4. The Great Controversy
From the very beginning of Earth's history, there has been war between Christ, the Son of God, and Satan, the devil. Lucifer, once the highest angel in Heaven sought, first to supplant God Himself in Heaven, and then, failing that, to hurt God by destroying His people here on Earth—whom God loves with infinite compassion.
The battle began in Heaven, as described in Rev. 12:7-9. Satan [Lucifer: (KJV) Isa. 14:12-14] lost the war in Heaven and was exiled from God's presence. Soon afterward, evidently, God created Earth and allowed Satan to live on this planet.
It seems, however, that the devil's visa restricted him to the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. God gave Adam and Eve explicit orders that they should not eat fruit from that tree. Why? Because it was God's command, and because Satan was there. That's the only place where he was permitted to recruit them for His side. And if they followed Satan's suggestions and ate the fruit, they would not only be disobeying God, but would be joining sides with Satan and his demons in their war against God.
And you know the outcome: Eve let herself be deceived by Satan—who appeared to be a serpent in the tree's branches. Eve, in turn, became the original missionary, taking the fruit to Adam. And Adam was the world's first convert—to the dragon's army.
This study guide traces, briefly, the conflict between Christ and Satan from it's initial heavenly battleground to Satan's utter defeat and eradication.
1. IN THE CONTEXT OF REVELATION 12, WHO WAS THE WOMAN?
1GC Rev. 12:1-6 (compare Jer. 6:2):
All through the Bible, God has referred to His people as, symbolically, His wife. When they disobeyed Him, or worshiped idols, He accused them of committing adultery.
2. WHO WAS THE DRAGON?
2GC Rev. 12:3,4, 9
The Dragon was the devil, or Satan. The name Satan has the root meaning of "the accuser." He is the one who accuses before God, those whom he tempts into sin, as unworthy of any divine notice. And he discourages us by accusing us of committing the unpardonable sin, and in this way he makes us believe that there's no hope for us.
3. WHO WAS THE MAN CHILD?
3GC Rev. 12:2, 5
Jesus was the Man child. Satan through Herod, the Roman appointed king of Judea, tried to kill the Christ-child as soon as He was born.
4. WHERE DID THE DRAGON COME FROM, AND WHERE DID HE GO?
4GC Rev.12:7-9 He came from Heaven, and he moved to Earth. (See "Introduction" above)
5. WHEN WAS SATAN CAST OUT OF HEAVEN?
5GC Ezek 28:12-15
Satan was a created being (verse 15) who was cast out of Heaven (Rev. 12:7-9). We next see him take up residence in Eden (Gen. 3:1-7) in the form of a snake . . . a serpent . . . a dragon . . . . So the devil would have had to be cast out of Heaven some time before the creation of the Earth.
6. WHEN DID SATAN LEAD THE WHOLE WORLD ASTRAY?
6GC Rev. 12:9; Gen. 3:1-7
When Adam and Eve lived in Eden, they were the only people on Earth. So when the first pair sinned, at that point Satan had led the whole world astray. Ever since that time most of the world has been following his leadership. But there have always been some who remained faithful to God.
7. WHEN WAS SATAN CONQUERED?
7GC Rev. 12:10; Heb 2:14
Satan was irrevocably conquered when Christ died on the Cross. Beyond that point there was no possibility that he would ever win. His war was lost.
But, as happens with many wars, even though at one point the war is lost, many battles may take place before the losing army realizes there is no hope of winning—before those who lose the war surrender or are destroyed.
8. WHAT HAPPENED TO GOD'S PEOPLE AFTER JESUS WENT BACK TO HEAVEN?
8GC Rev. Chapters 13-16
Satan tried to destroy God’s people. Satan reasoned that if he couldn't kill Jesus, he would get at him where He could hurt Jesus the most: Jesus' followers both then and now. The devil decided to persecute and destroy God’s people as a way of hurting God.
9. HOW CAN WE IDENTIFY GOD'S FAITHFUL PEOPLE IN THE LAST DAYS?
9GC Rev 12:17
• They keep all God's commandments;
• They hold to the testimony of Jesus. (We will discuss this under the study guide "Spiritual Gifts" [coming soon])
10. WHAT DOES JESUS HAVE IN STORE FOR THE DEVIL?
10GC Rev. 20:1-3
Jesus will cast Satan into the "bottomless pit" for 1000 years. (We will study this topic when we study the Millennium [study guide 13].)
11. WHEN WILL THE DEVIL BE DESTROYED?
11GC Rev 20:10, 14
He will be thrown into the lake of fire that destroys this earth and everyone who has chosen to side with Satan in his fight against God.
12. WILL ANOTHER DEVIL ARISE SOMETIME IN THE FUTURE?
12GC Rev. 21:3, 4; Nahum 1:9
No! All the people in the universe have seen how much God loves His people. They've seen what God was willing to pay—His own life—to win back those who had gone astray. The redeemed from earth will have experienced the wrath of Satan, and the salvation of Jesus. Nobody will ever want to start sinning again!
• "The great controversy is ended. Sin and sinners are no more. The entire universe is clean. One pulse of harmony and gladness beats through the vast creation. From Him who created all, flow life and light and gladness, throughout the realms of illimitable space. From the minutest atom to the greatest world, all things, animate and inanimate, in their unshadowed beauty and perfect joy, declare that God is love." Ellen G. White The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan (Boise, ID: Pacific Press Publishing Association) p. 678.
Recommended reading: The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan—in the Book section (read especially chapters 22-42).