Matt Connally is a pastor in the United States. He received an MDiv from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and a Bachelors of Journalism from The University of Texas, where he served as editor of The Daily Texan from 1991-92. He has also worked with Campus Crusade for Christ for several years both in the United States and Asia.
Halloween is pure illusion, and the witches, ghosts and gangsters that inhabit it are all hypocrites. They portray darkness about as well as did the beautifully-clad, hyper-religious Pharisees that killed Jesus. Witches look “bad” and Pharisees look “good”, but both neither is as they appear. After all, if you ask most people to give a picture of evil, they might talk of Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter movies, the Joker in Batman, or some other Hollywood villain.
Movies? Entertainment? From a Biblical point of view the extent to which such caricatures depict evil is about the same extent to which candy nourishes the body.
Here is a more accurate picture. Go to the grocery store and buy a fat red chuck roast—a nice seven-pounder. Rub it with salt and pepper and a little Worchester sauce, and then chop up some carrots, potatoes and onions to go with it. Now put everything in a pot and stick it in your garage. About a week later go see how fascinating and entertaining it is. Ask the neighborhood kids if they’d like to play with the maggot-infested brew or wear some of it for Halloween. And if you want to experience genuine fear—the kind that throws every single nerve cell in your body into unbridled panic—then…try tasting it.
That’s what rebellion against God looks and smells like. That’s how fun the mockery of righteousness—and of wickedness—truly is. “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness.” (Matthew 23:27)
Never underestimate the deceptions of darkness. At this time of year when people party as demons and dragons, a review of some of the basics is in order.
Evil is Not the Polar Opposite of Good
We cannot have an up without a down or a left without a right, but we can have peace without war and joy without sorrow and beauty without decay. We can have good without evil, so what then is the relationship between the two?
In the Bible that which is good is always described as something that brings fruit and life. The righteous are compared to a tree (Psalm 1), a vine (John 15), a river (John 7:38), or a farm (Matthew 13:23). They work to prepare a banquet (Proverbs 9:1-6), to increase a business (Matthew 25:14-30), or to build a strong house (Matthew 7:24).
By contrast, the wicked are not just lazy but parasitical. They have nothing to offer of their own making (Proverbs 9:13-18). They are called thieves (John 12:6), murderers (Matthew 23:31), and liars (John 8:44). And so where there is no student to deceive or life to destroy or wealth to steal, they have nothing. “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy,” said Jesus. “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)
When all is said and done, heaven will be pure bliss. And although there also is and will continue to be hell, surely the most terrifying aspect of God’s judgment is that it is good and not bad. No one in hell will be able to feel unjustly treated or undeserving of what they chose, but instead will feel shame. “They will say of Me, ‘Only in the LORD are righteousness and strength’. Men will come to Him, and all who were angry at Him will be put to shame.” (Isaiah 46:24) If God were not merciful, if He did not offer grace so freely and joyfully, if rebels could somehow plead injustice or unfairness, things might be different. “But there is forgiveness with You, that You may be feared.” (Psalm 130:4, italics added)
God Allows Evil to Flourish for a Time
“Why do the wicked still live, continue on, also become very powerful?” cried Job, echoing the complaint of many others in the Bible. “Their descendants are established with them in their sight, and their offspring before their eyes, their houses are safe from fear, and the rod of God is not on them.”
On the one hand, there is not really an explicit answer to this question in the Bible. However, two things should always be kept in mind. One is that God makes sure that we know what we are doing such that we can take full responsibility for it. At the end of the day there will be no confusion or grey areas or neutral territory. Everyone will know (whether they admit it or not) whether they are with Christ or against Him. “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth,” He said. “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34)
Thus those who are against Him will have to embrace the fullness of rebellion (Romans 1:21-32). They will not be allowed to do it nicely or easily or peacefully, but rather violently (abortion, etc.). And this polarizing could be seen both as a judgment and a merciful persuasion, in the hopes that someone might stop and say, “What on earth am I doing?! What am I embracing here?!” One of the best pictures of this happening is in 2 Chronicles 33-35 and 2 Kings 21-23, where a king turns to God as an old man after a lifetime of rebellion. He had lead Israel into heinous wickedness, such as sacrificing his own children in fire and putting male shrine prostitutes in the courts of the Temple.
God promised to send Israel into exile for these sins; nevertheless, somehow as an old man King Manasseh repented when God rebuked Him. He did some cleaning up of the nation before he died, but his son, Amon, was so wicked that he only lasted two years before he was assassinated. However, Manasseh’s grandson, Josiah, was one of Israel’s greatest reformers and very devoted to God. It is easy to imagine old Manasseh putting four-yr-old Josiah on his knee and telling him about the goodness and mercy of Yahweh.
God allows evil to flourish in order to make the distinction clear between being with Christ and being against Him. And a second thing to keep in mind is that God uses evil to refine the faith, hope, and love of His people. When all is said and done, no one will ever complain about having gone through suffering anymore than does a true athlete. Instead we will forget about it as a mother forgets the pain of labor (John 16:21).
This Halloween talk to people about what is truly frightening—deception, judgment, and turning away from the love of God. That is what should make us tremble. “The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death.” (Proverbs 14:27)
Copyright © Matthew Connally 2008