The Great Controversy: The Foundation
Introduction: Welcome to a new series of studies that will give us a better "big picture" understanding of our God. Often, Christians intensely debate relatively unimportant things like what they should eat or wear, or some small point of doctrine. If your life span is shortened by twenty years because of your diet, that is terrible, but not as terrible as missing out on eternal life. While I think we should measure everything we do by the teachings of the Bible, having a clear understanding on the big picture is our first order of business. No one would begin studying how the body worked by critically examining a finger nail. Let's start our examination of the big picture by diving into our Bible and seeing what we can learn about how sin entered our world!
- Read Genesis 2:15-16. The fruit of this tree was not poison. Why would God create a tree that was off-limits to Adam? What difference would it make what tree was the source of Adam's food? (God was creating a test for humans.)
- Three questions: First, why create a test? Second, if you are going to create a test, why make it about trees and food? Why not structure a test about loving God, doing some great deed, or rescuing an animal?
- A large number of people disbelieve the Eden story. If a human were making this up, is this the test a human would create? (No. If you have ever read fiction about humans being tested, it always involves some grand challenge of human strength, intelligence or skill. It is never about eating choices, unless the fictional story is intended to parallel the Biblical account.)
- Third question: When it comes to God's commands, is it ever safe to say, "That doesn't make any sense? Why would God care?"
- Read Genesis 3:1-3. How does the serpent (who is Satan, see Revelation 12:9) know about the test?
- God set up the test, but Satan is participating in the tree/fruit test. What does this tell us about whether Satan thought the test was valid? (He seems to have agreed that it is valid.)
- What do you think would have happened if Satan disagreed with the validity of this test? (He would not have used it. He would have argued that the test did not give a fair opportunity for humans to choose Satan over God.)
- What does Satan's knowledge of the test, the unusual nature of this test, and the fact that Satan apparently agreed that the test was valid suggest? (It seems likely that if both agreed that this was the way to test the loyalty of humans, that either God set up a test that Satan thought was fair, or Satan and God had extensive negotiations over the nature of the test.)
- Read Genesis 3:4. What is the nature of Satan's temptation? (This temptation is about trusting God. Consider how a "what difference does it make?" test raises the trust issue.)
- Look at this from Satan's point of view. What disadvantages do you have with this test? (It is a limited time, place, and subject test. Plus, the humans have been specifically warned.)
- Why can't Satan approach the humans at any time, in any place, and with any temptation?
- Notice that Satan both stated the command and asked Eve to repeat what God said. Why would he do that if he wanted Eve to eat the fruit? (Eating the fruit was not the goal, showing that humans knowingly distrusted and disobeyed God was the goal.)
- What does this test, and the way that Satan approached this test, tell us about the nature of temptation in our life? (God and Satan are in a contest for our loyalty. They both care about the outcome. God makes the final rules about the contest, but they are subject to some sort of boundaries (see Job 2:3-6). Satan is limited in the way that he can bring temptation to us.)
- Read Revelation 12:7-8. Where did the dispute between God and Satan begin? (In heaven.)
- In that dispute, did God have unfettered control over Satan? (No. It was a contest. It was war, a pitched battle.)
- The creation account says in Genesis chapter 1 that God created the world and the heavens by simply speaking. Since God has such overwhelming power, how do you account for a contested battle with Satan and his angels? (Either Satan and his angels are that powerful, or God limited the nature of the battle.)
- Let's imagine that China invaded the Republic of Taiwan, because China takes the position that Taiwan is part of China. The U.S., according to one web site I consulted, has about 5,000 nuclear warheads and China has about 240. Would the United States launch a full-scale atomic weapons attack on China? Or, would it more likely engage in a conventional war to protect its ally? (The world would be horrified if the U.S. destroyed China, killed its people and made its land uninhabitable. In addition, in such an exchange China might do great damage to the U.S. This shows that even humans would voluntarily limit the scope of a battle. It seems logical that is what God did in the heavenly battle against Satan and his angels.)
- Read Revelation 12:9. What penalty did God impose on Satan and the rebelling angels? (Defeat and banishment.)
- The Aftermath
- Read Revelation 12:10-12. Both Satan, fallen angels and humans have rebelled against God. How are the parties aligned after this? (God and humans are aligned.)
- What is the bad news for humans? (Satan is in the neighborhood, he is angry, on a deadline and he is accusing and threatening us. We could lose our life in the process.)
- What is the good news for humans? (We are not only aligned with the winner of the battle, but we can overcome Satan by the "blood of the Lamb" and the word of our testimony.)
- Notice that Satan is described as "the accuser of our brothers," and he does this constantly. What accusation is he making? (I'll bet it has to do with the fact that he and we have sinned.)
- What is our defense against this accusation? (The "blood of the Lamb!" This refers to Jesus' life, death and resurrection on our behalf. It refers to grace.)
- Notice that both the blood of the Lamb and the "word of our testimony" are our weapons. What does the "word of our testimony" mean? (Remember that we are being accused and threatened by Satan. The text reports that the righteous did not make living their ultimate goal. Our testimony must deal with these issues: grace and self-denial.)
- Now that we have added important big picture information from Revelation, let's go back to Genesis and look more carefully at some of the details. Read Genesis 3:11-13. If we are right about God negotiating with Satan the nature of the test, how would you have reacted to the results if you were God? (I would have been stunned that humans could so easily be defeated by Satan. I would have been angry with their pitiful defenses.)
- Was the test too hard? Are humans too stupid?
- God banished Satan and his angels. Did God treat Adam and Eve differently?
- If so, why? (Adam and Eve did not attack God. They failed God. They failed to trust Him.)
- Read Genesis 3:14-15. Now that humans have failed Him, what is God's battle plan? Is it to give humans another test? (It is more of a gift than a test. However, we do have to choose.)
- Has God's battle plan anything to do with how easily Satan defeated humans? (I think so. God says that in the new conflict between humans and Satan, humans will suffer, but Satan will die.)
- What does this teach us about God's attitude toward us? (He has shown us great mercy! He places limits on the attacks by Satan and his angels. Jesus did what we could not do. He gives eternal life as a gift.)
- Friend, what is your testimony in light of this study about how sin entered the world and what God did about it? If you have not chosen a side in this controversy, will you do it now? Will you be a winner or a loser?
- Next week: Revelation, and the God revealed in it. >