Christians are familiar with Genesis 3 when humanity first sinned. Adam and Eve get tempted by Satan in the garden of Eden and succumb to the effects of evil and sin. As the story goes, God allowed Adam and Eve to eat of every tree in the garden except for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Adam and Eve eat from the tree and sin. Many will argue that they even sinned prior to eating the fruit when Eve doesn’t give a totally true statement (saying that even if they touch the fruit they’ll die, even though God explicitly stated eat) and Adam stands idly by and passively allows his wife to partake of the fruit.
And the Lord God said, “The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil. He must not be allowed to reach out his hand and take also from the tree of life and eat, and live forever” (Genesis 3:22).
But did this evil exist before this moment?
Many of us will point at Satan and say that evil existed with him long before Adam and Eve sinned, but do we have Scripture to back this up?
Has evil always existed or did it have a starting point? We’ll dive into these questions and more in this article.
Did Evil Exist Before Adam and Eve?
To answer this question, we have to dig into a few Old Testament passages to uncover the first sin.
The first sin actually happens with Satan, and we do have verses to back this up. Let’s analyze the following passages.
How you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations! You said in your heart, “I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon (Isaiah 14:12-13).
This passage refers to Satan. Some versions of the Bible explicitly say his name instead of “morning star.” We can see, from these verses, that Satan’s pride led to his downfall.
He disliked that the angels worshipped God and deemed himself a being worthy of praise.
From here Satan is cast out of heaven to earth, where he tempts Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden,
And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their proper dwelling — these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day (Jude 6).
Therefore, evil existed before humanity sinned.
Has Evil Always Existed?
This of course brings up this question: Did evil always exist since God is the Creator or did it form once Satan gave into pride?
This Focus on the Family article warns against thinking of evil as a noun or thing. According to the article, “Biblically speaking, evil is an aspect of relationship.”
In other words, if God creates creatures with free wills, this allows for the possibility for evil, for the possibility that they will choose to enthrone something other than God in the center of their lives.
Meaning, this includes angels. When God created heaven and the angels, beings who worshipped him, this allowed for the possibility of the angels choosing not to worship God — to instead, worship themselves.
Satan opts for this choice and with him leads astray one-third of the angels.
The Bible doesn’t give us a timeline of when God created the angels and heaven, but we do know he created all things. In short, scholars have fiercely debated about the origin of evil, and this article will not be able to flesh out a direct answer to the question. But we can know evil did exist before the creation of man.
Why Does This Matter?
Why does it matter that we should know evil started before the creation of the world?
It matters because we should know as much about the enemy as possible, including his origin story. The first sin ever committed appears to be pride. Scripture makes it clear that pride goeth before a fall. Any time pride overtakes our lives, we can remember the first sin and avoid going down the path of destruction.
Secondly, it matters because evil shows the existence of God’s love. God allows us to have free will and to use that free will to have a relationship with him. Evil comes when we choose to use that free will and dedicate our worship to something else.
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Hope Bolinger is a literary agent at C.Y.L.E. and a graduate of Taylor University's professional writing program. More than 600 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from Writer's Digest to Keys for Kids. She has worked for various publishing companies, magazines, newspapers, and literary agencies and has edited the work of authors such as Jerry B. Jenkins and Michelle Medlock Adams. Her column "Hope's Hacks," tips and tricks to avoid writer's block, reaches 6,000+ readers weekly and is featured monthly on Cyle Young's blog. Her modern-day Daniel, Blaze, (Illuminate YA) Den (releasing July 2020), Dear Hero (releasing September 2020), and Dear Henchman (releasing 2021) Find out more about her at her website.