The Origin of Evil and Suffering

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The Origin of Evil and Suffering

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The tragic shooting of 35 students and teachers in Colorado last month are a graphic reminder of the struggle between good and evil in the world. Witnesses reported that when one of the teenage gunmen asked a trapped student, "Do you believe in God?," the girl answered yes-and was executed.

This senseless massacre is an unnerving reminder of the unease we feel deep inside, the unexpressed fear for our personal safety and security and that of our loved ones. We want life to be predictable and safe. We don't want to fall victim to crime, social unrest, terrorism or that greatest of tragedies, war.

Where and how did evil begin?

Jesus Christ spoke of one He called "a murderer from the beginning" and "a liar and the father of lies" (John 8:44, New Revised Standard Version). Here Jesus identifies the origin of evil and suffering, a being who initiated lying, deceit, hatred and murder—the enemy, the adversary of mankind, the devil (1 Peter 5:8).

We wonder, and rightly so, what happens in the mind of a criminal that transforms him into a sadist, mass murderer, a savage beast with no compassion. Such a change took place in the mind of the being who became the devil.

Scripture tells us he was once a glorious superangel whose name, Lucifer (Isaiah 14:12), meant "light-bringer." God says of this being: "You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering: ... You were the anointed cherub who covers; I established you; You were on the holy mountain of God; you walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones. You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you" (Ezekiel 28:12-15).

Lucifer was a special kind of spirit, "the anointed cherub who covers"—an angel whose wings covered the very throne of God himself (compare Exodus 25:17-20; Hebrews 9:1-9, 23).

But something changed in Lucifer. God tells him: "How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! You said in your heart, 'I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High' " (Isaiah 14:12-14, New International Version).

Lucifer convinced himself he was as good as or better than his Maker. He rebelled against God, determining to exalt himself above "the stars" of God—the other angels (Revelation 1:20). "... You were filled with violence, and you sinned. So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you ... Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendour ..." (Ezekiel 28:16-17, NIV).

Although the Bible introduces Satan when he deceives Eve in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3), he has been around far longer. He was the first criminal, a being whose mind and thinking grew corrupt, twisted and perverse. He introduced evil into the world. Humanity has struggled against evil ever since.

This issue's cover story details this struggle and helps you understand the good news about how that struggle will end.