Saturday, March 17, 2012

God's purposes and the problem of evil

Daniel 9:26b-27 and the people of the prince who is to come will destroy the city and the sanctuary. And its end will come with a flood; even to the end there will be war; desolations are determined. 27“And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate.”

God's purposes and plans will prevail despite predicted evil
This prophecy of Daniel gives the believer a great lesson on the nature and scope of God's Sovereignty.  In the final seven years or week of Daniel's prophecy (termed Daniel's seventieth week, also called the time of Jacob's Trouble in Jeremiah 30), the world at large and Jerusalem in particular will be tormented and tyrranized by the man of lawlessness, the Anti-Christ.  Today we want to understand that despite this predicted event, God wills the inclusion of free-actions and events of evil agents to accomplish His overall good purposes.  Romans 8:28 reminds us:  "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose."

God included evil in accomplishing His good purposes in the Old Testament
When we look at this prophecy, we may ask ourselves: why?  Evil and suffering, in ways that scripture reveals, but in ways we do not fully comprehend, factors into God's Sovereign plan.  Passages like Genesis 50:20-21 read -  20“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive. 21“So therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” So he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.  Those words came from the lips of Joseph who had been left for dead by his brothers and thrown into prison.  Yet God worked forth His Sovereign will to raise up Joseph to be "a savior" of his people. 

God included evil in accomplishing His good purpose in redemption
As we saw in yesterday's blog, God's purposes for Christ's first coming included the cross.  Acts 2:23-24 tells us - "23this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. 24“But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power."  God's will for history included the evil, sinful decisions of the Gentiles and the Jewish nation to crucify the Lord of glory.  God includes evil in His overall Sovereign will, and yet is not the author of evil. (Isaiah 45:7; 1 John 1:6-8)

God will include evil in accomplishing his purposes for history
If we take seriously the Sovereignty of God, predictions such as the coming of Anti-Christ and the final rebellion of humanity will not disturb the faith of the Christian? Why?  Again, though God wills evil to be part of His Sovereign plan, yet He is not the author of it.  If evil occured outside of God's knowledge, then we could not say that He is Sovereign.  The biblical notion of God's Sovereignty including evil, while not being its author, brings greater comfort than other frameworks which try to make evil a separate thing from God's will.   

Sovereignly God willed the existence of evil, even though He morally does not condone nor advocate its existence
All evil is directly accomplished by creatures - this much we know.  We also know that when Satan, or demons, or anyone commits an act of moral evil, they are acting responsibily and out of their own choice.  Though God includes evil in His Sovereign plan, that does not mean He is condoning it nor advocating it.  God's moral revealed will, the scriptures, clearly condemn the actions done by Judas in betraying Jesus.  Yet we know that such betrayal was within the Sovereign plan of God, otherwise Jesus would not had been handed over to be crucified.  Thus it is with what will take place in Christ's second coming.  The Anti-Christ will rise, however God's ultimate purpose is for Christ to be glorified and to defeat the kingdom of darkness and make all kingdoms to be under His glorious reign. (Revelation 11:15)

Final note of application: God permits what He hates in order to accomplish the good He intends
If we were to summarize everything we saw today, it would be this: God wills to permit what he hates in order to accomplish the good he intends.  Romans 8:28 states this for the Christian's individual life when facing evil and suffering: "And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose."

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