Satan’s Present Power and the Problem of Evil Only Temporary
Eric V. Snow Sermonette 08-04-04 UCG-Ann Arbor, Michigan
As we’re all well aware, the fall Holy Days, including the Feast of Tabernacles, are fast approaching. Cases of “Feast Fever” no doubt will soon be breaking out all over, if they aren’t already, in the Church of God. But, before we celebrate, we have to fast, right? Three weeks from now, we’ll be observing the Day of Atonement. Much of the meaning of this day concerns the binding of Satan so the whole human race can be reconciled to God.
But why does God let Satan tempt men and women to begin with? Why did God let Satan set up a longstanding rebellion against Him that included probably millions of formerly holy angels? Why didn’t God just instantly “zap” him? Why not just nip this all in the bud, rather than let the rebellion spread?
The reality is that we need to have faith that God knows what He is doing. Since His power and His knowledge are so much greater than ours, we have to stop complaining to God about our trials as if we know the full story behind them.
S.P.S. We need to have patience and faith about why God allows Satan to tempt us and the rest of the world at this time.
The three basic points to consider are these. First of all, we need to consider how this season of temptation likely will not last that much longer. It may well end in our would-be natural lifetimes. Second, the reward of being in the first resurrection and the gift of having eternal life are so large they greatly outweigh the pains and trials we suffer temporarily now. Since God controls our destinies, and is the only source of eternal life, we have to surrender completely to Him if we wish to avoid the Lake of Fire. Third, we don’t know enough to condemn God and to criticize God and to curse God. That’s why we need to have patience and faith.
For the first point, notice that the event foreshadowed by the Day of Atonement may literally occur within the next two or three decades. We shouldn’t fix dates. But consider such prophetic developments such as the growing political unity of Europe and the increasing resentment much of the world has against the U.S., Israel, and Britain stemming from recent events in the Middle East. We shouldn’t repeat prior generations’ mistakes in setting specific dates, of course. But we really shouldn’t think it’s a false alarm this time to think Jesus may come before a third of this century has passed. So then, if we fall away from God, being resentful that He has allowed Satan to tempt us or for the general evils in the world, what good would that do then? Do we really think it’s that much longer?
V. 6: Notice the great reward we receive for endurance in this life, as part of the first fruits. This is my second point. Our lives now may be harder because true Christianity isn’t compatible with the world’s culture. We may be persecuted or otherwise just simply mistreated by others in the world, such as in our physical families, coworkers, or neighbors.
V. 7: God allows those living at the end of the millennium to be tested by what we have before. Notice how quickly so many who had had it so easy fell away.
V. 10: Do we wish to end up in the same place as Satan Himself? (Don’t wish to deal with Greek here, etc., not a “difficult Scripture” sermonette). Let’s make sure we don’t get put into the same place. It’s a dangerous thing to be called in this life, the first life. This fate we must aim to avoid, and instead embrace eternal life, but we can only have it on God’s terms. Have faith and obey, or die. We should remember this when we want to spit in God’s face verbally.
V. 8: God holds up Job as an admirably righteous man, not someone who was a huge sinner who deserved punishment. Bull’s eye analogy.
V.9+: Satan accused Job of serving God only for material gain.
V. 12: So God, knowing Job’s character, allowed a supremely awful set of trials to strike him. For He knew Job wasn’t being tempted beyond his strength, as hard as these trials were.
Vs. 21-22: Notice that despite this sore testing, Job did not curse God. Satan had predicted this, but it never happened. I’ve known people even in the Church of God who have cursed God or questioned God’s love and righteousness for trials far less severe than those Job had here.
What we get in this life really isn’t ours, but is from God conditionally and temporarily. So we shouldn’t walk around with some kind of entitlement mentality complaining about life not being fair to us or others. In this same context, The Bible commentator Matthew Henry says (p. 658, on Job 1), quoting Scripture in part: “In all our comforts, God gave us our being, made us, and not we ourselves, gave us our wealth; it was not our own ingenuity or industry that enriched us, but God’s blessing on our cares and endeavours. He gave us power to get wealth, not only made the creatures [farm animals] for us, but bestowed upon us our share.”
V. 3: Notice that God could still say Job was righteous despite having such a set of truly awful trials inflicted on him by Satan. Indeed, He almost is taunting him. Job maintained a good attitude despite much pain. Are we doing as well as he did? Or are we complaining far more about much more trivial trials than his were?
V. 9: Do we react as Job’s wife did to trials?
V. 10: Notice Job’s sense of self-control. Have we done as well? Are we doing as well?
Now, the answer as to why God allowed Job to be so tested by Satan isn’t really answered here. The real answer comes later in this book, when God confronts Job out of the whirlwind. God has so much more knowledge and power than we do we shouldn’t be questioning or criticizing Him. We should have faith that He knows what He is doing. Jehovah’s Witnesses, in their Bible dictionary, have a good point when they say: “He [Job] was also mistaken in insisting on receiving an answer from God as to why he was suffering” (Insight in the Scriptures, vol. 2, p. 83). Are we like Job, and insist that God should satisfy our curiosity before we will obey Him? But who has the power here, and who makes the terms of the contract? It’s our duty to believe and obey even if we aren’t fully intellectually satisfied by the response, “I know more than you do; trust me for now.”
The issue comes down to God’s allowing His creatures free will, or free moral agency. The angels received this freedom also, not just men and women. Since God’s creatures doubt that He has their own best interests in heart, He decided to prove it to them by letting them suffer from their own hard experience when they disobey His law. It’s said fools only learn from experience. Likewise, since neither Lucifer nor Eve would take God’s word for it that disobeying Him would be bad for them, He let them choose badly. Why didn’t He “zap” them instantly? Well, this issue was going to keep coming up, with His creatures through endless billions of years having questions about whether God’s ways really were best for them. So God decided to prove it by their empirical experience: Their pain would prove He could be trusted. And to prove it more, He decided to suffer in pain Himself, by dying so awfully painfully on the cross for His creatures. So if we creatures had had faith in God to begin with, most or all of this pain and evil could have been avoided. But both Lucifer and (later) Eve had other ideas.
Conclusion: As we prepare to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacle, we should remember that the Day of Atonement portrays a time when Satan’s influence on the world will be destroyed. This event could easily occur within the next two or three decades, if not sooner, so shouldn’t we have patience? Similarly, our great gift of eternal life should be fully received by then, which will greatly outweigh the problems and evils we’ve suffered in this life. Finally, we should have faith and patience that God knows what He is doing when He allows Satan for just a little more time to operate. Seeing what God offers us, we should do better than Job’s wife, who said to curse God and die.