Here is the mystery of iniquity: In the very presence of God, in the heart of the cherub closest to God, the ultimate evil was conceived. By one fateful choice, the most beautiful, powerful, and intelligent angelic being became for all time the ultimate in evil: the arch enemy of God and man, the “great dragon...that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world” (Revelation:12:9; 20:2).
Paul warns that a man should not become an elder until he is mature in the faith, “Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil” (1 Timothy:3:6). This tells us again that pride was Satan’s downfall—and is man’s besetting sin as well. “Pride goeth before destruction, and an haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs:16:18).
It is also a mystery that Eve would believe the serpent’s lie contradicting what her gracious Creator had said. Adam was not deceived (1 Timothy:2:14). No doubt out of love for Eve and not wanting to be separated from her, he joined her in disobedience, knowing the consequences. It remains a mystery, however, that anyone would rebel against God, that anyone would choose the pleasures of the moment in exchange for eternal separation from God.
The heart of this mystery is the autonomy of intelligent created beings who clearly have something called self-will. At least some angels (Satan and those who joined his rebellion) and all men have the power of choice. In deciding upon beliefs or actions, though evidence may be weighed, ultimately reason is set aside in order to bow before the throne of self. We are our own worst enemies.
Self had its awful birth when Eve made the choice of disobedience for all of her descendants. Christ said there is no hope except we deny self (Matthew:16:24). And the only way that can be done effectively is to embrace the cross of Christ as our own so that we can say with Paul, “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me...” (Galatians:2:20).