An Issue That Involves You
1. Why have people found it difficult to understand why God has permitted badness among mankind?
DESPITE the common desire for peace and security, man’s history almost from its start has been marred by bloodshed and other badness. Since the Bible shows that God detests such things, why has he not put a stop to these conditions before now? Surely it cannot be for lack of interest. The Bible, as well as the beauty of God’s earthly handiwork, gives abundant evidence of his love and concern for mankind. (1 John 4:8) More importantly, the honor of God’s own name is involved, since these conditions have caused people to reproach him. What reason could there be, then, for his putting up with thousands of years of unrest and violence?
2. (a) Where in the Bible do we find out why God has permitted bad conditions for so long? (b) What makes it evident that the Bible account about Adam and Eve is historical fact?
2 The answer is found in the opening book of the Bible, in what it says about Adam and Eve. This account is no mere allegory. It is historical fact. The Bible supplies a complete, documented record of genealogy reaching from the first century of the Common Era all the way back to the first man. (Luke 3:23-38; Genesis 5:1-32; 11:10–32) As our forefather, Adam had an influence on us. And what the Bible tells us about him helps us to understand the circumstances that affect our lives today.
3. What kind of provisions did God make for mankind at the start?
3 The Bible reveals that all of God’s provisions for the first human couple were very good. They had everything for a happy life—a parklike home in the region called Eden, abundant varieties of food, satisfying work, the prospect of seeing their family grow and fill the earth, and the blessing of their Creator. (Genesis 1:28, 29; 2:8, 9, 15) Who could reasonably have asked for more?
4. (a) At his creation, in what ways was man different from other earthly creatures? (b) In what manner was needed guidance provided for Adam?
4 The inspired record in Genesis reveals that man occupied a unique position on earth. Man alone was made “in God’s image.” (Genesis 1:27) Unlike the animals, he had a heart possessed of moral sense and he was endowed with free will. That is why he was equipped with powers of reason and judgment. To guide man, God implanted in Adam the faculty of conscience so that, as a perfect man in his Creator’s “image,” his normal inclination would be toward good. (Romans 2:15) Besides all this, God spoke to his earthly son, telling him why he was alive, what he was to do and who had provided all the splendid things around him. (Genesis 1:28-30) How, then, do we explain the bad conditions that now exist?
5. (a) What simple requirement did God lay upon the man, and for what reason? (b) Why were man’s life prospects for the future rightly involved?
5 The Scriptural record shows that an issue arose—one that involves each of us today. It came about through circumstances that developed not long after the creation of the first human pair. God gave man the opportunity to demonstrate loving appreciation to his Creator by obedience to a simple requirement. The requirement was nothing that would imply that man had inconsiderate or even depraved tendencies that had to be curbed. Rather, it involved something that in itself was normal and proper—the eating of food. As God told the man: “From every tree of the garden you may eat to satisfaction. But as for the tree of the knowledge of good and bad you must not eat from it, for in the day you eat from it you will positively die.” (Genesis 2:16, 17) This requirement did not deprive man of anything necessary for life; he could eat from all the other trees in the garden. Yet his life prospects for the future were definitely involved, and rightly so. Why? Because the One who stated that commandment was the very Source and Sustainer of man’s life.
6, 7. (a) Our first parents could have lived forever if they had acted in harmony with what basic truth regarding rulership? (b) Why should Adam have felt moved to obey God?
6 God’s purpose was not for man to die. No mention of death was made to Adam except as punishment for disobedience. Our first parents had before them the grand prospect of living forever in their peaceful, parklike home. To attain to this, what was required of them? Simply that they recognize that the earth on which they lived belongs to God, the One who made it, and that, as the Creator, God is the rightful Ruler of his creation. (Psalm 24:1, 10 [23:1, 10, Dy]) Surely this One, who had given man everything he had, even life itself, deserved appreciative obedience to any requirement that he might lay upon the man. That obedience was not to be forced, however. It must be motivated by love.—1 John 5:3.
7 Adam failed to show such love. How did this come about?
THE ORIGIN OF RESISTANCE TO DIVINE RULE
8. (a) Where does the Bible show that resistance to God’s rulership began? (b) Why is it reasonable to believe in the spirit realm?
8 The Bible shows that resistance to God’s rulership first began, not on earth, but in the spirit realm, a realm invisible to human eyes. Should we, like many, doubt the existence of that realm simply because it is invisible to us? No; that would not be reasonable. Gravity cannot be seen, neither can the wind. Yet their effects can be. So, too, the effects of the spirit realm can be observed. “God is a Spirit,” and his works of creation are all around us. If we believe in him, we are obliged to believe in a spirit realm. (John 4:24; Romans 1:20) But who else inhabits that realm?
9. What kind of persons are the angels?
9 Millions of spirit persons, angels, were brought into existence before man. (Psalm 103:20 [102:20, Dy]) All these were created perfect; none with evil tendencies. Yet, like God’s later creation man, they were granted free will. They could therefore choose a course of faithfulness or of unfaithfulness toward God.
10, 11. (a) How is it possible for a perfect spirit creature to feel inclined to do wrong? (b) So, how did one of the angels come to be Satan?
10 But the question asked by many persons is: How, as perfect creatures, could any of them even feel inclined to do wrong? Well, we ourselves know how in our own lives a circumstance can arise that confronts us with various possibilities—some good, some bad. That we have the intelligence to discern the bad possibilities does not automatically make us bad, does it? The real question is: On which course will we fix our mind and heart? If we were to hold on to thoughts of what is bad, that would draw us into cultivating wrong desire in our hearts, and this desire would move us eventually to commit wrong acts. That is how the Bible writer James explains the way sin is born. “Each one is tried by being drawn out and enticed by his own desire. Then the desire, when it has become fertile, gives birth to sin; in turn, sin, when it has been accomplished, brings forth death.”—James 1:14, 15.
11 The Scriptures reveal that one of God’s spirit sons allowed wrong desire to develop in him. He saw the possibility that God’s human creation could come into submission to him rather than to God, and evidently he began to crave at least a share in the worship that was rendered to God. (Luke 4:5-8) Acting in harmony with his desire, he became a resister of God. For that reason he is referred to in the Bible as Satan, which means Resister.—Job 1:6.
12. What sound basis is there for believing that Satan really does exist?
12 It is true that, in this materialistic twentieth century, belief in such a spirit person as Satan is not popular. But, then, popularity has never been a sure guide to truth. Among those who study disease, it was once unpopular to believe that unseen germs were a factor to consider, but now their influence is well known. Certainly, if what is popular had always been a true guide by which to live, this world would be in far different condition than it is now. Jesus Christ, who himself had come from the spirit realm, could speak with authority on life there. He definitely referred to Satan as a spirit person whose influence could bring severe trials in people’s lives. (John 8:23; Luke 13:16; 22:31) Only by taking into account the existence of this spirit Adversary can we understand how bad conditions got started on this earth.
13. How did Satan communicate with the woman Eve, and why in that manner?
13 The inspired record, in Genesis chapter 3, describes how he proceeded in an endeavor to satisfy his wrong desire. In the Garden of Eden, he approached the woman Eve, but doing so in a deceptive manner so as to conceal his real identity. He was invisible to her eyes, and as yet he had no human agent through whom he could work; so the record shows that he employed an animal commonly seen by the human pair—a serpent. Evidently using what we would call ventriloquism, he made it appear that his words proceeded from this creature, whose naturally cautious manner fit well with the impression that he wanted to make.—Genesis 3:1; Revelation 12:9.
14. What did Satan say to Eve, and with what evident intent?
14 Rather than make a direct bid for the woman to look to him as her ruler, Satan first sought to plant doubt in her mind, asking: “Is it really so that God said you must not eat from every tree of the garden?” In effect, he was saying: ‘It is a pity that God has said you may not eat from all the trees in the garden.’ By this he inferred that possibly God was holding back something good. Eve answered by quoting God’s prohibition, which involved only one tree, as well as stating the death penalty that disobedience would bring. At that, Satan attempted to undermine respect for God’s law, saying: “You positively will not die. For God knows that in the very day of your eating from it your eyes are bound to be opened and you are bound to be like God, knowing good and bad.” (Genesis 3:1-5) Faced with such a situation, what would you have done?
15. (a) Why did Eve fall victim to Satan? (b) What did Adam do?
15 The Bible record shows that Eve allowed herself to be drawn along by selfish desire, and she ate what God had forbidden. Afterward, under her urging, her husband Adam also ate, choosing to cast his lot in with her rather than with his Creator. What was the outcome?—Genesis 3:6; 1 Timothy 2:14.
16. So, then, what accounts for the crime and violence, as well as the disease and death, that have marked human existence since the time of Adam?
16 The entire human family was plunged into sin and imperfection. Adam now could not pass on to his offspring the perfection that he no longer had. As in making copies of something from a mold or pattern that is itself defective—all the copies will have the same defect. So, all Adam’s offspring were born in sin, with an inherited tendency toward selfishness. (Genesis 8:21) It is this inclination, left unchecked, that has led to theft, rape, murder and all the other badness that has taken peace and security from mankind. It is this inheritance of sin that has also resulted in disease and death.—Romans 5:12.
THE ISSUE RAISED
17, 18. (a) To understand why God has put up with this situation for so long, what important issue must we appreciate? (b) What really is the issue that was raised?
17 In the light of these facts, our minds go back to the question raised earlier: Why has God put up with this situation, allowing it to develop to the extent that it has? It is because of the issue that was raised and its effect on the entire universe. How is that so?
18 By his argument that God’s law to Adam was not good for man and by challenging what God said would be the outcome for disobedience, Satan was calling into question God’s rulership. He did not question the fact that God is ruler. Rather, the issue that Satan raised centered on the rightfulness of Jehovah’s rulership and the righteousness of His ways. Deceptively, Satan argued that man would make out better by acting independently, making his own decisions rather than submitting to God’s direction. (Genesis 3:4, 5) In reality, however, by so doing man would be following the leading of God’s adversary.
19. (a) What else was involved in the issue, and where is this shown in the Bible? (b) How does this issue involve us?
19 Another matter was involved. Since these creatures of God turned against him there in Eden, what would the others do? Later, in the days of the man Job, Satan openly charged that those who serve Jehovah do so, not because of any love for God and his rulership, but selfishly, because God provides everything for them. Satan inferred that, when put under pressure, no one would prove to be a loyal supporter of Jehovah’s sovereignty. The loyalty and integrity of every intelligent creature in heaven and on earth were called into question. The issue thus involves you.—Job 1:8-12; 2:4, 5.
20, 21. By deferring destruction of the rebels, what opportunity did Jehovah afford his creatures, both angels and humans?
20 Faced with such a challenge, what would Jehovah do? He could easily, and rightfully, have destroyed Satan and Adam and Eve at the time of the rebellion in Eden. That would have demonstrated Jehovah’s sovereign power. But would it have answered the questions now raised in the minds of all God’s creatures who had observed these developments? The eternal peace and security of the universe required that these questions be settled completely, once and for all time. Besides that, the integrity and loyalty of all God’s intelligent creation had been called into question. If they truly loved him, they would want to answer that false charge themselves. Jehovah determined to afford them opportunity to do just that and to show their real heart attitude toward his sovereign rule. Also, by allowing Adam and Eve to bring forth offspring (though imperfect), God would prevent the extinction of the human family as yet unborn—a family that has come to include all of us living today. This would give these descendants the opportunity to choose for themselves whether they would obey divine rulership. That choice is what now confronts you!
21 So, instead of executing the death penalty at once in Eden, Jehovah allowed those rebelling to remain for a time. Adam and Eve were expelled from Eden, to die before a thousand years passed. (Genesis 5:5; compare Genesis 2:17 with 2 Peter 3:8.) Satan was also to be destroyed in due time, as if he were a serpent whose head had been crushed.—Genesis 3:15; Romans 16:20.
WHAT THE PASSING OF TIME HAS REVEALED
22, 23. (a) As to rulership, what have Satan and mankind been doing during the time allowed by God? (b) What does human history for the past six thousand years show as to government that endeavors to ignore God?
22 What has resulted from God’s accepting the challenge as to the rightfulness of his sovereignty? Has man benefited himself by listening to God’s adversary and endeavoring to run his own affairs? Satan has been permitted to build up “wicked spirit forces,” organizing them into ‘governments and authorities and world rulers.’ (Ephesians 6:11, 12) Mankind has been granted opportunity to try every conceivable type of government. Jehovah did not allow only a few generations to come and go and then put a stop to man’s efforts before the full results could be seen. Even a century ago would have been too soon. Man was then just entering the “era of technology” and was only beginning to make great claims about what he would now accomplish.
23 But now, is another century needed to see what the outcome of man’s course of independence from God will be? Even prominent men in fields of government and science acknowledge that, judged by present trends, the earth and life upon it now face grave danger of ruination. Certainly God does not need to permit complete ruin in order to prove the utter failure of man’s independent rule. With the testimony of six thousand years bearing witness to the results of government that endeavors to ignore God, never can men—or spirit rebels either—say they did not have enough time to prove their challenge. The facts show that no government independent of God can bring real peace and security for all mankind.
24. What is soon to take place, to clear the way for righteous rule of the earth by God’s Son?
24 As we will later see, long in advance and with perfect timing Jehovah God marked this generation as the one during which he would cleanse the universe of all rebellion against his divine rulership. Not only would wicked men be forever destroyed, but Satan and his demons would be restrained as in an abyss, unable to influence the affairs of either men or angels. This is to open the way for the righteous rule of earth by the government of God’s Son. During a period of a thousand years, that government will undo all the harm brought by man’s thousands of years of selfish rule. It will restore this earth to paradisaic loveliness and bring obedient mankind back to the perfection enjoyed in Eden.—Revelation 20:1, 2; 21:1-5; 1 Corinthians 15:25, 26.
25. (a) Why are Satan and his demons to be released at the end of a thousand years? (b) What will the outcome be?
25 At the close of that thousand-year rule, the Bible states that God’s adversary and his demons will be released from their restraint for a brief time. Why? In order that all those then living may have the opportunity and privilege of giving a final, resounding answer to the challenging issue raised, showing themselves to be wholeheartedly in favor of and loyal to Jehovah God’s sovereign rule. Untold numbers will have come forth in the resurrection. For many of them this will be their first opportunity to demonstrate under test their devotion and love for the Life-Giver, Jehovah God. And even those who in the past stood up under tests in an imperfect state, and amid the bad conditions of this present system, will then be able to do so in human perfection and in surroundings similar to those of Eden. The issue will be the same as raised there in Eden—whether they as individuals will uphold Jehovah’s sovereignty by faithful obedience and unbreakable integrity to his expressed will. Jehovah God desires as his subjects only those who have the love that motivates such devotion. Those who wish to side with God’s adversary and his demons in whatever vain attempts these make to disturb anew the peace of God’s universe will be free to make that choice. But by thus spurning government by God they will merit destruction, and this time it will come promptly, as if by fire from heaven. All rebels, spirit and human, will then have perished for all time.—Revelation 20:7-10.
26, 27. How has Jehovah’s handling of matters really worked out for the benefit of each one of us?
26 True, for thousands of years mankind has suffered much hardship. But this was due to the first man’s choice, not God’s. God has endured reproach and has put up with things detestable to him for all this time. But God, for whom ‘a thousand years is as one day,’ is able to take a long-range view of matters and this works out for the good of his creatures. As the inspired apostle writes: “Jehovah is not slow respecting his promise, as some people consider slowness, but he is patient with you because he does not desire any to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) Had it not been for God’s patience and long-suffering, what opportunity for salvation would any of us today have had?
27 However, we should not conclude that during the past six thousand years God’s role has been merely a passive one, that he has simply been tolerating the wickedness that has developed but taking no action himself. As we shall see, the facts show just the opposite.