How Can a Good God Permit Such Evil?

Why would a good God permit so much evil in the world? The question of suffering causes many to doubt God, if not His existence then His goodness. Many atheists declare God’s non-existence based on the fact that there seem to be unspeakable evils in the world. Their claim is nonsensical because there is no good or evil if there is no supreme moral agent. They testify to God’s existence by even thinking such things as good and evil. Many Christians don’t know how to answer the question of suffering because they have not been taught the Bible. The Bible answers the question as early as Genesis 1-3 and throughout its books, chapters, and verses.

John has encouraged the bondservants of Christ in the current tribulation. John has revealed that God is redeeming and renewing the world. Though the work is finished in Christ, it is not yet fully realized. The witnesses in the Father’s heavenly courtroom are about to describe the condition of the world, something John has already described as tribulation (Cf. 1:9; 2:9, 13). The Lamb, Jesus Christ, now stands as the prosecuting attorney against those who do not belong to Him and the defense of His people. Before testifying about the condition of the world, the witnesses have first testified about the Father’s righteousness and the Lamb’s worthiness. Today, we are clued-in to God’s purpose. Why is the world the way it is? Why has God created it this way and ordained some of the unspeakable evils we witness? Before describing the condition of the world, we see why God created a world and ordained the conditions we observe.

Revelation 5:11-14

Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.”

And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.”

And the four living creatures kept saying, “Amen.” And the elders fell down and worshiped.

The angels praise Christ (v. 11-12)

Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders; and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing.”

Here, John hears myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands of angels around the cherubim and the two-fold church. There is an indistinguishable number of angels praising Christ because of what Christ did in the substitutionary atonement. In their praise, they proclaim the Father’s and Son’s worthiness to have all dominion forevermore.

We have seen that John is referring to Christ’s crucifixion, not making some futurist prediction about apocalyptic events to come. It is because of and through His crucifixion Christ is worthy to break the seals and announce the Father’s verdict concerning the condition of creation. When the myriads of angels join the heavenly praise, the testimony before the judge who sits on His judgment seat, they testify that the Lamb, Jesus Christ, was slain in order to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing. Christ’s sacrifice certainly did atone perfectly for the sins of His elect people. His sacrifice was an atoning sacrifice, but the angels don’t sing about that. John doesn’t mention that here. Both the angels and John testify that the primary purpose Jesus died on the cross was to gain for Himself power, riches, wisdom, might, honor, glory, and blessing. Does that strike you or surprise you? If you have been in the midst of popular evangelicalism, Romanism, or most sorts of human religion in our day, it should. You should be on the edge of your seat.

There is a great criticism levied against popular Christianity, and rightly so. We have watered the Gospel down to, “Jesus died for you.” We have made ourselves the center of the Bible’s message. We have made the end-game about getting as many people to heaven as possible in order to avoid eternities of hellish suffering in some pit. Then, the criticism comes; If God’s goal is to get as many people to heaven as possible, why would He need to kill His son? Couldn’t God have simply created a better world in which everyone would have worshipped Him and not have sinned? The question is unanswerable if we hold to an unbiblical, narcissistic view of the person and work of Christ. However, if we understand the proper Gospel and the purpose for all things, the criticism is nonsensical.

The elect do benefit from Christ’s crucifixion. In that sense He did die for His people. There is a more basic truth to be gleaned from this doctrinal, angelic praise. The purpose for which Christ was crucified was so He might win His just reward, which includes His bride (His church) but is specifically His own power, riches, wisdom, might, honor, glory, and blessing. This necessarily means Christ’s atoning sacrifice and the salvation of His people isn’t about any of us getting to Heaven. It is about Christ’s glory and Christ making Himself and the Father known in all of His strength, riches, wisdom, honor, and blessing. The doctrine becomes clearer as we consider Romans 9. God creates vessels for honorable and dishonorable use so that His strength and the riches of His glory may be known. The salvation of the saints is about God’s glory, not their final destination. In Romans 11, we read that God hands every person over to disobedience so that He might reveal the riches of His own mercy on all people. It is all about His glory. Whatever condition we are in, whatever the condition of the world, whatever God does from creation to crucifixion to resurrection to redemption and whatever else, it all serves a particular purpose—God’s glory. He desires to be known. He desires every facet of His being be revealed so He may be worshipped as He is. It is true. God could have created a world without sin and suffering. By His design, He created the world as it is with the need for an atoning sacrifice so He might be known. He handed all people over to sin and sent Jesus to the cross so that He might be seen as just (righteous and holy because we cannot keep His Law) and the justifier (humanity’s only able deliverer from our own unrighteousness and insufficiency) of those who believe in Jesus Christ (Romans 3:26). 

All creation praises Christ (v. 13-14)

And every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all things in them, I heard saying, “To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever.”

All of creation joins in with the angels. Keep in mind, this praise is in direct response to Jesus’s crucifixion. It is current, not future. All of creation, everything that has breath, praise the Lord! All of creation testifies; This whole thing is about the Father’s and the Lamb’s blessing, honor, glory, and dominion forever and ever.

People often neglect worshipping Christ with the church body as if they are worthy to have dominion over their own lives and schedules. Christ is the only worthy one; our schedules revolve around Him, not He around our schedules. 

John is presenting a picture of God’s dominion. The Father and Son are the central focus of all things. Remember, John’s image is symbolic; he is not drawing a literal geography or claiming that all people will do forever is circle God’s throne and sing. This is the current state of worship and of Christ’s dominion because Christ has be slain and raised to life again. The whole scene we have witnessed here in Revelation is represented by Jesus’s singular statement in Matthew 28:18, “… all authority in Heaven and on Earth has been given to Me.”

And the four living creatures kept saying, “Amen.” And the elders fell down and worshiped.

The four living creatures, the heavenly witnesses, concur with the praise coming from all of creation. In doing so, testify about the purpose of it all—God’s glory.

The question of suffering

At the very foundation of this question, what is commonly referred to as the problem of evil, is a misunderstanding of God’s person, purpose, and work. I place the blame on those men who call themselves pastors and preachers who do not teach the whole counsel of Scripture. We have created a god in our own image and assumed that we are entitled to pain-free lives. Let me tell you about God. God created the world. He created humanity in His image so that He might be seen in His creation. He handed the first man and woman over to sin through the first law. His righteousness and holiness was revealed for the first time to humankind because the first people fell short of His glory. God told Cain that Cain must overcome sin, and again humanity proved not to be able. With Cain’s sin came the first murder. Abel purpose in the story is as an object of suffering so God might be known—now not merely His righteousness and holiness but, also, His justice and mercy as He judged the murderer. Then, all humanity proved to be wicked. God chose one family, that of Noah, to save from His own wrath. In the flood, God revealed that human sin would only bring destruction because He created a just universe. He revealed Himself as the only author and sustainer of life. He promised to bless every nation through Abraham and then gave Abraham’s descendants over to suffering as slaves in Egypt for four-hundred years. When God spoke of Pharaoh to Moses, He said:

“But, indeed, for this reason I have allowed you to remain, in order to show you My power and in order to proclaim My name through all the earth… Go to Pharaoh, for I have hardened his heart and the heart of his servants, that I may perform these signs of Mine among them, and that you may tell in the hearing of your son, and of your grandson, how I made a mockery of the Egyptians and how I performed My signs among them, that you may know that I am the Lord” (Exodus 9:16; 10:1-2).

Just like God delivered Israel over to slavery and delivered her in His own timing so He might be known throughout the earth, He has handed all people over to sin and suffering in this world and delivers His people through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ so He might be known throughout the earth. It is true that suffering accomplishes the sanctification of the saints (Cf. James 1:1-4). That is a benefit, and we should be encouraged by that. The primary purpose is God’s glory, so He might reveal every aspect of who He is—His just, righteous, merciful, holy, and sacrificial nature. That is why John writes this book—to reveal Jesus Christ in the midst of the tribulation every person faces in this world. Jesus won His glory and the Father’s through the cross. How, you ask? He fulfilled all righteousness as an incarnate human person and atoned for the worshippers He sought for Himself when every mere mortal fell short of the Father’s glory (Cf. John 4:23; Romans 3:23). What greater glory for God than in revealing His own righteousness and mercy at the fulness of time and redeeming a kingdom people for Himself despite their total and essential depravity (Cf. Galatians 4:4-5)? When we try to understand the question of suffering and the purpose for which God has made such a world as the one on which we live, when we ask why a good God would permit such evil, we are peering into the glory and holiness of God. We are on the cusp of understanding the world and everything in it in a whole new perspective—not the narcissism of majority religion but the desire to glorify God and enjoy Him fully despite our tribulation on this earth. 

For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself; for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written, “As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall give praise to God” (Romans 14:7-11; Cf. Isaiah 45:23).

Every sin committed, false teacher, bad church, murder, unjust riot, war, natural disaster, hateful thought, question, child slave, abuse, sickness, pandemic, financial ruin, oppression, and everlasting dwelling in hell serves to reveal something about God’s nature. The fact that people commit many unspeakable evils shows that we fall short of God’s glory and righteousness and that God is truly the holy and righteous one. We were created, vessels for honorable and dishonorable use, for His glory and not ours. He is the only worthy one. I guess people have a problem with suffering because they believe humanity is the chief end of all God’s work; They measure goodness based on the least degree of suffering for the greatest number of people. That is not how God works because we are neither the center of His universe nor the chief end of His work. We cannot justify God by any theodicy of our own making because God is revealing Himself as just and the justifier of those who believe.

In the next chapter, the Father will observe the condition of the world. He will justly judge it. No injustice will go unpunished. He will continue to reveal His just, righteous, holy, gracious, and merciful nature. That is why we answer to Him. That is why Jesus is the chief sufferer on the cross, the means by which God won all His own glory within His own creation.

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