Evil people appear to be in control. Does God care as sinful people hurt innocent victims? We say "God cares," but what does it look like to the world around us?
Reading or watching the world news can tear our hearts as we see the terrors of war and famine. Innocent people, many of whom are helpless children, have their lives ripped apart. With their own eyes they witness their loved ones dying and perhaps face torture, extreme hardship, or death themselves at the hands of evil people. Closer to home violent crime shatters many lives. Alcoholism and child abuse devastate many families. There seems to be no end to the evil people will do to each other.
Murder, rape, war, theft, immorality, sinfulness of every kind and every description seems to be the order of the day. If God is good, how can He allow evil people to succeed? Why does He allow it? Does He have the power to stop evil people?
Before we can even begin to answer these questions we have to understand what evil is and how it arrived on planet earth. To discover the answers we must journey back to the beginning...the very beginning. In Gen. 1:31 God looked at everything He had made and declared "It was very good." In the beginning evil did not exist.
God did not create wickedness or evil people; however, He chose to allow for the possibility of evil. Why would a good God do that? Why even permit the potential for evil people in a perfect creation? It doesn't make sense, or does it?
It was the desire of God's heart to make as the king of creation a creature who He could freely love and who would freely love Him in return. God made Adam and Eve with just that purpose in mind. He wanted mankind to enjoy a beautiful love relationship with Him. In order for mankind to freely love God, they had to be given a choice. There was no other way. If there was no choice, then mankind was nothing better than a programmed machine. But God plainly said "Let us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness [Gen. 1:26, NAS]. Part of being in the image of God was having the ability to choose. There was no way around it. How did evil enter the world? One of the highest angels rebelled against God. "But you said in your heart, 'I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God...I will make myself like the Most High" [Is. 14:13-14, NAS]. Although this passage of scripture is referring literally to the king of Babylon, many scholars believe it alludes to Satan's fight against God. In any case, we know Satan with the help of many angels [possibly 1/3] did rebel against God. No one can overthrow God, so Satan was defeated in heaven and his only option then was to attack the creature God loved.
We need to understand even after Satan fell, evil had not yet entered the world. It was still a perfect world of love and beauty. Satan's goal was to destroy the world by introducing evil into it. But that was something he could not do. There was no way Satan could bring evil into the world by himself. Why?
When God created Adam He gave him a very special command. That command was to rule or have dominion over the world and everything in it. The exact command is found in Gen. 1:26-30. All the rest of creation was designed with mankind in mind. Adam and Eve and their descendants were created to rule and develop the world under the authority and inspiration of God. It was to be a partnership in which God and man worked together and so increased their relationship with each other. God voluntarily gave man authority over this new world. That authority was not given to the angels, which is why Satan's fall did not directly affect the physical world.
In order for evil to enter the world, Satan would have to get man to voluntarily rebel against God just as he had done. There was only one thing God had told man not to do. He was not allowed to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. One simple rule, choose to love God freely or reject Him. Eve was the first one to disobey God, but she was tricked by Satan. Adam, as the representative of the human race, and knowing exactly what he was doing, also disobeyed God. At that moment evil entered the world and evil people were a natural result of that decision. So we see it was not God but man who allowed evil to enter the world.
Perhaps we should pause for a moment and see exactly what evil is. We saw it first in Satan and then in Adam. What did they do which defined evil? They rebelled against God. In its very root, all evil is rebellion against the perfect God who made us and loved us. What about murder, rape, war, etc.? Aren't they evil? Aren't they committed by evil people? They are expressions of evil. When we reject God our rebellion may take many forms. We may be very law-abiding or even religious or we may be vile, disgusting, murderous, evil people, but it all comes from the same source.
We should note here that at the same time evil entered the world, death also entered the world. Before that point in time nothing could die. But when evil entered the world everything began to die and evil people began to develop. Death and evil - in whatever form - go hand-in-hand.
In order for God to destroy evil He would have to destroy the entire human race, the race He so greatly loved. Because Adam was our legal representative before God, when he rebelled we all rebelled - we all became evil people. We are born into this world in rebellion against God. We are all expressors of evil. How we express it in our lives may seem very tame and mild compared with the evil of others, but the root cause is exactly the same. God did; however, have a solution. But more on that later.
Remember God created Adam and Eve to rule over the earth under His leadership? In a legal transaction God gave responsibility for the world to Adam. Adam turned traitor and legally gave his responsibility to Satan. God could have stepped in and ended things right there. But that would have wiped everything out including His still loved human creatures.
Instead, since man had legally allowed evil to enter the world, God chose that through man evil itself would be destroyed. God never changed or withdrew His command for man to rule and develop planet earth, but now the mission was grossly complicated by evil people. The problem was that man in rebellion to God could not destroy evil. Once he had chosen the path of rebellion he could not change.
Now we come to God's solution. Since man had rebelled and could not save himself, God chose to become a man in the Person of Jesus Christ. Man had legally given authority over the world to Satan and God became a Man to legally take it back. Jesus lived on this earth for 33 1/2 years. He did what Adam did not do, He walked in perfect obedience to God. Because Jesus was not born in rebellion, like the rest of mankind, and because He lived a life of perfect obedience, He could not die. Evil and death are linked, without evil [sin] there can be no death.
But Jesus voluntarily died. He died on our behalf. In the courts of heaven His innocent death meant the guilty could escape death. In other words, if we believe on what Jesus did for us, we are declared innocent. Because Jesus was made guilty for us, we can be made innocent for Him. Evil people can be changed into good people. And since God raised Jesus from the dead we can live in His life! All we have to do is believe on Him, ask Him to come into our lives, and submit to His Lordship [See Introduction To Life and Reality Check].
Now we see the beauty of God's master plan, which He had before the world was even created. Because man legally allowed evil - and therefore evil people - into the world, He would become a Man and legally destroy evil.
Wait a minute! Jesus died and rose almost 2,000 years ago. If that act destroyed evil, then why is it still in the world today? What hasn't it been wiped out?
Let's start with another question. What happens when a person comes to Jesus as Saviour and yields his life to the Lordship of Jesus? He accepts what Jesus did on the cross for him. In a very real way, when Jesus died, he died. When Jesus rose from the dead, he rose from the dead. He is not the same person he was before. He will look the same, in many ways he may even act the same, but he is a new creation. God, in a master stroke of genius, has taken an evil person and re-created him without evil and yet without destroying the person he was.
If that is true, why do these re-created people, these Christians, still do evil things? If they have been re-created without evil, then they should not express evil in any form, right? Right. However, it is the spiritual man that is re-created immediately. The root cause of all evil, rebellion against God, has been removed. But the life patterns established in the mind are not changed immediately. There is still the natural desire to do what is wrong. God does not take away the Christian's freedom to choose. They are faced many times a day with the same choice Adam had; to obey or to rebel. As Christians choose to obey God more and more then the effects and expressions of evil are gradually erased from their lives.
There are now two different human creations on earth. The original creation, which is in rebellion to God [whether they recognize it or not] full of evil people and the re-creation, which is spiritually in submission to God and is learning to practice submission in everyday day life.
The struggle between good and evil is not an equal one as some eastern religions teach. No, God, through Jesus has won back the earth on mankind's behalf. In spiritual reality it has already been done. Now it has to be put into practice in the physical realm. In the beginning God gave man dominion over the earth. Now through His re-created man He fights to destroy evil in the physical realm.
Planet Earth is now the site of the greatest war ever fought. Ironically, most people don't even realize they are in a fight for their lives. But realize it or not everyone is involved in the fight. Anyone who is not a re-created human being is not under the protection of God and is a pawn in the hands of Satan. [This has nothing to do with demonic possession but with the original, root evil - rebellion.] Re-created Christians, who themselves do not always make the right choices, warn their friends of the danger they are in. The Christian message is vital to the well-being of every human being - come to a loving God and be re-created or He will have to judge and destroy you along with evil and evil people at the end of time. God does not want to destroy anyone along with evil, but if they persist in their rebellion He must do it.
We need to be careful to realize this war is NOT Christians vs. non-Christians. It is God working through Christians against the evil of Satan. Non-Christians, whether they are actively [evil people] or passively [nice people] in rebellion to God, are influenced by Satan for his purposes. Non-Christians [and we were all non-Christians at one time] need to come to the loving protection of Almighty God. They are so greatly valued and loved by God Himself that we, as Christians, need to express that same loving compassion to them.
And so the war to wipe out evil rages on. We are deceiving ourselves if we think leading people to Jesus is the end of the war. That is only the beginning. It is the introduction to the grand relationship we were originally designed to enjoy with God. We still have to develop that relationship in ourselves, teach others about it, and obey the original command to develop the earth to its potential.
This war is fought and won by faith and obedience to the Word of God in love. That is all it takes. As the Word of God is applied in our lives, evil is banished in us. As the Word of God is applied by others in their own lives, the influence of evil and evil people in the world is lessened. As we all apply the Word of God to laws and institutions of our respective countries, evil is driven from the earth. Until that day comes, the war goes on. On which side are we fighting? Do we support evil people, by rebellion against God, or are we working to eliminate it?
How can a good God allow so much evil and so many evil people? He doesn't, we do. We gave authority over the earth to Satan and now God has given us the responsibility of taking it back. It is only possible through a life yielded to Jesus Christ. Every decision we make wins or loses the war one inch at a time. Because of the death and resurrection of Jesus the war will be won. The question is how soon and how many lives will we allow to be lost before then? The battle is deadly serious, the lives of valuable human beings, greatly loved by God, are at stake.
A Study Guide is available for How Can A Good God Allow Evil People? to those who have a Joshua Club Membership. Study Guides contain questions and answers as well as a few additional comments.