Evil is ubiquitous. It is in every corner of the world and in the heart of every person. Evil is the reason the world is the way it is today. Marked by chaos and division, the world suffers from the effects of evil. We should know as much as we can about this malevolent power.
The word occurs frequently in the Bible. The English Standard Version reports 531 results or an average of 8 time per book in the Bible. Jeremiah has the most occurrences but tiny 3rd John has the most per words in the book. Solomon used it often in his review of life and happiness in Ecclesiastes where it occurs roughly 4 times per thousand words. The effects of evil are clearly seen in every Bible book.
Philosophers have tried to define evil apart from the Bible and have been quite unsuccessful. They have gone so far as to use the real existence of evil as evidence against the existence of the God of the Bible.
What the Bible says about evil
Let the Bible Speak
Inasmuch as evil is a spiritual concept, we should allow the Bible to reveal it’s dimensions and define it’s horrors. The Bible is truth (Psalm 119:160; John 17:17).
Evil is personal.
The Bible does not view evil as an ambiguous, vague force. Evil surrounds and defines Satan. Jesus perfectly describes Satan while rebuking the religious leaders of his day.
You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.John 8:44
In Genesis, it was Satan who lied to the first couple. He directly, and personally, contradicted God – in essence calling God a liar – concerning the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
The outcome of Satan’s meddling teaches us much about evil. The outcomes are never good. In the Genesis 3 account, the outcome was a severing of the relationship between God and humanity. Man can only serve one master (Matthew 6:24). There has never been a throne big enough for two!
Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?Romans 6:16
Once God was driven from their lives Satan enjoyed freedom to corrupt and destroy. Their family was shattered when their eldest son murdered their youngest son. Cain killed Abel because God was displeased with Cain’s sacrifice. He couldn’t strike out at God but his brother was an easy target. This story is made even more tragic when we realize that God tried to guide Cain. He tried to guide him into a better place.
The LORD said to Cain, “Why are you angry, and why has your face fallen? If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is contrary to you, but you must rule over it.”Genesis 4:6, 7
Cain rejected God’s guidance because his heart was blinded by sin. The evil one had taken the place of God in his life and led him to assault and murder his own brother. This is the nature of evil. It forces God off the throne and takes his place with a lawless rule.
Evil is the enemy
Notice the last sentence: “It’s desire is contrary to you…” Despite Satanic protestations to the contrary, sin lies in strong opposition to our God given souls. The NIV translates the passage this way: “it desires to have you…” Sin is the product of evil and actively seeks victims. Peter wrote that “Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8). An adversary is an opponent. The psalmist often prayed that God would defeat his adversaries. But here, in 1 Peter, the adversary is clearly the devil. The apostles says he is looking for someone he can devour.
Satan is not merely interested in troubling you or causing you inconvenience. He uses evil to consume your life. Like a potent toxin, the devil slowly but completely takes the life of his victim. Yet, we are often unable, or unwilling, to see the danger our adversary contains. He presents himself as a friend, a confidant, or a wizened guide.He may even present himself as a man of faith. He may appear as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14) or he may come quoting Scripture (Matthew 4:1 – 11). Remember, he presented himself to Eve, disguised, as one who would help her reach her greatest potential (Genesis 3:1-6).
To us, Satan presents himself with the face of our best friend. Perhaps he looks like our wife or our husband. He may appear with the authority of an employer or a government official. He could even appear as a nerdy, bullied, misunderstood teenager who just needs to let off a little harmless steam.
Satan is a liar. However he appears, whatever form he takes, will be false. Like a secret agent in wartime he disguises himself as a friendly when he is really an enemy.
What the Bible says about defeating evil
No matter how it may appear, the devil looses. In December of 1944 German forces fully encircled the Allied troops. The German commander promised to annihilate the US forces if they did not accept the surrender terms. The American commander refused.Four days later the reinforcements arrived. The refreshed troops attacked and drove the Germans back to where the battle began. Sometimes, in the moment, defeat may seem certain. Yet, for the one who perseveres, victory comes.
and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.Matthew 10:22
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.James 1:12
And Jesus said again:
Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.Revelation 2:10
The Lord told Satan that he would loose. Speaking while the forbidden fruit was still fresh in their bellies God said:
I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”Genesis 3:15
John says our faith is based upon our faith (1 John 5:4). Paul laughs in the face of defeat and asks “O death, where is your victory” (1 Corinthians 15:55). In the next verse he declares that God has given us the victory through “our Lord Jesus Christ” (vs. 56).
So, what is evil? Evil is a real, but false force that seems to encompass us on all sides. It is always bad and never seeks good for mankind. It is our enemy and will be destroyed when the Lord returns. For us, we stand strong against every appearance of evil and await the glory that comes from our Lord. There is victory and it is coming.