The Non-derived Existence of God
It is always not easy to acquaint ourselves with things that are not within our perceptual reach. This is especially so with ideas and knowledge, which cannot be make tangible. The concept of ‘all-knowing’ is one. However, it has never been a problem for Christians to realise nothing that we can think of is not in God’s knowledge. For the Bible states that God is almighty, which denotes He knows all things.
Recently, there has arisen a new ‘insight’ into the biblical truth of God’s omniscience. The theory proposes that God knows all noble things. These include the paths of the righteous; the deeds of the righteous even before they are acted out; and the thoughts of the righteous even before they are conceived. But, a real big BUT here, it concludes that the Lord does not know the ways or thoughts of the wicked before they are translated into action. The assumptive reason given is that God is absolutely good and so it is against His very nature to have the knowledge of evil because in Him there is no evil.
The existence of God is expressed by the generic name ‘YHWH’. It is from the Hebrew verb ‘to be’. When God said to Moses, “I am who I am” (Exod 3:14; 6:2-3): It is translated from the Hebrew phrase ‘ehyeh asher ehyeh’. Its root idea is of independent existence. It affirms that God is ‘He is’. He is in a supreme state that no other being is. Such a unique difference is due to this - His being is found in Himself.
In some English versions, namely RSV, KJV and NKJV, ‘YHWH’ is translated LORD (all capitals). When only the first letter of the word ‘Lord’ is in capital, it always refers to the term ‘Adonai’. To distinguish between the two terms, the article therefore follows the rules as laid down by the English versions in quotes. The following counts express the quality of independent existence of God:
‘The Lord is the Almighty’ This concept is a divinely inspired belief throughout the Bible. The LORD is the eternally self-existent One. He is because He is. He is called the Almighty (Exod 6:3, Ruth 1:21; Joel 1:15; 2 Cor 6:18; Rev 1:8; 4:8; 11:17; 15:3; 16:7). ‘Being the Almighty’ conveys the truth that the complete and incomparable power is inherent within His own existence, which is beyond the reach of any known beings. Here are further examples:
“When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless” (Gen 17:1).“Wail, for the day of the LORD is at hand! It will come as destruction from the Almighty” (Isa 13:6). “But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple” (Rev 21:22).
Whatever the almighty God sets out to do, He would bring it to pass (Isa 14:27; 43:13; 45:23; 48:3; 55:11). It cannot be altered, hindered or rendered void: “… I work and who will reverse it? (Isa 43:13c; 1 Kgs 8:24-26) Though, on the earthly plane, at times, it may appear that His will is thwarted by some unfortunate events, human weaknesses and sins, yet He would still accomplish it (Ps 33:11; Jb 23:13-14; Dan 4:35). One example is the descendants of Abraham. The physical Jews disobey God but His will of blessing Abraham the father of faith is realised on Gentile believers in Jesus. Can Satan’s work go undeterred? His plot to destroy God’s Kingdom has been foiled. He will be eventually thrown into hell forever (Rev 20:10).
The creation of the universe
There are various examples in the Bible that magnify God’s incomprehensible power of being self-existent, which no one can match. He created the awesome universe out of nothing with His word. With the very same word, He sustains the heavens and earth (2 Pet 3:5-6). The creation of the universe not only is the benchmark to His almightiness; most significantly, it is the line of clear distinction between Him and any other being (Ps 104:2-5). Isaiah says it is He who sits above the circle of the earth (40:22).
"I am the LORD, who makes all things, who stretches out the heavens all alone, who spreads abroad the earth by Myself” (Isa 44:24).
Who can claim to have such supremacy, in relation to power, the quality of self-existence and infinity? None is self-existent, apart from the Almighty. He is the One who causes to be what is:
“I am the LORD and there is no other” (Isa 45:18b).
There is none who can create the universe (Isa 45:18a). That is precisely the reason that the Lord says He is the only Creator (Isa 45:18a; 48:12-13; Jer 10:11-13). To say Satan is self-existent is equal to saying He has the power to create the universe. This is a damning statement on the Lord and makes Him a liar.
“I am the LORD, there is no other; there is no God besides Me. I will gird you, though you have known Me, that they may know from the rising of the sun to its setting that there is none besides Me. I am the LORD, and there is no other” (Isa 45 5-6).
The Holy Spirit inspired Jeremiah to know that gods, including Satan, who have not created the heavens and earth are matchless to God’s power in any concrete sense. They are to be judged (Jn 16:11; Acts 26:18) and destroyed (Jer 10:10-11). They cannot live on and on. The Lord has to be feared above all the gods because the psalmist says He made the heavens (Ps 96:5-6; 1 Chron 16:26). Do not be deceived. If Satan were self-existent, he would have created another heaven and earth.
The creation of the life and spirit
The most mysterious part of God’s creation is the existence of life, which is visible to man’s eyes. God had created life out of void from the very beginning (Gen 1:2). That is why He is the source of life. The creation of life also points to the fact that His existence is inherent within Himself. God the LORD remarks,
‘Who created the heavens and stretched them out, who spread forth the earth and that which comes from it, who gives breath to the people on it…” (Isa 42:5b).
If Satan were self-existent, he would surely have created many wicked lives to oppose violently against God.
The mystery of human life is not complete without the existence of the spirit. The creation of the spirit further unfolds the unfathomable power of God. It is the quality of being self-existent on God’s part that brings about the existence of the spirit within the physical life. God the LORD says, it is He who gives spirit to those who walk on it (Isa 42:5c). He causes to be what is.
“Thus says the LORD, who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him” (Zech 12:1).
The Lord is the only one who has performed them. Can anyone do that? Is this not the quality of self-existence that belongs uniquely and exclusively to the Lord God? To say that Satan is self-existent amounts to saying that he is capable of doing what the Lord has done. It is outrageous.
Being ‘the First and the Last’
There are quite a few phrases used in the book of Revelation to describe Jesus, the Lord, being the First and the Last. Examples include Alpha and Omega; the Beginning and the End (1:8; 22:13). ‘The First and the Last’ is the attribute of the Lord, the Almighty (Rev 1:8, 17; 2:8). The expression can have only one meaning: the virtue of self-existence is of the Lord and the Lord alone. ‘I will be what I will be’. This is given to the exclusion of all claims that put any being on par with the quality of His existence. There is no comparison.
The people of God were to listen and understand this unchanging truth:
“I am (the self existent One) He, I am (the self existent One) the First, I am (the self existent One) also the Last” (Isa 48:12).
The Lord challenges anyone who dares to claim the same:
“And who can proclaim as I do?” (Isa 44:7a – to understand the question please read verse 6).
Anyone, including Satan, who claims to be self-existent must pass the test of revealing things that are coming and set them before the Lord (Isa 44:7b). From the Bible, no one can predict as accurate as the Spirit of the Lord concerning things to come. Since the question is a rhetorical one, the answer forthcoming has to be a definite ‘no’. Then who are we to tell the Lord that He has made an inaccurate assessment of Satan? Can we say back to the Lord? Are we the advisors of God? Are we better than Him?
The Lord is beyond comparison
In the History of the Bible, God at time challenged the wrongs of His people, such as when they drew away from Him (Isa 1:2-3). To draw a line of distinction between Himself and any beings, God very often issued challenges to confirm His incomparable supremacy. This is to ensure that this quality of being self-existing is perceived as only inherent within Him. In Isaiah alone, at least on three occasions, such a distinction is made in a challenge issued to His people.
“To whom then will you liken God? Or what likeness will you compare to Him?” (Isa 40:18)
Here, Isaiah, the prophet was moved by the Holy Spirit to distinguish the Lord from any other beings. In view of His miraculous work (Isa 40:3-4); His unchanging word (Isa 40:8); His work toward Zion (Isa 40:9-11); and His matchless greatness (Isa 40:12-17), who can be compared to Him in any conceivable aspect of His divine attributes?
“To whom then will you liken Me, or to whom shall I be equal” (Isa 40:25).
The Holy One of Israel Himself issued the challenge here. Obviously, it grieves the Lord when any of His known qualities and virtues is being parodied or laid claim to. Though the question is directed in the context of disclosing the uselessness of idols, its implication is far-reaching. It goes into the core of the underlying forces of the idols, i.e., Satan himself. They become powerful when Satan is at work. So, does Satan possess the same quality as the Lord has? Obviously, he does not. The reason attached to the question is God’s fathomless wisdom, as revealed in His strength and power to create the universe (Isa 40:26, 20).
“To whom will you liken Me, and make equal and compare me, that we should be alike? (Isa 46:5).
It is the third time that such questions are asked, showing how concerned God is with people putting Him and His nature on par with any other beings. They were asked with God declaring Himself to be the ‘I am He’ (Isa 46:6) cannot be compared in any regard with any real sense, let alone His quality of being self-existing. Some may argue that such questions were posed to disclose the futility of idols (Isa 46:6-7; Jer 10:6). Again, we have to look at them beyond the distinction made between the physical idols and God. It is one with any being who is in opposition against God. That is why the Lord says, “… For I am God, and there is no other, I am God, and there is none like Me” (Isa 46:9b).
The idea of going beyond the physical idols is confirmed by the Psalmist. It is a challenge issued to all the gods, including Satan: “Among the gods there is none like You, O Lord” (Ps 86:8a, 9-10). For any other works are not like those of the Lord, such as the creation of the universe (Ps 86:8b). This had been the fabric of the faith of Israel that before Him there was no god nor shall there be anyone like Him after. Such declaration was made in the light of His self-existence:
“And understand that I Am He before Me there was no God formed, nor shall there be after Me” (Isa 43:10b).
This self-assertive statement only affirms the fact that the Lord is that which no other being is.
“For who in the heavens can be compared to the Lord? Who among the sons of the mighty can be likened to the LORD?” (Ps 89:6). “O LORD God of hosts, who is mighty like you, O LORD?” (Ps 89:8).
The challenge here is twofold. First, it is directed to the spiritual realm. Second, it is to the physical dimension. The answers to both questions are the same. There is none who is like Him in any real sense. The question on His might generates the same answer. There is none like Him.
The understanding that God is beyond comparison had been deeply ingrained in the faith of the ancient saints. There had never been a problem with the saints concerning the uniqueness of God’s attributes as compared to any beings. Moses (Exod 15:11; Deut 33:26-27), David (2 Sam 7:21f) and Jeremiah (Jer 10:6), just to name a few, knew that there was none like the Lord. What about us? Shall we have a faith that is contrary to theirs by claiming that Satan’s existence is owed to himself?
The divine power to save
The Lord not only is the Maker of the universe, He is also the only Saviour for those who trust in Him. There is no one who can save like what He has been doing. The account of the crossing of the Red Sea is one that had shattered into the core of the Canaanites as revealed by Rahab, the prostitute (Josh 2:9-11). The wonders of God shown among all people make Him to be feared above all gods (Ps 96:3-4).
“I, even I, am the LORD, and besides Me there is no saviour (Isa 43:11-12; 45:21b-22). “Yet, I am the Lord your God ever since the land of Egypt, and you shall know no God but Me; for there is no saviour besides Me” (Hos 13:4).
Today, since the Lord Jesus has saved us from sins with His wondrous grace, shall we not ascribe this honour of being self-existent solely to the Lord? Not only does He save, but He also does not let those whom He has saved to be snatched from Him. Obviously, on our side, we have to live a sin-free life (1 Jn 5:18). He causes to be what is:
“Indeed before the day was, I am He; and there is no one who can deliver out of my Hand” (Isa 43:13b).
Since God is all-wise, it is not at all difficult for us to perceive that there is no limitation to His knowledge. If He could know in Himself the destiny of the world, is there anything, which is beyond the reach of His understanding? Who in the universe could have predicted the world is to be ended in the horrendous fashion that it will? This is unprecedented in any sense. The book of Revelation is a good example. Jesus gave John in visions with graphic details concerning what is shortly to take place (Rev 1:1; 22:6). What is even more amazing is that the Lord has given unparalleled descriptions about the works of Satan (Dan 8:10-13, 23-26) in this world (Matt 24; Mk 13; Lk 21; Rev 13 &14); within the church (Isa 66:7-9; Rev 12:13-17); and most awesomely his destiny (Rev 20:10). We surely do not think that Satan can ever have the capacity to fathom God the way God has understood him. Do we?
Isaiah was given the insight to comprehend that God was limitless in His knowledge. The Lord could declare the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand and I will do all My pleasure’ (Isa 46:10). Undoubtedly, ‘things’ here have to include both good and bad. The underlying reason is fairly simple. ‘His counsel shall stand’ is not only realised amongst the saved ones but it is a forewarning to those who are not of Him that God knows their ways even before they happen, as clearly specified by ‘declaring the end from the beginning’. Such an assertion comes after declaring that He is the independent existent One emphatically twice: “For I am (the non-derived existent One) God and there is no other; I am (the non-derived existent One) God, and there is none like Me (Isa 46:9b).
If anything concerning our sworn enemy is consisted in God’s knowledge, it will not be a problem for us to trust that it is the same with the deeds of the wicked, be it done in a thought process or before conception. One of the most notable examples is in the Psalms. The Psalmist was moved by the Holy Spirit to know in great detail how the evil schemes of the wicked were to be inflicted upon Jesus (Ps 2:3; Lk 19:14; Isa 53). Another example that supports the biblical train of thought is the account outlined by David:
“The wicked plots against the just and gnashes at him with his teeth. The Lord laughs at him, for He sees that is coming” (Ps 37:13-14).
The Lord knows in advance the destruction of the wicked; in the way that He knows the day of the righteous (Ps 37:18). Surely, the way of the wicked, even before conception or execution, is within the all-encompassing knowledge of the Lord. What the Lord sees and we see are infinitely apart. He sees with certainty into the future concerning things that will happen, whether they are encouraging or disheartening. Hence, the existence of biblical prophecies.
The understanding of David further enhances this line of biblical thought. In that all his days – ‘the days fashioned for me’ – were in God’s foreknowledge. (Ps 139:16, 13) ‘The days’ refers to his whole life, including both the good and bad patches. It means God knew well in advance he was God-fearing but also on one odd occasion that he sinned by breaking three commandments in one go.
The omniscience of God is fully exemplified in refining Israel’s understanding of Him. Like He had declared the former things from the beginning (Isa 48:3), He was going to tell them new things, which they had never heard before (Isa 48:6). In the course of events, He told them about their hard-heartedness, their thinking (Isa 48:4-5) and His power to know what they would do even before their minds conceived it (Isa 48:8b). This bears tremendous resemblance to the Lord’s warning given to Jeremiah concerning how the rebellious Israel would ill-treat him prior to the start of his ministry (Jer 1:19; 15:20).
Did not God know Nebuchadnezzar’s path of humiliation before hand – the result of his arrogance (Dan 4)? OT examples suffice for now. Let us look at a few NT ones, to unveil the consistent, coherent and organic views of the Bible. The most mentioned one is the case of Judas. The Bible predicts that he would betray Jesus. Some argue God did not know in advance that it was Judas who was to betray him but only some one would do it. The argument is unsound for two reasons. Firstly, how could God, who foreknew that His death was to be orchestrated by one close to him, not know who the betrayer was? The crack of the argument further surfaces itself in its own proposition: God does not know the wicked ways of the wicked before they are thought of. Now, how could God who is completely good know that someone was to betray Him? Secondly, the Bible states that Jesus knew long before (from the beginning) that Judas would betray Him (Jn 6:64; 2:25). The word ‘beginning’ here is the same word used by John to describe the infinite past of the existence of the Word (Jn 1:1). Such a divinely inspired notion proves that Jesus is the almighty God Himself. It also confirms the omniscience of God consists of the evil deeds of Judas prior to the foundation of the world.
In preparation for an unseen and future attack on Peter from the evil one, the Lord prayed for him that he would not fall away from his faith (Lk 22:31). The Lord knew full well what Satan was about to do to His followers. Some may argue that the verse is about Satan asking for Peter to be sifted. If the intended meaning is what has been suggested, then it all the more goes to show that the Bible is organic and falls in line with what John said, “We are born of God… the evil one cannot touch us” (1 Jn 5:18). At the protection of God, Satan cannot strike at His people at will.
Prior to Paul’s journey to Rome, the Lord instructed him to leave Jerusalem hurriedly. Why? God knew well in advance how they would react to the testimony concerning Him (Acts 22:18). They would not receive it. Is this not another example about God who knows the evil deeds of the wicked before they are acted out?
There are countless examples… (Zech 7:14). I just want to use some situations in the seven churches as the final one. Here it specifically outlines the work of Satan, I stress, before the attack of Satan happened, at Smyrna Church. With this foreknowledge, the Lord sent his message to those who were faithful to Him, to put in place a defence, in preparation for a spiritual showdown with the evil one (Rev 2:10). The Lord could even read the mind of Satan and knew full well what his next move was toward His church. Is He not omniscient in every sense that we can think of?
Since the Bible does not contradict itself, answers should be given to every example or question that proposes the opposite.
One of them is the choice of God in taking the way by the Red Sea, instead of a shorter way through the land of the Philistines, to the land of Canaan (Ex 13:17). We know that most of the Exodus Generation perished on the way, only with a few exceptions. The reasons for not taking the shorter way is that they might be frightened by the military might of the Philistines and thus take a U-turn back to Egypt. In fact, on the chosen way to Canaan, they had also demanded a return to Egypt on numerous occasions. It seems here that, as proposed by some, the Lord was ignorant of the ways of the wicked generation who came out of Egypt.
There are many reasons inhered contextually and biblically, which suggest otherwise. It is impossible on our part to know that the shorter route (not taken) is better than the one taken by the Israelites. There is no common ground for comparison. In the foreknowledge of God, He knew it was beneficial to His people: The longer route chosen is for the destruction of the Egyptians. God had planned it in such a way that the people of Israel would no longer live under the shadow of their oppressors. In Chapter 14 of Exodus, God told His people to turn and camp before Pi Hahiroth (14:2), to lead the Egyptians into thinking that God’s people were bewildered by the wilderness. They pursued them with their best military force (14:7-9). As the story goes on … we know that they were all drowned.
The crossing of the Red Sea was also designed as a powerful tool to melt the hearts of the Canaanites (Josh 2:9-10; 4:23). Not just that, it became the symbol of God’s salvation throughout all generations (Josh 24:6; Neh 9:9; Ps 106:7, 9, 22; 136:13, 15; Jer 49:21). The list of verses can go on. When they came to Mt. Sinai, God gave them His oracles. In the reiteration of the wandering in the desert, Moses said that the journey by the way of the Red Sea was to help them gain faith to dislodge the Canaanites (Deut 7:17-19); to test and humble them, to see if they would keep the commandments; and to experience the providence of God (Deut 8). God knew exactly what He was doing and the ways of the wicked generation. The Psalmist says the journey was to demonstrate the mercy of God (Ps 136:10-22). They perished because their hearts were not right before Him (Ps 78:8). God had done everything He could to help them but on their part they failed to obey.
The second example is on driving out the Canaanites. The Lord had promised that He would dislodge the Canaanites (Josh 23:4-5; Num 33:50-56). God later on changed his mind and decided not to drive them out (Judg 2:3, 21). It seems that He did not know that the Israelites could not dislodge the Canaanites. To answer the question, we need to look at the conditions laid down for His people, in order for God to dispossess the natives of the land. God told the chosen ones that they must not have anything to do with the gentiles’ lives. They must resist their corrupting influence so that their faith could remain unadulterated (Deut 7). If the contrary were to occur, then the Lord would not drive them out (Josh 23:12-13) and they shall perish (Deut 7:25-26; 8:19-20). The second condition is that God would not drive them all out at one go. He would do it little by little. This is to ensure that the beasts of the field would not become too much (Deut 7:22b). But Israel must drive them out completely eventually (Deut 7:22-24). The conditions outlined clearly include two major points. They must obey God and do their part.
The reality was that initially they could not drive out the Canaanites because the chosen ones were not strong enough (Josh 15:63; 17:13; Judg 1:19). However, when they grew strong, such as by an increase in number, they refused to do so. They put the natives under tribute or forced labour (Josh 17:13; Jud 1:23-36). On the contrary, for those who trusted in the Lord, it had not been a problem for them to do so (Josh 14:6-15). Caleb and his people displaced the natives in their land completely (Josh 15:14). In actual fact, the enemies Caleb and his people faced were the strongest in the Promised Land for they were the giants (Josh 15:14).
Judging from what is discussed, it is crystal clear that it was not God who did not know that they were not able to dispossess the Canaanites, rather within the providence of the Lord they failed to obey the Lord fully. The Lord allowed them to grow strong so that when they completely destroyed the Canaanites, the beasts would not occupy the land in large numbers. By subjecting the natives to forced labour, which clearly was in violation of God’s command, the Canaanites became their snares and led them away from God (Jud. 1&2). They left God no choice but to realise what He said earlier on: I would not drive them out (Josh 23:12-13).
The next example is on the issue of relenting on God’s part. Sometimes, the Lord God felt sorry for what He had done. Examples include His regret over the creation of man on earth in Genesis 6 and enthroning Saul (1 Sam 15:11). Therefore some have proposed that evil ways and deeds before conception fall outside God’s knowledge. Let us look at the idea of divine relenting from the perspective of the entire scriptures.
In this regard, there are various words used in the Bible to describe the emotional aspects of God towards the mode of behaviour of human beings, especially His chosen ones. They are ‘sorry’, ‘repent’ and ‘relent’. Their meanings differ greatly when used in a divine context as opposed to a human one. God does not relent (1 Sam 15:29). He is not like human beings. So, the term ‘relent’ when used in the context of God has to be different from a human context. The Bible tells us that He is unchangeably determined:
“For this shall the earth mourn, and the heavens above be black, because I have spoken. I have purposed and will not relent, nor will I turn back from it” (Jer 4:28).
In terms of punishment, He had never failed to punish a single sinner (Jer 20:16; Ezek 24:14; Zech 8:14). At this juncture, we need to answer a question: “If God is changeless (Mal 3:6), then why does He always change His mind”? Within the unchanging principles of God, there is an aspect of God’s nature that responds to human action accordingly. His actions are conditioned upon how we conduct our lives. When a sinner turns over a new leaf, then He would relent concerning the punishment that He would execute on him (Jer 26:3, 13; Jer 42:10). One of the best biblical examples is in the Psalms:
The LORD rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands He has recompensed me. For I have kept the ways of the LORD, and have not wickedly departed from my God. For all His judgments were before me, and I did not put away His statutes from me. I was also blameless before Him, and I kept myself from my iniquity. Therefore the LORD has recompensed me according to my righteousness, According to the cleanness of my hands in His sight. With the merciful You will show Yourself merciful; With a blameless man You will show Yourself blameless; With the pure You will show Yourself pure; And with the devious You will show Yourself shrewd. For You will save the humble people, but will bring down haughty looks (Ps 18:20-27).
The same principle is also taught in the NT. In that Jesus says if we forgive others then He will forgive our sins (Mt 6:14). It is insufficient to beg for forgiveness alone from God, to stay in a good relationship with Him. The continuity of our relationship with God depends on our forgiveness of others. It is enormously essential to forgive so that we can receive forgiveness; to forgive while we are being forgiven; to forgive because we have been forgiven.
In this light, we conclude that when God felt sorry, He was grieved by the sins of man or His chosen ones. Insisting that God is ignorant of man’s wickedness before it is acted out will only plunge the once clear and simple biblical interpretation into a mess of entanglement with complexities beyond extrication. The reason is God’s relenting can occur at both ends of the spectrum from blessing to curse when a good man sins (Jer 18:8, 10; Ezek 18:24), and from curse to blessing when a sinner repents (Jon 3:9-10; Ezek 18:21). So, we see that God relents according to His mercy when man changes in conformity to His way (Ps 106:45). On the contrary, He relents according to His justice, when man rebels (Jer 18:8, 10).
There must be two sets of ‘the knowledge of good and evil’ in existence, if the assumption ‘God’s knowledge is of no evil’ holds true. The good and evil in the sphere of God differs contrastingly from that of the kingdom of darkness. To test this concept, we have to journey back the passage of history to the Garden of Eden. First we must ask: To which realm does the knowledge generated from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil belong - God’s or Satan’s?
If the answer is the former, then Adam and Eve were imparted with ‘the knowledge of good and evil’ that God possessed when they sinned. It means that their sin did not have any deadly influence on their mind. The deceptive words of Satan somehow, incomprehensibly, proved to be true: “… You will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen 3:5). By sinning against God, their knowledge of God grew to perfection. It seems Satan was a key player for man to understand God’s knowledge of good and evil. How absurd!
If the latter is proposed, then it only goes to show that there aren’t two sets of the knowledge of good and evil. For the tree was created by God (Gen 2:9-10). It only confirms that He knew about evil, such as the knowledge about Satan, from the very beginning. In addition, why did God say the man had become like one of us (Gen 3:22), if the knowledge is of Satan’s?
The chaos generated can be horrific, if we probe further along this line of erroneous belief. When does God come to know about the evil that belongs to Satan? How could He prepare Himself before the foundation of the world to destroy the work of Satan, if he was ignorant of it? To say that God’s knowledge excludes the sphere of the evil of Satan amounts to saying that parts of the Bible are not inspired by God, for they are talking about the sins that had and would be committed, particularly before His second coming. In fact, countless sections in the Bible are revolving around this theme.
Since good and evil opposes one another, if there are two sets of ‘good and evil’ then we have to ask what the ‘good’ of Satan is. Is it similar to that of God or different? Finally, in utter hopelessness, when the Bible teaches us to discern both good and evil (Heb 5:14), for goodness sake, please let us know which set it is talking about. This problem stems from basing on an unbiblical premise when explaining the destruction from God. This cannot be viewed as the ‘evil’ of God. It is His righteousness in action.
To further unfold the fallacies of the theory let us look at it from the proposition that God can only foresee the future of the righteous. The following scenarios are to be viewed in the light of things or actions not yet acted out.
1. A righteous man may turn evil. At which point in time God becomes unaware of his ways? If he later on turns back again, does God know about it? If in his entire life, he has been through a few ‘ins and outs’ of God’s grace, how do you think God would perceive it? Does God only have a partial foreknowledge of this person’s life?
2. A wicked man may turn good. At which point in time God becomes aware of his ways? Will God know that he will change? If he later on turns back to evil, does God know about it?
3. An event may be intertwined between the life of a righteous and that of a wicked. For example, it was the evil people who divided the garments of Jesus. If the theory is accurate, then how does the Bible know about it before it happens (Ps 22:16-18; Mt 27:35)?
This theory limits God’s power, creates fear in believers and makes God shabby. It paints a picture in which God is immersed in countless uncertainties and exists in regrets in the history of humanity. To be honest, how can we introduce such a God to the unbelieving world? After all, the entire world has enough problems of its own. It can kill the souls of many and spark confusion in the church. We can see how dangerous it can be not only to our own spiritual lives but also to that of others. Any biblical interpretation has to be on the initial foundation, which has long been laid. Learn to speak what the Bible clearly speaks and keep silent when it is not spoken.
God’s purpose can be realised in different dimensions
God’s will is always higher than that of any other that exists or that have existed, be it earthly or heavenly. Whatever He sets out to do, He would bring it to pass (Isa 14:27; 43:13; 45:23; 48:3; 55:11). Though, on the earthly plane, at times, it may appear that His will is thwarted by some unfortunate events, human weaknesses and sins, yet He would still accomplish it (Ps 33:9-11; Jb 23:13-14; Dan 4:35). One example is Joseph (Ps 105:17). This fact also proves that His covenant with Abraham would never fail (Ps 105:8-12).
Another seeming problematic example is the first vineyard song in the book of Isaiah (5:1-7). The story goes by saying God has done everything that He could to ensure His beloved bring forth good grapes. It turned out to be that it brought forth wild grapes. The description gives rise to the belief that God’s will is not readily transpired. This seemingly brings to light the fact that Satan could cause disruption to the work of God at will. And that God did not really know that His vineyard could not bear good fruit. If we approach the passage in a holistic sense, the teachings and concepts derived from it would surely be different. There are three key elements in this story: The work of God is clear. The duty of man in response to God’s work can never be ignored. One is hidden – the work of Satan, which in this case is unhindered, when man, fails to obey God.
The key feature of the entire book of Isaiah is centred upon bringing forth good grapes, which in the understanding of Isaiah refer to justice and righteousness (Isa 5:7). In fact this has been the intention of the Lord right from the beginning (Isa 1:21, 27). God’s purpose remains unchanging (Isa 16:5, 28:17, 56:1, 58:2). Though it has seemingly been thwarted by the stubborn rebellion of His people (Isa 59:9, 14), He knew long before that it would come to pass in the dimension of the church through the coming of Jesus Christ (Isa 32:1, 33:5-6). This is achieved in our time by the outpour of the Holy Spirit in the lives of His believers (Isa 32:15-20).
Still, there is one telling question remains: What happen to the promise of God to the physical Jews, for the vineyard song is first directed to them? Paul gives an unambiguous explanation to the question in Romans chapter nine: ‘But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but in Isaac your seed shall be called’ (Rm 9:6-7). God has His way to realise His promise. He is in His sovereign position (Rm 9:14-29) to choose those, both Jews and Greek alike, who seek Him by faith (Rm 9:30-33). In Christ they shall bring forth the good grapes God has long been desired. When the church has reach the maturity before the coming of the Lord, this purpose of God will come to pass fully. It shall be a time at which the righteousness of God shall dwell (2 Pet 3:13).
Now, we can conclude that no one can resist His will, not even Satan (Jb 9:12; Rm 9:19). When one fails to see how God’s purpose can triumph, one can take consolation in the knowledge that there are always different dimensions to the will of God.
Is there anything too hard for the Lord?
The answer has to be a definite ‘no’. Jeremiah understood that since God had created the universe, then there was nothing impossible with Him (Jer 32:17). Even God Himself says that there is nothing too hard for Him (Jer 32:26). Indeed it is true that he could do anything as long as what is suggested is within His nature. He can create life (Gen 18:14) and raise the dead (Heb 11:19). There are plenty of examples in the times of the Bible and in our times. Most importantly, He has even foreknown that He would surely destroy Satan. This is where the power of God lies. Do you honestly think that He does not know the ways of the wicked before they are done? Why subject yourself to the sin of belittling the power of God? Is this a risk worth taking?