Is Satan involved to influence people to resist God’s way of forgiveness? Let’s look at the question right from the beginning of Biblical history. When Adam and Eve sinned, God clothed them with animal skins. With that God demonstrated His way of forgiveness,
‘…and without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness.’ Hebrews 9:22b
God never deviated from it. How would people react to it? We have the examples of Cain and Abel.
Abel sacrificed according to God’s way,
‘…Abel brought fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock.’ Genesis 4:3
Cain sacrificed contrary to God’s way – a bloodless offering,
‘In the course of time Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord.’ Genesis 4:3
‘The Lord looked with favour on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering He did not look with favour.’ Genesis 4:4b-5a
The question is, does the devil influence people to disobey God’s word? The answer is, yes,
‘Do not be like Cain, who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother.’ 1 John 3:12a
Since then, humanity has been divided in two groups:
- Those who, like Abel, follow God.
- Those who, like Cain, follow Satan.
In previous blogs we discussed some aspects of the vexing evil issue, ‘Why did God allow evil?’ ‘What about evil, part 1?’ ‘What about evil, part 2?’ ‘The talking serpent never stopped talking.’ We touched on the appearance of the evil one, ‘the great dragon… that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan who leads the whole world astray.’ 1 In this blog we want to discuss or repeat something very important: the devil has an essential role to play in God’s Kingdom. To say it clearly, without the devil, God cannot successfully complete His Kingdom Project.
Did God plan the rebellion of the devil?
- The Bible tells us that the devil is a rebellious angel, who is in opposition to God. Did God cause the devil to rebel? God never interferes with free will. All angels have free will. God could not force the devil to rebel, since he could then complain that God set him up and that his sentence of eternal hell is not fair.
- God will never violate either the angels’ or people’s free will. That would throw the whole judicial process into a turmoil. Then most people could complain that God was unfair, since He influenced some to love Him and left others alone. God is absolutely fair and just. So He will never override free will. Therefore God did not plan the rebellion of the devil.
- However, if God is good and omnipotent, why did He allow the devil to bring evil to this world? Life would have been so much easier without the devil. Doesn’t God want us to have a good life? The answer is: the Kingdom is impossible without the devil, the evil one and his destructive influence on the world.
The devil and the Kingdom of God
- Why did God allow the devil to usurp Adam’s authority and fill the world with evil? He could have stopped the devil, limited his power, or just plain annihilated him.
- The issue has to with God’s plan for man, namely a Kingdom of Love and Peace. Therefore the devil’s work in God’s Kingdom is absolutely necessary. God uses his ‘assistance’ to successfully complete the establishment of the eternal Kingdom of Love and Peace.
- How does the devil do that? He rebelled against God, he doesn’t like Him and slanders God all the time. So in what way can he be of assistance to God?
An enemy is essential.
- Leaders of worthwhile countries have enemies. That is a fact of life. There is always someone around who wants to usurp the current leader’s position.
- With God it is no different. He is the King of a wonderful country, and He has an enemy. A future Kingdom of Peace on earth is impossible without God’s enemy who attempts to thwart His plans. To understand it better let’s compare it with the role of an opposing political party in a country:
- Country A has a leader, LA. He has an enemy, Z. Z goes around and tells everybody that LA is incompetent. They should replace him with Z. In this proses Z divides the people. He exposes those who will oppose LA.
- Let’s apply this principle to God’s Kingdom. He is the King. His Kingdom is eternal and is one of Peace and Love (to be part of His Kingdom is obviously worth trillions). But… God has an enemy. This enemy irrevocably lost his place in God’s Kingdom.
- Because this enemy was disgraced, he is full of revenge, hate and spite. He thought he assassinated God’s Son on the Cross, but it was a huge defeat for him when Jesus rose from the dead. So his next line of attack is to try and prevent people to become citizens of God’s Kingdom.
- While he will never be king of the eternal Kingdom, he is ruler of this temporary world. That means he has ways to slander God and propagate how ‘detestable’ He is.
- In our world, what does the enemy do? He divides the country’s citizens into two groups, those who accept the current leader and those who don’t. It is the same with God. Look at history as revealed in the Bible to see how the devil divides and exposes God’s enemies.
Division caused by Satan
- After the Fall, Adam and Eve had two sons. Abel was a righteous man. 2 Cain refused to listen to God’s warning. 3 That division among humanity continues to this day:
- Some people are willing to obey God. They accept the influence of God’s Spirit and choose to ‘eat from the tree of good.’
- Some people refuse to give heed to God’s warnings or advice. They accept the influence of the devil’s spirits and choose to ‘eat from the tree of evil.’
- This selection process went on right through history and continues today. It is what identifies God’s people as well as His enemies.
- Look at the final episode in the plan of God. Revelation 17:14 says, ‘…The Lamb will overcome them [the kings who gave their authority to the beast] because He is Lord of lords and King of kings – and with Him will be His called, chosen and faithful followers.’
- Also in Revelation we read about people with the exact opposite disposition, ‘…and they cursed the name of God who had control over these plagues, but they refused to repent and glorify Him.’ 4
- So the last book of the Bible identifies two groups of people, those who follow Jesus and those who don’t.
- Revelation 20:12 &15 describe their respective final destinies, ‘…The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books…. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.’
The devil serves God because he identifies and exposes the rebels. Then everyone at the Judgement Throne can see that they are unfit for God’s eternal Kingdom, because they will disrupt the Peace and Love. The division will make it possible that, ‘…the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them. They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them, and be their God.’ 5
- Revelation 12:9
- Matthew 23:35
- 1 John 3:12
- Revelation 16:9
- Revelation 21:3
Richard Dawkins thinks he has excellent advice for God. ‘If He wanted to forgive people their sins, why not just forgive them? Why did He have to kill His Son on the cross in such a gruesome way, to forgive people?’ At face value it might sound like good advice, but is it?
What is the issue about forgiveness?
Right in the beginning God gave Adam and Eve a command. If they disobeyed Him, they would surely die (which meant death and eternal separation from Him). They did disobey (or sinned against God). It caused a relationship break between God and them. But in His great love, God demonstrated that their sin against Him could be exchanged with the death of an innocent animal. God clothed Adam and Eve with animal skins to show that the blood of the animals were exchanged for their transgression.
That pattern of God’s sacrificial system goes throughout the Old Testament with the animal sacrifices at the Tabernacle and Temple of the Israelites. It reaches its pinnacle in the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus. The innocent Lamb of God was sacrificed for the sins of the whole world: ‘For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.’ 1
Even if Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, forgiveness is not automatic. God created man with a free will. Adam and Eve’s sons, Cain and Abel, exercised their free wills. Abel decided to do its God’s way: sacrifice an innocent animal. Cain used his free will and rejected God’s way: he sacrificed produce from the ground. 2 God does not accept anybody who refuses to make use of the blood sacrifice for forgiveness. It was demonstrated with His acceptance of Abel’s, but not Cain’s sacrifice.
Reasons why God does not automatically forgive sin:
- Each person has a free will and can decide, like Cain and Abel, to do it God’s way or not. God accepts the free will decision of those who want to go their own way. He will never impose His will on people.
- Additionally, God uses the cross of Jesus to sift which people are willing to obey Him, and which ones are not interested. Scripture states, ‘…the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.’ 3
Those who use the sacrificial system supplied by Jesus, can enter the new future garden of Eden. 4 What Adam closed up, Jesus opened up. The beautiful, peaceful, eternal ’garden of Eden’ is waiting for those people who are willing to approach God in the way He designed. Richard Dawkins reminds us of the most important aspect of God’s plan for man: making peace with Him through the sacrifice of Jesus the Lamb of God.
- John 3:16
- Genesis 4:2-5
- 1 Corinthians 1:18
- Revelation 21 & 22