Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Prince of Evil Overruled by the King of Good

The world is filled with evil and destructive things. This week Muslim radicals cut out the heart of a little two-year-old girl in Syria. There are hundreds of links on Google News for people arrested for child rape and abuse in the United States in the last seven days. There are armed major military conflicts in over a dozen countries, and more than two dozen additional wars that the United Nations considers minor conflicts (less than 1,000 deaths a year). There are tornados in the US, earthquakes in Asia, tsunamis in the Far East, fires in the Rocky Mountains, hurricanes in the Atlantic, the world is filled with natural disasters. Crimes occur in every major city in the world, and even horrific crimes sometimes occur in rural areas. Our world is filled with evil. It does not take much to convince us of this axiom.

Those of us who believe God is sovereign over all things must be careful when we talk about evil. God is not the author of evil. Death is no more from God than poor grammar comes from the mouth of an English professor. Crime is not from God. War is not from God. Abuse, lying, stealing, murder, hate, and every other destructive act and attitude of mankind are not from God.  Hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, and other agents of destruction are not from God. The "prince of the power of the air" (Eph. 2:2) is the source of death and destruction. Diabolos is the Destroyer. His minions are his agents. The devil and his legions are the enemies of all that is good and constructive in this world. The Apostle Paul states your ultimate battle as a believer in Christ is not against "flesh and blood" (humanity), but against "principalities and powers" (demonic entities), and "the wiles of the devil" -- a whole host of evil agents in the spiritual realm (Eph. 6:10-20). They are those who destroy. C.S. Lewis once wrote:
The more a man is in the Devil's power, the less he is aware of it, on the principle that a man is still fairly sober as long as he knows he's drunk. It is the people who are fully awake and trying hard to be good who would be most aware of the Devil.
Though all evil has its source from Diabolos, the Scripture states there are three great agents of Satan's destructive evil - the world (the anti-God system of living), the flesh (the internal anti-God spirit of man), and demons (fallen angels who are anti-God beings). God can no more actively create evil than rain can create fire. It is impossible.  The world, the flesh and the devils create their own destruction. Evil is against the nature of God for "Every good and perfect gift comes from above, from the Father of lights who does not change" (James 1:17). 

Yet, the Most High God is sovereign. How can God be sovereign and there still be destructive evil in this world?

(1). When a tornado ("strong wind") afflicted Job, it was sent from "the prince of the power of the air" (see Job 1) but ultimately orchestrated by God for Job's good (Romans 8:28). Our insurance companies have poor theology (as did Job's servants). They all want to call fires and winds that destroy crops and kill people "acts of God" (see Job 1:16), but in reality the Scripture is quite clear these things come from "the prince of the power of the air" or Diabolos (see Job 1:12-16).

When Jesus who is Emmanuel ("God with us") calmed the storm on the sea, He rebuked the wind and said "Peace, be still" (Mark 4:39). Literally, Jesus said, "Quiet, be muzzled." These are the same words Jesus uses when He casts out demons in the gospels. Christ treated the storm on the sea as an antagonistic and rebelling force under a dominating and unrestrained power (the prince of the power of the air). However, His word is sufficient to overrule the chaos of evil and bring calm. Conflicts, rebellions, storms, wars, and all destructive forces have their source in Diabolos, who is the author of confusion in both the physical and spiritual worlds. The King of Good can overrule him. 

This truth leads many to ask, "If God can overrule every act of evil, then why does He not overrule every act of evil?" Answer: He did not create robots. The Most High allows the wicked to be wicked. He did not make them this way. The Most High, however, "will work all things for good to those who love Him" (Romans 8:28). This verse does not mean a tornado is good. This verse does not mean an act of evil is good. It means that if God does not calm the storm, He will cover the saint. The word "work" in Romans 8:28 is the same word in Greek from which we get our English word "symphony." Beautiful music contains minor notes, and the stunning composition God is orchestrating in your life might sometimes includes minor notes. God does not play the instrument, but He sure knows how to orchestrate for your good what the devil, your flesh and this world intend for your destruction (see Genesis 50:20).

(2). Illnesses such as cancer and heart disease are not from God. Aging, loss of eyesight and hearing, physical deformities and mental deterioration are not from God. All these things are enemies to God's people. Death is our last and greatest enemy (I Corinthians 15:21). Death is not from God. It is an intrusion into life, and God is the author and sustainer of life.

Yet, Jesus Christ, the Most High God, holds the keys of life and death (see Revelation 1:18). It has been said that when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead He cried "Lazarus, come forth" for if He  had just said "Come forth" every dead body in the cemetery would have been raised to life! Christ kills no one. Christ, however, holds the keys of life and death. He has the power to grant life, and He has the sovereignty to permit death. Death is an enemy, just like a destructive tornado, or any act of evil is an enemy to God and His people. If Christ can prevent death and evil, and if Christ can grant life and good, then why won't He prevent every death and grant everyone life and goodness?

Again, the Most High did not create robots. We are free-will agents who were created to be in submission to God. A humble heart under the sovereign reign of the King of Kings will take on the character of the King of Good. Goodness, love, mercy, kindness, patience, joy, meekness, are all fruits of the Spirit and evidence of spiritual life from God that will lead one to acts of constructive good for the world and other people. "Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God that He may lift you up in due time" (I Peter 5:6).

I believe in a sovereign God. My faith in Christ is steadied by my faith in His power. I desire my fellow believers who struggle with the sovereignty of God to realize that when I speak of the Most High's sovereignty, I am not saying He is the author or source of evil or destruction and death in this world or in our lives. Scripture teaches me that the prince of evil is overruled by the King of Good. Jesus Christ came and inaugurated an eternal kingdom that is currently in the process of overcoming all other kingdoms (Daniel 2), including the kingdom of Diabolos. In the consummation of time, the Kingdom of God will reign on a transformed earth where the curse of sin and death is fully reversed. Amen.


Anonymous said...

Just a thought. I don't know if anyone is having a difficult time reading all of your post, but when your background is gold and your words are a close color to that, I can't make out the words without getting right on top of the screen.

Love your post. People need to read this and not blame God for the bad stuff.

Wade Burleson said...

Thanks, anonymous. See if the new link colors help.

Victorious said...

Thank you, Wade, for this post on how you see and understand the sovereignty of God. I am in agreement.

There was a time when I didn't believe in God, but when I found out there was, the very first thought that came to my mind, was, "Wow!! He can do anything!" Sounds kinda silly, but I was able to rest in that fact. Knowing He is sovereign gives me great peace as well as freedom from worrying about the things over which I have no control.

Thanks again for this post!

Anonymous said...

Wade totally agree with everything you said, but I am struggling with the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah... Gen 19:24-25 says The Lord rained down burning does this compare to what you wrote in your blog?

Wade Burleson said...


The Bible says, "Pharaoh hardened his heart," but the Scriptures also say "God hardened Pharaoh's heart." God never actively hardens anybody's heart (turning a heart toward evil). His grace always softens hard hearts. Pharaoh ALWAYS hardened his own heart, but since God chose not to soften Pharaoh's hard heart, the Bible will sometimes say God hardened Pharaoh's heart - not actively, but permissively (allowing Pharaoh to harden his own heart).

In the same manner, the fire of Sodom and Gomorrah is a destructive, deadly, act of Diabolos. The prince of the air destroys (actively), but the Scripture sometimes attributes to God what is actually and actively done by another (like Pharaoh). Why this language? Because God is sovereign. If He lets the wicked be wicked then it can be said that God "permissively" allows the wicked to be wicked. Diabolos destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah.

When the Scripture says, "God sent an evil spirit to Saul," it does not mean God was ACTIVE in the demonic influence over Saul, but that God allowed the demon to do what the demon desired.

This principle of God permissively allowing the wicked to be wicked (and the Destroyer to destroy) is found throughout Scripture. God is never the source or author of evil and destruction, but since He is sovereign, it is sometimes said these acts "come" from Him (for He allows free agents to do as they desire).

Wade Burleson said...

Here is another example from Scripture:

"The sons of Aaron…offered strange fire before the LORD…and fire came out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them."
—Leviticus 10:1–2

Contrast those two verses above with these verses from Job 1

"The Lord said to Satan, 'Very well, then, everything Job has is in your power, but on Job himself do not lay a finger.'

Then Satan went out from the presence of the Lord.

One day when Job’s sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the house... (a) messenger came and said, “The fire of God fell from the heavens and burned up the sheep and the servants, and I am the only one who has escaped to tell you!”

It is Satan who IS THE SOURCE OF THE FIRE THAT DESTROYS but the fire is said to come "out of the presence of the Lord" (which is precisely where Satan came from as the source of the fire). God allows the wicked to be wicked, and the Destroyer to destroy, but He is neither wicked nor does He destroy anything. The Lord is good and is the Creator of all good and perfect things.

Janet Varin said...

Great post. Thanks for clarifying much.

Shari England said...

Thank you, Pastor Wade. I agree with your post. I know there is a struggle among believers (as I used to) at what God's sovereignty permits to bring about His will and that which the enemy orchestrates. And then there is Isaiah 45:7:

"I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things."

I've heard that the Hebrew meaning of evil in Isaiah is closer to "bad" and not "evil" in the way we see evil. The same word is used to describe spoiled fruit in Jer. 24:3. Can you expound on that a little more?

Chuck Andrews said...

“Through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned.” (Ro 5:12) We continue to live in this fallen world. Although “the prince of the power of the air” is still “the god of this world” and, we, permissively, suffer bad, evil, and destructive things as participants in this world, we know “the Prince of life” who in His sovereignty will use all those bad, evil, and destructive things that happen to us to our advantage and His glory.

The fact that He is actively good and passively allows evil is the assurance that only He can take things that happens to us, things that are by nature evil, bad, and destructive, and actively use them to bring about His good in our lives.

When bad things happen to me, it is this understanding of His sovereignty that enables me to continue to live in the absolute knowledge of His love for me. Somehow, in a way that only a God who is sovereign can orchestrate, even when bad, evil, and destructive things happen to me (like a massive heart attack that destroyed 75% of my hearts functioning ability), though they didn’t come to me from God, I can see it all as a gift of His goodness, grace, and love. Because, although the thing itself may not be good, He will use it to my good in conforming me to the image of His Beloved Son.

Wade Burleson said...


The Hebrew word "evil" can't mean "sin, or bad" for James says, "He who says God tempts me with evil is a liar, for God neither tempts nor can be tempted with evil."

The Hebrew word is "rah" and speaks of irritation or affliction - for a purpose. Similar to a piece of dust irritates an oyster to form a pearl, so too, God will allow difficult things to occur (even evil) because of what is ultimately produced by it (good). Hope that helps!

Wade Burleson said...


Good word!


Anonymous said...

Off topic:

More independent fundamentalism in the SBC:

Tony Berru said...

Wade, I have a problem with many aspects of your explaining that God didn't pour fire from heaven as destruction on Sodom and Gomorrah. To me, this is one of those times where there is no understanding from the "Human Perspective" as to how God thinks. Didn't Jesus say a house divided against itself cannot stand? Then if God allowed Satan to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, where's the mileage to Satan in doing that favor for God?

Judgement is part of God's gig as well. We can/have-to trust that God cannot make error when His judgment is used. WE are not God! Hence having a rigid opinion and stating it, is a losing proposition when it comes to explaining God. So when you paint yourself into a corner explaining the judgements of God coming from God by allowing Satan to do them, that's a big time reach for me. Our job is to Trust the God of the universe even when our brains cannot comprehend it fully. That is called FAITH.

Isiaiah 55:8-9 "“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord. “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.