1-4. (a) What was God’s original purpose for mankind? (b) Why did man prove to be disobedient? (See the box “Who Is Satan?”)
THE promise of a world without war as revealed at Isaiah 2:2-4 and Micah 4:1-4 not only provides us with a well-founded hope for the near future but also tells us something very important about our Creator. He is a God of purpose. The prophecy at Isaiah chapter 2 is actually part of a long series of prophecies that runs from the first pages of the Bible right through to the last, making clear to us how God will bring his original purpose to fruition.
2 When God created the first human couple, he told them clearly what his purpose was for them. At Genesis chapter 1, verse 28, we read: “God blessed them and God said to them, ‘Be fertile and increase, fill the earth and master it; and rule the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and all the living things that creep on earth.’” When we relate that command to what is stated in the next chapter of Genesis—“The LORD God took the man and placed him in the garden of Eden, to till it and tend it”—it becomes clear that God intended for the original couple, together with their offspring, to extend Paradise beyond the limits of the garden of Eden, eventually to encompass the entire earthly globe.*—Genesis 2:15.
3 How long would they enjoy their paradisaic home? The Scriptures imply that man was created to live forever on earth. Death for mankind would come about only if they disobeyed their Creator, as stated at Genesis chapter 2, verses 16 and 17: “The LORD God commanded the man, saying, ‘Of every tree of the garden you are free to eat; but as for the tree of knowledge of good and bad, you must not eat of it; for as soon as you eat of it, you shall die.’” Reasonably, therefore, continued obedience would have resulted in continued life, everlasting life, in these paradisaic conditions.—Psalm 37:29; Proverbs 2:21, 22.
4 However, an angel, later referred to as Satan (meaning “Adversary”), influenced that first couple to misuse their free will in choosing to disobey God. (Job 1:6-12; compare Deuteronomy 30:19, 20.) Creating the illusion that a serpent was speaking, this rebellious angel told Eve and, through her, Adam, that they would become wiser and their lives would become more complete by not submitting to God as the Ultimate Authority.* (Genesis 3:1-19) Because of their open rebellion, they were condemned to death. Did that mean that God’s purpose for mankind was frustrated or aborted? No, rather, it meant that another means would be needed to fulfill God’s original purpose of a paradise earth filled with obedient humans enjoying everlasting life. How would this come about?
A Promised Seed
5, 6. (a) What did God promise as a solution to the problems on earth caused by Satan’s rebellion? (b) What did God promise to Abraham?
5 In pronouncing judgment on those involved in rebellion against his authority, Jehovah God declared that he would raise up a “seed,” or “offspring,” that would undo the damage caused by the instigator of the rebellion. In symbolic terms, God spoke of the serpent, representing Satan, as being struck, or crushed, in the head by this Seed, thus putting an end to Satan’s existence and rebellion. Through the years this verse in Genesis has been interpreted in various and contradictory ways. But since the word “seed” is used in many prophecies, other related promises reveal what it means.—Genesis 3:15.
6 The term “seed” is often related to the outworking of God’s purpose for mankind as a whole. As recorded at Genesis 22:18, the faithful Hebrew Abraham was given this promise by God: “All the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by your descendants [seed, JP], because you have obeyed My command.” (Italics ours.) God showed special interest in Abraham as a man who searched for Him in truth. However, although God directly rewarded Abraham, this text clearly shows that God’s interest was not in Abraham alone, nor in his fleshly descendants exclusively. God was keeping close in mind his original purpose of a paradise earth for all mankind, “all the nations.” He was now revealing to Abraham that as a result of his faithfulness, he would have the privilege of producing the “seed” by which all the nations would bless themselves.
7, 8. How did this promised Seed become linked with the concepts of kingship and the Messiah?
7 Abraham was the father of many great nations. (Genesis 17:4, 5) But Jehovah God clearly revealed through which of these lines of descent the promised Seed would come, bringing blessings to all mankind. (Genesis 17:17, 21) Both Abraham’s son Isaac and grandson Jacob were mentioned as belonging to the line that would produce the “seed.” One of the nations that sprang from Abraham was the nation of Israel, comprising the 12 tribes who descended from the sons of Jacob, Abraham’s grandson. It was in this nation that the promised “seed” would finally appear.—Genesis 26:1, 4; 28:10, 13-15, JP.
8 Prophecy later revealed that a special seed, or ruler, would come specifically through the tribe of Judah. Genesis 49:10 states: “The rod shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and his be the obedience of peoples.”3 The Bible commentator Rashi states that the phrase “until Shiloh come” means “until the King Messiah will come, whose will be the kingdom.”4 Like Rashi, many Bible commentators have understood this prophecy to have Messianic meaning.
9 The first ruler from the line of Judah, King David, was promised by God: “Your house and . . . your throne shall be established forever.” (2 Samuel 7:16) God further promised: “I will set up thy seed after thee, . . . and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build Me a house, and I will establish his throne for ever.” (1 Chronicles 17:11, 12, JP) David’s son and successor, King Solomon, did indeed build Jehovah’s house, or temple, but he obviously did not rule forever. However, one of David’s seed would be the same “Shiloh,” or Messiah, prophesied at Genesis 49:10. (JP) Speaking prophetically about that one, King David wrote: “In his days let the righteous flourish, and abundance of peace, till the moon be no more. May he have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the River unto the ends of the earth.”—Psalm 72:7, 8, JP.
10. What was to be accomplished by the Seed promised in Genesis 3:15, and how does this agree with the promise given to Abraham?
10 If we follow the gradual revelation through prophecy, we come to understand that the blessings promised to Abraham—“in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed”—will in fact be fulfilled through this same Ruler from the line of David. (Genesis 22:18, JP) In this way the prophecies about the Seed become joined with the hope of the Jewish nation in the Messiah, during whose rule the earth will have total peace. In fact, he is the “seed” mentioned at Genesis 3:15 who would put an end to the original rebellion against God’s sovereignty and undo the damage that has resulted. (Psalm 2:5, 8, 9) Other questions and information about the promised Messiah are dealt with in the section “Who Will Lead the Nations to Peace?” But now let us consider God’s further dealings with Abraham’s descendants.
Purpose of the Law Covenant
11-13. How did the Law covenant benefit the nation, and was it meant to last forever?
11 The Israelites became a nation a few hundred years after Abraham’s time. God freed these descendants from captivity in Egypt, and under the leadership of Moses, another man of faith whom He had chosen, God concluded a special covenant, or agreement, with them. (Exodus 19:5, 6; Deuteronomy 5:2, 3) This Law covenant gave the nation clear direction as to how God desired to be worshiped. It organized them as a nation for such worship.
12 We might note that from the start this covenant was conditional. Before revealing to the nation of Israel the Ten Commandments and the entire covenant of which these were a part, God informed them: “Now then, if you will obey Me faithfully and keep My covenant, you shall be My treasured possession among all the peoples. Indeed, all the earth is Mine, but you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” (Exodus 19:5, 6) In order to continue to be used by God as a treasured possession, they would have to obey him faithfully. These were the terms of the covenant.
13 The promised reward for their faithfulness—that they would serve as a kingdom of priests—reveals that the Law covenant was not an end in itself but, rather, a transitional step toward qualifying a priesthood that would help other nations come to know the true God. From the start God’s purpose was that all mankind, and not just the people of one nation, should bless themselves.—Genesis 22:18.
14. What other benefits resulted from the Law covenant?
14 Since the Law covenant was not an end in itself, what was its purpose? It unequivocally exposed and denounced all false religious concepts that man had begun to develop independently since the time of the rebellion in the garden of Eden. (Deuteronomy 18:9-13) It also protected the nation of Israel from the disgusting practices and worship of the surrounding nations by minimizing all contact with those nations. (Deuteronomy 7:1-6) As long as Israel kept that Law, they would be preserved in a pure religious condition, in which they could eventually both identify and welcome the promised Seed, or Messiah.
15, 16. What important spiritual lessons embodied in the Law covenant also point to its temporary nature?
15 The Law covenant also highlighted the need for atonement, incorporating a well-defined system of sacrifices that were an integral part of Jewish worship. (Leviticus 1:1-17; 3:1-17; 16:1-34; Numbers 15:22-29) From the time of the rebellion of Adam and Eve, mankind lost the perfection that would have enabled them to live everlastingly in perfect health. (Genesis 2:17) As a result of the first sin, Adam and Eve’s offspring (all born after the rebellion) inherited imperfection and the innate tendency to sin. (Genesis 8:21; Psalm 51:7 [51:5, NW]; Ecclesiastes 7:20) Imperfection led to sickness, aging, and death, as well as to the creating of a barrier between man and God. (1 Kings 8:46; compare Lamentations 3:44.) Some basis was needed to undo this damage as well as to overcome and bring about atonement for man’s imperfect state. Men of faith were always acutely aware of that need.—Job 1:4, 5; Psalm 32:1-5.
16 The Law covenant emphasized that God has legal standards that must be met. It also provided the basis for understanding how God’s standards of justice would be fully satisfied.* The provisions of sacrifice in the Law covenant could never restore God’s original purpose for mankind, since their effect was temporary, highlighting the condition of sin but not removing or preventing it. Therefore, the Law was a transitional step to help this organized nation of worshipers understand at the appropriate time how to identify the Seed and how that Seed would undo the damage caused by Adam’s sin. Where did the Torah indicate this?
Promise of a Prophet Like Moses
17 At Deuteronomy chapter 18, verse 15, Moses told the nation of Israel: “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet from among your own people, like myself; him you shall heed.” In the same chapter, at verses 18 and 19, Jehovah spoke to Moses, the one whom He had appointed as mediator between himself and His people, saying: “I will raise up a prophet for them from among their own people, like yourself: I will put My words in his mouth and he will speak to them all that I command him; and if anybody fails to heed the words he speaks in My name, I myself will call him to account.” How should this prophecy be understood?
18 The prophet mentioned here is clearly a specific and special individual. The context makes clear that this is not merely a general principle regarding God’s intention to continue to raise up prophets for the nation, as some have supposed. The Hebrew word for prophet (na·viʼʹ) is in the singular, comparing him to Moses, who was unique in the history of the nation. Additionally, the closing words in the same book of Deuteronomy state: “Never again did there arise in Israel a prophet like Moses—whom the LORD singled out, face to face.” (Deuteronomy 34:10-12) The one who recorded these words was very likely Joshua, the son of Nun, who himself was a great leader and prophet appointed by God. But from his own expression, there is no question that he did not see in himself a fulfillment of Moses’ words about a prophet like Moses. So, what did God mean when he promised to raise up a prophet like Moses? What was Moses like?
A New Covenant Prophesied
19. (a) How was Moses unique? (b) A prophet like Moses would have to serve as what else?
19 Moses was a great leader; he was a legislator, a prophet, a miracle worker, a teacher, and a judge. He was also a mediator, the only prophet who had mediated a covenant between God and man (in this case, the nation of Israel). A prophet truly like him would have to do something similar. Does this mean that God intended that the Law covenant be superseded by another covenant? Yes, it does. Through the prophet Jeremiah, God clearly stated his intention to conclude a new covenant. A new covenant would require a new mediator. Only someone like Moses could fit the requirements for such an assignment. If we examine what the new covenant entails, we can better understand the role of the mediator.
20, 21. (a) What is promised at Jeremiah 31:31-34? (b) What was the new covenant’s stated purpose? (c) As a result, what would become of the Law covenant?
20 It was about 900 years after Moses that Jeremiah conveyed to the nation of Israel God’s words: “See, a time is coming—declares the LORD—when I will make a new covenant with the House of Israel and the House of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers, when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, a covenant which they broke, . . .—declares the LORD. But such is the covenant I will make with the House of Israel after these days . . . I will forgive their iniquities, and remember their sins no more.”*—Jeremiah 31:31-34.
21 If the prophet like Moses is to serve as a new mediator of a new covenant, then it also becomes clear that all the specific details of worship required under the Mosaic Law would be in force not permanently but rather only until the new covenant would be established. Certainly, when God would provide a basis for ‘forgiving their iniquities and remembering their sins no more,’ there would no longer be a need for the entire system of sacrifices provided by the temple arrangement, which brought about only temporary forgiveness. With the establishment of the new covenant, ceremonial aspects of the Law covenant, such as observing the Sabbath and holidays, would also no longer hold the same meaning. In his due time, God would certainly reveal what would be required of those in that promised new covenant arrangement.—Amos 3:7.
Blessings for All Nations
22, 23. (a) What was the purpose of the new covenant regarding the nations? (b) How do other prophecies show what God’s purpose was for all nations?
22 Understanding that the prophet like Moses and the Seed of Abraham are one and the same helps us to see another very important aspect of the new covenant; it would be the legal means by which people of all nations could worship the true God. Since Genesis 22:18 says it is by means of this “seed” (JP) that “all the nations of the earth shall bless themselves,” it is clear that at some juncture in human history, God would no longer be dealing exclusively with just one nation, the descendants of Abraham. After the nation of Israel had served in this vital role of providing this promised Seed and after the establishing of a new covenant, the worship of the true God would be opened up for people of all nations and races.
23 Certainly no one could reasonably dispute God’s fairness in allowing sincere people of every nation and race to worship him. This was God’s intention from the beginning, and there are many prophecies in the Bible that confirm the fact that people of all nations would bless themselves by the seed of Abraham. (Zechariah 8:20-23) One example can be found at Zephaniah chapter 3, verse 9, where God declares: “For then I will make the peoples pure of speech, so that they all invoke the LORD by name and serve Him with one accord.” The very prophecy from Isaiah chapter 2 mentioned at the beginning of this brochure highlights this unifying aspect of God’s worship, with people of many nations turning to serve him in truth, learning the ways of peace; it also highlights when this would occur: “It shall come to pass in the end of days.” (Isaiah 2:2, JP) What is meant by this expression, “the end of days”?
24 The Scriptures time and again speak of the day when God will bring all the nations into judgment. (Isaiah 34:2, 8; Jeremiah 25:31-35; Joel 4:2 [3:2, NW], Habakkuk 3:12; Zephaniah 1:18; 3:8) Since the rejection of God’s sovereignty in the garden of Eden, mankind’s failure to rule himself successfully has become more and more evident. Man’s governments have been an utter failure, causing untold suffering. If allowed to go on much longer in this age of nuclear weapons and worldwide environmental pollution, men could destroy themselves and their earthly home. Therefore, God, using his appointed Messiah, the Seed, will intervene. (Psalm 2:1-11; 110:1-6) The prophet Ezekiel foresaw the final battle of God against man’s governments. In chapters 38 and 39 of his book, he describes God’s war against “Gog of the land of Magog.” (Ezekiel 38:2) This is widely recognized as a prophecy of the last days. A careful study of the Scriptures reveals that “Gog” will be a coalition of nations making a vicious earth-wide assault on God’s people. That attack will be engineered and led behind the scenes by Satan the Devil. It is what triggers the complete wiping out of such Satanic forces by means of God’s awesome power.—Ezekiel 38:18-22.
25. What is prophesied to occur after the destruction of Satan’s forces?
25 Following the destruction of Satan’s forces, the original Edenic paradisaic conditions will be restored. But this time, under the new covenant arrangement, mankind will be obedient to God. (Isaiah 11:1-9; 35:1-10) Not only will sins be forgiven but mankind will be completely restored to perfection. (Isaiah 26:9) As a result they will be granted everlasting life. (Psalm 37:29; Isaiah 25:8) At that time even the dead, both those who died faithful to God and billions who never had a full opportunity to learn about him in truth, will be restored to life—resurrected! (Daniel 12:2, 12 [12:2, 13, NW, JP]; Isaiah 26:19) Does not such a wonderful hope draw us closer to the God who conceived such things?
26. What does the coming of the prophet like Moses require of us?
26 These are just some of the blessings for people of all nations who come to identify and listen to the voice of the prophet like Moses, the Seed who will rule on the throne of David “till the moon is no more,” meaning forever. (Psalm 72:7) Regarding this prophet like Moses, Deuteronomy 18:19 also says: “If anybody fails to heed the words he speaks in My name, I myself will call him to account.” Will you take the time, will you make the needed effort, to identify this Prophet like Moses, this Messiah, thereby learning all that God requires? Will you personally come to know the true God?
The account in the book of Genesis describing the garden of Eden is not a parable, but Eden was an actual locality that was quite extensive. The text points to a location north of the Mesopotamian plains, the source of the Euphrates and Tigris rivers. (Genesis 2:7-14) It was to serve as a model, according to which man could pattern and cultivate the rest of the earth.
For a deeper understanding of the implications of this rebellion, see the box “Why Does God Permit Wickedness?”
The legal precedent codified by Moses in referring to the mode of payment for infractions of the Law—“life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth”—reflects the guiding principle applied by God himself in solving the question of man’s salvation. (Deuteronomy 19:21) A perfect man, Adam, had been responsible for the condemnation of the human race, so another perfect man was needed to atone for this loss by surrendering his life. Thus his death would perfectly atone for Adam’s sin and its consequences for mankind. Only the coming of the promised “seed,” whose life would be offered as a legal ransom, could fully bring about such a release. (Genesis 3:15, JP) For a fuller discussion of this aspect of the Seed in God’s purpose, see the section “Who Will Lead the Nations to Peace?,” paragraphs 17 to 20.
A standard explanation by modern-day Judaism is that Jeremiah was simply predicting a renewal or reaffirmation of the Law covenant with Israel, as occurred after their return from exile in Babylon in 537 B.C.E. (Ezra 10:1-14) But again the prophecy itself negates such an explanation. God stated clearly that this will be a “new covenant,” not merely a renewed covenant. Further, he emphasizes that it is unlike the covenant made when he led them out of Egyptian bondage. Some have said that it was “new” in the sense that now they would faithfully keep the same covenant, but history shows otherwise. In fact, their lack of faithfulness led to the destruction of the second temple.—Deuteronomy 18:19; 28:45-48.