THE ORIGIN OF EVIL
THE ORIGIN OF EVIL
And yet! Into this universe, which was appointed to thehighest, which the
Creator had called that it should become a vessel to reveal His glory, there has
entered a breach.
The united harmony of the spheres is destroyed by a harsh discord. Sin has
appeared, and criminally set itself against the holy, loving plans of God to
reveal Himself. Through the sin of mankind this lower earth is devastated (Gen.
3: 17, 18; Rom. 8:20), and, in the heavenly world above, as the history of
temptation in the Bible premises, a fall had taken place among the angels prior
to the fall of Adam and Eve (Gen. 3: 1-7; 2:15).
Yet how this was possible, and why God permitted it, no one can say. The
origin of evil remains for ever a mystery. Even the few hints that the Scripture
gives are no more than suggestive.
1. Satan before the Fall. God's universal kingdom of creation is divided, as
it appears, into a number of provinces, the material and spiritual organization
of each of which is entrusted to a definite angel prince as, so to speak,
viceroy of God. Thus there are angels for children (Matt. 18:10), for adults
(Acts12:15'), for whole lands and nations, as Persia (Dan. 10:13), Greece (Dan.
10:20), Israel (Dan.10:21;12:1).1 This assumes that in the world of light as
also in the world of darkness there are angel organizations, which wield power
in certain regions and hold ranks differing according to the size of the
respective areas. Thus the Scripture speaks, for example, of the archangel
Michael and his angels, as well as of the Dragon and his angels (Rev. 12: 7). In
fact Paul speaks of "thrones, governments, princedoms and authorities" not only
in the visibile but also in the invisible world (Col. 1: 16; Eph. 1:21).
Satan must have been such a special Prince before his fall. From the position
of authority which in the present time he still holds it is to be inferred that,
at least before his fall, a mighty region was legally committed to his rule; and
the fact that it is on the earth that he is operating suggests that this region
was the earth and the surrounding atmosphere.
This finds its definite confirmation in the Word of God. The Lord Jesus
Himself designates Satan as the "prince of
1 In this. lies the kernel of truth of national polytheism, the venerating of
the world; " see John 12: 31; 14:30; 16:11. Paul terms him the "prince over
the powers of the air" (Eph. 2:2). When at the time of the temptation Satan
offered to the Lord all the kingdoms of the earth, and said, "I will give to
thee this whole power and its glory; for to me it is granted (or
delivered-paradedotai), and I can give it to whom I will" (Luke 4: 6), the Lord
so far acknowledged this authority that He did not contest the present power of
the devil to dispose of the kingdoms of the world and their glory (Matt. 4:
And when in the Revelation, regarding the end-time of the present economy, it
is said that " The authority over the world is come to our Lord and his
anointed, and he shall rule as king in all eternity" (Rev. 11:15; comp. 19: 6),
there likewise lies in these words the testimony that down to that moment the
kingdom of this world stands under the domination of another, even the "prince
of the world." Now we understand also why the archangel Michael, when contending
with the Devil concerning the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a
railing judgment, but said only, "The Lord rebuke thee" (Jude 9).
Indeed, even after Golgotha and Pentecost the governmental position of Satan
over his world-region continued, for in the period of the church the apostle
John testifies that "the whole world lies in the evil one" (I John 5:9), and
Paul speaks repeatedly of the "authority" of Satan (Acts 26: 18; Col. 1:13; Eph.
2: 2). He uses the same word whereby in the letter to the Romans he designates
human ofEcials (Gk. exousia, Rom. 13:1,2), and thus intimates that the rulership
of Satan is equivalent to a " kingdom " (comp. Matt. 12: 26).
ii. The Fall of Satan. There must therefore have arrived in the prehistoric
eternity a moment when this world-prince of God renounced his allegiance to the
Most High, and thereby changed from a "Lucifer," a "Lightbearer" of the Divine
glory,1 into an "Adversary" of God' and a "slanderer" of His saints.3
From that time on a mighty breach runs through the cosmos, and an organized
opposing kingdom of evil confronts the universal kingdom of God (Matt. 12: 26).
Satan as a ruler has in turn princes and authorities under himself (Dan. 10: 13,
20; Eph. 6: 12), and the opposition between him and the kingdom of God is
henceforth the theme and the essential subject of the universal super-history
outlined in Holy Scripture.
1 Lucifer in Latin equals "light-bearer." The name Lucifer originates in Isa
14: 12 [R.V. " day star "] and is first a figurative term for the God-resisting
king of Babylon; but who, however, in his turn, in the view of the prophet, as
it would seem, is a type of his demonic overlord, Satan.
2 Heb. Satan, shatan, i.e. enemy, adversary, quite generally: I Kings 11: 14,
23, 25; before a court Psa. 109: 6; in Num. 22: 22 even of the "angel of
3 Gk. diabolos i.e. devil from dia-ballo, to cast through, to criticize, in
an antagonistic sense to accuse either falsely (2 Macc. 4:1) or by saying tbe
truth (Dan. 3:8): comp. Luke 16: 1 with Rev. 12: 10.
The description by Isaiah of the overthrown king of Babylon appears, as the
Rabbis already supposed, to include in its view the fall of this powerful prince
of light: "Oh, how art thou fallen from heaven, thou brilliant star, son of the
dawn! . . . thou thoughtest in thy mind: 'I will ascend into the heaven, high
above the stars will I erect my throne, will make myself like to the Highest.'
But now art thou thrust down into the world of the dead, to the deepest corner
of the underworld" (Isa. 14:12-15). Ezekiel also, as it appears, borrows from
that prehistoric event his illustrations for the description of the fall of
Tyre: "Thou sealest up the sum, full of wisdom and full of beauty, thou west an
anointed cherub that coveredst.. . thou wast blameless in all thy doings from
the day of thy creation until guilt was found in thee. Thy mind was lifted up
because of thy beauty. Thou hadst thoughtlessly forsaken thy wisdom on account
of thy brightness" Ezek. 28: 12-15, 17).
Yet in general the Holy Scripture says scarcely anything concerning this fall
of Satan, directly, indeed, nothing. As the records of salvation it purports to
show to man by means of prophecy and history the way to redemption, but it will
not give him a systematic view of the world or eternity in a philosophic form;
for should it do so no man would understand it. For this reason it speaks of the
origin of evil only as a background and indirectly, only in incidental
figurative hints, but never in direct doctrine, and nowhere in continuous
unveiled form: "The secret things are Jehovah's" (Deut. 29: 29).1
But in any case the belief in the existence of a personal devil is the belief
of Jesus and His apostles (Matt. 4: 1-10; 12: 27; Luke 10: 18; Rom. 16: 20; II
Cor. 1l: 14, 15; Rev. 12: 7 - 9; 20: 2, 10). It is impossible for one who does
not share this primitive Christian belief to understand Christ and His apostles.
Nevertheless almost always the modern man rejects from the outset the idea of a
devil because he thinks nearly always of the popular, repulsive, foolish,
grotesque tepresentation of the devil of the Middle Ages. But in truth Satan is
gifted with the highest intelligence, fallen indeed, but none the less an
exceedingly powerful spirit being, whose existence is in no way assailable
iii. The First Sin and the Condition of thc World. But with the fall of Satan
there must have been associated the ruin of the region over which he ruled, as
is evidenced by the organic connexion between spirit and nature, and by the
later and resembling fall of man, though this last to a smaller extent (Gen. 3:
18). World and earth catastrophes occurred as counter
1 Tim3,:7 and Luke 10:18 are almost the only fairly clear passages which
speak of the fall of Satan, and even in these it is not quite certain. II
Pet.2:4 and Jude 6 refer in our view to Gen. 6: 1-4.
workings of the righteousness of God against this cosmic revolt. The creation
was subjected to vanity (Rom. 8: 20,21).
All details are hidden from our knowledge. Only this is certain, that death
and destruction in the world of plants and animals raged on the earth for
unthinkable periods long before the race of man. This is proved very clearly by
the geological strata and the stages of the development of the prehistoric
animal world. The strata of the earth beneath us are simply "a huge cemetery
that is enclosed in its stony held." Indeed many rapacious beasts of the
prehistoric time were terrible monsters with the most voracious and deadly power
of destruction. 1
With this corresponds also the testimony of the Old Testament. For the
commission of man, recorded therein, not only to dress but also to guard the
garden of Paradise, as also the fact of his temptation by a hostile, deceitful
power, opposed to God, show already in the Old Testament that evil did not
originate primarily in man, but that it had existed before him in another
creature, so that prior to the time of man, before his fall and the cursing of
the ground connected therewith, there had already existed a breach and a
disharmony in creation.
In both old and more recent times there have been God enlightened men who in
this connexion have expressed the conjecture that the work of the six days of
Gen.1 was properly a work of restoration, but not the original creation of the
earth, and that originally man had the task, as a servant of the Lord and as
ruler of the creation, in moral opposition to Satan, to recover for God the
outwardly renewed earth, through the spreading abroad of his race and his
lordship over the earth.
Thus Prof. Bettex says that man should originally, "as the vice-regent of
God, gradually have reconquered the whole earth." Also Prof. v. Heune, who
likewise upholds the restitution theory, says, "that the great operation of
bringing bark the whole creation to God, starts with man. In man, matter and
spirit, God's Spirit, meet. The man Christ Jesus, God's Son, has carried to
victory the decisive conflict with Satan and the consequences of this must work
themselves out. Therefore the cross stands at the centre of universal history."
The geological periods must therefore have been either before the work of the
six days, and the " days " themselves be conceived as literal days of
twenty-four hours, or the "days" of Gen. 1 must be taken to signify periods, and
be considered as the geological ages of development in the history of the earth.
In this way it might be possible to find a reconciliation between the
Biblical account of the world's origin and that of
1 In this manner also the Tuibingen paleontologist Freiherr von Heune
connects the fact of death in the pre-Adamic creation with the fall of Satan as
the God appointed "prince of this world."
modern natural philosophy. Traces of such an explanation of the record of
creation are found in ancient Christian literature as early as the time of the
church father Augustine (about A.D. 400). In the seventh century it was
maintained by the Anglo-Saxon poet Caedmon. About A.D.1000 King Edgar of England
espoused it. In the seventeenth century it was specially emphasized by the
mystic Jacob Boehme. In the year 1814 it was developed by the Scottish scholar
Dr. Chalmers, and in 1833 further by the English professor of mineralogy William
There are also very many German upholders of this teaching, as for instance,
the professor of geology Freiherr von Huene (Tubingen); and well-known are the
English scholar G. H. Pember, and also the Scofield "Reference Bible", so widely
circulated in all English-speaking lands. From the Catholic side there are
Cardinal Wiseman and the philosopher Friedrich von Schlegel.
Naturally in numerous details these show substantial deviations from one
another, especially on the question whether the following six "days" were of
four-and-twenty hours or long periods.
Others again believe that the whole development is one uniform continued
sequence, without a special intervening entire destruction and "restoration" of
the earth; one single colossal process, distributed over immense creative
periods. In this whatever the method may have been (into which science may
search) under Divine guidance, and, as it appears, since the fall of Lucifer,
also not without Satanic cross-workings-there came a gradual ascent in the forms
of life. Finally man, without connexion by descent with the animal world, was
placed on the stage of world events, in order to set out on his earthly course
from the garden of Paradise expressly prepared for him.
However, in no case can there be here absolutely certain knowledge. For this
primary event, evil entering the world and bringing into disorder the originally
pure and good creation of God, is precisely that prehistoric occurrence which
devastates all things, which confuses our own being, in which we are all
involved, and which helps to condition our whole present existence in all its
manifestations, including its thinking! Therefore neither as to time nor fact
can we form an adequate conception of it, but have merely the duty to recognize
the weighty facts of this mystery and, in view of them, to act according to
conscience and responsibility.
For the rest, it behoves us to forego all further questions and to have the
courage to confess openly our ignorance and also the humility to perceive that
earthly thought never can comprehend universal super-history; and that our
intellect often views eternal things as contradictory only because, fallen into
sin and bondage as it is, it is itself in opposition to the laws of the other
world. There is nothing really so irrational as rationalism. Whoever wishes to
peer into God's secrets must be adorned with the threefold ornament of humility,
reverence, and faith; and where these are found the soul can restfully commit to
the Most High all matters not revealed (Rom. 11: 33-35; Job 38: 4-7). Only in
eternity will all questions be cleared up. Only when the Lord comes will all
veils disappear (I Cor. 13:9-12). Till then we are men that wait in hope.