The Story of Patriarchs and Prophets
by Ellen G. White
Chapter 4: The Plan of Redemption
The fall of man filled all heaven with sorrow. The world that
God had made was blighted with the curse of sin and inhabited
by beings doomed to misery and death. There appeared no
escape for those who had transgressed the law. Angels ceased
their songs of praise. Throughout the heavenly courts there was
mourning for the ruin that sin had wrought.
The Son of God, heaven's glorious Commander, was touched
with pity for the fallen race. His heart was moved with infinite
compassion as the woes of the lost world rose up before Him.
But divine love had conceived a plan whereby man might be
redeemed. The broken law of God demanded the life of the sinner.
In all the universe there was but one who could, in behalf of
man, satisfy its claims. Since the divine law is as sacred as God
Himself, only one equal with God could make atonement for its
transgression. None but Christ could redeem fallen man from
the curse of the law and bring him again into harmony with
Heaven. Christ would take upon Himself the guilt and shame of
sin—sin so offensive to a holy God that it must separate the Father
and His Son. Christ would reach to the depths of misery to rescue
the ruined race.
Before the Father He pleaded in the sinner's behalf, while the
host of heaven awaited the result with an intensity of interest
that words cannot express. Long continued was that mysterious
communing—"the counsel of peace" (Zechariah 6:13) for the
fallen sons of men. The plan of salvation had been laid before
the creation of the earth; for Christ is "the Lamb slain from the
foundation of the world" (Revelation 13:8); yet it was a struggle,
even with the King of the universe, to yield up His Son to die for
the guilty race. But "God so loved the world, that He gave His
only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not
perish, but have everlasting life." John 3:16. Oh, the mystery of [p. 64] redemption! the love of God for a world that did not love Him!
Who can know the depths of that love which "passeth knowledge"?
Through endless ages immortal minds, seeking to comprehend
the mystery of that incomprehensible love, will wonder
God was to be manifest in Christ, "reconciling the world unto
Himself." 2 Corinthians 5:19. Man had become so degraded by
sin that it was impossible for him, in himself, to come into harmony
with Him whose nature is purity and goodness. But Christ,
after having redeemed man from the condemnation of the law,
could impart divine power to unite with human effort. Thus by
repentance toward God and faith in Christ the fallen children of
Adam might once more become "sons of God." 1 John 3:2.
The plan by which alone man's salvation could be secured, involved
all heaven in its infinite sacrifice. The angels could not
rejoice as Christ opened before them the plan of redemption, for
they saw that man's salvation must cost their loved Commander
unutterable woe. In grief and wonder they listened to His words
as He told them how He must descend from heaven's purity and
peace, its joy and glory and immortal life, and come in contact
with the degradation of earth, to endure its sorrow, shame, and
death. He was to stand between the sinner and the penalty of
sin; yet few would receive Him as the Son of God. He would
leave His high position as the Majesty of heaven, appear upon
earth and humble Himself as a man, and by His own experience
become acquainted with the sorrows and temptations which man
would have to endure. All this would be necessary in order that
He might be able to succor them that should be tempted. Hebrews
2:18. When His mission as a teacher should be ended, He
must be delivered into the hands of wicked men and be subjected
to every insult and torture that Satan could inspire them to inflict.
He must die the cruelest of deaths, lifted up between the heavens
and the earth as a guilty sinner. He must pass long hours of
agony so terrible that angels could not look upon it, but would
veil their faces from the sight. He must endure anguish of soul,
the hiding of His Father's face, while the guilt of transgression
—the weight of the sins of the whole world—should be upon
The angels prostrated themselves at the feet of their
Commander and offered to become a sacrifice for man. But an angel's [p. 65] life could not pay the debt; only He who created man had power
to redeem him. Yet the angels were to have a part to act in the
plan of redemption. Christ was to be made "a little lower than
the angels for the suffering of death." Hebrews 2:9. As He should
take human nature upon Him, His strength would not be equal
to theirs, and they were to minister to Him, to strengthen and
soothe Him under His sufferings. They were also to be ministering
spirits, sent forth to minister for them who should be heirs
of salvation. Hebrews 1:14. They would guard the subjects of
grace from the power of evil angels and from the darkness constantly
thrown around them by Satan.
When the angels should witness the agony and humiliation of
their Lord, they would be filled with grief and indignation and
would wish to deliver Him from His murderers; but they were
not to interpose in order to prevent anything which they should
behold. It was a part of the plan of redemption that Christ should
suffer the scorn and abuse of wicked men, and He consented to
all this when He became the Redeemer of man.
Christ assured the angels that by His death He would ransom
many, and would destroy him who had the power of death. He
would recover the kingdom which man had lost by transgression,
and the redeemed were to inherit it with Him, and dwell therein
forever. Sin and sinners would be blotted out, nevermore to disturb
the peace of heaven or earth. He bade the angelic host to be
in accord with the plan that His Father had accepted, and rejoice
that, through His death, fallen man could be reconciled to God.
Then joy, inexpressible joy, filled heaven. The glory and
blessedness of a world redeemed, outmeasured even the anguish
and sacrifice of the Prince of life. Through the celestial courts
echoed the first strains of that song which was to ring out above
the hills of Bethlehem—"Glory to God in the highest, and on
earth peace, good will toward men." Luke 2:14. With a deeper
gladness now than in the rapture of the new creation, "the morning
stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy."
To man the first intimation of redemption was communicated
in the sentence pronounced upon Satan in the garden. The Lord
declared, "I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and
between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou
shalt bruise his heel." Genesis 3:15. This sentence, uttered in the [p. 66] hearing of our first parents, was to them a promise. While it
foretold war between man and Satan, it declared that the power of the
great adversary would finally be broken. Adam and Eve stood as
criminals before the righteous Judge, awaiting the sentence which
transgression had incurred; but before they heard of the life of
toil and sorrow which must be their portion, or of the decree that
they must return to dust, they listened to words that could not fail
to give them hope. Though they must suffer from the power of
their mighty foe, they could look forward to final victory.
When Satan heard that enmity should exist between himself
and the woman, and between his seed and her seed, he knew that
his work of depraving human nature would be interrupted; that
by some means man would be enabled to resist his power. Yet as
the plan of salvation was more fully unfolded, Satan rejoiced
with his angels that, having caused man's fall, he could bring
down the Son of God from His exalted position. He declared that
his plans had thus far been successful upon the earth, and that
when Christ should take upon Himself human nature, He also
might be overcome, and thus the redemption of the fallen race
might be prevented.
Heavenly angels more fully opened to our first parents the
plan that had been devised for their salvation. Adam and his
companion were assured that notwithstanding their great sin,
they were not to be abandoned to the control of Satan. The Son
of God had offered to atone, with His own life, for their transgression.
A period of probation would be granted them, and
through repentance and faith in Christ they might again become
the children of God.
The sacrifice demanded by their transgression revealed to
Adam and Eve the sacred character of the law of God; and they
saw, as they had never seen before, the guilt of sin and its dire
results. In their remorse and anguish they pleaded that the penalty
might not fall upon Him whose love had been the source of all
their joy; rather let it descend upon them and their prosperity.
They were told that since the law of Jehovah is the foundation
of His government in heaven as well as upon the earth, even the
life of an angel could not be accepted as a sacrifice for its
transgression. Not one of its precepts could be abrogated or changed
to meet man in his fallen condition; but the Son of God, who had
created man, could make an atonement for him. As Adam's [p. 67] transgression had brought wretchedness and death, so the sacrifice
of Christ would bring life and immortality.
Not only man but the earth had by sin come under the power
of the wicked one, and was to be restored by the plan of
redemption. At his creation Adam was placed in dominion over the
earth. But by yielding to temptation, he was brought under the
power of Satan. "Of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he
brought in bondage." 2 Peter 2:19. When man became Satan's
captive, the dominion which he held, passed to his conqueror.
Thus Satan became "the god of this world." 2 Corinthians 4:4.
He had usurped that dominion over the earth which had been
originally given to Adam. But Christ, by His sacrifice paying the
penalty of sin, would not only redeem man, but recover the
dominion which he had forfeited. All that was lost by the first
Adam will be restored by the second. Says the prophet, "O tower
of the flock, the stronghold of the daughter of Zion, unto thee
shall it come, even the first dominion." Micah 4:8. And the
apostle Paul points forward to the "redemption of the purchased
possession." Ephesians 1:14. God created the earth to be the abode
of holy, happy beings. The Lord "formed the earth and made it;
He hath established it, He created it not in vain, He formed it to
be inhabited." Isaiah 45:18. That purpose will be fulfilled, when,
renewed by the power of God, and freed from sin and sorrow,
it shall become the eternal abode of the redeemed. "The righteous
shall inherit the land, and dwell therein forever." "And there shall
be no more curse: but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall
be in it; and His servants shall serve Him." Psalm 37:29; Revelation
Adam, in his innocence, had enjoyed open communion with his
Maker; but sin brought separation between God and man, and the
atonement of Christ alone could span the abyss and make possible
the communication of blessing or salvation from heaven to earth.
Man was still cut off from direct approach to his Creator, but God
would communicate with him through Christ and angels.
Thus were revealed to Adam important events in the history
of mankind, from the time when the divine sentence was pronounced
in Eden, to the Flood, and onward to the first advent
of the Son of God. He was shown that while the sacrifice of
Christ would be of sufficient value to save the whole world, many
would choose a life of sin rather than of repentance and obedience. [p. 68] Crime would increase through successive generations, and the
curse of sin would rest more and more heavily upon the human
race, upon the beasts, and upon the earth. The days of man
would be shortened by his own course of sin; he would deteriorate
in physical stature and endurance and in moral and intellectual
power, until the world would be filled with misery of every type.
Through the indulgence of appetite and passion men would become
incapable of appreciating the great truths of the plan of
redemption. Yet Christ, true to the purpose for which He left
heaven, would continue His interest in men, and still invite them
to hide their weakness and deficiencies in Him. He would supply
the needs of all who would come unto Him in faith. And there
would ever be a few who would preserve the knowledge of God
and would remain unsullied amid the prevailing iniquity.
The sacrificial offerings were ordained by God to be to man a
perpetual reminder and a penitential acknowledgment of his sin
and a confession of his faith in the promised Redeemer. They were
intended to impress upon the fallen race the solemn truth that it
was sin that caused death. To Adam, the offering of the first sacrifice
was a most painful ceremony. His hand must be raised to take
life, which only God could give. It was the first time he had ever
witnessed death, and he knew that had he been obedient to God,
there would have been no death of man or beast. As he slew the
innocent victim, he trembled at the thought that his sin must shed
the blood of the spotless Lamb of God. This scene gave him a
deeper and more vivid sense of the greatness of his transgression,
which nothing but the death of God's dear Son could expiate.
And he marveled at the infinite goodness that would give such a
ransom to save the guilty. A star of hope illumined the dark and
terrible future and relieved it of its utter desolation.
But the plan of redemption had a yet broader and deeper purpose
than the salvation of man. It was not for this alone that Christ
came to the earth; it was not merely that the inhabitants of this
little world might regard the law of God as it should be regarded;
but it was to vindicate the character of God before the universe.
To this result of His great sacrifice—its influence upon the
intelligences of other worlds, as well as upon man—the Saviour looked
forward when just before His crucifixion He said: "Now is the
judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast
out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all unto [p. 69] Me." John 12:31, 32. The act of Christ in dying for the salvation
of man would not only make heaven accessible to men, but before
all the universe it would justify God and His Son in their dealing
with the rebellion of Satan. It would establish the perpetuity of
the law of God and would reveal the nature and the results of sin.
From the first the great controversy had been upon the law of
God. Satan had sought to prove that God was unjust, that His law
was faulty, and that the good of the universe required it to be
changed. In attacking the law he aimed to overthrow the authority
of its Author. In the controversy it was to be shown whether the
divine statutes were defective and subject to change, or perfect and
When Satan was thrust out of heaven, he determined to make
the earth his kingdom. When he tempted and overcame Adam
and Eve, he thought that he had gained possession of this world;
"because," said he, "they have chosen me as their ruler." He
claimed that it was impossible that forgiveness should be granted
to the sinner, and therefore the fallen race were his rightful
subjects, and the world was his. But God gave His own dear Son—
one equal with Himself—to bear the penalty of transgression, and
thus He provided a way by which they might be restored to His
favor, and brought back to their Eden home. Christ undertook to
redeem man and to rescue the world from the grasp of Satan. The
great controversy begun in heaven was to be decided in the very
world, on the very same field, that Satan claimed as his.
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It was the marvel of all the universe that Christ should humble
Himself to save fallen man. That He who had passed from star
to star, from world to world, superintending all, by His providence
supplying the needs of every order of being in His vast
creation—that He should consent to leave His glory and take upon
Himself human nature, was a mystery which the sinless intelligences
of other worlds desired to understand. When Christ came
to our world in the form of humanity, all were intensely interested
in following Him as He traversed, step by step, the bloodstained
path from the manger to Calvary. Heaven marked the insult and
mockery that He received, and knew that it was at Satan's instigation.
They marked the work of counteragencies going forward;
Satan constantly pressing darkness, sorrow, and suffering upon
the race, and Christ counteracting it. They watched the battle
between light and darkness as it waxed stronger. And as Christ [p. 70] in His expiring agony upon the cross cried out, "It is finished"
(John 19:30), a shout of triumph rang through every world and
through heaven itself. The great contest that had been so long
in progress in this world was now decided, and Christ was conqueror.
His death had answered the question whether the Father
and the Son had sufficient love for man to exercise self-denial and
a spirit of sacrifice. Satan had revealed his true character as a liar
and a murderer. It was seen that the very same spirit with which
he had ruled the children of men who were under his power, he
would have manifested if permitted to control the intelligences
of heaven. With one voice the loyal universe united in extolling
the divine administration.
If the law could be changed, man might have been saved
without the sacrifice of Christ; but the fact that it was necessary
for Christ to give His life for the fallen race, proves that the law
of God will not release the sinner from its claims upon him. It is
demonstrated that the wages of sin is death. When Christ died,
the destruction of Satan was made certain. But if the law was
abolished at the cross, as many claim, then the agony and death
of God's dear Son were endured only to give to Satan just what
he asked; then the prince of evil triumphed, his charges against
the divine government were sustained. The very fact that Christ
bore the penalty of man's transgression is a mighty argument to
all created intelligences that the law is changeless; that God is
righteous, merciful, and self-denying; and that infinite justice
and mercy unite in the administration of His government.
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"Cain and Abel Tested"