One of the most often repeated questions about God concerns the existence of evil. Why does evil exist if the God described in the Bible is real? The Greek philosopher Epicurus raised this issue two-thousand years ago. His argument has been summarized in this way: “If God is unable to prevent evil, then He is not all-powerful. If God is not willing to prevent evil, then He is not all good. If God is both willing and able to prevent evil, then why does evil exist?”
The Bible clearly says that God is all-powerful and is perfectly good. Jeremiah 32:17 says of God, “There is nothing too hard for Thee.” Job 42 says that God can do everything. The goodness of God is proclaimed throughout the Bible, especially in the Psalms. “Good and upright is the Lord.” (Psalm 25:8) “The Lord is good to all.” (Psalm 145:9) The goodness of God must be understood in light of His holiness. All He does is righteous. He hates evil. God has no part in evil and does not promote it in any way. Since God hates all evil and He is able to destroy evil at any time He chooses, why is the world filled with so much sin and sorrow?
What is the Biblical explanation for evil? Sin and suffering do not originate with God. They originate with His creatures. God created beings with a capacity to obey or disobey Him. When God’s creatures rebelled against Him they did evil. The inevitable result of rebellion is punishment and suffering. The world is filled with sin because made refused to obey His creator.
This question goes deeper than the origin of suffering. This question wants to know why God let it happen. God could have prevented Satan from sinning, but He didn’t. God could have prevented Adam and Eve from sinning, but He didn’t. Why would God allow sin when He knew the terrible consequences that would come from it?
Many philosophical and logical answers have been offered to this question, but the Bible does not provide a single, simple answer. No verse or passage concisely explains God’s purposes in allowing evil. However, the Biblical record of the actions of man and God give some insight into the purposes and plan of God regarding evil.
The book of Job teaches that “why?” is the wrong question. God never explained to Job why he suffered. God simply told Job who was in charge. Romans 9 and Isaiah both challenge the person who would question God’s works. What right has the creation to demand the Creator explain His actions? Can a clay pot demand the potter justify his work? The Creator has every right to do as He wills with His creation. Creation has the obligation to submit to His will and to trust His good plan. This is not an emotionally satisfying answer, but it is the right one. God’s wisdom and understanding are far beyond our understanding. He rules all things. We do not have the right to question His work.
God does not reveal why He allowed evil, but the Biblical narrative gives some insight into what those reasons might be. God is working to exalt His name. Everything God did and is doing in the world is for His glory. From the calling of Abraham, to punishment of Israel, to the death of Jesus, to the salvation of Christians, to the judgment of the whole world, all of God’s actions are for His glory. The inevitable conclusion is that the entrance of sin brings God the greatest glory. This claim is hard to swallow, but it aligns perfectly with all the Bible teaches about God.
Because sin exists men understand better the grace of God. The angels who never sinned struggle to comprehend the grace of God in saving sinners. (1 Peter 1:12) Because God allowed men to sin all who have been forgiven of their sin understand God’s grace. The saved worship God in a way the angels cannot. The angels proclaim God’s praise, “Holy, holy, holy, the Lord God Almighty.” (Revelation 4:8) The saved in heaven sing a different song. “Thou art worthy . . . for thou wast slain and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood.” (Revelation 5:9). The entrance of sin into the world added another verse into the eternal hymn of praise to God.
God’s seeking His glory should cause any one to conclude God is selfish. His glory is the greatest good for the entire universe. The rejection of God buried the universe in agony. The exaltation of God’s glory will deliver the universe from its misery. (Revelation 21:3-4) To accomplish the extermination of evil on earth God Himself entered into our suffering. God the Son took humanity’s sin and all its anguish on Himself. None dare accuse God of selfishness or disinterest. He is not unconcerned. He is not malicious. He is involved. He suffered under sin to set men free from sin. One day He will bring all evil to an end.
A previous article discussed why God hides Himself from mankind. God is not visible to people, but He has not hidden Himself. God has revealed Himself to humanity through creation, His Word and His Son. Those who question God’s presence are not usually concerned about their inability to physically see God. They are most concerned about the apparent absence of God’s involvement in their lives.
Times of suffering and trouble causes a person to feel like God has hidden Himself away from them. At times it can seem as if God has forgotten and forsaken a person. King David expressed this in the Psalms. “Why hidest thou thyself in times of trouble?” (Pslam 10:1) The Bible speaks of God’s hiding Himself from people, but it always does so from the perspective of humanity. The Bible never says that God hides Himself from the knowledge of people or that He prevents people from knowing of Him. Instead, the Bible presents Gods as acting in such a way that men perceive Him as turning away and hiding from them. The hiding of God is the human perception of a situation, not the reality that God has made Himself unknowable.
The Bible most frequently uses the analogy of God hiding Himself when He brings judgment on a person or nation. Isaiah 45:15 speaks of God hiding Himself in judgment on the nation of Israel. In Psalm 30:7 David complains that God has hidden His face from him. This hiding of God is not an actual hiding. God’s hiding is not a removal of His presence or work form the world. Rather, it is a hiding of His goodness from men so they will see nothing but His wrath. The hiding of God’s goodness brings tribulation and judgment. Psalm 104:29 says, “Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled.” When God hides Himself His smiling face is turned to a frown. The experience of God’s hidden face is never an indication God has turned away from men, but that men have turned away from God. However, God never abandons humanity
God always acts toward His children with the greatest compassion. Christian’s may sin and distance themselves from God, but God never hides from His children. Instead, God assures Christians of His constant presence (Hebrews 13:5) and He promises He will dwell in each of His children until they enter heaven. (Ephesians 1:13-14) Even in times of intense trouble, the Bible assures us God allows those troubles in the lives of His children because of His love for them. “The Lord chastens those whom he loves.” (Hebrews 12:6)
Some believe God has hidden Himself from men because He is no longer working in the world the way He once did during Biblical times. If someone looks to see God in miracles, then the absence of miracles in this age may cause that person to think God is hiding Himself. God is not hidden. God has chosen to deal with men today differently than He did in the days of the apostles or the days of Moses. This different manner of working in the world does not mean God has hidden himself. God is still making Himself known to men. Look to see God in the way He reveals Himself today. Just because you cannot physically see God does not mean He isn’t there. Open the eyes of faith and you will find He has been present all along.
God is not visible. Man cannot see God. The Gospel of John says, “No man hath seen God at any time.” (John 1:18) The book of First Timothy says God is, “Invisible.” (1 Timothy 1:17) God Himself told Moses, “Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me and live.” (Exodus 33:20) Why does God not allow man to see Him?
God does not hide Himself from to be mysterious. He hides His glory from the sight of men so they will not die. God’s perfect holiness is so brilliant that no sinful being can survive in His presence. The sun is such a piercing light that none can look directly on it. Filters and screens must be used for frail humans to actually look at the sun. The sun is not hard to see because the sun trying to be coy with humanity, but because man in unable to endure the sight. God’s holiness is far greater than the sun. None can endure the full display of God’s majesty. God in His grace prevents His glory from bursting out on the world and destroying all those who see it.
Though God’s glory is obscured, He did not hide Himself away from men. God has revealed Himself to humanity in multiple ways. At the beginning of history God made Himself known to mankind. After men sinned, God continued to communicate with humanity. The record of the Bible is a record of God revealing Himself to people. Adam, Cain, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel and dozens of others had direct communication with God. Though God is not speaking directly to people today, He continues to make Himself known to all people. God’s power is on display in all of creation. (Psalm 19:1; Romans 1:20) God’s goodness is seen all around in His care for creation and provision for humanity. (Psalm 104) Nature never stops telling everyone about God. (Psalm 19:1-3) God has also revealed Himself through His Word. The Bible declares the character of God, details His promises, proclaims His saving grace and unveils His plan for the world. God may not be speaking directly to individuals today, but He is actively communicating with people through His Word. God is still revealing Himself through Scripture. Though people cannot see God, He has not hidden Himself from men. He has revealed to us all we need to know about Him.
Most importantly, God has revealed Himself to the whole world through His Son. God revealed Himself to humanity in various times and manners, but the greatest revelation of God is in the person of Jesus. (Hebrews 1:1-2) Though no man has seen God, Jesus is the only begotten Son of God who has declared Him to the world. (John 1:18) Jesus is the exact image of God (Colossians 1:15), the brightness of God’s glory and the express image of His person. (Hebrews 1:3) Jesus is God made flesh who lived among men. (John 1:14) God has not hidden Himself. He has made Himself known to all the world.
The reason men do not see God’s revelation of Himself is because of sin. Sin has darkened the minds and blinded the hearts of everyone. (Ephesians 4:18) Satan is actively working to blind and keep blinded the eyes of all people. (2 Corinthians 4:4) They way to see God is to believe. Through faith we know God and see Him who is invisible. (Hebrews 11:27)
“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)
The Bible says in the book Revelation that God will imprison Satan for one thousand years and will then throw Satan into the Lake of Fire forever. Since God has the power to restrain Satan why didn’t He do so as soon as Satan rebelled? Why didn’t God keep Satan out of the Garden of Eden and away from Adam and Eve? Why did God allow Satan to tempt men to sin?
The Bible does not give a direct answer to this question. Despite that, what the Bible reveals about the character and purposes of God helps in the formulation of an answer. Romans 9:21-23 speaks of the Sovereignty of God in His dealings with men. God allowed some, like Pharaoh, to persist in sin to show all mankind His wrath, power, patience and glory. God in His grace and wisdom allowed Satan to tempt Adam and Eve so that through their sin His wrath, patience, mercy and glory would be known to all people. Because man sinned we learned first hand that God is Holy and always punishes sin. We also learned that God is an overwhelmingly gracious God who gave His Son to die for our sin. Through sin we learn about God what we could never have known any other way. The sin of Satan and the fall of man allowed God to show that His grace is far greater than our sin.
The righteous angels study the gospel looking from the outside into something mysterious to them. (1 Peter 1:12) The angels do not understand the mercy and grace of God in the same way men do because the angels are not recipients of His grace. In the end, the plan of God that allowed sin will result in incredible, eternal praise to Him. “Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9-10) All the redeemed will praise God for His righteous judgment of the wicked. (Revelation 19:1-2) The plan of God which allowed sin also allows people the opportunity to truly and personally know “the grace of God that brings salvation.” (Titus 2:11)
The words at the end of Genesis apply to this question. “You thought evil against me, but God meant it unto good.” (Genesis 50:20) Satan was bent on the destruction of man, and God allowed Satan to work great evil. All the evil Satan desired also accomplishes the eternal good that God ordained. God allowed Satan to tempt man for our eternal good and His eternal praise. Though a full answer cannot be given to this question we can rest in the character of God. God is perfect, wise and good. The Judge of the whole earth will do right. (Genesis 18:25) You can trust Him.