In last week’s article entitledwe contended that reconciling the existence of God and the presence of evil is like driving a car down a curvy mountain road on a foggy night. In order to arrive at your destination, you have to stay between the known boundaries (i.e. yellow and white lines). The same principle applies to our investigation of the relationship between a good God and an evil world. As long as we stay between the boundaries of what we know about God and what we know about this world, then we can arrive at a destination that makes at least partial sense out of the presence of evil and suffering.
The first biblical boundary that we established was that God is not the source of evil, and the second biblical boundary that we established was that evil descends from the influence of the devil and the decisions made as a result of man’s free will. But these are not the only biblical parameters we need to assert in order to arrive at an appropriate understanding of why God allows evil to exist. So let us consider one final biblical boundary that is necessary for us to navigate this philosophical dilemma.
The final biblical boundary is that God is greater than evil. We must remember that Satan is not the opposite of God because God has no equals. Do you remember what Moses said to Pharaoh after Pharaoh begged for the plague of frogs to be removed. Moses said that the frogs would be removed the following day, “so that you may know thatthere is no one like the Lord our God” (Exodus 8:10-11). Thus, Satan is not the opposite of God because no one is like the Lord. Satan is a created angelic being who is significantly inferior to God. That is why John could say that “The one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). Who is “the one who is in the world?” Well, considering that Satan is identified as the “ruler of this world” (John 12:31) and the “prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2), and is twice identified in 1 John as the one in opposition to God and His children (1 John 3:8, 10), it seems logical that he is “the one who is in this world.” So, what 1 John 4:4 tells us is that God is greater than evil since He is greater than its source.
What is significant about God’s preeminence over evil? In other words, knowing that God is greater than evil does not prevent evil from happening so how does such a knowledge benefit us? Realizing that God is greater than evil will not prevent evil from happening but it will change our perspective of how to handle evil.
When we accept that God is greater than evil we simultaneously accept that God can produce good results out of evil events. Paul made such a declaration in Romans 8:28 when he wrote, “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Paul is not saying that those who love God will be protected from experiencing bad things, but Paul is saying that God can take our experiences with evil and suffering and produce a good result from them. In fact, He proved that at Calvary. In the introduction of his letter to the Galatians, Paul wrote, “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins to deliver us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father.“ So, Paul states that the reason Christ suffered on the cross is so that our sins could be forgiven, and, as a result, we could be delivered from this evil age. Or, to say it another way, we could inherit eternal life. Thus, the cross teaches us that God can bring good out of evil, because evil hung Jesus on the cross, but God used His death to bring about our salvation.
When we accept that God is greater than evil we also accept that God will get the last move. Consider what we know about God from Scripture. When Pharaoh seemingly trapped the children of Israel by the Red Sea ready to slaughter them, Moses lifted up his staff toward the sea, and God had one more move. When a giant seemed unbeatable and the Israelites seemed destined for Philistine conquest, a young shepherd boy arrived on the scene, and God had one more move. When the entire Jewish race seemed doomed for annihilation while in Persian captivity, a young Jewish girl became queen, and God had one more move. Then when the religious leaders orchestrated the murder of God’s Son, His disciples placed His body in a tomb, and God had one more move. So, what is God’s next move. According to Scripture, God’s next move is to judge and eradicate evil. In Revelation 20 we are told that a day is coming when “the devil” will be “thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur.” And, not only will Satan be judged and punished, but so will all advocates and perpetuators of evil because according to 2 Corinthians 5:10, “we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” So, just because God hasn’t eradicated evil yet does not mean that He won’t. As Peter Kreeft explained to Lee Strobel in The Case for Faith “Criticizing [God] for not [eradicating evil] yet is like reading half a novel and then criticizing the author for not tying up all the lose ends of the plot.”
Since evil will be eradicated when God gets the final move you may wonder why God is taking so long to make the final move? According to 2 Peter 3:7-9, it’s because there is still someone He wants to save. Peter reminded us that “the present heavens and earth are being reserved for fire, kept for the day of judgment and destruction of ungodly men” before he explained that “the Lord is not slow to fulfill is promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” Thus, the ultimate question you should ask yourself is whether or not you have received salvation because God just might be waiting for you before He makes His final move