"THE SECOND EPISTLE OF PETER" The Deceptions Of False Teachers (2:18-22) Mark Copeland

                     "THE SECOND EPISTLE OF PETER"

               The Deceptions Of False Teachers (2:18-22)


1. Peter's warning against "false teachers" has to this point included 
   a description of:
   a. The destructiveness of false teachers - 2Pe 2:1-3
   b. The doom of false teachers - 2Pe 2:4-9
   c. The depravity of false teachers - 2Pe 2:10-17

2. Verse 17 summarizes their depravity by describing them as...
   a. "wells without water"
   b. "clouds carried by a tempest"
   ...that while they promise much, they do not truly deliver what they

3. Thus they are "deceptive", and the deceptions of false teachers 
   become even more apparent as we consider the last section of chapter

[Verses 18-22 vividly depict the manner in which these "false teachers"
are deceptive, beginning with...]


      1. Peter had warned earlier that "they will exploit you with
         deceptive words" - 2Pe 2:3
      2. Now he says they "speak great swelling words of emptiness" -
         2Pe 2:18
         a. Using eloquent speech that sounds impressive and promising
         b. But lacking true substance

      1. So deceiving are these teachers, one may think that they are
         winning him over to their way through their sound doctrines
      2. But their true allurement is through "the lusts of the flesh"
         a. Which could include such things as immorality, materialism,
            envy, pride - cf. Ga 5:19-21; 1Jn 2:15-17
         b. Thus they offer promises that really have their appeal to 
            what the flesh will gain
         c. Is this not the case with those who promise "health and 
            wealth" with the gospel?
      3. It is even "through licentiousness" that these teachers entice
         unstable souls...
         a. Licentiousness in the Greek is aselgeia {as-elg'-i-a} which
            means "unbridled lust, excess, licentiousness,
            lasciviousness, wantonness, outrageousness, shamelessness,
         b. They shamelessly flaunt their fleshly appeals, while
            passing it off as something proper
         c. E.g., displaying excessive wealth as something one might
            expect to receive as a follower of their teaching

[Through such deceptive methods, they seek to allure those who have
"escaped from those who live in error" (18b).

This leads us to Peter's next point...]


      1. Especially if it is liberty from the "lusts of the flesh"
      2. For as we have seen, they make their allurements through the 
         "lusts of the flesh" - cf. 2Pe 2:1,18
      3. Thus they enslave through the very thing they promise
         deliverance from!

      1. They are "slaves of corruption" trying to promise what they
         don't have
      2. As evidence of their "corruption", we have already seen...
         a. They attempt to exploit through covetousness - 2Pe 2:3
         b. They "walk according to the flesh in the lust of
            uncleanness" - 2Pe 2:10
         c. They "despise authority" - 2Pe 2:10
         d. They "speak evil of the things they do not understand" -
            2Pe 2:12
         e. They "count it pleasure to carouse in the daytime" - 2 Pe
         f. They have "eyes full of adultery and that cannot cease from
            sin" - 2Pe 2:14
         g. They have "a heart trained in covetous practices" - 2 Pe
      3. Thus these teachers who promise liberty are themselves...
         a. "overcome"
         b. "brought into bondage"
      4. Indeed, they are worse off now than before (20-22)
         a. Their latter end is worse than their beginning
         b. It would have been better for them never to have known the
            way of righteousness - cf. Lk 12:47-48
         c. They have become like the dog returning to his vomit, and 
            the washed sow wallowing again in the mire!
         -- These last three verses raise a question that will be 
            answered below

[Deceptive in both method and promise, we can appreciate why Peter 
would spend so much time warning about them.

Before concluding this lesson (and chapter), it might be prudent to 
attempt answer two questions that are commonly raised by Peter's 
discourse on false teachers...]


      1. They were "denying the Lord who bought them" - 2Pe 2:1
         a. These are souls who at one time had been "bought by the 
         b. Peter had written in his first epistle that we are redeemed
            (bought back) by the precious blood of Christ - 1Pe 1:
         c. Thus, these are souls who at one time were "blood bought 
      2. "They have forsaken the right way and gone astray" - 2Pe 2:15
         a. The implication here is that they were once on the right 
         b. For it is impossible to forsake something you never had, or
            to go astray if you were always lost
      3. "...they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the 
         knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again 
         entangled in them and overcome..." - 2Pe 2:20
         a. Compare:  "having escaped the corruption that is in the 
            world through lust" - 2Pe 1:4
            1) What was said of Christians at the beginning of the 
            2) ...is now used to describe these false teachers!
         b. They had escaped the pollutions of the world "through the 
            knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" - 2Pe 2:20
            1) Remember that this "knowledge" includes such things as 
               listed in 2Pe 1:5-8
            2) Through such "saving" knowledge, then, they had escaped,
               but are now enslaved again
      4. "...it has happened to them according to the true proverb:" 
         - 2Pe 2:22
         a. They like dogs have returned to what they had gotten rid of
            at one point, and are like a washed sow returning to 
            wallowing in the mire
         b. Some try to say these proverbs reveal that these false 
            teachers were always "dogs" and "hogs", never truly changed
            on the inside, which explains their returning to the vomit 
            and mire
         c. But in the overall context of this chapter, that seems to
            be straining the purpose of the proverbs

   [Of course, the question about these false teachers having been true
   Christians at one time leads right into another question...]

      1. If these "false teachers" were once true Christians, the 
         answer is clearly "yes", for consider their end:
         a. "bring on themselves swift destruction" - 2Pe 2:1
         b. "for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and 
            their destruction does not slumber" - 2Pe 2:3
         c. "to whom the gloom of darkness is reserved forever" - 2 Pe
      2. If the answer is "no", then why the warning by Peter in this 
         a. Why warn those who have "escaped from those who live in 
            error", if there is no real danger of becoming "overcome" 
            and "brought into bondage" again? - 2Pe 2:18-19
         b. Why the concluding warning to "beware lest you also fall 
            from your own steadfastness, being led away with the error 
            of the wicked", if it is impossible for Christians to fall 
            away? - 2Pe 3:17
      3. But what about those verses that promise "the security of the 
         believer", such as Jn 10:28-29?
         a. Such passages are promising assurance for the "believer", 
            i.e., one who remains a believer; if we remain faithful, 
            our salvation is secure - cf. Re 2:10
         b. But the Bible clearly warns that a "believer" can develop 
            an evil heart of "unbelief"; should that happen, the 
            promises of assurance do not apply - cf. He 3:12-4:2


1. The very real possibility of apostasy and losing one's salvation 
   helps us to understand the grave concern expressed by Peter in his 
   a. He believes Christians can "fall from your own steadfastness"
   b. He believes Christians can be "led away with the error of the 

2. For these reasons he takes so much time describing the "false 
   teachers" who are losing their salvation and trying to take others 
   with them!

3. But if we can remember what Peter says about...
   a. The destructiveness of false teachers
   b. The doom of false teachers
   c. The depravity of false teachers
   d. The deceptions of false teachers
   ...then we are not likely to be swayed by such individuals

But "false teachers" are not our only concern, we must be careful not 
to be deterred in our spiritual pilgrimage by "scoffers" along the way.

Such individuals Peter will address in the next chapter...

The RNA World Hypothesis Explained and Unexplained by Kathleen Hamrick Will Brooks, Ph.D.


The RNA World Hypothesis Explained and Unexplained

by  Kathleen Hamrick
Will Brooks, Ph.D.

[Editor’s Note: The following article was written by A.P. auxiliary staff scientist Will Brooks and one of his students. Dr. Brooks holds a Ph.D. in Cell Biology from the University of Alabama at Birmingham and serves as Assistant Professor of Biology at Freed-Hardeman University.]
One of the goals within the discipline of biology is to define life. This goal, however, is no simple task. While we can have an intuitive understanding of what it means to be alive, forming this understanding into a precise definition of life poses a dilemma for scientists. Life comes in many shapes, sizes, colors, and forms, so placing all these variations of life into one nice definition is seemingly impossible. To circumvent this problem, scientists have defined life by stating characteristics shared by all life forms. To be considered “alive,” a system of molecules must possess each of these characteristics. Examples include (1) the ability to sense and respond to stimuli, (2) the ability to acquire and utilize materials for energy, (3) the ability to store genetic information in the form of DNA, and (4) the ability to self-replicate. All living organisms share these basic characteristics, and those systems of molecules which lack even one of these basic characteristics is not considered to be a living organism.
Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is the genetic material used by all living organisms to code for life. DNA can be thought of as the genetic fingerprint of each organism because it is unique to each species of organism. During the process of self-replication, this genetic code is duplicated and identical copies (discounting rare instances of mutation) are given to each progeny of an organism, maintaining the fingerprint and thus the identity of that organism. The function of DNA as the genetic material of an organism is to provide a code for the production of another group of molecules known as proteins. Proteins serve a host of functions for an organism. They are known, appropriately, as the workhorses of a cell, because they carry out the vast majority of organismal tasks, including catalysis.
A catalyst is any substance capable of increasing the speed of a chemical reaction. Within each living organism on Earth, millions of chemical reactions take place every minute. The majority of these reactions are prompted by a very large group of protein catalysts known as enzymes. These enzyme-mediated chemical reactions range from those used to synthesize various metabolites to those used to break down ingested foods. By serving as enzyme catalysts, proteins play a crucial role in all living organisms. For without enzymes, organisms would be both unable to break down the food that they ingest and unable to make the necessary metabolites needed to sustain life.
While the vast majority of functional enzymes within living organisms are proteins, scientists have discovered that another group of molecules, known as ribonucleic acids (RNAs), are also capable of catalyzing some chemical reactions (Kruger, et al., 1982). RNAs are very similar in structure to DNA, differing only in the type of sugar used to form the molecules—DNA utilizes deoxyribose and RNA utilizes ribose. While DNA is the vital genetic code that is passed down between parents and offspring, RNA also plays an important role. Ribonucleic acids are a messenger system that carries the DNA code from the cell’s nucleus, the home of DNA, to the cellular cytoplasm where proteins are synthesized. These are known as messenger RNAs (mRNA). Furthermore, another group of RNAs, known as ribosomal RNAs (rRNAs), is used along with proteins to build the cellular structure known as the ribosome, which is the cellular location at which proteins are made. So, RNA plays several related roles in the process of protein production: (1) it carries the genetic code from DNA to the ribosome, (2) it helps form the structure of the ribosome, and (3) it functions in catalysis.
While there are a few other examples (reviewed in Fedor and Williamson, 2005), the catalytic properties of RNA are best seen in the ribosome. When proteins are synthesized by an organism’s cells, small units known as amino acids are chemically linked together to form a long, linear chain. This chain of amino acids is known as a polypeptide or protein. The chemical bond that links together each amino acid in the chain is called the peptide bond. Because each of the 20 amino acids are very similar in structure, the same peptide bond is formed between every unit of the polypeptide chain. The chemical reaction that forms this peptide bond requires catalysis. The protein-rRNA complex that we know as the ribosome has long been known to serve as the site as well as the catalyst in forming the peptide bond. But, scientists were surprised to discover that the protein component only serves as a structural element of the ribosome. It is the RNA component of the ribosome that serves as the catalyst (Nissen, et al., 2000). This catalytic RNA has thus been termed a ribozyme.
Later it was discovered that yet another group of RNAs, the small nuclear RNAs (snRNA), were also capable of catalyzing a chemical reaction (Valadkhan and Manley, 2001). When produced by the cell, mRNA must undergo a series of maturation steps before it is fully functional as a genetic message (Alberts, et al., 2002, pp. 317-327). One of these steps toward maturity is the process of splicing. Newly synthesized mRNA contains large regions, spread throughout its length, that do not directly code for protein production. These non-coding regions are called introns. To make the mRNA mature and functional as a code, each intron must be removed from the mRNA and the remaining coding regions, known as exons, must be linked or spliced back together. These “cut-and-paste” events occur within the cell’s nucleus within a structure that we call the spliceosome. Like the ribosome, the spliceosome is a large complex of both protein and RNA, in this case snRNA. Amusingly, these protein-RNA complexes have been dubbed small nuclear ribonucleoproteins or “snurps.” Interestingly, scientists found that not protein, but RNAs were responsible for catalyzing the chemical reactions that take place during these splicing events. RNAs were carrying out chemical reactions on other RNAs.
Scientists were very excited by these revolutionary findings. Now, they had a single type of molecule, RNA, that possessed two very important properties. First, it was very similar in structure to DNA and thus theoretically could also store genetic information. Second, it could function as a catalyst like proteins. In 1986, Walter Gilbert coined the phrase “RNA World” and initiated what is now known as the RNA World Hypothesis (Gilbert, 1986). This hypothesis on the origin of life states simply that because RNA has the dual ability to both store genetic information and catalyze chemical reactions, it must pre-date DNA and proteins, both of which supposedly evolved after and perhaps from the RNA.
The RNA World Hypothesis is widely accepted by evolutionists, because it provides an alleged solution to a long-recognized problem in evolutionary theory. Consider how proteins are made by a cell. First, DNA which holds the genetic code is converted into RNA through a process known as transcription. This process is similar to how one would copy a letter from one piece of paper onto another sheet. The contents of the letter remain unchanged, only the medium—the paper—has changed. RNA carries this information to the ribosome, where it is read and used as a code to make a protein through a process known as translation. This process can be compared to translating the copy of the letter from one language into another. Nucleic acid (DNA and RNA) is changed into another molecule altogether: protein. This linear progression of DNA to RNA to protein is known in biology as the Central Dogma of Molecular Biology (Alberts, et al., 2002, p. 301). Of the three components in the path, only DNA has the capacity to be replicated. So, while DNA stores the genetic code and can be replicated, it cannot perform any chemical reactions. And, while protein can perform chemical reactions, it cannot store genetic information. So, in evolutionary thinking, which came first—DNA or protein? Making the problem even more difficult, DNA relies upon proteins during its own replication. DNA does not self-replicate of its own accord. It must have protein enzymes to facilitate this process. So, what came first—the chicken or the egg? DNA or protein? Each relies upon the other. You should begin to see how RNA might solve this problem. If RNA can both store genetic information and catalyze chemical reactions, and if it evolved first, we have a single molecule that stores information and can catalyze its own replication, a self-replicating genetic material.
In order to prove this theory plausible, a set of conditions must be created to favor the spontaneous formation of RNA molecules without the aid of a biological catalyst. This would have had to be the starting point for an RNA world. One necessary component for RNA formation would be a steady supply of nucleotides, the building blocks of RNA. Scientists speculate these nucleotides were created from other small molecules present, or were generated in space before arriving on earth. Ribose, the sugar used in RNA, is assumed to have arisen from formaldehyde via the formose reaction. The mystery of the addition of nucleotides onto a ribose backbone remains unsolved by scientists attempting to create conditions of a primitive Earth (Müller, 2006, 63:1279-1280). Once these RNA molecules were formed completely by chance, they would have to have possessed or evolved the ability to catalyze reactions leading to self-replication. After sustaining itself through several replications, the RNA would then need to gain the ability to create a barrier between the extraneous materials surrounding it, in order to isolate the beneficial products from those proving non-functional. Thus, a membrane of sorts would have had to evolve and be maintained (Müller, 63:1285-1286). These steps are only the basics, proving the task much too complicated to occur by mere chance.
In all known organisms living today, DNA and not RNA is the genetic material. DNA has advantages over RNA which make it a more suitable molecule to store the very important genetic code. First, DNA is a double-stranded molecule while RNA is single-stranded. The double-stranded nature of DNA gives it the ability to be replicated in a much simpler series of steps. When DNA is replicated, each of the two complimentary strands serves as a template on which to build another strand. The result is that in one step, each strand of DNA is replicated to produce four total DNA strands or two identical double helices. RNA, however, is single-stranded. In order for it to be replicated, two sequential rounds of replication would be required. First, a complimentary strand would need to be synthesized from the original parental strand. Only then could that new complimentary strand be used to re-make the parental strand. As stated before, DNA and RNA differ in the sugar which makes up the molecule’s backbone. Deoxyribose, the sugar used in DNA, differs from ribose used in RNA, by lacking one organic functional group known as alcohol. The absence of this alcohol group greatly increases the stability of DNA over RNA. In ribonucleic acids, this
–OH group is capable of initiating chemical reactions which favor breakdown of the RNA molecule. For these and other reasons, DNA is a much more stable and preferable genetic material. This is made obvious by the fact that all living organisms use DNA, not RNA, as their permanent storage medium of genetic information. It also indicates that RNA would be an unsuitable medium by which to initiate life.

Evolutionists would have us to believe that non-living elements and molecules joined together and developed increasing biological capabilities. Those who believe in intelligent design reject this hypothesis, insisting that neither RNA nor living cells are able to evolve spontaneously. While some disagreement exists among those in the evolutionary community on the time frame for such alleged reactions to occur, the consensus is that, given large amounts of time, single-celled bacteria were formed. But all known biological principles militate against this notion. Even billions of years could not provide mechanisms for the reaction products to evolve advantageous characteristics and form DNA and cell proteins, let alone create strings of RNA nucleotides, arriving at just the right sequence in order to code for a functional protein. The four nucleotide bases that form RNA (adenine, guanine, cytosine, and uracil) can be arranged in an exponential array of combinations and lengths. For an actual, functional protein to be coded, a precise sequence of nucleotides must be obtained. Forming the code for even one protein by evolutionary means is impossible, without even considering the necessity of the number that work together in a single cell.
There is no scientific evidence to suggest that RNA is spontaneously being created and capable of forming pre-cellular life today. While some artificial ribozymes have been created in the laboratory (reviewed in Chen, et al., 2007), there are still significant holes in reproducing an RNA world to support the hypothesis. The ribozymes created artificially lack the abilities to sufficiently process themselves, and there is no evidence of them producing large quantities of advantageous nucleotide sequences. Moreover, no system has ever created cellular life. There is even significant debate among scientists over the conditions and constituents of a “prebiotic Earth” model.
The RNA World Hypothesis is simply another attempt by scientists to explain the origin of life to the exclusion of the divine Creator. Given the absolute impossibility of life originating from the reactions of non-living matter, it can be justified that RNA did not predate other biological molecules. All biological molecules were created together to work in concert. RNA was designed to be the essential intermediate between DNA and proteins, making our cells capable of sustaining life as it was created. The designer of this system must be the intelligent Designer, the God of the Bible.


Alberts, Bruce, et al. (2002), Molecular Biology of the Cell (Oxford: Garland Science).
Chen, Xi, et al. (2007), “Ribozyme Catalysis of Metabolism in the RNA World,” Chemistry and Biodiversity, 4:633-656.
Fedor, Martha and James Williamson (2005), “The Catalytic Diversity of RNAs,” Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology, 6(5):399-412.
Gilbert, Walter (1986), “The RNA World,” Nature, 319:618.
Kruger, Kelly, et al. (1982), “Self-splicing RNA: Autoexcision and Autocyclization of the Ribosomal RNA Intervening Sequence of Tetrahymena,” Cell, 31(1):147-57.
Müller, U.F. (2006),Re-creating an RNA World,” Cellular and Molecular Life Science, 63:1278-1293.
Nissen, Poul, et al. (2000), “The Structural Basis of Ribosome Activity in Peptide Bond Synthesis,” Science, 289:920-930.
Valadkhan, Saba and James Manley (2001), “Splicing-related Catalysis by Protein-free snRNAs,” Nature, 6857:701-707.

The Problem of Suffering: Further Arguments by Trevor Major, M.Sc., M.A.


The Problem of Suffering: Further Arguments

by  Trevor Major, M.Sc., M.A.

When one engages in debates over the problem of evil, the deficiencies of several standard arguments become obvious. Perhaps, with further refinement, these arguments might become more useful. In the meantime, Christians should be aware that their opponents have some ready comebacks. Frequently, in a free-for-all discussion (such as in a college dorm room or an introductory philosophy class), there is no opportunity to press each line of reasoning, or to improvise “on the fly.”
Also, there is a real temptation to flee from theodicy to theodicy (a “theodicy,” literally, is a justification of God). The dynamic of the argument tends to go along the following lines: the atheist makes his charge, you make a defense, the atheist counters, and then you resort to another defense. This can keep going, but only for so long. Eventually, you may find yourself bringing up the first argument. Your opponent repeats his criticism, and you are back to where you started.
My feature article represents an attempt to break out of this cycle by making what is, in the atheists’ view, an illicit move (i.e., insisting that the entire content of faith has everything to do with sorting out an alleged contradiction within that faith). However, this is not going to stop the atheist from bringing up the usual theodicies only to criticize them, and so we should be aware of how this debate often proceeds.
For example, a popular theistic argument rests on the concept of free will. The idea here is that suffering came into the world through the bad choices of Adam and Eve. Their resulting expulsion from the Garden of Eden forced their descendants to face a hostile world “red in tooth and claw.” Humans continue to make the wrong decisions, which brings further suffering. Victims of drunk drivers are the classic examples of people who suffer for the wrong doings of others. Despite these terrible consequences, a world populated by free moral beings is supposed to be better than a world in which there is less evil, but which is populated by creatures who have little or no choice.
This argument is attractive because it has a biblical basis in the Fall, and because it seems highly intuitive. Most of us have a strong sense that we are free to choose, and that uncoerced people of sound mind are responsible for the choices they make. If we want to blame anybody for our woes, it must be ourselves, not God.
John Mackie’s well-known challenge against this view is to pose the following question of God: “Why could he not have made men such that they always freely choose the good?” (1990, p. 33). In this alternative world, there would be moral beings just like us, except they would choose to do right on every occasion.
The first reaction is to think that this demands a logical impossibility of God. If God creates beings who cannot sin, then He has created beings without free will. But this is not what the critic is asking: he thinks it is possible for an all-knowing, all-powerful God to create beings who could sin, but would not. If the Creator had made us in such a way that we could sin, and would sin, then this makes it seem as if we were destined to sin. If Adam and Eve had not sinned, eventually one of their descendants would have made the wrong choice. So, contrary to the intentions of the free-will argument, skeptics believe that God still must bear the brunt of the blame for suffering.
The critic may try to support this line of reasoning with what Christians claim for the life of Christ. After all, Jesus could have sinned, but did not. It is tempting to respond by pointing out His divine nature. However, if that nature shielded Christ from making the wrong choices, then it cannot be true that He was “in all points tempted as we are” (Hebrews 4:15). No doubt, Jesus had some special advantages, such as knowing God’s will perfectly. This could have helped Him avoid the sins of omission, or sins committed out of ignorance. Even so, there are times when we fail to do what we know is right. From a biblical standpoint, it is better to view the sinless life of Christ as an example (Philippians 2:5-8) and a prerequisite for His sacrifice on the cross (Hebrews 9:12-28), rather than proof of His deity.
Even if we can get past these doctrinal issues, the atheist will bring up the old philosophical debate between freedom and determinism. Traditionally, at least, critics of theism have allied themselves with some version of the latter view. This article is not the place to rehearse that debate, but anyone who wishes to use a free-will theodicy must be able to defend the notion of free will itself.
Given these sorts of difficulties, perhaps the reader can begin to see why I take the approach presented in the accompanying feature article. Notice that Mackie’s challenge is one of those “why” questions directed against God. It may be a good question, but that is not Mackie’s intent. In his view, God’s “failure to avail himself” of the possibility of creating free beings that would choose always to do right “is inconsistent with his being both omnipotent and wholly good” (Mackie, 1990, p. 33). But how do we know that this was a possibility open to God? Could God not have some good reason for creating a world in which evil might become a reality (Plantinga, 1977, pp. 26-28)? It seems that we are not in a position to discern that reason. Anyone may wish that God had been able to create a different kind of world, but to insist that God does not exist because we think He should or could have done otherwise is quite another matter.
Another argument, made famous by John Hick, takes as its starting point a statement by Irenaeus (a second-century “church father”): “the creation is suited to [the wants of] man; for man was not made for its sake, but creation for the sake of man” (Against Heresies, v.xxix.1). Hence, the creation has a human-centered purpose that, according to Hick, includes the molding and making of our souls in the fiery trials of pain and suffering (1992, p. 492). Borrowing a phrase from John Keats, he sees this present life as a “vale of Soul-making.” Individuals perfect their souls by responding appropriately to the evils of this world.
Again, this approach seems attractive at first glance. God “makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). As we see in the case of Job, how we respond to the trials of life matters a great deal to God. Yet even committed theists have questioned whether suffering is the most important ingredient in spiritual growth—important enough to create a world specifically for that purpose (e.g., Adams and Adams, 1990, p. 19; Frame, 1994, p. 164). In reality, some people respond negatively to suffering, and would rather “curse God and die.” Then there are those people who seem blessed beyond measure, yet have no interest in serving God. Other individuals seem incapable of deriving any benefit from suffering, such as the child who dies at an early age. And what do we say of the faithful Christian who never has experienced intense pain or deep sorrow? Has this blessing made him or her woefully imperfect? As far as the apostle Paul was concerned, his own sufferings meant nothing as long as he might “gain Christ and be found in Him” (Philippians 3:8-9). Clearly, a world with surplus evil or, for that matter, a preponderance of good, is not the crucial factor in perfecting one’s soul.
At best, the soul-making theodicy is a partial answer, but in no way does this compromise the Christian position. A critic may want to suggest that without Hick’s account we lack an explanation for why God placed man in a world with so much suffering. Here is that “why” question again: it assumes that our ignorance of God’s reasons reflects badly on Him, which it does not.
Finally, some theodicists have argued that this is not a perfect world, but is the best of all possible worlds. If God has the attributes we think He has, then apparently the world has to contain significant amounts of evil.
This view really serves as an umbrella for many of the other arguments. We could draw on the free-will argument, and insist that this world is the best place for including free moral beings. We could draw on the soul-making theodicy, and insist that this world is the best place for having evils that perfect our souls. In the final analysis, this may not be a perfect world, but it is the best way to that perfect world.
Critics, for the most part, simply have a hard time buying this argument. Is this world really the best that an all-powerful, all-loving God can do for us? Why did God not create a world in which moral beings can choose to do right or wrong, but always choose to do right? [We have seen that question already.] Why did God have to create moral creatures at all? Could He not have created a world in which there were beings unable to choose between right and wrong? At least in such a world, there would be no moral evil. Or, why create a world at all? Is it really better that a material world should exist, whether it is populated by moral or nonmoral beings? Supposedly, creation is a divine grace, but could God not have refrained from imparting this gift? Christians claim to know of a perfect world already—they call that place heaven. Why could God not create us in heaven?
Without knowing God’s mind, we do not have the answers to these questions. We do not know why God created us the way we are. We do not know why God created a world in which suffering was possible. We do not know why we must pass through a physical existence first. Does the Bible’s silence on these matters reflect badly on the Christian faith? By no means. Christianity never claimed to have every answer, but only those answers “that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:2-3).


Adams, Marilyn McCord and Robert Merrihew Adams (1990), The Problem of Evil (Oxford, England: Oxford University Press).
Frame, John M. (1994), Apologetics to the Glory of God: An Introduction (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R).
Hick, John (1992), “The Irenaean Theodicy,” To Believe or not to Believe, ed. E.D. Klemke (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich; originally published in Evil and the God of Love, 1966, chap. 13), pp. 482-494.
Mackie, J.L. (1990), “Evil and Omnipotence,” The Problem of Evil, ed. Marilyn McCord Adams and Robert Merrihew Adams (Oxford, England: Oxford University Press; originally published in Mind, 1955, 64:200-12), pp. 25-37.
Plantinga, Alvin (1977), God, Freedom, and Evil (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).

The Problem of Suffering by Trevor Major, M.Sc., M.A.


The Problem of Suffering

by  Trevor Major, M.Sc., M.A.

Just to be human is to deal with emotional and physical pain on a day-to-day basis. This is the practical and existential problem of suffering that affects, and is affected by, our world view. Even Christians, who confess a living God (Matthew 16:16), may wonder: Where is this God when we need Him? Why doesn’t He do something? These questions may lead to doubt, and then to disbelief. Atheists see only vindication in events like the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing. They hear a mother on the evening news proclaiming, “It’s a miracle that my baby survived,” and wonder: Would it have been much bother for God to have done the same for everyone else? This is not a new argument. But given academic freedom in the modern secular university, unbelievers are able to wield the extent and depth of human suffering with devastating effect on ungrounded faith.
If we understand the intellectual problem of suffering, we may have a better chance of coming through the emotional side of the problem. However, my primary goal is to defend theism, and Christianity in particular, against the charges leveled by atheists. In so doing, I intend to show how one common tactic may distract us from a God-centered response.


The intellectual problem of suffering is a challenge unique to theists. By “theist” I mean anyone who believes in a Being Who exists beyond or outside the natural world, yet Who is able to be involved in the course of human events. This excludes deists, for example, who believe that a Supreme Being created the world, and left it alone. Christians, Jews, and Moslems, for the most part, count themselves as theists. Specifically, most readers of this article will be Christians who believe that God has attributes that are infinite in degree: that He is eternal, all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving, and so on.
Then the following question arises: How do we reconcile the existence of suffering with the existence of an all-loving, all-knowing God? The argument goes something like this:
  1. If God is all-powerful, He could do something to prevent or end suffering.
  2. If God is all-loving, He would want to prevent or end suffering.
  3. There is a tremendous amount of suffering in the world.
  4. Therefore, God either is not all-loving or not all-powerful.
The reason I say that this is a problem for the theist is that the atheist does not believe in the first two premises. He rejects that there is a God Who could do something about suffering if He had the power, and he rejects that there is a God Who would do something about suffering if He had the inclination. He does not deny the third premise—that there is suffering. Like every human being, he faces the existential problem of suffering. As far as he is concerned, suffering just is: it is part of our unplanned, purposeless existence. We live, we die—end of story. Only for the sake of the present argument does the atheist grant God’s existence. All he is asking us to do, as theists, is reconcile or justify suffering, given that God is supposed to be an all-loving and all-powerful Being.

Skirting the Problem

Some people have tried to sidestep the problem by denying one of the three premises listed above. This was the approach taken by Harold Kushner, a Jewish rabbi who lost his son at an early age to a cruel and debilitating disease. God is infinitely good, Kushner concluded in his immensely popular book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People (1981), but He is not all-powerful.
Other theologians have suggested that God neither is infinitely powerful nor infinitely good, but only in the process of acquiring these attributes. So it is understandable that there should be imperfections in our world because God, while great, likewise is imperfect or incomplete. Like Kushner, their “solution” is to abandon the God of conventional theism (e.g., Edwards, 1972, p. 213). Unfortunately, as John M. Frame has observed, such a finite god offers no “sure hope for the overcoming of evil” (1994, p. 157). In the end, this god is not the God that most Christians would want to defend.
Finally, someone may wish to deny the third premise by maintaining that suffering is not real. What we call “suffering,” they might say, is just an illusion. This is the position of Eastern mysticism, not of theism. Spinoza, a radical Jewish philosopher, maintained that evil was mere deprivation. When we think we are suffering, all we are doing is acting like children who have been denied toys or candy. If only we had a complete picture of reality, Spinoza would say, we would know God, and nothing would appear imperfect. But for Spinoza, nature and God were one and the same. Again, this is not the God of theism. Most Christians, like most atheists, acknowledge that suffering is all too real. Indeed, that Jesus suffered for the sake of mankind is a vital element of the Christian faith (Matthew 16:21; Luke 24:26; Acts 17:3; Philippians 3:10; 1 Peter 2:20-25; 4:12-19; etc.).

Dismissing the Problem

So, let us say that we want to deal with this problem without giving up any of God’s essential characteristics. Where do we begin? One approach is to maintain that no explanation is necessary. We, as mere mortals, should not have to “justify the ways of God to Men” (to use a phrase of John Milton’s). Or, in the words of a Simon and Garfunkel song, “God has a plan, but it’s not available to the common man.” If God is Who we think He is, then there must be an explanation, but it is beyond our grasp.
Alvin Plantinga (1977) takes a more defensive approach. He points out that suffering, and the claims about God, are not contradictory. It is not like saying, for example,
Only birds have feathers.
Tweety has feathers.
Therefore, Tweety is not a bird.
Clearly, the last line contradicts the preceding lines. But where is the contradiction in affirming both that there is suffering, and that God is an all-loving and all-powerful Being? What a critic must do is supply some extra premises (e.g., Mackie, 1990, p. 26). He would have to insist, for instance, that the theist’s perfectly good God always would eliminate evil insofar as He could. That there is so much evil is supposed to show that God is not all-good. Further, a critic would have to insist that there are no limits to what this Being could do. That there is so much evil is supposed to show that God’s powers are limited.
The trouble is, these additional claims for what God would or could do fail to take into account a complete picture of God. For God to “eliminate evil insofar as He could” still may mean that we have a lot of evil in the world, because to reduce it any further might violate one of God’s other attributes. We simply do not know what conditions would make the existence of both God and evil logically contradictory (also see Pike, 1990, pp. 48,52). As to God’s power, there are no limits as to what He could bring to bear in any one situation. However, the actual power He uses would depend on other characteristics, such as grace, love, mercy, and so on. At the time of His arrest, the Son of God could have called on twelve legions of angels, but not without contradicting the promises of His Father in heaven (Matthew 26:52-56).
Plantinga has given us a good place to start. Theists could say, at least initially, that there is nothing irrational about believing in God and acknowledging the reality of evil. Still, people may think that this is a problem that Christians need to address. Have we got anything more to say?

Answering the Problem

One reason to suspect that there must be more answers is that the Bible—the foundation of our faith (Romans 10:17)—is not exactly silent on the subject. The Book of Job shows that God stood back and allowed a man to suffer at the hands of the Adversary. Job’s world collapsed around him. He lost his property, his children, and his health. During this time, he had no idea why these things were happening to him. Job’s wife told him to “curse God and die” (2:9). Three of his friends thought terrible sins must lie at the root of such misfortunes. Job himself came to question God’s goodness and power. In the end, of course, Job regained his faith, wealth, and much more.
But could we say that all these terrible events were necessary? Perhaps we can learn something from these events, but how can we justify the collateral damage? A great wind collapsed a house on Job’s children, killing everyone inside (1:18-19). Natural calamities killed his animals, and raiders killed his servants (1:15-17). Was all this death necessary to teach Job, and us, a lesson about suffering?
And what about the death of Christ? Maybe—just maybe—the skeptic might go along with us and agree that Jesus had to die to save us from our sins. But why did He have to die with such humiliation, with scourging and beatings, and a tortuous death on the cross? Why did God not do a better job of arranging events so that His own Son could die in a more humane way? Besides, if humankind is guilty, why not punish the whole of mankind? Why did it have to be taken out on Someone else?
To those outside the faith, all this makes no sense, yet it is central to Christianity. And therein lies the problem. When I say it “makes no sense,” I mean it makes no sense without appeal to religious concepts found in Scripture. “But why should I believe the Bible?,” a critic will respond. That is a good question, to which Christians can offer all sorts of good reasons, but that is not what the skeptic has asked us to do in this case. The fact is, every concept important to Christianity comes from the Bible, and so it is to the Bible we must go if we are to find answers that are consistent with the claims we are making about Christianity. Ultimately, I suspect, this is why well-grounded Christians remain immune to the atheists’ attacks on this front. To some degree or another, they know that suffering does not reflect badly on what they understand of God.
Likewise, if we introduce concepts such as sin, salvation, miracles, and so on, the atheist often will respond, “Yes, but they depend on the existence of God. If God does not exist, then these explanations disappear.” Again, whether God exists is beside the point. Atheists have challenged us to reconcile certain attributes of God with the existence of evil. They were not challenging us (on this occasion) to defend the existence of God. The very problem, as it is posed to us, grants that God exists.
This is such a common tactic that I must make this point absolutely clear: the atheist cannot accuse us of a contradiction within our faith, and then block us from introducing the entire content of that faith (as opposed to discussing just the logical claims that are made about God’s attributes). Perhaps this is why the argument gets bogged down in philosophy, when really, it is a theological issue. Marilyn McCord Adams agrees:
Where the internal coherence of a system of religious beliefs is at stake, successful arguments for its inconsistency must draw on premisses (explicitly or implicitly) internal to that system or obviously acceptable to its adherents; likewise for successful rebuttals or explanations of consistency (1990, p. 210).


The Origin of Suffering

As is often the case, the Book of Beginnings is the best place to start in dealing with fundamental questions. Genesis tells us that God put Adam and Eve in the Garden, and gave them access to the Tree of Life. They would live forever as long as they could eat from this tree (Genesis 3:22), but they were not immortal. God told them not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, otherwise they would surely die (Genesis 2:17).
At some point, apparently not too long after the creation week, Satan tempted Eve to eat the forbidden fruit and she, in turn, convinced Adam to do the same. This brought judgment from God. He separated them from the Tree of Life, and promised that people would suffer, and that Satan would be defeated (Genesis 3:14-19). It is difficult to grasp the enormity of this situation. We suffer—even innocent children suffer—because of the sin of two people. How could God allow so much suffering to exist for so long?

God is Sovereign

From God’s perspective, the first step is not to answer a question like this, but to deal with our accusations. Job is a case in point. The old patriarch accused God of
  • judging him falsely (9:20)
  • wronging him (19:6)
  • persecuting him (19:22)
  • not judging the wicked (24:1-12), and
  • ignoring all his good works (31:1ff.).
  • Job’s cry, like our own, seems to be “Why God? Why?!”
God’s response was to ask some probing questions of Job:
Shall the one who contends with the Almighty correct Him? He who rebukes God, let him answer it.... Would you indeed annul My judgment? Would you condemn Me that you may be justified? (40:2,8).
In his questioning, Job assumed that God was at fault. His three friends—Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar—assumed that Job was at fault for some great sin that he must have committed, and God chastened them for this presumption, too (42:7ff.).
Finally, young Elihu recognized that, on occasion, suffering can have a purpose. God can use it to judge the wicked, strengthen the faithful, aid the oppressed, and bless the righteous. And yet, throughout his criticism of Job, the level-headed Elihu affirmed the sovereignty of God: “Why do you contend with Him? For He does not give an accounting of any of His words” (33:13).
Paul followed the same theme in Romans 9. The apostle was responding to a “not fair” claim on the part of Jewish Christians. Apparently, some of them felt that they, as descendants of Abraham, merited a greater share in the inheritance of God’s kingdom. Of course, as Paul pointed out in verse 8, it is the children of the promise, not the children of flesh, who were to be the children of God and, therefore, heirs of salvation. He illustrated this with the example of Esau and Jacob. Some might point out that Jacob’s having a higher place than his older brother was an injustice, but God had a plan that did not take into account manmade customs of inheritance. To anyone who would accuse God of being unjust in this case (vs. 14), Paul would remind them of God’s sovereignty: “I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion” (vs. 15).
While he was at it, Paul dealt with another familiar accusation: “You will say to me then, ‘Why does He still find fault? For who has resisted His will?’” (vs. 19). In other words, “if the things that happen in my life are God’s will, then surely they are out of my control, and if my life is not my own, then why should God hold me responsible for the things I do? It’s not fair for us to suffer if God is supposed to be in control.” Again, Paul responded with a countercharge: “Who are you to reply against God? Will the thing formed say to him who formed it, ‘Why have you made me like this?’” (vs. 20). Our duty is to do what is right, not to worry about what God is doing and why.
On returning to the original question concerning Gentiles, Paul pointed out that God had been working throughout history to bring about His mercy. Along the way, He suffered the disobedience of Gentiles and Jews alike. God “endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath prepared for destruction” (vs. 22). But, by His teaching and the unveiling of a redemptive plan, God had made “known the riches of His glory on the vessels of mercy” (vs. 23). Both Jews and Gentiles were vessels filled with iniquity, but God rescued those whom He called, and has filled them with His mercy (vs. 24).

God is Just

Paul’s comments about mercy lead us to a second response: not only is God sovereign, but His mercy demonstrates that He is just. Mercy is revealed in God’s redemptive plan: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). God’s goal is redemption. He does not wish suffering on any of us; He wishes that we were with Him in heaven where there is no pain and suffering. Let us revisit Romans, but chapter 3 this time. Paul wrote: “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God set forth as a propitiation [an appeasing sacrifice—TM] by His blood, through faith” (vss. 23-25a).
By justifying us, God shows that He is just; by making us righteous, He shows that He is righteous. We are justified through faith
...to demonstrate His righteousness, because in His forbearance God had passed over the sins that were previously committed, to demonstrate at the present time His righteousness, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (vss. 25b-26).
Often we think of God’s justifying us, but here we see that God’s justness is revealed to us at the same time. This was not so evident to the people of the Old Testament who lacked the clear testimony of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. If God already has revealed so much to us in history, we can only wait in wonder to see what will be revealed to us in the future: “If we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance” (Romans 8:18,25).
In Frame’s view, Romans is the New Testament equivalent of Job. It is as much about the justification of God (a theodicy) as it is about the justification of man.
Romans confirms, therefore, what we have seen elsewhere in Scripture. (1) We have no right to complain against God, and when we do, we expose ourselves as disobedient. (2) God is under no obligation to give us an intellectually satisfying answer to the problem of evil. He expects us to trust him in spite of that. (3) God’s sovereignty is not to be questioned in connection with the problem of evil; it is rather to be underscored. (4) God’s word, his truth, is altogether reliable. (5) As a matter of fact, God is not unjust. He is holy, just, and good (Frame, 1994, p. 178).


God is all-good, God is all-powerful, and yes, there is an abundance of suffering. People have struggled with this apparent dilemma throughout the ages. Sometimes we mortals may try to vindicate our God by presuming to know His mind, but God says “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion” (Exodus 33:19). In short, God is sovereign. There is nothing wrong with asking “why” questions, but when they turn into accusations, we challenge His sovereignty. Why was this woman raped? Why did thousands die in a tropical cyclone? No one can answer these specific questions adequately, anymore than the two-year old can understand why she must undergo heart surgery (Adams, 1990, p. 217; see also Frame, 1994, pp. 150-151). The little girl does not hate her parents for the pain, but continues to love and trust them based on her life experience.
Given the tremendous amount of suffering in this world, could we not assume that God is sovereign, but some sort of malevolent ruler? On the contrary, Christ’s willing sacrifice on the cross has shown God to be just.
Well-grounded Christians, I am convinced, have a strong intuition that the atheists’ standard arguments on the problem of suffering are wrong. The answers they find have more to do with the “how” of Christian faith, than the “why” of presumption against God. They want to respond with Job, and they want to respond with Christ, because these examples make sense out of suffering for them, but the atheists always try to block this part of the conversation. They ridicule the Bible and the Christian experience. They give anecdotal stories about people who lost their faith in the face of suffering. They admit freely that the intellectual problem of suffering was crucial to their own walk away from faith. And, if all else fails, there is the old standby of incredulity: “I just can’t believe you [are stupid enough to] worship a God Who [is so heinous that He] would allow so much suffering in this world.” Yet the conditions of the discussion at the very outset assume that God exists. From that point on, it does not matter for the sake of argument whether the critics believe that the Bible is true, or that we all are sinners in need of salvation, or that God raised His Son from the grave. As Adams argues:
Just as philosophers may or may not find the existence of God plausible, so they may be variously attracted or repelled by Christian values of grace and redemptive sacrifice. But agreement on truth-value is not necessary to consensus on internal consistency. My contention has been that it is not only legitimate, but, given horrendous evils, necessary for Christians to dip into their richer store of valuables to exhibit the consistency of [an all-loving, all-powerful God] and [the existence of evil] (1990, p. 220).
This “richer store of valuables” for the Christian includes not only an intellectual acceptance of God’s sovereignty and justice, but an abiding experience of God in their lives. Hope for a better world has enabled Christians to survive the worst of times. This is not an explanation for why we have suffering, but a justification of God’s love, in that we would expect our Creator to endow us with the ability to find an essential worth in our own existence (Adams, 1990, p. 216).
Contrary to the atheists’ assertion, a Christian’s faith in God is not a humiliating emotional crutch, but a source of joy in overcoming the practical and existential problem of suffering. Christians, I believe, know within themselves that their faith has been a source of strength. All they see in the atheists’ charges is an allegation of internal inconsistency leveled by people who, frequently, know little to nothing of Scripture, and who, perhaps, never have experienced a full, spiritual life.
Only by being faithful to God can we attest to the perfect revealing of His redemptive plan, which is for us to live with Him forever. “Don’t you think it’s awful,” the atheist speaks with incredulity once more, “that God will condemn all those people who don’t bow down and worship Him and only Him?” What would be worse is if there were no God to punish the Neros, Hitlers, and child molesters of this world. There is a God, if there is any justice at all. In the meantime, the words of Peter remind us that the Lord “is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). God is just before us; the only question that remains is: Are we just before Him?


Adams, Marilyn McCord (1990), “Horrendous Evils and the Goodness of God,” The Problem of Evil, ed. Marilyn McCord Adams and Robert Merrihew Adams (Oxford, England: Oxford University Press; originally published in Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 1989, 63S:297-310), pp. 207-221.
Edwards, Rem (1972), Reason and Religion (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich).
Frame, John M. (1994), Apologetics to the Glory of God: An Introduction (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R).
Kushner, Harold (1981), When Bad Things Happen to Good People (New York: Shocken Books).
Mackie, J.L. (1990), “Evil and Omnipotence,” The Problem of Evil, ed. Marilyn McCord Adams and Robert Merrihew Adams (Oxford, England: Oxford University Press; originally published in Mind, 1955, 64:200-12), pp. 25-37.
Pike, Nelson (1990), “Hume on Evil,” The Problem of Evil, ed. Marilyn McCord Adams and Robert Merrihew Adams (Oxford, England: Oxford University Press; originally published in The Philosophical Review, 1963, 72:180-197), pp. 38-52.
Plantinga, Alvin (1977), God, Freedom, and Evil (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).

What do the Scriptures tell us about Satan? by Roy Davison


What do the Scriptures tell us about Satan?

Jesus sent Paul to the people and to the nations: “to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith” in Christ (Acts 26:18).

Who is Satan? What is the extent and nature of his power? Who has conquered Satan, and how can people turn from the power of Satan to God?

Who is Satan?
In Revelation we are told: “And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him” (Revelation 12:7-9).

Our knowledge of the heavenly realm is limited to what God has revealed. We are told that Satan led a rebellion against God. Pride was his downfall. An elder is not to be a novice, “lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil” (1 Timothy 3:6).

It is the ultimate arrogance to suppose that a rebellion against God could succeed. Yet, billions today follow Satan's example. They live in rebellion to God.

What is the extent of Satan's power?

According to John, “The whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one” (1 John 5:19). Thus, Satan has much power.

Many do not believe that he exits. Others think that only those who commit terrible atrocities are under the power of Satan. But John says that the whole world is in the wicked one!

What is the nature of Satan's power?

The devil uses deception to rule the world. Jesus said that the devil “does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks from his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44 RSV).

Satan is called “the tempter” (1 Thessalonians 3:5). He cannot force people to sin, but he tempts them by false claims that rebellion against God would bring greater pleasure, less pain or some advantage. Satan tempted Eve by telling her that she would be like God if she disobeyed God and ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Genesis 3:1-5).

Satan appeals to people's desires. “Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am tempted by God'; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed” (James 1:13, 14).

When people decide to sin, they voluntarily join Satan's rebellion and extend his power. They also distance themselves from the fellowship of God. “But your iniquities have separated you from your God; and your sins have hidden His face from you, so that He will not hear” (Isaiah 59:2).

Jesus came to conquer Satan.
“Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself” (John 12:31, 32).
Referring to the Holy Spirit, Jesus said: “And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged” (John 16:8-11).

Jesus came to rescue us from the power of Satan. “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Hebrews 2:14, 15).

Satan is a killer. Jesus said: “He was a murderer from the beginning” (John 8:44). Satan brought death into the world by deceiving Eve. He encouraged her to disobey God and told her she would not die (Genesis 3:4). How could she be so foolish? Yet, we all follow Eve's example, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) and “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

Jesus came to rescue us by depriving the devil of his deadly power. He accomplished this by bearing the punishment for our sins, He “who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness” (1 Peter 2:24). Jesus says in Revelation: “I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive forevermore. Amen. And I have the keys of Hades and of Death” (Revelation 1:18). Through His resurrection, Christ conquered death. He has the keys to our grave. This is good news! This is the gospel!

Recently I learned the location of the grave of my maternal grandparents, Charles and Pearl Kincaid. I hope to obtain a picture of the plaque on their grave.

They were dedicated Christians. Although I do not remember them because I was small when they passed away, they had a great impact on my life. Their influence led to my parents becoming Christians.

When we walk through a graveyard, the stones are silent. The inscriptions show the person's name, the date of his birth and the date of his death.

In the fall, when the trees are wearing their most colorful garments, we like to go for a brief holiday across the border in the hills of Germany. While driving around admiring the beauty of God's creation, we have at times stopped to visit a graveyard. The cemeteries are beautiful, usually on the side of a hill. In the fall, flowers are placed on the graves in remembrance of family members who have passed on.

Walking from gravestone to gravestone, we sometimes noticed that a child had lived only a few months, or that a whole family had died on the same day, or that someone had lived a full life of eighty or ninety years. Now they all are silent in the grave, and one day soon we will be with them, unless the Lord returns before we die. We never know which day will be our last.

Death is the power of Satan. After Adam and Eve had to leave Eden, everyone dies because everyone sins (Romans 5:12).

Yet, something within us objects to death. God has placed eternity in man's heart (Ecclesiastes 3:11). People we know and love ought not to die! And God has provided a way that we can live on with Him forever. Death and sin give Satan his power, but Jesus has conquered sin and death and Satan.

How can someone turn from the power of Satan to God?

Salvation from the power of Satan is offered to all. After His resurrection, Jesus told His followers: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:15, 16). “And the Spirit and the bride say, 'Come!' And let him who hears say, 'Come!' And let him who thirsts come. Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17).

When someone does not desire, however, when his heart is not right, Satan can prevent him from believing. Jesus explained the parable of the sower: “The seed is the word of God. Those by the wayside are the ones who hear; then the devil comes and takes away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved” (Luke 8:11, 12). ... “But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience” (Luke 8:15).

Paul says: “But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing, whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them” (2 Corinthians 4:3, 4).

But when we are willing, when we hear the word with good and noble hearts, when we believe and are baptized, we are saved by God: “He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13, 14).

John heard praise in heaven for Christ's victory over Satan: “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death” (Revelation 12:10, 11).

Paul explains: “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:1, 2).

But Satan does not give up easily.

He tries to bring us back under his power. Paul was concerned about the Corinthians: “But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3). He had similar fears about the welfare of the Thessalonians: “For this reason, when I could no longer endure it, I sent to know your faith, lest by some means the tempter had tempted you, and our labor might be in vain” (1 Thessalonians 3:5).

Peter warns: “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. Resist him, steadfast in the faith” (1 Peter 5:8, 9).

James gives this admonition: “Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you” (James 4:7).

God has given us the weapons we need to resist the devil: “Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints” (Ephesians 6:10-18).

What have we learned about Satan?

Mankind is in the clutches of the wicked one, who deceives the whole world. His power is the destructive power of sin and death.

Christ came to set us free from the power of Satan by suffering the penalty for our sins so we can be forgiven. This good news is preached to all.

He who believes and is baptized will be saved by God who transfers him from the power of darkness into the kingdom of His Son. Satan still assails us, but God gives us the weapons we need to resist him and remain faithful.

In conclusion, a blessing from Romans 16:20 - “And the God of peace will crush Satan under your feet shortly. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you. Amen.”

Roy Davison
The Scripture quotations in this article are from
The New King James Version. ©1979,1980,1982,
Thomas Nelson Inc., Publishers unless indicated otherwise.
Permission for reference use has been granted.
Published in The Old Paths Archive