So why is this world that God created filled with all sorts of evil? Why is there war, famine, poverty, murder, and all manner of physical violence? What kind of creation is this?
I’m going to try to answer these questions, but I want you to know up front that I don’t know what I’m talking about – I’m only guessing. The Bible is the only source we have for the explanation of God’s plan and it does not cover this topic in detail.
Here’s my understanding, based on many years of study: God is in control. As followers of Jesus, our human bodies may suffer but our spirit is protected by God. This protection is available to anyone who puts their faith in Jesus. God allows evil, perpetrated by the devil, to exist so that we can develop the skills to identify and avoid evil, and in some cases confront and overcome evil. These skills are essential to our eternal existence, and in God’s ultimate wisdom, this world situation is the best training ground for our total spiritual awareness. Our time spent in this world is only a tiny fraction of our eternal existence with God. The best is yet to come, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be greatly blessed in this life – we can, and I have been on many occasions – but we have to take the good with the bad.
So let’s take a closer look at the devil described in the Bible. The number one thing you need to know about the devil, also known as Satan, is the simple fact that he wants you to believe he doesn’t exist. He has been largely successful in this regard. Much of the world believes the devil is a work of fiction. Even many Christians, who should be well aware of Satan’s reputation and place in God’s grand plan, often discount him as a fantasy figure designed to represent the evil in the world. Any casual reading of the Bible should convince you that Satan is real and actively at work in our world.
According to the Bible, those who are followers of Jesus are protected from the devil by the spirit of God, and those who have turned their back on God are in fact being controlled by the devil. The Bible says, “Once you were under God’s curse, doomed forever for your sins. You went along with the crowd and were just like all the others, full of sin, obeying Satan, the mighty prince of the power of the air, who is at work right now in the hearts of those who are against the Lord.” (Ephesians 2:1-2 LB) Essentially, this world is a battle between good and evil and you are either on one side or the other – it’s your choice. If you’re not a follower of Jesus, you are a follower of Satan. Even if you hold no overt allegiance to him, Satan is in the background of your life guiding you away from God and on the road to destruction. The devil’s mission is to prevent as many people as possible from going on to eternity with God.
Jesus followers don’t need to fear the devil. The battle has already been won for those who have put their faith and trust in the death and resurrection of Jesus. Christians are guaranteed eternal life in the kingdom of God – there’s nothing the devil can do to change that. The Bible gives us this warning, “Rejoice, O heavens! You citizens of heaven, rejoice! Be glad! But woe to you people of the world, for the devil has come down to you in great anger, knowing that he has little time.” (Revelation 12:12 LB) The devil knows he will be destroyed when Jesus returns and he wants to take as many people with him as he can.
While followers of Jesus are protected from the devil by the Spirit of God, that doesn’t mean Christians are trouble free. Satan wants believers to look bad in order to prevent others from seeking to know God. The devil will try to disrupt the plans of believers, by causing doubt, developing conflict, perpetuating misdirection, or by supporting false teachers that are teaching something other than the truth found in the Bible. The devil is happy to help false teachers grow their church. Anyone teaching something other than the gospel will have lots of help from Satan.
The devil also tries to misdirect unbelievers by perpetuating the notion that God is an authoritative task-master who just wants to control your life. He will paint a picture of Christians as judgmental and offensive to distract unbelievers from befriending them. The devil’s skill at distraction will keep unbelievers away from anything that might open their eyes to the Lord. Finally, the devil uses the fear of death to scare people into pursuing their selfish desires before the grim reaper arrives. This is one of the great advantages of being a Christian – we no longer need to fear death.
The Bible teaches us that the devil had power over our death until Jesus died on the cross on our behalf, thereby returning to us our ability to live forever in the kingdom of God. The Bible offers this brief explanation, “Since we, God’s children, are human beings—made of flesh and blood—he became flesh and blood too by being born in human form; for only as a human being could he die and in dying break the power of the devil who had the power of death. Only in that way could he deliver those who through fear of death have been living all their lives as slaves to constant dread.” (Hebrews 2:14-15 LB) Praise God for sending his Son to die on our behalf! Precisely how our salvation from death works is a great mystery, but that is the teaching of the Bible.
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