By Elizabeth Prata
The most asked question and the most offered objection to Christianity are the two in the headline. Philosophers have struggled for eons to describe and resolve “the problem of evil”. Sproul called it “The Mystery of Iniquity“. If you expect an answer to the questions above, I don’t have them. Not because I haven’t thought about them, nor because I am too dim to understand philosophy, but simply because the only revealed truth we have about satan, the Bible, is silent on the subject. And that’s good enough for me.
Because the Bible is silent on the origin of evil, we can’t concoct philosophies or myths answering the question of satan’s evil, but we can explore what we DO know. And we should. That’s what this essay is about.
Most of this today is with help from Martyn Lloyd Jones and his sermon “The Devil and the Fallen Angels“, part of the preacher’s Great Biblical Doctrines series. He preached about the Good Angels, but sadly the MLJ Trust where the sermons are hosted said, “There is no recording of the subsequent lecture titled “The Devil and the Fallen Angels.”
However, I found a transcript of the sermon though, and read it and downloaded it. The link to that is gone now though. What follows is excerpted summaries of Martyn Lloyd Jones’ (MLJ) preaching.
However I’d like to note that just because God is Good and Satan is Evil, they are NOT equals. There are not two gods, battling it out. God is supremely sovereign. He is above all. He allows Lucifer, titled the adversary or satan, to operate for God’s own purposes. Satan is already defeated and will be punished forever in the Lake of Fire in the end. (Revelation 20:10). Satan’s end is already determined and nothing can thwart that, no matter how much satan boasts. (Isaiah 14:13).
Everything that is good and all that is holy is from God and is God. However, since there is no darkness in God, no sin, and no evil, where did it all come from? The Bible identifies the Covering Cherub, usually noted to be Lucifer, as the originator of it. All evil, sin, and darkness was found in Lucifer. Lucifer seems to be his given name, as Michael and Gabriel were named, but satan is a Hebrew word for a title that means means adversary or accuser.
The first thing to note about satan, the adversary, the evil one, is that he is a person. He is not an impersonal force. He speaks as a person, he is addressed by God as a person (Job 1:7-12). There are quotes around what satan said. He is a person.
We see satan as a person again in Luke 4:1-13 when he tempted Jesus three times. Jesus replied back. It was a conversation between actual people.
Secondly, Lloyd-Jones observes that being a person, the devil has a personality. He has desires, will, impetus, works. But going back to the fact that he is not equal to God, the devil is a created being. God created satan, the other angels, and humans. Satan is a person, but he is not eternal, he had a finite beginning.
Where we do see some mentions and glimmer of his origin is in Ezekiel 11. The chapter begins with warning to the Prince of Tyre. Then in verse 11 it shifts to the King of Tyre. This section can’t be speaking of the human prince of Tyre, because of the description of this being being in heaven’s Eden, of covering God, (like the ark’s angel wings covering the Mercy Seat,) and of being a cherub. (Cherubim is plural).
The cherubim are the highest order in the angelic hierarchy, they were created to worship God. By the description in Ezekiel 11, satan was the highest of that order, the chief of all cherubs, as MLJ explained in his previous sermon, “The Good Angels” (linked above).
Ezekiel 28:12 says of satan “You had the seal of perfection, Full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.” He was perfect, sealed up because there was no more to be said for satan’s beauty and wisdom. He was the pinnacle.
Yet somehow he became puffed up with pride and conceit. We know it’s possible for humans to become puffed up (AKA arrogant, conceited; Romans 11:18, 1 Corinthians 4:6, 4:18, 1 Timothy 3:6). As humans we are given to emotions and decisions. So are the angels, and so it was with satan. He became proud, and that was his undoing. (Isaiah 14:11).
Satan is a person, an angel. He was the highest cherub. He became proud. He fell. He opposed God and will oppose Him until the day he is thrown into the Lake of Fire. And that’s all we know about the origin of sin.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones says, “The Bible gives us no explanation as to the ultimate origin of evil, and I suggest to you, therefore, that if you waste a second of your time in trying to speculate about that you are guilty of a lack of faith, because faith means to be content with the revelation given…”
We are told more about satan, not his original sin or from whence it came, but of his power. We know satan is more powerful than humans. We know that even archangel Michael dared not rail against satan. (2 Peter 2:11, Jude 1:9).
We know that satan first fell from his “first estate” and then perhaps up to a third of the rest fell with him from their first estate. (Jude 1:6).
We know that satan can influence us even down to messing with our bodies, he did with permission from God to Job (boils), and with permission from God against Paul (his thorn in the flesh). He controls the lost by blinding them to the truth. He also controls (to the degree God allows) their lives because satan is the father of all sin and evil and ungodly desires. He influences the saved by discouraging us or providing stumbling blocks like false teachers along the way. But those are satan’s works and character. Why he became this way, when, or how- we do not know.
But as for satan’s sin and why God allows it, “It is beyond us. We cannot understand it. Theologians have speculated and have said that because the devil was perfect he must have been perfectly free, and perfect freedom in itself contains within itself the possibility of choosing against God. All right. Still, it does not seem to me to explain the ultimate origin of evil; all we do know is that the devil was created, as we have seen, then that evil entered his heart, and he rebelled against God, and was cast down.“
RC Sproul said, “The simple presence of free will is not enough to explain the origin of evil, in as much as we still must ask how a good being would be inclined freely to choose evil. The inclination for the will to act in an immoral manner is already a signal of sin.”
Lloyd-Jones ends his sermon about the devil this way:
“How important it is to remember both sides. We must never be light or flippant; we must never be foolhardy. There is always the adversary. Yes, but we need not spend our lives in a craven fear of him, mighty as he is. “Greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4). So, as we see the truth about the devil, let us realise more than ever the truth about our God, and about His Christ.”
And Sproul concluded, “It is God in His goodness and in His sovereignty who has ordained the final conquest over evil and its riddance from His universe. In this redemption we find our rest and our joy — and until that time, we live in a fallen world.“
Sproul Sermon: What is Evil and Where did it Come From?
MacArthur sermon: The Origin of Evil