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God’s Ultimate Argument

In Gethsemane

Upon Christ as our substitute and surety was laid the iniquity of us all.
Upon Christ as our substitute and
surety was laid the iniquity of us all.

Illustration © Pacific Press Publ. Assoc.

As the ministry of Christ came to a close and the time drew near that Jesus would be crucified, He took His disciples to the garden of Gethsemane, where He spent the night in prayer for strength to meet Satan in one last great struggle. Choosing to be made sin for us (see 2 Corinthians 5:21; Galatians 3:13), Jesus experienced what it will be like when God completely withdraws His favor from those who refuse to repent.

In the wilderness of temptation the destiny of the human race had been at stake. Christ was then conqueror. Now the tempter had come for the last fearful struggle. For this he had been preparing during the three years of Christ’s ministry. Everything was at stake with him. If he failed here, his hope of mastery was lost; the kingdoms of the world would finally become Christ’s; he himself would be overthrown and cast out. But if Christ could be overcome, the earth would become Satan’s kingdom, and the human race would be forever in his power. With the issues of the conflict before Him, Christ’s soul was filled with dread of separation from God. Satan told Him that if He became the surety for a sinful world, the separation would be eternal. He would be identified with Satan’s kingdom, and would nevermore be one with God. . . .

Behold Him contemplating the price to be paid for the human soul. In His agony He clings to the cold ground, as if to prevent Himself from being drawn farther from God. The chilling dew of night falls upon His prostrate form, but He heeds it not. From His pale lips comes the bitter cry, “O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me.” Yet even now He adds, “Nevertheless not as I will, but as You will.” Matthew 26:39.

The Desire of Ages, p. 686-687


Three times has He uttered that prayer. Three times has humanity shrunk from the last, crowning sacrifice. But now the history of the human race comes up before the world’s Redeemer. He sees that the transgressors of the law, if left to themselves, must perish. He sees the helplessness of man. He sees the power of sin. The woes and lamentations of a doomed world rise before Him. He beholds its impending fate, and His decision is made. He will save man at any cost to Himself. He accepts His baptism of blood, that through Him perishing millions may gain everlasting life. He has left the courts of heaven, where all is purity, happiness, and glory, to save the one lost sheep, the one world that has fallen by transgression. And He will not turn from His mission. He will become the propitiation of a race that has willed to sin. His prayer now breathes only submission: “If this cup cannot pass away from Me, unless I drink it, Your will be done.” Matthew 26:42.

The Desire of Ages, p. 692-693

“It Is Finished”

Committing Himself to accept His Father’s will and pay the price for our sins, Jesus allowed Himself to be betrayed by one of His disciples, tried and condemned by His own chosen people, and put to death by one of the cruelest methods of that day. The death of Jesus at first seemed to be a victory for Satan. However, it foreshadowed the day when the devil and all who remain loyal to him will be eternally destroyed:

Upon Christ as our substitute and surety was laid the iniquity of us all. He was counted a transgressor, that He might redeem us from the condemnation of the law. The guilt of every descendant of Adam was pressing upon His heart. The wrath of God against sin, the terrible manifestation of His displeasure because of iniquity, filled the soul of His Son with consternation. All His life Christ had been publishing to a fallen world the good news of the Father's mercy and pardoning love. Salvation for the chief of sinners was His theme. But now with the terrible weight of guilt He bears, He cannot see the Father's reconciling face. The withdrawal of the divine countenance from the Saviour in this hour of supreme anguish pierced His heart with a sorrow that can never be fully understood by man. So great was this agony that His physical pain was hardly felt. . . .

At the beginning of the great controversy, . . . had Satan and his host then been left to reap the full result of their sin, they would have perished; but it would not have been apparent to heavenly beings that this was the inevitable result of sin. A doubt of God’s goodness would have remained in their minds as evil seed, to produce its deadly fruit of sin and woe.

But not so when the great controversy shall be ended. Then, the plan of redemption having been completed, the character of God is revealed to all created intelligences. The precepts of His law are seen to be perfect and immutable. Then sin has made manifest its nature, Satan his character. Then the extermination of sin will vindicate God’s love and establish His honor before a universe of beings who delight to do His will, and in whose heart is His law. . . .

Christ Himself fully comprehended the results of the sacrifice made upon Calvary. To all these He looked forward when upon the cross He cried out, “It is finished.”

The Desire of Ages, p. 763-764

Jesus’ perfect life demonstrated the falsity of Satan’s claim that it is impossible for man, when he is connected to divine power, to obey God’s law. Jesus also demonstrated, contrary to Satan’s accusations, that God is love, for only a loving God would allow His Son to die to redeem mankind. In his ongoing war against God, what new lies would Satan now invent?

All Scriptures are quoted from the New King James Version, including those originally quoted by Ellen White from the King James Version.—Editors

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