THE ORIGIN AND SPREAD OF EVIL
A few bacteria can enter through a tiny wound and then, taking advantage of the body's inability to cope with their presence, spread throughout the entire body, gradually overpowering it and producing first disease, then death. Just so did evil enter and spread throughout the creation: the name of the bacteria was Satan; the name of the disease, sin.
Stage 1: the beginning of evil and of the rebellion
Very little is revealed to us about this stage of the fall. One thing is certain, however: one of the highest angels made a decision to come out from under God's authority, so that he could be god over this earth. God reacted to this move to the degree that He deemed appropriate, but let that angel, Satan, approach man. The rest you can read in Genesis, chapter 3.
How do we know this? The encounter between Satan and man is spelled out in Genesis 3; and what you see there indicates that there was already enmity between Satan and God.1 Other passages add to that knowledge. In the midst of a lamentation over the king of Tyre occurs a passage that could be fulfilled only by Satan, telling us that he was the "anointed cherub who covers," but that he became "internally filled with violence" when "your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom by reason of your splendor," so that God cast him to "the ground" (Ezekiel 28:11-17).2 Jesus describes some form of casting down of Satan, as does the apostle John (Luke 10:18, Revelation 12:3-17). Though he was rejected from his place in heaven, Satan still appeared before God as an accuser of the brethren (e.g., Job 1:6ff; Zechariah 3:1-2). Whether he still appears before God since the resurrection victory of Jesus is not certain, but he still works as an accuser, tempter, destroyer, and as the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4).3 He has a kingdom (Luke 11:15-19), possessing authority over many other angels (Matthew 25:41, with Revelation 12:4). He even has some restricted power over nature when God approves, although we do not know how extensive it is (Job 1:12, 16, 19).
By his rebellion, the very nature of Satan and his angels was changed. From a being whose nature possessed wisdom, beauty and goodness, he was transformed into one whose deepest nature is full of murder, deception and perversion of all that is good. And so, evil came into existence, apparently near the time of the events described in Genesis 3; indeed, Satan's rebellion may have been launched precisely in his temptation of Adam and Eve.4
He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature: for he is a liar and the father of lies (John 8:44).
The importance of this knowledge
This origin of evil has some terribly important consequences for you and me. First, it tells us that evil is not merely the absence of good (as Augustine is purported to have believed and many others certainly have believed); rather, it is the presence of the "evil one." The root problem in every person is not primarily one of the soul: error, ignorance, bad attitude, lack of father figure, lack of self-esteem, etc. It is more importantly a problem of the spirit. You do not need to overcome the absence of something as much as you need to overcome the presence of someone: first accomplish the latter and then see if you even need to accomplish the latter. You don't need to convince yourself that you are worth loving as much as you need to learn how to get a demon "off your back," to exchange Satan's presence for God's. After you have done that you will be able to receive more than enough love from God to make you wonder why you could have ever thought yourself beyond love. Do you see this? It is terribly important. It does not mean that there are no such things as "psychological" problems, but it does mean that psychological problems are rooted in alienation from God and in the resulting guilt and manipulation by satanic spirits.5
Secondly, this understanding of the true nature of evil tells us that each of us has a mortal enemy who is personal, evil and perverted. Some member, or members, of the satanic kingdom acts as your personal "companion" from birth, to tempt you into ever-deepening disobedience; to sow distrust, fear and rebellion; to convince you to assent to his perversion of your nature; to afflict you when given an opening; to take possession over some aspect of your body, if given the right to it; and, if possible to take over your thinking.6 Life is no game, pilgrim; it is a life and death struggle that has both temporal and eternal consequences. If you do not see its seriousness and the nature of its struggle, whom do you think has been at work in your mind?
Stage 2: The fall of man (Genesis 3)
Satan began with Eve. It may be thought that he did so because she was the weaker of the two, but the Scriptures do not imply that of pre-fallen woman (cn. 1 Peter 3:7); as a matter of fact, she seems to have put up more resistance than did Adam, didn't she?
But she could have said, "Let me first talk it over with Adam," when tempted by Satan, and Adam could have said, "Let me first talk it over with our Maker," when approached by Eve, and all the future generations of mankind would still be praising their faithfulness and wisdom. They were convinced to quit trusting their Creator, and distrust gave birth to the disobedience.7
So they both ate from the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of "good and evil," with the promise of Satan before them, "that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil" (3:5). If only they had thought, "knowing good and what?" For Adam and Eve there was no evil to know up to this point. Cunning serpent that he is, Satan did not mention that whereas God knew "evil" (i.e., Satan) from outside of Himself, they would know evil from within. And so they entered into a form of knowledge that they had not expected: an experience of the entrance and the insidious spreading of another will than God's will throughout their inner being, bringing with it a "love" and a need for what was unholy, unclean and unlawful. Because they were now always within the presence of that evil who was within them, they could not help but be ashamed in the presence of the Goodness who had come to walk with them in the garden (3:8). Truly, Satan proved to be "the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience" (Ephesians 2:2).
Can you see what it is from which we need to be delivered, oh son of Adam? A new environment is not enough; new behavior is not enough; even a new personality is not enough! We must be set free from an inner presence, a presence that has created an evil conscience within us (Hebrews 10:22); a presence that pulls us down so far that we live "in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind..., by nature children of wrath" (Ephesians 2:3). Had you been there, the initial effects of their yielding to Satan may have appeared no more blameworthy to you than when a little baby first starts to yield to his temper: unpleasant, but manageable. From our present standards of evaluating people, after we got to know this newly-fallen Adam, we may well have thought him a very superior person when compared with all the people we have known. But the reason we might have thought that is because we have grown used to the corruption of sin. We look upon the outer appearance, whereas God looks into the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). God looked into their hearts and saw Satan's demon; He saw all of the murder, lust and violence that would be manifested in their descendants after that initial shame had gone away. Some children of Adam would hate this evil within them (Romans 7:14-24); most would yield to it willingly. But all, without exception, would be polluted by it. And that little temperamental baby we were mentioning is not so innocent: he is repeating the pattern that is now inextricably wedded to everyone in our race. Each person is an Adam unto himself (Romans 5:12, 7:7-13), but with this difference: Adam could have freely chosen to obey, for Satan could initially only work upon him from the outside; but we have him working upon us from within, from the beginning of our days (cf. Genesis 3:1, Matthew 4:3-11, John 14:30). Because he can approach us from within, it always "feels natural" for us to think his thoughts, to feel his feelings and to sin. Can you see, unregenerate man, why, for all His love and good will toward you, God looks upon you as "evil" (Luke 11:13)? He truly knows how to love His enemies, the enemies of goodness and godliness, in loving us!
Some effects of the fall upon man
More consequences followed upon the heels of the Adamic defection than those mentioned above. God had threatened man with death as well: "on the day that you eat from it you shall surely die" (Genesis 2:17). It is common to restrict the death warning to one of physical death, to observe that man did not die on that very day, and then conclude that he began to die then. But Paul looked back on the Ephesian believers' former condition as having indeed been "dead" in trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1). It fulfills the intent of Scriptures better to give its language realistic or literal interpretation instead of allegorical interpretation unless something in the text prevents us from doing so. So let us believe that something occurred within Adam and Eve on that same day that merits the description "death." The physical death would have been the necessary and future consequence of that other death: the death caused when the evil spirit assumed its current place of influence within the spirit of sinning man (remember Ephesians 2:2 above: that evil spirit now works within man). Would not man's fall be the opposite of his regeneration? And what occurs in our regeneration? We are made "alive from the dead" (Romans 6:13), made partakers of the Holy Spirit (John 20:22-23), made one Spirit (or spirit) with God (1 Corinthians 6:17), and recipients of the very life of God within us (John 14:23). And, most significantly, Jesus described the heavenly rebirth as a contrast to a physical birth: "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (John 3:6). Just as a body is born from human flesh, so is a spirit born from the Holy Spirit's work in regeneration. That would be the reason, it would appear, that God is called the "Father of spirits" (Hebrews 12:9). Therefore, if all of these things occur in regeneration -- when we are transferred out of the kingdom of darkness -- what would happen when man was transferred into it? We would suffer the loss of the Spirit's communion within our spirits and no longer be one spirit with God; we would be without the life and presence of God, and our spirits would die. With the loss of God in his spirit, man fell into the grip of his own Satan-dominated flesh.
Some effects of the fall upon the natural order
Now what was the connecting point between God's dimension and this dimension but the spirit of man that was wedded both to his own humanity and to God? Creation's blessedness was made to depend upon man. With the fall of man, therefore, the creation began to share in the disorder, suffering and depravity of its human lord. It is now "in slavery to corruption" because of man (Romans 8:21). The principles upon which the creation had originally functioned were changed by God to reflect the new condition in Adam's relationship with God, Eve and Satan. Mortality began, violence at all levels began. In the absence of God, the second law of thermodynamics now began to operate, making it more natural for systems to move toward chaos than toward order (perhaps mirroring our own condition, in which it is easier to move toward sin than away from it. Survival of the fittest did in fact begin -- not as a creative principle, however, but as a destructive one: the God-created limited ability of creatures to adapt to their environments within greatly restricted limits now began to be exercised in a condition of violent warfare. Organs that had been created for a condition of peace were undoubtedly found to be useful weapons: for all we know, the mosquito's "drill" and the viper's venomous fangs, for example, may have been originally intended to penetrate plants; but now they were found to be useful for the penetration of flesh.
A principle of evolution was introduced, but not an upward evolution. Species that may have been created to provide variety, beauty or even humor, and may have thrived under the friendliness of former times, would now find their form a distinct liability. Those individuals born among them with traits allowing for swifter flight or better defense would last longer and reproduce more, and gradually their traits would come to dominance within their species. Some of them would not be able to compete, and would enter into extinction. Another source of downward evolution could well have begun at a later date, when cosmic radiation began to rain upon the earth after the great flood.
With the loss of his innocence, man's lordship over creation was no longer something that was instinctively acknowledged by all, but one that would have to be asserted in the face of much opposition (e.g., Genesis 3:17f). Now man had to resort to hard work and cunning.
God's plan continues infallibly
Why did not God simply destroy the whole creation and start all over, instead of having to deal with such fallenness over these thousands of years? After all, it only took Him six days to put it all together in the first place. To imagine why, we can look to His kind of love and to His omnipotence.
Certainly, God continued dealing with us because He loves. If we hardened human beings can feel love for our fallen children, how much love do you think the innocent heart of God would have for His children, even after they had quit trusting Him? Even if He would have to wait for generations before they could see for themselves the plight created by the sin principle (since they no longer trusted what He told them), He would bear with them in great love. At some point in their sanctification, His elect will likewise begin to feel stirring within themselves a measure of that very same kind of love: hating sin, responding toughly or tenderly (as the Spirit leads), but always full of good will for people who may be far too self-centered to adequately comprehend or appreciate the love in our hearts.
Secondly, He continued dealing with us after we fell because He is omnipotent: He cannot be prevented from executing His original purposes. Indeed, he will undoubtedly prove to have taken Satan's and man's fall into account long before He ever created them. Even within the limitations He had imposed upon Himself by allowing man and Satan the freedom to rebel, He can still "write straight with crooked lines," as the saying goes. He knows how to react to our deeds of rebellion with a reaction that allows His original designs to be continued. Despite any and all opposition He cannot be deterred! Had there been no fall, he would have brought heavenly glory to sinless man; but now he would set in motion a predetermined plan to bring heavenly glory to redeemed man. And so, even at this early date in the history of His dealings with man, He gave a promise for a future redemption, even though circumstances required it to be veiled in obscurity (Genesis 3:15; cn. Psalms 91:13, Romans 16:20).
Stage 3: Working out the consequences of the fall
The great flood (Genesis 4-11; Psalms 104:5-9)8
After the first rebellious action of man and the reaction of God things did not stay the same, but got worse. Violence and perversion increased to the point where "the Lord was sorry He had made man on the earth" (Genesis 6:6).
Now the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence. And God looked on the earth and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth (Genesis 6:11-12).9
Now, up to this point in time the earth would still be enjoying the paradise-like condition we have described above, with very mild climate and fertile land; and this despite their banishment from the garden. And even though he was now mortal, man was still living up to one thousand years (Genesis 5:3-31), a span that would make most of us today feel virtually immortal. With us, the knowledge of our far shorter life span, our frailty and the possibilities of sudden reversals all have traditionally acted to inhibit our rebelliousness and our evil impulses. But, back then, the continued fruitfulness of the earth (relative to ours), the continued benevolent climate, and the great longevity of humans would certainly aid in making a rebellious man even more wanton in his rebellion. He could defer any thoughts of judgment into a far, far distant future.
And so, God once again decided to alter the conditions of the earth to make them appropriate to the condition of man`s heart. He set about to destroy life and the lovely condition of the earth with water.
Perhaps He used some heavenly visitor: a large, icy-tailed comet, passing close by the earth and creating great stress within the earth, as well as precipitating the water vapor canopy as the earth's atmosphere passed through its icy tail.10 But however it may have happened, "...the fountains of the great deep burst open, and the floodgates of the sky were opened" (Genesis 7:11). And water destroyed all life upon the earth's surface except for what was on one vessel: the very water that judged the earth's evil separated believing Noah from that evil.11
It is common to use an impoverished imagination when thinking about this flood, on the assumption that the earth looks much the same now as it did before the flood. But if we take the Scriptures in their natural, literal sense, and meditate on them for awhile, it becomes obvious that the flood described in Genesis did far more than destroy living things. The destructive power of miles-deep water sweeping relatively unrestrained in gigantic tides around a fracturing earth ought to stagger even the most vivid of imaginations.12 The power of this unrestrained water combined with the fracturing of the earth through violent volcanic and seismic activity (i.e., the breaking up of the "fountains of the great deep"), would serve to completely rework and reshape the surface of the earth. Tide by tide, layer by layer, sediments would be laid down miles deep and then compressed by the water pressure into a relatively soft, plastic-like consistency in brief periods of time, only to be bent or torn apart by new mountain uplifts, or eroded away within years in places as flood waters retreated from the earth into newly-created ocean basins. In some places, these "soft rock" sediments would have "grand canyons" carved out of them in relatively brief periods of time by the same retreating waters.
Such a flood of water would act to sort out objects and life forms on a complex basis of how close to the bottom of the sea they had been to start with, the mobility they exercised to escape to higher elevations as the waters rose, their density and shape, as well as other, more random, factors. This combined interaction of orderly and random forces would lay down the great majority of the fossil record that we now have recorded in rock. And, according to the Scriptural testimony, it would have been done within a short period of time. Given the magnitude of the forces at work, this ought not to be at all difficult to imagine.
With the precipitation of the great proportion of the water vapor canopy, the beginning of rain and wind, the sinking of deep and interconnected ocean basins, and the uplift of massive mountain chains and continent-sized masses of land, the earth system was subjected to an entirely new and inferior order. Cosmic radiation would now bombard us with hitherto unparalleled intensity because of the absence of the canopy of water vapor (even now, the atmospheric water vapor is the chief inhibitor of cosmic radiation). This radiation would serve to create mutations and to decrease longevity (we see the latter occurring in a regular pattern in the life spans mentioned in Genesis 11:10-32). Precipitation created erosion. And, in the absence of the canopy, the poles froze and the equator steamed, creating wind storms and great discomfort. Species that had not been brought on board the ark of course had already become extinct, but some others that had come out from the ark would also eventually pass out of existence in this newly inhospitable planet that modern man has grown used to. The earth was now perhaps somewhat out of balance because of the redistribution of the land and water masses, seeking equilibrium ever since through continental drift, earthquakes and volcanic activity.
Thus did God bring long-overdue judgment upon the earth because of human ungodliness. So, every time you see sedimentary rock or oceans, rain or fossils, howling winds or sunburns, meditate upon the holiness of God, and prepare yourself to meet Him face to face.
The dispersion of the race at Babel (Genesis 11:1-10)
After the flood, one more judgment from God remained in order to bring mankind to its present condition of life. Up until this time, all of mankind had continued to use the same language, the one passed down from Adam. This brought a unity to the human race that, even now, the more utopian among us continue to desire. But now God decided to let the divisive poison in man's heart find outer expression in a most ingenious way: by bringing confusion into their communication. The previous sense of unity which had contributed to man's becoming so exceedingly wicked before the flood was surely greatly reduced by this one act, and the united human race degenerated into a conglomeration of linguistically-based tribes that would of course look upon each other with suspicion.
The linguistic division served God's purpose in scattering the race abroad "over the face of the whole earth" (11:9).13 Linguistic division would also have become a cause of the genetic inbreeding that produced the modern races of man. The members of clans which had become isolated from other biological clans because of language differences would mate within their own groups, bringing previously recessive traits into dominance. Geographic scattering and continental division would further intensify the inbreeding of racial traits: both language and geography would logically work to isolate clans into distinct Genesis pools.
This scattering would also account for the aboriginal "cave men" known to anthropologists. Far from being the predecessor of cultured man, he would have been the degenerated descendent of cultured man.14 In linguistic and genetic isolation from the near-eastern center of the race (i.e., the regions around the mountains of Ararat), these little bands lost many skills and concepts they had once known, and took on many of the traits we have come to associate with "primitive man." Poor diet, coupled with genetic inbreeding, could account for the deformed postures associated with such groups as Neanderthal Man. Not "evolution," but "devolution" is what nature records, and we can look to Babel for part of its cause.
Both God and Satan have a plan to establish a future unity among the diverse nationalities and linguistic groups. Each has been at work for a long time to bring this unity to pass, each having a very different motivation and a very different goal in mind. And each will gather the race under two different heads: Satan's antichrist and God's Christ. About that we shall have more to say in the next chapter.
2 It may seem unusual to you that God would shift the topic from the King of Tyre to Satan without clearly indicating it, but as you become experienced in reading Biblical prophecy you will find this kind of shifting being done rather often. One famous example of this is the number of "Servant" passages in Isaiah (41:8-9, 42:1-7, 42:18-19, 43:10, 44:1-3, 44:21-22, 44:26, 49:1-8, 50:1-10, 52:13-53:12). The servant may be the prophet, the people Israel or the Messiah, depending upon the context; and the context may quite obviously change right in the middle of the passage. Among other reasons for His doing this may be that God uses this method as one of His ways of "hiding things from the wise" (Matthew 11:25). <back>
5 If what has been just said is true, then a very important corollary to it is that any discipline or healing art which does not proceed from this understanding of evil cannot, therefore, free human beings from demonic power and demonic accusations, and is inadequate to deal with human problems at the level at which they need to be addressed. Consequently, the wisdom and methods of secular psychologies cannot provide an adequate foundation for Christian healing ministries. <back>
7 Since we have been condemned by Adam's distrust to an existence polluted by distrust, doesn't it make sense that our salvation requires God's restoring the quality of childlike and wholehearted trust that was destroyed in Adam? <back>
12 We need not imagine that the highest mountains were as high as they are now. Who says that the Rockies, the Andes, the Alps and the Himalayas were as tall then as they are now, or that they even existed then? Their coming into being may well be a very part of that flood event. <back>