Satan’s Strategy in Church Crises
Wherever you find Satan, you soon see war, for his principles always produce war.
According to Revelation 12:17, Satan instigated a war in heaven and he will continue fighting to the very end of time. Even after a thousand years of severe punishment during the millennium, he remains unchanged and he resumes the battle as soon as his incarceration ends (Rev 20:7).
Satan has a goal to make us part of his army. Though our lips may say we are loyal to Christ alone, our actions always reveal who is leading us (Mt 6:24; 1 John 3:18).
Satan and his angels could have quietly withdrawn from heaven when they saw that they disagreed with God’s commands. But that is not Satan’s way. Instead, he launched a war to drive the loyal angels out of heaven and take over God's throne (Rev 12:7). This is also how he directs his followers to behave on earth.
There is a reason that Revelation 12 details the war in heaven before announcing the final war against the remnant. The same Satan that corrupted once-loyal angels is now working to corrupt once-loyal Sabbath keepers, and this war against the remnant is not only waged from without, but from within.
“The devil has device after device, and he carries them out in ways that they do not expect. Satan’s agencies will invent ways to make sinners out of saints” (Ms 1, 1915).
"Satan will always cooperate with those who are willing to betray sacred trusts” (RC 201).
Satan uses a well-practiced three-step process. This provides us a clear map we can utilize to track where we are in many church crises and keeps us from being "ignorant of his devices" (2 Cor 2:11):
Step 1: Create discontent over imagined “rights”:
This spreads dissatisfaction and underneath a surface cordiality "results in a division of feeling” (PP 38) with the formation of two parties. In heaven, there were pro-Lucifer angels and pro-Michael angels (Rev 12:7).
However a third group, a compromise group, a party that profess neutrality and ostensibly seek unity will also emerge. In heaven Lucifer, himself, was the leader of this group.
“Lucifer had at first so conducted his temptations that he himself stood uncommitted” (PP 41).
But such so-called "neutrality in a religious crisis is regarded of God as a grievous crime and equal to the very worst type of hostility against God” (5T 281). God’s word denounces this lack of commitment posing as a “unifying" neutrality:
A. Neutrality is neither hot nor cold. "So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth" (Revelation 3:16).
B. Neutrality is complacent. "I will search Jerusalem with lamps, and punish the men who are settled in complacency, who say in their heart, "The Lord will not do good, nor will He do evil" (Zephaniah 1:12).
C. Neutrality calls evil good. "Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; Who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! (Isaiah 5:20).
D. Neutrality declares that God is pleased with evil doers. "You have wearied the Lord with your words; “Yet you say, “In what way have we wearied Him?” In that you say, “Everyone who does evil is good in the sight of the Lord, and He delights in them” (Malachi 2:7).
E. Neutrality is lack of a commitment to God. "And Elijah came to all the people, and said, “How long will you falter between two opinions? If the Lord is God, follow Him; but if Baal, follow him.” But the people answered him not a word" (1 Kings 18:21).
F. Neutrality lacks discernment. "Therefore give to Your servant an understanding heart … that I may discern between good and evil" (1 Kings 3:9).
In heaven no angel could remain neutral—all must make a decision and declare a side. They must either obey God or disobey Him. None were exempt. God “required all the family in Heaven, even Satan, to yield him implicit, unquestioned obedience” (1SP 22). And at last, Satan's false neutrality was exposed and he declared himself. With his “coming out” he advanced a deception that accompanies his next step.
Step 2. Promote a deception:
"If the angels would stand firmly with him, he declared, they could yet gain all that they desired” (PP 39-40).
If the demands are so firmly denied that it becomes clear that the imagined “rights” will not be granted, then this prepares the way for the final step.
Step 3. Promote a follow-up deception:
"The only course remaining for him and his followers, he said, was to assert their liberty, and gain by force the rights which had not been willingly accorded them” (PP 41). This final step results in a declaration of war. Here is the progression:
- Use the cost of faithfulness to Christ’s authority as a threat.
- Satan "pointed to his sympathizers, comprising nearly one-half of all the angels, and exclaimed, These are with me! Will you expel these also, and make such a void in Heaven?” (1SP 22).
- Frame the issue in terms of religious liberty and autocratic authority.
- The war was blamed on Jesus’ autocratic rule and commenced as a fight for religious liberty for it was claimed that "the liberty which they had hitherto enjoyed was at an end; for an absolute Ruler had been appointed them, and to His authority all must pay homage” (PP 37).
- Create upheaval and commotion with the enforcement of God’s word. Satan followed through with his threat and “all heaven seemed in commotion” (EW 145). The government of heaven appeared "about to fall." But it did not fall. Angelic “sinners in" heavenly "Zion were” removed (see Lt 55, 1886).
- Immediate reorganization is necessary. "The angels were marshaled in companies, each division with a higher commanding angel at its head” (ibid). Satan "was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him” (Rev 12:9).
- There is no joy in victory. "Angels in Heaven mourned the fate of those who had been their companions in happiness and bliss. Their loss was felt in Heaven” (1SP 24).
- Resume the mission without delay. "The Father consulted Jesus in regard to at once carrying out their purpose to make man to inhabit the earth” (ibid). Following the entrance of sin, "Jesus also told them [the angels] that they would have a part to act.” (EW 150).
- Expect the successful Commander to be crucified on earth, but honored in heaven.
Then your light shall break forth like the morning, Your healing shall spring forth speedily. And your righteousness shall go before you; The glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard (Isaiah 58:8).
Phil Mills, MD, a graduate of the Loma Linda School of Medicine, is a dermatologist in private practice.