A Long Time, but No Longer than Necessary
NEARLY six thousand years have passed since mankind struck out on a course of independence from God. The amount of suffering felt by millions during those thousands of years—by wars, famine, crime and injustice—is difficult to conceive.
Even though we accept the fact that mankind’s course has been contrary to God’s will as set forth in the Bible, the question remains: Why has God let matters go on like this for so long? Why has he not intervened before now to end human suffering? Why has he even allowed persons seeking to do his will to suffer along with the rest? There is a reason, a serious one.
An Issue Demanding Settlement
The reason is that an issue had arisen that demanded a settlement. The rebellion that had been spawned within Jehovah God’s universal family put in question the rightness and rightfulness of God’s rule. Could mankind, or even spirit sons of God, find happiness and success in such a course of independence? Would their lot actually improve in this way? Or would time prove such a course to be a disastrous one, a dismal failure, and that God’s way is the right, best and only way to life in peace, security and happiness?
Such a question would take, not days or years, but many generations for the answer to be demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt. But its settlement would be worth whatever time it required, for it involved the whole universe and its future peace and good order.
The time that God allowed for settling this question would also grant all his intelligent creatures the opportunity to make clear on what side of the issue they would take their stand. Those taking God’s side would have the opportunity to prove just how unbreakably devoted and loyal his creatures can be to his rule, under all kinds of circumstances, even unjust persecution and death. He would let them show that love for Him and for righteousness is a far stronger force than selfishness, even as was demonstrated in the case of his faithful servant Job.—Job 1:7-12; Rom. 5:3-5.
In this way there will be no halfway settlement of the question but a full, complete answer, one that will need no repeating at any future time. Jehovah God will accept nothing less than this. And we can be glad that this is so, since only that kind of settlement can open the way for unending peace and security for all his universal family, in heaven and on earth. Now the evidence is that time is running out and that the time for God to intervene decisively is at hand. What has been the result of his allowance of time till now? What has it proved?
The Results of Mankind’s Independent Course Now Evident
Mankind has now had ample opportunity to show what it can do in ruling and running this planet, trying to do it apart from God. True, some governments may use expressions like “In God We Trust,” and many individuals may exclaim “God help us!” when faced with crises. But in reality mankind as a whole has paid little heed to God’s Word and has not concerned itself with knowing his will. As was true of the ancient nation of Israel, God has “let them go in the stubbornness of their heart; they went walking in their own counsels.” (Ps. 81:12) Where has it brought them?
During the past half century in particular men have done things never before imagined. They walk on the moon, girdle the earth with communications networks, build giant factories, giant planes, giant ships, harness atomic power, devise amazing computers that perform complex mathematical operations in fractions of seconds. But what has it all meant in the way of relief for mankind? Is the human family today better fed, better housed, safer and happier?
What about food? A report by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization says: “The world situation in 1974 remains more difficult and uncertain than at any time since the years following the devastation of the Second World War.” In simple terms, one out of every four persons on earth today suffers serious malnutrition. Is this success?
What of the wealthier, industrialized lands? A recent report in the United States answers: “The sad and tragic truth is that, over the past several years, we have moved backwards in our struggle to end hunger, poverty and malnutrition.”—New York Times, June 20, 1974, pages 1, 17.
Men boast of their “conquest” of the earth. But Swedish scientist Georg Borgstrom says: “Man’s impact on the face of the earth has been truly formidable. . . . However, he has created more deserts than he ever irrigated new land; he has cut down more than half of the world’s forest cover; he has denuded vast lands, exposing them to the destructive forces of water and wind; and through excessive cropping he has destroyed many times more acres of top-soil than he has ever built up or newly produced.”
More and more warnings are issued by scientists that man’s misuse of energy and fouling of the air can produce serious changes in weather and climate. Really, does the present situation not show how much mankind needs the guidance of the Maker of the earth to bring this planet to the pleasant and productive state that will make it a truly pleasant home, yes, one free even from destructive storms?
Man has developed amazing methods for rapid construction of homes and enormous skyscrapers. Yet slums around the world are not receding, they are mushrooming. And the human family is now growing at the rate of about 78 million each year.
Even abundant food and good homes cannot bring happiness unless those enjoying them also enjoy security. Yet, as U.N. Secretary-General K. Waldheim recently said: “Despite material progress, human life has never had a greater sense of insecurity than it is experiencing today.”
The most basic needs of the human family—food, clean air and water, good homes, security—have not been met successfully by man’s rule apart from God. Not only have they not been met; they are now more critical than ever before. As the president of Roosevelt University, Rolf A. Weil, acknowledges: “It is an understatement to say that old problems have not been solved . . . to the contrary, [they] have only become more global and more critical. . . . we face major world-wide problems of unprecedented magnitude.”—Vital Speeches of the Day, February 1, 1974, page 236.
While some try to blame God for these conditions, even men of the world acknowledge that the source lies elsewhere. Pointing to the real problem, New York Times editor James Reston says: “You can hardly take a casual look at today’s headlines without wondering where the world is going. . . . see what happens when men, institutions and nations put their selfish interests ahead of everything else. . . . The plain fact in all countries is that playing the selfish game is not working.” But mankind has played that same “game” for six millenniums and shows no indication of changing.
What Part Have the World’s Religions Played?
Have the world’s religions been free of responsibility in this? Have they shown real care for the human family and aided mankind to find divine blessings? Have they pointed the way back for mankind to return to submission to Jehovah God’s sovereignty?
History testifies that the world’s religious organizations have worked, often ‘hand in glove,’ with the political powers, helping to build huge empires, keeping people favorable to domineering and corrupt rulers. In addition to their own violent crusades and inquisitions, the religious leaders have blessed political and commercial wars, whitewashed official corruption. For this, the religious organizations have reaped profit and prominence. They also bear a heavy share of responsibility for mankind’s suffering.
Consider but one illustration in our own time. An article in the New York Times Magazine dealing with the drought afflicting Ethiopia states:
“Drought or no drought, the church, owning one-third of all the land, has demanded its rents from the impoverished peasants. And so has the aristocracy. The peasant farmers of Ethiopia have paid about 90 per cent of their crops in rents and taxes.”
The world’s religions have failed to bring about a climate of honesty, morality, decency and neighbor love among their members. Immorality, delinquency, employee dishonesty and racial disunity are on the increase. As the Saturday Review/World of May 18, 1974, comments: “Wherever one looks, the evidence of an unraveling in moral fiber seems inescapable.”
Why a God Who Cares Could Permit This
Mankind can never erase all the pain, heartache and damage that rule independent of God has caused through the past nearly six thousand years. But Jehovah God can. He can bring not only human suffering to an end, wiping out selfish human mismanagement and rule of this earth. (Dan. 2:44) He can also make all the damaging effects become as if they had never occurred. How?
As the Creator of life he is able to restore to life those who have died. His Word shows that during the Kingdom reign of his Son he will empty the graves of their dead and grant to these resurrected ones the opportunity to take a course leading to life everlasting. (John 5:26-29; Acts 24:15; Rev. 20:11-13) Thereby it will be as stated in the inspired prophecy at Isaiah 25:8: “He will actually swallow up death forever, and the Sovereign Lord Jehovah will certainly wipe the tears from all faces.”
By restoring paradisaic conditions on earth and bringing peace, justice and unity earth wide through the rule of his Son’s righteous government, God can erase from the minds of those living any bitter memories of the past. As was true when he restored ancient Israel to their homeland after years of captivity in Babylon, so it will be true of obedient mankind restored to a paradisaic earth, “the former things will not be called to mind, neither will they come up into the heart. . . . exult, you people, and be joyful forever in what I am creating.” (Isa. 65:17, 18) Through God’s heavenly kingdom by his Son, God promises to “wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore.”—Rev. 21:2-4.
To believe this requires faith. The Bible states that “without faith it is impossible to please [God] well, for he that approaches God must believe that he is and that he becomes the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.” (Heb. 11:6) Blind faith is of no value. But faith based on evidence can give solid hope. God has provided us ample evidence to believe, not only that he exists, but that he is “the rewarder of those earnestly seeking him.” Consider what he has already done in the past as evidence of his care and concern for the good of mankind.
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Court cases can take weeks, even where just two persons are involved. If your reputation, property or life were at stake, would you not want the trial to be thorough, even though it took time? The great issue that demands settlement involves all intelligent creatures in the universe. Logically a long period of time is needed to resolve it
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After 6,000 years, has human “progress” really solved the basic problems of life, bringing security from unemployment, hunger and crime?