BEHOLD YOUR GOD
The Character of God and the Ending of The Great Controversy
The evidences presented in the Scriptures confirm the truth that the great controversy began with the misrepresentation of the character of God. Furthermore, Satan’s extension and continuation of the struggle has been by the same means. Thus is revealed the cause and the effect—the cause being the establishment of an erroneous view of God, and the effect, the proliferation of iniquitous rebellion.
It is a sound principle that once the cause of a problem has been established, the remedy for it has been discovered. Therefore, as certainly as the dissemination of false concepts of God’s character is the cause for sinful revolt, then as surely will the presentation of the truth in regard to God provide the remedy by reversing the result. Thus men are brought back from sin to righteousness, from mutiny to loyalty.
Therefore, only those who understand these facts possess the knowledge of where the solution is to be found. Naturally, any person who is a sincere child of God desires above all else to see the termination of the long dark misery, the end of revolt and alienation from God, and in turn help others to walk in the same direction.
Thus, while it is the work of Satan and his followers to wrongfully represent God’s character so as to intensify the evil revolt against Him, it is the work of God and His children to correctly reveal God’s righteousness so as to terminate the insurgence and return the world to the peace and prosperity of full loyalty to God.
Pre-eminent in this work of divine restoration is Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God. When He came to this earth, He came, not merely to save man from the penalty of sin by sacrificing Himself, but to save him by revealing the character of God in contrast to Satan’s propositions. This is not to say that Christ’s death upon the cross is unessential to our salvation. Full recognition is here given to the eternal truth that without the death of Christ none of us could be saved.
But emphasis must be given to the fact that Christ’s role as the Revealer of the truth character of God was as necessary to ending the great controversy and the salvation of the lost as was that supreme sacrifice on the cross. Jesus came expressly to show God to angels and men exactly as He is.
He came to do this work at a time when “the earth was dark through misapprehension of God. That the gloomy shadows might be lightened, that the world might be brought back to God, Satan’s deceptive power was
to be broken. This could not be done by force. The exercise of force is contrary to the principles of God’s government; He desires only the service of love; and love cannot be commanded; it cannot be won by force or authority. Only by love is love awakened. To know God is to love Him; His character must be manifested in contrast to the character of Satan. This work only one Being in all the universe could do. Only He Who knew the height and depth of the love of God could make it known. Upon the world’s dark night the Sun of Righteousness must rise, ‘with healing in His wings.’ Malachi 4:2.” The Desire of Ages, 22.
“The Son of God came to this earth to reveal the character of the Father to men, that they might learn to worship Him in spirit and in truth.” Counsels to Parents Teachers, 28.
It is also written that, “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.” 1 John 3:8.
Therefore, Jesus came to this earth to reveal the character of God and to destroy the works of the devil. It is immediately apparent that these are not two separate works. They are the same work, for the devil’s work to lead men into rebellion, depends firstly on his deceiving them in respect to the nature of God. Therefore, to reveal God’s true nature so that the devil is no longer able to deceive angels and men is to destroy the devil’s works. It makes it impossible for him to operate.
Even for Christ to accomplish this, was no easy task. Satan’s deceptions had penetrated far more deeply and extensively than most suppose. Because we have failed to understand how far things had gone, we have likewise failed to appreciate the enormity of the task imposed upon God and Christ in their responsibility of delivering the universe from the power of Satan. Had it simply been a contest of force versus force, it would have been over in an instant. God is in the possession of infinite power against which Satan is able to muster but an infinitesimal force in comparison. But the question to be settled in the great controversy is not whether God is physically stronger than Satan. It is the question of the real nature of God’s character and government.
It is natural to suppose that the Word of God is the last and final authority in any dispute. How many times have people wished that the Lord would speak directly and audibly in a problem situation. It is firmly believed that that would settle the issue right there and then. But the witness of the ages reveals that the World of God alone is not sufficient to settle these issues great and small. If it was, then there never would have been a great controversy.
Once there was only the Word of the living God in existence. There was no question or dispute over that Word. Then there came the time when that Word was challenged. As this dissension was developing, God called together the whole of the heavenly host and spelled out in the clearest terms the constitution of His government, explaining exactly why the situation was as it was (See Patriarchs and Prophets, 36).
Thus the word of Satan was met by the Word of God. But it did not settle the question, as is proved by the even more determined antagonism of Satan and all who followed after him, because they neither believed nor accepted that Word. Therefore, time had to be given in which Satan could demonstrate the true nature of his claims while God and Christ, on the other hand, would unfold the real character of their position. It is for this purpose that the Lord has permitted the great conflict to continue through all these ages, and until that purpose has been fulfilled, the controversy will continue.
That is, the struggle will go on. Christ shall not return, sin will not be ended, and death will reign, until both angels and men see for themselves the real nature of God’s character and government in sharp contrast to that of Satan. When that point has been reached; when every question of truth and error is forever settled; then and only then will the end come. Nor will it tarry beyond that point. In that moment of time when the purpose has been accomplished, likewise will the termination come.
It is understood by many that the number of the angels whom Satan deceived was on third of the heavenly host. That is not what the Bible says. Rather, it states that it was this proportion which followed him. Carefully note what the Scriptures say. “And his tail drew the third part of the angels. They turned from the Father and from His Son, and united with the instigator of rebellion.” “When Satan became disaffected in heaven, he did not lay his complaint before God and Christ; but he went among the angels who thought him perfect and represented that God had done him injustice in preferring Christ to himself. The result of this misrepresentation was that through their sympathy with him one third of the angels lost their innocence, their high estate, and their happy home.” Testimonies, 3:115; 5:291.
In these statements no reference is made to the effect, if any, that Satan’s deceptions had upon the rest. These statements do make it clear that two thirds of the angels remained loyal to God, and it is naturally assumed that they therefore were not all influenced by the devils sophistries. We think this way because we tend to equate loyalty with absolute absence of any questions. It is true that loyalty is strengthened and perfected with the dismissal of all doubts and suspicions, but, conversely, their presence does not necessarily destroy loyalty, though it may weaken it.
The real truth is that every one of the angels was affected at least in part by the delusions of the great enemy. Uncertainties about God, His character, and the principles of His government were generated in them to
the point where a definite sympathy for Satan’s cause was present. Throughout the long centuries elapsing between the fall of Lucifer and the cross of Calvary that state of affairs continued. That period absorbed at least four thousand years of time and its activities, during which, while not casting aside their loyalty to God to join Satan’s forces, they served God with definite reservations and felt that Satan had something of a case to be argued.
“To the angels and the unfallen worlds the cry, ‘It is finished,’ had a deep significance. It was for them as well as for us that the great work of redemption had been accomplished. They with us share the fruits of Christ’s victory.
“Not until the death of Christ was the character of Satan clearly revealed to the angels or to the unfallen worlds. The arch apostate had so clothed himself with deception that even holy beings had not understood his principles. They had not clearly seen the nature of his rebellion.
“It was a being of wonderful power and glory that had set himself against God. Of Lucifer the Lord says, ‘Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty.’ Ezekiel 28:12. Lucifer had been the covering cherub. He had stood in the light of God’s presence. He had been the highest of all created beings, foremost in revealing God’s purposes to the universe. After he had sinned, his power to deceive was the more deceptive, and the unveiling of his character was the more difficult, because of the exalted position he had held with the Father.
“God could have destroyed Satan and his sympathizers as easily as one can cast a pebble to the earth; but He did not do this. Rebellion was not to be overcome by force. Compelling power is found only under Satan’s government. The Lord’s principles are not of this order. His authority rests upon goodness, mercy, and love; and the presentation of these principles is the means to be used. God’s government is moral, and truth and love are to be the prevailing power.
“It was God’s purpose to place things on an eternal basis of security, and in the councils of heaven it was decided that time must be given for Satan to develop the principles which were the foundation of his system of government. He had claimed that these were superior to God’s principles. Time was given for the working of Satan’s principles, that they might be seen by the heavenly universe.” The Desire of Ages, 758, 759.
Consider carefully certain salient points in this quotation.
“Not until the death of Christ was the character of Satan clearly revealed to the angels or to the unfallen worlds. . . . They had not clearly seen the nature of his rebellion.”
“. . . The unveiling of his character was the more difficult, because of the exalted position he had held with the Father.”
“Time was given for the working of Satan’s principles, that they might be seen by the heavenly universe.”
Therefore, even the loyal angels and the inhabitants throughout the whole of the universe were deceived in part by the sophistries of the great deceiver. They were not sufficiently misled as to abandon their loyalty to God, but enough to have a definite sympathy with Satan. At the cross that last link of sympathy between Satan and the heavenly world was broken.
“Could one sin have been found in Christ, had He in one particular yielded to Satan to escape the terrible torture, the enemy of God and man would have triumphed. Christ bowed His head and died, but He held fast His faith and His submission to God. ‘And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.’ Revelation 12:10.
“Satan saw that his disguise was torn away. His administration was laid open before the unfallen angels and before the heavenly universe. He had revealed himself as a murderer. By shedding the blood of the Son of God, he had uprooted himself from the sympathies of the heavenly beings. Henceforth his work was restricted. Whatever attitude he might assume, he could no longer await the angels as they came from the heavenly courts, and before them accuse Christ’s brethren of being clothed with the garments of blackness and the defilement of sin. The last link of sympathy between Satan and the heavenly world was broken.” ibid., 761.
Think carefully upon the information contained here, especially in the last sentence. It was the link of sympathy between Satan and the heavenly world which ceased to exist at the cross of Calvary. It is one thing to have sympathy for a person, but it is something else to have sympathy between you and that person.
To have sympathy for the devil and nothing more than that, is to feel a very real sorrow for him in his inescapable predicament, but at the same time, giving no countenance to his philosophies, objectives, methods or behaviors. Every true Christian will feel that sympathy for Satan.
But when sympathy exists between us and the devil, then that is to allow that he is right at least in a measure. It is to believe, even though unconsciously, that he has a case, there is success in some of his methods, and that he ought not to be treated as sternly as he is being dealt with.
It would be impossible to give total allegiance to God while such a sympathy existed between us and Satan, though we might choose to remain loyal to God nonetheless. So it was with the loyal angels right down to the cross of Calvary, for it was there, and not before then, that the last link of sympathy between Satan and the heavenly world was broken.
But, when that last link of sympathy between Satan and the heavenly world was broken by their seeing the true nature of his lies against God, they then saw and understood the character of God as it truly was. Christ had destroyed the works of the devil in them and, for them, the purpose of
the great controversy had been achieved. Therefore, if only angels were involved in the struggle, Satan’s end would have come at the cross. But what had been done for angels had also to be done for men, for while angels saw the real nature of the character of God and of Satan at the cross, man certainly did not and still has not.
In fact, it will not be until the time of Jacob’s trouble that even the righteous people of God will lose their last link of sympathy with the devil. We may not know it today, but even those of us who walk nearest to God still have a measure of sympathy with Satan and his ways. Not until that final testing time will this at last be removed from us. “The time of trouble is the crucible that is to bring out Christ-like characters. It is designed to lead the people of God to renounce Satan and his temptations. The last conflict will reveal Satan to them in his true character, that of a cruel tyrant, and it will do for them what nothing else could do, uproot him entirely from their affections. For to love and cherish sin, is to love and cherish its author, that deadly foe of Christ. When they excuse sin and cling to perversity of character, they give Satan a place in their affections, and pay him homage.” The Review and Herald, August 12, 1884. Also Our High Calling, 321.
Because this work has yet to be accomplished for human beings so that the purpose of the great controversy is fulfilled for them as it was for the angels, the battle was not terminated at the cross as it is written:
“Yet Satan was not then [at the time of the cross] destroyed. The angels did not even then understand all that was involved in the great controversy. The principles at stake were to be more fully revealed. And for the sake of man, Satan’s existence must be continued. Man as well as angels must see the contrast between the Prince of light and the prince of darkness. HE must choose whom he will serve.” The Desire of Ages, 761.
Therefore, the Saviour took the work of ending the great controversy one giant step toward its completion when He revealed the character of God as it is to the angels and thus exposed Satan for what he is. The progressive development of this is clearly portrayed in Revelation 12. The original confrontation in heaven with the resulting removal of Satan from the celestial precincts is described in verses 7-9.
“And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels.
“And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven.
“And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were case out with him.”
Note that it was at this time that Satan was cast out into the earth. The place from which he was cast out was heaven, but he still had the opportunity of accosting the angels as they moved to and from heaven and “before them accuse Christ’s brethren of being clothed with the garments of
blackness and the defilement of sin.” The Desire of Ages, 761. But that activity was terminated when at the cross he was cast down. Firstly he had been cast out, and then he was cast down.
“Christ bowed His head and died, but He held fast His faith and His submission to God. ‘And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven. Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night.’ Revelation 12:10” ibid.
“This reference confirms that the devil lost tremendous ground through the victory accomplished by Christ during His life and by His death. The angels were set free from his power. His delusions no longer had any claim upon their thinking. Their loyalty to God became stronger and more intense. For these reasons there was indeed great gladness throughout the entire universe for the salvation which they had gained through the revelation of God’s character as given by Christ.
So it is written: “Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them.” Revelation 12:12. It is to be noted that this call goes forth subsequent to the casting down of the old dragon at the cross of Calvary.
But the time for rejoicing in the unfallen universe is no time for joyous songs upon this earth for very good reason. Firstly, before the cross, the energies of Satan and his angels had been divided between his attacks on the angels and on man. But after the cross, he was left to devote all his power upon the children of men. They now have his undivided attention.
Secondly, his fearful losses sustained at the cross do not discourage but only madden him into a frenzy of desperate and determined activity, for he knows that his time is shortened and that he must work with a feverish madness to stave off the day of his final obliteration. All of that fury is directed to mankind. Therefore it is written to those who live upon this earth after the crucifixion, “Woe to the inhibiters of the earth and of the sea! For the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time.” Revelation 12:12.
The crushing defeat suffered by our great adversary at Golgotha was likewise a resounding victory for the cause of righteousness. Ground was gained there which shall never again be lost, for the angels and the unfallen worlds are now eternally free from Satan’s deceptive arguments.
But while great gains were made, full recovery had not been achieved. Another great battle must be fought wherein will be accomplished for man that which had been accomplished for the unfallen universe. The victory will be gained exactly as it was gained by Christ, for we are to overcome “as He overcame.” See Revelation 3:21.
To understand how that last battle is to be fought and won, we have but to understand how Jesus gained His victory over the devil. Firstly, we must recognize that the most difficult person to expose is one who is a deceiver and an accuser. Counter-accusation is totally ineffective. At best, it only
Serves to further confuse the issue, while at the worst it multiplies support for the initial accuser.
The use of force is likewise counter-productive for it generates sympathy for the one in rebellion through the natural tendency to take up the cause of the underdog.
There is only one way to reveal evil at its worst and that is for it to be exposed to righteousness at its best. God is righteousness. His very character is that. Therefore, the exposure of sin by the revelation of righteousness was the exposure of sin by the revelation of the character of God.
Throughout His lifetime upon this earth, this is precisely what Jesus revealed every day, all day. To look at Christ was to see the Father. He exemplified what the Father is and all that He is. He demonstrated how the Father relates Himself to the sin problem, to the sinful, and to those who are His worst enemies. He spelled it out both in His life and in His teaching.
So perfect and complete was the revelation of the Father as given by Christ that, to Philip’s inquiry,” Lord, shew us the Father,” He could reply, “Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known Me, Philip? He that hat seen Me hath seen the Father, and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father?” John 14:8, 9. “All that man needs to know or can know of God has been revealed in the life and character of His Son.” Testimonies, 8:286.
Extensive study will be given later to the work of Christ as the Revealer of God’s character. What is being established now is that by that revelation, Christ was able to signally defeat Satan to the point where the unfallen universe was completely and eternally delivered from the power of Satan’s deceptions.
Throughout His lifetime, Jesus revealed the character of God and as He did so, Satan mustered his forces to break that perfect revelation. But steadily and faithfully Jesus continued on His way so that Satan found it necessary to draw even more heavily on his armament in his desperate efforts to break the witness of God in Christ. At last, a still undefeated Christ came to the cross to give, in that ultimate sacrifice, the revelation of the righteous character of God at its glorious, undimmed best. Eternity will never again be able to provide so complete and clear a manifestation of God as He really is. It is the central and high point of history, past and future. It is the pinnacle of all divine achievement in the resplendent light of which all other is dimmed.
Such an unfolding of righteousness at its very best forced the devil to reveal his own sinful character at its worst. He had no choice. If he had not attacked Christ, if he had seen that to do so was to expose himself and had therefore withdrawn from the battle, he would have lost anyway. His only hope was to bring out everything in his onslaught and hope that he could break the witness of the Son of God and man. But he failed, and in that failure he salvaged nothing so far as the unfallen universe was concerned.
They saw that manifestation of divine light and satanic darkness simultaneously, and Satan’s cause was lost among them—eternally.
What Christ accomplished upon the Cross never needs to be repeated. What Satan lost there he will never regain, so now he works desperately to retain what he still has—the minds of men which were not released from his power at the cross for the simple reason that they did not see either the fullness of the glory of God’s character or the depths of the satanic nature there displayed.
Thus, for man the purpose of the great controversy has not yet been fulfilled. Until it is, the struggle must and will go on, no matter how long that may take. There must again be exhibited such a complete and full revelation of the righteousness of God, which is the law and character of God, that Satan will again be forced to display the fullness of his iniquitous character to the point where even fallen men who have rejected God’s truth will see the difference and reject all allegiance to his satanic majesty.
But Christ is not returning to this earth to repeat the demonstration already given. He has other plans. This full and final display of the merciful, gracious, kind, good, and just character of God is to be given through His people. Christ will reveal through them exactly what He personally revealed while upon the earth.
Only as He is able to do this will the purpose of the controversy be finally achieved for men as it was for angels. Then the Saviour can and will return.
The Scriptures are very clear in stating that it will be the children of God who will give that final revelation of His character. This is a fact which every Christian must understand if he is to effectively occupy his appointed place in the concluding events of the long-standing war. Failure to comprehend this will result in an inadequate and misdirected preparation which will effectively disqualify such a person from fighting in that last army of the Lord.
It is because this is so that the following words of warning have been written: “In order to endure the trial before them, they [the people of God who will live through the final time of trouble and conflict] must understand the will of God as revealed in His word; they can honor Him only as they have a right conception of His character, government, and purposes, and act in accordance with them.” The Great Controversy, 593.
This counsel does not say that we who live in these last times and face that final testing and task would merely be in a better position to have a right concept of God’s character, government, and purposes. It does not say this. If it did then it would be largely an optional matter whether we did or did not understand these things. Either way we could come through.
The statement warns that we do not have these options. Either we understand correctly the true nature of God’s character, government, and purposes, and act in accordance with them, or we will not be able to endure
the trial before us. To fail at this time and under these circumstances means that eternal life will never be ours. In the light of these considerations, the importance of having an accurate and thorough knowledge of God’s character, the nature of His government, and the scope of His purposes cannot be overstressed.
The final movement of people who will provide the Lord with the means of making that ultimate manifestation of His character is prophetically described in Revelation 18:1. “And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power, and the earth was lightened with his glory.”
Briefly, it needs to be established here that this is the final message to be given to the world. Before it, God will have sent many warnings, instructions, and entreaties, but beyond the dispatch of this there will be no other. This is plainly attested in the following quotations:
“Revelation 18 points to the time when, as the result of rejecting the threefold warning of Revelation 14:6-12, the church will have fully reached the condition foretold by the second angel, and the people of God still in Babylon will be called upon to separate from her communion. This message is the last that will ever be given to the world; and it will accomplish its work.” The Great Controversy, 390.
A complete chapter in The Great Controversy, beginning on page 603, is devoted to describing the giving of this message of Revelation 18:1-4. The title of the chapter is “The Final Warning.” On page 604 we read, “These announcements [those of the Revelation 18 angel], uniting with the third angel’s message, constitute the final warning to be given to the inhabitants of the earth.”
The second point to establish is that the angel is a symbol. The angels themselves do not come to the earth and personally deliver these messages. This we understand clearly from the way in which the first three angels’ messages were given. The Scriptures declare that they are given by movements of people on this earth. So it will be with the last message as foretold in Revelation 18:1. The message will be given by a movement of people.
This is further certified by these words from The Great Controversy, 604. “Hence the movement symbolized by the angel coming down from heaven, lightening the earth with his glory, and crying mightily with a strong voice, announcing the sins of Babylon.”
Next, the question must be raised, “With whose glory will the earth be lightened?”
It is usual to receive the answer, “It will be the glory of God. “This is correct, but it is not what the verse says. It says, “. . . another angel came down from heaven, . . . and the earth was lightened with his glory.”
It is the glory of the angel which lightens the whole earth. It is true that this is also and primarily the glory of God for it is from God that this glory is
acquired. But it has been so truly given to the angel that it has become his own and can be described as being his glory.
What is the glory of the angel and the glory of God?
As used in Scripture the word “glory,” especially in reference to God, has two meanings. To the human mind it is mostly associated with a dazzling display of physical splendor, and without question, such an outshining of glory does surround the person and throne of God. Such a glory as this was witnessed by both Daniel and Isaiah. Daniel described what he saw in these words, “I beheld till the thrones were cast down, and the Ancient of days did sit, whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of His head like the pure wool: His throne was like the fiery flame, and His wheels as burning fire.
“A fiery stream issued and came forth from before Him: thousand thousands ministered unto Him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before Him: the judgment was set, and the books were opened.” Daniel 7:9, 10.
Here is Isaiah’s description of the heavenly glory of the God of heaven.
“In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple.
“Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.
“And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of His glory.
And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.” Isaiah 6:1-4.
But there is a meaning to the word “glory” other than the outshining of radiant light and pulsing power. When Moses asked the Lord to show him His glory, the Lord revealed to Moses His character. Here is God’s response to his request. “And He said, I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy.” Exodus 33:19.
At the appointed time the Lord did this, as it is written: “And the Lord descended in the cloud, and stood before him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord.
“And the Lord passed by before him, and proclaimed, The Lord, The Lord God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth,
“Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.” Exodus 34:5-7.
Moses specifically asked God to reveal His glory. The Lord did not refuse this request. However, in response, He did not show him the out-
shining radiance of personal and physical splendor, but the wonder of His great and lovely character. From this we deduce that the glory of God is His character. The more the Word of God is studied, the more clearly this will be seen.
When Jesus came to this earth, He left behind all that glory which was of a physical nature. Physically speaking, He was a very plain and unattractive person as the prophecy of Isaiah 53:2 describes: “For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him.”
Yet despite the plainness of His outward appearance, He revealed the glory of God to those with the spiritual vision which would enable them to see it. “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth.” John 1:14.
John testifies that he, along with others, saw the glory of the Father in Jesus Christ as He walked as a man among men. It is certain that the glory seen day by day was not a radiant outshining of dazzling light. What they saw was that other and more important glory, the character of God.
In Christ’s Object Lessons, 414, the word “glory” is directly equated with the character in this way, “The light of His glory—His character—is to shine forth in His followers.” These references clearly define this other meaning of the word as being a definition of the character of God. In truth this is His real glory, the one which He knows is the more important for men to know and emulate.
We are seeking these definitions of this word so as to better understand the meaning of Revelation 18:1. We desire to know the nature of the glory which shall lighten the whole earth in the last warning message.
Nowhere, in all the prophetic descriptions of the order of last day events, are we given any picture of God revealing Himself in shining brightness either personally or through His people on the earth. On the contrary, God is careful not to work in this way for He is anxious that people will accept the message of truth because it is the truth and not because of any spectacular displays. Therefore, it will be the other glory, the glory of character, which will lighten the earth at this time.
A summary of the message of Revelation 18:1, then, is as follows:
This is the final message to be given to the world;
The angel is the symbol of a movement of people;
The glory of the angel is the glory of the character of God;
It is the angel’s glory and therefore the character glory within the people of the movement which shall lighten the whole earth.
It is of value to take a text in which symbolic language is being used and substitute for the symbols the things being symbolized. This makes the text much clearer. By doing this Revelation 18:1 would read “And after these
things I saw another movement of people come down from heaven [not in the physical sense], having great power; and the earth was lightened with the glory of the characters of those people.” That character is the character of God Himself, which has been formed in them through the saving ministry of Christ in the sanctuary above.
For some, real difficulty is experienced in believing that the character of God is actually reproduced within the believer, so that it becomes the believer’s character to the point where to look at one is to see the Other. Yet this is the plain teaching of the Word of God. It is the teaching of Revelation 18:1 and is further expressed in these beautiful words: “When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them as His own.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 69.
A reproduction is the same thing all over again.
A perfect reproduction repeats itself to the point where it is impossible to tell the difference between it and the original. When Christ was upon this earth, it was necessary to so reveal God’s character as to enable the unfallen worlds to see how great a lie Satan’s description of God was. That manifestation of God’s character in Christ had to be so complete and perfect that to see Christ was to see God. If Christ’s revelation of God’s character had been defective or incomplete in the least degree, then He could never have succeeded in delivering the unfallen universe from the grip of Satan’s deceptions.
That should not be so difficult to perceive, for all understand the perfection of Christ’s character. It is much more difficult to believe, as we look at ourselves with all our defectiveness, that Christ could so reproduce Himself within a human agent that to see that person is to see the very character and nature of God.
Yet, this is how it must be, for if it required a faultless manifestation of God’s character to deliver the sinless beings of heaven and the unfallen worlds and thus achieve the purpose of the great controversy for them, it will require nothing less than the same faultless and complete manifestation of God’s character to deliver mankind from Satan’s deceptive power and accomplish the purpose of the great controversy for fallen man. Nothing less than this will bring the finishing of the work, and this is why “Christ is waiting with longing desire for the manifestation of Himself in His church. When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people then He will come to claim them as His own.” Christ’s Object Lessons, 69.
So it will be that “The church, being endowed with the righteousness of Christ, is His depository, in which the wealth of His mercy, His love, His grace, is to appear in full and final display.” Testimonies to Ministers, 18.
Not until it is understood that the finishing of the work can only be accomplished by the manifestation of the very character of God as that character is, to the point where to look upon the true child of God in the last days is to look upon the character of Christ, will there be a true appreciation of the importance of this vital subject.
Such an appreciation is essential to stimulate earnest searching into this great theme—a stimulus which will be enlivened as the wonderful beauty of God’s character open before our astonished gaze and we find our lives being changed into the same image from glory to glory.
The closing scenes of the great controversy are right upon us. Soon its purpose will have been fulfilled for fallen man as it was for the angels and the unfallen worlds. In that final and finishing work the true understanding and manifestation of the character of God, as that character is, will play a role so vital that without it there would be no possibility of the work being finished. Let every true child of God then place this topic in its correct perspective of paramount importance in his study and in his own character development.