The question of the origin of evil is oft-asked and seldom understood. The answer, though not as clear and defining as we would like, still is there, and is spread throughout Scripture: beginning, middle, and end.
We will consider portions of Genesis 3, Isaiah 14, Ezekiel 28, Daniel 11, Matthew 16, John 13, 2 Thessalonians 2, Revelation 19 and Revelation 20.
Those who know some of those Scriptures will recognize that I have used texts which speak of Satan plus. Satan plus an animal. Satan plus a king. Satan plus the Antichrist. Satan in two of Jesus’ disciples.
I cannot be so detailed on all my answers, but this topic seems to warrant a close look.
The history of Satan is not in chronological order in the Bible. When he is first introduced, it seems we are dealing with a talking snake. And we are. But not just a snake. That serpent is finally identified with clarity in the book of Revelation, 20:2, where another angel (for Satan is after all only a created angel) “… laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan… “
So that “serpent” of Genesis 3 is really the arch-enemy (the meaning of “Satan”) of God and the one we call the “devil.” None of those are names, only titles and descriptions. His name is given elsewhere.
Also from Genesis we find that this enemy is very cunning. He is able to deceive. He is a liar. He is very angry with his Creator. He knows all about sin and how to make his Creator angry. He is looking for disciples.
Later in the chapter he is blamed by the woman, then cursed by his Creator. He is to go to his belly and eat dust from that day on. We assume his snake relatives, descendants, take after him. Hence the natural aversion of human-kind to serpents, to this day.
But we see more. Not from Genesis, but from reading the entire story. Yes, snakes and people will be enemies. Yes, people bruise the heads of snakes to kill them. Yes, snakes bruise the heels of men because they can’t reach much higher.
But from Revelation we know that Satan had inhabited this creature and was also being addressed. Genesis 3:15 becomes the first glimpse of the Gospel when seen in this light. Satan will have a family of unbelievers. But the woman will have a Descendant also that will bruise the very head of Satan.
The apostle tells the Romans (16:20) in Christ that, “… the God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly.” The ultimate defeat of the Devil is here foretold.
Of course, that was not to happen until Satan had had his day, the day of bruising Christ’s heel, as it were. Indeed (Isaiah 53:5) “… He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed… “
Such is the story of the serpent in the Garden. Left with that passage only, our knowledge would be quite limited. But there is much more. Things had transpired before Eden, and there is more to come.
I believe that Ezekiel 28 gives us the earliest facts about our Enemy, the “prequel” to Genesis 3. It is a fascinating prophecy in which we see Satan lined up with a human being this time, perhaps two in the same chapter, or two phases of the same man. It is this aligning with earth creatures that is his modus operandi. All he needs is willing humans to bring his will to the planet. There seem to have been any number of such dupes throughout history, and they are with us still.
It is the 570’s B.C. Soon Nebuchadnezzar will lay siege to the great city of Tyre, ruled then by one Itto-Baal II. This is the conclusion of Mr. Macarthur, and for now we let it stand. The outcome and far-reaching effect of this prophecy seems to go beyond this one king, but he will suffice as the backdrop. Note that this trick of empowering men with himself is one he has played quite a few times in history, giving us an understanding of the prophecy in Revelation 17 that talks about seven “kings” and- or kingdoms that have raised their ugly heads over the span of the ages. There will be at least one other with the same agenda: hatred of God, Christ, the Jews, the Christians. We see that spirit in the world today, but it shall take bodily form again.
I go far afield… Back to Ezekiel 28.
Notice that the first section is written in the future tense, and addressed to a prince. I am going to do this and that and the other, says God. You are finished. But the second phase of Ezekiel 28 is past tense, written to a king. This is who you were, and this is what I did.
As with many prophecies, and many heavenly conversations, there seems to be a dual object in mind here. In Eden, God spoke simultaneously to a serpent and a fallen angel. Here he divides up His words between Itto-Baal, and that same angel!
We highlight and paraphrase the chapter:
“You are proud. You say you are a god. No, you are a man. You think you are so wise. You have gotten rich, especially through trading. Your wealth has made you more proud.
“But someone will come against you and bring you to the Pit. Will you call yourself a god then?”
So far, we could think God was talking only to a king. But when Satan is cursed, recall, the creature he houses is likewise cursed. God’s true view of the inner part of this king is in the latter portion of the chapter.
“You were perfect. Perfectly wise. Perfectly beautiful. You were in Eden, covered by precious stones. Everything you needed was created on the day I created you.
“You were the anointed of the cherubs. You were on the holy mountain of God. You were perfect in every way… until sin was found in you.”
The king of Tyre? I think not. Here is Satan. We go behind Eden and see his very creation day. What a spectacle! What a delight! Honored by all of the heavenly hosts!
Next comes the simple answer to the question that started this study: Where does evil and the devil originate? Here it is. It originates inside the one called Satan, the enemy.
He was given all honor until he looked to himself as the Creator and the one worthy of that honor. He saw all praising him, and he liked it. Then he wanted more. That is all we know for sure.
God became angry with him as his pride led to more and more foolish decisions. He had to be cast out of the holy mountain. Is this when he showed up in Eden? Or was Eden the home of that mountain, and was he cast out when Adam and Eve left? We are not told details here.
We are told that God laid him before kings. He was destroyed. Turned to ashes. He became a horror, never to exist among men again.
The King of Tyre? Or his final battle inside Antichrist. Yes, it is all in past tense, but so is Isaiah 53, about Messiah. Written as an accomplished fact. I think of Joel talking of locusts, that actually had destroyed Israel hundreds of years before Jesus. But I then see him talking, without catching his breath, about end-time locusts, the ones that John saw. Not the kind that a John the Baptist could eat. Not the kind that looks like a grasshopper on steroids, but a strange and awful creature which shall come by the myriads in the last days.
That is prophecy. It flows and it seems to get confused but there is a godly order to it, a mystery to it that his people need to penetrate in order to understand it. The answers are all there for the one who will seek him.
This is the origin of evil. Satan, and Satan in the human heart. No mystery there. The “why” is not so easy. We will look at that later. On to brother Isaiah.
The deeper I dig into this issue, the more I realize I must make this a separate study on another day, but let me say that there is a pattern that begins to emerge when we trace these Satanic manifestations through the ages.
Isaiah (chapter 14), like Ezekiel, begins with what seems to be a mere man, a nation-ruler who is cut down and brought to his end, covered with maggots.
But the shift is sudden in verse 12. Suddenly the prophet is addressing one who has “fallen from heaven”, and named Lucifer! Lucifer, says Isaiah, wants to ascend into heaven, exalt his throne, be at least equal to the Most High God.
He wants to do this by becoming the greatest on earth, but, as we see earlier in the chapter, he is brought to shame, and to the Pit.
Daniel’s “King of the north” behaves himself in the same way, letting us know the same thing has happened: Satan has come to yet another human, attempting to win the world to himself by force:
Daniel 11:36: Then the king shall do according to his own will: he shall exalt and magnify himself above every god, and speak blasphemies against the God of gods, and shall prosper… until the wrath.”
Yes, he ends up in the same situation as all the rest. (v. 45) He shall come to his end, and no one will help him. Story goes that maggots were associated with his death, also.
It was this same Satan that entered Judas, and even spoke at least once through Peter, and who, according to Paul and John, will attempt at least one more power grab inside of a human body.
One day, the “man of sin” will exalt himself as Antiochus (in Daniel) and all the others, claim to be God, sit in God’s Temple, deceive the nations, demand their worship.
What began as one temptation to one woman in one garden 6,000 years ago will end with the rise, and the sudden fall, of Satan’s man of all men, the Anti-Christ, the “Beast” of Revelation, the “Little Horn” of Daniel, the “man of sin” from Paul. The disembodied spirit called Satan will then have his own end in the Lake of Fire.
And all you really wanted to know was, “Where did evil originate?” Now you know with whom it originated, and how that went for him, and all who follow him. Evil is a person, evil with a “d” attached.
Now the part of the question to which I have no clear answer: Why? Why would God allow to be placed in His beautiful perfect Paradise, one so corrupt and evil as this fallen angel? Why not rather shield His creation from such a one? He certainly had the power to do so, did He not?
We can ask the ongoing question: Why does He still allow this one in our lives, day after day? We know that one day Satan will be removed. Men will not be tempted to do evil again.
The answers that come are weak ones. “He wanted to prove our love, and only testing can do that. He wanted a people that would choose Him and not the enemy. Thus He would know who loved Him and who did not.”
There seems to be some truth there, though it is colored with what I may now refer to as Arminian thought. The idea that man is the definer of the purposes of God, that man controls the future of the planet, does not strike me as being as truthful as I once thought.
Will we ever know His purposes, His ultimate ones? Why create a planet to begin with? Since man got here there has been nothing but trouble for Heaven. Yet He has overcome the trouble. He has manifested Love, pure love. He has saved many, many, many. Eternity will be brighter, and He will have the best of friends forever.
But those comments are feeble. We eventually, and thankfully, revert back to, “He does what He wills” for His own glory, honor, and purpose.
So be it.