So, what is this thing called "evil?" It seems like such a ridiculous question, until you begin to try and answer it. Is it the opposite of good? Oh oh. You better define "good." Is it where a person hurts something or somebody else intentionally? Doctors, athletic coaches, teachers, counselors, etc., are not all evil when they have to cause pain to help you in some way, are they? Is it something done with bad intentions? Isn't "bad" and "evil" just interchangeable words in this context, therefore isn't one using basically the same word to explain the definition? Is it something that religions define as wrong? The definition of evil depends upon which religion you are in, and any agreement between various religions would most likely provide at best a very vague and shallow definition. Is it what you personally feel is wrong? I think that is closer, but human experience has taught most of us to not depend on feelings for reality-checking. Is it sin itself? That is even closer, but I think that there is still a deeper, more complex definition beyond that concept.
My Webster's New Riverside Dictionary includes most of the above definitions more or less, plus it includes the following interesting statement: Word history: The word "evil" is ult. related to the words "up" and "over" and to the prefix "hypo-," "under, beneath." The basic sense of "evil," which is now lost, was therefore probably "exceeding proper bounds" or "overreaching," and the word did not signify merely the absence of good.
Let's see if we can test whether or not the highlighted statement above is valid. For those who do not believe in the Divine inspiration of the Bible, this might be as far as you can go. I recommend that you go elsewhere and become more convinced of the Bible's validity regarding absolute truth at this point if you require it. For the rest of you, let's try to think of what the Bible might consider the most "evil" being ever mentioned in it. I guessed the same as you (hopefully): Satan. I suggest that we look at the verses that talk about how Satan became "bad" or "evil." Satan's original name was Lucifer, as you will see in the following passage:
Isa. 14:12-17-- How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, you who weakened the nations! For you have said in your heart: 'I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God; I will also sit on the mount of the congregation on the farthest sides of the north; I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will be like the Most High.' Yet you shall be brought down to Sheol, to the lowest depths of the Pit. Those who see you will gaze at you, and consider you, saying: 'Is this the man who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms, Who made the world as a wilderness and destroyed its cities, who did not open the house of his prisoners?'
Lucifer made a few quite strong statements, considering that he is a fellow creature made by God. He has had plenty of access to the actual throne room of God in Heaven to get a fairly good idea what "the other side" is of our mortal lives. Remember (or learn for the first time), Satan does not get kicked out of Heaven until he and and his demonic armies get kicked out during a war in Heaven with the "good" angels in the near future (Rev. 12:7-12). Satan claimed that he WILL put his throne ABOVE the stars (angels) of God. The "farthest sides of the north" refers to where God's throne is, and this is where he claimed he will SIT. The last claim is I believe a main key to getting to our definition of "evil" that we seek: he claims that he WILL BE LIKE THE MOST HIGH (he is referring to God). Webster Dictionary's guess at the definition of "evil" seems to exactly fit with what Satan is wanting to do, to exceed proper bounds. Only God is meant to be so exalted, sit on God's throne, and have the right to claim to be anything "like God." This is clearly not just some little, "oops, I accidentally made a tiny boo-boo," regarding Satan's boasting. As an aside, isn't it interesting, all the cute little names we have come up with in place of sin, like boo-boo, habit, mistake, alternative lifestyle, free choice, personality, genetics, environment, etc.?
The following tells us more about Satan, and what made him become "evil." Yes, I know that some Bible teachers claim that you cannot be absolutely sure that the next passage is really talking about Satan. I think the context will convince you otherwise:
Ezek 28:12-19 Son of man, take up a lamentation for the king of Tyre, and say to him, 'Thus says the Lord GOD: "You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering: the sardius, topaz, and diamond, Beryl, onyx, and jasper, sapphire, turquoise, and emerald with gold. The workmanship of your timbrels and pipes was prepared for you on the day you were created. You were the anointed cherub who covers; I established you; you were on the holy mountain of God; you walked back and forth in the midst of fiery stones. You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you. By the abundance of your trading you became filled with violence within, and you sinned; therefore I cast you as a profane thing out of the mountain of God; and I destroyed you, O covering cherub, from the midst of the fiery stones. Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor; I cast you to the ground, I laid you before kings, that they might gaze at you. You defiled your sanctuaries by the multitude of your iniquities, by the iniquity of your trading; therefore I brought fire from your midst; it devoured you, and I turned you to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all who saw you. All who knew you among the peoples are astonished at you; you have become a horror, and shall be no more forever.'
The last highlighted sentence of the above Bible passage is the key for the definition we seek: Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor. Satan fell in love with his own wisdom and beauty! He became proud. Prov. 16:18 explains the results of pride: Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. In other words, pride was the main driving force to cause Lucifer to become evil. Some of you might think that this only applies to Satan, but look how the Bible says Adam and Eve "fell" into sin:
Gen 3:1-6 Now the serpent was more cunning than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said to the woman, "Has God indeed said, 'You shall not eat of every tree of the garden'?" And the woman said to the serpent, "We may eat the fruit of the trees of the garden; "but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God has said, 'You shall not eat it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die.'" Then the serpent said to the woman, "You will not surely die. "For God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree desirable to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate. She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.
Many extra-biblical ancient writings make it clear that Satan took on the form of this talking serpent. Yes, it would not be very likely that he would do that today, and that is why it strikes us as sounding so "mythological." Notice what the "serpent" in effect says to tempt Eve to disobey God. 1-- God is a liar, therefore, you cannot trust Him, and there will be no repercussions to disobeying Him. 2-- You will know all that God knows, especially about "good and evil," and that you will become just like God, therefore you will not need His help or leading. Put all this together, it appears that Satan's original temptation was to get Eve to believe that she would be better off NOT FOLLOWING GOD'S LEADING, AND TO BECOME HER OWN MASTER. From his point of view, Satan probably thought that this was a very complete enough temptation. But since Satan is a somewhat different creature than humans or animals, I do not think that he went far enough. He was mainly using a very intellectual argument. Alas, Eve, added her own justifications to sin: 1-- The fruit of the tree would provide some tasty food. 2-- The food was enjoyable to look at. 3-- The food would really make her wise. Notice that all of Eve's justifications sound very legitimate by themselves. Who would not want to eat food like that? Eve of course ate of the fruit, and was said to give some of it to Adam, who did not even seem to bother coming up with ANY justifications, but most likely, he chose to concentrate on Eve's justifications. Based on what Eve did, it seems that both Adam and Eve got into sin because they decided to do what THEY wanted to do, regardless of what God wanted them to do.
It is interesting to compare the following verses to Eve's three justifications to sin (I John 2:15-17)-- Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world-- the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life-- is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever. Many, including myself, believe that these last three highlighted motivations correlate to the three justifications Adam and Eve, and all of us, use to try and justify sinning to ourselves. The word world is from the Greek word kosmos, which means orderly arrangement, i.e. decoration. This word is not referring to the literal earth as much as it refers to the way it is organized or run. In other words, the world is the way sinful mankind (and Satan) has decided to think and organize what goes on down here. Many sincere but naive Christians have concluded that Jesus would never have a literal kingdom on earth due to a misunderstanding of what He said in this verse (John 18:36)-- Jesus answered, "My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here." Once again, the word translated here for world is kosmos. Jesus obviously was not saying here that He would NEVER have a kingdom here on Earth, otherwise He would be contradicting many verses regarding His future rule on earth, such as the following (Rev 19:15-16)-- Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS. The next Old Testament verses makes this even more clear (Psalms 2:7-9)-- "I will declare the decree: the LORD has said to Me, 'You are My Son, today I have begotten You. Ask of Me, and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for Your possession. You shall break them with a rod of iron; you shall dash them to pieces like a potter's vessel.'"
At this time, I think that it would be good to try and define what sin is. The word sin comes from the Greek word hamartano, which means to miss the mark (and so not share in the prize). This was a common archery term in the ancient world, that meant that if you missed the bulls eye or "mark," then you "sinned." God took this common term and used it as a picture regarding obedience to Him. If you ever "missed the bulls eye," then you had sinned, even if you only missed the "bulls eye" by a little bit. Your "shot" was "exceeding the bounds."
It gets worse from here. James 2:10 For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. Even if you miss the "bulls eye" even ONCE in this life, you are no better than somebody that misses it completely EVERY time, as far as God is concerned. That is why God says this in Rom. 3:20-- Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. The bottom line is, no person who has sinned can ever be found not guilty of their sins by their own efforts. The results of sin is death, just as Adam and Eve was told by God (Gen. 2:17 )-- "but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die." The word die comes from the Hebrew word muwth. What most do not know is that this verse repeats the word muwth twice right next to each other. Therefore, instead of the end of the verse saying you shall surely die, it more literally says in English, in dying, you shall die. There are TWO deaths talked about here. The most chilling verses in the Bible mention what this second death is (Rev 20:12-15)-- And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books. The sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades delivered up the dead who were in them. And they were judged, each one according to his works. Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. The Bible makes it clear that NO ONE'S works will be good enough to save them from such a place.
Jesus told us the key on how we could be found not guilty for all our sin (Matt 19:25-26)-- When His disciples heard it, they were greatly astonished, saying, "Who then can be saved?" But Jesus looked at them and said to them, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." The Gospel tells us what God specifically did to provide us the way to free us from the results of sin.
There are quite a lot of other Biblical passages that we could look at to try and help us strengthen our definition for evil, such as the one about the evil generation that was destroyed by the Noahic Flood, the generation living in Christ's day, or the generation that will exist at Christ's second coming (ours, methinks). Maybe I will add those in an update. Nevertheless, I believe that we have enough examples to form some valid conclusions.
The Bible makes it clear that disobeying God is sin. Sin is what causes anyone to be put into the eternal Lake of Fire. There is a deeper way to look at this. What was it that preceded all sin in the above cases? Pride includes the belief that I have the right to do WHATEVER I want to do IN SPITE OF GOD. In other words,evil is rejecting God's authority over us, and this rejection startswithin our hearts. Also, any methods used to try and justify rejection of God's authority are evil also. This is precisely why atheism, agnosticism, witchcraft, and the theory of evolution are evil, for some examples. They are all attempts at justifying our rejection of God's authority, and justify our behavior that has exceeded their proper bounds. This is why a mostly "good" person can still end up in the eternal Lake of Fire. If they reject God's authority in their life, they have already committed the greatest evil possible, and deserve to be punished by God. As far as I am concerned, saving oneself from eternal judgment is infinitely more important than figuring out how to try and survive the coming disasters to the earth. Please do not reject His authority over you, and please accept His only method to be free from His final judgment that will be made upon those who reject His authority.
(added 1/27/98) A warning regarding Satanic deception:
Consider the typical multiple choice test, where each question has five choices. You can usually rule out two of the choices since they are clearly wrong and not reasonable at all. The three left are ALMOST THE SAME EXACT ANSWERS. Testers know what they are doing. They do not want you to be able to simply guess or "feel" for an answer, since the odds of guessing the correct one is at best only 1 out of 3 or 33.3%. The testers designed such tests to find out if the test-taker actually knew the CORRECT answer.
Since Satan for so long has been preparing everything he could for the Antichrist's arrival, the Antichrist will have no trouble in looking ALMOST EXACTLY LIKE CHRIST. Those that only have a vague or inaccurate understanding of the Bible will not be able to identify the Antichrist as the Antichrist, but they will most likely think that he is the Christ. Therefore, we ALL need to CAREFULLY do our homework and study EXACTLY WHAT ALL the characteristics are of both the Christ and the Antichrist as found in the Bible. Anything less will simply amount to a bad bet, considering the large risk if you are wrong. Remember that Jesus said this in Mark 13:22-- "For false christs and false prophets will rise and show signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect."
Also take note of this: The literal translation of the wordantichrist may more likely mean in place of Christ, not opposite of Christ. From Strong's Dictionary: 473 anti; a primary particle; opposite, i.e. instead or because of (rarely in addition to): KJV-- for, in the room of. Often used in composition to denote contrast, requital, substitution, correspondence, etc. Don't expect the Antichrist to be clearly opposite in appearance, action, or speech of the true Christ.