Sabbath School Today
With the 1888 Message Dynamic
The Book of Job
Lesson 2. The Great Controversy
Most of us have lived our lives serenely unaware of the great cosmic war raging unabated just this side of the threshold of "the door in heaven" (Rev. 4:1). Some like to speak of it as the "great controversy between good and evil," but it is far more than that: it's a battle between two great personalities--Christ and Satan. And more is involved than even this little planet's destiny; ultimately, according to the book of Job, the fate of the universe itself. Our little planet has become the battleground arena on which these cosmic issues are to be decided.
Job is the first Christian book ever written; there are links that bind him on his dung heap wailing out in despair, "Why?," with Christ on His cross in total darkness wailing the same "Why?" God was forced to stake His throne and the stability of the universe itself on this one poor, weak, human man, Job. God had claimed that Job was true and righteous. Satan ridiculed the idea; he wagered that if God were to permit enormous affliction to come on Job, he would turn traitor and "curse God." And God couldn't back out; one human being in supreme wretchedness was holding the line in this great conflict with Satan, and the universe had to hold their breath in anticipation of what Job would do.
Job's problem was not that he had rebelled against God; he had rebelled against Satan, and that's what made God proud of him. Job just hadn't known who was who; it was a simple case of mistaken identity. He really wanted to haul Satan into court; his whole soul was enlisted in "the great controversy between Christ and Satan" and he was totally on God's side.
Our fundamental problem is the same as Job's--we don't know who's who in "the great controversy." Of all the books in the Bible, Job is the one that most vividly reveals the problem all of us face in life: how to understand suffering. And that problem always resolves itself into one great, perplexing, painful question: Who is this who hates me? Who is bringing on me this undeserved calamity? Is it God, or is it Satan?
Your mind may have the correct answer, but what about your heart? Our heart in its natural, unconverted state is "enmity against God" (Rom 8:7). "Why me?" is the universal question we ask when calamity strikes us. Job is us; he is standing in for us. He couldn't figure out what "sin" he was guilty of that provoked God to curse him so terribly with the loss of everything he held dear, even his basic health.
"But while Satan has usurped the dominion which God gave to Adam, he does not have unlimited control of this earth. God did not give unlimited and supreme authority over the earth even to man in his uprightness; and so when Satan overcame man, it was not possible for him to get control of the earth to an unlimited degree. This fact Satan acknowledged, when he said to the Lord concerning Job: 'Hast thou not made an hedge about him, and about his house, and about all that he hath on every side?' Job 1:10. It still remains true, that 'the Most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever He will'" (Ellet J. Waggoner, Signs of the Times, March 10, 1888).
Satan challenged God. In his walking "to and fro," he was looking for something he did not believe existed. Of all God's professed people, none served Him from motives of disinterested piety and genuine love. All were "motivated" by a selfish concern and love of reward.
Poor Job is suddenly bereft of his calm security, and thrust rudely into the cosmic arena to fight as a gladiator for the honor of God and for His vindication. Is it possible for a man living in the weakness of sinful human flesh to be motivated by pure disinterested love?
The conflict behind the great controversy for nearly two thousand years has been between two ideas of love. Christ's enemy infiltrated the early church with the idea of eros in an effort to displace apostolic agape. Plato's idea had been a "heavenly eros," a noble, uplifting concept that he hoped would lift the world out of its swamp of sensuality onto a path leading upward to heaven. It is equivalent to what is usually considered now to be Christian love. It's the same self-centered insecurity that is compounded of fear of hell or hope of reward
In contrast, agape is a love that dares to step down lower. Christ took seven steps in condescension in revealing to us what agape is (Phil. 2:5-8). The last step, "the death of the cross," is the most profound revelation of agape that the universe has witnessed.
The 1888 problem was that to talk about the law without understanding agape "worketh wrath" and actually contributes to sin. The brethren did not know what true obedience is, and that only "agape is the fulfilling of the law" (Rom. 4:15; 13:10). It follows that the remnant church who "keep the commandments of God" will be a people virtually obsessed with agape. "The last rays of merciful light, the last message of mercy to be given to the world, is a revelation of His character of love. The children of God are to manifest His glory" (Ellen G. White, Christ's Object Lessons, pp. 415, 416). That message is not "soft-soap."
Today there are "144,000" individuals of "every nation, kindred, tongue, and people," each of whom is so important that he or she is holding that same line all alone, like Job did. And, as with Job, there is a link that binds each one to Christ on His cross asking, "Why Me?" They await that message and that Voice from heaven when the earth will be "lightened with the glory" of "the everlasting gospel" at last made totally clear (Rev 18:1-4).
God must have "144,000" to honor Him in the last great trials of faith (Rev 7:1-4; 14:1-5). If He has only 143,999, His word will fail and He will be embarrassed in the great controversy with Satan. Perhaps you are that last one who is so important. Hang on!
--From the writings of Robert J. Wieland
Pastor Paul Penno's video of this lesson is on the Internet at:
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