Why didn't God just dispense with Lucifer when he first started to sin so as to avoid all the pain and suffering caused by Lucifer since then?
This is an extremely important question, yet it requires some appreciation of a much larger context in order to discover answers that make sense. One of the most important questions that must be addressed for the larger perspective is this:
What is the nature of love itself?
Here are additional questions that tie into grappling with this serious issue:
Is love consistent no matter what happens? Or will agape love ever be willing to resort to using force if it comes under threat?
Is agape love unconditional, or is it only for those who deserve it or can somehow earn it?
Is it even possible for love to be earned?
Here's some more relevant questions. If I do something good, like cooperating with God by blessing others with what He has given to me, do I somehow earn favor with Him? Is it possible to ingratiate myself with God, to get on His 'good side' by causing Him less grief than the open rebel?
I have come to see how the two trees in the Garden of Eden represent two opposing systems of that compete for our belief and participation. God's system is represented by the Tree of Life. This is singular with no reference to death, threats or fear. The other one is called the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and represents a complex system invented by Satan who counterfeited God's government, yet insisting this was an improvement and more secure to maintain order than God's system of love alone. This new system of governing societies and people was founded on the idea that both enticements for reward as well as threats of punishment are required in order to maintain law and order and to keep the peace. These are the premises upon which every society on earth functions.
I am convinced that the system of reward and punishment for maintaining law and order is not part of God's design as these two systems are totally incompatible with each other. John makes this very clear in his first letter. Perfect love expels all fear, because fear has to do with punishment (1 John 4:18). Yet this raises additional questions about how to relate to references Jesus made about rewards and punishment. Was Jesus compromising with some of Satan's methods? Or was he referring to something significantly different? Is the tree of good and evil valid sometimes? And is it even possible for people to live in a society that operates on unconditional love alone? These are topics for another study.
The arguments of Lucifer in the beginning of his rebellion revolved around these issues. Lucifer finally declared that God's unconditional agape love was merely an unrealistic theory – nice-sounding but incapable of effectively dealing with the very real problems that would result should someone decide to experiment with living outside the boundaries of love as God designed reality to operate.
Because God refused to accept Lucifer's proposals to integrate his reward/punishment system into heaven's protocols, Lucifer became offended and decided to prove his that love was a weakness by doing exactly what he had warned God might happen and to prove that love really cannot handle all the chaos resulting from rebellion. His arguments were in fact the seeds of the doubts that our questions reflect today, that God made a mistake by not resorting to severe punishment of Lucifer to block sin from spreading throughout the universe by putting a forceable stop to it from its very inception.
In effect, our sincere questions reveal that we have been infected with the logic propagated by Lucifer who insisted that insurrection could only be stopped through force because love alone was inadequate to deal with evil and chaos. This is the very logic Lucifer relied on to convince many of the angels to side with him in his revolt against heaven's government. Yet what explanation can counter these arguments to prove that love actually could be stronger than evil? Can we honestly believe that God was right in not forcibly crushing out evil at its inception allowing it to wreak untold damage to His creation and still not be guilty of complicity in all the horrible outcome? Is God to be viewed as innocent while unwilling to use His superior power to crush out evil with force, threats and imposed punishments leaving so many of His innocent children to be victimized by violence and pain?
The answers lie deep beneath the surface and require patience to find. Those willing to humble themselves and allow the Spirit of God to bring truth about God's design begin to appreciate the predicament God is in and how love really can be stronger than evil. We must be willing to see God's side of the problem while discovering how invested we are in the logic of Lucifer. We have been so conditioned to imagine there is only one solution to eliminate evil that it is very difficult to accept there could be another way, even though at first it may seem untenable, yet preserves the truth of agape love. There are answers revealing how God has dealt with sin from the very beginning through love alone, yet appreciating these answers requires willingness to challenge our own presumptions to make room for new possibilities we have never considered before.
I woke up this morning thinking about this because someone posed this question to me yesterday and it still resonates strongly in my spirit even now. As I pondered all the things that have happened over the past couple days and witnessed God's work of love in people's hearts, I was reminded of how much joy I experience in participating with God in ministry to others. Yet I realize also how I am tempted to think that my cooperation can somehow increase God's favor for me. Instantly I realized that this very notion is part of the infection of commercial thinking inherited from the Tree of Good and Evil, the very thing I teach as being foreign to God's way of relating to us. Commerce logic lies at the very root of Satan's counterfeit system and is part of why we have all our questions to begin with.
God says that the root of Lucifer's sin was the abundance of his trading (Ezekiel 28:5,16). The previous chapter 27 in Ezekiel is entirely about trading and commerce. It has become clear to me in recent years that it is this mentality of commerce, trading, earning and deserving that comprises the very foundation of all Satan's mindset of how to do relationship.
Lucifer challenged God's authority as he began to circulate this new concept of excessive trading and commerce among angels who previously had never even thought of having unmet needs. Commerce requires unmet need as the vacuum to drive commerce to 'succeed.' We don't give this a second thought today since we have only lived under commerce all our lives and find any challenge to its legitimacy as strange. Is it really wrong to trade things with others? Don't people offer to trade with others to enjoy mutual benefits? What could possibly be inherently wrong with trading if no one is taken advantage of or exploited? I suspect Lucifer may have offered some of this very reasoning as he insisted that trading was perfectly harmless and in harmony with the principles of heaven. So what could be so problematic with the concept of trading and commerce that makes it such an insidious issue as to produce violence and result in sin as stated in Ezekiel?
Keep in mind that every counterfeit mimics something that is true with inherent power. This is important when sorting out the deceptive counterfeits of Satan. I am sure there was nothing wrong with angels or anyone else offering to give things to others, to share gifts or show kindness in such ways. In God's family joy is generated in giving gifts. It likely takes place all the time in heaven, otherwise every created being would be isolated objects of God's direct care and provision with little to no interaction with anyone else. That scenario is not at all like the family relationship system defining how God designed His creation to interrelate.
Let's take a closer look at this. Lucifer was the most gifted of all created beings and thus possessed the most to offer others. He may well have functioned in his role for who knows how long before something happened inside of him that caused him to toy with potential possibilities outside the design of agape love. We cannot explain it, yet I have no doubt that God knew even before it began what took place in Lucifer's mind. Yet the question still persists – if God knew Lucifer was even starting to experiment with possibilities of what it might be like to live outside of God's design of love alone, then why didn't God squelch it right there so it could never turn into the tragedy it has become?
The answer to that can only be discerned more clearly after we first consider how sin began to develop. If we don't understand the cause and nature of the original problem of sin, we won't have a correct diagnosis of the disease and it will be impossible to see how the solution could resolve the problem. Without a correct understanding of the root cause our ideas for an effective solution would only result in more damage – which is exactly the issue God faced at the very outset of the sin problem.
Lucifer was created super-brilliant, likely the smartest created being in the universe. Yet at some point he chose to exercise his freedom to use his gifts to figure out things for himself instead of trusting God's superior wisdom of how things were designed to operate. I have no doubt that God sought to warn him and steer him away from the direction he was headed. Yet because love does not deal in fear and does not rely on fear to motivate others, God respected Lucifer's freedom to reject His ways of love and without imposing punishment on him for doing so.
This does not mean that God did not seek to warn Lucifer repeatedly and seek to reconcile him back into the ways of love. Yet love requires that we voluntarily choose to live in it, for trust and love cannot be commanded. At first Lucifer could not know how tragic the outcome would be if he continued in the direction his thinking was leading him, but there is no doubt he was warned of those consequences by God who knew clearly where it was heading. Even so, Lucifer repeatedly chose to prefer his own will and ignored the warnings of God, and the rest is tragic history. Still, why didn't God resort to force to stop Satan before it got so out of hand and turn into what it has become today?
The reason God refused then, and continues to refuse today, to resort to Satan's methods of force and fear to block evil is because those methods themselves lie at the very foundation of evil. To fight evil with evil will never overcome it but only perpetuates it. Killing someone who refuses to love you will never elicit love and affection in those watching how you handle the situation; it only produces fear and fear is no part of love as the two are mutually exclusive. This is precisely why the two competing kingdoms are divided and entirely incompatible with each other. We will either embrace Satan's counterfeit system that relies on manipulative fear and based on rewards and/or punishments, or we may choose to embrace God's kingdom of love alone. There is no other option.
It is here the answer to stop evil starts to emerge. God's government of agape love involves total freedom to respond to or resist love without fear of recrimination, for it is impossible for love to even exist in an environment devoid of freedom. This freedom though, involves vulnerability, for without willing vulnerability it is impossible to enter into the joy of intimacy which is an integral part of love. Freedom, truth, vulnerable love, intimacy – all these must be in place for one to experience full joy, and without joy and love God's creation cannot thrive, for love is the very design template of all creation. We cannot remove the truth of agape love without the entire design of all creation collapsing. This explains why the kingdom of Satan cannot last forever, for it insists that there must be counterbalance in order to maintain order and avoid chaos. Ironically the added features proposed by Lucifer to prevent chaos and rebellion were in fact the very seeds of rebellion itself, which soon became clear in the results produced by his resistance to God's love for him personally.
Undergirding the entire system designed by Satan is the subtle rules of commerce, the artificial way of thinking that was never part of God's original creation design in the beginning. Lucifer likely began to experiment with what could be achieved if the natural impulse to share things with others were accelerated and intensified beyond original design. I am not attempting to give an excuse for sin, yet based on the words of God in Ezekiel I see many hints of how sin may have been caused through a promotion of excessive trading.
Behold, you are wiser than Daniel; there is no secret that is hidden from you; by your wisdom and by your understanding you have gotten you riches, and have gotten gold and silver into your treasures; by your great wisdom and by your traffic have you increased your riches, and your heart is lifted up because of your riches...
By the abundance of your traffic they filled the midst of you with violence, and you have sinned: therefore I have cast you as profane out of the mountain of God; and I have destroyed you, covering cherub, from the midst of the stones of fire. Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you have corrupted your wisdom by reason of your brightness: I have cast you to the ground; I have laid you before kings, that they may see you. (Ezekiel 28:3-5, 16-17)
The context of this is an entire chapter just previous to this in Ezekiel describing intense activities of commerce. It is becoming ever more clear to me that the original issue that caused sin to take root in the mind of Lucifer involved excessive trading as God says. Again, that is not to imply it is sinful to trade things with others. Yet there is strong implication here that there was something related to trading that became complicit in the origin of sin, particularly the abundance of trading/commerce.
Notice as well the motives God indicates were behind this excessive trading that resulted in both internal violence and sin. Repeatedly God notes that Lucifer (here identified as the prince of Tyre) was obsessed with getting things for himself. The purpose for his intense trading was to enrich himself. This would imply that his amassed riches were likely at the expense of others with whom he traded.
This brings to light the root problem and why trading and the commercial way of thinking is foreign to the very design of creation. It involves selfishness, the opposite motive of agape love, that resulted in both violence and sin. Violence is not part of God's original design, and sin is distrust of God's heart and ways. Sin leads eventually to open hostility and denial of agape love's very existence. This arouses deep animosity against love, and such resistance produces internal conflict – violence in the soul. Sooner or later it inevitably erupts in outward violence causing pain, suffering and finally death.
Violence is a reaction produced by resistance to love. Notice it begins internally, not externally. What dwells in the heart sooner or later comes out in the how we treat others. Violence is never part of agape love, for love's attributes are opposite to violence and anything related to it. Violence means violating freedom, peace and happiness. To violate freedom is to mar God's creation. To violate others is to rob from them part of their unique reflection of the beauty of God. To violate others is to take for ourselves that we crave without respect for the free will of another.
This is where we can see even more clearly why the kind of trading Lucifer likely engaged in became problematic. So long as giving and freely exchanging remained spontaneous, motivated only by mutual love and willing gifts to others, it remained safe within the parameters of love and could even increase joy with others. But Luciferic trading crosses the line where the motives become selfish, meaning we desire something someone else has so much we are willing to violate that person's integrity, body or privacy and demand or force something from them. It matters not whether what is wanted is replaced by something in a trade or not, if the exchange involves compulsion or intimidation in the slightest way, freedom has been violated and hearts will always be damaged as a result.
With this in mind, let's return to the question of why God could not forcibly block Lucifer before sin got so out of hand and maintain His own integrity. If God resorted to force to block Lucifer from spreading selfishness, God would have Himself violated Lucifer's freedom. The only outcome of this would be to confirm Lucifer's assertion that agape love does not exist or is ineffective to prevent evil because God had to resort to methods Lucifer invented to maintain law and order. If God used violence or force to stop Lucifer, then Lucifer's promotion of force as necessary would have been validated. If God had destroyed Lucifer, the result would have been fear aroused in the hearts of other beings which sooner or later would have reignited rebellion that would have become more widespread than before.
We know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and he who remains in love remains in God, and God remains in him. In this love has been made perfect among us, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment, because as he is, even so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear has punishment. He who fears is not made perfect in love. We love Him, because he first loved us. (1 John 4:16-19)
God cannot be love and yet use fear to maintain control in His universe. The two approaches are mutually exclusive which is at the heart of why God did not destroy Lucifer or any other sinner. God is not the author of sin or death – Lucifer turned Satan the devil, the father of lies, is the original murderer from the beginning according to Jesus (John 8:44; 10:10). God's government is founded upon truth, love and freedom which means there can be no threats of imposed punishment, recrimination or retaliation from God. Otherwise true freedom does not exist but is only an illusion.
Without this central tenant of freedom respected by all including God, it is impossible to maintain love or for it to thrive. True love requires freedom to not love. If you don't think this is true, just explain why it is impossible to get anyone to love you if you threaten to torture or kill them should they refuse. Threats of harm or retaliation or punishment against those you are trying to draw into a relationship of love with you is the sure way to eliminate all possibility of love or affection. The same principle applies just as much to God as it does in all our relationships.
Without freedom to reject love free of any fear of reprisal, it is impossible to love at all. This is why the option of violently stopping Lucifer when he began experimenting with life outside the principles of love was never an option at all, because God is love. Love is not something God does when it works well but then resorts to threats of violence when it doesn't work so well. The only way agape love can exist is if it is consistent and respects freedom all the time. It is either unconditional, irrepressible love or it does not exist at all. God loves, not because He has to or eve because others might be lovable, rather that is who God is and accordingly what He always does by nature. Because love does not engage in intimidation, violence or killing, it means God cannot be the one behind all the violence witnessed throughout history. Otherwise God would be complicit in sin, and the mess we find ourselves in would be far worse than we already imagined and the gospel is not really good news.
As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God didn't send his Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through him. (John 3:14-17)
We might think initially from this that God dealt in trading when He sent His Son to die for us to get what He wants. Remember that God's motives and methods are the original while Satan's system is all counterfeit. A counterfeit may at first appear to be just like the original, but it always contains fatal flaws. The kind of 'trading' within the spirit of true love is not the sort of trading we typically do to secure something we selfishly want for ourselves, even when we offer something of relative value to get it. This is why trading is a poor word to describe what takes place in the kingdom of love. Gifting and generosity are much more accurate for describing what transpires in the family of God. As soon as we expect or demand something in return for what we offer, we cross over into commerce mentality, and commerce is where sin originated in the first place.
Understand that commerce is far more pervasive in our thinking than simply transacting goods or services. Commerce is an entire way of thought and expectations, a systemic mentality in which everything and everyone is assigned artificial value and can be measured, calculated and turned into a commodity. In addition, anything involving terms such as earning, deserving, debt or other such words involves commercial thinking. Thus the very idea that we can somehow earn favor from God instantly introduces the system of commerce and trade. This poisons the heart making it extremely difficult if not impossible to embrace the free and ever-present grace and love of our heavenly Father.
Likewise, belief that people who harm others deserve to be punished also involves embracing commerce thinking. Likewise belief that we deserve anything means we are embracing rules of commerce that define how everything interrelates, snaring us in the kingdom represented by the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. This system rooted in commerce, where earning rewards or deserving punishment for bad deeds, is how worldly law and order systems of 'justice' are maintained everywhere. Whether literal trading of goods and services for the purpose of getting from others, or demanding punishment for criminals we abhor and insisting they deserve the worst place in hell, commerce retains vested interests in Satan's system of artificial value and relationships. To cling to these beliefs means we reject God's way of love, for it is impossible for the light of love and the darkness of evil to amalgamate. We will choose one or the other as there can be no compromise.
No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other; or else he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You can't serve both God and Mammon. (Matthew 6:24)
Mammon was the name of the god of commerce in ancient times. This explains why Jesus made it so clear that it is impossible to entertain these opposing ways of thinking in our mind at the same time. They are absolutely incompatible, so we have to choose one or the other exclusively or we become double-minded and unable to receive anything from God as James explains (James 1:5-8).
For the love of money [mammon, greed] is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. (1 Timothy 6:10 KJV)
Most translations refuse to use the word 'the' in this phrase. This is because few comprehend the centrality of commerce thinking involved with the problem of sin. Yet the clearer this becomes for me the more obvious it is that commercial logic lies at the very foundation of Satan's entire kingdom of darkness. Commerce operates by selfish desires demanding to be met even if it involves violation of others. Thus commercial living results in sin and removes us from enjoying the benefits of living in love, freedom and joy.
With this as a backdrop for understanding how sin took root in the mind of Lucifer, it is easier to see why God could not destroy Lucifer and still maintain His kingdom operated by love. Love is certainly a high risk way of relating to others as is proven by the history of the war between Christ and Satan. Yet this war is not yet over. In the end it will be clearly seen that love really is stronger than fear and that God's choice to allow the kingdom of violence and evil to play itself out to full maturity will prove that God was right (righteous) in not resorting to the principles of evil to put a stop to it, for evil will eventually destroy itself without God's intervention using violence.
May it never be! Yes, let God be found true, but every man a liar. As it is written, "That you might be justified in your words, and might prevail when you come into judgment." (Romans 3:4)
He said with a loud voice, "Fear the Lord, and give him glory; for the hour of his judgment has come. Worship him who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and the springs of waters!" (Revelation 14:7)
All have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God; being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus; whom God set forth to be an atoning sacrifice, through faith in his blood, for a demonstration of his righteousness through the passing over of prior sins, in God's forbearance; to demonstrate his righteousness at this present time; that he might himself be just, and the justifier of him who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:23-26)
Our legitimate questions including why God allowed all the horrific things to continue because Lucifer was allowed to continue his tragic rebellion all involve the issue of God's fairness and trustworthiness. So long as there is one question left unanswered about the fairness of God's decisions and methods, the door remains open for rebellion to continue. Yet because God fiercely protects our freedom and right to ask questions, we will never force His answers on us but rather demonstrates them so that by our own free will we will come to acknowledge willingly that in every detail God was more than fair. This is what is involved in the hour of His judgment, for ultimately it is God who is on trial, not us.
Notice how Paul points out that God passed over prior sins. It is Satan's system that demands that every sin must be punished and that severely, it is not God's idea even though most people assume this. Yet because all of us are immersed in this commercial mindset of earning and deserving favor or punishment, Jesus came to this earth as both God and human to allow us to punish Him to the full extent of our law of commerce for all the sins every human being has or will ever commit. He did this to vindicate God's reputation that is on trial before the entire universe and to placate our warped sense of justice, not to appease an offended deity in the sky as we have long imagined.
Because we resist believing in a God like Jesus who refuses to participate in punishing the guilty like we demand must happen, we insist that it is not righteous or just (often translated from the same word in the original) that God did not punish sins in the past. This issue of God's fairness is actually at the root of the story of Job. And here is what God had to say to Job personally after all the lies were exchanged between theologians about how God should operate His government.
Will you even annul my judgment? Will you condemn me, that you may be justified? (Job 40:8)
Many imagine and teach that in the end God will have to resort to using force to punish all who refused to embrace His love and forgiveness. Yet this way of solving the problem is exactly what God refused to do from the very beginning, and God is not going to change and vindicate Satan's claims in the end. No, love will win over the methods of force, violence and evil without ever compromising its integrity. All those who freely choose to follow the hero of God's kingdom, the vulnerable, innocent Lamb who was willing to allow force and evil to violate Him to the utmost without ever entertaining the slightest hint of resentment or desire for revenge (1 Peter 2:21-24), will with the Lamb be overcomers in love.
Love wins, but not in the way most people think is required for winning. Trace out the truth about God's love in Scripture and see how it remains pure to the very end. Jesus came to reveal the truth about love and what God is like, and discover that nothing is going to change in the end. God will not switch tactics at the end to lash out in anger and destroy His enemies like so many believe, for if it were possible to solve the problem that way in the end, He could have done it at the very beginning of sin.
The pure light of truth about God that Jesus brought to us is the truth that love is the means by which evil will be overcome and the only means God will use to defeat it. As we rely only on Jesus as the light by which we interpret anything we hear or read about God's activities, that light will come into our darkened hearts and ignite a new way of perceiving reality and draw us into living in the light of love as He is in the light as we come to trust that God's ways are superior to all the ways of commerce.
This is the message which we have heard from him and announce to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him and walk in the darkness, we lie, and don't tell the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:5-7)