The Bible reveals a malevolent force operating in our world. This being is the epitome of absolute evil.
When thinking about the problem of evil and how to go about solving it, a few thoughts come to mind. The Bible teaches that suffering stems from sin’s presence, and because sin is in the world, we all face death. Some folks believe there is nothing after death, so why not live life to the fullest? If we choose this course, we will discover a life lived for pleasure leaves us with a sense of meaninglessness. This is why the Bible urges us to live responsibly because God will hold us accountable. A sense of ultimate accountability not only serves as a guide for our lives, but it also offers a solution to the world’s injustices. When we see evil people “get away” with evil conduct, we can rest assured God will one day hold them accountable. So the concept of eternity straightens out the crooked paths made by evil.
The Bible suggests other explanations for the problem of evil that lie outside the physical realm in which we live. Consider the example of Job.
Job lost his health, wealth, and his children in a series of traumatic events. As he looks for an explanation, Job lays responsibility for his troubles at the feet of God. “Why would God allow these terrible things to happen to me? I’ve tried to do what’s right; I’ve tried to live the right way. Why would God make me hurt?” What Job does not acknowledge — and does not seem to know at the time — is that while everything in the world happens under God’s auspices, there is a third party at work. Scripture reveals to us the role of Satan, a malevolent agent who was responsible for inflicting the crisis.
It is not difficult to believe there is a malevolent force at work behind the scenes of this world. Quite frankly, the scope of human suffering may make it easier to believe in absolute evil than it is to believe in an absolute good. We see absolute evil rear its head in brutal dictatorships, atrocities, and merciless diseases. And when we see it, we cannot help but believe in it. In Revelation 12, John sees an epic battle between good and evil. Michael the archangel leads the angelic hosts of God against Satan and his angels. Michael triumphs and “the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.” This passage teaches us several things about Satan.
- He is the being responsible for tempting Adam and Eve. John sees him as a dragon, but he identifies him as “that serpent of old.”
- The names Devil and Satan mean “accuser” or “false accuser.”
- Satan uses lies and deceit to mislead the entire world.
- He is a being of immense power and authority.
Jesus calls him “the ruler of this world” (John 14:30). Paul calls him “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2). John sees him leading the demonic hordes against the forces of good.
Satan seems to be a part of the angelic realm. The word “angel” describes a broad group of beings created by God to serve as his ministers. In all likelihood, Satan is a fallen archangel. The prefix “arch” comes from the Greek word translated “ruler” or “prince” (thus he is the “prince of this world”). When Michael the archangel squares off against Satan, he contends with a being of roughly the same power and authority.
In any discussion of Satan, it’s good to point out that while Satan is a powerful being worthy of respect, he is, by no means, on an equal footing with God. Satan, as a created being, has a beginning and end. God is eternal in the absolute sense, and is therefore greater in substance, power, and authority.