Evil is that which is morally wrong or sinful; it can also be defined as the absence of good. Since God is good and the measure of goodness, evil is essentially that which goes against His nature and His ways. Evil exists in our world because some of God’s creatures rebelled and continue to rebel against Him.
The first creature to rebel against God, therefore becoming the author of evil, was Satan, and other angels joined Satan in his rebellion (Isaiah 14:12–14; Ezekiel 28:12–18). Humans followed suit when Eve fell to Satan’s deception and Adam willingly partook in her sin (Genesis 3)
Genesis recounts the rapid growth of evil. Adam and Eve’s firstborn son murdered his brother and then lied about it (Genesis 4). About one thousand years after creation, “The LORD saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time” (Genesis 6:5). God destroyed the earth with a worldwide flood, preserving Noah and his family (Genesis 6—9; 1 Peter 3:20). Shortly after the flood, we see sin again—Noah got drunk and exposed himself inappropriately (Genesis 9).
As the world’s population grew, humans again defied God. Rather than “fill the earth” (Genesis 9:1) as God had instructed, “they said, ‘Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we may make a name for ourselves; otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth’” (Genesis 11:4). God knew that their sinfulness would only increase if they continued to conspire with one another, so He confused their languages and scattered them (Genesis 11:5–9). In doing so, God limited evil.
A few hundred years later, God set in motion His plan to rescue humanity from evil. He called Abraham, from whom He would set aside a people for Himself—the Jews. It is into this family line that Jesus, the God-Man who rescues the world from evil, was born (Genesis 12:1–3; Galatians 3:16, 26–29; Luke 3:23–38; John 1:1–5, 14). Centuries after Abraham, God rescued His people from slavery in Egypt and gave them the law through Moses. The law demonstrated God’s holiness and made clear humans’ inability to live up to God’s standards (Romans 3:23; 5:20–21). The Old Testament system of sacrifices foreshadowed what Jesus would accomplish on the cross (Hebrews 10).
Though evil has been rampant throughout history, God has always provided a way of forgiveness and rescue—salvation is always by God’s grace received through faith (Ephesians 2:1–10; Hebrews 11:1, 6; Romans 4). The Bible provides examples of rampant evil and its destructiveness, but also of God’s abundant grace and mercy. Further, the Bible teaches God’s judgment on evil and on those who continue to reject Him (John 3:36; 2 Peter 3).
If evil is so destructive and God has provided a means of rescue, why is there still so much evil in the world today? One reason, of course, is that mankind still has a sinful nature. Another reason is that God is patient. Second Peter 3:9–10 says, “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. Instead he is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything done in it will be laid bare.” God has not yet brought His full judgment against evil because He wants many more people to come to repentance.
In the meantime, Satan still has influence in the world, and our own human hearts still turn against God. Second Corinthians 4:4 explains, “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.” Paul explains how people willingly reject the truth of God and that, “just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done” (Romans 1:28). He also warns, “There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people” (2 Timothy 3:1–5).
Even those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ and been rescued from the penalty of sin still struggle against the sinful nature (Romans 7—8). We still go against God and, as a result, contribute to the problem of evil in the world. God has graciously forgiven us in Jesus Christ and continues to cleanse us from sin (1 John 1:9). Through the work of the Holy Spirit, God also enables us to put our evil deeds to death and live in His ways (Philippians 2:12–13; Ephesians 4:17–32; Colossians 3:1–14; Romans 12:1–2; Hebrews 12:1–2).
Evil will persist until Christ returns, but we can rest assured that God allows no more evil than will ultimately play into His good and perfect purposes. He restrains evil (Job 1—2; 2 Thessalonians 2:6–12). Though God never authors or applauds evil, He is able to use it to His good ends (Romans 8:28–30; James 1:2–4; 1 Peter 1:6–9).
Though the evil in our world can seem overwhelming, it has by no means overcome the goodness of God. God’s children—those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ (John 1:12)—live in this world as ambassadors and lights (2 Corinthians 5:20–21: Matthew 5:13–16). We are tasked with sharing the good news about Jesus with the world (Matthew 28:18–20; Acts 1:8) and demonstrating His character through actively loving others (John 13:34–35; Galatians 6:9–10; 1 John 4:7–12). The Holy Spirit resides in us (Ephesians 1:13–14; 1 John 4:13). Nothing will separate us from God’s love, not even the darkest evil (Romans 8:28–39).
Romans 12 gives advice for how to be a “living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God” (Romans 12:1). As regards evil, we are told, “Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good” (Romans 12:9); “Do not repay anyone evil for evil” (Romans 12:17); and “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21).
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