We are reading through the Bible this year as a church family. As we do so, we are going to encounter great history, captivating prose, beautiful poetry, and a storyline like no other. We will also encounter things we don't understand or things that are not completely clear to us. We will have questions. We will not always have answers. But we will press in and attempt to be stretched in our knowledge of God and His story. As we press in and learn, we will hopefully have our faith reinforced and see our hope grow. Along the way, if you have any questions that you'd like to submit, please feel free to e-mail me or comment below. Our first question is this: When did evil enter the world?
In Genesis 2, the Lord puts in the midst of the garden two trees, one of which is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. This seems to indicate that evil already exists because it’s in the title of one of the two main trees in the garden. Additionally, in Genesis 3, the opening verses portray a serpent who is already clearly evil. It questions God (3:1), misrepresents God (3:5), and outright calls God a liar (3:4). All this is before Eve and Adam ever take a bite out of the fruit (3:6), so it seems by the biblical evidence that evil is already present in the world before the Fall of man. The question then is this: When did evil start?
A few other places in Scripture seem to indicate that there was another plotline that played out in the heavenly realm that didn't make its way into the Genesis narrative of the beginning. There was an earlier rebellion, an attempted overthrow of the Lord’s rightful place of pre-eminence. Revelation 12:9 gives us a little more detail about the serpent we encounter over in Genesis 3. "That great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him."
That “ancient serpent” is Satan himself, and apparently he’s got quite a following, a company of angels all his own. He, and they, at some point took it upon themselves to vie for more (glory, power, standing) and were denied. The Lord shut them down and cast them out. Jude 1:6 says this: "The angels who did not stay within their own position of authority, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains under gloomy darkness until the judgment of the great day."
These particular angels had a position of authority in God’s created order. But they weren’t content to stay there—where there was sweet, satisfying service and worship of the Lord--and they left their proper place in search of something else, something more. Second Peter 2:4 calls this act exaclty what it is--sin. "God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment."
What are we to make of this?
It seems then that Satan—the serpent, the deceiver—at some point, with a bunch of angels, desired more than what he (and they) had been given by God. Maybe more glory. More power. More authority. We don’t exactly know. But it’s clear that he and his angels sought something more, were denied and demoted, and evil was now present in the world. The Fall would then bring evil into a whole new realm, the realm of mankind. From that point evil would spread to every person who would ever live, as Romans 5:12 clearly indicates when it says, "sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned."
The good news is that all of this is very early in the Scriptures. This is not the end of the story, and as we will see, even evil will serve to accomplish the purposes of God—namely the very redemption of those who sinned against him. One day there would be born one who would not know evil, and he would reverse the curse. Through the evil done to him, he would die with our sin, and he would restore the glory to his Father. He would save his people from their sins. And he would finally crush the head of that old evil serpent.