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 John 8:44You are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father you will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and stayed not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it.
American King James Version×
, 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 1 Peter 5:8Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walks about, seeking whom he may devour:
American King James Version×
).

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 Isaiah 14:12How are you fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how are you cut down to the ground, which did weaken the nations!
American King James Version×
), 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 Ezekiel 28:12-15 [12] Son of man, take up a lamentation on the king of Tyrus, and say to him, Thus said the Lord GOD; You seal up the sum, full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty. [13] You have been in Eden the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering, the sardius, topaz, and the diamond, the beryl, the onyx, and the jasper, the sapphire, the emerald, and the carbuncle, and gold: the workmanship of your tabrets and of your pipes was prepared in you in the day that you were created. [14] You are the anointed cherub that covers; and I have set you so: you were on the holy mountain of God; you have walked up and down in the middle of the stones of fire. [15] You were perfect in your ways from the day that you were created, till iniquity was found in you.
American King James Version×
).

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 Exodus 25:17-20 [17] And you shall make a mercy seat of pure gold: two cubits and a half shall be the length thereof, and a cubit and a half the breadth thereof. [18] And you shall make two cherubim of gold, of beaten work shall you make them, in the two ends of the mercy seat. [19] And make one cherub on the one end, and the other cherub on the other end: even of the mercy seat shall you make the cherubim on the two ends thereof. [20] And the cherubim shall stretch forth their wings on high, covering the mercy seat with their wings, and their faces shall look one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubim be.
American King James Version×
; Hebrews 9:1-9 Hebrews 9:1-9 [1] Then truly the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary. [2] For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the show bread; which is called the sanctuary. [3] And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all; [4] Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant; [5] And over it the cherubim of glory shadowing the mercy seat; of which we cannot now speak particularly. [6] Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God. [7] But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people: [8] The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: [9] Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience;
American King James Version×
, 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 Isaiah 14:12-14 [12] How are you fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how are you cut down to the ground, which did weaken the nations! [13] For you have said in your heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also on the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: [14] I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.
American King James Version×
, 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 Revelation 1:20The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which you saw are the seven churches.
American King James Version×
). "... 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 Ezekiel 28:16-17 [16] By the multitude of your merchandise they have filled the middle of you with violence, and you have sinned: therefore I will cast you as profane out of the mountain of God: and I will destroy you, O covering cherub, from the middle of the stones of fire. [17] Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty, you have corrupted your wisdom by reason of your brightness: I will cast you to the ground, I will lay you before kings, that they may behold you.
American King James Version×
, 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.