I have a few questions.. Why are we in the position we're in? What caused the fall of humanity? What happened prior to the fall of humanity that affected us? Why did God allow us to live even though we should have died? Why did he send Jesus to die the death that we earned and deserved? What does the devil want? What does he want to prove?
The farther away from Adventism I get the easier it is to differentiate between what the Bible says and what Ellen White says. After all, growing up I thought they both said the same thing. We were certainly taught that Ellen White doesn't contradict the Bible. I've seen so many instances of that being untrue now that I've lost track. But I still forget how deep the thinking goes. The very worldview presented by Ellen White is so different from what we find in the Bible that if two people try to discuss the same thing (but coming from #1 the Great Controversy worldview and #2 the Biblical worldview) the conclusions reached will be miles apart.
To very briefly summarize the Great Controversy worldview the way I understand it (the way I believe Ellen White and Adventism teach) - Lucifer was jealous of Jesus in heaven because God exhaulted Jesus over him. Lucifer felt this was unfair of God and rebelled. Long story short, God gave Lucifer (Satan) rule over the Earth to demonstrate what happens when we don't obey God's laws (or to demonstrate that Satan couldn't set up a better system). The battle of the universe is whether or not God is fair in His laws. If humans can keep God's commandments perfectly (with God's help) then we will vindicate God and prove that He is fair (in both the laws He sets and that He is able to save us). The basis of the Great Controversy theme is that God's holy law is the 10 Commandments. The final test which will divide true followers of God from followers of Satan will be the test of the Sabbath. The Sabbath is viewed as the seal of God and Sunday-keeping is the mark of the beast (because you are ultimately worshipping Satan by worshipping on a day other than the one God designated).
I started collecting evidence from Ellen White to support each of these claims, but there is literally so much that she writes on this topic that it fills chapters and even books. If you wish to see evidence for a particular point, let me know and I'll find it for you, but to present all the evidence here would turn this blog into a book! Just read the first few chapters of Patriarch's and Prophets to get the picture that she presents. At first glance, many of the differences may seem subtle, but the whole Great Controversy theme sets the stage for the 10 Commandments and the Sabbath to be viewed with the highest importance.
One thing I was surprised to discover is that the Bible actually doesn't say much about "pre-creation". Unlike Ellen White who gives extensive detail of Lucifer being jealous of Jesus and the fall in heaven, the Bible is mostly silent. Here are 2 passages. Isaiah 14 is often used to describe the fall (and it may well do that - it sounds like it), but technically speaking it is describing the king of Babylon (cross reference 2 Thess. 2 and it sounds like this is speaking of someone other than Satan).
Rev. 12:7-9 - "And there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon, and the dragon and his angels fought back. But he was not strong enough, and they lost their place in heaven. The great dragon was hurled down—that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him."
Luke 10:18 - "He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.'"
The fall of man is detailed in Gen. 3. Adam and Eve disobeyed God and ate the fruit. It's interesting to me that the original sin had absolutely nothing to do with the 10 Commandments. From what I understand, the focus in Adventism is on specific sins (namely breaking any of the 10 Commandments), but the Biblical understanding is a sin-condition. I think that Adventism touches on this, but focuses more on specific sins. My understanding is that when Adam & Eve disobeyed God (again, which had nothing to do with the 10 Commandments), humanity was cursed with the sin condition. We are born sinful (even before we commit any actual "sins"). Humans can't stop sinning and our only hope is a Savior.
And since I'm sure this will come up - I'm NOT at all advocating that since we can't stop sinning we shouldn't try to be good or follow God's commands, but I am saying that on this earth I don't believe the Bible teaches that humans can or will stop sinning. If we could - even by simply allowing God to be perfect in us as some would argue - would we really need a Savior? If Jesus didn't have to die for us to save us - if we just had to allow God to help us be perfect - why did He die?
As to why God sent Jesus - John 3:14-18 answers that. "Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son."
It also explains what the judgement will be about. Other versions translate "condemn" as "judged". The judgement is about this - whether we accept Jesus or not. As fallen humans we can never measure up to God's perfect standard. The good news (the Gospel) is that Jesus died for sinful humans to save us!
I found this passage this morning that gives a great account of what we're talking about
You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Death Through Adam, Life Through Christ
Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned— for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come.
But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God’s grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man’s sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.
Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.
The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Gal. 3:17 fits perfectly with this passage in establishing that the law was given to Moses (not before). "What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise."
This passage in Romans tells us that even those who didn't break a specific command (before Moses) still sinned. The Bible presents quite a different picture from Ellen White once you really get into it. And you can see how the answers to the original questions will be very, very different depending on whether you get your worldview from the Bible or Ellen White (even if you think she is in line with the Bible). The Great Controversy view is largely all about the 10 Commandments. If you look at them from that perspective you will never be able to grasp that the Bible teaches the 10 Commandments were the old covenant which fades away...