Why doesn't God do something about evil and suffering in the world?

August 4, 2020

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History paints a vivid picture of the persistence of evil, injustice, and unrighteousness among the sons of men. Is that going to go on forever? Why hasn't God stepped in to end evil and suffering? The Bible makes it clear that God does have an appointed end in mind and will certainly bring it to pass.

Transcription

Hey friends, Josh here. We live in a fairly unique time in history. For me living here in the United States in 2020 and within my short lifetime thus far, I don’t remember there ever being this level of political division or polarization over so many different issues in the culture. The availability of news and information at our fingertips has brought so many things to the forefront of our minds, from mistreatment of other humans to sexual immorality and disease, to wars and fights for political power, etc. But even with just a cursory glance at history, I think it would be accurate to say that what I’m experiencing here in America in 2020 is not all that uncommon. I mean, there have been times in history where things have been much much worse - not just here in America, but all over the world. Nonetheless, there’s a lot of uncertainty and fear flying around right now and there are many questions on peoples’ minds today, things like “are my family and I going to stay healthy or are we going to get really sick and maybe even die?” or “am I going to have enough money to put food on the table for my kids?” or “will the leaders of the country do something about this particular issue of injustice?” We have an innate desire for everything to be “ok”, and there’s a constant wrangling on social media and in the halls of leaders and politicians as we try to quell the fear and uncertainty.

Now there’s been many dark times in human history. Just think about something fairly recent in the grand scheme of things - World War 2, for example. 6 million Jewish people lost their lives. It’s hard for us to picture that - 6 million individual life stories, snuffed out in such a short period of time by a radical regime. And a common question that’s often asked in tragedy like this is “where was God”? If he’s all powerful, why didn’t he step in and end such radical injustice? And even today, even in the midst of the fear and uncertainty in the world and in America, perhaps some are even asking that same question - “where’s God? If he’s good and loves us, why doesn’t he take care of the issues we’re struggling with?”

Well, philosophers, scholars, and theologians throughout history have used the technical term “theodicy” to describe that question and propose an answer to it. To make it simple, a theodicy is an answer to the question of why a good God would allow suffering and evil in the world. If he’s all powerful, why hasn’t he stopped it? If he’s really good, why is the world still full of wars and disease and injustice? The various ways those questions have been answered have led to so many different theological systems. At the risk of oversimplification, some of those systems would be like “well the reason why there’s suffering is because God is waiting for us to deal with it with the authority he gave us” or “there’s still evil in the world because God doesn’t know how it’s all going to turn out and so he’s trying to get it all under control” or “we just really need to pray and fast so God breaks in and deals with the mess”. Still other ways of thinking have come forth, like “oh, the God of the Old Testament is a war mongering angry wrathful God but the God of the New Testament is different, because Jesus is kind and nice and loves and forgives.” None of those systems or ways of thinking are helpful or correct. So what does the Bible say about why evil and suffering are still going on in the world, especially if Jesus has already come and died and rose again? And how are disciples of Jesus supposed to live in light of what the Bible says about that?

Well like I’ve been saying in all of my recent videos, when we approach the Bible and want to understand it, we should first seek to view it through the lens and the worldview of the original authors and hearers. So for the New Testament, we ought to approach it through a first century Jewish apocalyptic lens. Just meaning that their view of history culminates on a very real day called the day of the Lord where God would actually do away with evil, pain, and suffering and fulfill all the promises he made in his covenants with the nation of Israel. This is what Moses and the prophets spoke about and so it was what the apostles believed, it’s what Jesus affirmed, and it’s what Paul would also believe and go on to tell the Gentiles. The apostles didn’t believe that Jesus’ first coming fulfilled their hopes and somehow spiritually launched the age to come or spiritually inaugurated the promised Davidic kingdom. They believed that the events of Jesus’ first coming were the confirmation that God had not forgotten his covenantal promises to Israel and they would soon be brought to pass as the prophets had spoke them.

With this in mind, I want to look at a passage from the New Testament that answers the question at hand really well. What does the Bible say about why evil and suffering and pain and death are continuing to exist in the world today? And how is it all gonna come to an end? I want to read a bit here from 2 Peter chapter 3. It says, starting at verse 2:

… you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles, knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.”

So Peter reminds his readers that there will mockers and scoffers that ridicule or laugh at those who affirm the prophets and the words of Jesus. They won’t follow his words, they’ll follow their own sinful, fleshly desires. And he says that they’ll mock the central reality and hope of their faith, which is the coming of the messiah to rule in righteousness and bring forth justice to the nations. That’s crazy! Peter goes on and says:

For they deliberately overlook this fact, that the heavens existed long ago, and the earth was formed out of water and through water by the word of God, and that by means of these the world that then existed was deluged with water and perished. But by the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.

Peter here is just talking about Noah’s flood from Genesis 6 - that when the world was full of humans whose heart only pondered evil things all the time and when wickedness and injustice covered the earth, that God acted decisively on a real day in history where he preserved the righteous and cleansed the earth of the unrighteous. And he says that another day like that is coming in the future, not with water like the flood, but with fire. He continues and says:

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief…

And here’s the crux of what I wanted to talk about today. Peter says that the Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise. Other translations say he’s not slack. Like he’s not slacking off, he’s not sitting in heaven twiddling his thumbs as if he’s uninterested or uninvolved. Neither is he sitting up there biting his nails all nervous about what the future might hold. And he’s not sitting up there powerless to do anything either. The flood was a massive demonstration of his power, right? Peter says that the day of the Lord has not come yet because he’s patient. That’s why there’s evil and injustice and pestilence and why the unrighteous seemingly prosper now. And if you noticed, Peter uses that phrase that would have been so familiar to a first century Jew, he says “the day of the Lord will come like a thief”. Peter is directly echoing the words of Jesus there, and of course this phrase, the day of the Lord, is referring to the day the prophets spoke about where God would decisively act against his enemies, bring low the pride of man, and rid the heavens and the earth of unrighteousness. In some of my other recent videos I’ve talked about how the apostles proclaimed this good news, that God was absolutely and undoubtedly going to fulfill his promises as he spoke them in the Law and the Prophets, and that the Jewish messiah, namely Jesus of Nazareth, is the one who will judge the living and the dead and will reign from Jerusalem on David’s throne in the age to come. But the reason why that hasn’t happened yet is not because he’s waiting for us to pray a lot or waiting on the church to evangelize the world or something. The day of the Lord has not come yet because he’s patient, he is giving time for the wicked to wake up and come to their senses and repent before he judges with fire. And when Peter says that a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day, this isn’t some theological detail to help us with end times charts and timelines, Peter’s just saying that if God has to wait another thousand years, it’s just like waiting another day to him. His patience is unmatched and unparalleled. But let there be no question - the day of the Lord really is coming.

So if God really is going to bring an end to all unrighteousness and injustice forever, how then shall we live before that day? What do we do when the wicked prosper or when wrongs are done to us or when death grieves us? How do we respond when we’re mocked like Noah was in his day before the flood? Well, we look ahead to the certainty of God’s promise, and we order our lives in conduct now as it will be in the age to come. Peter continues here in verse 13 to make that very point:

But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him,

So just as I mentioned in my previous video on fighting sin with a clear vision of the future, Peter is saying here that eschatology - where this is going, where the future is headed - eschatology is what drives discipleship. Precisely because we are waiting for a new heavens and new earth, the home righteousness, we ought to be diligent in our obedience so that we are found without spot or blemish on the day of judgment. And because it’s God’s patience that allows people the time to repent and be saved from the wrath to come, we too ought to show this kind of patience with the wicked - the same kind of patience that Jesus showed when he came the first time - not seeking vengeance on those who do us wrong, but entrusting ourselves to God, who will bring all men to account on the day of the Lord.

Friends, in just a minute, the Lord is going to cleanse the earth of unrighteousness again, he’s going to make it all new, and sin and wars and viruses and politicians and injustices and exploitation and death will all be no more. As disciples of Jesus, this is the message we’re called to be clear and bold about. We ought to tremble in light of that and exemplify with our own lives the same kind of patience that God shows the wicked. Because while we were still yet sinners, the messiah died for us. And as the Apostle Paul also said, let’s be imitators of God, emulating his longsuffering and patience and forbearance toward those mockers and scoffers, toward those who are hostile to the gospel. Let’s live with our heart set fully on the day God fulfills his covenantal promises and his glory covers the earth as the waters cover the sea.

Amen. If this was encouraging, hit the thumbs up button, leave a comment below, share it with your friends, and make sure you subscribe for more videos like this. God bless, and maranatha.

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