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Why did God create Satan?


Published: 26 September 2015 (GMT+10)

We’ve previously addressed many variations on the question, ‘why does a good God allow bad things?’ James C., from the U.S., asked for help answering another facet of the problem of evil—why God would make the devil.

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Dear CMI,

I was recently stumped when my son asked me why omniscient God would create Satan. Before that he asked me why God created men knowing all the troubles they would cause. That was easy to answer as I told him I would not trade my relationship I have with my son for anything even if I foreknew the troubles he would make. Then came his followup question. I couldn't use the same analogy and just told him it must have been God's big plan which we cannot fully understand until we get to Heaven. Obviously he wasn't satisfied and neither was I. Please help. :)

CMI’s  responds:

Hi James,

Thanks for your question.

The Bible doesn’t spell out all of God’s reasons for creating Satan, but it is important to remember that everything God created was initially “very good” (Gen. 1:31), and things only went wrong when the devil rebelled against his Creator (sometime shortly after the creation week, not before as many believe), and then human beings followed suit. This is important since God did not create anything that was morally evil, and so He is not morally blameworthy for the evil that exists. Satan has no one to blame but himself for the choices he’s made.

Still, God knew this would happen in advance, of course, so He must have had a good reason for allowing evil into His creation. In the end, it must be worth it in God’s eyes to create a world in which He knew the devil and others would rebel against Him. I believe God is ultimately accomplishing a greater good through all the evil that the devil brings about.

We see in Scripture that God often permits evil in order to bring about a greater blessing. Consider what Joseph said in Gen. 50:20 about how God accomplished a righteous end through the wicked actions of his brothers, or how God used Satan to test Job so that he and all those who read his story could gain wisdom and be blessed. God even turned the greatest evil into the greatest good, when Jesus was crucified (Acts 2:23; Rom. 5:18–19). So even though Satan schemed to put Jesus to death and thought he was achieving a victory, it was this very act that God foreordained to defeat Satan and bring about the glorious truth of the Gospel!

God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezek. 33:11) and does nothing unjust (Gen. 18:25), but, unlike us, God is sovereign and He knows all the good that will come out of permitting evil and suffering. God “works all things according to the counsel of his will” (Eph. 1:11), but that will is not arbitrary—it’s based in God’s essentially good nature (Luke 18:19). So we should see the existence of Satan as completely consistent with that.

I recommend you read the following for more insight into this question:

Why would a loving God allow death and suffering?

Hopefully, that’s a bit more satisfying to you and your son.

Readers’ comments

Ronald M.
The answer came to as very simple. I use to believe that angels just did what God said until the rebellion. If angels can be deceived Adam & Eve did not have very good odds. As sin entered creation it also helps God. Yes I said helps God. We being just lower than angels would not turn to God if all our wants & desires were met. Because we can choose and reap what we so God allows us to go our own way. Reference the prodigal son. God allows us to sink to depths or experience struggles so we will turn to him. Thats why it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. He can satisfy his own needs. God will not be ignored. The martyrs under the alter in Revelation ask How long O Lord. This is not a cry for vengeance it is more a question. How long will you put up with this disrespect. You are the sovereign of the universe and should be treated that way. So satan actually is helping God and just does not get it. I know people will disagree. When your hurting there is only one real source of relief and recovery and He is patiently waiting.
David D.
Long ago I determined that the devil and Adam were less than God and therefore inevitably they would fail, till someone made me realise that the logical conclusion of this was that it makes God responsible for sin which cannot be true. I wonder if saying that God had an original plan for Adam, that one day he was to be adopted into sonship and taken to heaven - which would be God's ultimate will. But God's permissive will allowed Adam to sin yet God's ultimate will still be fulfilled in the church. I've got a feeling that this idea is also flawed, is it?
Simon C.
Where did I say evil was good? God made evil as evil for a tool to purify us into perfection. And he was satisfied with his work. I didn't say evil was good. But that the creation of it was good to God. As this creation is for a purpose of good.
Jesus says satan was a murderer from the beginning which means he was created evil. Where and how do you get around this? Are you calling Jesus a lier?
Adam was meant to take the apple and fall with satans deception. Or are you saying God messed up and couldn't control the situation? What is this God you speak of that isn't master and controller over all? Is he not the alpha and omega? Can he not see everything that is going to happen? Isn't everything by his doing?
Keaton Halley
We've gone back and forth on this plenty, so this will be my last word on the subject.
You said that "God created evil", and "all he created was good." It logically follows from this that you are calling evil good. If you want to deny the conclusion, then you have to revise one of the premises. I recommend revising the first.
See above where I already addressed the issue of Satan being a murderer from the beginning. Was Abel's blood shed before he was even born? That's a reductio ad absurdum of your hermeneutic.
I agree that God foreordained that evil would occur and that He is sovereign over all, but this is quite different from saying that He created evil.
Simon C.
How do you logically come to the conclusion that God permits something that he hasn't created? Are you saying someone else has the power of creation? Does the bible not say God is the sole creater? Wereis your logic here? Your trying to imagine a scenario were it sits more comfetable with you that evil can't have anything to do with God. Your wrong and the bible/gods word States your wrong. This is Cardinal thinking.
God says all he created was good. That means everything he created he satisfied HIM not you, HIM. Which means evil was created by him for a good purpose until it has surved that purpose and is cast into the fire with death. That purpose is to chastise us and mold us toward the truth as his way. Learn through experience. Everything is his doing and under his control for good. Then we will have the experience of this life in the next where only good exsists.
The Angels can't experience this beauty as we can because we have been through suffering. Who understands and rejoices in food, a hungry person or someone who is never hungry?
Keaton Halley
As we've explained, evil is not a thing in itself, but a privation of what is good. So God did not create evil. You haven't shown me where the Bible says God created moral evil. And if He had, how could He avoid the charge that He did something evil? There is "no darkness at all" in God (1 John 1:5), and He is holy and righteous and good. That's how God describes Himself. He doesn't call evil "good". In fact, He says, "Woe to those who call evil good and good evil" (Isa 5:20).
Simon C.
Isaiah 45:6-7King James Version (KJV) 6 That they may know from the rising of the sun, and from the west, that there is none beside me. I am the Lord, and there is none else. 7 I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things.
I don't know why you keep claiming God has nothing to do with evil. This is from your own mind and not the bible. A child thinks the same when he gets punishment for his own good. Jesus stats satan was a murderer from the start.
God created evil so we could be perfected by it. And so it could also glorify good. Good can't exsist as you know it without evil. This is why we are to be higher than the Angels when we rise to heaven. They have not been through what God puts us through. They are servants. This link will give you a better understanding. [link deleted per feedback rules]
Keaton Halley
As explained in reply to other commenters, Isaiah 45:7 is talking about calamity, not moral evil. But I never said God had nothing to do with moral evil. I said he didn't create it. But, certainly, evil only exists because God permitted it.
Satan was a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44) just as Abel's blood was "shed from the foundation of the world" (Luke 11:50–51). This need not mean that Abel's blood was shed from the exact moment the world was founded, but very soon after.
Also, if good can't exist without evil, as you say, then evil is co-eternal with God. This is a serious error, reminiscent of eastern dualistic religions, not biblical Christianity.
Chris T.
My briefly conveyed view regarding this question is as follows - Immediately following His Creation of the universe, the earth and all that is in it - just 6,000 years or so ago - God created Lucifer, who soon fell to become Satan. God allowed this to occur in order to provide an entity to test all of mankind - starting with Adam and Eve -and continuing until Christ's imminent return - to govern earth as King of kings and Lord of lords for one thousand years. Satan will be 'consigned to a pit' and made to 'rest a while' - whilst remaining mankind - following the Great Tribulation' gets on with life, unencumbered by Satans temptations. Satan will be released again at the end of Christs millennial rule of earth and all mankind - allowing him to again tempt all mankind - dead and alive - away from God - for the last time. Satan will then be permanently destroyed.
Satan's ongoing role has been and still is 'sorting the wheat from the chaff' of us all. He uses guile and lies to tempt as many as possible to turn from their Creator God and instead follow him - ultimately to their unexpected and permanent destruction. God wants as many people as possible with Him, as part of His great family, in His New Kingdom on Earth - which will follow the old earth's 'passing away'. But His people must be proven righteous - otherwise no place will be found for them. God has incredible plans for all those found sufficiently worthy to be with Him. Man will not reach the stars from this earth - but he well may as one of the selected from the New Earth.
Richard .
In the beginning God created everything very good including Lucifer: chief musician and worshiper. The function of free will that Lucifer had; gave space to be. Lucifer's resolve could have been to be just what God created it to be. The choice between good and evil did not exist and so, desiring to be like God Lucifer spawned sin within itself. Angels are not in the image and likeness of God as Humans are. They cannot be saved. See Isaiah 14:13 to 15.
Susan I.
Ezekiel 28:12-17 gives a good account of the creation of satan and what entered satan's heart so that he rebelled against God.
Ezekiel 28:18-19 gives us a prophecy of satan's defeat.
Thomas W.
One can not conquer sin and death once and for all unless it is allowed to coexist for a time. This is the ultimate outcome of allowing Adam and Satan choices. God doesn't just make us a creation in his image, but by allowing evil he can entirely make us united with Jesus. A new creation, one incapable of death.

As to Satan's and Adam's will, one or two variables can entirely be chosen each to their ownself without ever compromising God's sovereignty, purpose, or plan. It does not make their choice any more or less their own simply because they lose. The "free will" is not a free will to become a god. It's a choice of obedience.

The created's choice has no judgement or bearing on God. God is not subject to his creation, at all, ever...aside from Christ willingly submitting himself to death on a cross (which was conquered).

I think we focus so much on the idea that God can judge us because we are fallen, when the reality is that even if Adam had never fallen, God being Creator had authority in the first place to do what he wants with us. Had Adam not disobeyed, God could still say "Hey, that's great, that's a wrap" and wiped the slate clean just as easily. The creation has no power, judgement, or bearing on the nature of God, in his Sovereignty or Holiness, as Creator.

The reality is that God doesn't have to give anyone a choice, an eternity, a creation, or anything else in the first place. God is love isn't dependent on our existence or sending Jesus. He is Love and God in the first place, independent of us.

And thus, it is God who declares our salvation by HIS mercy and grace. And it is God who declares the destruction of the wicked. Praise be to the King of Kings who can not be thwarted by the schemes of Satan or the variables of men.
Ian B.
So let me get this right. The angels are in a perfect heaven living at the best it can get. The one closest to God (You call Satan) begins to stumble before God , why? Was he being tempted to do wrong by a greater evil? And God does nothing and allows him to fall. So what does that say about us and angels in the future when we "go to heaven" It means they (and we?)can all fall at any time and God will do nothing about it. Jesus says that the devil was a liar from the beginning, it also says that nothing was created that was not created by God, yet you say this scripture is wrong because the devil created himself and was not made by God! Satan is not a name but a role that is played ie It means ADVERSARY , even God calls Himself satan when he set Himself as an adversary against David for counting the people. Satan gets about 4 mentions only in the whole of the OT so he is not very significant. Instead we see his role as a sifter , he sifted Eve's motivation , he sifted Job's motivation, Jesus said to Peter that the devil desired to sift him. Satan was made by God to test our motives. In the NT it gets even more difficult as devil is not a person , the Greek is Diabolos (Dia the means by which something flows..ballos to cast down forcefully) So we have a channel through which something is forcefully cast down. The devil can only be in one place at a time, yet can influence 7 billion people to do wrong all at once! Revelation is often used to show he has only 1/3 of all angels, yet he is abrilliant campaigner, he never gets discouraged hopelessly outnumbered, yet still ensures that only a few get to heaven! Almost better than Jesus..Real thought has to be applied to this as the myth that is presented is unsupportable, yet still is promoted.
Keaton Halley
There are so many errors here I can't respond in detail to them all. In brief, though—as we've pointed out before, God created all things but evil is not a thing in itself even though it is real. It is a privation on the good. So I never said that God didn't create Satan. He created him good and then he fell. God gave him the freedom to rebel and he did so of his own accord. It does not logically follow from this that people or angels in the future must always be in danger of sinning.

The devil/Satan is certainly a finite, personal being. Who is it that accuses God's people (Rev. 12:10) or that dialogues with God regarding His servant Job (Job 1:6 ff.)? Satan doesn't have to be omnipresent because he is aligned with many other demons.

The term "Satan" in 1 Chron 21:1 does not refer to God. It refers to the devil, because God was using the devil for His purposes as He always does, and as my article explains.

Finally, who says only a few get to heaven? The Bible describes "a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages" (Rev. 7:9).

I encourage you to go back to Scripture and reexamine your views, because you are not correctly handling the word of truth (2 Tim. 2:15).
Valmai B.
I asked my pastor years ago why, since Satan is destined for destruction, God didn't destroy him when he fell, before he established his diabolical kingdom in the hearts of men. My pastor pointed me to Ephesians 1, which says God's ultimate purpose is to display the exceeding riches of His glorious GRACE.
Grace is favour to the undeserving. If man had never sinned, God's grace would never have been seen. Grace is given, not to good, willing people, but to rebellious, hateful people such as we all are by nature. In God's gracious favour, He gives His own nature to sinful men by new birth, draws them into His family, thus showing to all heaven and earth the riches of His glorious inheritance in His people, and the exceeding greatness of His power to completely redeem us forever.
Hans B.
Then what do you make of these scriptures? The bible confirms God created Satan and Evil and even tells us why, to a certain degree:

Isa.45v7 I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.
Isa.54v16 Behold, I have created the smith that bloweth the coals in the fire, and that bringeth forth an instrument for his work; and I have created the waster to destroy.
Keaton Halley
The term "evil" can mean different things depending on context. Here, it's not talking about sin, but destruction and disaster—as contrasted with peace. This is not the same as moral evil, which God could not "create" without being morally blameworthy. See Did God create evil?
Dave P.
A tough question still not answered and maybe the answer is in simply trusting that God knows best in a similar way as parents know better than children. Still it is a tough question that may find it's answer in eternity.

RE your reasoning in the above answer: "Should I do evil that good come of it?"

Keaton Halley
Paul asked a similar question in Romans 6:1 and answered it with an emphatic "no"! God in His sovereignty superintends evil for his purposes but He never actually does anything evil, and we're not allowed to either.
Kevan Q.
Response to Gennaro C.:

I get your point about God's agape love, which fits his triune other-serving nature, as opposed to Satan's self love, but later your comment assumes that God doesn't want believers to suffer. 1 Peter 5:10 makes it clear that suffering is part of God's plan for strengthening and completing us. Suffering drives us to trust in Christ alone, removing any sand between us and the rock we stand on. See Phil 3:10, James 5:10, 1 Pet 4:13 & 2 Cor 1:5-7.
Keaton Halley
I tend to avoid publishing comments that respond to other comments, but I think this one relates well to the focus of the article too, so others can benefit.
Satan is a created being. If satan did not exist there would be no reason for a Savior as we would not know sin. The reason for the Ten Commandments is so that we would KNOW that we are sinners and NEED the Savior Christ Jesus. The ONLY way we can be saved is thru his death on the cross, burial, and resurrection!
Keaton Halley
I'm glad you do agree that Satan was created, so I'm publishing this as a follow up to your previous post. But that leaves me confused as to what you were saying above.
There can be no light without darkness. There can be no beginning without an end. The Alpha and the Omega. The beginning and the end. "The light shineth in the darkness and the darkness comprehended it not"
Keaton Halley
Are you saying that Satan always existed? Because that is dualism, not the biblical view that God alone is eternal. John 1:4 is talking about Jesus' ministry after the incarnation, so you have taken that verse along with these other biblical phrases out of context to support something unbiblical.
Jon Stephan E.
I think it's worth to keep Isaiah 55:9 in mind as well.
Gennaro C.
Thank you Keaton to bring in this issue; a dramatic as well frightening one due to the possible negative conclusions grounded on a defective knowledge of the Holy Scripture as a whole. To say that God must have had His good reasons to create "Satan (than Lucifer)" makes one to think that God planned in advance the coming out of Evil. It would be like us - as parents - if we would open a door of suffering and trials in front of our children in view of a better future. Referring to Satan, God created Lucifer, a perfect one (see Ez.28:11-19). I think that the problem starts with the "free will" God endowed all creatures with in order to create them at His own image and likeness; starting with Lucifer. But "freedom of will" demands the possibility of choice - but choice about what? Probably we should address the issue from another point of view: God is Love (not love as a 'feeling' that would wave according the circumstances), but Love as a Principle. This kind of love will overcome every possible obstacle to pursue its goal toward the loved ones; may it cost its life! (John 15:13). Opposite to this Love toward the outside, there's another love, the one toward the Inside - we may call it selfishness! Again this love would do anything to satisfy the self, may it cost to kill; Evil is born. Lucifer had started to love himself! But thanking our Lord and Saviour Jesus, there will be an end to it. When this humanity will learn how dreadful evil is, Jesus will be back again with the promise that suffering and death will be no more! (Rev. 21:1-5).
Keaton Halley
The Bible does teach that God has exhaustive foreknowledge, and that evil can only exist with His permission. God is not the author of evil, but it clearly is incorporated into His plan, as the cross shows. I agree that creatures should receive the blame for their rebellion, not God. But God is sovereign even over all the evil that occurs, using it for His good purposes.
Edward R.
My view is that God created beings with free will. Lucifer wanted God's position & authority. He rebelled against God, i.e., he did evil, in God's eyes. Evil was born. In addition, you wrote that God knew all that would happen. I pose a related question: If God knows the final destination of my soul, of what value is the Bible to me since God already knows my souls final abode? I am a born again Christian and this question has never been adequately answered for me. Do I have free will and possibly choose to reject Him and go to hell, or does God "order my steps" and totally control my life?
Keaton Halley
As I answered Len C. above, free will and God's foreknowledge are not mutually exclusive. See Does God's foreknowledge entail fatalism?
Roger W N.
Most of the repliers said what I was thinking. But Satan's rebellion came AFTER the Creation Week! Does that mean that Adam sinned first, and Lucifer followed him? Why would the serpent tempt him? I know you guys believe the Universe is only 6,000 years old. But Satan rebelled first and warred against God. He then tempted Adam, who sinned. Adam's sin affected Earth. Satan's sin ruined the Universe.
Keaton Halley
We agree that Satan sinned first. What we were claiming was that Satan fell after Day 7 but before Adam sinned. Also, the Bible nowhere claims that Satan's sin ruined the universe, so I see no reason to think that it correct.
Deborah S.
I enjoyed the article, however I kept hoping to find a response to my sons question, which is why did a perfect God create imperfection? I've told him basically what you've stated in your article but he truly doesn't take those answers as something he can except. He excepted Jesus when he was 12, went on mission trips was really involved. I don't know what happened but he now states how can I believe in a perfect God when he creates imperfection . He is in college now, and he is so far away from our precious Lord that it grieves my heart and my husbands. Any guidance would be very much appreciated.
Keaton Halley
God didn't create imperfection. He made a perfect world with creatures who then chose to rebel. See Why would a loving God allow death and suffering?, especially Did God create evil?

But if your son uses this as an excuse to reject God, he should consider this article: Can we be good without God?
John E.
Thank you for an excellent, thought-provoking article.
Lewis Sperry Chafer suggested in his SYSTEMATIC THEOLOGY that evil may have always existed as an abstract principle, and God created Lucifer knowing that he would rebel and created humans knowing they would fall, so He could bring this abstract principle of evil into reality and deal with it once and for all with the Cross.
35 years after seminary I'm still thinking about that, but it's probably the best answer I've read so far.
Caleb C.
Great article! I was just thinking the other day about the issue of why God allows suffering, and what came to mind was the fact that God used the greatest evil (the crucifixion of Christ) to bring about the greatest good (the salvation of souls). In light of this, we so clearly see that we can trust our God in whatever circumstances we find ourselves in. Thanks again for another great article!
ron F.
I admit that I am often not initially satisfied with many things that God has done or is doing. HOWEVER, God is faithful to remind me that my satisfaction should not be in what happens but in Him. It is nice to read all the explanations on this site, but God needs to sometimes remind me that He is unknowable and that is best.
Narindra R.
There's a possible answer for that question: Ex. 9:15-16
Julie M.
You have a great response, and I would like to add my thoughts, if I may.

God created Satan already seeing ahead to the ultimate consequence: Christ dying so that we could *choose* to be with Him forever, or otherwise choose ourselves as our own god just as Satan and his angels did. I think the key word here for me is choose (which is why I am emphasizing it). If there were no sin and no Tempter, we would therefore never have to choose God over ourselves; we would be almost like robots with no free will. God loves us so perfectly, that He wants us to be in relationship with Him based on our love and devotion and understanding of who He is.

Also, if there were no sin and no Tempter, we would never see how much God loves us, because the ultimate display of His love was His sacrifice. There is no other way to prove just how much love can go without the sacrifice that was shown to us.

In the end, you are right. Evil was meant for good. Satan doesn't win in the end and has never won anything. He is being used as a pawn for the glory of God. Hallelujah!
Len C.
Keaton, I was looking forward to your response, but alas, did not find it very comforting.

We are constrained in our thinking on the question at hand by common assumptions about God's foreknowledge; assumptions that are largely a result of the overlay of Greek philosophy unto scripture. As we all are quite aware in the Creation/Science debate, starting assumptions constrain possible conclusions

The underlying assumptions about God's absolute foreknowledge, force the conclusion that Satan really did not have any choice in the matter. God knew he would rebel, so no matter what, he was going to rebel. The underlying assumptions also force us into awkward answers to questions like the one at hand. The question is not whether God is responsible for the choice (predestination) or just knows it (foreknowledge), the problem is that if He "knows" my "free" choice before it is made, I am no longer free to make any other choice than what He "knows".

God truly knows everything THAT CAN BE KNOWN, but choices that are truly free cannot be known before they are made. Thus He does not know those kinds of choices before they are made. The assumptions in the answer logically eliminate free choice. The assumptions, when we remove the clean Tee shirt we put on them, ultimately lead to fatalism.

The good news is that true freedom of choice does not make God any less sovereign.
Keaton Halley
Actually, this is not only sub-biblical, it is logically fallacious, as we've shown in Does God's foreknowledge entail fatalism?
Ervin S.
In essence and certainly in brief, Satan, evil and sin are the price paid for free will. To have a true choice the option to choose "wrong" has to be there.
Alvin A.
Whether before, as I believe, or after Eden in Genesis, God didn't create Satan. God created Lucifer, who at a time had not fallen to iniquity. Lucifer made choices which led to his fall as surely as flesh Man makes choices to sin.
Pratha S.
I entirely agree with what you said about why God created the adversary.However,I believe there's also another reason why the adversary was created{and it actually ties-in with what you said}.I believe one of the reasons the adversary was created was simply to give man a free choice -- man has a free will,so man chooses.Of course this does not always result in the right choices being made,but we learn from our mistakes{bringing about a 'greater good' as you said}.Of course God could have had it the other way -- He could have just created robots and that would solve the problem of evil.But God wanted man to come to Him WILLINGLY -- even if it meant some would choose not to.God wanted man to have a free will - period.And so,as the Bible makes clear,what we have is the 'wheat and tares' mixed together.But it won't always be this way -- man still chooses when he leaves this world and of course the 'sheep and the goats' will be separated at the Lord's second coming as well.So it all comes down to one thing -- the choices that man makes.Man decides where he'll go.
J. B.
What a coincidence. I saw the exact same question on youtube that an atheist aasked that I tried to answer. I said that God does not deny us existence just because we would do something wrong, but I was not sure how to answeer about Satan, and I am not sure if my answer was a good one. This article was very helpful if someone asks again in the future. Thanks.
mark P.
thank you writing this short and yet profound answer to that difficult question. Very helpful. God somehow turns evil to His own good purpose, as you correctly point out from the greatest example; Christ's death on the cross
May God bless your vital ministry
Marita V.
God gave Adam and Eve free will so that they can freely choose for or against Him. He also gave the angels this choice/free will. Unfortunately some chose to be God's enemies. They saw God in His glory in heaven and chose against Him. It makes me wonder that if some atheists could see God with their own eyes, they would still shake their first at God, like Satan and the other angels did.
Troy H.
I believe there is a very good answer (though it may have to be simplified for your child) in Dr Sarfati's "The Genesis Account". It is not so much 'evil' being created but the ability to choose not to do good, which becomes 'evil' in relation to God's goodness. Probably a poor paraphrase but the book is well work the read.

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