By Jack Hoehn, January 20, 2016:     Did the battle for earth begin after the fall in Eden or was it going on throughout the creation process? Was Eden the same as the rest of the earth, or a unique invasion into God’s battle to retake earth from the powers of chaos?  This is a second response to the topics discussed in Sabbath Schools this year.

We live in a universe of beauty, and we experience much joy. But it is a shadowed beauty and we have imperfect joy.

What is this Shadow and why is it there? Our joy is partial; when shall our joy be full?  What kind of a God do we worship, and what kind of creation has He made?  Last week we discussed what kind of God permits a Satan, an adversary.   A God who enters into war with evil, instead of preventing it, or destroying it.  We suggested that although God is Creator of all, He is not creator of evil.  But that evil is real and adaptive, and that God too adapts His methods as a general on the battlefield adapts to the enemy.  The General is not in control of the battle, but is in control of His response.  Earth is now rebel territory, being invaded by God through Jesus to regain control of this part of the universe.

January 9 our Sabbath School lessons asked us to behold again a place called Eden. So how do we see Eden?  Was it “the most perfect part of a perfect creation,” or an invasion base camp, a Heaven sent Normandy into occupied territory?

Adventist Truths

The previous article on the nature of God by design was entirely Biblical and generic Christian. But for questions about earth’s prehistory, although the Bible contains hints of pre-earth history such as Job 38:7, we have very little direct information.

Seventh-day Adventists were given unique insights into the pre-earth history in the writings of Ellen White. We do not accept these revelations as infallible or in any way equal in authority to Biblical revelations, but when not contradictory to the Bible they can open and deepen our understanding.  So as we used C.S. Lewis and Dante to help explain things in the Bible, let’s see what happens if we use Ellen White to help us better understand the earth and Eden of Genesis 1-3.

Biblical Basis

Revelation chapter 12 is the Biblical basis of Ellen White’s revelations. John has a holy dream of a dinosaur in symbolic color and anatomy, including a powerful tail.  It is opposed to the seed of the woman that Eve was promised after her fall. Verse 7 suggests the history of this opposition seems related to a heavenly “war” between Michael (“He who is like Elohim”) and “the Red Dragon” (identified in verse 9 as “the ancient serpent” of Eden, “the Devil,” or “Satan”) who both had angels on their sides.  The losers lost their place in Heaven and were “hurled” (thrown or cast out) to planet earth.

Many consequences of this banishment to earth are listed. 1/3 of the “stars of the sky” fell to earth (verse 4).  A pregnant symbolic woman gives birth to a child destined to rule all nations (identified in verse 17 as Jesus) that the dinosaur wants to destroy, but cannot (verse 5), so the woman herself has to flee the dinosaur who continues to relentlessly “accuse brothers and sisters,” many who died giving their testimony to Jesus.

But the fall of Satan and his angels to earth did not only have consequences for the saints of God, It also brings trouble to the land of earth and the water of earth and presumably creatures “who dwell in them.” Verse 12: “Rejoice you heavens and you who dwell in them!  But woe to the earth and the sea, because the devil has gone down to you!  He is filled with fury…”  What the fury of Satan and his angels do to earth and sea and those who dwell in them is not specified, but as his fury did to the saints, it may have ended in many deaths.

When did the cosmic war begin?

Both Ephesians 1:4 and 1 Peter 1:20 say that God planned for us to be saved by Jesus, “before the creation of the world.” And Revelation 13:8 reminds us that Jesus was prepared to be the saving sacrifice for sin, not from Adam and Eve’s fall, but “from the creation of the world.”  Sin’s battles began before the creation of earth, not just after the human fall.

With these and a few other slender first-century Scriptures, Ellen Gould Harmon White in 1858 at Lovett’s Grove, Ohio, had a 2-hour holy dream that gave Adventists a view of the pre-creation history of this universe forming a broad, deep, cosmic theme called The Great Controversy Between Christ and His Angels and Satan and His Angels or simply The Great Controversy.  Jonathan Butler calls it “a dazzling, cinematic view of salvation history.”[1]  Fritz Guy notes that it is “extraterrestrial” and “a grand metanarrative of the…cosmic conflict of the ages.”[2]  Bull and Lockhart called it “Mrs. White’s classic exposition of the ongoing battle between good and evil…traced from its origins in heaven to its final resolution at the close of the millennium.”[3]

Great Controversy not Recent nor of Limited Duration

Ellen G. White in The Great Controversy, 1888 edition, does not time these heavenly events, but uses phrases suggesting deep time. “Evil must be permitted to come to maturity.  For the good of the entire universe through ceaseless ages Satan must more fully develop his principles…a lesson to the universe through all coming ages.”[4]  And again later, “God in His great mercy bore long with Lucifer… Long was he retained in heaven.”[5] 

Whatever the chronology you choose to use, the authentic Adventist chronology is not “recent.” The Great Controversy is “long” and not through “literal days” or short weeks or many months or even measured in years, but through “ages,” in fact “through ceaseless ages.”  Long.

Great Controversy starts during the detailed planning of Creation

Adventist theology suggests the earth was indeed very much Intelligently Designed. Whatever happened during the creation week was not a magic event at the snap of a finger of seconds or minutes or hours or even 24 hours or 144 hours in 6 days!   Earth’s creation week was long planned, in detail, over ages of heavenly time by the Trinity.  Ellen White explains,

“Especially was His Son to work in union with Himself [God the Father] in the anticipated creation of the earth and every living thing that should exist upon the earth…Lucifer was envious and jealous of Jesus Christ…Christ had been taken into the special counsel of God in regard to His plans, while Lucifer was unacquainted with them.”[6]

Satan works Deliberately and Systematically

There is a giant intellect against God, and the battle is not one of seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks; the Great Controversy has been going on for a long time, for thousands of years, and that battle has been deliberate and systematic.

“The aim of the great rebel has ever been to justify himself and to prove the divine government responsible for the rebellion. To this end he has bent all the power of his giant intellect. He has worked deliberately and systematically, and with marvelous success…. For thousands of years this chief of conspiracy has palmed off falsehood for truth.”[7]

“Thrust out of Heaven, Satan determined to set up his kingdom on the earth. Through him sin entered the world, and death by sin.”[8] 

Note that this was before the creation of the earth; Satan’s rebellion and the war in Heaven begins over the planning for the creation of earth. The Lamb of God was slain from the foundation of the earth, salvation was implemented “before the creation of the earth.”  Death by sin started with Satan’s sin, not with Eve and Adam’s sin.   After Satan was cast out of heaven, earth became the new battlefield for his giant intellect to make deliberate and systematic attempt to establish his own kingdom on earth.

God too works Deliberately and Systematically

God too in creation works according to the long-thought-out Trinitarian plans, deliberately and systematically. As the Sabbath School lesson pointed out, Creation is a work of differentiation or separation.  God introduces or creates something different from what was before.  This, not that.  Something was not so good; now it is good or better than what was before. “God created everything by a series of separations with clearly defined boundaries: light and darkness, waters above and waters below, land and sea, night and day, creatures according to their kind, a day separated from the others, a woman separated from a man, and a tree set apart from the others.”[9]

Each Creation Day Starts in Darkness

Darkness overcome by Light can be a motif of the entire creation as each Genesis Creation Day starts in darkness (“and there was setting,” or darkness) and ends in light (“and there was dawning,” or light).   At the end of each darkness into light cycle God announces the victory of light over darkness, announcing that “it was good” or sometimes “very good” which suggests that before His creation was implemented it was not “good,” or at least not good enough.

Each Creation Day is a victory of light over darkness. This could support this Adventist understanding that creation was part of the Great Controversy.  That on earth Satan and his expelled-from-heaven host stand ready to renew their battle with God creating through Jesus the Trinitarian plan.  Each Creation Day is an invasion by God of “not so good” by “good” or better.

  1. Dark, formless, empty water-world invaded by God’s light.
  2. Airless, lifeless world, changed by atmosphere and the hydrologic cycles.
  3. Watery world invaded by land and then plants.
  4. Timeless, cloudy hidden-from-universe world changed to clear atmosphere with sun, moon, star cycles and seasons now possible.
  5. Empty seas filled with life, empty skies filled with life.
  6. Empty land filled with animals, uncontrolled animals given rulers with dominion over what was previously not dominated.

Each Creation Day was a problem, solved by a Creator. An invasion of disorder by Order and Intelligent Design.  A darkness solved by light for six Great Creation Days. By the 7th Day the creation wars are over.  There is no “darkness followed by light” for the 7th Day.  God has done what God wanted done, and now human history begins with a man created outside of Eden, brought into a special place on earth called Eden.

Eden different from rest of earth

The created earth was not Eden. Eden was a different and better place than the rest of earth.  Genesis 2 has a Biblical geography that places Nod east of Eden, and Havilah, Cush, Ashur outside of Eden.  The word paradise means a walled or separated place, different from the earth as a whole, just as the Sabbath is different from the week as a whole.

Besides the fact that God planted it (see footnote[10]) Eden was special because it had two unique Trees, a Tree of Knowing and a Tree of Living.  They were commanded to not open their lives to know misery, woe, grief, and harm by eating the fruit of the Knowing Evil Tree.  They were invited by perpetuate their mortal lives by eating exclusively from the Life Tree.

What purpose would a Tree of Life have on a world free of death? But before the Eveic/Adamic fall God placed a Life Tree on this world, in His garden.  The answer seems obvious.  Death was present on earth, from the beginning of Creation, because sin was present on earth before the human fall because of Satan’s fall.  Jesus testifies that the Devil was a liar and a murderer (one who kills), not from Adam’s fall, but, “from the beginning.”

“You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him.  When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”  John 8:44.

As the Serpent lied to Eve before her and Adam’s fall, so the evidence of fossils and geology suggests Satan was murdering animals and plants long before Eve and Adam’s fall. There was no death inside the garden of Eden, but after humans elected to know misery, woe, grief, and harm their mortality was not caused by anything except the invitation to leave the garden and its Life Tree, and begin to live in the rest of the world outside of the garden, a world very much like the one we live in now with its shadowed beauty and imperfect joys.

So what was Eden?

Eden was where God created His answer to Sin and Death. The garden was in fact a protected castle on the map of a Greater Controversy earth.  Eden was a safe place for Eve and Adam to choose which side they would join in the battle they were designed to fight.  Eden was God’s beachhead back into rebel territory claimed by Satan the Prince of the Air, the Prince of This World.

From Eden, a tested and tried Eve and a tested and tried Adam could have begun to take over earth from Satan, to establish their dominion over the undomesticated animals roaming the earth red in tooth and claw as Satan had taught them to murder each other or to die in catastrophes with no Ark that he repeatedly brought onto the creation. Is this just speculation?  No, revelation:

“…that garden of delight, a sample of the perfect work of God’s creation, untouched by the curse of sin—a sample of what the whole earth would have become, had man but fulfilled the Creator’s glorious plan.”[11]

So what kind of God would have a Satan?

The God of the Bible. Patient, long-suffering, not willing that any should perish, but engaged in long continued warfare with sin–long warfare, ceaseless ages of warfare.  The same God you have known from childhood, loving, kind, caring.  The God of your Sabbath School and My Bible Stories, wise, powerful, coming again.  Yet a dynamic God whose character never changes, but whose methods and actions are new every morning.   A God not in a hurry, with whom a day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as a day.

The God of the “Big Bang” with His incomprehensible expanding Universe. The God of the Milky Way with a 4.8 billion-year-old earth.  The God of Geology with over 600 Million years of progressive life in fossil layers, Intelligently Designed and not randomly mutated, but opposed by the giant genius of an intelligent destroyer.   The God of DNA, with humans 70,000 to 200,000 years outside of Eden, on this battlefield of the Great Controversy, with God slowly winning.  The Father of Jesus who sent the beloved unique and only Son to destroy in that DNA from Eve, death by dying.  The One who reopened the gates of Eden to whosoever will and restores our mortal access to that Life Tree of immortality.

The kind of God who wants you. The God who requires your obedience and yearns for your love, but will not force it.  The God who wishes to grant you access to the Tree of Life but not unless you are safe for the Universe to come.  What kind of God would have a Satan?  — The kind of God who would have you!

“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.”[12]

 

____________________________________________________________________________

NOTES:

(All Ellen White Books quoted below are available on line at www.whiteestate.org )

[1] Ellen Harmon White, An American Prophet, page 13, Oxford University Press, 2014.

[2] Ibid, page151.

[3] Malcolm Bull and Keith Lockhart, Seeking a Sanctuary, Seventh-day Adventism and the American Dream, page 21,  Harper and Row, San Francisco, 1989.

[4] Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, page 135.

[5] Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, page 495.

[6] Ellen G. White, Story of Redemption, pages 13-14.

[7] Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, page 670.

[8] Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, February 11, 1902.

[9] Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide, Rebellion and Redemption, Lesson 2, Crisis in Eden, reading for January 4, 2016.

[10] This reminds us that God does not take credit for “planting” the rest of the world, He gave the earth permission to plant itself in Genesis 1:11, “Let the land produce vegetation….”

[11] Ellen G. White, Patriarchs and Prophets, page 63.

[12] Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, page 678.

 

 

(Comments for this article are open and will not  be moderated.)