It all began when one individual started a rebellion in heaven against God and His government. God was betrayed and accused by His own creation, yet He relentlessly pursues the rebel-makers. To save each individual from the awful consequences of evil, He tries to win back their hearts. Love is looking for you.
The origin of evil
Enemy of the ages
Before planet earth came into existence, God made the angels and other worlds. But at some point, the highest and most perfect angel, Lucifer, grew a sense of pride. The love for himself grew bigger than his love for God (Ezekiel 28:12-15). He was no longer satisfied with his status and position but wanted more. This angel wanted to be like God and receive the worship that went along with it (Isaiah 14:12-14). Lucifer started to talk with the other angels and attacked God’s character. He claimed that God withheld power from the holy beings so that God would have all the power and authority for Himself. The way God governed the heavenly kingdom, he claimed, was not for their good, but so that God could control them.
A third of the angels gave up their loyalty to God and followed Lucifer in pursuit of “freedom” (Revelation 12:4). The rebellion of the angels and Lucifer – now known as Satan (Revelation 12:9) – turned into the first war in history, and it happened in heaven (Revelation 12:7). We don’t know what this war looked like, but we know that the rebels ended up outside the kingdom (Revelation 12:8). However, this was only the beginning of the war. The peace and trust that flowed throughout the kingdom were disrupted by the birth of lies, confusion, and evil.
Uprooting the evil
The Bible teaches that God is the Creator of everything and knows everything (Isaiah 40:28). He knew the results of turning against Him and breaking the perfect law of love that governed the heavenly kingdom. He foresaw the misery, suffering, and death that would follow. Why then did God not immediately destroy Satan? Great question. Imagine being an angel and this scenario would play out. The one who has been closest to God would personally tell you what he discovered. He tells you that God is not who He seems to be. God would try to control you and keep you from the power to become like God yourself. You have never heard a lie before, so you don’t know what to do with it. The next day you hear from your angel friends that God has destroyed Lucifer. What would you think? “Lucifer was right!”.
God could have destroyed Satan immediately, but it would leave His entire kingdom in fear for Him. But this is not at all what God desires. He does not seek relationships based on fear but on love and trust. The only way to bring back the harmony in the universe is to at some point to eradicate evil. But first, God needs to allow the rebellion to play out. In this way, anyone can for themselves see that going against God produces evil and that it is right of God to destroy it forever.
The tree of loyalty
God made a new planet, called earth. He made it absolutely perfect (Genesis 1:31). Likewise, God created Adam and Eve perfect and surrounded them with everything they would need. With a free will, they had the choice to love and trust God, or not. A tree in the middle of the garden served as this sign of loyalty. God even warned them to not eat of the fruit, or they would die (Genesis 2:17). But then Satan told Eve another story, using the same methods he used in heaven. He accused God’s character and told Eve that God was withholding power from them. If they ate from the tree, they would not surely die, but become like Gods themselves (Genesis 3:5). The same scenario that the universe faced; who to trust?
Despite God’s warning, Adam and Eve choose to not listen to God and ate from the tree (Genesis 3:6). Because of the choice of humanity, the earth became the central stage for the universe. The nature of God and the nature of rebellion would be openly displayed on the earth. When God came down to the garden as He used to do, something was different. Adam and Eve were not looking forward to being with God anymore. When they heard God walking in the garden, they hid from Him (Genesis 3:8). The spirit of rebellion against God led to a separation between them as created beings and God as their Creator. This is where we introduce the word ‘sin’.
The three-letter word
Sin simply means to break God’s law, to rebel against His government (1 John 3:4) and it separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2). In the same way, as bad genes are passed along to the next generation, so Adam and Eve passed along the spirit of rebellion to their offspring. We are all born with a tendency to rebel against the perfect laws of love (Romans 8:7. Not only do we have the tendency to rebel, but also we all have rebelled already (Romans 3:23). The spirit of rebellion that came from Satan (John 8:34, 2 Peter 2:19) imprisoned humanity. Our hearts are corrupted by evil and we are separated from our Maker. In spite of our own efforts, there is nothing we can do to restore our relationship with God. And there will come a time where God destroys all evil and the evildoers. A hopeless situation for humanity.
The battles of the war
God now has three issues on His hands.
One: Vindication (= the action of clearing someone of blame or suspicion/prove that someone is right, reasonable or justified). In order to restore mutual love and trust, God needs to vindicate His character. If God would destroy the rebel makers without first vindicating Himself, it would leave a lot of room for doubt and confusion. The remaining created beings would serve God out of fear, which in its time gives birth to distrust and the same spirit of rebellion. It would only be a matter of time before another war would arise.
Two: Restoration. Humanity rebelled against their Creator and separated themselves from Him through sin. Nothing that we could do in our own power could ever restore that breach, because we all are slaves to sin. Humanity deserves to be destroyed, for we produce evil and disrupt the balance of unity and perfection in the universe. However, God loves every one of His created beings and to save everyone (1 Timothy 2:4).
Three: Preparation. The effects of sin corrupted and scarred the hearts of humanity. We would feel like outcasts in heaven where purity, holiness and selflessness reign. The imperfection of our hearts, when faced with perfection, would give us a sense of guilt and shame. Eternal life would be eternal torture for those whose heart is not prepared and suited for the culture of heaven.
The story of the cross
The accusations and the rebellion were directly aimed at God, so He is the only one who could do something about it. He left His royal throne in heaven, laid aside His divinity and clothed Himself with humanity (John 1:14, John 3:16). Jesus Christ had as the objective for His earthly mission to “solve” all three of the issues. A mission already planned before the creation of the world (1 Peter 1:20, Revelation 13:8). His coming was predicted from the beginning (Genesis 3:15) and Satan has tried all throughout the ages to prevent Jesus’ coming. In the Old Testament, we can read how Satan has tried to disrupt this prophecy. Through killing and misleading God’s people, Satan tried to cut off the genealogy line that held God’s promise of the Savior to come. But God preserved a people faithful to Him out of which the Messiah would come.
In the midst of all the evil and darkness in this world, Jesus’ life shone brightly as He lived the life we were designed for; one without sin (1 Peter 2:22, Hebrews 4:15, 2 Corinthians 5:21). Through perfect obedience, He personified the heavenly law of love and proved that the law is holy, just and good (Romans 7:12). He overcame the sinful nature, the spirit of rebellion that we all are struggling with. He was able to withstand the temptations because His knowledge was rooted in the Scriptures and prophecies. What a delight it must have been for the created beings in heaven to watch Jesus live His life so beautifully. Yet soon, the laughter and joy would make way for despair and silence. The whole universe would hold their breath, as the consequences of sin would become all too real.
Radical sacrificing love
The garden of Gethsemane at night. Jesus asks His disciples to pray for Him as the hour of the power of darkness is at hand (Luke 22:53). He goes on to be a bit by Himself to pray too. But this night of prayer is not like the others. The Creator of heaven and earth falls on the ground and sweats drops of blood (Luke 22:44). His heart is troubled and in anguish. Three times He asks His Father if there is no other way, yet that not His own will, but the will of the Father be done (Luke 22:42).
The suffering is unbearable. Jesus Christ, blameless and righteous, takes upon Himself the consequences of sin. Not His own sin – for He did not have any – but the sins of the world (1 John 2:2). The sins of you and me. He experienced the consequences of what sin brings; total separation from God. He tasted the death that sin leads to, in our place (Hebrews 2:9).
While He was suffering the load of the weight of sin, one of His twelve disciples betrayed Him and handed Him over to the Jewish leaders who wanted Him dead. They brought Jesus to the Roman governor who tried Him but did not find any fault in Him (Luke 23:4). The leaders stirred up the crowd, those who a few days before gave Jesus a royal welcome, now shouted for Him to be crucified.
Jesus Christ given into the hands of the Roman soldiers and Jews who spit on Him,beat Him, put a crown of thorns on His head, mocked Him, tortured Him and eventually hung Him on a cross. These same people that Jesus was trying to save (Romans 5:8). The physical pain was excruciating, but it was nothing compared to the pain in His heart that was caused by the separation from God. He cried out “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?”. Then He said “It is finished!” and He gave up His spirit into His Father’s hands (John 19:30, Matthew 27:46, Luke 23:46). It was not the Roman torture devices or the nails in His hands that killed Him – it was our sins.
Heaven was quiet.
The Creator hung dead on the cross.
Sin did that.
There is no more doubt about the results of sin, as the universe has seen for themselves what it ultimately took to save us from it; the death of the Creator Himself. In this act, God displays His pure and selfless character. He does not only say that He loves His created beings and has their best interest at heart, but He demonstrated it by spilling His own blood and laying down His own life to save His precious rebellious creation. This act of radical love vindicates His name and character.
Life gives life
They took the body of Jesus of the cross and laid Him in a tomb, sealed by a stone, heavily guarded by Roman soldiers. Yet on the third day, heaven burst out in joy and praise as Jesus opened His eyes again. The life that He laid down voluntarily, He picked up again (John 10:18, John 11:25). Jesus endured the sufferings of our sin that led to death, yet could overcome death because He Himself was without sin and could not stay in the grave. Restoration of the broken relationship between each individual and their Creator is now possible, but only through the sacrifice of Jesus (John 14:6).
Because He was raised to life again and overcame the power of death, He can raise us up to a new life as well. This is symbolized in the act of baptism. When you go all the way under the water, it represents that you bury your sinful self and die to your natural self as Christ did in the garden (Luke 22:42). You turn from your destructive ways and put to death the spirit of rebellion in you. And when you get up, you rise to a new life in the same way as Christ did and become part of His family (2 Corinthians 6:18). Instead of only being born of the flesh, with the sinful nature, we can then be born of the spirit and inherit the righteousness nature of Christ (John 3:3-6, Romans 5:12; 5:19, Acts 2:38).
We receive the Holy Spirit who daily empowers us to overcome the temptations from the sinful nature (Ezekiel 36:26) and instead live out the righteousness of Christ. The Spirit inside of us transforms our heart, enabling us to be obedient to the law of love – which is how we love Jesus (John 14:15). Our thoughts become purer, our actions more loving and our lives more holy. We find the true freedom in life that we were designed to experience, as we are changed from the inside out. God’s people are preparing for the culture in the heavenly kingdom.
The call to respond
The pierced hands are now reaching out to you. The story of the cross is an invitation to the world, to be reconciled with our Creator. It is up to you – are you going to face the consequences of your sins yourself, or do you allow Jesus to take your place? In spite of what you have done, how messed up your life is, you can come to Him just as you are. If you genuinely repent (= to turn from what you have done wrong against God), confess your sins to Him and He will forgive you.
This is grace: a gift that we totally do not deserve. A gift, given because of His great love and mercy. Despite your wrong choices in the past, how you have treated others, or the issues you have, He wants to have a relationship with you! This gift is not dependent on your performance or actions, it has everything to do with His overwhelming love for you. You can be in a relationship with your Maker and Savior. Today, accept Him as your personal Savior (Hebrews 3:15). Take action immediately and talk to God right now. Ask Him for forgiveness and express your desire to get to know Him. Allow Him to transform your heart from the inside out and experience a loving relationship with your Creator.