Recently I came across a question. It goes like this: When the devil first rebelled, why did God not just bring out a heavenly shotgun and shoot the devil in his face? A second and related question is, why does God let the devil roam free around the world? This is my response:
Let me predicate my answer by saying that all this talk is like two fishes born and brought up in an aquarium talking about what happens in the ocean. Just keep that in your mind. Now, let’s get on with the answer.
First of all, let’s play out the events that happened before the creation.
- There is a rebellion in heaven and the devil is defeated and cast out from heaven into the infernal lake of fire.
- Heaven and earth is created.
- Man is created in the likeness of God and given free will to choose to love or reject God.
- Devil comes and tempts Eve. Adam and eve commit sin. A perfect world is shattered.
This is our stage. Question no 1 arises in the step no 1.
Why was the devil only cast out instead of being destroyed completely? In response to that question, another question needs to be asked. What do you call a person who rules with unrestrained force and kills anyone who opposes him? A dictator. That’s what. Are you asking for God to be a dictator? If God had done that, the devil would’ve been right in leading an rebellion against such a God. Since he would be rebelling against a dictator.
There are also a few matters in this situation that we need to keep in mind.
- A simple battle in heaven cannot fully display how truly horrifying sin is.
- Destroying one rebel by force doesn’t make sure that another one doesn’t arise. The only conquest that lasts eternally is a conquest by love.
- The reason Lucifer led the rebellion was he wanted to be greater than God.
To address these issues, God creates a plan. Heaven and earth is created and man is created in the likeness of God. Here he addresses point no 3. No one can be greater than God since God represents the greatest, highest most perfect being that exists. God creates man in his own likeness. A being who has potential to walk with him as equal. (Notice that I am using the word potential. Man wasn’t equal to God at the time of creation. But by virtue of being created in his likeness, he has this potential. This potential is fully realized later in the life of Jesus.) So, first of all, God removes the motive of the rebellion. What Lucifer fought for is given to men for free.
To address the second point, the implementation of “No more rebels” policy in heaven can be done in two ways. First is a very simple method. There is an idiom in hindi which says “Na rahega baans, na bajegi baansuri” which can be roughly translated in English as “Without a bamboo, a flute can’t be played”. A simple “No more creation” policy would make sure that there are no more rebels. But that would be taking away the good with the bad. One might also say, “Throwing out the baby with the bathwater…”.
Another way is to do it by love. That’s the way God chose. For love to be possible, there needs to be a choice. Thus free will. Ability to choose or reject God. So, God created Adam and Eve in his image and gave them the gift of free will. I’ve explored this in more detail here: http://noelkurian.com/2012/07/why/ So, moving on, we come to the step no 4 in the original stage. Devil comes and tempts Eve. Here, question no 2 arises. Why didn’t God just stop the devil? There can be several answers here.
- God didn’t know. But if that’s the case, than God is not omniscient.
- God knew but couldn’t stop him. In that case, God is not omnipotent.
- God knew but he let him. If that’s the case, than God is not benevolent (all-loving) and maybe he is using us just for his entertainment… right? Wrong. There is another explanation.
The third option is indeed the case. God knew but he let him. So what can be this another explanation? Let’s look at the scene again. Right where we left it. Humans are created with free will. An ability to choose or reject God. With this ability also comes a possibility of denying God. Just like Lucifer did. Just like Adam and Eve did after the temptation. But maybe even if there wasn’t a temptation, there still remains a possibility that man will sin. Because the ability to deny God is in him, not external to him. When tempting, devil doesn’t bring something evil and put it inside man. He is only bringing out what is already inside him. (Terrifying isn’t it? The nature of temptation?)
So why did God allow him to tempt the man? Because it accelerates the process. Yes you heard it right. By tempting man, the devil is actually helping God by accelerating his plans. Now at later stage, when Christ is crucified, the true horrific picture of what sin leads to is put on display for the whole creation to see. Which addresses point no 1. Now as the result of both God’s way and going against God’s way is shown clearly to the whole world, the choice of either choosing him or rejecting him is made clearer. The bible reveals the logical out-workings of sin (going against God’s way, rejecting him) very clearly. It states, “The wages of sin is death.”
So, why does God let the devil roam free? Because he helps him. (A divine irony, wouldn’t you say?)