Where Would All the People Live?
WHAT honest-hearted person would not thrill at the prospect of living forever on an earth where peace and righteousness prevailed, where health and strength never faded? The Bible promises this under the rule of God’s kingdom. These conditions are to prevail after God has removed the present unrighteous systems and all those who share in their corrupt ways. Then the earth will enjoy a righteous administration in the hands of God’s own Son, Christ Jesus.—Dan. 2:44.
But some ask, “If people gain freedom from old age and death and if they keep on having children, where will they all live?”
Not only that. The Bible additionally gives the stirring promise that those who have died in the past will be raised from the dead. Jesus himself said: “Do not marvel at this, because the hour is coming in which all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out.” (John 5:28, 29; compare Acts 24:15.) Surely it is in harmony with God’s love that those who have died are not to be overlooked or lose out on the grand prospect of living forever in his new order. But where will all these resurrected ones live?
That is a logical question. Even now some regard earth’s present population of about 3,600,000,000 as too large. They warn that the modern “population explosion” threatens to bring widespread famine and disturbances. So, what will happen in God’s new order if people are no longer subject to death?
First, certain factors must be recognized. One is that the earth is actually capable of sustaining a population many, many times greater than that which is now on it. Another is that the number of persons who have died in the past several thousand years is not nearly as great as some might imagine. And finally, the Bible does not say that God purposed procreation to continue endlessly. His command to the first human pair was to “fill the earth,” not overrun it with offspring. (Gen. 1:27, 28) Consider the full significance of these factors.
Earth’s Ability to Accommodate a Vast Population
How much space can this planet provide for all those who gain life in God’s new order? Will it suffice? Well, consider the earth’s surface: It is about 197,000,000 square miles in area. But 71 percent of that is water. The land surface is 29 percent, about 57,000,000 square miles. This is well over 36,000,000,000 acres. The World Book Encyclopedia of 1970 says of today’s population: “If all the people of the world were distributed evenly, there would be about 63 persons for every square mile [640 acres] of land.” This would mean about ten acres of land for every person living today! Yes, earth can accommodate many more than its present population.
However, throughout human history many thousands of millions of people have lived on earth. How many? Well, how long has man been on the earth? According to Bible chronology, almost 6,000 years. But it should be remembered that after 1,656 years of human history, earth’s population drastically dropped—to only eight persons! This was because of the flood of Noah’s day. (1 Pet. 3:20) The earth’s population grew considerably during the next 2,370 years until the beginning of our Common Era. Yet, when Jesus Christ was on the earth, the human population, according to some estimates, may have been no more than 250 million. In fact, The World Book Encyclopedia (1970) places the estimate at about half that figure—at only 133 million.
It is just in recent centuries that earth’s population has grown tremendously. In this regard, Dr. Albert L. Elder, as president of the American Chemical Society, stated at a meeting of that society in 1960:
“It took over 5000 years of human history up to about 1820 to reach a world population of 1.1 billion. Within the following century, population doubled. Now, it stands at about 2.8 billion and could reach 3 billion early in the 1960’s [as it has done]. Thus, in less than 50 years there has been an increase in population equivalent to that which occurred during the first 50 centuries.”
So those who are alive today represent a sizable number of those who have ever lived on this earth. In fact, in 1966 a speaker at the Florida State Pharmaceutical Association convention observed: “It is now estimated that 25 per cent of all the people who have ever lived are alive today.”—Jacksonville Journal, May 18, 1966.
On the basis of that estimate, the population throughout all human history would be only some 14,000,000,000 persons. But suppose that many more than that have lived on the earth. Let us add 10,000,000,000 more persons and assume that a population of 24,000,000,000 is involved. Would there be room for them? Well, since the earth has over 36,000,000,000 acres, there would be more than an acre and a half of land for each person! But would an acre and a half be enough to produce the needed food? There is good reason to believe that only a fraction of that acre and a half per person would be needed for food, leaving room for recreation areas and sanctuaries for animal and plant life.
Earth Can Produce Enough Food
According to The World Today: Its Patterns and Cultures (1966, p. 76), less than one eighth of the total land area of the earth is suitable for growing crops. The yield of much of the land that is cultivated is very poor, and farming methods are often not the most efficient. But even now, under conditions that are far from ideal, it is admitted that earth has the potential to support a much larger population. For example, Time magazine of July 13, 1970, in an article about new, high-yield strains of wheat and rice, reported that the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization “now maintains that the world’s agricultural potential is great enough to feed 157 billion people.” Surely, then, the earth could support 24,000,000,000 persons.
Yet, it is not at all certain that the vast number of 24,000,000,000 people have lived on earth. It could be much less. Nor does the Bible state that every single one of those resurrected will continue living forever. The principle set forth at Isaiah 26:10 will doubtless prove true concerning a considerable number of them, namely: “Though the wicked one should be shown favor, he simply will not learn righteousness. In the land of straightforwardness he will act unjustly and will not see the eminence of Jehovah.” Such ones will perish, never to live again. (Rev. 20:11-15) So, too, the Bible shows that not all living today will survive to life on earth under God’s kingdom. To the contrary, it shows that many, the majority, will willfully reject their opportunity to take their stand on God’s side and show faith in his provisions, thereby choosing everlasting destruction rather than everlasting life.—2 Thess. 1:9, 10; 2 Pet. 3:5-7.
When we consider how abundantly the earth could produce under ideal conditions and God’s blessing, we can see how easily it could support a much larger population, including the resurrected dead, even though these should number as many as ten or twenty thousand million or more!
God, who created the earth, knows how to make it productive. Under the wise administration of his kingdom, the earth will yield as never before. As was true for the nation of Israel when faithful, so it will be then: “The earth itself will certainly give its produce; God, our God, will bless us.”—Ps. 67:6.
Without a doubt, a vast reclamation project will be undertaken to transform the entire earth into a fruitful paradise. That will include areas that today may be unproductive. So even though about one fourth of the land surface is arid or semiarid today, it will not have to stay that way.
In regard to desert areas, Chambers’ Encyclopedia states: “Even in the most unpromising terrain an occasional shower of rain will bring to life seeds that have long lain dormant and withered in the sand. . . . Where rivers or underground supplies exist it is at once apparent that desert soil is potentially fertile and only awaits the magic touch of water.” And the Encyclopedia Americana says: “Many desert tracts turn green with vegetation once they are irrigated.”
Even today water and good care make some desert areas bloom, such as in parts of Egypt and Israel. Also, much of California would be like a desert were it not for irrigation and good care that make the land produce abundantly.
If much can be done now to support a vast population on the earth, what can be done under God’s kingdom and with his blessing? Jehovah God demonstrated his ability to provide water, as well as food, when he sustained the six hundred thousand men of Israel and their families during their forty years in the arid Sinai peninsula. (Ex. 12:37; 15:22-25; Deut. 8:3, 4) He again demonstrated this ability centuries later when he provided water for the 50,000 Jewish exiles and associates who returned to Jerusalem from Babylon by way of the wasteland of the Syrian desert, fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah: “In the wilderness waters will have burst out, and torrents in the desert plain. And the heat-parched ground will have become as a reedy pool, and the thirsty ground as springs of water.” (Isa. 35:1, 6, 7; Ezra 2:64-70) He can do the same on a vastly larger scale during the Kingdom rule of his Son.
Filled, Not Overflowing
How many people does Jehovah purpose to have on earth finally? The Bible does not say.
We can be certain, though, that all living then will be delighted with life. What was promised to God’s faithful people in the time of the psalmist David will be true then, namely, they “will indeed find their exquisite delight in the abundance of peace.” Jesus showed that these words of Psalm 37:11 were prophetic of worldwide conditions due to come by quoting from it at Matthew 5:5. Certainly those living under his Kingdom rule could not be delighted with peaceful life if there were crowded, cramped conditions.
Remember, Jehovah told man to “fill the earth.” (Gen. 1:28) He did not say to flood it with people. But to keep from overflowing, will not childbearing have to stop sometime? Yes, that appears to be the case.
How can childbearing stop? Well, who gave man and woman the power to reproduce? It was their Creator, Jehovah God. Since he originated human fertility, he can also bring it to an end. But precisely how and when this will take place God’s Word does not say. Yet, because we do not know the details, it is no cause to doubt that Jehovah can handle the situation.
God has promised without fail to restore earth to a fruitful paradise, one that can sustain all of earth’s inhabitants who gain eternal life. He guarantees this, his Word saying: “The one seated on the throne said: ‘Look! I am making all things new.’ Also, he says: ‘Write, because these words are faithful and true.’” (Rev. 21:5) Yes, God’s new system will provide comfortable, enjoyable living space for all.