Have you seen this ol’ earth? It’s quite crazy out there. In fact, it appears as though evil is proliferating like a raging freight train coming down the track with no one or no thing to stop it.
But don’t let appearances deceive you. As for mankind and the state of the world, this isn’t how it’s always been and certainly not how it will remain.
In fact, there will be, to many, a surprising end to this saga called life on earth. And newsflash—for those who know the Lord—we win! To those who don’t yet know and haven’t yet heard the good news of the gospel, we can explain, “There’s this book you see. And it tells the story of reality. How it began, how it is today, and how life on this planet will end. For history is His story. And though things appear to be falling apart, they are actually falling into place!”
As we ponder our witness and attempt to help people understand the good news of the gospel in light of the bad news that assaults on a daily basis, providing a “big picture” perspective will support the glorious gospel message we bring to a world desperately in need of hope—a world that needs Jesus!
Let me explain.
For many unbelievers, the state of evil in the world and the problem of suffering are two big obstacles that keep many from considering the truth claims of Christ and the Christian faith.
The basic objection goes something like this: “If God is all-powerful and all-loving, why doesn’t he do something about this mess.” To add, cynics and skeptics of the Christian faith will rail, saying in so many words, “Either God is not all-powerful or He would do something. Therefore He is impotent.” Or, “God is not all-loving. Therefore He doesn’t care.”
Have you ever heard the cynic in your life make such charges? I have.
One simple way to answer these charges is provide that “big picture” perspective on God’s dealings with humanity – past, present, and future.
First, we must take people back to the Garden of Eden, where everything was perfect. We can communicate that God’s original environment in the garden of Eden was perfection, which excluded suffering altogether. In fact, God originally designed Adam and Eve to live forever in perfect union with Him and each other. This was His intention.
Yet, God endowed Adam and Eve with free will. And they exercised that free will to rebel against God. With the fall of man, came the curse of death and all suffering. Suffering speaks volumes, for it communicates that things aren’t the way they were intended. This is not God’s fault. Rather it was due to the choice of man.
We note this powerful and poignant quote framing the conversation from Norman Geisler and Jeff Amanu (New Dictionary of Theology, pg. 242): “Whereas God created the fact of freedom, humans perform the act of freedom. God made evil possible; creatures make it actual.”
The original creation of the universe was “very good” (Genesis 1:31). There was no evil, sin, pain, or death. How did we then get here from there? The fall of man (Genesis 3) brought about each of those ills, as Adam and Eve exercised the God-given free will to disobey God.
While free will allows for the possibility of sinful choices, it also provides the platform for voluntary love. For love is a voluntary choice. Human beings are not robots. We are free-will moral agents, with the capacity to choose evil or good, to express love or hate. The Lord desired Adam and Eve to demonstrate love by choosing obedience. That’s why He gave them and all humanity free will.
The chain reaction due to the fall and all its associated ills, namely suffering in all its painful manifestations, is difficult to process – for they are deep, profound, and ubiquitous. As the Apostle Paul wrote, even “all creation groans’” (Romans 8:22).
The Lord Jesus was a “man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). In fact, He bore the sin of man, reversing the curse and bringing the cure:
“Therefore, just as through one man sin [and suffering] entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned— (For until the law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned according to the likeness of the transgression of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come. But the free gift is not like the offense. For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many. And the gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned. For the judgment which came from one offense resulted in condemnation, but the free gift which came from many offenses resulted in justification. For if by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.) Therefore, as through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, even so through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous. Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound. But where sin abounded, grace abounded much more, so that as sin reigned in death, even so grace might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 5:12-21).
But there’s more!
The Lord is in the process of making all things new, and that process is not yet complete! Jesus, at His first coming, conquered the power of sin and death through His sacrifice and resurrection, providing man a means of forgiveness and reconciliation with God. But at His second coming, the Lord will judge the world with righteousness, eradicate evil, and ultimately create a new environment completely devoid of sin, suffering, and death.
As Psalm 96:13 declares, “For He is coming, for He is coming to judge the earth. He shall judge the world with righteousness, and the peoples with His truth.” Psalm 98:9 reiterates this comforting reality for God’s people, “For He is coming to judge the earth. With righteousness He shall judge the world, and the peoples with equity.”
All evil will be judged by God, the Judge. Then God will make all things new, creating an eternal home devoid of sin and suffering for those who trust in Him:
Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away” (Revelation 21:1-4).
The end of the story is truly “and they lived happily ever after” for those who know the Lord.
This is the fantastic overview of God’s dealings with mankind. Things began in perfection and will end in perfection, as God intended. Yet in the present, while evil and suffering are present due to the rebellion of man, salvation has been provided through Christ. This is the hope we bring to a reeling world looking for hope. The answer is Jesus. For He ultimately will make all things new. And that is the end of the story. Amen.