The Issue That We All Have to Face
1, 2. (a) What issue did Satan raise in Eden? (b) How is that issue implied by what he said?
YOU are involved in the most important issue ever to face mankind. Where you stand on it will determine your everlasting future. This issue was raised when rebellion broke out in Eden. Back then Satan asked Eve: “Is it really so that God said you must not eat from every tree of the garden?” She replied that concerning one tree God had said: “You must not eat from it . . . that you do not die.” Then Satan directly charged Jehovah with lying, saying that neither Eve’s life nor Adam’s life was dependent on obedience to God. Satan claimed that God was withholding from his creatures something good—the ability to set their own standards in life. Satan asserted: “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.
2 In effect, Satan was saying that humans would be better off making their own decisions rather than obeying God’s laws. He thus challenged God’s way of ruling. This raised the all-important issue of God’s universal sovereignty, that is, his right to rule. The question was raised: Which is better for humans, Jehovah’s way of ruling or rulership independent of him? Now, Jehovah could have immediately executed Adam and Eve, but that would hardly have settled the issue of sovereignty satisfactorily. By letting human society develop for a considerable time, God could demonstrate just what independence from him and his laws would produce.
3. What secondary issue did Satan raise?
3 Satan’s attack on Jehovah’s right to rule did not stop with what took place in Eden. He called into question loyalty to Jehovah on the part of others. This became a closely related secondary issue. His challenge reached out to include both the offspring of Adam and Eve and all the spirit sons of God, even Jehovah’s dearly loved firstborn Son. In the days of Job, for instance, Satan contended that those who serve Jehovah do so, not out of love for God and his way of ruling, but for selfish reasons. He argued that when subjected to hardship, they would all give in to selfish desires.—Job 2:1-6; Revelation 12:10.
What History Has Proved
4, 5. What has history proved about man directing his own steps?
4 A vital point in the issue of sovereignty is this: God did not create humans to live independently of his rulership and be successful. For their benefit he made them dependent on his righteous laws. The prophet Jeremiah acknowledged: “I well know, O Jehovah, that to earthling man his way does not belong. It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step. Correct me, O Jehovah.” (Jeremiah 10:23, 24) So God’s Word urges: “Trust in Jehovah with all your heart and do not lean upon your own understanding.” (Proverbs 3:5) Just as God made humankind subject to his physical laws to stay alive, he also made moral laws, which if obeyed would make for a harmonious society.
5 Clearly, God knew that the human family could never be successful in regulating itself without his rulership. In a vain attempt to be independent of God’s rule, humans have set up different political, economic, and religious systems. These differences have brought people into constant conflict with one another, resulting in violence, war, and death. “Man has dominated man to his injury.” (Ecclesiastes 8:9) That is just what has happened throughout human history. As foretold in God’s Word, wicked men and impostors have continued to “advance from bad to worse.” (2 Timothy 3:13) And the 20th century, which saw mankind reach great heights in scientific and industrial achievement, saw the worst calamities ever. The words of Jeremiah 10:23 have been abundantly proved—humans were not created to direct their own steps.
6. How will God soon resolve human independence from him?
6 The tragic, long-term consequences of independence from God have once and for all demonstrated that rulership by humans can never succeed. God’s rulership is the only way to happiness, unity, health, and life. And God’s Word shows that Jehovah’s toleration of independent human rule is nearing its end. (Matthew 24:3-14; 2 Timothy 3:1-5) Shortly, he will intervene in human affairs to assert his rulership over the earth. Bible prophecy states: “In the days of those kings [human rulerships now existing] the God of heaven will set up a kingdom [in heaven] that will never be brought to ruin. And the kingdom itself will not be passed on to any other people [never again will humans rule the earth]. It will crush and put an end to all these [present-day] kingdoms, and it itself will stand to times indefinite.”—Daniel 2:44.
Surviving Into God’s New World
7. When God’s rule ends man’s rule, who will survive?
7 When God’s rule ends man’s rule, who will survive? The Bible answers: “The upright [those who uphold God’s right to rule] are the ones that will reside in the earth, and the blameless are the ones that will be left over in it. As regards the wicked [those who do not uphold God’s right to rule], they will be cut off from the very earth.” (Proverbs 2:21, 22) Similarly, the psalmist stated: “Just a little while longer, and the wicked one will be no more . . . The righteous themselves will possess the earth, and they will reside forever upon it.”—Psalm 37:10, 29.
8. How will God fully vindicate his sovereignty?
8 After Satan’s system is destroyed, God will usher in his new world, which will completely eliminate the devastating violence, wars, poverty, suffering, sickness, and death that have held mankind in their grip for thousands of years. The Bible beautifully describes the blessings awaiting obedient mankind: “He [God] will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.” (Revelation 21:3, 4) By means of his heavenly Kingdom government under Christ, God will fully vindicate (justify, or prove) His right to be our Sovereign, that is, our Ruler.—Romans 16:20; 2 Peter 3:10-13; Revelation 20:1-6.
How They Responded to the Issue
9. (a) How have those who have remained loyal to Jehovah viewed his word? (b) How did Noah prove his loyalty, and how can we benefit from his example?
9 Down through history, there have been men and women of faith who have proved their loyalty to Jehovah as Sovereign. They knew that their lives depended on listening to and obeying him. Noah was such a man. So God said to Noah: “The end of all flesh has come before me . . . Make for yourself an ark.” And Noah submitted to Jehovah’s direction. Despite being given warning, other people of that day went about their lives as if nothing unusual was going to happen. But Noah built a gigantic ark and kept busy preaching to others about Jehovah’s righteous ways. The record goes on to say: “Noah proceeded to do according to all that God had commanded him. He did just so.”—Genesis 6:13-22; Hebrews 11:7; 2 Peter 2:5.
10. (a) How did Abraham and Sarah uphold Jehovah’s sovereignty? (b) In what way can we benefit from the examples of Abraham and Sarah?
10 Abraham and Sarah were also fine examples of upholding Jehovah’s sovereignty, doing whatever he commanded them. They lived in Ur of the Chaldeans, a prosperous city. But when Jehovah told Abraham to go to another land, one that he was not familiar with, Abraham “went just as Jehovah had spoken to him.” Sarah no doubt had had a comfortable way of life—with home, friends, and relatives. Yet, she was submissive to Jehovah and to her husband and went to the land of Canaan, although she did not know what conditions awaited her there.—Genesis 11:31–12:4; Acts 7:2-4.
11. (a) Under what circumstances did Moses uphold Jehovah’s sovereignty? (b) How might Moses’ example benefit us?
11 Moses was another person who upheld Jehovah’s sovereignty. And he did this under the most difficult circumstances—in face-to-face confrontations with Pharaoh of Egypt. Not that Moses was self-confident. On the contrary, he doubted his ability to speak well enough. But he obeyed Jehovah. With Jehovah’s backing and the aid of his brother, Aaron, Moses repeatedly delivered Jehovah’s word to obstinate Pharaoh. Even some of the sons of Israel were harshly critical of Moses. Yet, Moses loyally did everything that Jehovah commanded him, and by means of him, Israel was delivered from Egypt.—Exodus 7:6; 12:50, 51; Hebrews 11:24-27.
12. (a) What shows that loyalty to Jehovah involves more than doing what God has specified in writing? (b) How might appreciation of this kind of loyalty help us to apply 1 John 2:15?
12 Those who were loyal to Jehovah did not reason that all that was required was to obey what God had put in writing. When Potiphar’s wife tried to entice Joseph to have adulterous relations with her, there was no written commandment from God that prohibited adultery. However, Joseph knew about the marriage arrangement instituted by Jehovah in Eden. He was aware that having sexual relations with another man’s wife would be displeasing to God. Joseph was not interested in testing the limits to which God would let him be like the Egyptians. He upheld Jehovah’s ways by meditating on God’s dealings with mankind and then conscientiously applying what he discerned to be God’s will.—Genesis 39:7-12; Psalm 77:11, 12.
13. How was the Devil proved a liar regarding (a) Job? (b) the three Hebrews?
13 Even if severely put to the test, those who truly know Jehovah do not turn away from him. Satan charged that if Job lost his many possessions or his health, even he—of whom Jehovah spoke highly—would desert God. But Job proved the Devil a liar, even though Job himself did not know why calamities were engulfing him. (Job 2:9, 10) Centuries later, still trying to prove his point, Satan caused an infuriated king of Babylon to threaten three young Hebrews with death in a fiery furnace if they did not bow in worship before an image set up by the king. Forced to choose between obedience to the command of the king and obedience to Jehovah’s law against idolatry, they firmly made it known that they served Jehovah and that he was their Supreme Sovereign. Faithfulness to God was more precious to them than their present life!—Daniel 3:14-18.
14. How is it possible for us as imperfect humans to prove that we are truly loyal to Jehovah?
14 Are we to conclude from such examples that to be loyal to Jehovah, a person has to be perfect or that one who makes a mistake has completely failed? By no means! The Bible tells us that at times Moses fell short. Although Jehovah was displeased, he did not reject Moses. The apostles of Jesus Christ also had their weaknesses. Taking into account our inheritance of imperfection, Jehovah is pleased if we do not deliberately ignore his will in any respect. If because of weakness we do become involved in wrongdoing, it is important that we sincerely repent and not make a practice of the error. In this way we demonstrate that we truly do love what Jehovah says is good and hate what he shows to be bad. On the basis of our faith in the sin-atoning value of Jesus’ sacrifice, we can enjoy a clean standing before God.—Amos 5:15; Acts 3:19; Hebrews 9:14.
15. (a) Who among all humans maintained perfect integrity to God, and what did this prove? (b) How are we helped by what Jesus did?
15 Nevertheless, could it be that perfect obedience to Jehovah’s sovereignty is simply not possible for humans? The answer to this was like a “sacred secret” for some 4,000 years. (1 Timothy 3:16) Adam, though created perfect, did not set a perfect example of godly devotion. So who could? Certainly none of his sinful offspring. The only man to do so was Jesus Christ. (Hebrews 4:15) What Jesus accomplished proved that Adam, who had more favorable circumstances, could have maintained perfect integrity if he had wanted to. The fault was not in God’s creative work. Jesus Christ is therefore the example that we seek to imitate in demonstrating not only obedience to divine law but also personal devotion to Jehovah, the Universal Sovereign.—Deuteronomy 32:4, 5.
What Is Our Personal Answer?
16. Why must we be constantly on the alert as to our attitude toward Jehovah’s sovereignty?
16 Each of us today has to face the issue of universal sovereignty. If we have openly stated that we are on Jehovah’s side, Satan makes us a target. He brings pressure from every direction and will continue to do so down to the end of his wicked system of things. We must not let our guard down. (1 Peter 5:8) Our conduct shows where we stand on the supreme issue of Jehovah’s sovereignty and the secondary issue of integrity to God under test. We cannot afford to view disloyal conduct as unimportant simply because it is common in the world. Maintaining integrity requires that we endeavor to apply Jehovah’s righteous ways in every matter of life.
17. What is there about the origin of lying and stealing that should make us shun them?
17 For example, we cannot imitate Satan, who is “the father of the lie.” (John 8:44) We must be truthful in all our dealings. In Satan’s system, young people often are not truthful with their parents. But Christian youths avoid this, and thus they prove untrue Satan’s charge that God’s people would abandon their integrity under test. (Job 1:9-11; Proverbs 6:16-19) Then there are business practices that might identify a person with “the father of the lie” instead of with the God of truth. These, we shun. (Micah 6:11, 12) Too, stealing is never justified, even if a person is in need or if the one from whom items are taken is wealthy. (Proverbs 6:30, 31; 1 Peter 4:15) Even if it is a common practice where we live or if what is taken is small, stealing is still contrary to God’s laws.—Luke 16:10; Romans 12:2; Ephesians 4:28.
18. (a) At the end of Christ’s Thousand Year Reign, what test will come on all humankind? (b) What habit should we cultivate now?
18 During the Thousand Year Reign of Christ, Satan and his demons will be in the abyss, unable to influence mankind. What a relief that will be! But following the thousand years, they will be loosed for a little time. Satan and those who follow him will put pressure on those of restored mankind who are maintaining their integrity to God. (Revelation 20:7-10) If it is our privilege to be alive then, how will we react regarding the issue of universal sovereignty? Since all mankind will then be perfect, any act of disloyalty will be deliberate and will result in eternal destruction. How vital it is that we cultivate the habit now of responding positively to whatever direction Jehovah gives us, whether through his Word or through his organization! Doing so, we show our genuine devotion to him as the Universal Sovereign.
• What is the great issue that we all have to face? How did we get involved?
• What is outstanding about the ways in which men and women of ancient times proved their integrity to Jehovah?
• Why is it vital that we honor Jehovah by our conduct each day?