Who Really Rules the World?
LIKELY you have never met any leaders of organized crime. Does that mean they do not exist? Criminal bosses are skilled at hiding their identity or even operating from behind prison bars. Yet, newspaper headlines about drug wars, prostitution rings, and human trafficking, to name a few, remind us of the corrupting influence and dire consequences of the activities and of the existence of such crime figures. By the mark they leave on human society, we know that criminal leaders exist.
God’s Word, the Bible, reveals that Satan is a real person who, like a powerful criminal kingpin, sees to it that his will is accomplished through “lying signs” and “unrighteous deception.” In fact, he “keeps transforming himself into an angel of light,” says the Bible. (2 Thessalonians 2:9, 10; 2 Corinthians 11:14) The Devil’s existence can likewise be ascertained by the marks left by him. Yet, most people find it difficult to believe in an invisible, wicked spirit being. Before we examine more closely what the Bible says about the Devil, let us look at some common obstacles and erroneous beliefs that prevent many from accepting the idea that the Devil is a real person.
◼ “How could a loving God create the Devil?” Since the Bible says that God is good and perfect, it seems contradictory to think that he would have created an evil, malicious, and wicked being. The fact is that the Bible does not say that God created such a person. On the contrary, it says about God: “The Rock, perfect is his activity, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness, with whom there is no injustice; righteous and upright is he.”—Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 5:4.
The point to consider is whether a perfect person created by God could do anything other than what is right. Far from making his creatures like robots, God granted them free will—the ability to make their own choices. Hence, a perfect, intelligent creature can choose to do good or to do evil. In reality, only deeds performed by an intelligent creature, human or spirit, endowed with free will could have real moral significance.
It follows, therefore, that God would not have granted his creatures moral freedom and at the same time prevented them from doing evil should they choose to do so. Jesus referred to a misuse of free will when he said of the Devil: “He did not stand fast in the truth.” (John 8:44) That statement clearly indicates that the one who became the Devil was originally a perfect spirit person, who at one time did “stand fast in the truth.”* Jehovah God made his creatures free moral agents because he loves and trusts them.—See the box “Could a Perfect Creature Lose Perfection?” on page 6.
◼ “The Devil is a servant of God” For some, the Bible seems to suggest this idea in the book of Job. According to one Bible commentary, the statement that the Devil was “roving about in the earth” refers to the role of ancient Persian spies, who traveled and reported matters in the service of their king. (Job 1:7) However, if the Devil were really God’s spy, why would he have to explain to God that he had come from “roving about in the earth”? Far from depicting him as an ally of God, the account in Job calls the Devil by the name Satan, meaning “Resister,” thus indicating that he is actually God’s chief Adversary. (Job 1:6) Where, then, does the idea that the Devil is in God’s service come from?
As early as the first century C.E., apocryphal books, such as the “Book of Jubilees” and the “Common Rule” of the Qumran sect, depicted the Devil as bargaining with God and yet subject to His will. In his book Mephistopheles, historian J. B. Russell explains that Protestant Reformer Martin Luther regarded the Devil as God’s tool, “like a pruning hook or a hoe that he uses to cultivate his garden.” The idea is, adds Russell, that “the hoe takes pleasure in destroying the weeds,” but it remains in God’s mighty hand, thus fulfilling God’s will. Luther’s teaching—later accepted by French theologian John Calvin—offended many believers’ sense of justice. How could a loving God not only permit evil but even will it to happen? (James 1:13) This doctrine, along with the horrors of the 20th century, prevents many people from believing both in God and in the Devil.
◼ “The Devil is merely a principle of evil” To consider the Devil a mere principle of evil would make some Bible passages almost impossible to understand. For instance, as described at Job 2:3-6, with whom was God having a conversation? Was he possibly speaking to an abstract principle of evil in Job, or was he perhaps even talking to himself? Furthermore, would God be praising the virtues of Job at one moment and allowing Job to be tested by a principle of evil the next? Ascribing such motives to God would amount to making him a perverse Being, not the one “in whom there is no unrighteousness.” (Psalm 92:15) Quite the contrary, God refused to ‘thrust out his hand’ to harm Job. Clearly, the Devil is not a principle of evil or a dark side of God’s personality but a spirit person who made himself God’s Adversary.
Who Really Is Ruling the World?
Today, many feel that it is old-fashioned to believe in the Devil. However, no explanation for the harsh reality of evil, apart from the Devil, has proved satisfactory. In fact, the attempt to do away with the idea of the Devil has led many people to reject God and any moral boundaries altogether.
“The devil’s deepest wile,” wrote 19th-century poet Charles-Pierre Baudelaire, “is to persuade us that he does not exist.” By concealing his identity, the Devil has actually raised doubts about the existence of God. If the Devil did not exist, would that not make God responsible for all evil? Is that not exactly what the Devil wants people to believe?
Like a criminal boss, the Devil conceals his identity in order to achieve his objective. What is that objective? The Bible answers: “The god of this system of things has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, that the illumination of the glorious good news about the Christ, who is the image of God, might not shine through.”—2 Corinthians 4:4.
One important question remains. What will God do with this secret mastermind who is behind all evil and suffering? This we will consider in the following article.
To understand why God did not immediately put an end to the Devil’s rebellion, see chapter 11 of the book What Does the Bible Really Teach? published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
[Blurb on page 5]
Is the Devil a servant of God or a resister of God?
[Box/Picture on page 6]
Could a Perfect Creature Lose Perfection?
The perfection granted by God to his intelligent creatures is relative. Although created perfect, Adam needed to respect the physical limits imposed upon him by his Creator. For example, he could not eat dirt, gravel, or wood without suffering the consequences. If he had ignored the law of gravity and jumped from a high cliff, he would have died or been severely injured.
Likewise, no perfect creature—human or angelic—can go beyond the moral boundaries set by God without exposing himself to ill effects. Thus, when an intelligent creature misuses his free will, he easily falls into error and sin.—Genesis 1:29; Matthew 4:4.