Do you find yourself frightened to watch the evening news, or to read the latest news headlines? Does the reality of the horrific crimes taking place all around you, and throughout the nation cause you to fear leaving your home? Well, your not alone and maybe you can find some comfort knowing that there are others who feel the same way. Crime and lawlessness are on the increase. The level of violence, hatred, and corruption seems to be rising, almost daily. Crime and evil have been a part of mankind’s history since he took up residence on this earth. Biblically speaking, evil entered the world during the fall of man. It was not part of the original creation but it grew like a cancer in a corrupted and fallen world–read Genesis. Many people that I have talked to believe that the world is in such an evil state because we are entering into the end-times. This is a possibility that cannot be ruled out, but it can also be a judgment on a rebellious world. We see many judgments that God has served on rebellious people, groups, and nations, as recorded in Scripture. Read the recent headlines of the horrific crimes being perpetrated on innocent children, the elderly, and on random victims for no apparent reason, and it will be apparent that evil has risen to a new level.
Christians should understand this issue through the teachings of Scripture. Only God’s revelation can bring enlightenment to this subject. First, we must understand the sovereignty of God where He is in control of all that occurs in creation–nothing occurs unless He is the cause, or He allows it. Evil is allowed to exist, but God uses it for His own good purpose and He restrains it, as He will not let it go uncontrolled to destroy His creation. His power, or hand of restraint keeps evil and lawlessness in check unless His judgment against evil and rebellion causes His restraining power to loosen its grip, allowing it to grow slowly like the disease that it is, (C-my blog on Chaos and Disorder). Second, we must understand the nature of evil. Evil finds its source in the hearts of men and women.
“Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”Gen. 6:5
Evil also finds its source in the dark spiritual forces who oppose the rule of God. They are constantly in conflict with the members of the Kingdom of God. Jesus taught abundantly on this concept, as written in the New Testament Gospels. Paul also taught much on this in his Epistles, read Ephesians 6:10-13. These demonic forces rule over the world in the Kingdom of Darkness in opposition to those who are members of God’s kingdom. These forces are powerful, much more powerful than mortal man and can only be challenged through the power of Christ. Evil can only be truly understood through biblical teachings, and it is the source by which Christians should approach it. It is only through the Word of God that we can be comforted when confronted by evil, and it is only through the power of Christ that sin, evil, and lawlessness can be overcome.
Evil and suffering are part of this fallen world; and it is an essential aspect of the Drama of Redemption, where mankind is separated from God through disobedience and then reconciled to Him through the atoning work and sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Evil and suffering will then be completely removed in the age to come following the return of Christ.
In order to further assist believers understand evil and suffering through a biblical lens, I have included the following excerpts from a PowerPoint presentation that I had created for a Bible study group. I hope that it helps to bring clarity to a difficult and complex subject.
Evil and Suffering
“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.“Gen. 50:20
God is not the source of evil but in his divine sovereignty He uses it for His own good purposes. He allows it in His plan of redemption and He restrains it through His common grace which He provides for all people, believers and unbelievers.
“You are of your father the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father,” (John 8:44).
“This is the judgment, that men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil,” (John 3:19).
Evil finds a source from dark spiritual forces which influence persons toward evil deeds.
“For from within, out of the heart of men proceed the evil thoughts.” (Mark 7:21).
Evil also originates in the hearts of men/women
God’s Divine Decree
Before creation, God in His Divine Decree decided on a world with evil and suffering in order to maximize love and to allow for free will. God’s plan also included using evil and suffering for the purposes of good.
The Sovereignty of God
•Evil and suffering are connected to the sovereignty of God.
•He is not the creator of evil but He allows it.
“Now there was an evil spirit from the Lord on Saul as he was sitting in his house with a spear in his hand”, (1Sam. 19:9).
•He uses evil and suffering in the formation of his elect.
•He is moving the creation to the final point of history, which is the culmination of his plan, the Final Kingdom.
•Time on earth is only a blink of an eye in comparison to eternal bliss in the Heavenly Kingdom.
• God’s sovereignty is the exercise of His power over all of creation. He is in absolute control over all things where nothing occurs without His direction or permission.
God assured the Israelites who were in captivity that He had plans for their future blessings. In the same way, He has plans for a future without evil and suffering, where believers will enjoy the New Heaven and the New Earth, (Rev. 21:1-5).
God does not give total revelation on all things, but revelation that is sufficient for our purposes. Scripture does not directly reveal God’s purpose in evil and suffering, it does however give us some understanding in its purpose.
Our exposure to evil and suffering enhances our capacity to love God and enjoy Him in eternity.
Without evil and suffering
•Many people would not seek God because they would have everything they need or desire and have no need of God.
•Lack of suffering or hardships produces spoiled and pampered individuals.
“You who love the Lord, hate evil!
He preserves the souls of His saints; He delivers them out of the hand of the wicked.”Psalm 97:10
Though the world is corrupted by evil, God preserves the souls of His saints from the wicked.
In times of calamity and disaster, people often seek God for comfort and wisdom.
Christians encounter evil and suffering in a fallen world just as unbelievers do. They endure their hardships in such a way as to bring glory to God and to praise Him in their suffering, knowing that Christ suffered and died for their salvation. Christians throughout history have stepped forward in times of disaster to risk their lives for the sake of others.
“We must through many tribulations enter the the kingdom of God.”
Evil and suffering are the only means for the creation of some virtues.
Romans 5:3–4 (NASB95)
“And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope;”
•No courage without danger.
•No perseverance without obstacles.
•No compassion without suffering.
•No patience without tribulation.
•No character without adversity.
•No hope without need.
Four Points to Remember Regarding Evil and Suffering
1.The chief purpose of life is not happiness but the knowledge of God. Evil may not be pointless because it can bring a greater knowledge of God. Suffering creates a dependency on God and persecution grows the Church.
2. Mankind is in a state of rebellion against God.
“This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil,” (John 3:19).
God has given mankind over to the sin that he has freely chosen, and He allows the rebellion to run its course. This includes the influence of demonic creatures who also rebelled against God.
3. God’s purpose is not restricted to this life but continues past death and into eternal life. The suffering and evil in this life are only a speck when compared to the ocean of comfort and joy in the life to come. God’s purposes in this life will bring relief when He reveals them.
4. The knowledge of God is the ultimate form of goodness. To know God and be loved by Him in eternity will eclipse any of the evil and suffering in this world. The darkness of this world must be measured against the light of the eternal kingdom of God.
Citation: (The above four points taken from Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview, by J.P. Moreland and William Lane Craig, pg. 544-548).
In closing, consider:
God is omniscient(all-knowing), and His wisdom is infinite. He knows the beginning from the end. His purpose in allowing evil and suffering in the world is beyond question and perfectly just. It is beyond our capacity of understanding, and therefore to question God’s decisions is to assume that your knowledge is greater than His. God is perfectly loving and perfectly just. We can have confidence in His judgment and place our hopes in His plan of redemption, which includes evil and suffering!