What Will Become of Planet Earth?
1. What kind of future do you anticipate, and why?
WHAT does the future hold for you as one of the billions of persons now living on planet Earth? Would you like it to be a life of peace and security, among people who really love one another? That and much more can be yours. But it is not the future that the majority expect. Why not?
2, 3. How does the threat of nuclear war influence the way many people view the future?
2 Threat of nuclear war has raised serious doubts as to whether there will be any future at all for vast portions of the human race. When an atom bomb was first used in warfare in 1945, over 70,000 men, women and children were killed instantly. Many thousands more experienced agonizing deaths during the following days and years. But today a single typical warhead has the explosive content of all the bombs dropped during World War II. There are tens of thousands of nuclear weapons deployed for immediate use. Still the world spends some $2,000,000,000 a day on an arms race that leaves many people gasping in horror.
3 But what if there is only a “limited nuclear war”? The results would still be appalling. According to Carl Sagan, a well-known scientist, if the nations were to use even a fraction of their nuclear capacity, “there is little question that our global civilization would be destroyed. . . . And there seems to be a real possibility of the extinction of the human species.” Many people try to put such prospects out of their minds, but that does not remove the danger. A rapidly growing number of others have formed survivalist societies. In the hope that some will survive, they have built places of refuge in isolated areas and stocked these with food and medical supplies, also with guns to drive off unwanted intruders.
4. Why is abuse of the environment viewed as a serious threat?
4 Apart from nuclear war, scientists warn of possible global disaster from the way the environment is being abused. Pollution of the air we breathe is a source of serious concern. Forests are being decimated at an appalling rate; yet these are important to the earth’s oxygen cycle, its rain cycle and soil conservation. Through ignorance and greed, vital cropland is being ruined. Water supplies are being polluted, often with deadly chemicals. Yet these resources are necessities for sustaining human life.
5, 6. What other situations prevent people from expecting life to be secure and happy?
5 Of more immediate concern, you may feel, is the fact that violent crime is making people prisoners in their own homes. Political and social unrest makes life hazardous. Widespread unemployment and soaring inflation result in privation and frustration. The homelife of many is far from satisfying; the bonds of love that should hold a family together are often missing. Everywhere the attitude of people is “Me first!”
6 Where, then, can anyone find a sound basis for expecting to enjoy a life of security? If our future as inhabitants of the earth depended solely on what men and nations that share responsibility for these problems are willing and able to do, the outlook would truly be bleak. But is that the case?
FACTS THAT SHOULD NOT BE IGNORED
7. (a) What evidence shows that the Bible is God’s Word? (b) Why is it vital for people to know what the Bible says?
7 In their calculations, humans all too often leave out of account the Creator of the earth and of humankind. But how can we know what His purpose is? The Bible tells us. Repeatedly this Book states that what it contains is of divine origin, inspired by God. Is this claim true? If it is, your life depends on acting in harmony with it. Because of the importance of this matter, we urge you to examine the Bible personally. You will find outstanding its many prophecies reflecting detailed knowledge of the future. Unmatched is its wisdom when it is discussing matters that are most important to your lasting happiness. We feel confident that, if you open-mindedly consider the evidence, you will realize that the Bible could only have come from a supernatural source, from a God who truly loves mankind.a The Bible contains information that is vital to our survival at this critical time in human history. Appropriately, it is the most widely circulated book on earth.—See 2 Peter 1:20, 21; 3:11-14; 2 Timothy 3:1-5, 14-17.
8. By what name does the Bible identify the Creator of planet Earth?
8 The opening verse of the Bible states as a fundamental truth that “God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1)b Although some people prefer to leave God nameless, the Bible does not. Identifying the Creator by name, Genesis 2:4 informs us that “Jehovah God made earth and heaven.” (See also Genesis 14:22; Exodus 6:3; 20:11.) Much of the Bible was written originally in Hebrew, and in the Hebrew Bible text God’s personal name appears nearly 7,000 times as a sacred tetragrammaton (יהוה). Some translators render it as Yahweh, but in English the most commonly used form of the name is Jehovah.
9 This name was not devised by devout humans. It was chosen by the Creator himself. (Exodus 3:13-15; Isaiah 42:8) It is not a name to be used interchangeably with Buddha, Brahma, Allah or Jesus. Appropriately the prophet Moses reminded the ancient nation of Israel: “You well know today, and you must call back to your heart that Jehovah [Hebrew: יהוה] is the true God in the heavens above and on the earth beneath. There is no other.” (Deuteronomy 4:39) This is the God to whom Jesus Christ prayed, the One whom he addressed as “the only true God.” Today He is worshiped by informed persons out of every nation on earth.—John 17:3; Matthew 4:8-10; 26:39; Romans 3:29.
10. Why will the threat of nuclear war and the damage done by pollution not thwart God’s purpose for the earth?
10 By virtue of the fact that Jehovah is the earth’s Creator, the entire planet belongs to him, and its future rests in his hands. (Deuteronomy 10:14; Psalm 89:11) The problems of mankind are not beyond God’s ability to handle. The prospect of nuclear war terrifies humans. But whose laws control the nuclear reactions that take place on an awesome scale in the countless billions of stars? Does God not have the knowledge and the power needed to safeguard life on planet Earth? Likewise, the problems that have developed because humans have both ignorantly and selfishly polluted their environment will not block the purpose of Almighty God. The One who had the wisdom and the power needed to create the earth and the fascinating life forms on it can also give them a cleaned-up start if that is his will. (Isaiah 40:26; Psalm 104:24) What, then, is Jehovah’s purpose in connection with our planet home?
HOW LONG WILL THE EARTH REMAIN?
11. (a) What do some scientists believe will eventually happen to the earth? (b) Who knows more about these matters than they do, and why?
11 Is it God’s purpose to destroy the earth and all living things on it? Some astronomers theorize that eventually our sun will experience an explosive enlargement in size and will engulf the earth. There are those who reason that, because of the very nature of the physical universe, the time must come when the sun will no longer shine and the earth will no longer sustain life. But are they correct? What does the Creator say—the One who brought into existence energy and matter, the One who originated the laws on which our existence depends?—Job 38:1-6, 21; Psalm 146:3-6.
12. How have the words of Ecclesiastes 1:4 proved true?
12 Jehovah inspired wise King Solomon to write about man’s life span as compared with the duration of the earth itself. At Ecclesiastes 1:4 Solomon penned these words: “A generation is going, and a generation is coming; but the earth is standing even to time indefinite.” Human history testifies to the truthfulness of this. Although one generation of mankind has been replaced by another, the earth, the globe on which we live, remains standing. But for how long? According to the literal rendering of the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, it will be “to time indefinite.” What does that mean?
13. (a) What can “time indefinite” mean? (b) How can we be sure, then, that the earth will endure forever?
13 The Hebrew word ‘oh·lamʹ, here rendered “time indefinite,” basically means a period of time that, from the standpoint of the present, is indefinite or hidden from sight but of long duration. That can mean forever. Does it in this instance? Or does this expression indicate that perhaps at some indefinite future time, now hidden from us, the earth will come to its end? Some things that the Bible says would continue “to time indefinite” did eventually end. (Compare Numbers 25:13; Hebrews 7:12.) But the Scriptures also associate ‘oh·lamʹ with that which is eternal—for example, the Creator himself. (Compare Psalm 90:2 and; 1 Timothy 1:17.) As to what the expression means in connection with the earth, we are not left in doubt. At Psalm 104:5 we are told: “He has founded the earth upon its established places; it will not be made to totter to time indefinite, or forever.”c—See also Psalm 119:90.
14. How do we know that the globe will not someday become a barren waste?
14 What will endure forever is not merely a barren, unproductive globe. At Jeremiah 10:10-12 we are informed: “Jehovah is in truth God. . . . He is the Maker of the earth by his power, the One firmly establishing the productive land by his wisdom, and the One who by his understanding stretched out the heavens.” Notice that he not only made “the earth” but also firmly established “the productive land.” In place of this latter expression, many translators render the Hebrew word te·velʹ simply “world.” However, according to Old Testament Word Studies by William Wilson, te·velʹ means “the earth, as fertile and inhabited, the habitable globe, world.” As to Jehovah’s purpose regarding this fertile, inhabited earth, Psalm 96:10 reassuringly declares: “Jehovah himself has become king. The productive land also becomes firmly established so that it cannot be made to totter.”—See also Isaiah 45:18.
15. How do these facts agree with the prayer that Jesus taught his followers?
15 Thus it is regarding the planet Earth on which we live that Jesus Christ taught his followers to pray to God: “Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.”—Matthew 6:9, 10.
16. (a) What kind of people will then live on earth? (b) What is the “new earth” of which the Bible speaks?
16 Jehovah’s will is not for the earth to be inhabited by people who have no regard for its Owner and little love for one another. Long ago he promised: “Evildoers themselves will be cut off, but those hoping in Jehovah are the ones that will possess the earth. The righteous themselves will possess the earth, and they will reside forever upon it.” (Psalm 37:9, 29) “The inhabited earth to come,” of which the Bible speaks, will be populated by people who fear God and sincerely love their fellowmen. (Hebrews 2:5; compare Luke 10:25-28.) So great will be the changes that take place under God’s heavenly Kingdom that the Bible speaks of “a new earth”—not a different globe, but a new human society that will live amid the paradisaic conditions that mankind’s Creator purposed from the time he began his earthly creation.—Revelation 21:1-5; Genesis 2:7-9, 15.
17. Why is it important to learn God’s requirements for survival now?
17 The establishing of that “new earth” will, of necessity, be preceded by great destruction—one surpassing anything that mankind has yet experienced. For the good of the earth itself and all who are truly grateful to its Creator, he will “bring to ruin those ruining the earth.” (Revelation 11:17, 18) God’s time for doing this is very near! When it is completed, will you be found among the survivors?—1 John 2:17; Proverbs 2:21, 22.
a See the book Is the Bible Really the Word of God?, published by Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
b Unless otherwise indicated, Bible texts in this book are quoted from the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures, 1981 edition.
c Some lexicographers therefore understand ‘oh·lamʹ as used at Ecclesiastes 1:4 to mean “for ever.” The New English Bible, Revised Standard Version, The Jerusalem Bible, The Bible in Living English, King James Version and others render it in that way.
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