Where Does Evil Come From?

I have a two-year-old son. At times, I give him a job to do. I say, “Son, it’s time to clean up your toys.” I’d be lying if I said he listened every time. Very often he doesn’t. But there are times when he hears the command of the father he knows loves him, and he gladly and willingly obeys. When he does, my heart fills with joy. He did that for me. He must really love me. “Thank you, son.”

I also have a garage door opener. At times, I give it a job to do as well. I press a button. My garage door opens or closes. The garage door opener gets it right much more often than my son. Every time, in fact. Without fail. And yet, when the garage door opener gets it right, there is no joy. There is no “thank you.” Why is that?

People often wonder where evil comes from. Sometimes they hear an explanation that goes something like this: When God created the universe, everything was good. There was no evil. But then a good angel chose to do evil. That angel, the devil, then tempted good human beings to do evil. And they did. They disobeyed God and ate the fruit he had told them not to eat.

That explanation, true as it is, usually leads to other questions. Why would God allow that good angel the freedom to do evil? Why would he allow him to tempt Adam and Eve? Why would he allow Adam and Eve the freedom to do evil? And if God knew all of this was going to happen ahead of time (which he did), why would he have created the universe in the first place?

Those are great questions. When God created the world, he made certain things that work like garage door openers. They do what God wants by the sheer force of his will. The planets follow their orbits. The sun rises and sets. The rain falls. Plants grow. They have no choice.

But God also created people. And he made them moral creatures, not machines. He gave them the freedom to choose between right and wrong. He wanted to love them into loving him back. And did he ever love them!

That brings me to the question that really matters. Not, “Where does evil come from?” Instead, “Where does evil end up?” The evil that Adam and Eve brought into the world remains to this day. Things like murder, rape, theft, and terrorism are a part of our world. These are blatant sins that we see every day. But also included in the realm of evil are the sins of our hearts, our secret sins, our “hidden faults” (Psalm 19:12).

Fortunately, God loves us so much that he took all of the evil that has ever taken place and will ever take place and gave it a single destination: his one and only Son. Instead of giving evil people the evil they deserve, he gave his good Son the evil he didn’t deserve: death on a cross. In exchange, evil people receive the good that they don’t deserve: forgiveness, the perfect holiness of Christ, and eternal life in heaven.

God surely does love us!

And so the truly amazing thing is not that the world has evil, but that an evil world full of evil people has so much good in it. God continues to love us into loving him back. “Love each other as I have loved you” (John 15:12).

Do we have guardian angels?

Swim at Your Own Risk. No Lifeguard on Duty.

Those words might sound a bit perilous to a parent whose teenager is spending a lazy summer day at a lesser known beach. But to the teenager, the words call out, “Freedom!” No authorities within sight to spoil the fun. Now that’s a good time! Until help is needed.

Like lifeguards, God’s angels watch over us. Angels are spirit beings, without the earthly limitations of physical form, created by God as his agents for earthly missions. “For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways” (Psalm 91:11).

Angels have been, and will continue to be, sent by God to battle evil and frustrate the ways of the wicked. For example, angels appeared in the ancient cities of Sodom and Gomorrah to announce their doom (Genesis 19). This mission of justice, though, falls in line with a greater purpose for which angels are created and called. “Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation” (Hebrews 1:14)?

Just like we believe in a God whom we cannot see, we believe in angels whom we cannot see because the Bible convinces us so. Just like God cares for all people, but shows special attention to his children who love and believe in him, angels show the same special attention to believers. Every believer. Every minute. “Sent to serve.”

Is there a specific angel, a guardian angel, assigned to each believer? Jesus once taught about the care of God for children when he said that “their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven” (Matthew 18:10). That doesn’t necessarily mean that one, specific angel is assigned to a believer for life, but it does mean that there are plenty of angels around and assigned to help. Also, those angels are holy, they are heavenly, and cannot lead us astray.

So put your faith in God to forgive you, bless you, and to take care of you not only with normal circumstances like lifeguards or a job, but also in his invisible, miraculous ways like sending angels. He remains superior to angels, by the way, so only God deserves your praise and prayers.

The Bible says that even angels praise him (Psalm 148:2)!

Who is Satan?

Have you ever seen the Loch Ness Monster? How about Sasquatch or Big Foot? These are only a few of the imaginary creatures we hear about. Their “sightings” make front page news in the tabloids.

There is a city in Northern Wisconsin that calls itself “The Home of the Hodag.” According to Eugene Sheperd, who supposedly discovered the hodag in 1893, it has “the head of a frog, the grinning face of a giant elephant, thick short legs set off by huge claws, the back of a dinosaur, and a long tail with spears at the end.” It’s a popular creature in the area. Even the local high school has the hodag as its mascot.

Some people see Satan as a fictional creature. He’s the little red man with horns and a pitchfork. Or he’s the ghost-like figure that can scare the bejeebers out of you in a movie like “Exorcist.” Or a normal good-looking person as he sometimes portrayed on TV or in movies.

So who is Satan? Or what is he? A monster? A mascot? A movie star? Satan may be all of these, but one thing he isn’t is imaginary. Satan is real. And he is a personal being—not with flesh and bones but a spiritual “being.” That might sound complex, but really it’s quite simple.

The Bible calls Satan a fallen angel. At first there were only good angels. God gave them a choice to serve him or serve themselves. Some of them rebelled against God and decided to serve themselves. Satan was a leader of this group and he led a large number of angels in a rebellion against God. The good angels stayed with God, continue to serve God, and enjoy God’s blessings. Satan and the evil angels rejected God, hate him with a passion, and serve themselves. (See 2 Peter 2:4 and Jude 6)

As an evil angel, Satan is pretty powerful, but not nearly as powerful as God. Jesus is proof of that. He took on the devil in one-on-one combat and it wasn’t even close. It turned out just as God said it would. Satan bruised the heal of Jesus, but got his head crushed in the process. That’s what the cross did.

The amazing thing is that Jesus crushed all our sins in the process. Like Satan, the bad things we do are real. Yet the cross is also real. And that is where Christ defeated Satan and won real life, real hope, real forgiveness.

What is heaven?

“Why are you so happy, Dad?”

Dad is holding a newborn daughter in his arms.  The five-year-old son wonders why Dad’s smile is so large.

Can a father ever fully explain?  Can a young son grasp the awe that grabs the heart of a dad when a new life comes into the world?

The reality of heaven may be more than human minds can fully comprehend.  Yet we ask, “What is heaven?”  God does give us some answers.

What is heaven?

Jesus once told his friends, “In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you.  I am going . . . to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.”

What is heaven?

The Apostle Peter told his friends, “In keeping with [God’s] promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness.”

What is heaven?

The Apostle John writes, “I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘. . . [God] will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’  He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new’!”

What is heaven?  God gives us answers.  Heaven is a real destination, a place.  Heaven is a place of moral perfection, available to sinful humans only through Jesus’ saving work.  Heaven is place of perfect joy, without a single tear ever again.

But what is heaven?  What exactly will it look like?  Why can’t I see it now?

Questions.  Good questions.  Questions not so different from the sincere question of a son to the proud father of a new child.

“Why are you so happy, Dad?”

The father’s answer may not include every detail, but he will emphasize the point that matters most.  He will answer in a way the son can understand.  “Son, having a baby is like having the biggest, hugest chocolate birthday cake you could ever imagine.”

The five-year-old gets a smile on his face.  He understands.

What is heaven?

The Father replies, “Heaven is a place of perfect joy—you will never be sad again.”  We can understand that, and with a huge smile on our face.

What is Hell Like?

Most people think they know what hell is like. Ask them on a blast furnace August day how hot it feels. Search Google for graphics featuring hell and flaming infernos will fill your screen. The terrors of war are compared to hell. As is terminal disease, divorce, and a dysfunctional workplace.

The Bible uses similar pictures to describe hell. Jesus predicts how on Judgment Day his angels will throw those who have rejected him “into the fiery furnace.” He goes on to say that those in that furnace will weep and gnash their teeth (Matthew 13:50). Hell, then, is a place of abject sorrow and staggering grief. It is a place where people’s fate is horrific and unstoppable. That’s why they gnash (grind) their teeth to display their frustration, rebellion, and anger.

There are additional ways the Bible helps us relate to hell. In Jesus’ story about a rich man suffering there, he has the man describe the place as a torture chamber (Luke 16:24). Hell is pictured as a place of blackest darkness (Matthew 8:12, Jude 13). The Old Testament prophet Isaiah uses a metaphor Steven King would enjoy. He says the people in hell are perpetually consumed by worms (Isaiah 66:24).

The essence of hell is separation from God and his kindness, love, generosity, and care. It was from the depths of that separation that the sin-suffering Jesus screamed from the cross, “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?” Paul promises such separation awaits those who reject God’s grace. “They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord” (2 Thessalonians 1:9).

Gruesome pictures. Distasteful descriptions. But even worse is being there. Words are inadequate to capture hell’s excruciation, its anguish, its dread. Little wonder that Jesus urges us to avoid hell’s torture, torment, and terror at all costs: “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell” (Matthew 5:29-30).

Hell is what anyone deserves who has ever done anything wrong. “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law” (Galatians 3:10). Hell is the destination for all who believe they don’t need forgiveness or that they can earn their own forgiveness. That’s the price a lack of perfection exacts in the holy God’s court of justice.

How wonderful that God provides us a way to escape. He gives us a place to live for an eternity that is the polar opposite of hell. That is what Jesus is all about. The Bible assures us, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation…. God made him who had no sin [that’s Jesus] to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:17,21). With Jesus’ righteousness, heaven is ours. .

What Do Angels Do?

Idleness is the devil’s workshop.

Someone said that. It seems to be a true statement too. And if indeed it is true, then angels are not going to be getting into trouble with evil because they are not busy. They are not idle. The Bible talks about angels as busy creatures.

The very name angel means messenger. The Old Testament book of Malachi literally means, “My angel.” We know God sent his angels to do his bidding and work. Christmas was a time when that was especially evident. Angels came to the characters of Christmas, piercing their darkness, speaking words of instruction and encouragement. Angels were there at Easter too. Remember the angels in the tomb? And at Jesus’ ascension back into heaven forty days after he rose on Easter Sunday, the angels were there too, saying, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11).

Angels are witnesses of heaven and of God. The angel spoke to the future father of John the Baptist and said, “I am Gabriel. I stand in the presence of God, and I have been sent to speak to you and to tell you this good news” (Luke 1:19).

As the protectors of God’s people, angels are very busy. He will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways… (Psalm 91:11). In this guarding of God’s people and his little ones, these angels keep their contact with heaven. Jesus tells us about them, “See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven” (Matthew 18:10).

Angels travel through space on their assignments. The angel Michael said to Daniel, “Do you know why I have come to you? Soon I will return to fight against the prince of Persia, and when I go, the prince of Greece will come…” (Daniel 10:20).

And perhaps the greatest and happiest thing angels do: they rejoice over one sinner who repents. In this way you and I can make the angels do something.

Let’s you and I make the angels happy!

Will I Be an Angel?

There are no marriage bells in heaven. No walking down the aisle. No pledges of faithfulness to a blushing and happy spouse.

Jesus says it will be this way: “The people of this age marry and are given in marriage. But those who are considered worthy of taking part in that age and in the resurrection from the dead will neither marry nor be given in marriage, and they can no longer die; for they are like the angels” (Luke 20:34-36).

We are going to be different in heaven. Life is going to be different. We will be forever in love with Jesus. He will be the center of our attention and we will be the center of his. We will be forever with him. We will be like the angels in that regard because they “always see the face of my Father in heaven” (Matthew 18:10).

But please notice that it doesn’t say we change and become angels. We will be like angels. But we won’t be angels. We will no longer die. We will be like the angels. We will be without sin. Angels are without sin. We will rejoice with the angels around God’s throne. The book of Revelation tells us this. We will be in the company and presence of angels. In fact, on that last and greatest of days, when the trumpet sounds and the dead rise, we will see the angels coming with Jesus in the heavens (Matthew 24:31). They will be the ones separating God’s people from the rest. But we won’t be angels.

Many in the world are talking about angels these days. New Age belief doesn’t have trouble encompassing the idea of angels. Songs on the radio talk about loved ones becoming angels to guard and bless the living loved ones. Various television shows promote the idea too. The Swedish singing group ABBA sang about angels. “I believe in angels, something good in everything I see,” they sang. It’s “cool” to talk about angels.

We like talking about angels too, but we won’t be angels.

The writer to the Hebrews asks a question. Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation? (Hebrews 1:14) The answer is yes.

We rejoice to think of seeing them. We even look forward to thanking them for their work.