This is a very interesting and somewhat complicated question. A question concerning the actions or intent of the mind of the infinite God that I will try to answer through my finite and limited human mind.
What is the origin of evil? Is evil something that God created, or does it exist because God created beings with the ability to choose what is “opposite” or in “opposition” to Him?
God is Omniscient (all knowing) and knew that Satan would choose to “oppose” Him…so why did God create Satan and allow him to choose?
Since God is the One and Only Creator--and all that exists, exists because of and through His deliberate act of creation (Colossians 1:16)--why did He create Satan? Why did He create me? After all, He created me with the ability to choose to obey Him or to oppose Him as well, didn’t He?
First, let’s define “evil” and see if we can determine its origin, or where it comes from.
In the NASB bible (the translation that I study from) the word “evil” appears 505 times in 474 verses.
One technique I was taught for searching out answers to theological questions (theology is the search for understanding of God) using scripture is called the “Rule of First Order” which basically states that the first time something appears in the Bible, either in word or deed, is usually the purest, most complete, or clearest form of it. You will see me use this in most of my “theological” journeys into trying to understand the infinite, immutable (un-changing), and eternal God.
In the Old Testament, the first time we see the word “evil” is in the creation narrative. God caused (or created) every tree to grow, including the tree of the “knowledge” of good and evil (Genesis 2:9). The Hebrew word for evil here is “ra” or “rah" which carries the meaning of adversity, harm, and wickedness (among other adjectives). The word for good is “tob” and carries the idea of beauty, grace, pleasantness, and welfare.
God is good. Good is not something God does, good is who God is. It is impossible for God to be otherwise. Therefore, anything that is in opposition to God, by definition, is His “opposite” or “evil”. A. W. Tozer writes in The Knowledge of the Holy (when he is describing the “indescribable” attributes of God), “Love, for instance, is not something God has and which may grow diminished or cease to be. His love is the way God is, and when He loves He is simply being himself.”
God created mankind with the amazing ability to choose to trust Him and obey Him, or to deny and reject Him. This would allow us to choose to trust God and follow His command to not eat of the tree and by being obedient, to know and experience “goodness” only, or to choose to “eat of the tree of knowing” and experience the opposite of what God is, and by doing so to experience the opposite of God.
God is the creator of life. The opposite of life is death, or separation from Him and all that is good. According to what we can discern from Scripture, at some time in God's eternity He also created Spiritual beings--or “angels”--to serve Him, worship him, and to bring Him glory (much the same reason that He created mankind) and gave them the ability to choose between good and evil.
Let me be clear: God did not need to create anything to be complete in Himself. He was, is, and always will be complete and without want within Himself.
Because God “is” and there is no evil in Him, nor could there be, and since He created the ability to choose between knowing Him and opposing Him, then by definition evil must exist, simply as the opposite of God.
So, you could say that because God created beings with the ability to choose between knowing Him and denying Him, submitting to Him or defying Him, that evil exists because of the possibility of choosing that which is not God.
We define this evil as sin; choosing to oppose God and placing one’s self before Him, failing to meet the standard of His holiness (which is required to be in relationship with Him), and by our stubborn will or omission. Sin is “missing the mark” of what is "good" as defined by who God is.
The Bible does not give us a lot of information about what took place in eternity before the creation of the world. We don’t know when God created the celestial beings (angels or otherwise). We simply know that because God is the only “thing” not created (divinely and singularly infinite; the Uncreated Creator of everything else) that at some time Satan was created by God.
It is also clear that Satan was given a choice: serve God or choose to oppose Him.
The first time we encounter Satan in the Biblical Narrative, we see him acting through another created thing (the serpent) to tempt the man and woman to oppose God and choose evil (Genesis 3; cf. Revelation 12:9). It can logically be assumed that Satan had at this point already opposed God himself, chosen evil, and was intent on destroying what God had created to be “very good”.
Many scholars over the ages have pointed to Ezekiel 28 as giving the story of the fall of Satan, when by pride he chose to oppose God by trying to placing himself in the place of the omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, and eternal Creator (read also Romans 1). Scholars believe that Ezekiel 28 begins with the lament of the fall of a human leader known as the “Leader of Tyre”, but in verse 11 this prophecy takes a turn by describing the sin and fall of the “King of Tyre” or Satan. If we agree with this interpretation, then Satan is:
· A created being, who was created to be beautiful and wise. Created for the same purpose that God created all things--to bring glory, praise, worship, and honor to the Creator.
· An “anointed" cherub (a type of angelic being) who, as we are told in verse 16, was filled with opposition to God. He became prideful and placed himself in the place of God and sinned, choosing to oppose God.
· For his rebelleion, he lost his place in eternity and was cast out of heaven.
· God gave him a choice and he chose to oppose God. He chose evil! (cf. Ezekiel 28:15)
· In the book of Job (possibly the oldest book of the Bible) we see Satan living in opposition to God in the conversation that takes place as Satan and the angels present themselves before their Creator.
· Satan is out to destroy that which God loves and has created to be very good: people!
· Check out 1 Chronicles 21:1 where he intentionally tries to get God’s chosen leader for His people to sin (and unfortunately, he succeeds).
· Zechariah 3:1 defines Satan’s work--he accuses us before God for the same sinful choice that he made, but we have an option that he doesn’t (more on that in a moment).
Revelation 12 gives a little more information on Satan’s fall:
· At some time he opposed God and tried to take God’s throne (or, position of authority) by force. If you read Romans 1, this is the very thing we do when we choose to sin and oppose God.
· He was cast down to the earth where, in his great anger and rage at God, he attempts to deceive people into opposing God as well (leading them to destruction).
The New Testament gives us some more insight to who Satan is:
· He is the tempter; allowed by God to “test” the faithfulness and obedience of His people. He even tempted Jesus (God in the flesh) in a foolish attempt to get God to oppose Himself--as if that were possible. The temptation of Jesus was not to see if Jesus could fail, but to prove that He couldn’t! This should give us faith in the fact that the one we depend on for deliverance from evil cannot fail!
· According to Jesus’ own words (John 10:10), Satan is a thief (trying to steal the life God created for us to have with Him), a murderer, and destroyer.
· In John 8:44 – Satan is a liar, and the father or source of all lies, and there is no truth in him. Jesus calls him a “murderer” from the beginning, most likely in reference to his desire to destroy mankind from the very moment of creation, in the garden when he tempted Adam and Eve to oppose God and let sin and death into creation.
· He continues to oppose God, trying to lead God’s most precious creation (people) into choosing and embracing sin.
Think of it this way--by God giving the angels and people a choice to love Him, He also gave them and us the choice to not love Him (otherwise, it's not a choice!). He wanted us to “want” to love Him so we could experience what true love is and by doing so, that we could know Him and bring Him glory. For God to make us love Him without choice wouldn’t be true love, or truly loving, so it wouldn’t be “good” or “Godly”.
Yes, God knew that when He gave us a choice (Satan, too) that we would choose self over Him, but He also (before creation) set in place a way for us (people, not Satan or angels) to be redeemed from our sinful choice.
Satan lives for now with one mission: to try and hurt God. He knows that he cannot ever harm or overthrow God Himself, so he does the cowardly thing. He tries to hurt God by destroying that which God loves most, His children (people).
That’s why God Himself became a man (Jesus, God in the flesh) in order to undo the work of Satan, crush the devastating power of sin and evil which was brought into creation by our own choice to oppose God and in doing so, ultimately destroy evil!
“Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil [or, Satan]” – 1 John 3:8.
God allows Satan to live for now so that we have a choice. Satan tempts us to choose to defy God just like he did, and the Holy Spirit calls us to choose Jesus and be redeemed from our choice to sin.
Satan is not eternal in the sense that he will always be allowed to oppose God. He is doomed in the end as the result of his own choice of evil over good; he has been completely defeated by Jesus at the cross and by the resurrection (Colossians 2:15). Satan will be punished for all of eternity for his choice to oppose God. There is no forgiveness or restoration for Satan or any of the angels (demons) that chose to follow him (2 Peter 2:4). Jesus died for mankind, as a man, to provide redemption for mankind.
Did God create evil?
I would say not directly. I believe by His act of creating Satan, angels, and us with the knowledge and ability to choose Him, He created the possibility of choosing and experiencing the opposite of Him, which is by definition evil.
Why did God allow Satan to oppose Him and by doing so become the tempter, accuser, and enemy of God and mankind?
I believe it is all part of His sovereign plan for the redemption or rescue of mankind from evil. It’s all about giving us the free will to choose! He gave us the choice and the way to be redeemed from our wrong choice. That’s about as plainly as my “created” and limited mind can state it!
In one way of thinking about evil, could it be that it is by our own choice to sin, that we “create” it by choosing that which is opposite of good (God)!
Check out James 1:13-17:
· God does not tempt anyone (Satan does that to see if you will choose to oppose God, or the lusts of our own flesh lead us astray [v. 14]).
· God cannot be tempted by evil, because evil is the “opposite” of who He is. He cannot be what He is not!
· We are tempted when Satan shows us the lie of sin; that something other than God can give us life, pleasure, peace, or in any way complete or satisfy us in any lasting way (the pleasures of sin are fleeting).
· We sin when we take our eyes off of God--who is the only source of true “good”--and instead desire what we lust for, what “we want”.
· Then, when our decision to oppose God gives birth to our act (thought or deed) of opposition, we embrace evil and sin!
· Our choice to birth sin leads to death because it is opposed to God who is the source and creator of life! (see also Galatians 5:17).
· Verse 17 tells us that God is only good, never changing or varying, and every good thing comes from Him.
Bottom line: evil doesn’t come from God, it comes from the choice to reject, oppose, and deny the source of goodness. Evil is the opposite of God!
In the end, God will do away with evil forever. On the last day, the ability (or opportunity) to choose will end. Those who have chosen to accept Jesus and obey God will receive what they chose, which is an eternity with God, where by definition, there can never be any “evil”. Those who have chosen to deny Christ, oppose God, and by definition, reject good, will receive exactly what they have chosen; eternal separation from God, which is by definition, evil!
Hope this helps.