"And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil."
 John 3:19

 

 "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world."
1 John 4:1

 THE REBEL HOST VS THE CREATOR GOD

Battle in the Desert 

Jesus Won Our Victory

After the baptism of Jesus, he was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. 

 Satan, after compassing the fall of Adam and Eve, had boasted that he was monarch of the earth, and it was true that in all ages of the world he had found many followers. But he had failed to unite fallen man with him as he had hoped to do, and thus reign supreme over the whole earth. 

Though man in his fallen state was suffering the consequence of his disobedience, yet he was not without hope. He was unable, because of his guilt, to come directly before God with his supplications, but the plan of redemption, devised in Heaven, transferred the sentence of death from the obedient and faithful, to a substitute. There must be the shedding of blood, for death was the consequence of man's sin. In the slain victim, man was to see for the time being the fulfillment of God's word: "Ye shall surely die." The flowing blood also signified an atonement, and pointed forward to a Redeemer who would one day come to the world and die for the sins of man, thus fully vindicating his Father's law. 

The hope of salvation through Christ led fallen man to be exceedingly faithful in the matter of sacrifices. Satan watched with intense interest every circumstance connected with these sacrificial ceremonies, and soon learned that they typified a future atonement for the human race. This caused him great uneasiness, as it threatened to frustrate his cherished plan of gaining dominion over the whole world and its inhabitants. But, instead of desponding under his discouragements, he redoubled his efforts to accomplish his purpose, and the ages were marked with his hellish triumphs. Indulgence of appetite and passion, war, intoxication, and crime spread over the earth as its inhabitants increased. God destroyed the people with the waters of a great flood, and rained fire and death upon the wicked cities; but the great adversary was still free to pursue his scheme of demoralization. 

Satan is a diligent student of the Bible, and much better acquainted with the prophecies than many religious teachers. He has ever kept well-informed concerning the revealed purposes of God, that he might defeat the plans of the Infinite. It was plain to Satan that the sacrificial offerings represented a coming Redeemer who was to ransom man from the powers of darkness, and that this Redeemer was the Son of God. Therefore he laid deep plans to control the hearts of men from generation to generation, and to blind their understanding of the prophecies, that when Christ should come the people would refuse to accept him as their Saviour. 

From the time when Christ was born in Bethlehem, Satan had never lost sight of him. He had set on foot various plans to destroy him, in all of which he was unsuccessful, as the Son of God was upheld by the strong arm of his Father. Well-aware of Christ's position in Heaven, Satan was filled with apprehension when this powerful Prince of light left the royal courts of his glory and became a simple man on earth. Satan now feared that, not only would he fail in his cherished purpose of reigning supreme over the whole earth, but that the power he already possessed would be wrested from him. Therefore when he went out into the wilderness to beset Christ with temptations, he brought every force and artifice at his command to bear upon the Son of God that he might allure him from his allegiance. 

The great work of redemption could be carried out only by the Redeemer taking the place of fallen man. Burdened with the sins of the world, he must go over the ground where Adam stumbled. He must take up the work just where Adam failed, and endure a test of the same character, but infinitely more severe than that which had vanquished him. It is impossible for man to fully comprehend the strength of Satan's temptations to our Saviour. Every enticement to evil, which men find so difficult to resist, was brought to bear upon the Son of God in as much greater degree as his character was superior to that of fallen man. 

 For four thousand years the race had been decreasing in size and physical strength, and deteriorating in moral worth; and, in order to elevate fallen man, Christ must reach him where he stood. He assumed human nature, bearing the infirmities and degeneracy of the race. He humiliated himself to the lowest depths of human woe, that he might fully sympathize with man and rescue him from the degradation into which sin had plunged him. 

 The indulgence of appetite had increased with every successive generation since Adam's transgression, until the race was so feeble in moral power that they could not overcome in their own strength. Christ in behalf of the race was to conquer appetite, by enduring the most powerful test on that point. He was to tread the path of temptation alone, with none to help or comfort him. Alone he was to wrestle with the powers of darkness, and exercise a self-control stronger than hunger or death. 

Satan hoped to conquer him through this powerful medium, and laid his plans accordingly. As soon as Christ's long fast commenced, he was at hand with this temptations. He came clothed in light, claiming to be an angel sent from the throne of God to sympathize with Christ and relieve him from his suffering condition. He represented to him that God did not desire him to pass through the pain and self-denial which he had anticipated. He claimed to bear the message from Heaven that God only designed to prove the willingness of Christ to endure his test. 

Satan told him that he was to set his feet in the blood-stained path, but not to travel it, that, like Abraham, he was tried to show his perfect obedience. He claimed to be the angel who stayed the hand of Abraham, as the knife was raised to slay Isaac, and that he had now come to save the life of the Son of God, deliver him from a painful death by starvation, and assist him in the plan of salvation. 

Satan is today deceiving many as he attempted to deceive Christ, claiming that he is  Heaven -sent and doing a good work for humanity. And the masses of the people are so blinded by sophistry that they cannot discern his true character, and they honor him as a messenger of God, while he is working their eternal ruin. 

But Christ turned from all these artful temptations, and remained steadfast in his purpose to carry out the divine plan. Foiled at one point, Satan now tried another expedient. Believing that the angelic character he had assumed defied detection, he now feigned to doubt the divinity of Christ, because of his emaciated appearance and uncongenial surroundings. 

He claimed direct authority from Heaven to demand proof of Christ that he was the Son of God. He taunted him with being a poor representative of the angels, much less their high Commander, the acknowledged King in the royal courts; and insinuated that his present appearance indicated that he was forsaken of God and man. He declared that if he were the Son of God he was equal with God and should evidence this by working a miracle to relieve his hunger. He then urged him to change the stone at his feet to bread, and agreed that if this were done he would at once yield his claims to superiority, and the contest between the two should be forever ended. 

The circumstances and surroundings of Christ were such as to make temptation upon this point peculiarly aggravating. The long fast had physically debilitated him, the pangs of hunger consumed his vitals, his fainting system clamored for food. He could have wrought a miracle in his own behalf, and satisfied his gnawing hunger; but this would not have been in accordance with the divine plan. It was no part of his mission to exercise divine power for his own benefit; this he never did in his earthly life; his miracles were all for the good of others. 

Suffering humiliation, hunger, and contempt, Jesus repulsed Satan with the same scripture he had bidden Moses repeat to rebellious Israel: "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God." In this declaration, and also by his example, Christ showed that wanting temporal food was a much less calamity than meeting the disapprobation of God. 

In becoming man's substitute, and conquering where man had been vanquished, Christ was not to manifest his divine power to relieve his own suffering, for fallen man could work no miracles in order to save himself from pain, and Christ, as his representative, was to bear his trials as a man, leaving an example of perfect faith and trust in his Heavenly Father.

Christ recognized Satan from the beginning, and it required strong self-control to listen to the propositions of this insulting deceiver, and not rebuke his bold assumption. But the Saviour of the world was neither provoked to give him evidence of his divine power, nor to enter into controversy with one who had been expelled from Heaven for leading a rebellion against the supreme Ruler of the universe, and whose very crime had been a refusal to recognize the dignity of the Son of God. Armed with faith in his Heavenly Father, bearing in his mind the precious memory of the words spoken from Heaven at his baptism, Jesus stood unmoved in the lonely wilderness, before the mighty enemy of souls. 

But Satan had too much at stake to lightly give up the battle. He knew that, if Christ came off victor, his influence would be lessened. So, in order to awe Christ with his superior strength, he carried him to Jerusalem and placed him on a pinnacle of the temple. He now demanded that, if he were indeed the Son of God, he should cast himself from that dizzy height, and thus indicate entire confidence in his Father's preserving care. 

The sin of presumption lies close beside the virtue of perfect faith and confidence in God, and Satan endeavored to take advantage of Christ's humanity and urge him over the line of trust into presumption. He now admitted that Christ was right in the wilderness, when he placed such perfect confidence in the Father, and he now urged that one more proof should be given of his entire faith in God, by casting himself from the temple. He assured him that if he were indeed the Son of God he had nothing to fear, for the angels would uphold him. Satan was well aware that if Christ could be prevailed upon to fling himself from the temple, in order to prove his claim to the protection of his Heavenly Father, he would, by that very act, exhibit the weakness of human nature. 

But Jesus came off victor from the second temptation, by spurning the sin of presumption. While manifesting perfect trust in his Father, he refused to voluntarily place himself in such peril that it would be necessary for the Father to display divine power in order to save his Son from death. This would have been forcing Providence to come to his rescue, and thus he would fail to give his people a perfect example of faith and trust in God. 

Our Saviour showed entire confidence that his Heavenly Father would not suffer him to be tempted above what he should give him strength to endure. Christ had not willfully placed himself in danger, and he knew that if he preserved his integrity, an angel of God would be sent to deliver him from the tempter's power if it were necessary. 

Finding that he prevailed nothing with Christ in the second great temptation, Satan began to be alarmed for the result of his efforts. The continued steadfastness of the Son of God filled him with apprehension, for he had not expected so strenuous an opposition. He now called all the resources of his Satanic nature to his aid in one last mighty effort to baffle and defeat the Saviour. In his first two temptations, he had concealed his true character and purpose, claiming to be an exalted messenger from the courts of Heaven. But he now throws off all disguise, avowing himself the Prince of Darkness, and claiming the earth for his dominion. 

He took Jesus up into a high mountain and showed him the kingdoms of the world, spread out in a panoramic view before his eyes. The sunlight lay on templed cities, marble palaces, fruitful fields and vineyards, gilding the dark cedars of Lebanon and the blue waters of Galilee. The eyes of Jesus, so lately greeted by gloom and desolation, gazed upon a scene of unsurpassed loveliness and prosperity. Then the tempter's voice was heard: "All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them; for that is delivered unto me, and to whomsoever I will, I give it. If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine." 

Satan brought all his strength to bear upon this last inducement, for upon the result of this effort depended his destiny. He claimed the world as his dominion and himself to be the Prince of the power of the air. He promised to put Christ in possession of all the kingdoms without suffering or peril, if he would make one concession, and that was to acknowledge Satan his superior, and pay him homage.

This last temptation was designed to be the most alluring of all. Christ's life was one of sorrow, hardship, and conflict. Poverty and privation attended him; even the beasts and the birds had their homes, but the Son of Man had not where to lay his head. Homeless and friendless as he was, there was offered him the mighty kingdoms of the world and the glory of them for a single consideration. 

The eyes of Jesus rested for a moment upon the scene before him; he then turned resolutely from it, refusing to dally with the tempter by even looking upon the enchanting prospect he had presented to him; but when Satan solicited his homage, Christ's divine indignation was aroused, and he could no longer tolerate his blasphemous assumption, or even permit him to remain in his presence. He exercised his divine authority, and commanded Satan to desist, saying, "Get thee hence, Satan; for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve." 

Satan had asked Christ to give him evidence that he was the Son of God, and he had, in this instance, the proof he asked. He had no power to withstand his peremptory dismissal, and was compelled to obey the divine command. Writhing with baffled hate and rage, the rebel chief retired from the presence of the world's Redeemer. The contest was ended. Christ's victory was as complete as had been the failure of Adam. 

But the conflict had been protracted and trying, and Christ was exhausted and fell fainting to the ground, with the pallor of death upon his countenance. Then the heavenly angels, who had bowed before him in the royal courts, and who had watched his conflict with painful interest, ministered unto him, strengthening him with food, as he lay like one dying. They had beheld with awe and amazement their heavenly Commander passing through inexpressible suffering to achieve the salvation of man. He had endured a more severe test than man would ever be called to bear. But, as he lay emaciated and suffering, the angels brought messages of love and comfort from the Father, and an assurance that all Heaven triumphed in the victory he had gained for man. Thus the great heart of Christ warmed to life again, and became strengthened for his coming work. 

Although Satan had failed in his most powerful temptations, yet he had not given up all hope that he might, at some future time, be successful in his efforts. Baffled and defeated, he had no sooner retired from the scene of conflict than he began to lay plans for blinding the understanding of the Jews, God's chosen people, that they might not discern in Christ the world's Redeemer. He determined to fill their hearts with envy, jealousy, and hatred against the Son of God, so that they would not receive him, but would make his life upon earth as bitter as possible. 

Satan held a counsel with his angels, as to the course they should pursue to prevent the people from having faith in Christ as the Messiah whom the Jews had so long been anxiously expecting. He was disappointed and enraged that he had prevailed nothing against Jesus by his manifold temptations. But he now thought if he could inspire in the hearts of Christ's own people, unbelief as to his being the Promised One, he might discourage the Saviour in his mission and secure the Jews as his agents to carry out his own diabolical purposes. So he went to work in his subtle manner, endeavoring to accomplish by strategy what he had failed to do by direct, personal effort. 

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