This world would have been a happy place if our first parents had believed God and disbelieved the devil. It was through the first lies spoken by Satan to mankind that a floodgate of misery was opened upon us. And it has been by believing those first lies, on down through history, that the misery has deepened. The opposite is true also: It is in recognizing those first lies of Satan that we can resist his errors when he presents them to us now.
Here are those first lies of Satan:
(1) It is all right to disobey the commands of God.
(2) Sinners will not die.
(3) Sin will bring us to a higher level of living.
(4) We are god, and need only obey our own impulses; they will ever lead us aright.
"And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? . . And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die. For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil." Genesis 3: 1,4-5.
Thus, we find that there are actually two basic errors:
(1) It is not necessary to obey what God says.
(2) We shall not die if we do disobey Him.
The Final Crisis in this earth's history will be based on these two errors!
(1) In earlier centuries, men tried to change the moral law of Ten Commandments. In the end-time of history they will confederate together in their religions, and try through governmental decrees to require all the earth to disobey God's Law.
(2) Satan's masterpiece of deception, through all the ages, has been through Spiritualism. And this terrible danger is based on the error that the dead are not dead. Spiritualists pretend to be able to contact dead spirits, whereas they are really talking with devils. In the final wind-up of history, it will be the power of Spiritualism that will suddenly emerge as an almost overwhelming force by which men will be coerced into Satan's last effort to cause all the world to disobey God.
“It was a marvel to me that Satan could succeed so well in making men believe that the words of God, 'The soul that sinneth, it shall die,' mean that the soul that sinneth it shall not die, but live eternally in misery. Said the angel, "Life is life, whether it is in pain or happiness. Death is without joy, without hatred.'
"Satan told his angels to make a special effort to spread the lie first repeated to Eve in Eden, 'Ye shall not surely die.' And as the error was received by the people, and they were led to believe that man was immortal, Satan led them on to believe that the sinner would live in eternal misery. Then the way was prepared for Satan to work through his representatives and hold up God before the people as a revengeful tyrant—one who plunges all those into hell who do not please Him, and causes them ever to feel His wrath; and while they suffer unutterable anguish, and writhe in the eternal flames, He is represented as looking down upon them with satisfaction. Satan knew that if this error should be received, God would be hated by many, instead of being loved and adored; and that many would be led to believe that the threatenings of God's Word would not be literally fulfilled, for it would be against His character of benevolence and love to plunge into eternal torments the beings whom He had created.
"Another extreme which Satan has led the people to adopt is entirely to overlook the justice of God, and the threatenings in His Word, and to represent Him as being all mercy, so that not one will perish, but that all, both saint and sinner, will at last be saved in His kingdom.
"Inconsequence of the popular errors of the immortality of the soul and endless misery, Satan takes advantage of another class and leads them to regard the Bible as an uninspired book. They think it teaches many good things; but they can not rely upon it and love it, because they have been taught that it declares the doctrine of eternal misery.
"Another Class Satan leads on still further, even to deny the existence of God. They can see no consistency in the character of the God of the Bible, if He will inflict horrible tortures upon a portion of the human family to all eternity. Therefore they deny the Bible and its Author and regard death as an eternal sleep.
"There is still another class who are fearful and timid. These Satan tempts to commit sin, and after they have sinned, he holds up before them that the wages of sin is not death but life in horrible torments, to be endured throughout the endless ages of eternity. By thus magnifying before their feeble minds the horrors of an endless hell, he takes possession of their minds, and they lose their reason. Then Satan and his angels exult, and the infidel and atheist join in casting reproach upon Christianity. They claim that these evils are the natural results of believing in the Bible and its Author, whereas they are the results of the reception of popular heresy." Early Writings, pages 218.220..
"With the earliest history of man, Satan began his efforts to deceive our race. He who had incited rebellion in heaven desired to bring the inhabitants of the earth to unite with him in his warfare against the government of God. Adam and Eve had been perfectly happy in obedience to the law of God, and this fact was a constant testimony against the claim which Satan had urged in heaven, that God's law was oppressive and opposed to the good of His creatures. And furthermore, Satan's envy was excited as he looked upon the beautiful home prepared for the sinless pair. He determined to cause their fall, that, having separated them from God and brought them under his own power, he might gain possession of the earth and here establish his kingdom in opposition to the Most High.
"Had Satan revealed himself in his real character, he would have been repulsed at once, for Adam and Eve had been warned against this dangerous foe; but he worked in the dark, concealing his purpose, that he might more effectually accomplish his object. Employing as his medium the serpent, then a creature of fascinating appearance, he addressed himself to Eve: 'Hath God said, ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?' Genesis 3:1. Had Eve refrained from entering into argument with the tempter, she would, have been safe; but she ventured to parley with him and fell victim to his wiles. It is thus that many are still overcome, They doubt and argue concerning the requirements of God; and instead of obeying the divine commands, they accept human theories, which, but disguise the devices of Satan.'
" 'The woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: but of the fruit of the tree which is in, the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die. And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: for God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.' Verse 2.5. He declared that they would become like God, possessing greater wisdom than before and being capable of a higher state of existence. Eve yielded to temptation; and through her influence, Adam was led into sin. They accepted the words of the serpent, that God did not mean what He said; they distrusted their Creator and imagined that He was restricting their liberty and that they might obtain great wisdom and exaltation by transgressing His law.
"But what did Adam, after his sin, find to be the meaning of the words, 'In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die?' Did he find them to mean, as Satan had led him to believe, that he was to be ushered into a more exalted state of existence? Then indeed there was great good to be gained by transgression, and Satan was proved to be a benefactor of the race. But Adam did not find this to be the meaning of the divine sentence. God declared that as a penalty for his sin, man should return to the ground whence he was taken: 'Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.' Verse 19. The words of Satan, 'Your eyes shall be opened,’ proved to be true in this sense only: After Adam and Eve had disobeyed God, their eyes were opened to discern their folly; they did know evil, and they tasted the bitter fruit of transgression.
"In the midst of Eden grew the tree of life, whose fruit had the power of perpetuating life. Had Adam remained obedient to God, he would have continued to enjoy free access to this tree and would have lived forever. But when he sinned he was cut off from partaking of the tree of life; and he became subject to death. The divine sentence, 'Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return,' points to the utter extinction of life.
"Immortality, promised to man on condition of obedience, had been forfeited by transgression. Adam could not transmit to his posterity that which he did not possess; and there could have been no hope for the fallen race had not God, by the sacrifice of His Son, brought immortality within their reach. While 'death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned,' Christ 'hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel' Romans 5:12; 2 Timothy 1:10. And only through Christ can immortality be obtained. Said Jesus: 'He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life: John 3:36. Every man may come into possession of this priceless blessing if he will comply with the conditions. All 'who by patient continuance in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality,' will receive 'eternal life.' Romans 2:7.
"The only one who promised Adam life in disobedience was the great deceiver. And the declaration of the serpent to Eve in Eden—'Ye shall not surely die'—was the first sermon ever preached upon the immortality of the soul. Yet this declaration, resting solely upon the authority of Satan, is echoed from the pulpits of Christendom and is received by the majority of mankind as readily as it was received by our first parents. The divine sentence, 'The soul that sinneth, it shall die' (Ezekiel 18:20), is made to mean: The soul that sinneth, it shall not die, but live eternally. We cannot but wonder at the strange infatuation which renders men so credulous concerning the words of Satan and so unbelieving in regard to the words of God.
"Had man after the fall been allowed free access to the tree of life, he would have lived forever, and thus sin would have been immortalized. But cherubim and a flaming sword kept 'the way of the tree of life' (Genesis 3:24), and not one of the family of Adam had been permitted to pass that barrier and partake of the life-giving fruit. Therefore there is not an immortal sinner.
"But after the Fall, Satan bade his angels make a special effort to inculcate the belief in man's natural immortality; and having induced the people to receive this error, they were to lead them on to conclude that the sinner would live in eternal misery. Now the prince of darkness, working through his agents, represents God as a revengeful tyrant, declaring that He plunges into hell all those who do not please Him, and causes them ever to feel His wrath; and that while they suffer unutterable anguish and writhe in the eternal flames, their Creator looks down upon them with satisfaction.'
"Thus the archfiend clothes with his own attributes the Creator and Benefactor of mankind. Cruelty is satanic. God is love; and all that He created was pure, holy, and lovely, until sin was brought in by the first great rebel. Satan himself is the enemy who tempts man to sin, and then destroys him if he can; and when he has made sure of his victim, then he exults in the ruin he has wrought. If permitted, he would sweep the entire race into his net. Were it not for the interposition of divine power, not one son or daughter of Adam would escape. .
"It is beyond the power of the human mind to estimate the evil which has been wrought by the heresy of eternal torment. The religion of the Bible, full of love and goodness, and abounding in compassion, is darkened by superstition and clothed with terror. When we consider in what false colors Satan has painted the character of God, can we wonder that our merciful Creator is feared, dreaded, and even hated? The appalling views of God which have spread over the world from the teachings of the pulpit have made thousands, yes, millions, of skeptics and infidels. .
"A large class to whom the doctrine of eternal torment is revolting are driven, to the opposite error. They see that the Scriptures represent God as a being of love and compassion, and they cannot believe that He will consign His creatures to the fires of an eternally burning hell. But holding that the soul is naturally immortal, they see no alternative but to conclude that all mankind will finally be saved. Many regard the threatenings of the Bible as designed merely to frighten men into obedience, and not to be literally fulfilled. Thus the sinner can live in selfish pleasure, disregarding the requirements of God, and yet expect to be finally received into His favor. Such a doctrine, presuming upon God's mercy, but ignoring His justice, pleases the carnal heart and emboldens the wicked in their Iniquity . .
"Like the waters of the Flood the fires of the great day declare God's verdict that the wicked are incurable. They have no disposition to submit to divine authority. Their will has been exercised in revolt; and when life is ended, it is too late to turn the current of their thoughts in the opposite direction, too late to turn from transgression to obedience, from hatred, to love. .
"Upon the fundamental error of natural immortality rests the doctrine of consciousness in death—a doctrine, like eternal torment, opposed to the teachings of the Scriptures, to the dictates of reason, and to our feelings of humanity. According to the popular belief, the redeemed in heaven are acquainted with all that takes place on the earth and especially with the lives of the friends whom they have left behind. But how could it be a source of happiness to the dead to know the troubles of the living, to witness the sins committed by their own loved ones, and to see them enduring all the sorrows, disappointments, and anguish of life? How much of heaven’s bliss would be enjoyed by those who were hovering over their friends on earth? And how utterly revolting is the belief that as soon as the breath leaves the body the soul of the impenitent is consigned to the flames of hell! To what depths of anguish must those be plunged who see their friends passing to the grave unprepared, to enter upon an eternity of woe, and sin! Many have been driven to insanity by this harrowing thought. .
"It is an undeniable fact that the hope of immortal blessedness at death has led, to a widespread neglect of the Bible doctrine of the resurrection..
"This has continued until the glorious truth of the resurrection has been almost wholly obscured and lost sight of by the Christian World. .
"Before any can enter the mansions of the blessed, their cases must be investigated, and their characters and their deeds must pass in review before God. All are to be judged according to the things written in the books and to be rewarded as their works have been. This judgment does not take place at death. .
"But if the dead are already enjoying the bliss of heaven or writhing in the flames of hell, what need of a future judgment?”—Great Controversy, pages 531-549.
These are among the great facts unveiled in the 1858 vision at Lovett's Grove. And yet they were but truths already given in the Bible, though obscured by the traditions of men in the centuries that followed. Briefly, let us see what the Bible says about this:
Man was originally made "a little lower than the angels" (Ps 8:5), and if he had not sinned, would have lived forever—would have been immortal.
Man is mortal—subject to death: "Shall mortal man be more just than his Maker?" (Job 4:17) The word "immortal" is only found once, and it is applied to God (1 Tim 1:17). The word "immortality" is given only five times in Scripture. Here they are: Only God has it—"who only hath immortality" (1 Tim 6:15.16). It is revealed through the gospel—Jesus "who hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel" (2 Tim 1:10). We are to seek it by obedience to Him—"To them who by patient continuance in 'well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life." (Rom 2:7). We need not seek that which we already have. It will be bestowed upon the righteous at Christ's Second Advent —" . . this mortal, shall have put on immortality" (1 Cor 15:51.54,57).
The resurrection of the dead does not take place until the Second Coming of Christ (1 Cor 15:51.55), and God's faithful at that time will be "the children of the resurrection" and will never again die: "Neither can they die any more; for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection." (Luke 20:36) Man is a combination of the breath of God and the dust of the earth; this makes him a living soul: "God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul" (Gen 2:7). .Thus, man is alive: "All the while my breath is in me, and the spirit of God is in my nostrils." Job 27:3. When God's spirit leaves, man is dead: "Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return to God who gave it." (Eccl 12:7) And man ceases to exist. "For the living know that they shall die, but the dead know not any thing." (Eccl 9:5) "His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish." (Ps 146:4) "His sons come to honour, and he knoweth it not; and they are brought low, but he perceiveth it not of them." (Job 14:21) "For in death there is no remembrance of Thee." (Ps 6:5) "The dead praise not the Lord, neither any that go down into silence." Ps 115:17...
"In Adam all die." (1 Cor. 15:22) "All go unto one place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again." (Eccl 3:20) "Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom in the grave, whither thou goest." (Eccl 9:10) "For the living know that they shall die: but the dead know not any thing." (Eccl 9:5) "If I wait, the grave is mine house: I have made my bed in the darkness." (Job 17:13) "If a man die, shall he live again? all the days of my appointed time will I wait, till my change comes." (Job 14:14) "His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish." (Ps 146:4)
The Bible calls the time spent in the grave a "sleep." This is how Paul described it (1 Thess 4:13; 1 Cor 15:18,20), and how Christ described it (John 11:11-14). Our beloved dead "sleep in the dust of the earth" (Dan 12:2), for there is "no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest" (Eccl 9:10).
But at the resurrection of the righteous, they shall "awake" (Job 14:12; Ps 17:15) and be "raised out of their sleep" (Job 14:12), and "live again" (Job 14:14) and "arise" (Isa 26:19) and be "changed" (1 Cor 15:51-55; Job 14:14). For God shall "redeem" them “from the power of the grave" (Ps 49:15) and "ransom" them" from its power (Hos 13:14). For in that day death will be swallowed up "in victory" (Isa 25:8). God will "redeem them from death" (Hos 13:14).
The great truth of the Bible is that it is only through Christ that we can have life; apart from Him humanity can only perish. "He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life." (1 Jn 5:12) It is only through Christ and at the final resurrection at His Second Advent that we can have eternal life. "He that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him." (John 3:36) As soon as man sinned in the Garden, he was not allowed to eat of the tree of life:
"And now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live forever." (Gen 3:22) Satan wants men to forget the fact that "the wages of sin is death." (Rom 6:23) But if we accept Christ as our Saviour and repent of our sins and obey the Father's law by faith in the Son's righteousness, we shall inherit eternal life at His Coming. "This is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in His Son." (1 John 5:11) "I am the way, the truth, and the life." (John 14:6) "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me, and I give unto them eternal life." (John 10:27-28)
"For the Lord Himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first." (1 Thess 4:16) "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16) "Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear His voice, and shall come forth." (John 5:28-29)
There will be two resurrections—one of the righteous and one of the wicked (Acts 24:15; John 5:28-29). The resurrection of the just is described in Luke 14:14; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18; 1 Corinthians 15:42-44 and elsewhere. The resurrection of the wicked is mentioned in Revelation 20:4-5. And the final destruction of the wicked is spoken of in Revelation 20:9; 21:8 and a number of other passages.
This final destruction of the wicked is "death" (Rom 6:23) and "everlasting destruction" (2 Thessalonians 1:9. The wicked will "perish” (Luke 13:3; 2 Pet 2:12), not live on, shrieking and moaning through eternal ages, to come. The wicked “shall perish" and "consume into smoke" and "consume away" (Ps 37:20). They shall be "burned up" (Mal 4:1), "cut off" (Ps 37:22,34; 94:23) and "not be" (Ps 37:10,36). They shall be "like the chaff" which "the wind carried away" (Dan 2:35).
The fire that destroys them is “unquenchable” (Matt 3:12) for no one can put it out until its work is done. The wicked are like "stubble" that will be "burned up" and left "neither root nor branch" (Mal 4:1).
After it is all over, "they shall be as though they had not been" (Obadiah 16). The wicked shall be "no more" (Prov 10:25). They will no longer be there; they are gone (Ps 37:10). They will have been entirely destroyed in hellfire (Matt 10:28). And we can be thankful for this, since the Bible teaches that the wicked will be destroyed in hellfire on the surface of the earth (Rev 20:9). Yet the "meek shall inherit the earth" (Matt 5:5; Ps 37:11,29), and if the wicked are eternally burned on the earth's surface the meek could never obtain their inheritance. Instead, the righteous will go forth, from the Holy City and the wicked will be as "ashes under the soles of" their "feet" (Mal 4:3). The fire that came down from God out of heaven has devoured them and they are no more (Rev 20:9). The "second death" has taken place (Rev 20:14), and God's "strange act" and "strange work" is forever completed (Isa 28:21). Even death itself (Rev 20:14) and sorrow, crying and pain (Rev 21:4) will be a thing of the past.
God's plan is the best plan. It is full of mercy. The wicked, who could not be happy in the peace of heaven, will only suffer in hellfire a brief time, in proportion to their evil-doings, and then they will mercifully cease to exist. We can be deeply thankful for the character of God. He is just, yet merciful. And we can be thankful that we can know the truth about His plan. The righteous will have a life that measures with the life of God—deathless happiness (Isa 66:22; Dan 7:18,27; Ps 37:9-11; 16:11).
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." John 3:16. .
How very thankful we can be for the love of God to His children! Clinging to Jesus by faith, we can overcome.
Yes, how thankful we can be for the love of God —for we are on the edge of the final crisis of earth's history.