What Does Evil Look Like?
I've been recently thinking about what evil really is. My goal with this post is to try and help us see evil in a slightly different way, especially as it appears the Church of Christ may now be experiencing a new type of attack against it. I have seen people in Church meetings asked this same question a number of different times - who is the most evil person in Earth's history? And invariably these groups respond with the same responses: Hitler and Stalin are always mentioned. And so, it seems it is typical in our society to believe that the worst evil is someone who is 1) responsible for the worst crime (murder), and 2) this being done in great volume, such as the horror of the Holocaust, the millions who died in Russia under Stalin, or even the hundreds of thousands of Muslims killed under Saddam Hussein. So many people rightfully think that whoever is in charge at the time of mass murders is properly the most evil person to have lived.
But is this the way that God's Word thinks about human evil? Perhaps a quick review of the End-times person described as the Anti-Christ, the one who will be evil personified, will help shed some light on what is true evil. So let's take a closer look at Anti-Christ. As God is best revealed and known through the human life lived by Jesus Christ, Satan will best be revealed through the human life lived by the Anti-Christ. But what will the Anti-Christ do? What sort of the evil actions will be done by this most nefarious person? Paul describes this Anti-Christ as the man of lawlessness, the son of destruction (2 Thess. 2:3, :8). He is the "deceiver" (2 John 1:7); He will be a false prophet, a false Christ, who deceives many (Matthew 24:5, :23-24). Therefore this Anti-Christ will deceive many people, will be a person of destruction, and completely lawless (see, the 10 Commandments in Exodus 20 for a description of 'The Law').
But there is another important characteristic of the Anti-Christ – namely, that he will exalt himself above God (Dan. 7:7-11, 11:36-45, 2 Thess. 2:4), and attack the followers of God (Daniel 7:25, Rev. 16:12-16). This person will not only speak blasphemies against God, but will even dare to declare himself equal to God (Daniel 11:36-37, 2 Thess. 2:4). And so, this is what truly makes the Anti-Christ evil: Their hatred of God, and of all things of God, including God's people.
So who is the most evil person to have lived? Perhaps it is Nero, who lived from 37 AD to 68 AD and was Roman Emperor. Here is how one writer describes the deeds of Nero (please excuse the graphic nature of this description):
…In many ways, Nero is evil personified. According to the accounts of his various biographers, Tacitus, Suetonius, and Cassius Dio, Nero murdered his brother and rival to the throne at the prompting of his mother, with whom he may have had sexual intercourse. He later arranged for his mother's "accidental" death. He killed his pregnant wife (and child) in a fit of rage by kicking her in the stomach. He then found a young man who looked much like his wife, had him castrated, and then married him in a public ceremony.
In fact, Nero mocked all societal convention. He raped a vestal virgin (a capital crime) and arranged for a young Christian woman to be tied nude to the horns of an enraged bull, mocking her Christian modesty and chastity. He encouraged orgies in which commoners participated with members of imperial rank (something unthinkable in Roman society); he even married a male servant (taking the female role himself), and in a public spectacle, he acted as though he was giving birth. Throughout all of this despicable behavior, Nero sought to reverse the natural order of things, mocking not only Roman societal convention but the Creator himself.
Nero lived for personal pleasures and self-indulgences…(Nero fiddling while Rome burned, and then blamed Christians for the fire, and then attacked and murdered Christians for the fire he himself was responsible for). Nero was personally responsible for turning Christians into human torches, for feeding them to wild animals in the Coliseum, and for the deaths of apostles Peter and Paul, all of which was followed by the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in AD 70, which occurred shortly after Nero's death.
(The Man of Sin, Pastor Kim Riddlebarger (2006), pp. 93-94.) So this is what 'lawlessness' looks like – Deception, murder, every conceivable sexual abuse, and overturning the natural order of all things. With these real world events taking place around 1st Century Christians, the picture of the Beast described by John in Revelation 13 is more clearly understood from the life and actions of the Roman Emperor Nero.
But let me emphasize one point of this "Anti-Christ' Nero. He was an enemy of God and of God's people. Nero set himself up as someone to be worshipped. He murdered Christians through the deception and false charge of the burning of Rome. He was responsible for the murder of Jesus' leading Apostles, Paul and Peter, as well as many other Christians and Jews. And Nero set in motion the ultimate sacking and destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, with this leveling so complete, that the Temple still has not having been rebuilt even through this day. So what does evil look like? Complete evil is not 'just' the murdering of people, anyone can do that. But real evil is the attack against God, His order - the natural order of creation, and the persecution and murder of God's people.
Do you see any similarity to events taking place in the world today, with the life of Nero? Let me add one story that you may not have heard of reported here.; Worshippers at a Bible-teaching church in Lansing, Mich., were stunned Sunday when members of a pro-homosexual, pro-anarchy organization named 'Bash Back' interrupted their service to fling propaganda and condoms around the sanctuary, drape a profane banner from the balcony and feature two lesbians making out at the pulpit.,,,, the protesters also screamed at parishioners and pulled the church facility's fire alarm.
Is this just one example of a small attack against a Christian Church, or is there something more going on? The Apostle John describes something evil in the air in his day that he calls the "Spirit of Antichrist" (1 John 4:3). So let us stand up and contend for the faith by opposing all things evil and lawless and by this we will oppose all things of Anti-Christ, the Lawless One. And let us also keep our walk by the Holy Spirit avoiding all sin as the Apostle John wrote to encourage us: "Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. 5 You know that he appeared to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. 6 No one who abides in him keeps on sinning..." (1 John 3:4-6a). May God bless you this week.