Why Has God Permitted Wickedness Until Our Day?
1. What is mankind’s experience regarding wickedness?
THROUGHOUT all of man’s history there has been much wickedness. And today, no matter where you look in the world, there is bloodshed, crime, hatred and immorality. All too often it is the innocent, decent people who suffer from the wicked acts of others. They may be victims of violence, perhaps losing their homes, loved ones or even their own lives. You may or may not have experienced such things personally. Even if you have not, you likely have gone through things that have caused mental suffering, experiences such as injustice, unkindness, being cheated or deceived.
2. The reasons why God has permitted wickedness have to do with questions raised at what time?
2 Why has God permitted such wickedness until our day? There are a number of reasons, but to understand those reasons properly we need to examine the issues raised at the time of the first rebellion. You have likely read the account of this in the Bible in the third chapter of Genesis. Let us consider, then, the real meaning of these events.
3. Briefly relate what took place at the time of man’s fall into sin.
3 Briefly, this is what occurred: Jehovah told man that his life depended upon obedience to his Creator, and that disobedience would result in death. (Genesis 2:17) God’s adversary, Satan, contradicted this clear statement. He told Adam’s wife that the human pair could disobey and still, “You positively will not die.” He further claimed that such disobedience would actually improve matters for them, causing their eyes to be opened, and that they would “be like God, knowing good and bad.” (Genesis 3:4, 5) Now, what was involved in this rebellious action of Satan?
THE ISSUES AT STAKE
4. Name some of the issues raised by the Devil’s rebellion.
4 A number of issues or vital questions were raised. First, Satan called into question the truthfulness of God. In effect, he called God a liar, and that with regard to a matter of life and death. Second, he questioned man’s dependence on his Creator for continued life and happiness. He claimed that neither man’s life nor his ability to govern his affairs with success depended upon obedience to Jehovah. He argued that man could act independently of his Creator and be like God, deciding for himself what is right or wrong, good or bad. Third, by arguing against God’s stated law, he in effect claimed that God’s way of ruling is wrong and not for the good of his creatures and in this way he even challenged God’s right to rule.
5. As shown in the Bible book of Job, what other question was raised by Satan?
5 But Satan’s action raised still another question, as is shown later in the Bible in the book of Job, chapters 1 and 2. There, in connection with a man named Job, it is shown that Satan called into question the faithfulness and loyalty to Jehovah God of all creatures. In so many words, Satan made the claim that those who serve God do so, not because they love God and his righteous rule, but only for selfish reasons, such as the material blessings God gives them. He claimed that, if such reasons were taken away, then even a man like Job would turn away from God. (Job 1:6-11; 2:4, 5) Yes, Satan’s rebellion in Eden called into question the loyalty of all God’s creatures in heaven and on earth. If put to the test, would they prove their love for their heavenly Father and show that they preferred his rule to that of any other?
GOD’S WAY OF SETTLING THE ISSUES
6. Did Satan raise a question as to God’s strength? So what kind of issue had to be settled?
6 Note, please, that Satan did not raise any question as to God’s strength. He did not challenge Jehovah to use his might to destroy him as an opposer. But he did challenge God’s right to rule and the rightness of his way of ruling. Also, he questioned the loyalty of God’s creatures. So it was a moral issue that had to be settled.
7. Relate an illustration that shows how such a moral issue might be settled.
7 Satan’s false charges against God may be illustrated, to a certain extent, in a human way. Suppose a man having a large family is accused by one of his neighbors of many false things about the way he manages his household. Suppose the neighbor also says that the family members have no real love for their father but only stay with him to obtain the food and material things he gives them. How might the father of the family answer such charges? If he simply used violence against the accuser, this would not answer the charges. Instead, it might suggest that they were true. But what a fine answer it would be if he permitted his own family to be his witnesses to show that their father was indeed a just and loving family head and that they were happy to live with him because they loved him! Thus he would be completely vindicated.—Proverbs 27:11; Isaiah 43:10.
8. What has been demonstrated by God’s allowing enough time for the issue to be settled beyond all doubt?
8 This illustrates in certain respects what God has done. Moreover, he has allowed sufficient time—now almost 6,000 years—for the issue to be settled beyond all doubt. He has allowed this time, not only to permit his faithful creatures to prove their devotion to him and his rule, but also to demonstrate that any other kind of rule results only in bad. (Proverbs 1:30-33; Isaiah 59:4, 8) By rebelling against Jehovah God, Satan set himself up as a rival ruler. And, by taking the course Satan recommended, the first human pair declared themselves independent of Jehovah’s rule and came under Satan’s control. (Genesis 3:6; Romans 6:16) By God’s letting both Satan and man go to the limit in their efforts to act and rule independently of their Creator, their total failure to produce good government, with real benefits for all mankind, would be made evident beyond all future denial. Meanwhile Jehovah would have those on earth who love him proclaim his name and purposes for the enlightenment of all who love and seek what is right.
9. What did God say to a Pharaoh of Egypt that is similar to the case of Satan the Devil?
9 So, the situation is much like that involving a Pharaoh of Egypt who took a course similar to that of Satan the Devil in opposing Jehovah God, and to whom Jehovah said: “By now I could have thrust my hand out that I might strike you and your people with pestilence and that you might be effaced from the earth. But, in fact, for this cause I have kept you in existence, for the sake of showing you my power and in order to have my name declared in all the earth.”—Exodus 9:15, 16.
WHAT HAVE THE RESULTS SHOWN?
10. How has Satan used the time allowed by God with regard to both heaven and earth?
10 The Bible shows that Satan has made use of the time to build up an organization in heaven and earth over which he rules. The extent of his control of the earth is indicated by the fact that he could offer Jesus all the kingdoms of the world in exchange for Jesus’ worship. (Matthew 4:8, 9) That is why Satan is called “the ruler of this world.” (John 16:11) What has this meant for mankind, and what has been the result of man’s course of independence from God and his rule?
11. What has been the sad result of man’s course of independence from God and his rule?
11 History testifies to the fact that this has not brought peace, contentment and eternal life to mankind. It has brought the opposite: thousands of years of pain, suffering and death. The record of history and the dreadful state of affairs in the world today are proof that man has not succeeded in governing without God. Man has tried all kinds of government, but he still lacks security and enduring happiness. True, there has been progress in a materialistic way. But is it really progress when men send rockets to the moon, and yet cannot live together in peace on earth? What good is it for them to build homes equipped with every convenience, only to have families torn apart by divorce and delinquency? Are wars, riots in the streets, destruction of life and property and widespread lawlessness something of which to be proud? Not at all! But they are the fruitage of rule that ignores God. Truly, as Ecclesiastes 8:9 says, “man has dominated man to his injury.”
12. (a) What did a prominent editor say about the cause of unhappiness on earth? (b) According to the prophet Jeremiah, can man safely direct his own step?
12 So God’s long permission of wickedness has proved beyond doubt that man’s attempt to ‘play God’ is a miserable failure. (Psalm 127:1 [126:1, Dy]) As a prominent editor said: “The more we search for an alibi, the more we discover that unhappiness on earth is man-made. Our key weakness is that we have not solved the problem of self-government.”a The inspired Bible writer Jeremiah rightly said: “I well know, O Jehovah, that to earthling man his way does not belong. It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step. Correct me, O Jehovah.”—Jeremiah 10:23, 24; see also Proverbs 16:25.
13. Since Satan’s rule has proved a failure, what is God now fully Justified in doing?
13 Satan’s influence over earth’s affairs has brought disunity, wickedness and death, and his rule has been by means of deceit, force and selfishness. He has proved himself unfit to be the ruler of anything. So Jehovah is now fully justified in destroying this debased rebel along with all who have shared in his wicked deeds. (Romans 16:20) But what about the loyalty of God’s creatures to Jehovah’s loving rule and Satan’s claim that all would turn away if put to the test?
14. (a) Out of what fine motive have some of mankind served God willingly? (b) By Job’s keeping his integrity to God despite pressure from Satan, what did Job prove the Devil to be?
14 Jehovah God knew that “love never fails” and he knew that some of mankind would serve him willingly, out of love, and not because they were being bribed or forced. (1 Corinthians 13:8) Many thousands have done this throughout the centuries. Job was one of these. Even though Satan brought terrific pressure against him and stripped him of his belongings, children and health, Job still declared: “Until I expire I shall not take away my integrity.” (Job 27:5) Job proved Satan a liar.
15. (a) How did Jesus answer Satan’s false challenge against Jehovah? (b) Could perfect Adam have proved full loyalty to God?
15 As we have seen, the perfect man Jesus resisted all of Satan’s temptations and bribes. Further, when whipped by soldier guards and nailed to a cruel torture stake to die, Jesus held fast his loyalty to God. (1 Peter 2:23) This proved that perfect Adam could have done the same if he had wanted to, and that God was not unrighteous in requiring full obedience from man. (2 Thessalonians 1:4, 5) By his loyalty to Jehovah, Jesus gave the finest answer to Satan’s false challenge.
16. (a) Though fully proved a liar, why does Satan still continue to persecute lovers of God? (b) Of what is the loyalty of God’s faithful servants convincing evidence?
16 But Satan, his mind being twisted by selfishness and pride, has refused to slow down in his insane course. Although it has long since been proved that he was wrong and is a liar, he continues to persecute lovers of God. (Revelation 12:17) Since Jesus’ death many thousands of Christians have served Jehovah God because they loved him and wanted his loving rule over them. And right now, hundreds of thousands proclaim their loyalty to Jehovah as ruler. (Revelation 7:9, 10) Their faithful keeping of Jehovah’s Word and their respect for his law have enabled them to live in contentment, in spite of all opposition from Satan. The unity, love and integrity displayed by God’s servants throughout the centuries provide a mountain of evidence that Jehovah’s way of ruling in love is the only right way, that man can stay loyal to him under the most severe test, and that Satan is the most monstrous liar of all time.
HOW LONG WILL THE TEST CONTINUE?
17. Will God permit wickedness indefinitely, and how does the Bible book of Daniel answer that question?
17 Jehovah has permitted wickedness until our day in order to settle all the issues raised by Satan. But he will not permit wickedness to continue indefinitely. He has set a definite time when he will bring it to an end. The Bible writer Daniel referred to this long ago when he wrote: “The end is yet for the time appointed.”—Daniel 11:27.
18. Although a time period of nearly 6,000 years seem long to man, does it seem long to God? So how does God view a thousand years?
18 Nearly six thousand years from Adam’s day to ours may seem a long time when viewed from the standpoint of humans who live about seventy years. But since God set the time limit, it is good to appreciate his view of the matter. The prophet Moses, at Psalm 90:4 [89:4, Dy], says of him: “A thousand years are in your eyes but as yesterday when it is past.” A year is a long time to a child of five, but to a man of sixty it is comparatively short. Likewise, to Jehovah, who lives for eternity, a thousand years is like a day.—2 Peter 3:8.
19. Why has God’s permission of wickedness been no injustice to us?
19 This set time during which wickedness has been permitted has been no injustice to us. Why, if God had immediately crushed the life out of all the rebels in Eden, we would never even have been born! We would never have had the opportunity for eternal life in his new system. So the fact that Jehovah did not cut short his long-suffering at some earlier time has given us opportunity to live now, and eternally in the future. (2 Peter 3:9, 15) Also, God has used this time to provide for man’s redemption through Christ.—Galatians 4:4, 5.
20. How does the Bible at Romans 9:22-24 explain why God has permitted wickedness?
20 In addition, God has used the time to select and prepare from among mankind “vessels of mercy.” These are the ones who will make up the righteous government over those who will live forever on earth in the new system. What blessings this heavenly kingdom means for mankind! During the time that God has been preparing the “vessels of mercy,” he has shown much long-suffering. He has tolerated the wicked, the “vessels of wrath.” He has held off their destruction. Why? The Bible clearly answers: “In order that he might make known the riches of his glory upon vessels of mercy.” (Romans 9:22-24) To God’s heavenly kingdom will go the glory of vindicating God’s name and destroying the wicked, the “vessels of wrath.” Also, by his allowing wickedness to continue for a time, facets of God’s personality are manifested that would not ordinarily be seen: his mercy and long-suffering. These enrich our appreciation of the Creator and our own personalities, as we imitate him.—Ephesians 5:1.
21. What other benefit has come by God’s permitting wickedness to run its set time?
21 There has also been another real benefit in God’s permitting wickedness as long as he has. If at any time in the future anyone should call into question God’s way of doing things, it would not be necessary again for him to grant that one time to try out some other way. The record of six thousand years of failure by Satan, his demons, and men who have tried to run affairs independent of God has supplied sufficient answer. No one can rightly claim: ‘They did not get a chance,’ or say, ‘If only they had more time.’ The permitted time has been enough to prove that the way of rebellion against the Creator has been absolutely disastrous! So God will be fully justified in swiftly crushing any rebel that threatens the future peace of the universe.—Psalm 145:20 [144:20, Dy].
22. How much longer will Jehovah permit wickedness, and what opportunity does the remaining time give us?
22 There is only a short time left before Jehovah will destroy this wicked system of things. This remaining time gives us the opportunity to take sides with him and ‘make his heart rejoice.’ (Proverbs 27:11) If we willingly submit to his rulership, he will bless us with eternal life in his new system. The choice of accepting or rejecting is set before each one of us.—Deuteronomy 30:19, 20.
23. (a) How should we view obedience to God? (b) After God’s loyal servants have done the work of declaring his name and purposes in all the earth, what will Jehovah do?
23 Obedience to God is not really difficult. If we appreciate that Jehovah’s wisdom is much greater than ours, and that whatever he does is for our good because he is a God of love, then we will obey him in everything. Whatever Jehovah’s will is, we will want to do it, whether in times of crisis or in the everyday things of life. That is the way loyal servants of God have always felt. (Daniel 3:16-18; Psalm 119:33-37 [118:33-37, Dy]) In the first century some of these said to a high court: “We must obey God as ruler rather than men.” (Acts 5:29) Today, Jehovah is using his loyal servants to declare his name and purposes in all the earth. (Matthew 24:14) When that is done to his satisfaction, then he will show Satan his almighty power by crushing him and all other rebels, bringing an end to this wicked system. Thus, Jehovah will clear the universe of wickedness and pave the way for his righteous new system.
a David Lawrence, U.S. News & World Report, Sept. 25, 1967, p. 128.