By Elder Lawrence Nelson
For many years I have been intrigued with a verse of scripture which I believe is one of the most sublime of all in inspiration. It is found in Psalm 85:10 and will be our text for this study. “Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” When one reads this text for the first time he is captured by its poetic nature and aroused by its romantic thought. But when one gives himself to prayerful study of this text he is filled with amazement as he begins to realize the very thoughts of God in achieving victory in the great controversy between Christ and Satan.
Today mankind is faced with many unsolved questions. Each differs widely, depending on where one lives, but our subject is of more importance than any problem found in this world today. We are dealing with a question of how to find permanent peace and I am not talking about the present war with terrorists around the world, nor the present peace movements on foot.
Yet in a way these world efforts to obtain peace are connected with Satan’s ambition to destroy the peace of the universe. Perhaps we should first question, “How can this be?” And the answer is, “Because Satan had attempted to prove that the righteousness of God’s law is the enemy of peace.” This is why the Son of God came to live on this earth to reveal His Father’s eternal “peace plan,” proving that His law and His everlasting peace are inseparably joined together; that mercy and truth cannot exist without each other.
Before we continue, this is a good place to pause and invite the Holy Spirit to guide us in our search for divine understanding that we may realize the meaning of Christ’s final words on the cross when He cried, “It is finished,” that forever ended any doubt throughout the universe as to the final outcome of the war with Satan. Let us pray. Our Loving Father, we ask in the blessed name of Jesus that the third person of the Godhead activate our minds with divine guidance that we may comprehend the depths of salvation’s plan for eternal peace. Amen.
As we dig into this important subject we should take time to identify the spiritual meaning of each word in our text – “truth,” “mercy,” “righteousness,” and “peace.” Let us begin with the word “truth.” The scripture declares without question in Psalm 119:142, “Thy law is the truth.”
The word “mercy” is best understood in the light of the sanctuary for the Bible tells us, “Sin is the transgression of the law.” Within the sanctuary God placed the mercy seat above the law which was centered in the Ark of the Covenant. Therefore, according to Jude 21, we read, “Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.” As one studies the heavenly sanctuary we find that Jesus Christ, our High Priest, sprinkles His precious blood upon the mercy seat of God that we may obtain forgiveness and receive the peace of eternal life.
The word “righteousness” means “sinlessness.” Since Christ never sinned only His righteousness is acceptable to God the Father. Christ has promised to cover us with the robe of His righteousness.
Our last word is “peace.” This beautiful word is best explained by another word – “heaven.” In Revelation 21:1-4 we read, “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea. And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.” What a wonderful picture of eternal peace! Thus the word is best understood by what takes place in heaven.
Now with these inspired meanings of mercy, truth, righteousness and peace, let us once again read our text, “Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.” Since “mercy” is best expressed by the word “love,” and the “law” is “truth,” and “sinlessness” is “righteousness,” and “heaven” is “peace,” permit me to read our text with these spiritual meanings: “Love and law are met together; sinlessness and heaven have kissed each other.” How beautiful!
The life of Christ on this earth proved beyond a doubt that God’s law is righteous and can be perfectly obeyed with divine help. By the death of Christ on the cross He proved that Satan’s charges were utterly false; that justice did not destroy mercy in forgiving sin; that heaven’s peace will extend through all eternity and can be realized only on God’s terms.
I trust by now that we are starting to comprehend a small portion of those dramatic words that Christ uttered on the cross when He cried, “It is finished.” It is no wonder that when these words were uttered from His dying lips that all heaven broke forth in a mighty shout of victory. Usually when death comes in this life it brings great anguish for all hope has finally vanished. Death is a state of hopelessness. But this was not so when Christ died. Those dying words of Christ, “It is finished,” were a cry of victory; the battle had been won. It was a time for rejoicing for Christ has accomplished the task He had come to do. In dying, He became a conqueror. All heaven participated in the Savior’s victory. Shouts of triumph echoed from one unfallen world to another through the vast universe. Do you question why? – Because heaven’s peace had now become a reality.
Satan, who for ages had harassed the angels of God and the inhabitants of sinless worlds, was no longer permitted to disrupt heaven’s harmony. Satan had become a defeated foe and what’s more, he knew it. This is why his hatred for God has now turned to revenge. This is why he is going about as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. Those divine words, “It is finished,” mean that redemption was no longer a possibility, but was now an accomplished fact – not only for us, but for the peace of the unfallen worlds.
Let me explain further. It was not until the moment of Christ’s death on the cross that the character of Satan was clearly revealed to the angels of God and to the unfallen worlds. The archapostate had so clothed himself with deception that even the remaining holy angels did not fully understand the principles of Satan’s kingdom.
I can hear some of you asking, “How could this be?” You must realize Satan was a created being so wonderful, so powerful and so great in his glory that he was above all created beings. He was actually next to the divine Godhead. Inspiration speaks of him as, “Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty.” Ezekiel 28:12. Lucifer was of the highest order of all creation. He was used by God to carry out the purposes of the Godhead to the universe. Angels trusted him. They never questioned any of his commands, but after Satan made the decision to take the place of Christ, God could no longer use him. The power and wisdom that he had used to achieve God’s purposes he now used to deceive.
It was a most difficult task for God to unveil Satan’s character. One often wonders why God didn’t immediately destroy Satan in his decision to overthrow God’s throne, but at that time only God, in His divine wisdom, knew that rebellion is never overcome by force. Therefore, God rightly chose to resist such evil by revealing His goodness, His mercy, His truth and His love. Henceforth Satan would try to prove his false claims by using the power of force, while God chose His divine principles as the only means to prove that truth and love can achieve a peaceful kingdom.
In heaven’s council God takes action with eternity in mind. It was decided that time should be given Satan to develop his government so that the universe might see the final results. Thus, during the next four thousand years Christ worked by truth and love to uplift men while Satan worked with his deception to ruin men.
Finally the time came for Jesus to be born as a babe in Bethlehem. Satan immediately attempted to kill the babe. No child has ever been tried as the Christ-child. Satan used every possible means within his power to keep Christ from developing a perfect childhood and to prevent Christ from maintaining a faultless manhood. The devil did everything possible to disrupt Christ’s three years of holy ministry which was dedicated to provide an unblemished sacrifice. Satan’s storm of wrath continually beat upon Him, but the more Satan attempted to force Him to sin, the more firmly Christ clung to His Father.
Permit me to emphasize this great controversy in which every detail was witnessed by the entire universe. This can be easily explained by our satellite system around this world which makes it possible for us to see any event that takes place in the world. Just so, God has an infinite television system that revealed every detail of Christ’s life from His birth to Calvary which was made visible to every created being in the universe.
I suggest that we plug into heaven’s satellite system at the very moment when Christ cried, “Oh my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.” Matthew 26:39. The universe was watching as the Father’s presence was being withdrawn from His precious Son. Unnumbered created beings were absolutely captivated as they beheld Christ’s struggle with death in the Garden of Gethsemane – a death which exceeded that of the cross – forcing bloody sweat out of His pours that fell to the ground. These sinless creatures watched and wondered. Three times they heard Him pray for deliverance until heaven could no longer endure the sight and the angel Gabriel was sent to strengthen Jesus. All heaven beheld as Christ was betrayed into murderous hands. They watched the violence with which He was treated and hurried from one tribunal to another. They heard the sneers spoken of His lowly birth. The angels were amazed at the denial and cursing of his beloved disciple Peter. They beheld thousands of demons turning the hearts of men against their Creator.
What a picture heaven’s satellite system revealed! Jesus seized at midnight in the garden and mistreated from palace to judgment hall. Two times arraigned before priests, twice before the Sanhedrin, by mob violence He is taken before Pilate who chastised Him and then sent Him to King Herod who cruelly handled Him. Finally He is brought back to Pilate who condemned and scourged Him. All heaven was watching as that whip, with sharp metal attached to the many strands, dug deep into the Savior’s back removing the last ounces of strength from the Savior’s body making it impossible for Him to carry the cross and He falls to the ground. Surely your heart is touched as we have joined with the universe in watching the nails driven through His hands and feet. We can actually sense the pain as the cross is lifted and dropped into the hole. Our eyes fill with tears as we watch His labored breath grow quick and shallow. All this and more because the sins of the world have been heaped upon Him.
We cannot help but marvel with heaven that Jesus prays amid such suffering, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34. Watch the contempt as we see the devil’s legions of demons inspiring the mob with the words, “If you be Christ, save thyself.” Luke 23:39. But in all this Satan gained absolutely nothing. Not one sin could be found in Jesus Christ. Suddenly Jesus gives that astonishing cry, “It is finished,” as His head falls forward in death.
John tells us what happened in heaven at that very moment. I am reading Revelation 12:10, “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.” At last Satan’s disguise is torn away. His administration is laid wide open before the unfallen angels and the universe. Satan had revealed himself a murderer. How true the words of Christ, “He was a murderer from the beginning.” John 8:44. Never again would the angels of God in heaven have to listen to Satan’s accusations as he would taunt them at Jerusalem’s pearly gates.
The last link of sympathy with Satan was forever broken. Yet, the angels of God did not know the depth of the great controversy between Christ and Satan. This mystery of iniquity must be fully revealed so Satan’s existence must continue a little longer. For some two thousands years more they must see the full contrast between the Prince of Life and the prince of darkness. Satan had declared that God’s law could not be obeyed, that God’s justice was inconsistent with His mercy, that it was impossible for a sinner to be pardoned for sin. He must be punished. If sin should be forgiven God could no longer be a God of justice because Satan himself had been banished from heaven and refused pardon.
But beloved, let us pause for a moment and think this thing through clearly. Lucifer had been the covering cherub next to God for millions of years. No one in the universe knew more fully and understood more clearly God’s government of love, yet he openly rebelled knowing full well that God was a God of love. But man was deceived by Satan’s sophistry. Man at creation had lived but a very short time and did not know the heights and the breadths or depths of God’s love. There was hope for fallen man when given time to realize God’s love and thus be drawn back to God by beholding His character. God’s mercy and justice must be made manifest to sinful man. He must understand that mercy did not set aside God’s justice; that God’s law revealed the attributes of His character and in heaven’s sanctuary not one jot or tittle could be changed in that divine law. So, wonder of wonders, what does the Godhead do? In order to prove to man that God is filled with love and mercy Christ sacrifices Himself.
We read of this in 2 Corinthians 5:19, “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself.” Since the law requires righteousness, no man of himself can become righteous but, praise God, Christ can embrace men with God’s attributes. Jesus can give to us His character, thus the righteousness of the law can be fulfilled in the believer as we read in Romans 3:26, God can be “the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.” Thus Jesus revealed the way to God. Since the law is truth Christ revealed that mercy and His law were insolvably joined together; that one can not exist without the other. This is why our text states, “Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.”
Now this brings us to the most important truth for those living in this end time. It is here that we discover Satan’s final deception. Since the cross reveals the unquestionable love of divinity Satan now declares that Christ’s love has destroyed the law. Let’s think this thing through. If it had been possible for God to alter or to change His law Christ need not have died. Amen? So Satan in this end time has decided to use the love of God to immortalize transgression. Since Jesus’ love was so great that He died for mankind Satan now uses God’s mercy as the means to do away with the requirements of the law. “Today we need only to love God and not obey Him.” This is the final deception of Satan in this end time.
Satan is working through the fallen Protestant churches and the papacy to lead man to disobey one precept of God’s law knowing full well that God has stated, “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” James 2:10. Thus in our world today most have swallowed Satan’s lie hook, line and sinker which is his masterly deception in keeping Sunday holy instead of the seventh-day Sabbath. By doing this they are making it possible for Satan to be worshipped as the god of this world.
I am sorry to say this deception is gaining ground in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Never in the last ten years has there been so much “love” preaching. Never in the last ten years has there been so little preached on obedience. The result is very obvious. Since God loves you so much you do not have to obey Him anymore; you may sin until Jesus comes. The results are very evident. Two separate classes are being developed within God’s true church – those that love Jesus so much that they would rather die than sin, and on the other hand are those who only want to hear of love and no obedience, believing that God’s mercy is so great that they can continue to sin and still be saved.
Beloved, Jesus is soon coming and will vindicate His law with the seven-last plagues, while at the same time He will deliver those who keep the commandments of God. Sin and sinners will be punished both root and branch – Satan the root and those who accept his last deception, the branches. God’s Word will be fulfilled of Satan and his followers as you read in Ezekiel 28:6 – 19, Psalms 37:10, and Obadiah 16. I quote, “I will destroy thee, O covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. … Thou shalt be a terror, and never shalt thou be any more.” “For yet a little while, and the wicked shall not be: yea, thou shalt diligently consider his place, and it shall not be.” “They shall be as though they had not been.”
To those individuals who choose to believe Satan’s final deception that God’s love is so great that He will save them even in their sins, such will discover that they have actually cut themselves off from the peace of eternal life. Proverbs 8:36 states, “All they that hate me love death.” The glory of God’s love will destroy them.
Let us never forget that at the beginning of the great controversy one-third of the angels in heaven were deceived. The unfallen worlds did not comprehend what you and I have discovered in this study. If Satan and his angels had been destroyed by God the moment they had rebelled, the universe would never have known the results of sin, and they may also have produced the deadly roots of rebellion. But praise God, this will not be so when this controversy ends for God’s character will be fully vindicated. Every created intelligency of heaven and on earth will fully understand the character of God and they will know His precepts are perfect and immutable. Every created being will delight to do God’s will, for in their heart God’s love has been fully understood. Love has not destroyed His law, but established His law. Peace, perfect peace, will eternally reign for “mercy and truth have met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other.”
The years of eternity as they roll will bring richer and still more glorious revelations of God and of Christ. As knowledge is progressive, so will love, reverence and happiness increase. The more men learn of God the greater will be their admiration of His character. As Jesus opens before them the riches of redemption and the amazing achievements of the great controversy with Satan the hearts of the ransomed thrill with more fervent devotion and with more rapturous joy. They sweep the harps of gold and ten thousand times ten thousand and thousands of thousands of voices unite to swell the mighty chorus of praise. “Every creature which is in heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, heard I saying, Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be onto him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb for ever and ever.” Revelation 5:13.
“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 unlimited 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.” Great Controversy p. 678.
Let us pray. Loving Father, we praise Thy dear Son, Jesus, for making it possible for us to someday live in heaven where eternal peace will reign forever. Please grant us Thy mighty power that we might overcome every sin and be worthy to live with Thee. Amen.