War, disease, injustice, natural disaster, and other evils are therefore present with us only because sin invaded the good world God created.
The Bible often refers to an evil being called Satan or the devil who heads a kingdom of evil. Paul described his kingdom as well-organized when he wrote:
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places (Ephesians 6:12).
The Bible doesn’t tell us when Satan became God’s enemy. In fact, it doesn’t describe his fall from sinlessness. It only alludes to it in Isaiah 14:12-15 (where he is called Lucifer, son of the morning) and Ezekiel 28:12-19, passages that refer directly to the king of Babylon and the king of Tyre. When Satan rebelled, he apparently drew a great number of angels with him (Revelation 12:4). These fallen angels (called demons) are now his assistants.
Satan (as the serpent-see Rev 20:2) lead Adam and Eve to sin (Genesis 3). Satan afflicted Job (Job 1-2). He moved David to become proud and to number the citizens of his nation (1 Chronicles 21:1). An evil spirit, a member of Satan’s army, became a “lying spirit” in the mouth of Ahab’s prophets to persuade him to fight a battle in which he would be killed (1 Kings 22:13-28). Powerful evil spirits empower and guide leaders of nations (Daniel 10:13). Evil spirits possessed people at the time of Christ and perhaps still do (Matthew 8:16-17,28-34). Satan was involved with Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7). The devil and demons exercise real power through human agents who engage in idolatry and sorcery (1 Corinthians 10:20). They empower false teachers (2 Corinthians 11:13-14). They are able to work lying wonders (2 Thessalonians 2:9; Revelation 18:23).
This kingdom of evil is pervasive and powerful. Satan and his agents are undoubtedly responsible for much of the evil in the world. They are malignant and hateful. They are undoubtedly involved in the wars, injustices, persecutions, plagues, and other forms of evil that mar our world. Yet they can do only what God permits. Therefore, the Bible writers sometimes ascribed to God the evils that came about through the agency of evil spirits. We see this when we compare 1 Chronicles 21:1 with 2 Samuel 24:1. We also find that Job saw his afflictions as coming from the Lord. But God never said, “Don’t blame Me, the devil did it.” Ultimately God did permit it.
It’s still important, however, to observe the fact that much of the evil in our world comes from the devil and his agents. It enables us to maintain the doctrine that God is absolutely sinless and that He never instigates moral or spiritual evil. God’s permission is not the same as His causation. Paul declared that God abandoned rebellious sinners to foolishness (Romans 1:22), sensualism (Romans 1:24-25), homosexual perversions (Romans 1:26-27), a debased mind (Romans 1:28-29), and total heartlessness (Romans 1:30-32).
God didn’t cause these sinners to go ever deeper and deeper into degradation. He permitted them. Is it not possible that as God observes human beings going deeper into sin and rebellion that He gives the devil and his angels permission to bring about natural disasters, destructive crimes, and wars, persecutions, false religions, and plagues?
As Christians we are warned, “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith. Remember that your Christian brothers and sisters all over the world are going through the same kind of suffering you are.” (1 Peter 5:8, 9 NLT)
How do Christians stand firm? We are told, “A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on all of God’s armor so that you will be able to stand firm against all strategies of the devil. For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places. Therefore, put on every piece of God’s armor so you will be able to resist the enemy in the time of evil. Then after the battle you will still be standing firm. Stand your ground, putting on the belt of truth and the body armor of God’s righteousness. For shoes, put on the peace that comes from the Good News so that you will be fully prepared. In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. Put on salvation as your helmet, and take the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Pray in the Spirit at all times and on every occasion. Stay alert and be persistent in your prayers for all believers everywhere.” (Ephesians 6:10-18 NLT)
The time is coming when Satan and his kingdom will be thrown into the Lake of Fire forever and ever (Revelation 20:10). Then there be no more death, sorrow, crying or pain (Revelation 21:4) for God’s children. What a glorious eternity it will be! But until then stand firm!