A CONSIDERATION of the earliest pre-creation phases, as well as the final consummation of God's recovery of all that He created would not be complete unless we discussed the question, How did evil enter the world, and what is its real object, in the light of divine revelation? The answer to this serious question may be one of the greatest grace-gifts of our Lord to His ecclesia. Perhaps it is nowhere presented so clearly and convincingly as in the essay, "Evil, its Origin, Purpose and End." In line with this guide, we will once again briefly touch upon it here.
Even when we search God's plan of salvation without specially considering the evil, we receive the impression that the latter will prove to be a furtherance and not a hindrance to the promotion and fulfillment of the deepest propositions and promises of God. We can easily convince ourselves of this if we once surmise that the development of creation had proceeded without sin or opposition.
First of all, without evil we would have had no revelation of God's love through Christ, for there would have been no cross. We could have known God merely as Creator, but without any exhibition of the might of His grace. In the glory, should we glance backward, over the course of universal history, we would see the development of the divine purpose, flowing placidly along, like some rivers, without a single hindrance to overcome. And, in that case, the question might arise, what would have happened if God had encountered serious opposition? Could He have conquered it without damage to anyone? But conclusive proof of His might to successfully cope with such a crisis would be wanting. That could affect our sense of safety and security very seriously, and we could not accord God unbounded honor and acclamation.
Now, however, God has, in fact, provided Himself with a very powerful opponent in the Adversary. How did he break into the creation? Had Satan originated sin out of himself, contrary to God's intention, then we would be forced to question God's omnipotence, and that would hinder the full enjoyment of complete bliss. An initial occurrence of any kind, which arises outside the regular rules, is called a precedent in the language of jurisprudence. If it is recognized as right, it is not only possible but allowable for similar cases to arise. That would be the only proper standard by which to judge the so-called "fall" of Satan. For, if a being created perfectly good and free from every evil tendency, could, of itself, turn into a furious enemy of God, it establishes a principle in God's creation which allows of repetition. So we would have to reckon with the possibility that, in the future, in some heart, once more a root of pride and jealousy develop of itself, and lead to another rebellion against God. Would that not put a wet blanket of fear for the future on our bliss?
The consideration of such possibilities shows that God's action demands a counter action, a foil, to give Him an opportunity to fully reveal His essence. How malevolent opposition may enhance the fame of the one opposed, may be illustrated by an episode in the life of a musician. One of the most famous violinists had a rival, who, from jealousy, composed especially for him a most difficult piece of music. He laid it before him with the idea that he was not competent to play it, and the failure would damage his reputation. Now if this artist had played this difficult composition without error or defect, it would have enhanced his fame very much. But this master virtuoso saw an opportunity to increase it still more. In order to do it, he must take advantage of the evil disposition of his rival. He placed the sheet of music upside down. Then he loosed three strings of his violin, so that only one could be used, and in this state played the composition correctly, without a single mistake. His rival was overwhelmed by his ability and confounded, especially because the master had used the difficulties to accomplish the very opposite of what was intended. Instead of lowering his reputation, they had enhanced it. Had the virtuoso been able to prove that he himself had influenced his rival to do this, not only his ability, but his wisdom would have been amazingly admired. And had the misplaced sheet of music and the ruined violin been sensitive beings, they would have suffered for a short time, but they would have had the satisfaction of contributing to the fame of the master.
This example falls far short of representing the actual facts, yet it may show why we have the right to say that God needed opposition to carry out His plan. And, for the fulfillment of this task, He has equipped a creature with sufficient intelligence to seize each opportunity to oppose God at every turn. That is not a merely human theory about Satan, but the teaching of the Scriptures. This truth is already included in the revelation that all is of God. Besides, we have further passages which clearly declare that Satan was what he was from his very beginning. The Adversary "was a mankiller from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, for truth is not in him" (John 8:44). "From the beginning is the Adversary sinning" (John 3:8). Concerning the commencement of darkness, the prophet Isaiah said long since,
Former of light and Creator of darkness,
Maker of peace and Creator of evil,
I, Jehovah God, am Maker of all of these.
Behold! I have created the artificer who is blowing
into the fire of coal,
And brings forth an implement for his occupation,
And I have created the ruiner to harm
Travailed has His hand with the rebellious[?] serpent
( Job 26:13).
Here we have a reference to the mission of the counter-worker, to introduce distress and pain into the creation temporarily, and a hint that Jehovah Himself suffered sympathetically when he created him. He made him to be a mankiller and sinner from the beginning.
Notwithstanding the fact that those divine declarations, when we acknowledge their exact meaning, carry back the creation of evil to God plainly and without apologies, we must be careful to express this truth with painful exactitude. We must by no means say that evil and sin were so found in God as if they belonged to His essence, simply because He created Satan as such. At his beginning God did that to him which must make him a degenerate. This probably consisted in giving him a spirit of opposition, which made him a counter-worker.
That God provided opposition to Himself is by no means impossible or beyond belief. We need only consider the course of the people of Israel and we will find God dealing with them in this manner. In Moses' account it appears as if the vicious resistance of the Egyptians against Israel had arisen out of themselves (Ex.1:10). But the Psalmist gives us a deeper view in the words:
He turns their heart to hate His people,
To plot against His servants
In the last analysis this was rebellion against God Himself, for at that time His people were not in rebellion against Him, and in need of divine discipline at the hand of alien nations, as was often the case later.
Now the tendency to oppose, or opposition itself, is neutral, neither good or bad. It is the moral state of the object or being which it opposes that gives it a moral coloring, which is always in contrast to it. Opposition to evil is good. Reversed, it is a mistake when directed against good. So it is that the spirit of opposition, planted in Satan, is neither sin nor evil, only the preparation for its entrance. Not until he began to work were sin and evil introduced apart from God. His opposition was directed against God Himself, so that he had to become the very opposite of what God is. Since God is love, life, and light, and He is just and true, Satan's opposition made him death, hate, and darkness, and he became unjust and false, and all these in such a way as was necessary to reflect the immeasurable greatness of God. Were the evil in the world more mild, and not so bad or so fundamentally depraved, we would be inclined to think that God is not so perfect as He really is. So the evil, in all its fearful manifestations, becomes the background for the revelation of God's goodness. God needed this dark foil for the exhibition of His grace, love and wisdom.
This is the principle which is involved in the tree of the knowledge of both good and evil. God did not plant two trees, at a great distance from one another, of which one taught the knowledge of good, the other the knowledge of evil, but both were united in one tree. This shows that the creature cannot attain to a knowledge of good without coming into contact with evil. So God Himself had made provision which must lead to the knowledge of good and evil. This is not a mere human opinion of the incident in the Garden of Eden. No, indeed, God wishes to be known as its originator when He says in the epistle to the Romans, "For God locks up all together in stubbornness, that He should be merciful to all" (Rom.11:32). And this was not possible in any other way than to equip a being with a spirit of stubbornness which would introduce this into the creation.
In order, therefore, to bring His creatures to a full knowledge of good and evil, God had foreseen another tree. This one was not situated in Eden, but on Golgotha. On the cross we see good and evil fullblown. Satan, with some men as the representatives of all humanity, committed the most evil of all deeds in the shameful murder of God's Son, and at the same time this act became the fullest revelation of His love, without which God, in the deepest recesses of His being, would have been unknown. So Satan had to prepare the way for Christ's great sacrifice, which revealed God's heart. It was the strong desire of God for mutual and grateful affection that demanded a lost creation, in order to draw it back again, and bind it to Himself with the unbreakable bands of His eternal love.
Even if the creation suffered temporarily in distress, that alone will enable it to enter into His incorruptible glory. It is not that Christ, by means of His salvation, will manage to restore conditions as they were in the beginning, or we would have to ask, Why this long and futile path of pain? No, indeed! The love of God, which will flow out, through the cross, to all His creatures, will eventually bring them unutterably more blessing than was enjoyed by the primal pair in paradise. And at the conclusion of the eons, not only will all mankind be glad that sin and suffering lie behind them, but they will also be thankful for all the evil which He laid into their lives, with the complete conviction that it was an indispensable means for their correction and for the comprehension of God's grace and love. So God will be justified by every one of His creatures in all of His ways. He will enable everyone to enter into a full appreciation of all the good in the glory along with endless gratitude to God for everything. Seen from this vantage point, the commencement by no means measures up to the consummation, for this will be far more glorious. As in the tragedy of Job, in which Satan plays a prominent part, at the end of God's ways it will be declared "and Jehovah blesses the last of Job more than his beginning" (Job.42:12).
God directs the believer, in accord with the love which he has been shown, "Be not conquered by evil, but conquer evil with good" (Rom.12:21). Yet this conquest is possible only because God deals with His foes likewise, and overcomes evil with overwhelming good. Otherwise He would demand more from His creatures than He is able to do Himself.
No such rich blessing could be possible at the consummation of the eons if Satan, out of himself, contrary to God's will, had introduced evil into His creation. Were that true, then God might be compelled to close with eternal damnation. If He could not hinder evil at the commencement, it might be impossible for Him to banish it forever, and to win the victory against it. He would be obliged to condemn the whole realm of evil to eternal torment or annihilate a large part of His creation, as this would be less to His discredit, according to the opinion of many.
But, as it was God Himself Who implanted the opposition of His creatures with an exalted object in view, we may rest assured that he can remove the root of evil, when its purpose has been attained, and banish it eternally. Consequently, the creature which had such a mission, and that, like all the rest, came out of and through God and His Son, will fulfill the to or for God. Probably this will demand the severest judgments, which Christ will mete out to His erstwhile Adversary. There will not only be a display of divine wrath, but, also, in the case of Satan, it will be calculated to bring about correction. He will see his deeds in the light of God, and be ashamed when he realizes how Christ, in contrast to himself, dealt with creation. He will be conquered by the love of God, as seen when Christ prayed for His adversaries on the cross, for he also belongs to the heavenly host, all of whom are included in the reconciliation. Along with all the rest, he will bow the knee to Christ and willingly acclaim Him as Lord of all. He was once created in the Son, so he will be included among the all Who will be headed up in Christ. How astonished will he be when it becomes clear to him that God has used his whole opposition in the service of salvation, and when he sees that it was Christ Who so fully succeeded in carrying out this wisest of all the plans of His Father! That will fill him with adoring wonder.
The shameful consciousness that he used his superior intelligence so ruthlessly against God and His Christ, and that he was not at all capable, in himself, to use it rightly, will awaken in him the desire to take his place under the lordship of God's Anointed, Who is filled with divine wisdom. Then he, once the chief adversary of God, through Christ, will serve Him with such abandon that the whole creation will marvel. So shall the mighty and strong one become the prize of Christ, and finally crown God's great plan of salvation. As a reconciled celestial being, God will also become All in him.
Now we cannot overlook the fact that this teaching of Christ's conquest of all will meet with heavy opposition. Some think that we are not entitled to force ourselves into God's purpose in this way, or that we should speak of Satan thus, because God does not now assume such an attitude toward him. Very good! But we must consider that this scriptural exposition destroys two serious errors that darken both the love and wisdom of God. Satan is not an independent creature who wreaks havoc with God's plan of salvation, but, according to God's will, is used as an essential factor in carrying it out. And in the end it will not consist in the eternal torment or annihilation of a large part of creation, as a sign of God's fearful failure, but in a reconciled and blessed creation. So teaches the Word of God, to His honor and glory.
"We all, with uncovered face, viewing the Lord's glory as in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image, from glory to glory, even as from the Lord, the spirit"
The deep, divine truth of the creation of all in the Son of God's love is one of the richest revelations of His glory. We have received this through the teaching of the Scriptures, and from it flows the most helpful edification, that is, power for the daily life of faith. According to Ephesians 3:16, we are made staunch in the inner man in accord with the riches of His glory. Staunchness is an aid to endure and conquer in all testings and trials, and assists in a holy life and walk. According to Colossians 1:11, we are endued with all power, according to the might of His glory for all endurance and patience with joy. Here we are granted a grace from His glory which gives us strength so that we can endure in all our distresses. We receive a double blessing from the search for Christ's glory, growth in knowledge and help in holy living.
Today many expedients are used to promote and vitalize the faith of the church. Here we have one of the most successful methods. Set forth Christ in His grandest glories. Make known His complete conquest, and start now to accord Him some of the voluntary acclamation which will eventually be His from all creation. In this lie the mightiest outflows of His grace which give faith a conquering uplift, relieve the heart of doubts and dark fears of the future, and fill it with deep and lasting joy, which will impart divine power to the daily life.
When our Lord showed Himself to Thomas as the resurrected One, this doubting disciple gave vent to a confession which does him high honor. We have beheld our Saviour in a much grander glory, with a much greater and more gracious influence, which grips our hearts much deeper than in his case. Should we be open for it, this grace granted to us will overpower our hearts, so that we want nothing else than to live for Him and serve in righteousness and holiness, in order to lay the glorious confession at His feet: "My Lord and my God!"