Freedom Abused

Chapter 1

God is love. (See 1 John 4:8.) Every demonstration of His creative power is an expression of His infinite love. Even the history of the great struggle between good and evil, from its very beginning in heaven to the final destruction of evil, reveals God's unchanging love.

The Father worked through His Son to create all the heavenly beings. "For by Him were all things created ... whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities or powers: all things were created by Him, and for Him." Colossians 1:16. Angels are God's ministers. Bright with the light that ever comes from His presence, they are ever ready to carry out His will. But the Son, who is the brightness of His glory and the express likeness of His person (see Hebrews 1:3), holds authority over them all.

As long as love to God held first place in the hearts of all His creatures and love for one another was unselfish and without reservation, perfect harmony prevailed throughout the universe. There was no hint of dissension to spoil the peace of heaven. But a change took place in this happy condition. Among the holy and happy beings that surrounded God's throne, there was one who misused the freedom that God had freely given to His creatures. That being, who was the highest of all created beings and who, next to Christ, was most honored of God, came to desire a position that was equal with that of God Himself. Sin had its beginning with Lucifer, “son of the morning,” who was first of the covering cherubs. Holy and pure, he stood in the very presence of the great Creator. The bright glory that surrounds the eternal God was reflected upon him. Speaking of his original condition and the position he held in the heavenly court, the prophet Ezekiel said of him, “Son of man, take up a lamentation upon the king of Tyrus, and say unto him, 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*

Little by little the desire for self-exaltation began to develop in the heart of Lucifer. Of him the Scripture says, “Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness.” Ezekiel 28:17. “For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God ... I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.” Isaiah 14:13–14. Though all his glory was from God, this mighty angel came to consider it his own. No longer happy with his position, he began to desire the respect and reverence that belong only to the Creator. Instead of seeking to make God first in the affections and loyalty of all created beings, it became his aim to gain their service and to direct their affections to himself. In his heart, he desired to have that power and position that belong to Christ alone.

As the highest ranking angel, Lucifer had been highly exalted. He was greatly loved by the heavenly beings, and he exercised a strong influence over them. Until fully developed, his course of action could not be seen to be the evil thing that it was; it was not evident that his discontent was really rebellion. Even the loyal angels could not fully judge his character or clearly see the direction his work was leading. It was necessary, therefore, that his plans be allowed to fully develop, that their true nature and tendency might be seen by all. For this reason, God allowed Satan to carry forward his work until the spirit of discontent and hatred ripened into active revolt.

Once sin entered his heart, Lucifer's nature became debased. Lucifer, whose name meant, light bearer, now became Satan—the adversary. Jesus, speaking of him said, "He ... abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it." John 8:44. True to his now depraved nature, Satan presented his temptations in such a way that he himself appeared to stand uncommitted. It was his policy to confuse. Artfully, he raised questions regarding the purposes of God; then with his subtle arguments, he made that which was simple appear mysterious and unclear. By clever misuse, he cast doubt upon the plainest statements of Jehovah, his high position giving greater force to his misrepresentations.

God could act only in a truthful and straightforward manner. Satan could use what God could not —flattery and deception. In seeking to promote the idea that God could not be trusted, this mighty angel misrepresented His plan of government, claiming that God was arbitrary and unjust. In imposing laws that required submission and obedience from His creatures, the deceiver maintained that God was seeking merely to exalt Himself. It became necessary, therefore, to demonstrate before the inhabitants of heaven, and of all the other created worlds, that God's government is just and His Law perfect, and that true happiness is found only in obedience. It must be shown that to be out of harmony with any precept of God's revealed will, will result in misery and sorrow. Satan had made it appear that he was seeking to promote the well-being of the universe. In order for his true character to be understood by all, he must be given time to reveal himself by his wicked works.

At the heart of every rebellion against a government, there is the implied promise that the rebel will establish a better form of government, based on better laws. From the very beginning, the controversy has been over the Law of God. Satan sought to prove that God is unjust, that His Law is faulty, and that the good of the universe required a change. The strife and discord which sin brought to heaven, and which was the result of his own course, Satan now claimed to be the result of government based on God's Law, and that it was his own object to improve upon that Law. In attacking the Law, it was his purpose to overthrow the authority of its Author. This was, in effect, an open declaration of war.

"And there was war in heaven: Michael and His angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him." Revelation 12:7–9

From the first, Satan had claimed that he was not in rebellion. To show the untruthfulness of his claims and to show what would be the result of the changes he proposed to make in the divine Law, God allowed Satan to carry out his plans. His own work must condemn him that the whole universe might see the deceiver unmasked. However, in order to maintain harmony in heaven and to assure the smooth operation of its government, Satan and those who were in sympathy with him were cast out. Even then, Infinite Wisdom did not immediately destroy Satan. Since only the service of love can be acceptable to God, the allegiance of His creatures must rest upon a conviction of His justice and loving kindness. To have destroyed Satan then would not have answered the charges and accusations he had made. The rest of God's created beings were not yet prepared to fully understand the nature or certain results of sin. God's justice would have been misunderstood, and some would have served Him from fear rather than love. Satan's deceptive influence would not have been fully destroyed, nor would the spirit of rebellion have been completely removed. The good of the entire universe required that Satan be allowed to fully develop his principles, that his charges against the divine government might be seen in their true light by all created beings. Only in this way could the justice and mercy of God be forever placed beyond all question. The security of the entire universe depended upon this demonstration and its final outcome.

Satan's rebellion was to be a lesson to the universe through all the ages—a perpetual testimony as to the nature of sin and its terrible results. The working out of Satan's rule, its effects upon both men and angels, would show what must be the result of setting aside divine authority. Thus, the history of this terrible experiment of rebellion was to be an everlasting safeguard to all holy beings, preventing them from being deceived as to the result of breaking God’s Law.

*Though this text refers to the person being addressed as the king of Tyre, it also is plain that he had his beginning in Eden, the garden of God, and that he existed there as an angel. Through the inspired writings of both Ezekiel and Isaiah, Satan is addressed as the king of an earthly empire. In both instances, the city-states were centers of commerce, known for their wealth and wickedness. The Bible shows us that regardless of who the apparent, visible rulers of these great nations were, Satan was seeking to work through them to accomplish his purposes, just as he worked through the serpent in the garden of Eden. The apostle Paul confirms this in Ephesians 6:12. While himself a prisoner for his faith in Jesus Christ, he points out that the hatred and opposition Christians meet do not arise from flesh and blood but from a spiritual source. Jesus also referred to Satan as “the ruler of this world.” (See John 14:30.)