Are you perplexed by the evil, suffering, and injustice of our world? You need look no further for the explanation. Man and creation are suffering and groaning due to the consequences of sin. Something is wrong with the world: Satan, sin, and sinners. This is the bad news. The good news is that God included sin and suffering in His plan for creation. How can this be? The explanation is found in the Bible, which speaks of God’s plan for man and creation. Let us consider several reasons why a good God has incorporated man’s fall and its consequences into His plan for creation.
(1) God’s response to the fall of man demonstrates His glory. God’s dealings with sinful men most effectively manifest His glory:
Then the Lord passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth; who keeps lovingkindness for thousands, who forgives iniquity, transgression and sin; yet He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished, visiting the iniquity of fathers on the children and on the grandchildren to the third and fourth generations” (Exodus 34:6-7).
God’s purpose is to demonstrate His glory. Since the way He deals with sin reveals His glory, the fall of man is included in God’s plan for creation. The fall of man is the context in which God’s glory is revealed.
(2) God’s plan, established before the foundation of the world, anticipated sin and the suffering it would bring. More than this, God’s plan made provision for sin by means of the suffering of the Son of God. Do we think God is harsh in allowing sin to enter the world to produce pain and suffering? No one has suffered more because of sin than the suffering Savior:
He was despised and forsaken of men, A man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; And like one from whom men hide their face, He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely our griefs He Himself bore, And our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, And by His scourging we are healed. All of us like sheep have gone astray, Each of us has turned to his own way; But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all To fall on Him (Isaiah 53:3-6).
“This Man, delivered up by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. And God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power” (Acts 2:23-24).
Knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ. For He was foreknown before the foundation of the world, but has appeared in these last times for the sake of you who through Him are believers in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God (1 Peter 1:18-21).
(3) In God’s plan the curse is a part of the cure. This is evident in the curses found in Genesis 3. The woman’s curse is pain in her childbearing, but her deliverance is in childbearing, for it is her seed who will crush the serpent’s head. Satan’s curse included his crushed head. That curse, when fully executed, spells deliverance from a sin ravaged world. Adam’s curse also points to our deliverance. The cursed soil means that Adam, though he labors hard, must look to God for his crops. And the curse of death pronounced on Adam is God’s means for our cure. It is the death of the Lord Jesus Christ, on our behalf, which saves us from our sins and provides us with the assurance of eternal life.
Everywhere–within us and without–the curse is evident. The suffering, chaos, and tragedy of our world shouts for our attention, telling us something is desperately wrong. God is gracious to give us this indication of trouble. Those most affected by the curse are, in Jesus’ words, the most blessed. God may well use men’s affliction to turn them to Himself:
And turning His gaze on His disciples, He began to say, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God. “Blessed are you who hunger now, for you shall be satisfied. Blessed are you who weep now, for you shall laugh. “Blessed are you when men hate you, and ostracize you, and cast insults at you, and spurn your name as evil, for the sake of the Son of Man. “Be glad in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven; for in the same way their fathers used to treat the prophets. “But woe to you who are rich, for you are receiving your comfort in full. “Woe to you who are well-fed now, for you shall be hungry. Woe to you who laugh now, for you shall mourn and weep. “Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for in the same way their fathers used to treat the false prophets” (Luke 6:20-26).
Suffering, the painful consequence of sin, is also the means by which God has chosen to produce our blessings. Suffering is not opposed to glory; it is the road to glory. So it was for our Lord, and so it is for us. The curse is a part of the process by which the cure is produced.
Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4).
For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, who committed no sin, nor was any deceit found in His mouth; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls (1 Peter 1:20-25).
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing; so that also at the revelation of His glory, you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you (1 Peter 4:12-14).
(4) In God’s plan, sin and the curse made possible a cure with blessings better than those lost by Adam’s sin and the curse. Sin and condemnation are not the end of man’s hope, but the starting point. In His grace, God condemns men so that He might manifest His grace upon them: “For God has shut up all in disobedience that He might show mercy to all” (Romans 11:32).
Sin does not slam the door on God’s blessings; it opens the door for His grace. Jesus did not come to provide salvation for saints, but for sinners. He came to seek and to save those who are lost. Until sin and the fall, there was no occasion for God to deal with men graciously. After sin and the fall, He could only bless men by dealing graciously with them. “But where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Romans 5:20b).
Job’s experiences serve as an illustration. As described in chapter 1 of the Book of Job, Job is an ideal servant of God. God Himself says, “There is no one like him on earth, a blameless and upright man, fearing God and turning away from evil” (Job 1:8b). Job was not sinless, but he was an excellent example of a servant of God. In this state, Job was something like Adam and Eve before the fall.
Then Satan was allowed to afflict Job. Eventually, Job’s suffering got to him. While Job did not curse God, he surely acted in an unseemly way. He sinned. By the end of the book, we see a new Job, humbled by his suffering and by God’s rebuke but with a much deeper love and devotion for His God. He is now a man who more fully grasps the wisdom of God and who has experienced His grace. Job is not just more prosperous for the experience; He is nearer to God than he has ever been before. While Satan attempted to alienate Job from God, Job’s sin was the occasion for grace, bringing repentance, reconciliation, and a more intimate union with God. Job’s experience is the experience of all who receive God’s grace as a result of sin.
It is all too easy to think of God’s “cure” in Jesus Christ as a restoration, merely restoring everything to the condition in which it was found before the fall. This is simply not the case. The last state, as it were, is vastly better than the first, for all those who are the called according to His purpose.
If the first three chapters of the Bible explain the condition of mankind and the world due to the fall of man and the curse, the last two chapters of the Bible explain the depths of the cure made possible by God through the person and work of His Son, Jesus Christ. Here, as one radio commentator would say, is “the rest of the story:”
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He shall dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be among them, and He shall wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there shall no longer be any death; there shall no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true” (Revelation 21:1-5).
And he showed me a river of the water of life, clear as crystal, coming from the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the middle of its street. And on either side of the river was the tree of life, bearing twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit every month; and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall no longer be any curse; and the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His bond-servants shall serve Him; and they shall see His face, and His name shall be on their foreheads. And there shall no longer be any night; and they shall not have need of the light of a lamp nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God shall illumine them; and they shall reign forever and ever (Revelation 22:1-5).
As one compares the description of the new heavens and earth in the final chapters of the Book of Revelation with the paradise of Eden, a very clear message emerges.
(1) The last paradise is like the first. The tree of life, which was in paradise lost is in the heavenly city.
(2) The paradise of Revelation is not identical with that of Eden. The paradise of Genesis had a sun, a sea, and a night. The paradise of Revelation has no sun, no sea, and no night.
(3) In the paradise of Revelation, the curses of Genesis are removed.
(4) The paradise of Revelation is vastly better than the paradise of Eden.