The Cosmic Conflict
Finding our place in God’s scheme of things
By Aleta Bainbridge
Story is heart language. We never grow too old to enjoy a good story. We can learn important lessons and find answers to the big questions of life in a story. Most of the world’s grandest stories show the tension between good and evil, appearing as two powerful forces in continual opposition to each other. Whenever good triumphs over evil, the knots in our stomach relax and we stop biting our fingernails.
The Bible takes us to the origins of this great conflict between good and evil and introduces the personalities responsible for them. It opens a window through which we can view the struggle in the context of cosmic reality. It deepens our understanding of the issues involved. It does not set out to explain evil any more than it sets out to prove God. It simply tells the story of how evil began, how it operates, and how it will end.
Goodness, on the other hand, has no beginning and no end because it emanates from God, who simply is (Ex. 3:14). He is the Sovereign Creator of the universe and the very essence of love (Jer. 32:17; 1 John 4:7, 8).
The Bible story of evil begins in heaven, the home of God and the angels. It begins in a universe devoid of evil, inhabited by noble beings created in the image of God, each one functioning fully and freely in perfect harmony with love’s laws. The lead angel of this dynamic and efficient universe is Lucifer, a being of flawless perfection.
There is something we need to grasp before we can proceed with the story. God endows each intelligent being He creates with the ability to reason and make choices. It is only in this way that they are able to develop their full potential as individuals and have unique relationships both with their Creator and their fellow beings.
God knew that this highly prized gift of free will carries a fearsome risk: the possibility that one day someone would make the wrong choice and plunge the universe into the chaos of lawlessness. However, God, in being true to Himself, cannot permit outcomes to dictate His actions. Rather, He acts according to His honest intentions. If He adjusted His actions to bring about the outcome He desired, this would make Him a dictator manipulating events to suit His own ends.
The Mystery of Iniquity
All humanity is now involved in a great controversy between Christ and Satan regarding the character of God, His law, and His sovereignty over the universe. This conflict originated in heaven when a created being, endowed with freedom of choice, in self-exaltation became Satan, God’s adversary, and led into rebellion a portion of the angels. He introduced the spirit of rebellion into this world when he led Adam and Eve into sin. This human sin resulted in the distortion of the image of God in humanity, the disordering of the created world, and its eventual devastation at the time of the worldwide flood. Observed by the whole creation, this world became the arena of the universal conflict, out of which the God of love will ultimately be vindicated. To assist His people in this controversy, Christ sends the Holy Spirit and the loyal angels to guide, protect, and sustain them in the way of salvation. (Rev. 12:4-9; Isa. 14:12-14; Eze. 28:12-18; Gen. 3; Rom. 1:19-32; 5:12-21; 8:19-22; Gen. 6-8; 2 Peter 3:6; 1 Cor. 4:9; Heb. 1:14.)Listen to God’s heartrending lament of Lucifer’s defection. “How!” He wails, “How did you come to do it? How did you find it in your heart to make that dreadful choice, O morning star, my son of the dawn? I anointed you, I ordained you to stand at my throne, to work at my side. You were my beloved, the model of perfection. How did you allow your heart to be filled with violence? How did you sink so low?” (paraphrased from Isa. 14:12-15; Eze. 28:14, 15)
The birth of evil is totally unreasonable; it is as inexplicable as it is inexcusable.
The Bible gives us a hint of its root cause: “Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor” (Eze. 28:17, NIV).* Satan replaced God with self on the throne of his heart. He became jealous of God’s Son and eventually coveted God’s throne. He deceived one third of the angels and, now known as Satan, the adversary, brought false accusations against God before the entire universe. Rebellion ripened into war, and he and his angels were expelled from heaven (Rev. 12:7-9).
He brought the spirit of rebellion to this newly created earth, and when he succeeded in causing Adam and Eve to disobey God, he claimed the earth as his (see Job 1:6, 7). God permitted him to style himself “prince of this world” (John 14:30, NIV). This was the beginning of evil’s reign of terror on our beautiful blue planet, which became the virtual reality show for the entire universe (1 Cor. 4:9).
While we know about the origins of this conflict, we sense its presence each day in our hearts. In fact, the whole meaning of human life revolves around this battle.
In the mid-nineteenth century God opened to a new generation a window that shed clear light onto the truths of His Word and the issues of the great cosmic war that in its final phases would become terrifyingly fierce. The people who were called to proclaim this special end-time message to “every nation, tribe, tongue, and people” (Rev. 14:6) adopted a name that crystallizes the main issues of the controversy between God and Satan in two words.
The accusations Satan made against God revolved around God’s character, His law and governance, and His sovereignty. By worshipping God on the seventh-day Sabbath, His people proclaim their allegiance to God as the rightful ruler of the universe, their Creator and Redeemer.
At the end of Creation week God celebrated His complete and perfect work of creation by instituting a holy monument in time, the seventh-day Sabbath (Gen. 2:1-3). It was a reminder to all people of all times that He alone, as our Creator, is worthy of worship. Then, at the hinge of time, on a Friday afternoon, God’s Son died for the sins of the world. We see the mighty opposing forces standing side by side at the cross—love and selfishness. Their intentions are quite clear. Selfishness will go to any lengths to destroy us. Love will go to any lengths to save us. God’s life is the full ransom price for all people (1 Tim. 2:6). And again God rested on the Sabbath to remind us that, as our Redeemer, He alone deserves our allegiance.
Adventist is a word that trumpets hope for a doomed world. The God we worship is a God who “comes” to us. He does not remain at a safe distance while we suffer in this land of the enemy. We are told that at the perfect moment in time (Gal. 4:4-6) “the Word became flesh” (John 1:14) and came to earth to share the lot of mortal human beings.
He will come a second time as “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Rev. 19:11-16). He will snatch us from the grave and from a mortal, sinful existence and take us to His heavenly home so that we can be healed of our war wounds and battle scars.
His return means the eradication of every trace of sin, a new creation (Rev. 22:1), and an eternal reign as undisputed Sovereign of the universe. The redeemed will live with Him in peace and harmony eternally. The story of Good and evil begins with perfection and ends with perfection. It’s absolutely the best story of all times.
*Texts credited to NIV are from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Aleta Bainbridge is Partners in Ministry coordinator for the Greater Sydney Conference, Australia, and works closely with her husband, Garth, who is ministerial secretary. She is wife of one, mother of four, and grandmother of eight.