What We Learn From God’s Permission of Evil
1. (a) If Jehovah had promptly executed the rebels in Eden, how would that have affected us? (b) Instead, what loving provisions has Jehovah made available to us?
REGARDLESS of the difficulties that may come our way in life, our being born was no injustice on God’s part. He endowed the first humans with perfection and gave them Paradise as their home. If he had immediately executed them after they rebelled, there would have been no human race as we know it with its sickness, poverty and crime. Mercifully, however, Jehovah allowed Adam and Eve to bring forth a family before they died, even though these would inherit imperfection. Through Christ he made provision for those of Adam’s descendants exercising faith to have what Adam forfeited—eternal life under circumstances that would make possible the greatest enjoyment of life.—Deut. 32:4, 5; John 10:10.
2. Was all of this done only for our salvation?
2 The benefits of this to us personally are immeasurable. But from the Bible record we learn that something far more significant than our personal salvation was involved.
For the Sake of His Great Name
3. What was at stake in connection with fulfillment of Jehovah’s purpose for the earth and mankind?
3 Jehovah’s name, his reputation as the Universal Sovereign and the God of truth, was involved in the fulfillment of his purpose regarding the earth and mankind. Because of Jehovah’s position, the peace and well-being of all the universe require that his name be given the full respect it deserves and that all be obedient to him.
4. Exactly what did that purpose include?
4 After creating Adam and Eve, he gave them an assignment to fulfill. He made it clear that his purpose was not only to subdue all the earth, thus extending the boundaries of Paradise, but to populate it with descendants of the first man and woman, Adam and Eve. (Gen. 1:28) Was this purpose going to fail because of their sin, with resulting reproach to the name of God?
5. (a) According to Genesis 2:17, when would anyone eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and bad die? (b) How did Jehovah fulfill that, while also respecting his purpose regarding the populating of the earth?
5 Jehovah had warned Adam that if he disobediently ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and bad he would positively die “in the day” of his eating. (Gen. 2:17) True to God’s word, on the very day of Adam’s sinning Jehovah called the transgressors to account and pronounced sentence of death. The punishment was inescapable. Judicially, from God’s standpoint, Adam and Eve died that day. (Compare Luke 20:37, 38.) But so as to carry out his own stated purpose regarding the populating of the earth, Jehovah allowed them to produce a family before they literally died. Nevertheless, from the standpoint of God’s viewing 1,000 years as one day, when Adam’s life ended at 930 years, this was within one “day.” (Gen. 5:3-5; compare Psalm 90:4; 2 Peter 3:8.) Thus Jehovah’s truthfulness was upheld as to the time when punishment would be executed, and his purpose to populate the earth with Adam’s offspring was not thwarted. But it has meant that, for a time, sinful people have been allowed to live.
6, 7. (a) What does Exodus 9:15, 16 indicate as to why Jehovah allows the wicked to continue for a time? (b) In Pharaoh’s case, how was Jehovah’s power shown and how was His name made known? (c) So what will be the outcome at the end of the present wicked system?
6 What Jehovah said to the ruler of Egypt in the days of Moses further indicates why God has allowed the wicked to continue for a time. When Pharaoh forbade the departure of the sons of Israel from Egypt, Jehovah did not immediately strike him down. Ten plagues were brought on the land, demonstrating Jehovah’s power in amazing and diversified ways. When warning of the seventh, Jehovah told Pharaoh that he could easily have effaced Pharaoh and his people from the earth. “But, in fact,” Jehovah said, “for this cause I have kept you in existence, for the sake of showing you my power and in order to have my name declared in all the earth.”—Ex. 9:15, 16.
7 When Jehovah delivered Israel, his name did indeed come to be widely known. Today, nearly 3,500 years later, what he did has not been forgotten. Not only was the personal name Jehovah declared but so was the truth about the One bearing that name. This established Jehovah’s reputation as a God who keeps his covenants and takes action on behalf of his servants. It demonstrated that because of his almighty power nothing can block his purpose. Even more impressive will be the approaching destruction of the entire wicked system, visible and invisible. That display of almighty power and the glory it brings to Jehovah’s name will never be forgotten in universal history. Its benefits will be unending!—Ezek. 38:23; Rev. 19:1, 2.
‘O the Depth of God’s Wisdom!’
8. What additional factors does Paul urge us to consider?
8 In his letter to the Romans, the apostle Paul raises the question: “Is there injustice with God?” And then he answers by emphasizing God’s mercy and by referring to what Jehovah said to Pharaoh. He also calls to mind the fact that we humans are like clay in the hands of a potter. Does the clay complain about the use to which it is put? Paul adds: “If, now, God, although having the will to demonstrate his wrath and to make his power known, tolerated with much long-suffering vessels of wrath made fit for destruction, in order that he might make known the riches of his glory upon vessels of mercy, which he prepared beforehand for glory, namely, us, whom he called not only from among Jews but also from among nations, what of it?”—Rom. 9:14-24.
9. (a) Who are the “vessels of wrath made fit for destruction”? (b) Why has Jehovah shown great long-suffering in the face of their hostility, and how will the final outcome be for the good of those who love him?
9 Ever since Jehovah made the prophetic statement recorded at Genesis 3:15, Satan and his seed have been “vessels of wrath made fit for destruction.” During all that time Jehovah has exercised long-suffering. The wicked have ridiculed his ways; they have persecuted his servants, even killed his Son. But Jehovah has shown great restraint, with lasting benefit to his servants. All creation has had opportunity to see the disastrous results of rebellion against God. At the same time, Jesus’ death provided the means for delivering obedient mankind and for ‘breaking up the works of the Devil.’—1 John 3:8; Heb. 2:14, 15.
10. Why has Jehovah continued to tolerate the wicked during the past 1,900 years?
10 During the more than 1,900 years since Jesus’ resurrection Jehovah has tolerated further the “vessels of wrath,” holding off their destruction. Why? Because he has been preparing the secondary part of the woman’s seed, those who are to be associated with Jesus Christ in his heavenly Kingdom. (Gal. 3:29) These ones, 144,000 in number, are the “vessels of mercy” spoken of by the apostle Paul. First, individuals from among the Jews were invited to make up this class. Then the circumcised Samaritans were added and, finally, people of the Gentile nations. With much long-suffering Jehovah has worked out his purpose, forcing no one to serve him, but bestowing grand blessings on those who responded appreciatively to his loving provisions. Now the preparation of that heavenly class is nearly complete.
11. What other group is now benefiting from Jehovah’s long-suffering?
11 But what about inhabitants for the earth? In God’s due time billions will be resurrected as earthly subjects of the Kingdom. Also, particularly since 1935 C.E. Jehovah’s long-suffering has made possible the gathering together of a “great crowd” out of all nations with a view to their salvation.—Rev. 7:9, 10; John 10:16.
12. (a) As a result, what have we learned about Jehovah himself? (b) How do you react to how Jehovah has handled these matters?
12 Has there been any injustice in all of this? Certainly not! If God holds off the destruction of the wicked, the “vessels of wrath,” so that he can show compassion to others in harmony with his purpose, how can anyone rightly complain? Instead, as we observe the unfolding of his purpose, we learn much about Jehovah himself. We marvel at the facets of his personality that have come to light—his justice, his mercy, his long-suffering, the diversity of his wisdom. Jehovah’s wise handling of the issue will forever stand as a testimony to the fact that his way of ruling is best. With the apostle Paul we say: “O the depth of God’s riches and wisdom and knowledge! How unsearchable his judgments are and past tracing out his ways are!”—Rom. 11:33.
Opportunity to Show Our Devotion
13. (a) When we undergo personal suffering what opportunity is presented to us? (b) What will help us to respond wisely?
13 There are situations that involve real personal suffering because God has not yet destroyed the wicked and brought about the foretold restoration of mankind. What is our reaction to such? Do we see in them opportunities to share in clearing Jehovah’s name of reproach and proving the Devil a liar? We can be greatly strengthened to do so by keeping in mind the counsel: “Be wise, my son, and make my heart rejoice, that I may make a reply to him that is taunting me.” (Prov. 27:11) Satan, the one who taunts Jehovah, charged that if people suffer material loss or physical affliction they will blame God, even curse him. (Job 1:9-11; 2:4, 5) We bring joy to Jehovah’s heart when, by our loyalty to God in the face of hardships, we demonstrate that such is not true in our case. We have full confidence that Jehovah has tender affection for his servants and that, as in the case of Job, in due time Jehovah will reward us generously if we prove faithful.—Jas. 5:11; Job 42:10-16.
14. If we rely on Jehovah when we undergo trials, what other benefits can come to us?
14 If we trustingly rely on Jehovah when we undergo grievous trials, we can develop priceless qualities. As a result of the things Jesus suffered, he “learned obedience” in a way that he had never known it before. We, too, can learn—cultivating long-suffering, endurance and a deepened appreciation of Jehovah’s righteous ways. Will we patiently accept that training?—Heb. 5:8, 9; 12:11; Jas. 1:2-4.
15. As we patiently endure hardship, how may others benefit?
15 Others will observe what we do. Because of what we undergo on account of our love for righteousness, some of them may in time come to appreciate who truly are Christ’s “brothers” today, and by uniting with his “brothers” in worship they can come in line for the blessings of eternal life. (Matt. 25:34-36, 40, 46) Jehovah and his Son want them to have that opportunity. Do we? Are we willing to put up with hardship to make it possible?
16. How is our view of such personal hardship related to the matter of unity?
16 How fine it is when we thus view even difficult situations in life as opportunities to show our devotion to Jehovah as well as to share in accomplishing his will! Our doing so can give evidence that we are indeed moving toward the unity with God and Christ for which Jesus prayed on behalf of all true Christians.—John 17:20, 21.
● While permitting evil, how has Jehovah properly shown great respect for his own name?
● How has God’s tolerating “vessels of wrath” enabled his mercy to reach all the way to us?
● What should we endeavor to see in situations that involve suffering that we personally experience?