The background against which everything on this earth is being played out is the cosmic conflict between God and Satan, which Seventh-day Adventists call “The great controversy”. The gospel, or good news, is the story of how God is dealing with this conflict.
At the heart of the conflict is worship.
God calls us to worship Him because He is the Creator.
On the other hand, Satan’s ultimate objective is also to be worshipped, and he is willing to use force and deception to make intelligent beings worship him. He ignores the fact that to be worshipped requires that one be worthy of worship (Revelation 4:11).
When Lucifer rebelled, God faced the ultimate dilemma: If you give free will to all created intelligent beings and one of them uses his free will to rebel against you, persuading others to join his rebellion, what can you do to put down the rebellion without creating fear in the minds of the loyal ones?
How can Satan and rebellion be eliminated by love alone, without creating fear in heaven and on earth?
God really has only one course of action open to Him, and that is to allow every individual in the universe to decide whose side they are on, and then allow them, of their own free choice, either to give God full control of their lives and worship Him, or alternatively, to worship Satan as he demands.
When all have finally decided who they will worship, after seeing the results of Satan’s rebellion, and the sacrifice God has been willing to make to maintain the principle of rule by love, God can finally act without creating an atmosphere of fear. He can accede to the request of His loyal subjects when they unanimously ask Him to end this experiment with Satan’s form of government. At that point God will annihilate Satan and his followers (God’s “unusual act”, Isaiah 28: 21 NKJV), and His loyal subjects will not feel any sense of fear, but only of relief that the rebellion is over. They will love God because He has been willing to sacrifice so much to save people from the deadly effects of Satan’s rule.
This option takes time, and many individuals get hurt by Satan’s unscrupulous methods of fighting God. But ultimately it is the only way to save the universe and get things back on track. God will have in His new earth only those who are safe to have there, that is, those who will joyfully worship Him, and never, throughout eternity, choose to rebel and live selfishly again, but will in joyful loyalty to God, exercise dominion over the earth that He gave Adam and Eve before they allowed Satan to take it from them.
This is the course of action God chose to employ. He had put the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden as a means of allowing Adam and Eve to demonstrate which God/god they trusted and chose to worship. They believed Satan, so both of them accepted Satan’s rule rather than God’s.
When Adam and Eve realised the results of what they had done they wanted to return to God’s side, so God implemented His plan of salvation, which He had worked out ahead of time for just such a contingency. The history of this world is the story of how this cosmic conflict has played out on this planet. God has been giving humans the opportunity to return to allegiance to Him and to worship Him, while Satan has been trying to persuade humans to follow his rebellious lead and worship him. He has a third of the angels on his side to help him deceive humans and misrepresent God (Revelation 12:4), and he has usurped Adam’s dominion over the created world (Job 1:6,7 NLT).
The gospel is the good news, the story of how Jesus came to die for us so that we can worship God and live forever in God’s kingdom of love.
Most of the Bible is made up of various accounts of how God has worked throughout history to implement the plan of salvation, but the books of Daniel and Revelation focus particularly on the issues of the great conflict between God and Satan.
One of Satan’s greatest assets is that he can use deception to mislead us into false beliefs about God and about the whole plan of salvation. He is much smarter than we are, and without God’s special protection against his lies, we would all be deceived and end up on Satan’s side. But it is in the prophetic books of Daniel and Revelation that God draws back the curtain and reveals the truth about what Satan is doing. It is these books that tell us how Satan will try to deceive us in the last days of earth’s history, when he is desperately fighting for his life. He knows that the experiment with sin is almost over, so he is using his most persuasive deceptions to deceive people into believing they are on God’s side when in reality they are being set up to worship him (Satan).
Nothing is off-limits in Satan’s fight to be worshipped. There are two false beliefs that Satan knows will lead people ultimately to worship him: the immortality of the soul, and the false Sabbath. (Great Controversy, 588).
In Revelation chapter 14, and verses 6 to 12 we are told of three angels who have a message for the world in the end times:
1) The first angel calls people to worship God as Creator, and announces that He is about to judge the world. The time for finally dealing with rebellion has come (v6,7).
2) The second angel warns that Satan’s false system of worship, Babylon (confusion), is not of God, but of Satan, and has fallen under his power (v8).
3) The third angel warns against receiving the mark of Satan’s authority over our lives, and tells us that God will destroy those with that identifiable mark, which we believe will, at the end of time, be the keeping of the false Sabbath, the first day of the week (v9-11).
Satan hates those messages because they strike at the root of his false system of worship.
As noted earlier, Satan’s first lie was to tell Eve that she would not die if she disobeyed God, and he has been using his evil angels (impersonating the dead) ever since to make it appear that those who die are not really dead, but are living on in the spirit world. He says the soul is immortal, but the Bible says that God alone is immortal (1 Timothy 6:16), so every created living creature can die. The Bible tells us that when God’s people die, they sleep until the first resurrection at the second coming of Jesus (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). When those on Satan’s side die, they sleep until the second resurrection a thousand years after the second coming of Jesus (Revelation 20:5), when God’s kingdom ultimately destroys sin from the universe.
The key issue in the first angel’s message is that God is Creator, so Satan focuses his attack on the Sabbath because it reminds us of this fact. Satan, working through the beast power, set up the counterfeit Sabbath (Sunday) as the centrepiece of his attack on the worship of God. Just as the true Sabbath is God’s sign that He is our Creator God (Ezekiel 20:12,20), so the false Sabbath is the mark of the authority of the beast (controlled by Satan) who changed the Sabbath to Sunday.
In the end times, God wants us to know where He is leading, so He has given us this information in the books of Daniel and Revelation. Without understanding Daniel and Revelation, Satan can more easily deceive us, just as we can more easily take a wrong road if we have no map or GPS.
A close loving relationship with the true Christ of the Bible motivates us to worship the Creator and to live a life of joyful obedience to Him. Without that motivation, we will ultimately worship Satan.
We will all finally worship either the Creator God or the rebel deceiver Satan. Some believe that God will supernaturally protect them from Satan’s deceptions, but in the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31), Jesus teaches that no supernatural protection will be given to those who disregard or ignore the warnings already given in Scripture.
From the above comments, it can be seen that the Bible books of Daniel and the Revelation are an integral part of the gospel, because they show us how to avoid Satan’s deceptions and accept the salvation so freely offered by God. They help us worship God and stand on His side through the final events of earth’s history.
Allen Sonter is a retired educator (42 years in Adventist education), who attends Avondale Memorial Church and writes from Alton Villas Retirement Village.