This site uses cookies to provide you with more responsive and personalized service and to collect certain information about your use of the site.  You can change your cookie settings through your browser.  If you continue without changing your settings, you agree to our use of cookies.  See our Privacy Policy for more information.

Following the Good Shepherd | Questions and Answers

If God didn't create evil and He's omniscient, it sounds like Satan was a surprise. Was God aware of how His praise worshiper would turn out? Please explain this.


God is also infinite with regard to knowledge. In other words, God is omniscient. He knows everything that has occurred in the past, everything that is occurring in the present, everything that will occur in the future, and everything that could, but will not, occur. In addition, He entertains no false beliefs, as He is cognitively perfect. He foreknew that Satan would rebel prior to (or apart from) Creation.

The advent of evil was no surprise to God. Although we might imagine that a world without Satan would be morally preferable, He permitted the Devil to rebel in order to demonstrate His glory to the world, just as He demonstrated His strength to Egypt, Israel, and the surrounding nations by permitting Pharaoh to flout his command to release Israel from slavery (Exodus 1–14). God reverses Satan’s schemes, so that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28). For example, Joseph declared to his brothers concerning their betrayal, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Gen. 50:20). God, unexpectedly, reveals the fullness of His greatness and goodness through the fall of Satan, which is our highest blessing.

If God knows the past, present, and future, He knew Adam and Eve would sin and be cast out of the Garden of Eden. Therefore, God knew He would send Jesus to suffer and die for our sins. If God so loved the world why even test Adam and Eve, since He knew the eventual outcome?


God tested Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2–3), foreknowing that they would fall into sin and break fellowship with Him. For this reason, God’s mission of salvation to humanity, inaugurated in the incarnation of Jesus Christ, “was chosen before the creation of the world but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him, you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God” (1 Peter 1:20–21). Still, the testing of Adam and Eve in the garden, that leads to the fall and redemption of humanity, is not a mere charade. Although God foreknows everything that will occur, Adam and Eve freely sinned. Indeed, mere foreknowledge cannot cause us to do anything. We are the causes of our own free actions. And, since human actions are genuinely free, they are truly significant.

Perhaps, we might wonder, why did God not forego the creation, fall, and redemption of humanity? After all, He lacks nothing and did not need to create the world. We must recognize that it is His prerogative to reveal Himself as He wills.

Does God's attribute of infinitude mean that the past for us is like the present for God? In Ephesians 1:4 when it says that we were "chosen before the foundation of the world," is it like we were chosen now?


First, let me define a few terms that will be helpful to our discussion. When we say “the present,” we refer to a state of affairs involving everything that is actual. “The past” denotes states of affairs that were actual, and “the future” denotes states of affairs that will be actual. It is important to note that only the present exists; the past no longer exists and the future does not yet exist. It is also true that God is infinite with regard to time. In other words, He is eternal. Yet, there are different ways of understanding His eternality. According to one view, God exists outside of time in a hermetically timeless state and His age is null (ø). Our human, temporal measurements of time do not apply to Him, as He experiences neither the past, the present, nor the future. If, as this view suggests, God is “atemporal,” He chose us apart from time.

According to another view, He exists “forever and ever,” and His age is infinite (∞). He is all-enduring and experiences the present without beginning or end. If God is “omnitemporal,” He truly did choose us before the creation of the universe. In answer to your question, it is not the case that “the past for us is like the present for God” since God either exists outside of time or unceasingly exists in the present. Nothing exists in the past since the past is not a place for anything actual to exist. But from the perspective of our own temporal experience, we know that God chose us “before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1:4). We can confidently celebrate the central point of the verse: God chose to be in relationship with us!

BY Sanjay Merchant

Sanjay Merchant is Professor of Theology at Moody Bible Institute and a teaching pastor at Northshore Christian Church in Everett, Washington. He earned his Ph.D. from Claremont Graduate University School of Religion, and Master’s degrees from Biola University. He enjoys helping his students wrestle with hard questions of the faith, teaching courses on philosophy, theology, and apologetics. Sanjay and his wife, Erin, have four children and reside in Roselle, Illinois.

Find Questions and Answers by Month