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    Chapter 6—Temptation of Christ

    After the baptism of Jesus, he was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. When he came up out of Jordan, he bowed and plead with the great Eternal for strength to endure the conflict with the fallen foe. The opening heavens and the descent of the excellent glory attested his divine character; and the Father's voice declared the close relationship of Christ to his Infinite Majesty: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” The mission of Christ was now about to begin; but he must first withdraw from the busy scenes of life to a desolate wilderness for the express purpose of bearing a three-fold temptation in behalf of those whom he had come to redeem.2SP 85.2

    Let us pause in the history of Christ's earthly life, and briefly notice the events prior to his advent in a world of sin. Satan, after compassing the fall of Adam and Eve, had boasted that he was monarch of the earth, and it was true that in all ages of the world he had found many followers. But he had failed to unite fallen man with him as he had hoped to do, and thus reign supreme over the whole earth. Though man in his fallen state was suffering the consequence of his disobedience, yet he was not without hope. He was unable, because of his guilt, to come directly before God with his supplications, but the plan of redemption, devised in Heaven, transferred the sentence of death from the obedient and faithful, to a substitute. There must be the shedding of blood, for death was the consequence of man's sin. In the slain victim, man was to see for the time being the fulfillment of God's word: “Ye shall surely die.” The flowing blood also signified an atonement, and pointed forward to a Redeemer who would one day come to the world and die for the sins of man, thus fully vindicating his Father's law.2SP 85.3

    The hope of salvation through Christ led fallen man to be exceedingly faithful in the matter of sacrifices. Satan watched with intense interest every circumstance connected with these sacrificial ceremonies, and soon learned that they typified a future atonement for the human race. This caused him great uneasiness, as it threatened to frustrate his cherished plan of gaining dominion over the whole world and its inhabitants. But, instead of desponding under his discouragements, he redoubled his efforts to accomplish his purpose, and the ages were marked with his hellish triumphs. Indulgence of appetite and passion, war, intoxication, and crime spread over the earth as its inhabitants increased. God destroyed the people with the waters of a great flood, and rained fire and death upon the wicked cities; but the great adversary was still free to pursue his scheme of demoralization.2SP 86.1

    Satan is a diligent student of the Bible, and much better acquainted with the prophecies than many religious teachers. He has ever kept well-informed concerning the revealed purposes of God, that he might defeat the plans of the Infinite. It was plain to Satan that the sacrificial offerings were typical of a coming Redeemer who was to ransom man from the powers of darkness, and that this Redeemer was the Son of God. Therefore he laid deep plans to control the hearts of men from generation to generation, and to blind their understanding of the prophecies, that when Christ should come the people would refuse to accept him as their Saviour.2SP 87.1

    From the time when Christ was born in Bethlehem, Satan had never lost sight of him. He had set on foot various plans to destroy him, in all of which he was unsuccessful, as the Son of God was upheld by the strong arm of his Father. Well-aware of Christ's position in Heaven, Satan was filled with apprehension when this powerful Prince of light left the royal courts of his glory and became a simple man on earth. Satan now feared that, not only would he fail in his cherished purpose of reigning supreme over the whole earth, but that the power he already possessed would be wrested from him. Therefore when he went out into the wilderness to beset Christ with temptations, he brought every force and artifice at his command to bear upon the Son of God that he might allure him from his allegiance.2SP 87.2

    The great work of redemption could be carried out only by the Redeemer taking the place of fallen man. Burdened with the sins of the world, he must go over the ground where Adam stumbled. He must take up the work just where Adam failed, and endure a test of the same character, but infinitely more severe than that which had vanquished him. It is impossible for man to fully comprehend the strength of Satan's temptations to our Saviour. Every enticement to evil, which men find so difficult to resist, was brought to bear upon the Son of God in as much greater degree as his character was superior to that of fallen man.2SP 88.1

    When Adam was assailed by the tempter he was without the taint of sin. He stood before God in the strength of perfect manhood, all the organs and faculties of his being fully developed and harmoniously balanced; and he was surrounded with things of beauty, and conversed daily with the holy angels. What a contrast to this perfect being did the second Adam present, as he entered the desolate wilderness to cope with Satan, single-handed. For four thousand years the race had been decreasing in size and physical strength, and deteriorating in moral worth; and, in order to elevate fallen man, Christ must reach him where he stood. He assumed human nature, bearing the infirmities and degeneracy of the race. He humiliated himself to the lowest depths of human woe, that he might fully sympathize with man and rescue him from the degradation into which sin had plunged him.2SP 88.2

    “For it became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” “And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.” “Wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered, being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted.” “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.”2SP 88.3

    When Christ entered the wilderness his countenance was changed, its glory had departed, the weight of the sins of the world was pressing upon his soul, and his features expressed unutterable sorrow, a depth of anguish that fallen man had never realized. The indulgence of appetite had increased with every successive generation since Adam's transgression, until the race was so feeble in moral power that they could not overcome in their own strength. Christ in behalf of the race was to conquer appetite, by enduring the most powerful test on that point. He was to tread the path of temptation alone, with none to help or comfort him. Alone he was to wrestle with the powers of darkness, and exercise a self-control stronger than hunger or death. The length of this fast is the strongest evidence of the great sinfulness of debased appetite, and its power over the human family.2SP 89.1

    Through appetite, Satan had accomplished the ruin of Adam and Eve, and through all succeeding generations, this had been his strongest weapon in corrupting the human race. As Christ had taken the form of man, and was subject to his infirmities, Satan hoped to conquer him through this powerful medium, and laid his plans accordingly. As soon as Christ's long fast commenced, he was at hand with this temptations. He came clothed in light, claiming to be an angel sent from the throne of God to sympathize with Christ and relieve him from his suffering condition. He represented to him that God did not desire him to pass through the pain and self-denial which he had anticipated. He claimed to bear the message from Heaven that God only designed to prove the willingness of Christ to endure his test.2SP 89.2

    Satan told him that he was to set his feet in the blood-stained path, but not to travel it, that, like Abraham, he was tried to show his perfect obedience. He claimed to be the angel who stayed the hand of Abraham, as the knife was raised to slay Isaac, and that he had now come to save the life of the Son of God, deliver him from a painful death by starvation, and assist him in the plan of salvation.2SP 90.1

    Satan is today deceiving many as he attempted to deceive Christ, claiming that he is Heaven-sent and doing a good work for humanity. And the masses of the people are so blinded by sophistry that they cannot discern his true character, and they honor him as a messenger of God, while he is working their eternal ruin.2SP 90.2

    But Christ turned from all these artful temptations, and remained steadfast in his purpose to carry out the divine plan. Foiled at one point, Satan now tried another expedient. Believing that the angelic character he had assumed defied detection, he now feigned to doubt the divinity of Christ, because of his emaciated appearance and uncongenial surroundings.2SP 90.3

    In taking the nature of man, Christ was not equal in appearance with the angels of Heaven, but this was one of the necessary humiliations that he willingly accepted when he became man's Redeemer. Satan urged that if he was indeed the Son of God he should give him some evidence of his exalted character. He suggested that God would not leave his Son in so deplorable a condition. He declared that one of the heavenly angels had been exiled to earth, and his appearance indicated that instead of being the King of Heaven he was that fallen angel. He called attention to his own beautiful appearance, clothed with light and strength, and insultingly contrasted the wretchedness of Christ with his own glory.2SP 91.1

    He claimed direct authority from Heaven to demand proof of Christ that he was the Son of God. He taunted him with being a poor representative of the angels, much less their high Commander, the acknowledged King in the royal courts; and insinuated that his present appearance indicated that he was forsaken of God and man. He declared that if he were the Son of God he was equal with God and should evidence this by working a miracle to relieve his hunger. He then urged him to change the stone at his feet to bread, and agreed that if this were done he would at once yield his claims to superiority, and the contest between the two should be forever ended.2SP 91.2

    Satan thus hoped to shake the confidence of Christ in his Father, who had permitted him to be brought into this condition of extreme suffering in the desert, where the feet of man had never trodden. The arch-enemy hoped that under the force of despondency and extreme hunger, he could urge Christ to exert his miraculous power in his own behalf, and thus take himself out of the Father's hands.2SP 92.1

    The circumstances and surroundings of Christ were such as to make temptation upon this point peculiarly aggravating. The long fast had physically debilitated him, the pangs of hunger consumed his vitals, his fainting system clamored for food. He could have wrought a miracle in his own behalf, and satisfied his gnawing hunger; but this would not have been in accordance with the divine plan. It was no part of his mission to exercise divine power for his own benefit; this he never did in his earthly life; his miracles were all for the good of others.2SP 92.2

    Suffering humiliation, hunger, and contempt, Jesus repulsed Satan with the same scripture he had bidden Moses repeat to rebellious Israel: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” In this declaration, and also by his example, Christ showed that wanting temporal food was a much less calamity than meeting the disapprobation of God.2SP 92.3

    In becoming man's substitute, and conquering where man had been vanquished, Christ was not to manifest his divine power to relieve his own suffering, for fallen man could work no miracles in order to save himself from pain, and Christ, as his representative, was to bear his trials as a man, leaving an example of perfect faith and trust in his Heavenly Father.2SP 92.4

    Christ recognized Satan from the beginning, and it required strong self-control to listen to the propositions of this insulting deceiver, and not rebuke his bold assumption. But the Saviour of the world was neither provoked to give him evidence of his divine power, nor to enter into controversy with one who had been expelled from Heaven for leading a rebellion against the supreme Ruler of the universe, and whose very crime had been a refusal to recognize the dignity of the Son of God. Armed with faith in his Heavenly Father, bearing in his mind the precious memory of the words spoken from Heaven at his baptism, Jesus stood unmoved in the lonely wilderness, before the mighty enemy of souls.2SP 93.1

    It was not for the Son of God to descend from his lofty mission to prove his divinity to Satan, nor did he condescend to explain the reason of his present humiliation, and the manner in which he was to act as man's Redeemer. If the children of men would follow the example of their Saviour, and hold no converse with Satan, they would be spared many a defeat at his hands. Six thousand years has this arch-enemy been warring against the government of God, and continued practice has increased his skill to deceive and allure.2SP 93.2

    But Satan had too much at stake to lightly give up the battle. He knew that, if Christ came off victor, his influence would be lessened. So, in order to awe Christ with his superior strength, he carried him to Jerusalem and placed him on a pinnacle of the temple. He now demanded that, if he were indeed the Son of God, he should cast himself from that dizzy height, and thus indicate entire confidence in his Father's preserving care.2SP 93.3

    The sin of presumption lies close beside the virtue of perfect faith and confidence in God, and Satan endeavored to take advantage of Christ's humanity and urge him over the line of trust into presumption. He now admitted that Christ was right in the wilderness, when he placed such perfect confidence in the Father, and he now urged that one more proof should be given of his entire faith in God, by casting himself from the temple. He assured him that if he were indeed the Son of God he had nothing to fear, for the angels would uphold him. Satan was well aware that if Christ could be prevailed upon to fling himself from the temple, in order to prove his claim to the protection of his Heavenly Father, he would, by that very act, exhibit the weakness of human nature.2SP 94.1

    But Jesus came off victor from the second temptation, by spurning the sin of presumption. While manifesting perfect trust in his Father, he refused to voluntarily place himself in such peril that it would be necessary for the Father to display divine power in order to save his Son from death. This would have been forcing Providence to come to his rescue, and thus he would fail to give his people a perfect example of faith and trust in God.2SP 94.2

    Our Saviour showed entire confidence that his Heavenly Father would not suffer him to be tempted above what he should give him strength to endure. Christ had not willfully placed himself in danger, and he knew that if he preserved his integrity, an angel of God would be sent to deliver him from the tempter's power if it were necessary.2SP 94.3

    Finding that he prevailed nothing with Christ in the second great temptation, Satan began to be alarmed for the result of his efforts. The continued steadfastness of the Son of God filled him with apprehension, for he had not expected so strenuous an opposition. He now called all the resources of his Satanic nature to his aid in one last mighty effort to baffle and defeat the Saviour. In his first two temptations, he had concealed his true character and purpose, claiming to be an exalted messenger from the courts of Heaven. But he now throws off all disguise, avowing himself the Prince of Darkness, and claiming the earth for his dominion.2SP 95.1

    He took Jesus up into a high mountain and showed him the kingdoms of the world, spread out in a panoramic view before his eyes. The sunlight lay on templed cities, marble palaces, fruitful fields and vineyards, gilding the dark cedars of Lebanon and the blue waters of Galilee. The eyes of Jesus, so lately greeted by gloom and desolation, gazed upon a scene of unsurpassed loveliness and prosperity. Then the tempter's voice was heard: “All this power will I give thee, and the glory of them; for that is delivered unto me, and to whomsoever I will, I give it. If thou therefore wilt worship me, all shall be thine.”2SP 95.2

    Satan brought all his strength to bear upon this last inducement, for upon the result of this effort depended his destiny. He claimed the world as his dominion and himself to be the Prince of the power of the air. He promised to put Christ in possession of all the kingdoms without suffering or peril, if he would make one concession, and that was to acknowledge Satan his superior, and pay him homage. This last temptation was designed to be the most alluring of all. Christ's life was one of sorrow, hardship, and conflict. Poverty and privation attended him; even the beasts and the birds had their homes, but the Son of Man had not where to lay his head. Homeless and friendless as he was, there was offered him the mighty kingdoms of the world and the glory of them for a single consideration.2SP 95.3

    The eyes of Jesus rested for a moment upon the scene before him; he then turned resolutely from it, refusing to dally with the tempter by even looking upon the enchanting prospect he had presented to him; but when Satan solicited his homage, Christ's divine indignation was aroused, and he could no longer tolerate his blasphemous assumption, or even permit him to remain in his presence. He exercised his divine authority, and commanded Satan to desist, saying, “Get thee hence, Satan; for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.”2SP 96.1

    Satan had asked Christ to give him evidence that he was the Son of God, and he had, in this instance, the proof he asked. He had no power to withstand his peremptory dismissal, and was compelled to obey the divine command. Writhing with baffled hate and rage, the rebel chief retired from the presence of the world's Redeemer. The contest was ended. Christ's victory was as complete as had been the failure of Adam.2SP 96.2

    But the conflict had been protracted and trying, and Christ was exhausted and fell fainting to the ground, with the pallor of death upon his countenance. Then the heavenly angels, who had bowed before him in the royal courts, and who had watched his conflict with painful interest, ministered unto him, strengthening him with food, as he lay like one dying. They had beheld with awe and amazement their heavenly Commander passing through inexpressible suffering to achieve the salvation of man. He had endured a more severe test than man would ever be called to bear. But, as he lay emaciated and suffering, the angels brought messages of love and comfort from the Father, and an assurance that all Heaven triumphed in the victory he had gained for man. Thus the great heart of Christ warmed to life again, and became strengthened for his coming work.2SP 96.3

    The cost of the redemption of the race can never be fully realized by men until the redeemed shall stand with the Redeemer by the throne of God. Then, as the glorious value of the eternal reward opens upon their enraptured senses, and their eyes behold the wondrous glories of immortal life, they will swell the song of victory, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing!” “And every creature,” says John, “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 unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever!”2SP 97.1

    Although Satan had failed in his most powerful temptations, yet he had not given up all hope that he might, at some future time, be successful in his efforts. He looked forward to the period of Christ's ministry, when he should have opportunities to try his artifices against him. Baffled and defeated, he had no sooner retired from the scene of conflict than he began to lay plans for blinding the understanding of the Jews, God's chosen people, that they might not discern in Christ the world's Redeemer. He determined to fill their hearts with envy, jealousy, and hatred against the Son of God, so that they would not receive him, but would make his life upon earth as bitter as possible.2SP 97.2

    Satan held a counsel with his angels, as to the course they should pursue to prevent the people from having faith in Christ as the Messiah whom the Jews had so long been anxiously expecting. He was disappointed and enraged that he had prevailed nothing against Jesus by his manifold temptations. But he now thought if he could inspire in the hearts of Christ's own people, unbelief as to his being the Promised One, he might discourage the Saviour in his mission and secure the Jews as his agents to carry out his own diabolical purposes. So he went to work in his subtle manner, endeavoring to accomplish by strategy what he had failed to do by direct, personal effort.2SP 98.1


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