The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 3


Chapter 12—The Conflict Ended

When Christ cried out, “It is finished,” all Heaven triumphed. The controversy between Christ and Satan in regard to the execution of the plan of salvation was ended. The spirit of Satan and his works had taken deep root in the affections of the children of men. For Satan to have come into power would have been death to the world. The implacable hatred he felt toward the Son of God was revealed in his manner of treating him while he was in the world. Christ's betrayal, trial, and crucifixion were all planned by the fallen foe. His hatred, carried out in the death of the Son of God, placed Satan where his true diabolical character was revealed to all created intelligences that had not fallen through sin. 3SP 183.1

The holy angels were horror-stricken that one who had been of their number could fall so far as to be capable of such cruelty. Every sentiment of sympathy or pity which they had ever felt for Satan in his exile, was quenched in their hearts. That his envy should be exercised in such a revenge upon an innocent person was enough to strip him of his assumed robe of celestial light, and to reveal the hideous deformity beneath; but to manifest such malignity toward the divine Son of God, who had, with unprecedented self-denial, and love for the creatures formed in his image, come from Heaven and assumed their fallen nature, was such a heinous crime against Heaven that it caused the angels to shudder with horror, and severed forever the last tie of sympathy existing between Satan and the heavenly world. Satan had put forth extraordinary efforts against Jesus from the time he appeared as a babe in Bethlehem. He had sought in every possible manner to prevent him from developing a perfect childhood, a faultless manhood, a holy ministry, and an infinite sacrifice in yielding up his life without a murmur for the sins of men. But Satan had been unable to discourage him, or to drive him from the work he had come on earth to do. The storm of Satan's wrath beat upon him from the desert to Calvary; but the more mercilessly it fell, the more firmly did the Son of God cling to the hand of his Father, and press on in the bloodstained path before him. All the efforts of Satan to oppress and overwhelm him, only brought out in a purer light the spotless character of Christ. 3SP 183.2

In the controversy between Christ and Satan, the character of God was now fully vindicated in his act of banishing from Heaven the fallen angel, who had once been exalted next to Christ. All Heaven, and the worlds that had not fallen through sin, had been witnesses to the controversy between Christ and Satan. With what intense interest had they followed the closing scenes of the conflict! They had beheld the Saviour enter the garden of Gethsemane, his soul bowed down by a horror of darkness that he had never before experienced. An overmastering agony had wrenched from his lips the bitter cry for that cup, if possible, to pass from him. A terrible amazement, as he felt his Father's presence withdrawn from him, had filled his divine spirit with a shuddering dread. He was sorrowful, with a bitterness of sorrow exceeding that of the last great struggle with death; the sweat of blood was forced from his pores, and fell in drops upon the ground. Thrice the same prayer for deliverance had been wrung from his lips. Heaven had been unable to longer endure the sight, and had sent a messenger of consolation to the prostrate Son of God, fainting and dying under the accumulated guilt of the world. 3SP 184.1

Heaven had beheld the victim betrayed and hurried from one earthly tribunal to another with mockery and violence. It had heard the sneers of his persecutors because of his lowly birth, and his denial with cursing and swearing by one of his best-loved disciples. It had seen the frenzied work of Satan, and his power over the hearts of men. Oh, fearful scene! the Saviour seized at midnight in Gethsemane as a murderer, dragged to and fro from palace to judgment hall, arraigned twice before the priests, twice before the Sanhedrim, twice before Pilate, and once before Herod, mocked, scourged, and condemned, led out to be crucified, bearing the heavy burden of the cross amid the wailing of the daughters of Jerusalem and the jeering of the crowd! 3SP 185.1

Heaven had viewed with grief and amazement Christ hanging upon the cross, blood flowing from his wounded temples, and sweat tinged with blood standing upon his brow. From his hands and feet the blood had fallen, drop by drop, upon the rock drilled for the foot of the cross. The wounds made by the nails had gaped as the weight of his body dragged upon his hands. His labored breath had grown quick and deep, as his soul panted under the burden of the sins of the world. All Heaven had been filled with admiration when the prayer of Christ was offered in the midst of his terrible suffering—“Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” Yet there stood men, formed in the image of God, joining with Satan to crush out the last spark of life from the heart of the Son of God. 3SP 185.2

In Christ was the embodiment of God himself. The plan and execution of man's salvation is a demonstration of divine wisdom and power mysterious to finite minds. The unfathomable love of God for the human race, in giving his Son to die for them, was made manifest. Christ was revealed in all his self-sacrificing love and purity; man could now obtain immortal life through his merits. When the justice of God was expressed in judicial sentence, declaring the final disposition of Satan, that he should be utterly consumed with all those who ranked under his banner, all Heaven rang with hallelujahs, and “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to have all authority and power, and dominion, and glory.” 3SP 186.1

When we dwell upon the justice of God, we look upon only one side of his character; for in his greatness and might he has condescended to our feebleness in sending his Son to the world that man may not perish. In the cross we may read his tender mercy and forgiveness, harmoniously combined with his stern, unwavering justice. The severity of God is felt when we are separated from him; but when we repent of our sins, and make our peace with him through the virtue of the cross, we find him a merciful Father, reconciled to men through his Son. 3SP 186.2

The body of Jesus was hastily placed in the tomb because of the near approach of the Sabbath, that the disciples might keep the day according to the commandment. The two Marys were the last at the sepulcher. This was a never-to-be-forgotten Sabbath to the sorrowing disciples, and also to the priests, rulers, scribes, and people. The passover was observed as it had been for centuries, while the antitypical Lamb, which it prefigured, had been slain by wicked hands, and lay in Joseph's tomb. Crowds of worshipers filled the courts of the temple and presented their morning and evening sacrifices as heretofore. Many minds were busy with thoughts started by the scenes of Calvary. Many sleepless eyes, from the crucifixion to the resurrection, were constantly searching the prophecies; some to learn the full meaning of the feast they were then celebrating; some to find evidence that Jesus was not what he claimed to be; and others, with disappointed hopes and sorrowful hearts, searched for convincing proof that he was the Messiah. Though searching with different objects in view, they were all convicted of the same truth—that prophecy had been fulfilled in the events of the past few days, and that the crucified one was indeed the world's Redeemer. 3SP 186.3

The priests who ministered before the altar had gloomy presentiments as they looked upon the vail, rent by unseen hands from top to bottom, and which there had not been time to replace or to fully repair. The uncovering of the sacred mysteries of the most holy place brought to them a shuddering dread of coming calamity. Many of the officiating priests were deeply convicted of the true character of Jesus; their searching of the prophecies had not been in vain, and after he was raised from the dead they acknowledged him as the Son of God. 3SP 187.1

The faith of the disciples was clouded with doubt. They were too thoroughly perplexed and uncertain to recall the words of Jesus, warning them beforehand of the things which would take place. They were indeed as sheep scattered without a shepherd. But they had never loved their Lord as now. They had never felt his worth and their need of him as when they were deprived of his society. 3SP 188.1

Nicodemus, when he saw Jesus lifted upon the cross, remembered his words in that private interview at night in the mountains. On that Sabbath, while Christ lay silent in the grave, he had a favorable opportunity for reflection. A clearer light now illuminated his mind and the words which Jesus had addressed to him were no longer mysterious. He felt that he had lost much by not connecting himself with Jesus while he was upon earth. When the Saviour was lifted upon the cross, Nicodemus remembered that he had told him that the Son of man should be lifted up as the serpent was lifted up in the wilderness. The prayer of Christ for his murderers, and his answer to the petition of the dying thief, while he himself was suffering the excruciating tortures of a death upon the cross, spoke with powerful distinctness to the heart of the learned councilor. And that last cry: “It is finished,” spoken like the words of a conqueror, together with the reeling earth, the darkened heavens, the rent vail, the shivered rocks, forever settled the faith of Nicodemus. 3SP 188.2

Joseph had believed on Jesus, though he had kept silent. Now all the fears of both these men were overcome by the courage of a firm and unwavering faith. During that memorable passover the scenes of the crucifixion were the theme of thought, and the topic of conversation. Hundreds had brought with them to the passover their afflicted relatives and friends, expecting to see Jesus and prevail upon him to heal and save them. Great was their disappointment to find that he was not at the feast; and when they were told that he had been executed as a criminal, their indignation and grief knew no bounds. No hope of their ever meeting him again, of hearing his words of reproof and warning, of comfort and hope in the streets of Jerusalem, by the lake, in the synagogues, and in the groves. 3SP 188.3

The events of his death were recounted to these strangers by two parties. Those who helped put him to death made their false statements; and those who loved him, those whom he had healed and comforted, related the terrible truth, together with their own experience, and the wonders he had done for them. The sufferers who had come with the expectation of being healed by the Saviour sank under their disappointment. The streets and the temple courts were filled with mourning. The sick were dying for want of the healing touch of Jesus of Nazareth. Physicians were consulted in vain; there was no skill like that of Him who lay in state in Joseph's tomb. The afflicted, who had long looked forward to this time as their only hope of relief, asked in vain for the Healer they had sought. 3SP 189.1

Many whose voices had swelled the cry of “Crucify him, crucify him!” now realized the calamity that had fallen upon them, and would have as eagerly cried, “Give us Jesus!” had he still been alive. The mourning cries of the sick and dying, who now had no one to save them, brought home the truth to thousands of minds, that a great light had gone out of the world. The death of Jesus left a blank which could not be supplied. The priests and rulers were ill at ease; they heard the people calling for Jesus of Nazareth, and they avoided them as much as possible. 3SP 189.2

Upon this occasion those who were suspected of being attacked by the leprosy were examined by the priests. Many were forced to hear their husbands, wives, or children pronounced unclean, and doomed to go forth from the shelter of their homes and the care of their friends, and to warn off the stranger with the mournful cry, “Unclean, unclean!” The friendly hands of Jesus of Nazareth, that never refused to touch with healing the loathsome leper, were folded silently upon his breast, bearing the marks of the cruel nails. Those lips, that had answered his petition of relief with the comforting words: “I will; be thou clean,” were silent now in death. Men never knew how much Christ was to the world, till his light was quenched in the darkness of the tomb. They heard the sufferers helplessly calling for Jesus until their voices were lost in death. 3SP 190.1

The revenge which the priests thought would be so sweet had already become bitterness to them. They knew that they were meeting the severe censure of the people; they knew that the very persons whom they had influenced against Jesus were now horrified by their own shameful work. As they witnessed all these proofs of the divine influence of Jesus, they were more afraid of his dead body in the tomb than they had been of him when he was living and among them. The possibility of his coming forth from the sepulcher filled their guilty souls with indescribable terror. They felt that Jesus might at any time stand before them, the accused to become the accuser, the condemned to in turn condemn, the slain to demand justice in the death of his murderers. 3SP 190.2