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 has been marred by bloodshed and hurtfulness. 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 Bible’s opening account about Adam and Eve. This 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 humans. (Luke 3:23-38; Genesis 5:1-32; 11:10-32) As our first ancestors, Adam and Eve had a definite influence on us. And what the Bible tells us about them 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 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 their creation, in what ways were humans different from other earthly creatures? (b) In what manner was needed guidance provided for them?
4 The inspired record in Genesis reveals that humans occupied a unique position on earth. Unlike the animals, they had a moral sense and were endowed with free will. That is why they were equipped with powers of reason and judgment. To guide them, God implanted in man and woman the faculty of conscience so that, as perfect humans, their normal inclination would be toward good. (Romans 2:15) Besides all of this, God told them why they were alive, what they were to do, and who had provided all the splendid things around them. (Genesis 1:28-30) How, then, do we explain why such bad conditions exist now?
5. (a) What simple requirement did God set for the first human pair, and for what reason? (b) Why were their 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 the man and the woman the opportunity to demonstrate loving appreciation to their Creator by obedience to a requirement. The requirement was nothing that would imply that they had 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 the first pair of anything necessary for life. They could eat from all the other trees in the garden. Yet their life prospects for the future were definitely involved, and rightly so. Why? Because the One who asked obedience was the very Source and Sustainer of human life.
6. (a) Our first parents could have lived forever if they had acted in harmony with what basic truth regarding rulership? (b) Why should they have felt moved to obey God?
6 God’s purpose was not for humans to die. No mention of death was made to Adam and Eve except for disobedience. Our first parents had before them the prospect of living forever in their peaceful, parklike home. To attain to this, what was required of them? They had to recognize that the earth on which they lived belongs to the One who made it, and that, as the Creator, God rightfully has authority over his creation. (Psalm 24:1, 10) Surely this One, who had given man everything he needed, including life itself, deserved obedience to anything that he asked of them. However, he did not wish that obedience to be forced. Rather, it must be from willing hearts, motivated by love. (1 John 5:3) But our first human parents failed to show such love. How did this come about?
The Origin of Resistance to Divine Rule
7. (a) According to the Bible, where did resistance to God’s rulership begin? (b) Why is it reasonable to believe in the spirit realm?
7 The Bible shows that resistance to God’s rulership first began, not on earth, but in a realm invisible to human eyes. Should we, like many, doubt that such a realm exists simply because we cannot see it? Well, gravity cannot be seen, neither can the wind. Yet their effects are very real. So, too, the effects of the invisible realm can be observed. Though “God is a Spirit,” his works of creation can be seen all around us. If we believe in him, we are obliged to believe in a spirit realm. (John 4:24; Romans 1:20) But does anyone else inhabit that realm?
8. What kind of persons are the angels?
8 According to the Bible, millions of spirit persons, angels, were brought into existence before man. (Job 38:4, 7; Psalm 103:20; Daniel 7:10) All of these were created perfect, without 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.
9, 10. (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?
9 But the question asked by many is: How, as perfect creatures, could any of them even feel inclined to do wrong? Well, how many times in our own lives do circumstances arise that confront us with various possibilities—some good, some bad? Having 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 focus on harmful thoughts, we could be drawn into cultivating wrong desire in our hearts. Such desire could move us eventually to commit wrong acts. This ruinous cycle was described by the Bible writer James: “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.
10 The Scriptures reveal that this happened to one of God’s spirit sons. He was enticed by his own desires. He saw possibilities in God’s human creation. Could they come into submission to him rather than to God? Evidently he began to crave at least a share in the worship belonging to God. (Luke 4:5-8) Acting on 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.
11. What sound basis is there for believing that Satan really does exist?
11 In this materialistic 20th century, belief in such a spirit person as Satan is not popular. But, then, has popular thinking ever been a sure guide to truth? Among those who study disease, it was once unpopular to believe that unseen germs were a factor. But now their influence is well known. Certainly, then, the unpopularity of something does not mean that it can be ignored. Jesus Christ had himself come from the spirit realm and so could speak with authority on life there. He definitely identified Satan as an evil spirit person. (John 8:23; Luke 13:16; 22:31) Only by taking into account the existence of this spirit adversary is it possible to understand how such bad conditions got started on this earth.
12. How did Satan communicate with the woman Eve, and why in that manner?
12 The inspired record, in Genesis chapter 3, describes how Satan set about satisfying his wrong desire. In the garden of Eden he approached the woman Eve in a manner that concealed his real identity. 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. Its naturally cautious manner fitted well with the impression that Satan wanted to make.—Genesis 3:1; Revelation 12:9.
13. What did Satan say to Eve, and with what evident intent?
13 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 too bad that God has said you may not eat from all the trees in the garden.’ By this he implied that possibly God was holding back something good. Eve answered by quoting God’s prohibition, which involved only one tree, as well as stating that the penalty for disobedience was death. At that, Satan attempted to undermine her 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?
14. (a) Why did Eve fall victim to Satan? (b) What did Adam do?
14 Eve allowed herself to be drawn along by selfish desire. She ate what God had forbidden. Afterward, under her urging, her husband Adam also ate. He chose to cast his lot in with her rather than with his Creator. (Genesis 3:6; 1 Timothy 2:14) What was the outcome?
15. So, then, what accounts for the crime and violence, as well as the disease and death, that have marked human existence?
15 The entire human family was plunged into sin and imperfection. Now Adam and Eve could not pass on to their offspring the perfection that they once had. Just as copies produced from a defective pattern all have the same defect, so all of their offspring were born in sin, with an inherited tendency toward selfishness. (Genesis 8:21) This inclination, left unchecked, has led to the evils that have taken peace and security from mankind. It is this inheritance of sin that has also resulted in disease and death.—Romans 5:12.
The Issues Raised
16, 17. (a) To understand why God has put up with this situation for so long, what must we appreciate? (b) What really is the issue that was raised?
16 In the light of these facts, our minds go back to the question of why God has put up with this situation, allowing it to develop to the extent that it has. It is because of a grave issue that was raised and its effect on the entire universe. How is that so?
17 By his argument that God’s law to Adam and Eve was not good for them and by challenging God’s stated outcome for disobedience, Satan was calling into question God’s rulership. No, he did not question the fact that God is ruler. Rather, the issue that Satan raised centered on the rightfulness of Jehovah’s rulership, His sovereignty, and the righteousness of His ways. Deceptively, Satan argued that humans would do better by acting independently, making their own decisions rather than submitting to God’s direction. (Genesis 3:4, 5) In reality, however, by so doing they would be following the leading of God’s adversary.
18. (a) What other issue was involved, and where is this shown in the Bible? (b) How does this issue involve us?
18 Another issue was involved. Since these creatures of God turned against him there in Eden, what would 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 implied that no one who was put under pressure would loyally support Jehovah’s sovereignty. So 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.
19, 20. By not destroying the rebels immediately, what opportunity did Jehovah afford his creatures, both spirit and human?
19 Faced with such a challenge, what would Jehovah do? He could easily have destroyed Satan and Adam and Eve. That would have demonstrated Jehovah’s sovereign power. But would it have answered the questions now raised in the minds of all of 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 of God’s intelligent creation had been called into question. If they loved him, they would want to answer that false charge themselves. Jehovah gave them the opportunity to do just that. Also, by allowing Adam and Eve to bring forth offspring (though imperfect), God would prevent the extinction of the human family—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!
20 So, instead of executing the death penalty at once, 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 and; 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
21, 22. (a) As to rulership, what have Satan and mankind been doing during the time allowed by God? (b) What does human history show as to government that endeavors to ignore God?
21 What has resulted from the challenge to the rightfulness of God’s rule? Has man benefited himself by endeavoring to run his own affairs? Mankind has been permitted to try every conceivable type of government. Jehovah did not put a stop to man’s efforts too early for the full results to 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 accomplish.
22 But is another century needed to see what the outcome of man’s course of independence from God will be? Even prominent men in government and science acknowledge that the earth faces grave danger of ruination. Certainly God need not permit complete ruin to prove the utter failure of man’s independent rule. With the testimony of six thousand years bearing witness to what happens when government ignores God, never can it be said that there was not enough time to perfect human rule. The facts show that no government independent of God can bring real peace and security for all mankind.
23. What is soon to take place that will clear the way for righteous rule of the earth by God’s Son?
23 As we will later see, long in advance and with perfect timing Jehovah God marked a particular generation that would see him cleanse the universe of all rebellion against his divine rulership. Not only will wicked men be destroyed but Satan and his demons will 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.
24. (a) Why are Satan and his demons to be released at the end of a thousand years? (b) What will the outcome be?
24 The Bible states that at the close of that thousand-year rule Satan and his demons will be released from their restraint for a brief time. Why? In order that all those then living may have an opportunity to show themselves loyal to Jehovah’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 love for God. The issue will be the same as one of those raised in Eden—whether they will uphold Jehovah’s sovereignty by faithful obedience. Jehovah desires as his subjects only those whose love motivates such loyalty. Those who wish to side with God’s adversary and his demons in whatever 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.
25, 26. How has Jehovah’s handling of matters really worked out for the benefit of each one of us?
25 True, for thousands of years mankind has suffered much. But this was due to our first parents’ 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,’ takes 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 3:8, 9) Had it not been for God’s patience and long-suffering, none of us would have any opportunity for salvation.
26 However, we should not conclude that during the past six thousand years God’s role has been merely a passive one. No, he has not simply been tolerating wickedness, biding his time and taking no action himself. As we shall see, the facts show just the opposite.
[Picture on page 51]
Satan argued that under test all humans would break integrity and act independently of God