Proof-text in Context, Part 4: The Great Controversy

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Proof-text in Context, Part 4: The Great Controversy

The fourth installment of our Proof-texts in Context series will focus on SDA Fundamental #8—The Great Controversy. For those who would like a more detailed synopsis of why we are publishing this series, please refer to the introduction to the first installment. Without further ado, let’s proceed to our study.


Related Article: The Focal Point of the Great Controversy


Genesis 3:4–5—“The serpent said to the woman, ‘You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’” Well, from an earthly standpoint, this was ground zero, and the serpent was agent zero. The devil, through this once-beautiful creature, propagated what has become the foundation of his sinister campaign: “God is lying to you and trying to withhold good things from you.” While this is a devastating chapter, and though the Lord administered heavy discipline that still affects us all, He also offered hope through the promise of a victorious Redeemer.

Isaiah 14:12–14—“How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn! … But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God … I will make myself like the Most High.’” Overall, Satan’s biographical information is limited, yet here we have one of the classic synopses of his origins and profile. Isaiah, beginning the “chapter” with the assurance that Israel would experience restoration after the exile, framed these verses within a resounding prophecy of Babylon’s divinely orchestrated humiliation. A little farther down the page, God also declared judgments on Assyria and Philistia.

Ezekiel 28:12–15—“You had the seal of perfection, Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God … You were the anointed cherub who covers … You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created Until unrighteousness was found in you.” This is the other classic. I truncated for the sake of time and space, yet the immediate passage range is verses 12 to 19 and begins as an address to the King of Tyre (Ethbaal, according to historical sources), a mere figure of the devil. The themes of Ezekiel 28 are Tyre’s destruction, Sidon’s downfall, and the Jews’ regathering. This is similar to Isaiah 14, just inverted in order.

Job 1:9–11—“Then Satan answered the Lord, ‘Does Job fear God for nothing? … You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions have increased in the land. But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he has; he will surely curse You to Your face.’” After an immediate introduction of the book’s central figure, the author (I lean toward Moses) carried our imaginations to a heavenly council that Satan attended as the representative of earth. After claiming that Job’s faithfulness was just a byproduct of good fortune, God gave him a chance to put his money where his deceitful mouth was, within limits. The enemy proceeded to press those limits by wreaking havoc on the righteous man’s livelihood and family.

Daniel 10:12–13—“Do not be afraid, Daniel, for from the first day … your words were heard, and I have come in response to your words. But the prince of the kingdom of Persia was withstanding me for twenty-one days; then behold, Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me.” Chapter 10 is a springboard for the fourth, great, prophetic sequence that coincides with 2, 7, and 8 and runs through 11 and into 12. Daniel, in a state of mourning and fasting, saw a magnificent vision, similar to John’s in Revelation 1, that overwhelmed him to slumber. Gabriel (not mentioned by name in 10, but supported by 8 and 9) woke him up and encouraged him, while also providing insight regarding a spiritual battle (for a human prince couldn’t compete with an angel) and its real-life impact.

Zechariah 3:1–2—“Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. The Lord said to Satan, ‘The Lord rebuke you, Satan! … Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?’” There is a chiastic parallelism among Zechariah’s eight, primary visions in chapters 1–6. The middle two involve Joshua, the religious leader of southern Israel, and Zerubbabel (see ch. 4), the civil leader. The Jews were guilty, as is emblemized by the priest’s filthy garments, but not beyond redemption and a change og wardrobe. This vision may punctuate that of the nation’s rescue in chapter 2, in which we see a Messianic tone.

Romans 8:18—“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” Feel free to reference my article on Romans 8 to substantiate my reasoning for including this otherwise unconventional verse in a study on the great controversy. The premise of the chapter is forsaking the life of the flesh and shifting to life in the Spirit, made possible by Christ’s liberating atonement. Adoption into God’s family and anticipation of everlasting existence helps us process our momentary trials within the cosmic conflict.

1 Corinthians 4:9—“For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men.” The word “spectacle” could be translated “theater.” The universe is watching the great controversy and our involvement therein. Perhaps they’re snacking on manna instead of popcorn, but I digress. Paul’s emphases included a stern caution against casting premature judgment and developing big heads. He contrasted the Corinthians’ lofty lots in life with his destitution and prompted them to imitate his example of principle.

Jude 9—“But Michael the archangel, when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, ‘The Lord rebuke you!’” Here is a rare occasion in which we will summarize an entire book. It’s less daunting knowing it’s only four minutes long. Anyway, Jude, one of Jesus’s half-brothers, warned his readers about false teachers. Lifestyle was the more serious threat than theology was, though there was cause and effect—cheap grace as a license to sin. He also urged them to maintain and fortify steadfast dedication to God.

Tenants like the Sabbath and state of the dead already place us Seventh-day Adventists in the minority within Christendom. The relevance we see in the sanctuary services and the manner in which they comprise an intricate system of truth is even more unique. Nevertheless, I’m convinced that the great controversy fundamental shapes our identity and mission more definitively than any other does.

In prior articles, especially my first one of this calendar year, I mentioned how the Lord has helped me gain a more extensive perspective on how ubiquitous the battle between Christ and Satan is. The ramifications are universal, of course, but personal as well. The enemy constantly throws wrenches at our feet as we strive to walk with God, and it’s apparent in forms such as allurements toward some sort of substance addiction, patronizing night clubs or other hazardous environments, etc. However, seemingly innocuous occurrences such as long lines at the grocery store and spilling milk can also weave through his sadistic schemes.


Related Article: Scripture and the Great Controversy


Stretching from personal to interpersonal, grasping the import of this warfare undergirds our outreach. Against the mural of theodicy that the Lord has painted through His Word with adequate clarity, we will be more effective at comforting our neighbors, near and far—the victimized, grieving, and ill. Furthermore, this comfort is to be framed by the eternal hope that transcends their (and our) temporary agony.

The devil has inflicted a devastating disease upon our planet, but praise be to God, for He has devised a fail-proof antidote. The experience of salvation will be the subject of the next installment in our series.

Click here to read the rest of this series on the Fundamental Beliefs!

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About the author

John Simon

John Simon, an almost lifelong Michigander, is a freelance editor and writer. He previously spent a decade working with Adventist Frontier Missions in an accounting role. Though finance wasn't exactly a hand-in-glove fit—more of a hand-in-toaster fit, frankly—it was a privilege to help advance the cause of reaching the unreached. John enjoys spectating and participating in various sports (hockey being on top of both lists), driving/road tripping, visiting his feisty yet loving and supportive family on the other side of the Mitten, and spending time with friends.