WHY DOES EVIL EXIST?
Our earth, as the astronauts see it from the space shuttle, is a beautiful blue sphere, robed with clouds, washed with seas. . .appearing to be brilliantly clean, quietly peaceful, trouble free. Our earth--like all the universe--follows the laws of physics. Dependable laws. Orderly laws. Laws that scientists could count on when they planned space trips to the moon. Laws that the astronauts could count on when they set foot on the moon. . .when they lifted off from the moon and returned to Mother Earth. Mother Earth. . .looking so perfect. So peaceful at a distance. But when we get closer. . .when we pierce the blanket of cloud, we know something just isn't right!
Our world is filled with tragedies beyond our imagination. Our world is filled with tears and pain and sorrow. And death. Death--the enemy of all mankind. The enemy that divides loved ones. . .that lays waste to the most cherished plans, the greatest talents, the fondest hopes.
Death and sorrow and suffering never before witnessed on earth. . .death and pain hanging over our earth. . .stockpiled in the arsenals of dozens of nations. Death and pain in the wake of natural disasters that lay waste the work of our hands, the dreams of our hearts. Sudden death in the crunch of metal, in the split-second misjudgment of a pilot or driver. Death and pain in the wake of crime, riots, and violence.
Our tears come, unending. If only we knew why. We keep asking why. . .why must we face the heartbreaks of a world that so often seems to be our enemy? If there is a God. . .is just a peaceful spinning planet all he sees? Is this all he cares about? Can he not see beyond the clouds and into our hearts? Doesn't he care about our pain and loneliness and despair? Is he still running things in our world?
Have you ever stood under a night sky. . .looked up at the stars. . .and asked questions from the depths of a hurting heart? Is anybody out there? Is anyone listening to us down here? Does anyone out there really care about us?
I'm sure you've wondered about those questions. Most thinking, caring, searching human beings have. Sometimes the answers we arrive at seem unsatisfying and incomplete. We wonder if there are any answers at all. It's so hard to understand that if there is a God who created the vast heavens that continue so perfectly--why can't he take care of our little earth?
Is there an answer? Has someone explained the causes and the reasons somewhere in one of the world's great books? What aboutthe Bible? Does it have an answer to the perplexing question of sin, suffering, and death?
The Bible says of itself that it is a lamp unto our feet, and a light unto our paths. (Psalm 119:105) If that is true, then a study of what it says should lead us to better understand life and its problems, including the problem of sin and suffering.
The Bible claims to be even more than a good guide to life. It claims to be God's Word, for it says, "All scripture is given by inspiration of God." (2 Timothy 3:16)
We're also given the promise that as we study God's Word, we will receive patience, comfort, and hope. "For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope." (Romans 15:4) If there are answers to life's difficult questions, then the best place to find them is in the Bible. So let's turn to the Bible and see what answer we can find for the questions concerning sin and suffering.
The apostle John had been a close companion of Jesus while Jesus was on earth. John was also the last Bible writer. He was banished to the isle of Patmos for his faith, but there Jesus came to John in a tremendous vision and explained many things to him concerning the great controversy between good and evil.
One vital truth Jesus revealed to him was that the conflict between good and evil did not begin on earth. It began in heaven itself! "There was war in heaven" John recorded in the book of Revelation. "Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels." (Revelation 12:7) "Michael" in the Bible refers to Christ before he came to earth as Jesus, and "the dragon" is another name for the Devil. For Revelation 12:9 states, "That old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan."
So you see we have a picture of a conflict in heaven. That's where the conflict of the ages began. But how. . .and why. . .did opposition to God and his perfect way begin there? How did the Devil, or Satan, ever come to be? God did not create a devil, for everything God made was good. A good God could not create a devil. That's an impossibility.
The truth is that the one who became the Devil was at one time the wisest, the most beautiful of all created beings in heaven. The Bible says of him: "Thou wast perfect in thy ways from the day that thou wast created, till iniquity was found in thee." (Ezekiel 28:15)
According to the Bible, God did not create a devil. He created an angel, a perfect being, one who was known as "Lucifer, son of the morning." (Isaiah 14:12) Well another question naturally comes to mind: Why did Lucifer sin?
One thing outstanding in all of God's intelligent beings is the power of reason and choice. The angels were created with a free will. "God is love," the Bible tells us. (1 John 4:8) Now love can never use force to get love in return. Love can only grow out of a willingness to love. God did not want robots who would obey him out of fear or simply because he was God. No, he wanted beings who would love him because he deserved love, because he himself was love.
God made all the angels with a free will. They were free to love him, and they were free to not love him. He also made man in the same way. This power to think. . .to choose. . .to decide. . .to love. . .was the main attribute of God that he passed on to angels and man. As the Bible says, "God created man in his own image." (Genesis 1:27)
What a revelation of love God displayed in creation! He was willing to create beings much like himself--beings who could reason as he does; beings who have his ability to do original creative thinking; beings who have a desire to love and be loved; beings who could make their own decisions and who could choose whether to love their Creator or not.
But there was no way God could give man and angels these freedoms without taking a risk that they might use these powers in the wrong way--that they might rebel against God himself. But God wanted to share his love so much that he was willing to take that risk.
But why did Lucifer sin? After all, he was perfect in all ways. He was next to the Son of God in influence and authority. He served in the very presence of God. In his beauty and position we have a clue as to how pride started in his mind. The Bible says of him, "Thine heart was lifted up because of thy beauty, thou hast corrupted thy wisdom by reason of thy brightness." (Ezekiel 28:17)
Lucifer received glorious gifts from his Creator, and every gift from God is a gift of love. But he who receives the gift, if he has the power of choice, may do one of two things. He may give thanks and glory to the Giver, or he may take honor to himself and say, "Look how great and deserving I am!"
Lucifer chose the way of self pride. Self pride, if indulged for any length of time, starts questioning the rights and motives of others. The one who keeps thinking of how important and brilliant he is soon wants to step up in position, and this was Lucifer'scase. He finally decided, "I will ascend above the heights of the clouds: I will be like the most High." (Isaiah 14:14) Lucifer was no longer satisfied being an angel. . .even if it was the most honored angel in heaven. He wanted to be equal with God himself.
The next step was a logical outcome of self pride and a desire for more power. Lucifer began to win followers to his side. He instilled insidious doubts in the minds of the other angels about God's love. . .about God's way of doing things. It wasn't hard, for deception was unknown except in Lucifer's own mind. The idea of lying had never entered the minds of the angels. Jesus said of the Devil, "When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own; for he is a liar, and the father of it." (John 8:44)
What could a loving God do about this tragic situation? He could appeal to Lucifer's reason. He could try to convince Lucifer of what was right and the awful results of lying, deception and self pride. But what if Lucifer chose not to change, not to give up his rebellious way? To our way of thinking, God should then destroy Lucifer.
But even if God did do this, it would not end the doubts and rebellion that Lucifer had started. In fact, it might enforce them. For the whole universe of created beings would forever have doubts about the justice of their Creator. They might forever harbor the thought that maybe Lucifer was right--that God was a vengeful Being who demanded to be loved and respected. No, God could not use force. That was not his way, for his way is one of love. Love must always be the supreme principle of the universe and not fear. So, for the sakes of men and angels, God could not destroy Lucifer until all could see how destructive rebellion was.
Finally, Lucifer and his angels openly rebelled against God and tried to take over the throne of the universe, but they were cast out. "The great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: He was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him." (Revelation 12:9)
Through lying and deception Satan "drew the third part of the stars (or angels) of heaven" with him. (Revelation 12:4) But he did not stop there, he also drew the human race with him.
How would God meet the crisis of sin and rebellion in the universe? He could not turn his created beings whom he loved into robots. He would not manipulate them like a child playing with toys. No, God chose another way to show all the universe that his way was best, that his was a way of love.
It was the way of sacrifice. Satan took. God gave. Satan deceived. God loved. Satan said, "I will ascend above the clouds." God said, "I will give my Son. I will give the world and the universe my most precious One. My Son will show them my love. He will draw all men unto me, and I will save them from rebellion and from the punishment which rebels justly deserve."
The plan of redemption was not a plan to meet an emergency. Before our world was created, before the first people walked on this earth, God had laid the plans that would redeem man. That plan would also demonstrate to intelligent beings in every part of the universe that God is love.
One day soon the intelligent beings of the entire universe will proclaim, "Great and marvelous are thy works, Lord God Almighty; just and true are thy ways, thou King of saints. Who shall not fear thee, O Lord, and glorify thy name. . .for thy judgments are made manifest." (Revelation 15:3,4)
But before that day could come, God demonstrated the greatness of his love to all the universe. He gave his Son and companion from the throne of heaven, from the reaches of eternity, and he let his beloved Son face the cross that Satan created--a cross of hate and shame and sin.
In the fullness of love Jesus gave his life on that cross. God the Father was in Jesus Christ. He too felt the pangs of separation as the world's sin weighed upon his Son, and the world's death killed him.
God in Jesus Christ was a sacrifice of love. Through this sacrifice Satan was forever defeated. At the cross the whole world saw Satan for what he was--a deceiver, a liar, a murderer. There he revealed his true character by murdering the innocent Son of God. The cross also revealed Christ for what he was--the Savior of the world.
At the cross the power of love stood out in contrast to the love of power. Satan thought he would defeat Jesus on the cross. But Jesus defeated Satan there. As Jesus had said earlier, "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 men unto me." (John 12:31,32)
Satan is a defeated enemy. But why do sin and suffering still plague our world? Why is Satan still running loose? Like a roaring lion, Satan still seeks to devour and destroy God's creation of this earth. (1 Peter 5:8) A defeated enemy, he is filled with hate for God and for everything that he is. Eventhough he knows he will soon be destroyed, his hate drives him on to take as many others as he can with him into destruction.
But we need not fear him if we will follow God's way of life. "Submit yourselves therefore to God," the Bible tells us. "Resist the Devil, and he will flee from you." (James 4:7) Jesus, who has personally conquered Satan, will give you strength to conquer him also. As Jesus promised, "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." (Matthew 28:20)
At the end of the world, "the Devil that deceived them was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone. . .and fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them." (Revelation 20:10,9) One day Satan will be gone. God says to Satan, "I will bring thee to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all them that behold thee. . .Never shalt thou be any more." (Ezekiel 28:18,19) Out of the ashes God will create a new heaven and a new earth where there will be righteousness forever. "And there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away." (Revelation 21:4)
Friend, you have seen what the Bible says about suffering and pain. It is not God's doing. It is the work of Satan. God has given you a way to overcome Satan, the way of love through Christ's sacrifice on the cross. Will you choose to accept Christ's way to a victorious life?
Christ's way is a way that will fill your life with unequaled love, lasting peace, and abundant joy. "For 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) This love of God will see you through pain and suffering, sorrow and death. The love of God will give you eternal life. All you have to do is go to him, and accept Christ's death and resurrection as his gift to you.