Are You Choosing Life or Death?
“I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have put life and death before you, the blessing and the curse; therefore choose life, that you as well as your descendants may live, by loving the LORD your God, by heeding his injunctions, and by holding fast to him; for that will mean life to you.”—Deut. 30:19, 20, AT.
1. What proves every sane person chooses to live?
JEHOVAH God created man with a desire to live. Why are you now breathing? Because you choose to live. You will drink some water today, because you choose to live. You will eat some food today, because you choose to live. For the same reason you will retire to sleep tonight. It is the revived and recuperated powers for more living that you enjoy upon waking. And when you wake up in the morning you will go to work. You may dislike your job, but you will work at it anyway to stay alive. Living is hard work. Being dead is easy. When you are dead you will be doing nothing, and nothing is easier than doing nothing. (Eccl. 9:5, 10) Yet even lazy people do what is necessary to live. Every sane person chooses to live.
2. What big things make this present life woeful?
2 But by breathing, drinking, eating, sleeping and working what kind of life are we choosing? Take a look at it. Take a look at the racial divisions that cause some to feel superior and oppress those they think inferior. And the injustices and violences and even wars that result just because the skin is colored differently. It is about as foolish as all white flowers showing prejudice against the colored ones, as ridiculous as all white birds and animals trying to annihilate all the red or yellow or brown ones. Look at the politics that divides the world into many bickering and warring groups, and all of which political groups are notoriously corrupt and crooked. Look at commerce that oppresses the poor of all nations that a few might corner all wealth, and sends youth to die on battlefields to accumulate more. Look at militarism whose business is large-scale crippling and killing of mankind. And do not overlook false religions that also divide humanity in factions that not only quarrel and persecute but also foment wars.
3. What conditions in big cities, and elsewhere in general, make for misery in this life?
3 But do not stop looking with these big things in the world’s spotlight. Look at the slums that reek in every big city, with all their poverty and filth and loathsome disease, with their hopeless inhabitants huddled in the dark holes of the cities. Ill fed. Poorly clothed. Do not stop looking. Contemplate the frustrated criminals and dope addicts that prey on society and those behind bars that are kept by society. Look at the red-light districts. The degraded women that live there. The depraved men whose lustful haunts are there. The gruesome diseases that lurk there. Look at the hospitals with their beds filled with pain-racked bodies and the mental institutions crowded with those bereft of their right mind. Consider the general conditions in the world, the immorality, the adult delinquency, the juvenile delinquency, family troubles, divorces, the unreliability of persons, the lack of integrity in business and social affairs. Note the clouds of perplexity and confusion and fear that hover over the seas of humanity, and read the hopelessness and despair written on millions of faces.
4. How did Job aptly describe present living, yet what do people choose?
4 Yet even with this woeful picture of present life, people choose to live on. They suffer, yet want to live. They may be crippled, yet they wish life; blind, yet fear to die. The deaf and dumb choose life and the old and feeble seek to push death off even as they totter toward the yawning grave. This present life is as Job aptly described it: “Man, that is born of woman, is of few days and full of trouble. Like a blossom he comes forth and is withered, and he flees like the shadow and does not endure.” (Job 14:1, 2, AT) Have you ever been in open fields when an airplane flew overhead, and noted the shadow that races along the ground? How futile for you to try to catch that shadow and halt it in its flight! It is just as futile for a man to try to hang on to this shadowy existence when life begins to slip away. He and all his doctors with their medicines and therapies might just as well try to grab the airplane’s fleeing shadow on the ground. This present existence is like the grass-blade that shoots up, only to wither and fade and die after a fleeting season.
5. What life may we now choose?
5 But there is another life that we may now choose. It is a life that does not fade as the flower at the end of spring or wither as the grass at the end of summer. It is not filled with pain and disappointment or beset by delinquency and crime, war and famine, pestilence and death. Its days are not few, but are endless. Its days are not filled with trouble, but unspeakable joy. It is the life for man that Jehovah God originally purposed. And what is that? Bliss in heaven sprawled on a billowy cloud, twanging a harp as you float along in space and eternity? No, it is not that vain and useless existence that lazy men have conjured up as heavenly life. To clearly see what this life is that we may now choose, let us go to God’s Word and find out his purpose in creating man.
JEHOVAH’S PURPOSE FOR MAN
6. What kind of life did Jehovah originally purpose for man?
6 At Genesis 2:15 it states: “The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and look after it.” (AT) The man was not created to be a loafer, but was given work to do even in perfect Eden. He was given a female companion, and this mandate: “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, the domestic animals, and all the living things that crawl on the earth!” (Gen. 1:28, AT) As the human family increased and Eden became too small the growing population would spread beyond the garden’s bounds, taking with them the seeds of the perfect plants in Eden, planting these seeds in new territories, tilling these new areas just as the family did in Eden. Thus as humanity increased and overspread the earth they would subdue the earth by transforming it into a paradise, until Eden’s conditions had spread and the garden of God became global. Man’s dominion over the animals was to be exercised in loving care and mutual trust, not by the jabbing chair and cracking whip of the animal trainer, nor by the booming guns of modern Nimrods, nor by the barred confines of the zoo’s cages.
7. What were the provisions then for food supplies?
7 To sustain life it was not necessary for these living creatures under man’s dominion to prey upon one another for their daily needs of food, for Genesis 1:29, 30 states: “See, I give you all the seed-bearing plants that are found all over the earth, and all the trees which have seed-bearing fruit; it shall be yours to eat. To all the wild beasts of the earth, to all the birds of the air, and to all the land reptiles, in which there is a living [soul, Ro], I give all the green plants for food.” (AT) All creatures in Eden prior to man’s rebellion were vegetarians, and there is no reason to think it was Jehovah’s original purpose for them ever to be otherwise.
8. By taking what course did Adam and Eve choose trouble and death?
8 That, then, was the life Jehovah purposed for man on the earth. And if obedient, man was never to die. Earth was not merely a proving ground to be used as a springboard to heavenly existence for man. It was Satan the Devil, through the serpent, that held out a hope of promotion and exaltation, and the obtaining of godlikeness and immunity from death, which things he said would come through disobedience to God. The record of his sly enticements and the fall of Adam and Eve is found at Genesis 3:1-6. However, the results were not as Satan promised. To the more responsible one, the man, Jehovah said: “Because you followed your wife’s suggestions, and ate from the tree from which I commanded you not to eat, cursed shall be the ground through you, in suffering shall you gain your living from it as long as you live; thorns and thistles shall it produce for you, so that you will have to eat wild plants. By the sweat of your brow shall you earn your living, until you return to the ground, since it was from it that you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you must return.”—Gen. 3:17-19, AT.
9. In what did Adam’s course result for himself and the earth?
9 Instead of man’s not dying at all, as Satan promised, he was to return to his state prior to his creation. Please note that that state was not immortal soul, but dust. Adam had no immortal soul before his creation, during his life, or after his death. The false religious teaching that man has an immortal soul is founded on Satan’s lie to Eve to the effect that she would not die, and contradicts God’s Word. (Ezek. 18:4) Instead of transforming into a global paradise, the earth was cursed, would produce heavily of thorns and thistles, and only by painful labors and sweating brow could man eke his living from the cursed soil. He must now munch on wild plants, rather than the perfect foods in God’s garden.
ONE CURSE LIFTED, ONE REMAINS
10. What changes came with the end of the flood?
10 Sixteen centuries later Jehovah God determined to destroy by a flood all of mankind except Noah and his household. Why? Because of their extreme wickedness and stubborn tendency toward wrongdoing. After Noah and his family emerged from the ark following the flood the mandate to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth was reissued, but it was carried out only in a typical way. Dominion over the animals was maintained through fear and dread, not loving care and mutual trust. Gone also was the Edenic condition of all creatures feeding exclusively upon vegetable matter, for animal flesh now augmented the diet of man. However, Jehovah God did say following the flood: “I will never again curse the soil because of man, though the bent of man’s mind may be evil from his very youth.”—Gen. 8:21; 9:1-7, AT.
11, 12. How do we know that the curse on the ground was lifted following the flood?
11 How do we know that the curse on the ground was lifted following the flood? Because centuries later it is recorded, at Genesis 13:10: “Then Lot looked out, and saw that the whole basin of the Jordan was well watered everywhere (this was before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah) like the LORD’S own garden.” (AT) Certainly there could be no curse on the soil of the Jordan basin if it could be compared to the Lord’s garden of Eden. Concerning this land promised to the Israelites, Numbers 13:23 reports on what the spies found: “Reaching the valley of Eshcol, they cut a branch from there with a single cluster of grapes, and it took two of them to carry it on a stretcher, along with some pomegranates and some figs.” (AT) When the spies reported on the conditions they found they could truthfully declare: “It surely does flow with milk and honey.” (Num. 13:27, AT) This does not sound like a land that was cursed, which could produce only thorns and thistles and wild plants for the sustenance of man.
12 Again description of this promised land is given, at Deuteronomy 8:7-9; 11:10-15 (AT): “The LORD your God is bringing you into a fine land, a land with streams of water, with springs and pools welling up in the valleys and on the hills; a land of wheat and barley, of vines, fig-trees, and pomegranates; a land of oil-producing olives and honey; a land where you may eat food without stint, lacking nothing in it; a land whose stones contain iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper.” “The land which you are invading for conquest is not like the land of Egypt from which you came, where you used to sow your seed and water it by hand like a vegetable garden. On the contrary, the land into which you are crossing for conquest is a land of hills and valleys, watered by rain from the sky, a land for which the LORD your God cares, the eyes of the LORD your God being continually on it, from the beginning to the end of the year. If you will but heed the commands that I am giving you today, to love the LORD your God, and serve him with all your mind and heart, he will give you rain for your land in due season, the winter rain and the spring rain, so that you will gather in your grain and wine and oil, and he will produce grass in your fields for your cattle, and you will eat your fill.”
13. Then why has not the earth been subdued?
13 Well now, if the curse on the earth has been lifted, why has not the earth been subdued? Deuteronomy 11:16, 17, 26-28 shows why: “Take care lest you be deceived into turning aside to serve alien gods and to pay homage to them, and the anger of the LORD blaze against you, and he shut up the skies so that there be no rain, and the land yield no produce, and you quickly perish off the fine land that the LORD is about to give you. See, I am putting before you today a blessing and a curse: a blessing, if you heed the commands of the LORD your God which I am giving you today; and a curse, if you do not heed the commands of the LORD your God, but swerve from the way that I am appointing you today, by running after alien gods of whom you have had no experience.” (AT) Deuteronomy 30:19, 20 records a similar choice of life or death: “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have put life and death before you, the blessing and the curse; therefore choose life, that you as well as your descendants may live, by loving the LORD your God, by heeding his injunctions, and by holding fast to him; for that will mean life to you.” (AT) Also Leviticus 26:14-43, and other scriptures, warn of the curses for disobedience.
14. What could man do for the earth, yet what does he do primarily?
14 Hence what now prevented mankind from subduing the earth in harmony with Jehovah’s original purpose were the curses against them for their disobedience. It was these curses that plagued them now, rather than any curse on the soil pronounced at the time of man’s ouster from Eden. Even so, man could do much for the earth to beautify it, if he did not so disobediently abuse his earthly home. He has made many beautiful parks, and he has set aside as national parks some of the outstanding natural wonders that testify to the Creator’s majesty. In these places a measure of peace has been restored between people and animals. But man has not followed through to the extent that he could in beautifying the earth and restoring peace with the animal realm. Instead, he has exploited the natural resources of the earth and slain the animals for commercial gain as well as sport. In his greed he has shaved the forests off the mountains and gouged the metals from the earth and put them in ships and planes, which are later sunk in the sea or blasted from the sky.
15. What will climax the curses for disobedience?
15 Instead of subduing the earth man is ruining the earth, and in Revelation 11:18 (NW) it states that Jehovah God will “bring to ruin those ruining the earth”. In view of man’s mounting disobedience, his reprehensibility in the sight of the Lord piles ever higher, and soon the curses for disobedience will be climaxed by Jehovah’s battle of Armageddon. Concerning this devouring curse that will smite the earth God’s Word declares: “The earth is polluted through the touch of its inhabitants, because they have transgressed laws, violated statutes, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse has devoured the earth, and its inhabitants have paid the penalty; therefore the inhabitants of the earth waste away, and few are the mortals that are left. Terror and pit and snare are upon you, O inhabitants of the earth! And he who flees from the noise of the terror will fall into the pit; and he who escapes from the midst of the pit will be caught in the snare; for windows on high are opened, and the foundations of the earth tremble. The earth breaks asunder, the earth cracks asunder, the earth shakes asunder; the earth reels like a drunkard, and sways like a hammock; its rebellion lies heavily upon it, and it will fall, to rise no more.”—Isa. 24:5, 6, 17-20, AT.
JEHOVAH’S PURPOSE FOR EARTH FULFILLED
16. Then what work will proceed relative to the earth?
16 Then what? After this cataclysmic fall of Satan’s world in the execution of Jehovah’s fiery judgments, and from which neither its heavenly nor earthly part will ever rise, those on Jehovah’s side who survive will enjoy the new heavens and new earth promised by Jehovah’s Word. In this new theocratic arrangement of things on this abiding, literal earth there will be no more curses for disobedience, since the disobedient ones will have been swept away in Armageddon’s cleansing fury. (Eccl. 1:4; 2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:1; 22:3) Then the earth, suffering from no curse upon its soil or curse for the disobedience of its human inhabitants, will be subdued in accord with the divine purpose first announced in Eden. Now Mondays are sometimes called “blue”, because it is the beginning of a week of work often unpleasant. But in that new world blue Mondays will be gone and forgotten, for the work of turning this earthly ball into a paradise will yield pleasure and satisfaction beyond description. Then men will long enjoy the work of their hands. Instead of thorns and thistles the earth will respond bounteously to man’s care and bring forth abundantly as the land yields its increase. (Ps. 67:6; Isa. 55:13) Even the desert regions will blossom as a rose under man’s tilling and Jehovah’s blessing.—Isa. 35:1.
17. What relation will exist between men and animals?
17 Animals will be controlled and peace established between them and men. Now we enjoy having cats and dogs for pets, and in some parks get an added thrill when a squirrel or pigeon eats out of our hand, and as we walk through the zoos we may even have a desire to fondle the furry mane of the lion or stroke the striped pelt of the tiger. But we wisely quench this natural urge, for we know that while we would be running our hands through its fur it might be running its teeth through our hands. The wild animals mistrust us as much as we mistrust them. However, in the new world man will exercise dominion, not through fear and dread, or by hunters or zoo keepers or circus trainers, but through such perfect mutual trust that even a little child can lead the wildest of beasts. Even the lion will turn vegetarian then.—Isa. 11:6-9; Hos. 2:18.
18. What words will then find complete fulfillment, and on whose guarantee?
18 Also carried to complete fulfillment then will be the mandate to fill the earth with a righteous human race. What a pleasure this will be in paradise earth, with all the animals for pets and with children being reared in the “discipline and authoritative advice of Jehovah”! (Eph. 6:4, NW) There will be neither adult nor juvenile delinquency, and a complete absence of family troubles, with no homes broken by divorce or death. In the new world will come the fulfillment of God’s purpose first outlined in Eden, his will to have earth inhabited. (Isa. 45:18) His words concerning the filling of the earth, the subduing of it, the dominion of man over its other creatures—none of these words will return void or unfulfilled to him as though they were so much wind. “My purpose,” Jehovah declares, “shall stand, and all my pleasure will I do. . . . I have spoken, and I will bring it about; I have purposed, and I will do it.” Again he decrees: “So shall my word be that goes out of my mouth—it shall not return to me fruitless, without having done the thing that I pleased, and accomplishing the purpose for which I sent it.”—Isa. 46:10, 11; 55:11, AT.
19. What are persons now choosing?
19 It is this originally purposed life under perfect conditions, destined to run on through the endless ages of time, that man now has the opportunity to choose. In fact, persons on earth are now choosing either that life or everlasting death.