power, and in love. Here is a mystery of which they
find no explanation. And in their uncertainty and doubt they are blinded to truths
plainly revealed in God’s word and essential to salvation. There are those who, in
their inquiries concerning the existence of sin, endeavor to search into that which
God has never revealed; hence they find no solution of their difficulties; and such
as are actuated by a disposition to doubt and cavil seize upon this as an excuseIllustration - Ebook cover - The Great Controversy - text
for rejecting the words of Holy Writ. Others, however, fail of a satisfactory
understanding of the great problem of evil, from the fact that tradition and
misinterpretation have obscured the teaching of the Bible concerning the
character of God, the nature of His government, and the principles of His dealing
with sin.
It is impossible to explain the origin of sin so as to give a reason for its
existence. Yet enough may be understood concerning both the origin and the
final disposition of sin to make fully manifest the justice and benevolence of God
in all His dealings with evil. Nothing is more plainly taught in Scripture than that
God was in no wise responsible for the entrance of sin; that there was no
arbitrary withdrawal of divine grace, no deficiency in the divine government, that
gave occasion for the uprising of rebellion. Sin is an intruder, for whose presence
no reason can be given. It is mysterious, unaccountable; to excuse it is to defend
it. Could excuse for it be found, or cause be shown for its existence, it would
cease to be sin. Our only definition of sin is that given in the word of God; it is
“the transgression of the law;” it is the outworking of a principle at war with the
great law of love which is the foundation of the divine government.
Before the entrance of evil there was peace and joy throughout the universe.
All was in perfect harmony with the Creator’s will. Love for God was supreme,
love for one another impartial. Christ the Word, the Only Begotten of God, was
one with the eternal Father, – one in nature, in character, and in purpose, – the
only being in all the universe that could enter into all the counsels and purposes
of God. By Christ the Father wrought in the creation of all heavenly beings. “By
Him were all things created, that are in heaven, . . . whether they be thrones, orIllustration - Ebook GC - The Origin of Evil - title -text - logo
dominions, or principalities, or powers” Colossians 1:16; and to Christ, equally
with the Father, all heaven gave allegiance.
The law of love being the foundation of the government of God, the happiness
of all created beings depended upon their perfect accord with its great principles
of righteousness. God desires from all His creatures the service of love–homage
that springs from an intelligent appreciation of His character. He takes no
pleasure in a forced allegiance, and to all He grants freedom of will, that they
may render Him voluntary service.
But there was one that chose to pervert this freedom. Sin originated with him,
who, next to Christ, had been most honored of God, and who stood highest in
power and glory among the inhabitants of Heaven. Before his fall, Lucifer was
first of the covering cherubs, holy and undefiled. “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; every precious stone was thy covering.” “Thou art the
anointed cherub that covereth; and I have set thee so; thou wast upon the holy
mountain of God; 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.” Ezekiel 28:12-15, 17.
Lucifer might have remained in favor with God, beloved and honored by all the
angelic host, exercising his noble powers to bless others and to glorify his Maker.
But, says the prophet, “Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast
corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness.” Ezekiel 28:12-15, 17. Little by
little, Lucifer came to indulge a desire for self-exaltation. “Thou hast set thine
heart as the heart of God.” “Thou hast said: . . . I will exalt my throne above the
stars of God; I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation.” “I will ascend
above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High.” Ezekiel 28:6; Isaiah
14:13, 14. Instead of seeking to make God supreme in the affections and
allegiance of his creatures, it was Lucifer’s endeavor to win their service and
homage to himself. And, coveting the honor which the infinite Father had
bestowed upon his Son, this prince of angels aspired to power which it was the
prerogative of Christ alone to wield.
All heaven had rejoiced to reflect the Creator’s glory and to show forth His
praise. And while God was thus honored, all had been peace and gladness. But
a note of discord now marred the celestial harmonies. The service and exaltation
of self, contrary to the Creator’s plan, awakened forebodings of evil in minds to
whom God’s glory was supreme. The heavenly councils pleaded with Lucifer.
The Son of God presented before him the greatness, the goodness, and the
justice of the Creator, and the sacred, unchanging nature of His law. God Himself
had established the order of heaven; and in departing from it, Lucifer would
dishonor his Maker, and bring ruin upon himself. But the warning, given in infinite
love and mercy, only aroused a spirit of resistance. Lucifer allowed jealousy of
Christ to prevail, and he became the more determined.
Pride in his own glory nourished the desire for supremacy. The high honors
conferred upon Lucifer were not appreciated as the gift of God and called forth no
gratitude to the Creator. He gloried in his brightness and exaltation, and aspired
to be equal with God. He was beloved and reverenced by the heavenly host.
Angels delighted to execute his commands, and he was clothed with wisdom and
glory above them all. Yet the Son of God was the acknowledged Sovereign of
heaven, one in power and authority with the Father. In all the councils of God,
Christ was a participant, while Lucifer was not permitted thus to enter into the
divine purposes. “Why,” questioned this mighty angel, “should Christ have the
supremacy? Why is He thus honored above Lucifer?”
Leaving his place in the immediate presence of God, Lucifer went forth to
diffuse the spirit of discontent among the angels. Working with mysterious
secrecy, and for a time concealing his real purpose under an appearance of
reverence for God, he endeavored to excite dissatisfaction concerning the laws
that governed heavenly beings, intimating that they imposed an unnecessary
restraint. Since their natures were holy, he urged that the angels should obey the
dictates of their own will. He sought to create sympathy for himself by
representing that God had dealt unjustly with him in bestowing supreme honor
upon Christ. He claimed that in aspiring to greater power and honor he was not
aiming at self-exaltation, but was seeking to secure liberty for all the inhabitants
of heaven, that by this means they might attain to a higher state of existence.
God in His great mercy bore long with Lucifer. He was not immediately
degraded from his exalted station when he first indulged the spirit of discontent,
nor even when he began to present his false claims before the loyal angels. Long
was he retained in heaven. Again and again he was offered pardon on condition
of repentance and submission. Such efforts as only infinite love and wisdom
could devise were made to convince him of his error. The spirit of discontent had
never before been known in heaven. Lucifer himself did not at first see whither he
was drifting; he did not understand the real nature of his feelings. But as his
dissatisfaction was proved to be without cause, Lucifer was convinced that he
was in the wrong, that the divine claims were just, and that he ought to
acknowledge them as such before all heaven. Had he done this, he might have
saved himself and many angels. He had not at this time fully cast off his
allegiance to God. Though he had forsaken his position as covering cherub, yet if
he had been willing to return to God, acknowledging the Creator’s wisdom, and
satisfied to fill the place appointed him in God’s great plan, he would have been
reinstated in his office. But pride forbade him to submit. He persistently defended
his own course, maintained that he had no need of repentance, and fully
committed himself, in the great controversy, against his Maker.
All the powers of his master mind were now bent to the work of deception, to
secure the sympathy of the angels that had been under his command. Even the
fact that Christ had warned and counseled him was perverted to serve his
traitorous designs. To those whose loving trust bound them most closely to him,
Satan had represented that he was wrongly judged, that his position was not
respected, and that his liberty was to be abridged. From misrepresentation of the
words of Christ he passed to prevarication and direct falsehood, accusing the
Son of God of a design to humiliate him before the inhabitants of heaven. He
sought also to make a false issue between himself and the loyal angels. All
whom he could not subvert and bring fully to his side he accused of indifference
to the interests of heavenly beings. The very work which he himself was doing he
charged upon those who remained true to God. And to sustain his charge of
God’s injustice toward him, he resorted to misrepresentation of the words and
acts of the Creator. It was his policy to perplex the angels with subtle arguments
concerning the purposes of God. Everything that was simple he shrouded in
mystery, and by artful perversion cast doubt upon the plainest statements of
Jehovah. His high position, in such close connection with the divine
administration, gave greater force to his representations, and many were induced
to unite with him in rebellion against Heaven’s authority.
God in His wisdom 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. Lucifer, as
the anointed cherub, had been highly exalted; he was greatly loved by the
heavenly beings, and his influence over them was strong. God’s government
included not only the inhabitants of heaven, but of all the worlds that He had
created; and Satan thought that if he could carry the angels of heaven with him in
rebellion, he could carry also the other worlds. He had artfully presented his side
of the question, employing sophistry and fraud to secure his objects. His power to
deceive was very great, and by disguising himself in a cloak of falsehood he had
gained an advantage. Even the loyal angels could not fully discern his character
or see to what his work was leading.
Satan had been so highly honored, and all his acts were so clothed with
mystery, that it was difficult to disclose to the angels the true nature of his work.
Until fully developed, sin would not appear the evil thing it was. Heretofore it had
had no place in the universe of God, and holy beings had no conception of its
nature and malignity. They could not discern the terrible consequences that
would result from setting aside the divine law. Satan had, at first, concealed his
work under a specious profession of loyalty to God. He claimed to be seeking to
promote the honor of God, the stability of His government, and the good of all the
inhabitants of heaven. While instilling discontent into the minds of the angels
under him, he had artfully made it appear that he was seeking to remove
dissatisfaction. When he urged that changes be made in the order and laws of
God’s government, it was under the pretense that these were necessary in order
to preserve harmony in heaven.
In His dealing with sin, God could employ only righteousness and truth. Satan
could use what God could not – flattery and deceit. He had sought to falsify the
word of God and had misrepresented His plan of government before the angels,
claiming that God was not just in laying laws and rules upon the inhabitants of
heaven; that in requiring submission and obedience from His creatures, He was
seeking merely the exaltation of Himself. Therefore it must be demonstrated
before the inhabitants of heaven, as well as of all the worlds, that God’s
government was 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 law and 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 it was necessary that he should demonstrate the
nature of his claims, and 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
Even when it was decided that he could no longer remain in heaven, Infinite
Wisdom did not destroy Satan. Since the service of love can alone 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 other worlds, being
unprepared to comprehend the nature or consequences of sin, could not then
have seen the justice and mercy of God in the destruction of Satan. Had he been
immediately blotted from existence, they 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. Evil must
be permitted to come to maturity. For the good of the entire universe through
ceaseless ages Satan must more fully develop his principles, that his charges
against the divine government might be seen in their true light by all created
beings, that the justice and mercy of God and the immutability of His law might
forever be 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 and terrible results of sin. 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 and His law 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 intelligences, to prevent them from being deceived
as to the nature of transgression, to save them from committing sin and suffering
its punishments.
To the very close of the controversy in heaven the great usurper continued to
justify himself. When it was announced that with all his sympathizers he must be
expelled from the abodes of bliss, then the rebel leader boldly avowed his
contempt for the Creator’s law. He reiterated his claim that angels needed no
control, but should be left to follow their own will, which would ever guide them
right. He denounced the divine statutes as a restriction of their liberty and
declared that it was his purpose to secure the abolition of law; that, freed from
this restraint, the hosts of heaven might enter upon a more exalted, more glorious
state of existence.
With one accord, Satan and his host threw the blame of their rebellion wholly
upon Christ, declaring that if they had not been reproved, they would never have
rebelled. Thus stubborn and defiant in their disloyalty, seeking vainly to overthrow
the government of God, yet blasphemously claiming to be themselves the
innocent victims of oppressive power, the archrebel and all his sympathizers
were at last banished from heaven.
The same spirit that prompted rebellion in heaven still inspires rebellion on
earth. Satan has continued with men the same policy which he pursued with the
angels. His spirit now reigns in the children of disobedience. Like him they seek
to break down the restraints of the law of God and promise men liberty through
transgression of its precepts. Reproof of sin still arouses the spirit of hatred and
resistance. When God’s messages of warning are brought home to the
conscience, Satan leads men to justify themselves and to seek the sympathy of
others in their course of sin. Instead of correcting their errors, they excite
indignation against the reprover, as if he were the sole cause of difficulty. From
the days of righteous Abel to our own time such is the spirit which has been
displayed toward those who dare to condemn sin.
By the same misrepresentation of the character of God as he had practiced in
heaven, causing Him to be regarded as severe and tyrannical, Satan induced
man to sin. And having succeeded thus far, he declared that God’s unjust
restrictions had led to man’s fall, as they had led to his own rebellion.
But the Eternal One Himself proclaims His character: “The Lord God, merciful
and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy
for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no
means clear the guilty.” Exodus 34:6, 7.
In the banishment of Satan from heaven, God declared His justice and
maintained the honor of His throne. But when man had sinned through yielding to
the deceptions of this apostate spirit, God gave an evidence of His love by
yielding up His only-begotten Son to die for the fallen race. In the atonement the
character of God is revealed. The mighty argument of the cross demonstrates to
the whole universe that the course of sin which Lucifer had chosen was in no
wise chargeable upon the government of God.
In the contest between Christ and Satan, during the Saviour’s earthly ministry,
the character of the great deceiver was unmasked. Nothing could so effectually
have uprooted Satan from the affections of the heavenly angels and the whole
loyal universe as did his cruel warfare upon the world’s Redeemer. The daring
blasphemy of his demand that Christ should pay him homage, his presumptuous
boldness in bearing Him to the mountain summit and the pinnacle of the temple,
the malicious intent betrayed in urging Him to cast Himself down from the dizzy
height, the unsleeping malice that hunted Him from place to place, inspiring the
hearts of priests and people to reject His love, and at the last to cry, “Crucify Him!
crucify Him!”; all this excited the amazement and indignation of the universe.
It was Satan that prompted the world’s rejection of Christ. The prince of evil
exerted all his power and cunning to destroy Jesus; for he saw that the Saviour’s
mercy and love, His compassion and pitying tenderness, were representing to
the world the character of God. Satan contested every claim put forth by the Son
of God and employed men as his agents to fill the Saviour’s life with suffering and
sorrow. The sophistry and falsehood by which he had sought to hinder the work
of Jesus, the hatred manifested through the children of disobedience, his cruel
accusations against Him whose life was one of unexampled goodness, all sprang
from deep-seated revenge. The pent-up fires of envy and malice, hatred and
revenge, burst forth on Calvary against the Son of God, while all heaven gazed
upon the scene in silent horror.
When the great sacrifice had been consummated, Christ ascended on high,
refusing the adoration of angels until He had presented the request: “I will that
they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am.” John 17:24. Then
with inexpressible love and power came forth the answer from the Father’s
throne: “Let all the angels of God worship Him.” Hebrews 1:6. Not a stain rested
upon Jesus. His humiliation ended, His sacrifice completed, there was given unto
Him a name that is above every name.
Now the guilt of Satan stood forth without excuse. He had revealed his true
character as a liar and a murderer. It was seen that the very same spirit with
which he ruled the children of men, who were under his power, he would have
manifested had he been permitted to control the inhabitants of heaven. He had
claimed that the transgression of God’s law would bring liberty and exaltation; but
it was seen to result in bondage and degradation.
Satan’s lying charges against the divine character and government appeared
in their true light. He had accused God of seeking merely the exaltation of
Himself in requiring submission and obedience from His creatures, and had
declared that, while the Creator exacted self-denial from all others, He Himself
practiced no self-denial and made no sacrifice. Now it was seen that for the
salvation of a fallen and sinful race, the Ruler of the universe had made the
greatest sacrifice which love could make; for “God was in Christ, reconciling the
world unto Himself.” 2 Corinthians 5:19. It was seen, also, that while Lucifer had
opened the door for the entrance of sin by his desire for honor and supremacy,
Christ had, in order to destroy sin, humbled Himself and become obedient unto
God had manifested His abhorrence of the principles of rebellion. All heaven
saw His justice revealed, both in the condemnation of Satan and in the
redemption of man. Lucifer had declared that if the law of God was changeless,
and its penalty could not be remitted, every transgressor must be forever
debarred from the Creator’s favor. He had claimed that the sinful race were
placed beyond redemption and were therefore his rightful prey. But the death of
Christ was an argument in man’s behalf that could not be overthrown. The
penalty of the law fell upon Him who was equal with God, and man was free to
accept the righteousness of Christ and by a life of penitence and humiliation to
triumph, as the Son of God had triumphed, over the power of Satan. Thus God is
just and yet the justifier of all who believe in Jesus.
But it was not merely to accomplish the redemption of man that Christ came to
the earth to suffer and to die. He came to “magnify the law” and to “make it
honorable.” Not alone that the inhabitants of this world might regard the law as it
should be regarded; but it was to demonstrate to all the worlds of the universe
that God’s law is unchangeable. Could its claims have been set aside, then the
Son of God need not have yielded up His life to atone for its transgression. The
death of Christ proves it immutable. And the sacrifice to which infinite love
impelled the Father and the Son, that sinners might be redeemed, demonstrates
to all the universe–what nothing less than this plan of atonement could have
sufficed to do – that justice and mercy are the foundation of the law and
government of God.
In the final execution of the judgment it will be seen that no cause for sin
exists. When the Judge of all the earth shall demand of Satan, “Why hast thou
rebelled against Me, and robbed Me of the subjects of My kingdom?” the
originator of evil can render no excuse. Every mouth will be stopped, and all the
hosts of rebellion will be speechless.
The cross of Calvary, while it declares the law immutable, proclaims to the
universe that the wages of sin is death. In the Saviour’s expiring cry, “It is
finished,” the death knell of Satan was rung. The great controversy which had
been so long in progress was then decided, and the final eradication of evil was
made certain. The Son of God passed through the portals of the tomb, that
“through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the
devil.” Hebrews 2:14. Lucifer’s desire for self-exaltation had led him to say: “I will
exalt my throne above the stars of God: . . . I will be like the Most High.” God
declares: “I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth, . . . and never shalt thou be
any more.” Isaiah 14:13, 14; Ezekiel 28:18, 19. When “the day cometh, that
shall burn as an oven;. . . .all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be
stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts, that
it shall leave them neither root nor branch.” Malachi 4:1.
The whole universe will have become witnesses to the nature and results of
sin. And its utter extermination, which in the beginning would have brought fear to
angels and dishonor to God, will now vindicate His love and establish His honor
before the universe of beings who delight to do His will, and in whose heart is His
law. Never will evil again be manifest. Says the word of God: “Affliction shall not
rise up the second time.” Nahum 1:9. The law of God, which Satan has
reproached as the yoke of bondage, will be honored as the law of liberty. A
tested and proved creation will never again be turned from allegiance to Him
whose character has been fully manifested before them as fathomless love and
infinite wisdom.

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