The Great Controversy: Theory or Reality?

Does our church really believe in the Great Controversy? That we are, in a very real sense, engaged in open warfare? I’m not so sure.

I used to think, growing up in the Adventist Church, that we were the vanguard in the fight against Satan and his minions. And, especially looking toward the End Times, that we would be the ones holding firm to biblical principles and beliefs as others struggled. But I recently began thinking that this war we are in the midst of, this Great Controversy, has lost any meaningful sense of reality in our lives. As a denomination, we can nod and say, “Amen,” but it no longer sinks into our hearts.

The reality of war has become theory, an intellectual exercise.

I look at the issues we are discussing in the church and the ones we’re fighting over, and I see a group of people that don’t realize who the enemy is. We don’t even notice, in any practical, day-to-day, way-of-life sense, that the enemy is very real and wants nothing more than to hurt and kill as many people as possible. I see a church that is going through the motions of protecting what we believe and what we have. But are we focused on what we should be for the times we live in? We engage in battles, but our “enemies” are our brothers and sisters. We are dying pointlessly on hills we have created while the true enemy ravages the world God loves.

Where is the church militant? Not the church that militantly destroys itself, but the church that is militant in the sense that its single-minded focus is fighting Satan and his lies. Do we wake up every morning and realize that the battle is constant and that each of us is a soldier? Does it even cross our minds? Or are we simply playing church because the war seems distant, irrelevant to our lives? Is the Great Controversy nothing more than the “same old story”? It seems to be. We’ve heard about it from the founding of the Adventist Church and now it is gathering dust.

We’ve grown too comfortable. Where is our fighting spirit? Where is our passion for those held under the kingdom of darkness? When did the fine print of doctrinal theory replace our interest for breaking the chains of the enemy?

Ever since Jesus died on the cross, Satan has known that he lost the war, that his time is short. Right now, he is fighting, not to win, but to take as many with him as he possibly can. His desire is to inflict as much pain on God as he possibly can. And, as the end comes, he is being given more free reign. Yet in this most critical time in the war we have fallen asleep. We’ve become lukewarm, allowing ourselves to be blinded by our hubris, replacing true connection to God with doctrine and saying it is enough.

Instead of fighting with God against the enemy, empowered by the Spirit and filled with the love of Christ, we allow ourselves to fight each other while Satan laughs. We allow ourselves to talk about everything and anything but what we should be focusing on. What would happen if we truly focused on our mission? Imagine how the things we thought were the fight, or the issue, or the focal point would come into proper perspective, with many simply falling away.

As members of the Adventist Church, are we even talking about what we should be talking about?

Mike Smith is a graduate of the Adventist school systems. He is an author and musician, currently employed in an independent ministry to the Adventist Church.

Photo by Hasan Almasi on Unsplash

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Perhaps the violence of the ongoing war is more apparent when we label an opposing political perspective as devilish. Surely a lot of blood is still being spilt on that battlefield in the name of the church and ostensibly on behalf of Christ in opposition to what are deemed the apocalyptic forces of evil.

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“Being UNSPOTTED from the World.”
We probably take this too literal in some ways, and become Religious Christian
Remain UNSPOTTED from Secular persons living in the world.
Remain UNSPOTTED from other Religious persons ministering in the world.
And so we remain “recluses” and “desert hermits”.
Place a graphic sign on our house once in a while inviting persons to come in
and hear what we have to say. But NOT going to the Bazaar and mixing with and
meeting both non-Christians and other Christians.
Definitely NOT joining with other Christians to bring the Good News of the Gospel
of Christ.
WE SDA’s have a LOT OF FEARS regarding getting a spot on OUR White Robes.


Instead of fighting with God against the enemy, empowered by the Spirit and filled with the love of Christ, we allow ourselves to fight each other while Satan laughs. We allow ourselves to talk about everything and anything but what we should be focusing on. What would happen if we truly focused on our mission?

There was war in heaven

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Refreshing, and true. For more and more people today it is the ‘in’ thing to scorn at all those outdated, silly ideas our founders held as we see ourselves as far more sophisticated and educated. Yet unbelief in key insights that God invested in this church comes with a very high cost, not a punishment but a loss.
I have found over the past 6 years that the most effective way to explain the truths of the gospel to anyone is to first explain the back story, the big picture, what is going on behind the scenes. And I have learned that if I begin by first unpacking how God designed creation to function perfectly in love alone, and then how it all got distorted, it gives the vital context in which to explain the true definitions of all the confusing religious words that nearly no one understands. Putting everything into this context not only makes sharing with others far easier, it also clarifies everything new that I am learning. It provides the over-arching reality upon which everything finds its place to hang and organizes a perfect fit with everything else.
So it is no wonder that the enemy will put some of his greatest emphasis on keeping us ignorant of this key topic. Because when we begin to make sense of how things fit together and see the sharp contrast between the matrix of lies we’ve been sold by religion about God and the truth of what God is really like, Satan’s deceptive hold on our minds is seriously threatened. No wonder there is so much hostility to studying this topic, it is not coming just from people but inspired from beyond.

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Yes indeed,! The church is engaged in civil war not against principalities and darkness. For those that hold to a false doctrine of personal perfection the current struggle is an oxymoron. Doug Bachelor is an protype Of a serious case of self righteousness that is promoted from the every top of international leadership.


Well said! I’ve been waiting to see such questions posed here in such a timely and pointed way. We need to know what we are FOR much more than what we are against. We need to be trusting God’s promises instead of trying to do things in our own power.

As plainly as your arguments were stated, I am a bit puzzled to understand exactly what you mean by “the Great Controversy.” Are you referring to the reality of the battle between God and Satan? Or, are you speaking of the book by that title? I absolutely believe the battle is real because I see it demonstrated on a daily basis in the contrasts between good and evil. On the other hand, I wish we would relegate the book to the dusty shelves of our theological basement so we could make room for new writers who are inspired by God so their insights can help people deal with the reality of the real great controversy that is surrounding them.


This is the Adventistism I grew up with–the need to break the chains of the enemy from anybody that did not keep the Sabbath. Yet the more I associate with other Christians I see a faith and love that is real. They are not in chains of the enemy.

Now I see that the grown of unbelievers in society are in part, due to the Big Business and evident self-serving interest of corporate Christianity. Even our SDA church never calls for corporate reform in transparency with less layers of overhead expenses. If we were really mission driven we would streamline Conference expenses toward healthful ministries. With less sacredness given to clergy and endless expense in maintaining Union and Division offices. Maybe we don’t trust ourselves, as to the reason why we need so many layers, with 4 presidents and their staff, to keep each other in line. We are corporately maintained, not vision or mission sustained.


EGW’s GREAT CONTROVERSY, was plagiarized from Milton’s Paradise Lost
( the blind British poet, John Milton, dictated the ten thousand lines of blank verse constituting this epic poem, between 1658 and 1663 ).

EGW’s epic book is a compendium of atrocities and horrific events occurring in the two millennia after Chirst’s crucifixion.

She tells us that all these horrors are to “vindicate God” and that “the universe” by which she means the “good” unfallen angels and the inhabitants of “unfallen worlds .” are the jurors in this cosmic trial.

Had she not died in 1915, she would gleefully have incorporated the atrocities of the twentieth century; the Armenian, Bosnian, Cambodian, Rwandan genocides ( not to mention the Holocaust,) trench warfare in WW ONE, Stalin’s Gulag, the London Blitz, Nagasaki / Hiroshima and the millions that perished in natural disasters.

All of these atrocities are meant to emphasize Satan’s evil and convince the jurors, her “ universe “ , that God is good!

She nowhere explains that a compassionate God could have prevented theses horrors for humankind by simply fast forwarding the Second Coming, centuries ago!

Instead of joyfully awaiting the Second Coming, humankind fearfully anticipates with looming horror, yet another penalty imposed by God, because Eve ate the apple : A TIME OF TROUBLE SUCH AS. NEVER WAS!

Are we to believe that the “ inhabitants of unfallen planets “ have the mental capacity of those depicted in the movie PLANET OF THE APES.?

In the face of this torrent of tribulation why have these “unfallen beings” not voted centuries ago to side with God against Satan?

Any inhabitants of an idyllic unfallen world, forced to watch live streaming of six thousand years of atrocities, disrupting their edenic ecstasy., would have long ago voiced an opinion or come to a decision.

Similarly, the Angels, whom we are told, are of an higher order than humankind, seem to be entirely lacking in compassion for humanity, otherwise why are they not clamoring to God to end the carnage?

Another troubling question is why does God, so selfishly desirous of personal “vindication” allow endless centuries of human misery to justify his goodness?

This whole great controversy confabulation does not “hold water “


A possible solution to the ongoing human atrocities is–individuals with faith are transferred to heaven, now living in peace and comfort. If I were of the unfalled universe, I could bear with suffering on earth knowing it is only for a short term. I could see what is only a minute awaiting them, an enormous surprise. I could observe the ever increasing population in heaven from earth’s deceased, with delight. When it is said that the dead know nothing, it is in reference to their presence on earth…

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Who said our robes are white?

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Fair question!

The “Great Controversy” is real because the main characters and issues is a rite of passage everyone has to live through. As children, we tend to separate the good and bad traits of our parents until our cerebral cortex is fully developed and we acquire wisdom and understanding. The measure of a well adjusted adult is how much success he has had in reconciling and accepting the good and bad traits of their parents. Someone who fails to accept that the good and the bad parent are one and the same becomes vulnerable to this “Great Controversy” dilemma. His own psychological failure is externalized and projected into the cosmic struggle and is forever denied and serves as fuel to the Great Controversy.


I hope not. It’s likely a fairy tale. At best it’s a counterproductive thing for Christians to focus on.


The Reality of this Theory is based on one’s understanding of the story in Eden and the resolution in Revelation.

The choice at the Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil was one of TRUST in God’s expressed will. This is the same issue that arose in Heaven that led to the beginning of war.

If the cosmic conflict, which was extended to the new creation (Earth), is intended to eradicate sin from all places forever (as suggested in The Revelation of Jesus Christ), then a few things need to be resolved and understood IN THE MINDS OF EVERYONE WHO LIVES IN ETERNITY.

  1. God must have the full trust & faith of the inhabitants. The issue in the Garden was mistrust of God’s expressed will. That will was explained as life giving and it’s violation as deadly.

  2. Sin (rebellion) must never recur. Every inhabitant of eternity must be thoroughly convinced that God’s will (as expressed in expansive acceptable choices) is for their good and that rejection of or deviation from those acceptable choices leads to death.

  3. The inhabitants must be so thoroughly in love with God that they will heed their knowledge of Him and their knowledge of sin, thereby refusing to contemplate rebellion.

  4. To accomplish this goal of creating such knowledge, both about God and about sin, the character of each must be thoroughly exposed and made available for examination.

  5. In allowing sin to exist and be exposed, God Himself, along with others, must suffer the consequences of the destructive ravages of sin during the period of exposure.

  6. In expressing & demonstrating His character, God’s own character limits His means and methods to those which maintain His integrity. Because of the distortions of perceptions, either innocently or deliberately created in the minds of others, God must repeatedly work out the expression of His own character within that character. He does this while meeting each one exactly where they are in their experiences and understandings of life.

  7. Jesus’ life and death are the ultimate demonstration of both the character of God and the character of sin (rebellion). Despite that demonstration, there are still many who are blinded by the deceptions of others and so the war continues. He continues his efforts to bring everyone possible into relationship. But at some point, each will have eternally accepted or rejected His love and concern.

I’m certain other factors are involved in the resolution, but God’s ‘vindication’ is not for Himself, but for the benefit of every one who shall fill eternity. In order to have eternal peace and harmony, let every one be convinced in their own minds of the love of God and the goodness of His will.

“And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (GEN2:16-17.KJV)

"Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.

And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.

"And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. And they heard the voice of the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the LORD God amongst the trees of the garden.

And the LORD God called unto Adam, and said unto him, Where art thou? And he said, I heard thy voice in the garden, and I was afraid, because I was naked; and I hid myself. And he said, Who told thee that thou wast naked? Hast thou eaten of the tree, whereof I commanded thee that thou shouldest not eat? (GEN3:1-11.KJV)

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Very interesting observation. I think that the story of Genesis carries similar motifs. We rely on God-like parents to set up direction for us until we choose to test the validity of parental wisdom and exit the protection of the walled home of the garden into the unknown territory of the world… knowing good and evil through our own experience instead of the piped-down parental warnings.

I find archetypal approach to Biblical narrative to be far more meaningful than attempting to derive some lessons from literalism which inevitably end up as a metaphor for some aspects of our modern lives.


Why does our church focus on the “vindication of God” rather than the personal Saviour who through His grace saves us, knows us, counts the hair on our heads?

There is nothing in the God-is-being-judged-in-the-universe myth that has the power to draw individuals to God. It is the powerful story of the cross and the gift of Jesus’s life, or Christ Event, that empowers the Gospel and breaks the hearts of men and women. The story of grace.

It seems to me that the Conflict focus of the Universe as the Gospel to share with the world, is a distraction from the message Jesus sent His disciples to share. I am with you. I love you. I offer peace. Take my yoke and I will give you rest. I have a place prepared for you. I gave my life for you.

Not, can you trust God to be your friend? Are you trustworthy to save?


Thank you Harppa, for your loving response to my diatribe!

I agree that the simple story of the Gospel, so compelling, and without the gobbledygook of muttiple ferocious beasts from Daniel and Revelation is a winning strategy for proselytizing.

That is why I am transitioning to Methodism, with its unadulterated Gospel message, uncluttered with 28 contentious points of dogma.

Also uncluttered by divisive, disruptive dissension — they have been ordaining their clergywomen since 1956, so no miserable malevolent misogyny., nor heretical “ headship “ hatefulness!

Also their loving outreach and inclusiveness to their LGBT members , epitomizes Christ’s loving, all embracing, acceptance and ALL.

However, try telling that to TW and the heretical Adventist hierarchy, hell bent on a witch hunt against their LGBT members ( the largest “ compliance “ committee is consumed with homophobic hate. )

In recent years, huge sums have been wasted in mass mailings of EGW’s GREAT CONTROVERSY, to millions of homes. Most copies were instantly trashed

Not to mention the pervasive anti Catholicism that permeates her book — —-very off putting to a population that is predominantly Catholic in many of those cities to which GC was mailed!

Adventism confuses and confounds the simple Gospel message, with all its extraneous dogmas.


The Great Controversy is real, tragically real…

So…we try to bring the split object together by being “perfect?”

The salvation of individuals is critically important to God - and should be to us. But the ‘salvation from’ and the ‘salvation to’ is addressed in the story of the confilct.

We are not saved (returning to relationship) to simply continue on in this sin-sick world. If this life was extended indefinitely, even being in a ‘saved’ relationship with God, would not make it a pleasant place to exist, with sin all around, assailing both good and bad, in a never-ending torrent of misery.

In addition to the conflict providing a demonstration of both God’s character and the character of sin, IT ALSO assures the ‘saved’ that there was a pre-sin environment and that there will be a future, sin-free environment in which the ‘saved’ relationship may be enjoyed.

The Gospel is about Jesus/God and His love. But the conflict is the environment in which that occurs & recurs. I agree, the cart must not be before the horse - but the goal is to have both horse and cart - discarding neither.

Embracing the reality of the Person of whom the Gospel message proclaims, does answer the questions you diminish:
Can you trust God to be your friend? __ (being interpreted as: Is God’s will best for me?)
Are you trustworthy to save? _________ (being interpreted as: Will I rebel in the future?)