If the Kingdom Has Come,
Why Is There So Much Evil in This World?

I received the following questions:
"If this is the reign of Christ, and he is ruling from on high, why is the world so awful? I mean, surely if he was reigning
with an 'iron rod', wouldn't people be more loving and live according to his will?  The world is a cesspool.  That's why
I don't understand this."
First, I would like us to consider a passage containing a prophecy pertaining to the New Covenant in Christ Jesus:
Zechariah 14  Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee. {2} For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city. {3} Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. {4} And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south. {5} And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah: and the LORD my God shall come, and all the saints with thee. {6} And it shall come to pass in that day, that the light shall not be clear, nor dark: {7} But it shall be one day which shall be known to the LORD, not day, nor night: but it shall come to pass, that at evening time it shall be light. {8} And it shall be in that day, that living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea: in summer and in winter shall it be. {9} And the LORD shall be king over all the earth: in that day shall there be one LORD, and his name one. {10} All the land shall be turned as a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem: and it shall be lifted up, and inhabited in her place, from Benjamin's gate unto the place of the first gate, unto the corner gate, and from the tower of Hananeel unto the king's winepresses. {11} And men shall dwell in it, and there shall be no more utter destruction; but Jerusalem shall be safely inhabited. {12} And this shall be the plague wherewith the LORD will smite all the people that have fought against Jerusalem; Their flesh shall consume away while they stand upon their feet, and their eyes shall consume away in their holes, and their tongue shall consume away in their mouth. {13} And it shall come to pass in that day, that a great tumult from the LORD shall be among them; and they shall lay hold every one on the hand of his neighbour, and his hand shall rise up against the hand of his neighbour. {14} And Judah also shall fight at Jerusalem; and the wealth of all the heathen round about shall be gathered together, gold, and silver, and apparel, in great abundance. {15} And so shall be the plague of the horse, of the mule, of the camel, and of the ass, and of all the beasts that shall be in these tents, as this plague. {16} And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles. {17} And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain. {18} And if the family of Egypt go not up, and come not, that have no rain; there shall be the plague, wherewith the LORD will smite the heathen that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles. {19} This shall be the punishment of Egypt, and the punishment of all nations that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles. {20} In that day shall there be upon the bells of the horses, HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD; and the pots in the LORD'S house shall be like the bowls before the altar. {21} Yea, every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah shall be holiness unto the LORD of hosts: and all they that sacrifice shall come and take of them, and seethe therein: and in that day there shall be no more the Canaanite in the house of the LORD of hosts.
So there are obviously those "in Jerusalem." And then there are those outside "Egypt, all nations, and Canaanites." They don't worship the Lord. Of course worship of God must be in spirit and in truth, therefore those who refuse to come to Jerusalem are those who refuse to worship in spirit and in truth.

Worship in spirit and truth is worship through the Gospel of grace:

Acts 20:24  But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.
What is love? Love rejoices in the truth and speaks truth:
Ephesians 4:15  But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ
If we are speaking the truth, we are speaking grace. To speak salvation by works is hatred and devouring. To speak free and sovereign grace is love and feeding the sheep:
Psalms 57:4-6  My soul is among lions: and I lie even among them that are set on fire, even the sons of men, whose teeth are spears and arrows, and their tongue a sharp sword. {5} Be thou exalted, O God, above the heavens; let thy glory be above all the earth. {6} They have prepared a net for my steps; my soul is bowed down: they have digged a pit before me, into the midst whereof they are fallen themselves. Selah.
Notice the last verse. "They have fallen in the very pit they made."

Just as Haman built the device on which Mordecai was to be hanged, Haman was the one actually hanged there. Just as David's enemies condemned him for his sin with Bathsheba (laying a charge against God's elect, they were the accusers of the brethren, hence, their father was the devil) and just as those damned Pharisees accused the apostles of doing evil:

Romans 3:8  And not rather, (as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say,) Let us do evil, that good may come? whose damnation is just.
They were trapped in the pit they dug. Why? They did not speak the Gospel of peace:
Psalms 85:8  I will hear what God the LORD will speak: for he will speak peace unto his people, and to his saints: but let them not turn again to folly.
That is, warfare is accomplished, or finished, through speaking comfortably to His people:
Isaiah 40:1-2  Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. {2} Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord's hand double for all her sins.
But the Pharisees spoke war through works:
Psalms 120  A Song of degrees. In my distress I cried unto the LORD, and he heard me. {2} Deliver my soul, O LORD, from lying lips, and from a deceitful tongue. {3} What shall be given unto thee? or what shall be done unto thee, thou false tongue? {4} Sharp arrows of the mighty, with coals of juniper. {5} Woe is me, that I sojourn in Mesech, that I dwell in the tents of Kedar! {6} My soul hath long dwelt with him that hateth peace. {7} I am for peace: but when I speak, they are for war.
The Pharisees lied about the Christians. They spoke another gospel of works for war. But David was for peace. When they spoke, they were for war, and so it is today: When men of vanity impose a works religion, they are biting and devouring and judging one another. But when we speak the Gospel of peace and grace, we feed one another and restore each other, reminding one another of God's grace, not of God's wrath, for His wrath does not abide on us but rather His love. This is the true testimony to the world of love. It is not mooshy feelings or even always being nice to one another. It is the message we preach. This passage depicts that perfectly:
Psalms 140  To the chief Musician, A Psalm of David. Deliver me, O LORD, from the evil man: preserve me from the violent man; {2} Which imagine mischiefs in their heart; continually are they gathered together for war. {3} They have sharpened their tongues like a serpent; adders' poison is under their lips. Selah. {4} Keep me, O LORD, from the hands of the wicked; preserve me from the violent man; who have purposed to overthrow my goings. {5} The proud have hid a snare for me, and cords; they have spread a net by the wayside; they have set gins for me. Selah. {6} I said unto the LORD, Thou art my God: hear the voice of my supplications, O LORD. {7} O GOD the Lord, the strength of my salvation, thou hast covered my head in the day of battle. {8} Grant not, O LORD, the desires of the wicked: further not his wicked device; lest they exalt themselves. Selah. {9} As for the head of those that compass me about, let the mischief of their own lips cover them. {10} Let burning coals fall upon them: let them be cast into the fire; into deep pits, that they rise not up again. {11} Let not an evil speaker be established in the earth: evil shall hunt the violent man to overthrow him. {12} I know that the LORD will maintain the cause of the afflicted, and the right of the poor. {13} Surely the righteous shall give thanks unto thy name: the upright shall dwell in thy presence.
The Pharisees gathered against Jerusalem. It is very likely they were Gog and Magog gathered around the beloved city to make war at the end of the millennium. But God would not have it. David continually contrasts the devices of the wicked Pharisees with the salvation and presence of God. Who are the upright? The righteous who give thanks unto His name. Who are the wicked? The self-righteous who trust in their works. What are the burning coals upon the head? The Gospel:
Romans 12:20  Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.
This to me does not seem to be literal, but the Gospel. Preach the Gospel to the wicked. Endeavor to feed him in contrast to what he does to you-namely-attempting to put a yoke about your neck.

What is that Gospel? Christ and Him crucified for the forgiveness of sins. What is anti-Gospel? Getting drunk? Hardly. Fornication? Hardly. The anti-Gospel of hatred and that which exalts and magnifies itself against God is the offspring of Satan, and that is salvation by works. True love is always affirming salvation by grace. True hatred is affirming salvation by works. So when John speaks of love:

1 John 2:4-5  He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. {5} But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him.
How do we keep His commandments? What are they?
1 John 3:22-23  And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight. {23} And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment.
That is it. Giving the brethren restoration and the Gospel and always reminding them of salvation by grace through faith, in contrast to what the wicked Jews throughout their history did, and that was condemning the people who trusted the Lord by telling them that they were not His because of their disobedience to His law.

We always keep His word. Reconsider this passage:

1 John 3:17  But whoso hath this world's good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him?
What is the need of our brother? Finances? Hardly, though it is certainly noble when we help our brother this way. No, our brother's need is restoration when he falls. Our bowels of compassion minister to him and remind him of God's mercy that endures forever, whose mercies are new every morning. When we condemn our brother and tell him he is not saved based upon his disobedience, we are then shutting up our bowels of compassion. How then dwelleth the love of God in that person who hates?
1 John 2:15  Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
Is the world alcohol? Bars? Parties? Hardly. The world was, in the first century, the orderly arrangements of the law and works. Those things were to be burned up. And so it is today. The works and law of the wicked are burned up. We do not love the orderly arrangement of religion, but rather we, as David, love the law of God, and that law is Christ-"Thy law do I love...on His law doth He meditate day and night." David did not meditate upon the ten commandments day and night. David was prophesying of the New Covenant and setting His affection on things above (Christ), not on things on the earth (the elements of self-righteousness and works).
1 John 3:5-15  And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin. {6} Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him. {7} Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. {8} He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil. {9} Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. {10} In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil: whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother. {11} For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. {12} Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous. {13} Marvel not, my brethren, if the world hate you. {14} We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. {15} Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him.
Christians ask me continually: How can this be true? You mean Christians don't sin? That is correct in this sense: when we identify that to which sin is referring. The sin is condemning God's people rather than encouraging them in the grace of God:
Acts 13:43  Now when the congregation was broken up, many of the Jews and religious proselytes followed Paul and Barnabas: who, speaking to them, persuaded them to continue in the grace of God.
What was the plea? Do not go back to works, for then you sin the sin unto death. The sin is missing the mark. Sin is attempting to hit the mark with works and missing it. It was Cain's *works* that were evil. His "offering" was evil because it was done out of  self-righteousness. His slaying of Abel represented the Jews attempting to slay God's people. They were the Accuser of the brethren. They were the Adversary. The role of the adversary has always been one of hatred and works. Marvel not that the *world* hate you. That is the world of self-righteousness-those who say they see but are blind. "If you were blind, you would have no sin" Christ told the Pharisees. Christians always love, for they always speak peace to God's people. We cannot sin (preach salvation by works and condemn the righteous), for sin is of the Adversary. We can only do righteousness, for the Gospel of peace and grace whereby we were saved is righteousness-His Gospel is peace. When we preach works, we are murderers and we hate the brethren. Our "doing" righteousness is constantly affirming grace:
Titus 3:7-8  That being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life. {8} This is a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men.
How are good works maintained? By always preaching that we cannot do them for salvation. This is true love. Paul contrasts this by saying what He was as a Pharisee:
Titus 3:3  For we ourselves also were sometimes foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving divers lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful, and hating one another.
That is the religious adversary. We were hateful and envious. That is, we loved our works and comparing ourselves to others. We served religious lusts. The whole NT contrasts the self-righteous with the truly righteous. That is, the whole NT contrasts hatred versus true love; darkness versus light; war versus peace; shame versus boldness; pride versus humility...works versus the Gospel.

So then, those mentioned in Zechariah who would not come to worship the Lord in Jerusalem are those who trust in works and not in the Gospel of peace and righteousness through the sacrifice of Christ. They are those who love not, who abide in death and upon whom there is no rain, for they have not the living waters of Christ, but the dead and stagnant blood-polluted water of their ancestors. The river flowing out from the Temple went to heal the waters in the sea. But the marshes remained sick.

Ezekiel 47:11  But its swamps and marshes will not become fresh; they are to be left for salt.
But on the contrary, all those in Jerusalem are the vessels which fill the house, and they are all holy:
Zechariah 14:21  Yea, every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah shall be holiness unto the LORD of hosts: and all they that sacrifice shall come and take of them, and seethe therein: and in that day there shall be no more the Canaanite in the house of the LORD of hosts.
Notice that they sacrifice:
Hebrews 13:15-16  By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name. {16} But to do good and to communicate forget not: for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.
What is it that we communicate or share? It is the sharing of the Gospel and its message of peace:
How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!
Many desiring to justify some lack of kindness in their own lives, ask the question, so how much do I love in order to prove myself a Christian? First, I do not believe it is proper to ask the question about any command for obedience. Rather, we should always look to a command with a longing to obey it. But second, their idea of love is founded upon something which I believe John did not intend to convey. And the wonderful thing is, once we recognize that true and continual love is the message of salvation by grace and restoration to the people of God when they are overtaken in a "fault," we will see that as those whom God has elected for salvation and to whom God has given everlasting life, will always preach and believe the Gospel of grace. They will not draw back unto perdition. They will not sin the sin unto death.

So then, as you ask:

"If this is the reign of Christ, and he is ruling from on high, why is the world so awful? I mean, surely if he was reigning with an "iron rod", wouldn't people be more loving and live according to his will?  The world is a cesspool.  That's why I don't understand this."
Answer, because just as the kingdom is spiritual, so also, war is not physical. Though there is physical war, calamity, etc. in this world, the warfare is two-fold: the removal of the enemies of the first-century Christians, which enemies were the self-righteous Jews; and the enmity with God because of the law of sin and death. The iron rod is the Word of God. It is that with which Christ dashes the enemies like a Potter's vessel and also removes any enmity between God and man. "Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled." We are a victorious and monumental city, ruling and triumphing always through the Gospel which slays or gives life:
2 Corinthians 2:14-17  Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place. {15} For we are unto God a sweet savour of Christ, in them that are saved, and in them that perish: {16} To the one we are the savour of death unto death; and to the other the savour of life unto life. And who is sufficient for these things? {17} For we are not as many, which corrupt the word of God: but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ.
We do not corrupt the word in preaching works. We have a victorious Gospel-far more so than the recontructionist paradigm. Theirs remains fleshly and still remains without victory. We always triumph, and as the NRSV states, we are always led in triumphal procession:
2 Corinthians 2:14  But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads in every place the fragrance that comes from knowing him.
This is true victory, true love, true life-everlasting. We are indeed the city set up on a hill. We are the Light of the world by the Living Word which speaks through us. To His name be glory and dominion, to the praise and glory of His grace.