Will Good Ever Conquer Evil?
NEARLY two thousand years ago, Jesus Christ, an innocent man, was on trial for his life. Evil men were plotting to destroy him because he spoke the truth. He was falsely accused of sedition, and the crowd clamored for his execution. A Roman governor, who valued his own political prestige more highly than the life of a humble carpenter, condemned Jesus to a cruel death. To all outward appearances, it seemed that evil had triumphed.
However, the night before his execution, Jesus told his disciples: “I have conquered the world.” (John 16:33) What did he mean? In part, that the evil in the world had neither embittered him nor made him retaliate in like manner. The world had not squeezed him into an evil mold. (Compare Romans 12:2, Phillips.) Even when dying, he prayed in behalf of his executioners: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”—Luke 23:34.
Jesus demonstrated—until his dying breath—that evil can be conquered. He urged his followers to fight their own battle against evil. How can they do that? By heeding the Scriptural advice to “return evil for evil to no one” and to “keep conquering the evil with the good,” as Jesus had done. (Romans 12:17, 21) But does such a course really work?
Fighting Evil in Dachau
Else was a German woman imprisoned in Dachau who gave a precious gift to a 14-year-old Russian girl, the gift of faith and hope.
Dachau was a notorious concentration camp where thousands died and hundreds, including this young Russian girl, were subjected to macabre medical experiments. Dachau seemed the epitome of evil. Nevertheless, even in such seemingly sterile soil, good sprouted and even multiplied.
Else felt desperately sorry for this young teenage girl who had also been forced to watch the SS guards savagely rape her mother. Else, at the risk of her own life, looked for opportunities to talk to the girl about good and evil and about the Scriptural hope of a resurrection. She taught her young friend to love rather than hate. And the Russian girl survived the horrors of Dachau, thanks to Else.
Else did what she did because she wanted to follow the selfless example of Christ. As one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, she had learned not to return evil for evil, and her faith moved her to help others to do likewise. Although she suffered in Dachau, she won a moral victory over an evil regime. And she was not the only one.
Paul Johnson, in his book A History of Christianity, noted that “[Jehovah’s Witnesses] refused any cooperation with the Nazi state which they denounced as totally evil. . . . Ninety-seven percent suffered persecution in one form or another.” Was it a hopeless struggle? In the book Values and Violence in Auschwitz, Polish sociologist Anna Pawelczynska said about the Witnesses: “This little group of prisoners was a solid ideological force and they won their battle against Nazism.”
For most of us, though, the principal battle is fought against the evil within rather than the evil without. It is a struggle within ourselves.
Conquering the Evil Within Us
The apostle Paul described this fight in the following way: “It is not the good that I want to do that I actually do; it is the evil that I do not want to do that I keep on doing.” (Romans 7:19, The New Testament, by William Barclay) As Paul well knew, doing good does not always come naturally.
Eugenioa was a young Spanish man who, for two long years, fought a battle against his evil inclinations. “I had to be hard on myself,” he explains. “From an early age, I had a tendency to be immoral. As a teenager, I willingly participated in homosexual orgies, and to be frank, I enjoyed that sort of life-style.” What eventually made him want to change?
“I wanted to please God, and I learned from the Bible that he did not approve of the way I was living,” Eugenio said. “So I decided to be a different sort of person, to abide by God’s guidelines. Every day, I had to fight against negative, dirty thoughts that still came flooding into my mind. I was determined to win this battle, and I prayed incessantly for God’s help. After two years the worst was over, although I am still strict with myself. But the struggle was worthwhile. I now have self-respect, a good marriage, and, above all, a good relationship with God. I know from personal experience that evil thoughts can be banished before they bear fruit—if you really make the effort.”
Good conquers evil every time an evil thought is rejected, every time we refuse to return evil for evil. Yet, such victories, important as they are, do not eliminate the two main sources of evil. However hard we try, we cannot entirely overcome our inherited weaknesses, and Satan still exercises an evil influence over mankind. So will this situation ever change?
Bringing the Devil to Nothing
Jesus’ faithfulness to death was a major defeat for Satan. The Devil failed in his attempt to break Jesus’ integrity, and that failure marked the beginning of the end for Satan. As the Bible explains, Jesus tasted death that “through his death he might bring to nothing . . . the Devil.” (Hebrews 2:14) After his resurrection Jesus told his disciples: “All authority has been given me in heaven and on the earth.” (Matthew 28:18) And this authority would be used to nullify the works of Satan.
The book of Revelation describes the day when Jesus would oust Satan from the heavens. This Archevildoer, along with his demons, was to be confined to the vicinity of the earth. As a result, the Bible warns, evil would abound: “Woe for the earth and for the sea, because the Devil has come down to you, having great anger, knowing he has a short period of time.”—Revelation 12:7-9, 12.
Bible prophecy indicates that this historic event has already taken place—around the time of the First World War.b That explains the marked increase in evil that we have witnessed in our time. But soon Satan will be restrained totally so that he can no longer influence anyone.—See Revelation 20:1-3.
What will all of this mean for mankind?
“They Shall Not Do Evil”
As King of God’s Kingdom, Jesus will soon use his ‘authority on the earth’ to organize a program of spiritual reeducation. “Righteousness is what the inhabitants of the productive land will certainly learn.” (Isaiah 26:9) The benefits will be obvious to everyone. The Bible assures us: “They will not do any harm [“they shall not do evil,” Green’s Interlinear Hebrew/Greek English Bible] or cause any ruin . . . because the earth will certainly be filled with the knowledge of Jehovah as the waters are covering the very sea.”—Isaiah 11:9.
Even now, many of our evil inclinations can be overcome. When demonic influence is no more, it will surely be much, much easier to “turn away from what is bad and do what is good.”—1 Peter 3:11.
We have every reason to be confident that good will conquer evil because God is good, and with his help those who wish to do good can overcome evil, as Jesus proved by his own example. (Psalm 119:68) Those now willing to fight evil can look forward to living in a cleansed earth ruled by God’s Kingdom, a government committed to eradicating evil for all time. The psalmist describes the result: “As for loving-kindness and trueness, they have met each other; righteousness and peace—they have kissed each other. Trueness itself will sprout out of the very earth, and righteousness itself will look down from the very heavens.”—Psalm 85:10, 11.
a Not his real name.
b For more details, see pages 20-2 of the book You Can Live Forever in Paradise on Earth, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.