Several years ago, I had the opportunity to visit the Oklahoma City National Memorial to the victims of the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in April 1995. The act of domestic terrorism, which took the lives of 168 people and injured 680 others, was nothing but pure evil and motivated by hatred. Reminders of that tragic day still remain as a black stain against a gray marble wall and a lone Survivor tree which withstood the terrific blast. As I walked along the quiet, peaceful waters of the Reflecting pool and looked at each of the Memorial Chairs for the victims I was emotionally shaken. Each chair symbolized a life, snuffed out that day, and the lives of remaining family members who would be forever scarred by the hideous actions of people overtaken by wickedness. The people of Oklahoma City created beauty from the ashes of this disaster.
An obvious question, by those who visit this memorial, is, ‘Why would God let this happen?’ It is a seemingly innocent question when one believes God is in control of everything. However, we must remember there is another entity who has been given authority on earth and it is his handiwork we see when acts of unspeakable horror are perpetrated against human beings. 2 Corinthians 4:4 says, “The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ who is the image of God.” (NIV) Satan influences the minds of people who do not believe in Jesus Christ. He is the one who infiltrates their thinking and creates schemes and plans bent on destroying lives and creating confusion and animosity toward God. In the case of Timothy McVeigh, who planned and executed the bombing in Oklahoma City, we know he was part of a militia organization which hated the government. His hatred infested his life until he was obsessed with perpetrating a crime of such magnitude he believed it would change the world. His thoughts and actions were not of God.
Why does Satan want to create havoc and terror on earth? We need to understand who Satan is. Satan was created by God when he created the angels. According to Ezekiel 28:12-18, he was one of the most beautiful angels God created. He walked in the presence of God and lived in the splendor and beauty of Heaven. Ezekiel 28:12 tells us he was created perfect in beauty and full of wisdom. It was his perfection, however, which became his downfall. Satan became proud and haughty and wanted to overthrow God and become God himself (Isaiah 14:13-14). God saw the wickedness in Satan and threw him to the earth. He removed his evil presence and influence from the perfection of Heaven.
On earth, Satan was given boundaries but also the ability to control what happened within those boundaries. When God created Adam and Eve he placed them in the Garden of Eden, an oasis of perfection. He gave them dominion over everything, allowing them to enjoy what he created for them, except for one thing: the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil (Genesis 2:16-17). Satan saw this as his opportunity to get even with God. In his clever, manipulative way he enticed Eve to try the fruit using the same wicked thought process which had resulted in his expulsion from Heaven. “You can be like God,” he said. Eve fell for the deception and Adam followed. This one act of rebellion against God opened the door for Satan to destroy, terrorize and recruit human beings to follow him. John 8:44 tells us, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (NIV)
Satan is speaking the same lies to people today and cultivating evil in men’s hearts. The sad part is people don’t recognize him at work because they don’t have the grace of God in their lives. We had a young man in our area who went to school one day and shot and killed three classmates. When the news showed photographs of him, after he had been captured, he had a glazed, empty look in his eyes. It appeared as if no human being existed behind those eyes. He was deceived and motivated to commit a murderous act by his “father” the devil. Hatred and rage festered in his heart until he believed he could “be like God” and killed those three young people. God had no hand in this tragedy.
God’s original plan was for mankind to live in peace and in fellowship with him. When Satan corrupted the plan, God created a way for human beings to have a relationship with him. Jesus Christ was sent by God to bear the punishment and chastisement for our sins in his body so if we believe in him and accept his sacrifice we can be brought back to God. Satan’s goal is to stop us from enjoying an intimate communion with God so he uses whatever methods or schemes in his arsenal to turn us away from God. When horrific events or calamities befall us, our first instinct is to question God when our interrogation should be directed at the devil.
I watched with utter terror and horror as the events on September 11, 2001 unfolded on the television. My heart was anguished when the Twin Towers disintegrated knowing thousands of lives were lost and even more were devastated for life. It is a moment in time I will never forget. The small town I was living in at the time, in Ohio, acquired a piece of the steel from one of the towers and built a small memorial to honor the lives lost that day. I visited the memorial and ran my hands over the rough, rusty piece of steel. It was a stark reminder of the evil running rampant in the world.
In the days that followed September 11, I was dismayed to hear preachers declaring it was God’s judgment on America for its sins. Did this proclamation draw people to God or terrify them? The dreadfulness of that day was not God’s work. In John 10:10 Jesus reminds us of the truth. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (NIV) Satan, the thief, who seeks to steal and kill and destroy everything wonderful God created was responsible for that awful act of terrorism. His despicable influence in the lives of men fomented rage and hatred in their hearts until they acted on their impulses. Throughout the New Testament we are told over and over again God’s intention for men is that they have a loving relationship with him through Jesus Christ. Satan’s intention is to prevent that.
How do we, as Christians, respond to these events? We need to recognize these evil acts are the diabolical artistry of their creator the devil. He has influence in the world today and his influence will only get stronger as the time nears for his ultimate demise. Matthew 4:8-9 tells us he has power over kingdoms of the world as he tries to tempt Christ. “Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. ‘All this I will give you,’ he said, ‘if you will bow down and worship me.’” However, Christ did not accede to his request because, as the son of God, he knew God has ultimate authority over the earth. While God has given Satan certain boundaries to operate in, God is still in control. 1 Peter 5:8 teaches us the devil is like a “roaring lion looking for someone to devour”. As Christians, we are instructed to remain firm in our faith and resist him. This means when horrible events occur we are to recognize who is truly to blame and stand strong in our faith. God will be glorified in spite of Satan’s attempts to detract from him.
As more and more terrible circumstances happen around the world, Christians need to remain firmly planted in the Bible realizing the final victory belongs to God. Revelation 20:7-10 tells us plainly, “And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.” Satan’s power in this earthly realm will be dissolved and the world will be restored to the perfection God intended where we can live for eternity in his presence.