- The New Testament writers do not typically depict God as on trial before the universe as Seventh-day Adventists have often presented the matter. For Peter and John, if there is a question about his justice and holiness it is because of delays in meting out justice to the evil-doer. The souls under the altar cry out for vengeance against their oppressors (Rev. 6:10). Nor is the character of God questioned when punishment is meted out, as modern critics are prone to do. Quite the contrary-after the seven plagues are finished those who were able to withstand the beast sang to God, “Great and marvelous are Thy works, O Lord God, the Almighty; Righteous and true are Thy ways, Thou King of the nations. Who will not fear, O Lord, and glorify Thy name? For Thou alone art holy; For all the nations will come and worship before Thee, for Thy righteous acts have been revealed” (Rev. 15:3,4; See also 19:1-3). Paul does not appear to be pre-occupied with defending the character of God in his forgiveness of human sin, although Romans 3:25-26 points to the need to be just in the process of justifying sinners.
- The origin of evil and development of the figure of Satan is only hinted at in the Bible. His character as a deceiver runs clear through the New Testament (John 8:44; I Cor. 4:4; 2 Thess. 2:9, 10; Rev. 12:9). That he is involved in a contest against God for the rulership of the world is evident. Especially clear is Satan’s hold on the human race and his opposition against those loyal to God. His downfall is assured by the ministry and death of Jesus, the Son of God (Luke 10:18; John 12:31), though a full explanation remains to be given.
- It also remains unclear from the New Testament writers why evil is allowed to continue. The souls under the altar are informed that the slaughter would continue until those who were designated for execution were completed (Rev. 7:11). Satan, the accuser of the people of God, is thrown down as a defeated foe from heaven, having only a short time before his execution (12:12; see John 12:31). But no reason is given for why his death is delayed or why he is allowed to range the earth, persecuting the people of God. In 2 Thess. 2:1-12 Paul reminds us that the man of lawlessness must be revealed, in concert with the activity of Satan. The closest to an explanation for this necessity is that those who do not love the truth will be deceived, with even God assisting those willing to be duped by sending them a delusion (v. 10, 11). On the other hand, the righteous are called to gain their own victory over the dragon and the beasts through the blood of the Lamb and their own witness (12:11). In Ephesians 3:10 Paul defends the proclamation of the gospel by pointing to the manifold wisdom of God being “made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places”.
- Perhaps the distinctive prophetic contribution of Ellen White is to provide a compelling explanation for the under-explained statements in the New Testament regarding the conflict between God and Satan. What is hinted at or left under-developed in Scripture is woven by her into a comprehensive understanding of the Great Controversy in which Satan’s accusations against those loyal to God are presented as accusations against God himself. God has been maligned as arbitrary and ultimately selfish by the one who exemplifies his own accusations against God. The watching universe sees the claims of Satan against the character of God stripped away at the cross. God’s plan to restore the kingdom to fallen sinners is also opposed by Satan who maintains they really belong to him. In the investigative judgement Satan’s accusations are again proven groundless for those who have given their loyalty to God have cooperated with the Spirit in the transformation of their character. In the final contest, their loyalty is tested and they emerge triumphant. The security of the universe is dependent on every inhabitant being convinced of the fairness of God in dealing with sin and Satan. All of this is consistent with the teachings of the Bible but cannot be explicitly attested with the words of Scripture at all points. Perhaps a parallel would be the teachings of the New Testament regarding the necessity of the death of the Messiah. Such a position is consistent with the Old Testament but would not be readily derived from the Old Testament in advance.
- Is the above essay accurate? Would you correct either its description of the New Testament material or the views of Ellen White?
- For overviews of Ellen White’s views on the conflict between God and Satan, see Desire of Ages 35-38, 758-764.; Great Controversy 505-507, 669-672. Pay particular attention