The question of evil is a classic issue that some people use as an excuse to reject the existence of a loving God. We often cannot explain why things happen – especially if we try to know the mind of God, who said, my ways are not your ways, Isa 55:7-9. But the Bible gives us a good idea of how God uses evil for His purposes.
God Created a Perfect World for Fellowship
God created two types of intelligent beings with a free will – the freedom to choose whether or not to love, obey and fellowship with Him. He created angels, called spiritual beings, principalities and powers (Col 1:16), and He created mankind “in His own image…male and female” (Gen 1:27). At the end of the six-day creation, God said everything was “very good.” (Gen 1:31). It was perfect. There was no sin, evil or death. As a personal, relational God of love (1 John 4:8), He enjoyed fellowship “walking” (Gen 3:8, 5:24, 6:9) with Adam and Eve. Yet having lovingly given them a choice, God knew in His omniscience, that His creation would rebel.
Sin and Evil entered the Universe
Some time after the Creation week, one of the highest angels rebelled against God. He was jealous and proud. He wanted to be like God (Isa 14:14). He influenced one third of the angels to follow him in rebellion, and God cast them out of heaven (Jude 6, Rev 12:4, 9). We know this angel by the names Satan, Lucifer, and the Devil. Satan’s major goal at this point, was to influence mankind to join him in rebelling against God as well. Adam and Eve, made in God’s image, reminded him of God, and were an affront to his raging jealousy and hatred. So he deceived Eve and subtly convinced her and her husband to disobey God when they ate of the forbidden fruit (Gen 3:1-6).
Once sin entered through Adam, things changed. He brought evil, the curse of sin and death, upon mankind (Rom 5:12) and upon all creation (Rom 8:20-22). We call man’s sin “moral evil.” We call natural calamity and disease “natural evil.” All sin and evil in the world are a result of man’s, and ultimately Satan’s, rebellion against God. We cannot blame God for evil (Psa 5:4, Jam 1:13) but we can expect Him to use it for His divine purposes (Gen 50:20). First of all He uses it to reveal His character of justice (wrath) and mercy (love). Secondly, He uses it to accomplish eternal good in individual lives.
God Reveals His Justice (Wrath)
The Bible says God made the wicked for the day of evil, (Prov 16:4). That doesn’t mean he creates people to be wicked, but he reveals His justice (wrath) by punishing evil people. A good example is Pharaoh of the Exodus. God, knowing Pharaoh’s wicked heart, raised him up on the throne to show His power and glory. When God began to judge Egypt for oppressing the Israelites, Pharaoh chose to harden his heart for the first five plagues. Finally, God completed the hardening and used him to reveal His wrath (Rom 9:17, 22). In the process He delivered the nation of Israel from bondage. He especially reveals His wrath against those who reject the clear evidence of His creative power – they’re without excuse (Rom 1:18-20). We often will not see justice served, but we can be assured that God will execute perfect justice in the long run – perhaps it must wait until eternity.
God Reveals His Mercy (Love)
God also uses evil to reveal His mercy and love. These cannot be fully understood and appreciated without being contrasted to the sin and evil in this world. The ultimate contrast and demonstration of God’s mercy is found at the cross of Christ (John 3:16). Unspeakable evil was laid on Jesus Christ at the cross (Isa 53:6) and His Heavenly Father had to forsake Him (Mark 15:34). Yet He defeated evil (1 Cor 15:55-57) and revealed incredible love by forgiving His tormentors (Luke 23:34).
God always has an Eternal purpose
The hardest lesson for us to understand and accept is God allowing or using evil in the lives of “innocent” people, especially children. Though, in reality none of us are “innocent.” Every human being is born with a sin nature and destined for an eternity separated from God. None of us is without sin (Rom 3:10, 23; 1 John 1:8). God’s desire is to save everyone through Jesus Christ (1 Tim 2:4) and prepare each for eternity. Sometimes He must use wicked people or “natural” evil (calamity) to do so (Isa 45:7). He even allows Christians, those who are saved and prepared, to endure trials and testing (Jam 1:2-3). But God always has a divine and loving purpose for all of this. He is conforming Christians to the image of Christ (Rom 8:28, 29; John 15:2) or He is orchestrating situations and prompting unbelievers to come to faith. A classic example is the martyr Stephen, who was stoned to death, but whose Christ-like forgiving spirit undoubtedly had a great influence on unbelieving Saul who later became the great Apostle Paul (Acts 7:60-8:1).
Evil is an intrusion into God’s perfectly created universe. It is a result of rebellion by Satan, one of His highest angels, and mankind, His highest earthly creation. Having given His created beings free will, God knew this rebellion would occur but He turns it around. He uses it to reveal His character of justice (wrath) and mercy (love) and to reveal His eternal plan through Jesus Christ to save sinners and grow Christians in Christ-likeness. His ultimate loving purpose is to reconcile as many of mankind as possible back to Himself so they can enjoy eternal fellowship with Him.