Not long ago, a friend of mine was relating to me a sermon that he had just listened to where the preacher related a question that someone had asked him. The individual wanted to know why God would allow Satan to be loose after the millennium. In response, the pastor said half-heartedly, “if you can tell me why God let him loose the first time, I’ll tell you why He let him loose the second time.” To me, it seemed clear that this pastor was trying to avoid giving a clear and direct answer to this sincere question, because he believed that it could not be answered. I suspect that for many pastors, they struggle with this seemingly unanswerable question. But is it possible that the reason for this is because their theology does not grasp the full significance of the invisible battle between Christ and Satan? For many, the reason for the existence of evil is a mystery. This is why I love being a Seventh-day Adventist. We have the best explanation for the existence of suffering, and we can explain how a good God could allow all of this evil and still be a loving, compassionate God.
So why does God allow Satan to continue on in rebellion against Him? In order to understand why God would do this, it is imperative to realize that sin originated with Satan; and up to that point, the entire universe had never known sin before. Notice that Ezekiel tells us that Satan was once a sinless angel, until iniquity was found in him. “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 (New King James Version, Ezekiel 28:14-15).” Scripture also tells us that Lucifer rebelled against God because he wanted to be God himself, ruling the universe and making all the decisions. “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’ (Isaiah 14:12-14).”
Lucifer’s rebellion was so great, that he carried a large portion of the angels with him in his rebellion. “And war broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him (Revelation 12:7-9; See also verse 4).” But how did Lucifer accomplish the feat of carrying away so many angels? He did it through deception. He told lies about God and led his followers to believe that God was not really the being He claimed to be. Speaking about the origin of evil, Jesus said regarding Satan, “You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it (John 8:44).”
Lucifer deceived Eve the same way he deceived the angels. He told Eve that God was a liar and that she would not die if she ate from the tree. He said, “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 (Genesis 3:5).” Satan told Eve that God was not really looking out for her best interest, but was trying to keep her in a state of blind slavery. He was trying to prevent her from growing to her full potential, which would be to become like God herself. He presented God as the ultimate selfish and arbitrary being in the universe, and the idea that He presented of Himself as a God of love and compassion was a total fabrication. Satan was creating doubt in Eve’s mind about the trustworthiness of God. All of these types of lies Satan used in the beginning, and he continues to use these lies today to prevent men and women from knowing the truth about who God really is.
This is the biggest reason why God sent Jesus into the world. Jesus came to give us many lessons, but the primary lesson was to reveal who God really is in contrast to Satan’s lies. “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5).” You might say that Satan entered into controversy against God by charging Him of being a liar. He accused God of not being who He said He was, and claimed that His government was holding back His created beings from their true potential. Jesus came to present God’s side of the story in contrast to Satan’s story. But who is the evidence meant to convince? None other than those who have been confused in regards to the truth about who is telling the truth: angels, human beings, and the inhabitants of all the other worlds that God has created. The reason that God did not crush out Lucifer in the beginning is because Satan had told lies about God that needed to first be answered. Lucifer needed to be allowed to carry out his plans contrary to God, so that both sides could be clearly seen. This way, the entire universe could see who was really telling the truth. Otherwise, if God had simply destroyed Satan right away, the angels could have said to one another, “hey, Lucifer claimed that God is selfish and arbitrary, and as soon as he spoke out against Him, poof, God destroyed him. Maybe Lucifer was right? After all, if he wasn’t right, why would God destroy him?” Discord would not have been eradicated if Lucifer had been destroyed right away. Even those angels who remained loyal would have had lingering doubts about God and would have served him from fear rather than love. So instead, God took Lucifer to court. He allowed Satan to carry out his plans so that the evidence produced could prove him either true or false. It would either condemn or acquit God from the charges made against Him as well. Only in this way could the universe be cleansed of sin as well as all of the doubts Lucifer had created regarding the character of God.
Interestingly, this idea of taking a false witness to court is the very method of judgment that God instructed Israel to pursue back in Old Testament times. “If a false witness rises against any man to testify against him of wrongdoing, then both men in the controversy shall stand before the Lord, before the priests and the judges who serve in those days. And the judges shall make careful inquiry, and indeed, if the witness is a false witness, who has testified falsely against his brother, then you shall do to him as he thought to have done to his brother; so you shall put away the evil from among you. And those who remain shall hear and fear, and hereafter they shall not again commit such evil among you (Deuteronomy 19:16-20).” The ultimate purpose of these earthly courts was to eradicate the original evil from the congregation so that it would never arise again. On a larger scale, God is doing the same thing with Satan, so his rebellion will never rise again.
God is so fair and so just, that He is not willing to destroy anyone before convincing them of His righteousness in His dealings with sin. This is why even after the millennium Satan will be released for a little season. It’s because God is going to present to all of the wicked from all ages, including Satan, exactly why they are lost, and He is going to prove that even if Satan were given a thousand more years to repent, he would remain unchanged. This also explains the purpose of the judgment. It is not to convince God who should be saved, because God knows everything. God has a judgment so that He can prove to the universe that He was right in His dealings with every case. The judgment is meant to vindicate God’s character before the universe, and opens before them every case, so that they can see exactly why some are saved and some are lost. The pre-advent judgment is meant to convince the sinless universe, the millennial judgment is to convince the ransomed from Earth, and the post advent judgment is to convince the wicked. Every person will be shown why they are saved or lost.
For a long time, I used to think to myself, “that sounds nice, a judgment to answer our questions, but how do we know that God has everything correct inside the books that are to judge us? What if He wrote my case in the wrong light, misrepresented my motives, or simply left something out or added something in that shouldn’t be there?” The answer is that God is not the one who writes the books! The angels do. God uses a third party, so that they can testify that what is in the books is accurate. Isn’t God fair? He is so fair. Not until even the wicked see and confess God’s righteousness will they be destroyed. “Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your name? For You alone are holy. For all nations shall come and worship before You, for Your judgments have been manifested (Revelation 15:4).” This means even the wicked nations will bow down before the LORD on that great day. But they bow because the truth compels them, not because they love the LORD.
When the wicked see why they are lost, and that it was their own choice to reject the offer of mercy, then they will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, because His judgments were manifested before them and they see why they are lost. Everyone will admit that God was fair and just in His dealings with sinners. Only then will they be destroyed. Oh the wondrous mercy of God even to those who do not love Him! Let’s make sure that we are inside the holy city, with an eternity of bliss to look forward to! What do you say?