I get a lot of questions about the relationship between God and Satan. Most of them are from people who want to know how God can tolerate Satan in His presence, and as far as I can tell the Bible offers no explanation for this. All we know is that Satan regularly comes before the Lord to accuse us and will continue to do so until he's finally expelled from Heaven at the beginning of the Great Tribulation (Rev. 12:10-11).
Questions like this are motivated by simple curiosity and are understandable. It's a mystery to us and we always want our mysteries solved. But lately I've also begun to receive some questions that are clearly born out of frustration and even anger. These questioners point out all the death and destruction Satan has been responsible for, adding that untold millions have been lost forever because of him. They ask, “Why couldn't God have just destroyed him when he rebelled and saved humanity all that grief?”
Others ask why God even created Satan in the first place, knowing he'd become evil? It would have saved us a lot of pain and hardship had He not done so.
To me this type of question is an example of the pot questioning the potter, as if they're angry with God for allowing such an adversary to remain in our lives when He could have easily gotten rid of him. This implies that God makes us suffer unnecessarily, which we know is contrary to His character. But before we get into a possible response to this (no one knows the answer for sure) let's get review the background we've been given on our age old enemy.
How You Have Fallen From Heaven, O Lucifer
Our first glimpse of Satan was when he turned up in the Garden in the
form of a "serpent" (enchanter in Hebrew) to beguile our original
parents. But from Isaiah 14:12-20 and Ezekiel 28:11-19 we can piece
together a profile of his origin, fall and destiny.
The name Lucifer comes from Isaiah 14:12 (KJV). It's a Latin word that means light bearer, translated from the phrase, heylel ben shakhar in the Hebrew version of the verse. Heylel means shining one and comes from a root meaning boastful, and ben shakhar means son of the dawn. It's sometimes incorrectly rendered as morning star, which is really a title reserved for Jesus (Rev. 22:16). He's most commonly known as Satan, from a Hebrew word that means adversary.
Ezekiel 28:12-14 indicates he is a created being, "the model of perfection, full of wisdom and beauty" and anointed (chosen) as the guardian cherub on the holy mount of God. Combining the Ezekiel and Isaiah passages we can infer that he was the head of the congregation of angelic beings, charged with leading them in the worship of the Almighty, and chief guardian of His Throne.
The “boastful” part of his name came to bear when wickedness was found in him (Ezek 28:15). Excessively proud of his beauty and wisdom, he rebelled against God and uttered his infamous five “I wills".
“I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of the sacred mountain. I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High” (Isa 14:13-14).
He convinced one third of the angelic host to join him (Rev. 12:4) and mounted an unsuccessful rebellion against God. In the ensuing judgment He lost his position at the top of the angelic hierarchy and his ultimate destiny was determined (Ezekiel 28:16) although for reasons not revealed to us, the execution of his sentence has been delayed until the end of the age. In the mean time although he's clearly identified as God's adversary, he's still treated as a dignitary by the angelic host.
Even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” (Jude 9)
Here's How It All Began
Although no one knows for certain, I've always liked Hal Lindsey's
opinion. In one of his books (I don't remember which one) Hal speculated
that at his judgment Satan hurled two accusations at God that started
everything: "You're not just and You have no love." Of course God knew
this would happen, and according to Hal He was prepared with a four part
response to these accusations.
1. He created man, a being vastly inferior to the angels but sharing with them the properties of intellect, agency (power of choice) and eternal life, and gave him dominion over Planet Earth.
2. He gave man a set of rules to live by, and ordained that obedience to them was a requirement for life. Any violations (sins), even those committed only in the mind, would be punishable by death. There were no loop holes, and no one would escape judgment. Perfect justice.
3. Then He sent His Son to live a life in total obedience to these rules, the only man ever to do so, granting Him the right to govern the universe and receive all its worth as His inheritance.
4. Finally, He offered His Son's life to purchase a pardon for all the sins of mankind, decreeing that by accepting His death as payment for our sins we could live in God's presence forever and share in this inheritance as His adopted children. Perfect Love.
What Do You Say To That?
Satan's reaction was to immediately steal control of Planet Earth by
deceiving Adam & Eve into thinking they could "become like God” (Gen.
3:5). This deception caused them to disobey the only commandment God had
given them and is how Satan has made himself the god of this age (2 Cor.
4:4), and the prince of this world (John 12:31, 14:30, 16:11), bringing
the whole world under his control (1 John 5:19).
This was confirmed in the wilderness temptation when, in an attempt to thwart God's plan to save mankind, Satan offered Jesus all the Kingdoms of the Earth if Jesus would worship him instead of obeying God.
The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours.” (Luke 4:5-7)
Jesus didn't dispute Satan's claim, as He would have had it been false, but refused to disobey God.
But the deceiver has deceived himself. Too proud to apologize to God, he thinks to defeat Him (another foolish boast), even though his own defeat was clearly determined at the cross (Colossians 2:15). While the Church currently restrains his authority over the earth (2 Thes, 2:5), after we're gone he'll be free to do his worst in a desperate effort to maintain control of it. But it won't be enough, and having finally been expelled from Heaven (Rev 12:7) he will be defeated (Rev. 19:19-21), bound in the Abyss for 1000 years (Rev 20:1-3), and ultimately cast into the eternal fire (Rev 20:10).
What Was The Question Again?
Now let's come back to the original question. Since God knows everything
in advance, why did He create Satan and elevate him to such an exalted
position? He knew Satan was going to become evil so why did God do that?
This is a good question, and I've never seen a good answer to it. The Bible doesn't explain it either. So here's my two cents worth. Since God knew every detail before any one of them came to be, it must all be part of His grand plan. Nothing has been a surprise to him, nothing has caused Him to re-think or adapt. Everything has served His purpose.
And what is that purpose? To reveal His character to the angelic host through His interaction with us. To show that He's absolutely righteous, absolutely just and absolutely loving all at the same time.
His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Ephes. 3:10-11)
Remember, He created a set of laws that were wholly just, although after we had acquired our sin nature no one could keep them. Even though the penalty for even a single violation was death, He allowed no exceptions and no exemptions. Then He became a man Himself and bore the penalty for all the sins of mankind, dying in our place. Finally, He let everyone choose for themselves whether to accept His remedy or not, telling us in advance both the benefit for acceptance and the penalty for rejection.
He spoke this to us, He wrote it in the stars, He sent the prophets to teach us, and documented it all in His Word in such a way as to make it impossible to miss. He placed the desire to know Him in our hearts and said that everyone who asks will receive, everyone who seeks will find, and to everyone who knocks the door will be opened (Matt. 7:7-8).
In summary, we don't know how God is able to tolerate Satan's presence or why He let him remain among us. But we do know that He did everything consistent with His character to make it possible for us to overcome our adversary and find our way back to our Creator.