The Real Purpose of Life
IMAGINE that you are visiting a friend’s workshop. He has just finished a project, and you are fascinated by it. The object is beautifully made and intriguingly shaped. But try as you may, you cannot determine what it is for. How do you find out? Why, you simply ask your friend, and he will likely be happy to tell you.
So how can we find out the purpose of life? Well, why not ask God, “the source of life”? (Psalm 36:9) How can you do that? Happily, he has spoken to us through the Bible. He has had individuals of faith write down his thoughts in a way that we can understand. Actually, the purpose of life can be expressed in just a few words: We are here to learn about God and to do his will. The Bible says: “The conclusion of the matter, everything having been heard, is: Fear the true God and keep his commandments. For this is the whole obligation of man.”—Ecclesiastes 12:13.
Does that seem too simple? Well, it is not. Our being here to learn about God and to do his will has wonderful and profound implications.
God’s Original Purpose
Learning what God originally intended for mankind will help you better understand the purpose of life. It will also explain why some of the things mentioned in the previous article bring a measure of meaning and purpose to the lives of many today.
The Bible account of man’s creation says: “God went on to say: ‘Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness.’” (Genesis 1:26) Thus, humans were made with the potential for being like God, possessing the outstanding qualities he has, including wisdom, power, righteousness, and love. Is it surprising, then, that some find it fulfilling to seek new knowledge or to engage in activities that challenge their mental or physical powers? And is it unexpected that helping others provides a satisfying purpose in the lives of many? Not at all. This is, in part, what we were created to do.
The Bible record goes on to say that humans were given oversight of all other life on earth—“the fish of the sea and the flying creatures of the heavens . . . and every moving animal that is moving upon the earth.” (Genesis 1:26) No wonder, therefore, that even today many find satisfaction in having animals around and in playing with them. Some feel their responsibility toward the animals to such an extent that they work hard for the preservation of threatened species, or they campaign against the exposing of animals to needless suffering.
Humans were also commanded to ‘subdue the earth.’ (Genesis 1:28) What did this imply? Certainly not that people should selfishly and irresponsibly exploit the earth until its riches were exhausted, its atmosphere polluted, and its seas and land areas strewed with garbage. Rather, God set the pattern for subduing the earth when he “planted a garden in Eden, toward the east, and there he put the man whom he had formed.” (Genesis 2:8) This garden of Eden was the model showing what the earth would become. It reflected God’s purpose for our planet.
The Bible account explains: “Further, God blessed [the first man and woman] and God said to them: ‘Be fruitful and become many and fill the earth and subdue it.’” (Genesis 1:28) God wanted humans to have children and populate the earth. He brought the first man and woman together and, in effect, performed the very first wedding. (Genesis 2:22-24) No wonder that marriage and family add meaning and purpose to the lives of so many!
What Life Could Have Been
As we study the Bible, it is evident that God intended for Adam’s family to grow and for him and his children to extend the boundaries of the garden of Eden until humans filled the entire earth. And the subdued earth would be a paradise. True, man would use the riches of the earth for his own benefit. But this would be done in a responsible way. Man was to be a steward of the earth, not a despoiler of it. The destruction of the earth that we witness today is against God’s will, and those who share in it are going contrary to the purpose of life.—Revelation 11:18.
We learn something else from the early Bible record, and that is that it was not God’s purpose for people to die. Our first parents died only because they disobeyed God. (Genesis 2:16, 17) When they disobeyed, they were no longer fulfilling the purpose of life—they were no longer doing God’s will. So not only did they die but all their offspring have also been subjected to death because of inheriting imperfection from them. (Romans 5:12) Humans were, however, originally intended to live forever, not to die. This is likely why many find it frustrating to contemplate the cutting short of their life’s work by death.
Fulfilling God’s Purpose
God’s original purpose for humankind and this earth has not changed. He still intends to have a paradise earth peopled by a perfect human race. Yet, he has had to make arrangements to overcome the sad effects of the failure of our first parents. Doing God’s will today involves acting in harmony with all these arrangements of God. Happily, the Bible provides a description of the progressive fulfillment of his purpose.
We read in the first book of the Bible that God spoke of a “seed” who would come to undo all the harm wreaked by Adam and Eve’s failure to do His will. (Genesis 3:15) In the Christian Greek Scriptures (“New Testament”), we read of the appearance of Jesus Christ as that “seed,” of his sinless life, and of his death at the hands of his enemies. Jesus’ death was, effectively, a sacrifice in our behalf, opening the way for us to regain the eternal life that Adam and Eve lost. (Hebrews 7:26; 9:28) Yes, the Bible says: “Everyone exercising faith in him [will] not be destroyed but have everlasting life.”—John 3:16.
And there is more. After his death, Jesus was resurrected as an immortal spirit creature and is now ruling as King of God’s heavenly Kingdom. Soon that Kingdom will act to replace the present earthly governments with a new world society that will take over the management of human affairs. A Bible prophecy promises: “The kingdom itself will not be passed on to any other people. It will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, and it itself will stand to times indefinite.”—Daniel 2:44.
Afterward, this Kingdom will oversee the delightful activity of restoring Paradise to the earth and raising humankind to perfection. The Bible even speaks of a resurrection of the dead, so that they too can have the opportunity to share in the fulfillment of God’s grand purpose for mankind. (Acts 24:15) Then will be fulfilled the beautiful promise: “The meek ones themselves will possess the earth, and they will indeed find their exquisite delight in the abundance of peace. The righteous themselves will possess the earth, and they will reside forever upon it.”—Psalm 37:11, 29.
To benefit personally from the fulfillment of God’s grand purpose for the earth, we must first get to know God. Jesus Christ said: “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3) How can we do that? We learn some things about God by observing the world around us, the creation, including the starry heavens. (Psalm 19:1) Especially, though, do we learn about God—as well as about his Son, Jesus Christ—through the Bible. We learn his name and his qualities, and we find out in detail what God has done for mankind. Such knowledge makes us love him and draws us very close to him and to his Son.
Getting to know God makes us want to do his will. Perhaps we have prayed as Jesus instructed: “Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.” (Matthew 6:10) The real purpose of life—the one that brings true satisfaction—is living our lives in harmony with that will of God.
What is involved, though, in doing God’s will? For Adam and Eve, it involved overseeing the animal kingdom and subduing the earth and filling it with perfect offspring. If we would do God’s will today, we must learn about and exercise faith in Jesus’ ransom sacrifice. And we must follow Jesus’ example by telling others about ‘the good news of God’s kingdom.’—Matthew 24:14.
Doing God’s will also includes developing a godly personality. So we identify the things God hates—such as lying, theft, harmful gossip, uncontrolled anger—and we reject them. We also study the qualities that God loves—such as love, joy, peace, kindness, and goodness—and we cultivate them with the help of God’s holy spirit. (Galatians 5:19-24) If we are to gain eternal life, we need to be the kind of people that God will want to have around for all eternity. Indeed, learning about God and doing his will gives purpose and meaning to our lives as nothing else can!
The Difference It Makes
The lives of millions of people around the world testify that finding the real purpose of life truly makes a difference. Consider the example of Wayne, who was devastated by the death of his first wife. His local clergyman was unable to comfort him, so Wayne became busy in volunteer work. He served as a commander in the American Legion and was active in political groups. Then he married again, but the marriage was stormy. He and his wife had no direction in their lives.
One day, however, Wayne picked up a Bible and started reading. In three months he finished it, and he says: “Now I knew that there was a purpose for our being here and a hope of a life after death.” He told his wife: “We should find people to associate with who adhere to the Bible.” Soon they met Jehovah’s Witnesses, and their discussions with them intensified their desire to do God’s will. Both Wayne and his wife dedicated their lives to God, and their family life was greatly benefited.
Susan, a daughter of Presbyterian missionaries, wanted to do something with her life that would really help the world. A lecture on the dangers of nuclear power convinced her that this was of the utmost importance. So she left college in order to spend all her time educating people about the problem. When she was 21, she served as a coordinator for a big antinuclear rally. Later she was visited by Jehovah’s Witnesses and shown what the Bible says and, in time, found the real purpose of life. While doubtless still concerned about mankind’s ruining of the earth, she realizes that God will solve these problems through his Kingdom. Hence, she helps people put faith in that.
Marielle made it her purpose in life to enjoy the things the world offers. She pursued a career. She enjoyed all the ‘in things’ of Los Angeles, California, U.S.A., including parties and drugs. But when she began to study the Bible, got to know and serve God, she saw how empty all those things were. She says her life is much richer now that it harmonizes with God’s purposes.
The number of those whose lives have been enriched by learning the real purpose of life is increasing by the hundreds every day. Living in harmony with that true purpose of life by doing the will of our loving, heavenly Father truly makes a difference. It is something that can change your whole life for the better. We invite you to look into the matter for yourself. Your life will be more fulfilling if you do.
[Picture on page 9]
The Giver of life had a purpose in creating mankind
[Picture on page 10]
God has not abandoned his purpose to have a paradise earth filled with a perfect human race