What is Evil?
This article is not an exhaustive study.
Does evil exist? If so, what is it? When reading Scripture, the answer to that question depends on the context of the passage. “Evil” is a word that can be descriptive of many things. The one most people would think of is that which is opposed to God. Evil can show itself in behavior or it can be a distinctive persona of a being who is opposed to God. Since God is the standard and the true source of morality and goodness, anything or anyone that opposes Him chooses to do evil/wickedness. Scripture teaches about evil and it is a real thing. “Let love be genuine. Abhor [despise, detest, hate, loathe] what is evil; hold fast to what is good” (Rom. 12:9, 17; cf. Amos 5:15; 1 Cor. 6:13b; 1 Thess. 5:22).
There are other contexts that use the word “evil”. In fact, the English Standard Version (ESV) uses the word “evil” 522 times in the whole Bible. It is knowledge (Gen. 2:9, 17; 3:1-3; Deut. 1:39; Jer. 4:22; Rom. 16:19; 1 Cor. 14:20; Heb. 5:14). It is the heart of a person opposed to God (Gen. 6:5; Ex. 32:22; Mt. 15:19; Rom. 3:23). It is a way a person can treat others (Gen. 44:4; 50:15). It is divination and rebellion against God (Deut. 6:14; 31:18, 20: Jer. 44:3). It could be a bad experience a person may go through (Ex. 10:10). It could be a form of punishment or perceived punishment from God (Ex. 5:22; Deut. 7:15; Although God is not evil, His punishment is definitely not a good experience). Evil can be a bad decision (Lev. 5:4; Mark 6:22-29). It could be those who break civil law (1 Pet. 2:14; cf. Rom. 13:3-4, 12). Even spirits can be evil and/or deliverers of evil [punishment] (Judges 9:23; Acts 19:15-16; James 2:19). In the time of Jesus and the apostles, some people were controlled by evil spirits (Mark 5:1-20; Acts 19:12-13). It is also a description used of an unhealthy land (Num. 20:5). Jesus was accused of doing evil (John 18:30; cf. as are His followers, Luke 6:22; 2 Tim. 3:12-13). Evil can be used to make some people happy (Hos. 7:3; Rom. 1:32). But evil that is opposed to doing God’s word is sin. And sins are personal deeds of choice against God that need to be purged from our lives (Num. 22:34; Deut. 21:21; Eph. 2:1-4; Col. 1:21).
Evil permeates thinking and takes the form of actions that oppose God’s will, but there is one who referred to as the “evil one”. Without going into his other names, the “evil one” is real. “Evil one” is a description used ten times in the New Testament. The “evil one”, and his children, lead people away from God (Mt. 13:19, 38; 1 Jn. 3:12). The “evil one” is a real and destructive enemy of God and His followers (Jn. 17:15). Through God and Christ, the “evil one” is an enemy that can be defended against (Eph. 6:16; 2 Thess. 3:3; 1 Jn. 5:18). The “evil one” can be overcome (1 Jn. 2:13-14). And the “evil one” has power over this world (1 Jn. 5:19; cf. Gal. 1:4).
The “evil one” and his followers are not to be toyed with (Luke 22:31-32; 2 Cor. 11:14-15; 1 Pet. 5:8; Jude 1:9). With God’s word, people can be brought to Christ and away from the “evil one” (Rom. 1:16; 2 Cor. 4:4). It is only through the teaching of the gospel of Christ that this can be done. In fact, the gates of hell cannot triumph or reign over Jesus Christ, His church, His kingdom, and His truth. “And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock [that Jesus is Christ the Son of living God, Mt. 16:16] I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail [or be able to stand] against it” (Mt. 16:18; cf. Acts 2). It is the “evil one” who looks forward to the second death talked about in Scripture. The first death is our physical dying. However, the second death is reserved for those who are not covered by the blood of Christ. It is a spiritual death (Rev. 2:11; 20:14-15; 21:8). A Christian of good standing will not suffer this second death but will have passed from death into life (Rom. 6:4; 8:11; 1 Cor. 15:22, 45; Eph. 2:11ff; 1 Jn. 5:12; Rev. 22:14-15). True evil is that which leads people away from Christ whether it be the “evil one”, his followers, and/or our choice.
The Lord's humbled - John A. Reeves
Published in the blog "The Lord's Humbled" on June 24, 2020
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