In order to describe what we believe the Bible teaches about evil, it is important to define two terms used in the Bible: “satan” which is a transliteration of the Hebrew word for adversary or opponent and can be used in both a good and bad sense; and “devil” which is a transliteration of the Greek term for false accuser or one who divides. Both of these terms are used to describe opposition to something and many have come to believe these terms can refer to a supernatural being that tempts humans to reject God’s ways and leads people into sin. However, the Bible makes it clear that we humans do this quite well on our own. We will find that the devil or satan in the Bible is often a personification of the natural selfish desires of humans that need to be controlled in order for humanity to be what God intended.
Where does evil come from?
The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? (Jeremiah 17:9)
And GOD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. (Genesis 6:5)
And the LORD smelled a sweet savour; and the LORD said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man’s sake; for the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done. (Genesis 8:21)
This is an evil among all things that are done under the sun, that there is one event unto all: yea, also the heart of the sons of men is full of evil, and madness is in their heart while they live, and after that they go to the dead. (Ecclesiastes 9:3)
For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness… (Mark 7:21-22)
Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. (Hebrews 3:12)
Clearly, these verses say that evil and opposition to God originates in the hearts of people. There is no indication in these verses that there is any other cause for the choices people make to do evil than what they can imagine in their own hearts or learn from other people. It is good to be aware that this is a fact about all human beings. We can blame the evil that we create in the world on nothing outside of ourselves.
What is it that goes on in the hearts of people that creates evil?
And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat. (Genesis 3:6)
But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. (James 1:14-15)
From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members? (James 4:1)
That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts. (Ephesians 4:22)
But exhort one another daily, while it is called To day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. (Hebrews 3:13)
For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. (Romans 7:19-20)
But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. (1 Timothy 6:9-10)
For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through much wantonness, those that were clean escaped from them who live in error. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage. (2 Peter 2:18-20)
For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. (1 John 2:16)
The human “heart” is where the desires originate that create opposition to God: the desire to have what pleases the body but often results in hurting others; the desire to have what pleases the eye which often leads to oppression of others, and what satisfies pride often leading to careless treatment or humiliation of others.
How do we fight evil?
Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; that he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God. (1 Peter 4:1-2)
And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight: if ye continue in the faith grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister; (Colossians 1:21-23)
For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin. For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that do I. If then I do that which I would not, I consent unto the law that it is good. Now then it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me. (Romans 7:14-20)
Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints. (Ephesians 6:11-18)
This battle of good and evil is not a physical flesh and blood battle with other people, which is why we do not need real physical armour. Instead we need armour that fights a battle at a different level – in the heart of man – the place of our emotions and thoughts and will. We need to arm ourselves with the same mind Christ had which was submitted to the will of his Father. Often this opposition to God is expressed in the government of the world around us through the hearts of those in power, as it was in the persecution of the Ephesian church or even within the “church” itself as it was among the Jewish leaders of the first century. Even then, the battle is not a physical one of taking up arms, but one fought with the weapons of truth, righteousness, the gospel of peace, faith, salvation, the word of God, and prayer.
Why is evil linked with darkness?
Such as sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, being bound in affliction and iron; because they rebelled against the words of God, and contemned the counsel of the most High: therefore he brought down their heart with labour; they fell down, and there was none to help. Then they cried unto the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them out of their distresses. (Psalm 107:10-13)
When wisdom entereth into thine heart, and knowledge is pleasant unto thy soul; discretion shall preserve thee, understanding shall keep thee: to deliver thee from the way of the evil man, from the man that speaketh froward things; who leave the paths of uprightness, to walk in the ways of darkness; who rejoice to do evil, and delight in the frowardness of the wicked; whose ways are crooked, and they froward in their paths: (Proverbs 2:10-15)
The way of the wicked is as darkness: they know not at what they stumble. (Proverbs 4:19)
The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. (Isaiah 9:2)
And in that day shall the deaf hear the words of the book, and the eyes of the blind shall see out of obscurity, and out of darkness. (Isaiah 29:18)
And I will bring the blind by a way that they knew not; I will lead them in paths that they have not known: I will make darkness light before them, and crooked things straight. These things will I do unto them, and not forsake them. (Isaiah 42:16)
But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness! (Matthew 6:23)
And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. (John 3:19)
I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness. (John 12:46)
For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: … And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. (Ephesians 5:8,11)
But he that hateth his brother is in darkness, and walketh in darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because that darkness hath blinded his eyes. (1 John 2:11)
Darkness a symbol of the opposite of a knowledge or acceptance of good leading only to death. It is rebellion against God’s words or dismissal of His counsel and often a preference for things that are best hidden or done in secret. Darkness is powerful because it appeals to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. God’s ways require not always indulging in the things that might appeal to us, a willingness to be a servant to others, and a denial of self and submission to the will of God. These are hard things for a human to do. It is a constant battle but one that in the end will have been worth it because it is a participation in bringing about righteousness, mercy and justice as we see in the life of Jesus Christ.
Christadelphians believe that it is the selfish desires of humanity which create evil. There is nothing in the Bible to suggest that God’s angels would rebel against Him and set up a rival god to oppose Him and become the source of evil in the world. There is only one God and His will is done in heaven, and His angels are His ministers to do His will (Psalm 103:21, Hebrews 1:14), and because we know that this is so, and that there is no possibility of it not being so, we can have confidence in God and His control of this world. This battle of good versus evil has always been in our own hearts because we have the free will to choose good or evil.