The unsurpassed catastrophe in history is recorded in the book of Isaiah. It describes the zenith of created beings, bestowed with the most wonderful opportunity, talents and authority, flunking the ultimate test of character. What was that test he faced? To discern right from wrong, to voluntarily and unconditionally surrender to God, and to live and do what is right.
Like this stellar being, puny man has to face this test daily and give his assent to the creation of perfect, holy and righteous character. How do you fare in this test? Are you aiding or hindering God in the accomplishment of this supreme feat, purpose and objective?
How can we avoid making the same mistakes? God wants you to consider that question carefully. Understanding the past is absolutely essential to understanding the future!
God wants you to identify and understand the way of life that causes misery and death—so you can avoid it! And you learn a lot about sin by studying its origin.
Consider the Introduction of Sin
Sin began in the mind of the archangel Lucifer. This being “turned against God’s law of love,” Herbert W. Armstrong explained in Mystery of the Ages. “He became jealous of God, envious and resentful against God. He allowed lust and greed to fill him, and he became bitter. This inspired a spirit of violence! He deliberately became his Maker’s adversary and enemy. That was his choice, not God’s—yet allowed by God!” This being “directed his supernatural powers henceforth to evil. He became bitter not only against God, but against God’s law. He used his subtle wiles of deception to lead the angels under him into disloyalty, rebellion and revolt against the Creator and finally into a war of aggression and violence to attempt to depose God and seize the throne of the universe.”
Before that rebellion, the universe was at peace! “The law of God’s government is the way of life that causes and produces peace, happiness, prosperity and well-being,” Mr. Armstrong wrote. “Sin is the way of life that has caused all existing evils. … So the rebellion of angels that sinned (2 Peter 2:4-6; Jude 6-7; Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:12-17) brought this extreme cataclysm to the Earth” (ibid).
Notice this statement made right after a prophecy about this war in heaven between God and Satan the devil: “They that see thee shall narrowly look upon thee, and consider thee, saying, Is this the man that made the earth to tremble, that did shake kingdoms” (Isaiah 14:16). God concludes this section about Lucifer’s fall by saying, I want you to consider what this great being did!
The Hebrew word for the expression “narrowly look at” means “to gaze or gawk at.” Those who stare at this miserable being will deeply ponder and meditate on the devastating consequences of his self-centered ways.
Like the admonition in 1 Corinthians 10:6, 11, this is an example showing us what not to do.
The Root Cause: An Attitude of Rebellion
The passage in Isaiah 14:12-16 is vital to our understanding of how to overcome satanic nature as it vividly portrays of the root cause of Lucifer’s fall from heaven (Luke 10:18).
In the end, Satan will be cast into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:10). His works on Earth will be destroyed forever, but he will exist for eternity as a failure. God wants us to carefully consider how this great cherub earned such a destiny. “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!” (Isaiah 14:12).
This great being wasn’t always evil, as Isaiah points out. Lucifer means “light-bringer.” He once brought light to the Earth, but he turned to darkness and then used his awesome power and energy to cover this world in darkness.
How did this remarkable being, perfect from the day he was created, brimming with talent and ability, fall from his lofty position in the God Kingdom? How did that great bringer of light go dark?
Satan introduced competition to the universe. “For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north” (verse 13).
Perhaps Lucifer served for millions of years submissive to God’s will, supportive of headquarters in word and in deed. Then something happened. He was no longer satisfied with his position and set out to overthrow God.
Notice that Satan said this in his heart! It was his attitude that was not right. “It is Satan’s attitude that is his prime evil,” Mr. Armstrong wrote. “He does not hunger and thirst for God’s righteousness. He harbors only the deep-rooted desire to do evil—to go contrary to God’s law of love and righteousness!” (Good News, March 1979). It was that attitude that spread and ultimately led to the rebellion of perhaps hundreds of millions of angels on Earth—maybe billions. It is the same attitude that leads people to sin today.
What about your attitude? Do you really hunger and thirst for righteousness? That attitude will be reflected in your approach to self-examination and deleavening in the time leading up to the spring festivals. Either it is a chore and ritual, or it is something you eagerly anticipate, knowing how that process teaches you to love God’s law more deeply.
“Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee” (Ezekiel 28:15). Lawlessness was found in Lucifer. Notice what Gerald Flurry wrote concerning this verse: “Satan was the epitome of talent. He had the ability to produce great good on this Earth and throughout the universe. But all of his great talent went to his head. He fell victim to his own vanity. He developed one great, catastrophic flaw—he rebelled against God’s law and government. All of his talent is now being directed toward rebellion and destruction. … Talent and ability have their place in God’s Work. But we must acknowledge that talent and ability take a back seat to being close to God” (Ezra and Nehemiah). Isn’t that what the spring holy days teach us? It is the reconciliation made possible through the Passover sacrifice, and the elimination of sin depicted by the Days of Unleavened Bread, that draw you close to God (2 Corinthians 5:18-19; 1 John 2:2).
‘Who Needs God?’
We don’t know exactly how long it took Lucifer to convince the angels to rebel, but as Mr. Armstrong states in The Incredible Human Potential: “I know well the method he used.” There is a method to Satan’s madness. “He uses the same method still today in leading deceived humans into disloyalty, rebellion and self-centered opposition against God’s government. First, he turns one or two to envy, jealousy and resentment over an imagined injustice—then into disloyalty.”
First there is the resentment that develops over an imagined injustice: “God is just not fair.” And that, if not repented of, turns to disloyalty! Such disloyalty causes you to cease being careful about God’s laws. You tend to excuse your behavior and your thoughts.
“Then he uses that one or two, like a rotten apple in a crate, to stir up resentment, feelings of self-pity, disloyalty and rebellion in others next to them. And, as each rotten apple rots those next to it until the whole crate is rotten, so Satan proceeds.
“If, in the government of God on Earth today, the ‘rotten apples’ are not thrown out early enough, they would destroy the whole government. But, once thrown out of the crate, they cannot do any more damage to those in the crate” (ibid).
Satan works this way within the Church of God today—yes, within the Church of God. Can you spot a rotten apple when you see one, even if the rot has started to set in in you? Are you prepared to let God cut it out?
“I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High” (Isaiah 14:14). The Revised Standard Version reads: “… I will make myself like the Most High.” God didn’t make Lucifer a God being, so he attempted to do it himself.
In the garden of Eden, Satan told Adam and Eve, “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 3:5). In other words, Who needs God? Just do it yourself!
Be satisfied with the position God puts you in. Otherwise, you will make the same mistake Satan did. Satan could not stand the thought of others being put over him. This attitude led him to want to be over God. It takes the mind of God to be happy and satisfied with where you currently are. Discontentment with where God has placed you may be a sin you don’t even consider, but you certainly should.
Each spring you are to acknowledge that you are put under authority and law, that you are not the ultimate authority. When you resent the government over you that administers the law of God, you are no different from the disgruntled Lucifer, or the ancient Israelites who murmured against Moses and were destroyed (1 Corinthians 10:10).
Satan’s nature constantly craves recognition and promotion. It is never content. Neither is it ever truly happy. “[H]uman nature is so intent upon fulfilling its own selfish aims that it has no time for the expression of true joy! It is trying to get, get, get—and it is miserable if it cannot obtain its desires.
“God’s Spirit brings peace—contentment and peace of mind. But human nature is always striving to obtain more for the self. It knows no rest, no relaxation. It is full of worry, fear and frustration!
“God’s Spirit is patient. It is willing to contentedly wait on God to perform His promises and pour out His blessing in his own good time. It is willing to suffer long, and endure reproach for Christ’s sake. It is supremely patient.
“Not so, human nature! It is in a great rush, an excited hurry—full of haste! It wants to get, and get now! Right now, it cries in anguish, thinking only of its own selfish needs and desires!” (Ambassador College Bible Correspondence Course, Lesson 22).
Satan wouldn’t wait for God to entrust him with greater responsibility, so he took matters into his own hands. Thinking of himself more highly than he should have, he rebelled, competed and fought against God.
Even in the Church, some have tried to apply the laws of God selfishly. Do you obey God only to gain material benefits? Could it be your motivation behind your tithing or honoring of parents? If this is your attitude, you need to change it!
Real gain is godliness with contentment (1 Timothy 6:6). You need both.
Anyone can get off to a good start, but how about the contentment to remain godly, even against all odds? Do you approach the time of self-examination and deleavening as if it were New Year’s resolutions, only to return to old habits a few days, weeks or months later? Or is your determination deeper than a mere desire to do better this time around?
According to Strong’s Concordance, the Greek word used by the Apostle Paul for contentment means “a perfect condition of life, in which no aid or support is needed; a sufficiency of the necessaries of life.” Certainly such contentment can only be the gift of God and comes from a deep-seated love for God’s law.
Protection Against Deception
Satan is God’s adversary, and he is your adversary. He has blinded the whole world (2 Corinthians 4:4) and will try to blind you as you examine yourself. Be assured, he will come after you! He will entice you to think that sin is not so bad, that you are actually doing okay, and that you should reason things out for yourself. Meanwhile he wants to instill in you his desire to rebel against God and to do evil. He wants you to forget about the end result of wrong thoughts, attitudes and actions and live for the moment. Don’t be fooled. God tells you to be sober and vigilant, constantly on guard against the devil (1 Peter 5:8).
How can you protect yourself against this deceptive adversary? You must consider how he became what he is today. You must also consider his end (Isaiah 14:16). Consider him, God says. Don’t make the same mistake he did. God cast him down because of his lawless attitude. Here is a being that “made the Earth to tremble” and who shakes nations—created with so much ability, yet void of humility. That humility is part of the character you need to develop even before God can build His righteousness in you. You can only develop that as you measure yourself against God’s perfect, holy and righteous law.
Consider humbly how much you need God, His law and His righteousness. Then hunger and thirst for that righteousness.
This spring, carefully consider the introduction of sin into God’s creation. The deeper you understand it, the better equipped you will be to uproot sin in your life—and keep it out.