Why is there Suffering
Many see the work of evil, with its pain and loss, and question how this can exist under the rulership of One who is infinite in wisdom, power, and love. Those who are inclined to doubt take this as an excuse for rejecting the words of the Bible. Tradition and wrong interpretations have clouded the Bible’s teaching about
God’s character, the nature of His government, and the principles of how He deals with sin. It is impossible to explain the origin of sin in a way that gives a reason for its existence. Yet we can understand enough about sin’s beginning and final end to show clearly God’s justice and goodness. In no way was God responsible for sin.
He did not remove His divine grace; nor was there anything lacking in the divine government that provided a cause for the rebellion. Sin is an intruder for whose presence no one can give a reason. To excuse it is to defend it. If we could find an excuse for it, it would no longer be sin. Sin is the expression of a principle that is at war with the law of love, which is the foundation of God’s government. Before sin began, there was peace and joy everywhere in the universe. Love for God was supreme, love for one another unselfish. Christ the Only Begotten of God was one with the eternal Father in nature, in character, and in purpose—the only being who could enter into all the counsels and plans of God. “By him all things were created that are in heaven . . . , whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers” (Colossians 1:16).
Since the law of love is the foundation of God’s government, the happiness of all created beings depended on their willing harmony with its principles of righteousness. God takes no pleasure in forced allegiance, and He grants everyone freedom of will, so that they can choose to serve Him voluntarily.
But one of God’s created beings chose to misuse this freedom. Sin originated with an angel who, next to Christ, had been the being God honored the most. Before his fall, Lucifer was chief of the covering cherubs, holy and pure. “Thus says the Lord God: ‘You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering. . . . You were the anointed cherub who covers; I established you; you were on the holy mountain of God; you walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones. You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you. . . . Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor’” (Ezekiel 28:12-17). “You have set your heart as the heart of a god” (verse 6). “You have said . . . , ‘I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation . . . ; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High’” (Isaiah 14:13, 14).
Coveting the honor that the Father had given His Son, this prince of angels wanted the power that was Christ’s alone to use. A note of discord now marred heaven’s harmonies. Seeing someone exalt himself gave the other angels, who held God’s glory as supreme, a strange dread of something evil. The heavenly councils pleaded with Lucifer. The Son of God showed him the goodness and justice of the Creator and the sacred nature of His law. In rejecting it, Lucifer would dishonor his Maker and bring ruin on himself.
But the warning only stirred his resistance. Lucifer allowed his jealousy of Christ to control him.
Pride fed his desire for supremacy. The high honors God had given Lucifer did not make him grateful to the Creator. He wanted to be equal with God. Yet everyone recognized that the Son of God was the Ruler of heaven, one with the Father in power and authority. Christ participated in all the councils of God, but Lucifer was not allowed to enter into the divine plans. This mighty angel questioned, "Why should Christ have the supremacy? Why is He honored like this above Lucifer?" DISCONTENT AMONG THE ANGELS
Leaving his place in God’s presence, Lucifer went out to spread discontent among the angels. With mysterious secrecy, hiding his real purpose under an appearance of reverence for God, he tried to make the angels dissatisfied with the laws that governed heavenly beings. He suggested that these laws were unnecessary and held them back. Since their natures were holy, he urged that angels should follow their own wills. God had dealt unfairly with him by giving supreme honor to Christ. He claimed he was not trying to exalt himself but was seeking to win liberty for every being in heaven, so that each one could reach a higher level of existence.
God was patient with Lucifer. He did not remove him from his honored position even when he began to make false claims to the angels. Again and again God offered him pardon if he would repent and submit. To convince him of his error, God made efforts that only infinite love could devise. Discontent had never before been known in heaven. At first, Lucifer himself did not understand the real nature of his feelings. As God showed that there was no reason for his dissatisfaction, Lucifer was convinced that the divine claims were right and that he ought to acknowledge them to all heaven. If he had done this, he would have saved himself and many angels. If he had been willing to return to God, satisfied to fill the place God had given him, God would have reinstated him to his position. But pride would not let him submit. He claimed that he did not need to repent, and he fully committed himself to the great controversy against his Maker.
He now applied all the powers of his master mind to deception, to gain the sympathy of the angels. Satan claimed that God had judged him wrongly and had restricted his liberty. After misrepresenting Christ’s words, he moved on to telling actual lies, accusing the Son of God of plotting to humiliate him before the inhabitants of heaven.
All whom he could not win to his side he accused of being indifferent to the concerns of heavenly beings. He resorted to misrepresenting the Creator. He tried to perplex the angels with subtle arguments about God’s plans. Everything simple he shrouded in mystery, and by clever perversion he made the plainest statements of God appear doubtful. His high position gave greater credibility to his claims. He persuaded many to join him in rebellion.
DISAFFECTION RIPENS INTO ACTIVE REVOLT
God in His wisdom allowed Satan to carry on his work, until the spirit of dissent ripened into revolt. It was necessary for God to allow him to develop his plans fully, so that anyone could see their true nature. Lucifer was greatly loved by the heavenly beings, and his influence over them was strong. God’s government included the inhabitants not only of heaven, but of all the worlds He had created. Satan thought that if he could bring the angels with him in rebellion, he could also bring the other worlds. Using false reasoning and fraud, he had great power to deceive. Even the loyal angels could not fully discern his character or see where his work was leading.
Satan had been so highly honored, and he had cloaked all his actions with so much mystery, that it was difficult to show the angels the true nature of his work. Sin would not appear to be the evil thing it was until it was fully developed. Holy beings could not recognize what would be the results of setting aside God’s law. At first Satan claimed to be trying to promote God’s honor and the good of all of heaven’s inhabitants. In His response to sin, God could use only righteousness and truth. Satan could use what God could not—flattery and deceit. Everyone needed to understand the true character of this angel who wanted God’s position. He must have time to reveal himself by his evil works.
Satan blamed God for the discord that his own actions had caused in heaven. He declared that all evil was the result of God’s government. So it was necessary that he demonstrate how his proposed changes in God’s law would work out. His own acts must condemn him. The whole universe must see the deceiver unmasked.
Even after deciding that Satan could no longer remain in heaven, Infinite Wisdom did not destroy him. The loyalty of God’s creatures must rest on the conviction that He is just and fair. The inhabitants of heaven and of other worlds were not prepared to understand the consequences of sin, so they could not then have seen the justice and mercy of God if He had destroyed Satan at that time. If God had blotted him out of existence immediately, they would have served God from fear rather than from love. God would not have fully destroyed the deceiver’s influence nor wiped out the spirit of rebellion. For the good of the universe through eternal ages, Satan must develop his principles more fully. Then all created beings would be able to see his charges against the divine government in their true light.
Satan’s rebellion was to be a testimony to the universe about the terrible results of sin. His rule would show the fruit of setting aside God’s authority. The history of this terrible experiment of rebellion would be a safeguard forever to all holy beings to save them from sin and its punishment. When the announcement came that the great usurper must be expelled from heaven with all his sympathizers, the rebel leader boldly swore his contempt for the Creator’s law. He denounced the divine statutes as a restriction of liberty and declared his intention to abolish all law. Freed from this restraint, he claimed, the inhabitants of heaven could achieve a higher state of existence.
BANISHED FROM HEAVEN
Satan and his followers threw the blame for their rebellion on Christ. They declared that if they had not been rebuked, they would never have rebelled. Stubborn and defiant, yet blasphemously claiming to be innocent victims of oppressive power, the chief rebel and his sympathizers were banished from heaven (see Revelation 12:7-9).
Satan’s spirit still inspires rebellion on earth in unrepenunrepentant people. Like him they promise liberty through violating God’s law. Condemning sin still stirs up hatred. Satan leads people to justify themselves and to try to get the sympathy of others in their sin. Instead of correcting their errors, they spread resentment of the one who points out their sin, as if that individual were the cause of the difficulty.
Satan persuaded Adam and Eve to sin by using the same misrepresentation of God’s character as he had practiced in heaven. He made them think that God was severe and tyrannical. Then he claimed that God’s unjust restrictions had led to our first parents’ fall, as they had led to his own rebellion.
In banishing Satan from heaven, God declared His justice and honor. But when humanity sinned, God gave evidence of His love by offering up His Son to die for the fallen race. In the atonement we see the character of God revealed. The mighty argument of the cross demonstrates that sin was in no way the fault of God’s government. During the Savior’s earthly ministry, the great deceiver’s character was unmasked. The daring blasphemy of his demand that Christ worship him, the unsleeping evil intent that hunted Jesus from place to place, inspiring the hearts of priests and people to reject His love and to cry, "Crucify Him! Crucify Him!"— all this drew the amazement and indignation of the universe. The prince of evil exerted all his power and crafty skills to destroy Jesus. Satan used human beings as his agents to fill the Savior’s life with suffering and sorrow. And on Calvary the pent-up fires of envy and spite, hatred and revenge, burst out against the Son of God.
Now Satan’s guilt stood out plainly, without excuse. He had revealed his true character. Satan’s lying charges against God’s character appeared as they truly were. He had accused God of seeking to exalt Himself by requiring obedience from His creatures. He had declared that while the Creator demanded selfdenial from all others, He Himself practiced no self-denial and made no sacrifice. Now it was clear that the Ruler of the universe had made the greatest sacrifice that love could make, for “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself” (2 Corinthians 5:19). In order to destroy sin, Christ had humbled Himself and become obedient to the point of death.
AN ARGUMENT IN OUR BEHALF
All heaven saw God’s justice revealed. Lucifer had claimed that the sinful race was beyond redemption. But the penalty of the law fell on Him who was equal with God. Sinners were now free to accept the righteousness of Christ and by repentance and humility triumph over Satan’s power.
But Christ did not come to earth to die just so that He could redeem humanity. He came to demonstrate to all the worlds that God’s law is unchangeable. The death of Christ proves that the law is permanent and demonstrates that justice and mercy are the foundation of God’s government. In the final judgment it will be clear that no cause for sin exists. When the Judge of all the earth demands of Satan, “Why have you rebelled against Me?” the originator of evil will have no excuse to offer.
The Savior’s dying cry, “It is finished,” rang the death knell for Satan. The long-standing great controversy* was then decided, the final eradication of evil made certain. When the day comes, “ ‘burning like an oven, . . . all the proud, yes, all who do wickedly will be stubble. And the day which is coming shall burn them up,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘that will leave them neither root nor branch’” (Malachi 4:1).
Evil will never arise again. The law of God will be honored as the law of liberty. A tested and proved creation will never again turn from loyalty to Him who has demonstrated that His character is fathomless love and infinite wisdom.