Satan is called the Prince of the Power of the Air (Ephesians 2:2), the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4) and the prince of the world (John 12:31, 14:30). He is also identified in the Bible as the deceiver of the world (Revelation 12:9) and the spirit working in the unsaved (Ephesians 2:1). Satan is shown in Scripture to wield great power in this world and to have great influence in the world.
Satan is a mighty creature and a beautiful angel who rebelled against God. Satan’s first recorded interaction with humanity was to deceive mankind and lead them into sin. Since the fall of Adam and Eve, Satan has held sway over the hearts of men and has had great authority over the course of this world. Satan’s angelic followers, the demons, are able to take over the lives of people. Demons can possess people and cause them to harm themselves and others. (Mark 5:2-5; 9:17-22) Demons apparently exercise great authority over the governments of this world. (Daniel 10:13; Ephesians 6:12) At the end of this age Satan will control a powerful world leader who will wreak havoc on the world and persecute thousands of people. (Revelation 13:1-2)
Despite Satan’s great power, his power is not limitless. He is the god of the world, but he is not God. Satan is a creature always under the control of God. God limits Satan’s activities, and accomplishes His good purposes in all things despite Satan’s malice. The greatest example of this is Satan’s control of Judas Iscariot. The Gospel of John says that Satan filled Judas’ heart to betray Jesus. Judas’ betrayal was evil and according to the wicked will of Satan. Satan sought to hinder the plan of God, but Judas’ betrayal directly resulted in Jesus’ death on the cross. God allowed Satan to control Judas and He allowed Judas to reject Jesus so the greatest good in the world- the salvation of men- could be accomplished on the cross.
Why does God allow the Satan so much power and control? The Bible does not give a clear or simple answer. However, some of what the Bible teaches about God’s allowing evil also answers why God allows Satan such power. God allows Satan to work so His name will be glorified. Just like God used Pharaoh’s hard heart to bring Himself glory (Exodus 14:4), so God is using Satan to glorify His name. God also allows Satan power to show the world the terribleness of sin. If men experience the pain of sin in this life and repent of their sin, they will be saved from eternal destruction (1 Corinthians 5:5) God also allows Satan power to test Christians to make them more like Christ. God used Satan’s affliction of Job to reveal to Job his own pride and wrong view of God, and God is doing the same in Christian’s lives today.
Though a complete answer cannot be given to this question everyone can be certain of three things. First, God permits Satan to trouble this world as part of the righteous punishment of sin. Sin always brings forth death and God uses Satan as one instrument of accomplishing this judgment. Second, God is allowing Satan the temporary power to afflict the world to bring about a far greater, eternal good. (Genesis 50:20) Part of this good is the salvation of mankind (Acts 17:26-27) Last, God allows Satan the power to trouble men to shape Christians into Christlikeness and bring eternal good to them. (Romans 8:28-29)
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.
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.
The Biblical account of Adam and Eve’s sin describes a serpent tempting Eve to disobey God. This serpent is understood to be Satan. (Revelation 12:9; 20:2) Satan is the originator of sin, but he was not created sinful. (Ezekiel 28:15) Satan was created perfect by God, and sometime after his creation he sinned. When did this happen?
The Bible does not give a definitive answer to this question, but Scripture does give a few indicators that help identify the time period in which Satan sinned. Ezekiel 28 says that Satan was in the Garden of Eden, was beautiful, was one of the cherubim surrounding God’s throne and was perfect until the day he sinned. Isaiah says Satan’s first sin was an arrogant desire to become greater than God. (Isaiah 14:12-14)
Satan’s sin must have taken place sometime after the sixth day of creation. Satan could not have fallen before the events described in Genesis 1 because the Bible says that God created all things in six days. (Exodus 20:11) The angels were most likely created on the first day of creation when God created Heaven and Earth, since the angels watched the creation of the earth from the beginning. (Job 38:7) Satan is an angel and must have been created at the same time as the rest of the angelic creatures.
Satan must have sinned after the six days of creation because Genesis 1:31 says that at the end of the sixth day, “God saw everything that He had made and behold it was very good.” Nothing in the context of Genesis 1 limits Genesis 1:31 to only the things God had made on the earth, or only the things in the garden of Eden. Genesis 1 starts with, “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth,” and continues with an unbroken sequence of Divine creative acts in which God made all things. Therefore, everything in heaven and earth must be included in the evaluation, “very good.” A sinful, rebellious angel would not be considered by the Holy God to be “very good.”
Satan sinned sometime after the creation week and before the sin of Adam and Eve. The Bible does not tell how much time elapsed between creation and the fall. Some scholars think Adam may not have sinned until nearly 100 years after creation, because he fathered Seth at the age of 130 years. Cain and Abel were born after Adam and Eve sinned and then grew to adulthood before Cain killed Abel. After Abel’s murder and Cain’s exile Eve gave birth to Seth. Therefore, Adam could have been as old as 100 when they were kicked out of the Garden of Eden. The Bible does not tell how much time elapsed between Satan’s fall and the temptation of Adam and Eve. Satan’s rebellion against God could have been as late as 100 years after creation.
The fact that Lucifer ministered around the throne of God suggests that some time elapsed after creation before Satan sinned. He probably did not rebel on the 8th day of the world’s existence. Satan sinned sometime after the creation was completed but before Adam and Eve sinned. Satan was not created sinful, but in his pride he rebelled against his Creator.
An official in the Russian Orthodox church recently said that those who refuse to get vaccinated against the coronavirus “are committing a sin they will have to repent for the rest of their lives.” According to this official, “The sin is thinking about yourself instead of thinking about other people.” Is it a sin to not be vaccinated against this current pandemic illness or against any other severe, widespread illness?
This question is not about vaccines, but about sin. To rightly understand what is sin it is essential to know who has the authority to declare something a sin. Things are not sinful because a church official declares them to be. No one- not a pastor, bishop, church, prelate or pope- have the authority to declare items as sin. Something is not sinful because a culture or society treats them as if they are sinful. Sin is only defined by the Word of God. Sin is violation of the commands of God. “Sin is the transgression of the law.” If the Bible says something is a sin, it is a sin. If the Bible does not give a direct declaration that something is a sin then great care needs to be exercised before condemn that thing as sin.
The Bible explicitly declares some things are sin. For example, “Thou shalt not bear false witness” and “Thou shalt not steal.” The Bible gives many principles which are then applied to circumstances. “Love you neighbor as yourself” is a command but the application of it varies from situation to situation. In one case it is loving to take a neighbor a loaf of fresh baked bread. In another case it is not loving to take a gluten-intolerant neighbor a loaf of fresh baked bread. The Bible does not contain any direct command about vaccination, illness or pandemics. Therefore, the Christian must examine the principles of the Bible to see which ones apply to this situation and then carefully work through how those principles apply in his life.
In some cases it is a sin to refuse a vaccine because of specific Biblical commands. The Bible commands Christians to obey their governmental authorities. A person who can be vaccinated and lives in a country where their government requires them to be vaccinated but refuses to do so that person is sinning by breaking the command of Romans 13:1. In some cases it is a sin to be vaccinated. If a Christian cannot be vaccinated with a clear conscience then it will be a sin for them to be vaccinated because of the principles found in Romans 14:23.
The most common Christian argument for getting vaccinated is the argument from love. The Bible is clear. Christians must love one another. No right thinking Christian can deny this command. The argument then is that getting vaccinated is loving to your neighbors, therefore, every Christian must be vaccinated. To not get vaccinated is selfish.
The problem with this is that it assumes the answer. It begs the question of the lovingness of being vaccinated. In applying the command to love your neighbor, the thing that must be proved is how getting vaccinated is actually and always showing Christian love and how not getting vaccinated is always selfish. A full discussion on the connection of love to vaccines is outside the scope of this article. This is a question too complex for the overly simple answers that seem to dominate the discussion. Christians need to be careful to give grace to those who reach different conclusions on this topic.
Christians must recognize that what something can only be declared a sin after careful and proper application of Biblical principles to a specific circumstance. Some things will always be sin no matter the situation. However, many principles can be applied in different ways in different times and situations. Christians need to be careful about absolutizing their application of Biblical principles. Sin is that which clearly violates the Word of God, not that which violates my application of the Word.
Sometimes the turmoil of trying to decide between doing right or wrong is illustrated with a devil sitting on a person’s shoulder and an angel sitting on the other. Both whisper in the person’s ear in an effort to persuade him which choice to make. This illustration is an entirely fictional representation of the familiar pull between right and wrong. Everyone knows the battle between what you should do and what you want to do. That voice whispering in your ear telling you to do right is your conscience. The voice that tells you when you’ve done wrong is your conscience.
The Bible describes the conscience and tells how the person should respond to his conscience. The apostle Paul expressed his desire to have a clear conscience (Acts 24:18) and he warned of those who had their consciences cauterized by much sin (1 Timothy 4:2). The apostle Peter exhorted Christians to do good so they would have a good conscience. (1 Peter 3:16)
Modern science attributes the conscience to social structure. According to modern thinking conscience is a result of humans being are social creatures. We learn right and wrong from our society. We strive do what is accepted by our culture to maximize our ability to receive the evolutionary benefits of being part of a group. While still young we let external social standards become an internal judge by which we determine right from wrong.
The Bible disagrees. The conscience is not something created by the pressures and standards of culture. Scripture represents the conscience as a personal, internal reality that exists in all people. Romans 2:14 speaks of those who do not have a written copy of the law of God but who naturally do what is contained in the law. That this is true is evident by the cross-cultural nature of basic morals. Murder, deceit, theft and marital unfaithfulness are nearly universally condemned. Even in situations where a man may be praised for slaughtering his enemies, he will be condemned for killing his next door neighbor. A man may be honored because he has a large harem, yet he would suffer disapproval for sleeping with another man’s wife. Nearly all of the last six of the ten commandments find their counterparts in cultures across the world. A universal basic morality exists because of the conscience.
The most important Biblical passage describing the conscience is Romans 2. The conscience teaches all men the basics of right and wrong, condemns disobedience and defends obedience (Romans 2:15).The conscience is the little voice inside each heart that evaluates our actions. The conscience holds court on our thoughts, desires and behaviors. The conscience is the inborn understanding of God’s standards and our internal prosecutor which points out when we violate those standards.
The conscience is not created by society, but it can be shaped by our culture, upbringing and religion. The conscience can be taught, mis-taught, hardened and over-sensitized. Sin corrupts the conscience. (Titus 1:15) When ignored the conscience becomes desensitized and eventually insensible. The conscience can also be trained. When the Bible is rightly understood and rightly applied it teaches the conscience to reflect Biblical principles of right and wrong.
Do we come into this world as basically good, clean slates who learn to do bad as we go along? Are most people really good at heart? Do they mean well most of the time? Or is everyone a sinner by nature? In other words, do people sin because they are sinners or are they sinners because they sin? This issue stirs up strong feelings but needs to be considered because it is central to a proper understanding of salvation.
The Bible is plain about the nature of man. We are all the children of wrath and the children of disobedience. Every person is naturally a sinner. “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity.” (Psalm 51:5) “There is none righteous, no not one.” (Romans 3:10) The Bible describes all people as rejectors of God. (Romans 3:11) Every person’s natural moral disposition is against righteousness, against God and against His commands.
The Bible describes every person as enemies of God and separated from Him. (Colossians 1:19) As long as the person is separated from God, nothing done by that person is truly good in the eyes of God. God says to those who are in rebellion against Him, “All (your) righteousnesses are as filthy rags.” (Isaiah 64:6)
This does not mean that no one does good things of their own free will or that people will always do the most wicked thing they could possibly do. This does not mean all beneficence and philanthropy is actually self-serving. Many people genuinely do good things for others. Most people refuse to do all the bad things they could do. Goodness and self-restraint are real. Goodness in humanity is evidence of God’s grace in the world.
God has given every person a conscience which teaches him to know right from wrong. Romans 2 says people naturally do the things written in the law of God. Their natural obedience to God’s law is evidence that God has written His law in the heart of every person. However, the human conscience is not proof of basic human goodness, but of basic human guilt. The conscience convicts every person of his guilt so that none can legitimately claim to be without sin. (Romans 2:14-15)
The claim that no one is born good is not a denial of individual ability to understand right from wrong, a denial that people will do right instead of wrong or a declaration that people will always do their worst. Instead, this truth teaches that each person does evil because evil resides within the heart of every person. The Bible teaches that every one is a sinner because they are naturally disposed to sin from birth. None are as bad as they could be, few are as bad as they want to be, but no one is perfect before God.
The universality of sin does not lessen the individual’s guilt. Instead, the universal scope of sin is an indication of the severity of the problem. Sin is so terrible it has infected the entire human race. Because all are infected with sin, “there is none that doeth good.” (Psalm 14:3) However, the Bible offers hope and healing from sin. “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound: that as sin hath reigned unto death, even so might grace reign through righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Romans 5:20-21)