Will You Get to Live on Earth Forever?
“The upright will inhabit the land, and men of integrity will remain in it; but the wicked will be cut off from the land, and the treacherous will be rooted out of it.”—Prov. 2:21, 22, RS.
1. In what ways do men now pollute the earth?
MEN are now defiling the earth. In their greed to get rich quick from its resources they denude the hills of forests and the plains of grasses, and valuable topsoil is washed or blown away. Wild animals and birds are wantonly slain for money or just for the fun of it. The air we breathe is needlessly polluted with factory smoke that many industrialists are too greedy to control. For thousands of years national and international wars have spilled lakes of blood that have defiled the land. Now in their quest for quicker ways to kill more the most powerful nations are poisoning the atmosphere, the vegetation, the land, the sea, the fish—everything—with radioactive elements. Scientists confess that the trend could lead to making the earth uninhabitable. Some parts have already been made so. The San Francisco Chronicle, June 20, 1956, editorializes: “FOREVER MADE UNINHABITABLE. There is a blanket invitation for soul-searching in reports which indicate that the testing of American nuclear weapons has probably made two of the Marshall islands forever uninhabitable and has certainly visited serious radiation sickness upon the people of a third. Not by design, of course, but through the unavoidable consequences of fission and fusion, Bikini and Eniwetok have been sown with radiation that make them taboo as dwelling places for all time; inhabitants of Rongelap were so irradiated from the air, the ground and the very food they ate that they became nauseated, shed their hair, developed skin lesions and showed other symptoms of severe radiation sickness.”
2. How are conditions becoming worse, and this means what?
2 Add to this the widespread evidences of moral deterioration and breakdown, and it is apparent that the earth and its inhabitants fall short in mirroring the wisdom and majesty of their Creator and in reflecting his praise, as purposed. And as time wears on the condition worsens: “Know this, that in the last days critical times hard to deal with will be here. For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, self-assuming, haughty, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, without gratitude, with no loving-kindness, having no natural affection, not open to any agreement, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, without love of goodness, betrayers, headstrong, puffed up with self-esteem, lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God, having a form of godly devotion but proving false to its power; and from these turn away.”—2 Tim. 3:1-5, NW.
3. What must Christians do to be preserved when Jehovah ruins those ruining the earth?
3 “And from these turn away.” Why? For the same reason that Israel was to be separate from the Canaanites. Because “bad associations spoil useful habits,” rotten things corrupt the good, dirty things soil the clean. When groups practice or support or tolerate evils there is a community responsibility for such evils, and to escape coming under this community responsibility individuals must separate themselves, if not physically then mentally and morally and emotionally. Just as Israel was given a law that would have protected them had they kept it, so Christians have commands that will preserve them if they comply. Knowing that Satan is “the ruler of this world,” that he is “the god of this system of things,” that “the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one,” Christians appreciate the wisdom of the command not to “be loving either the world or the things in the world” and know that whoever “wants to be a friend of the world is constituting himself an enemy of God.” Not wanting to be in Satan’s power, they separate from the world that is completely under his power. In this way they do not come under the world responsibility for all its wickedness, and they will thereby escape destruction with it at Jehovah’s war of Armageddon. Just as the land vomited out the Canaanites and the backsliding Israelites because they polluted it, at Armageddon evildoers will be disgorged from the land of the living, for that is Jehovah’s time “to bring to ruin those ruining the earth.”—John 12:31; 2 Cor. 4:4; 1 John 5:19; 2:15; Jas. 4:4; Rev. 11:18, NW.
STUDY AND MEDITATION
4. In what ways will study of God’s Word change us?
4 How can you keep from being vomited out of the land then? By separating from “those ruining the earth.” Fit into God’s purpose for the cleansed earth by reflecting God’s praise along with the earth. Start doing that now. Do it, not in the way that you think is right, but in the way that God says is right. Learn his way by studying his Word. It is by such study of the Bible that you will “quit being fashioned after this system of things, but be transformed by making your mind over, that you may prove to yourselves the good and acceptable and complete will of God.” By this study “you should put away the old personality which conforms to your former course of conduct” and “you should be made new in the force actuating your mind, and should put on the new personality which was created according to God’s will in true righteousness and loving-kindness.” Then you will live “no more for the desires of men, but for God’s will. For the time that has passed by is sufficient for you to have worked out the will of the nations when you proceeded in deeds of loose conduct, lusts, excesses with wine, revelries, drinking matches, and idolatries that are without legal restraint. Because you do not continue running with them in this course to the same low sink of debauchery, they are puzzled and go on speaking abusively of you. But these people will render an account to the one ready to judge those living and those dead.” However, your study and changed way of thinking and acting will deliver you from Jehovah’s destructive judgments at Armageddon.—Rom. 12:2; Eph. 4:22-24; 1 Pet. 4:2-5, NW.
5. What aspect of study is now neglected, but what does the Bible say about it?
5 One aspect of study that is woefully neglected today is meditation. The Bible frequently counsels us to do it. Joshua was told to take the book of the law and “meditate therein day and night,” or, more accurately expressed, “in an undertone read in it day and night.” This reading in an undertone is like talking to yourself, an audible musing, and since it is slower than reading to yourself it keeps the idea on the mind longer to soak in and be absorbed more. Moreover, it enters the mind in two ways, through both the eye and the ear, which impresses it on the mind with greater force. It is said of the happy man: “In the law of Jehovah is his delight, and in his law doth he talk with himself [soliloquise, margin] day and night. So doth he become like a tree planted beside channels of waters, that yieldeth its fruit in its season.” Taking in Jehovah’s waters of truth will enable us to bring forth Christian fruitage. We should copy this psalmist’s example: “I commune with my heart in the night; I meditate and search my spirit.”—Josh. 1:8, NW; Ps. 1:2, 3, RoPss; Ps 77:6, RS.
6. What shows that Jesus valued meditation, and found it difficult to do it at times?
6 Before talking to others it is best to talk to ourselves, to soliloquize. This will impress the truths on our own mind for the guidance of our tongue. Such meditation and self-preparation was done by Christ Jesus, the Greater David: “Of the glorious splendor of thy majesty, and of thy wondrous works, I will meditate,” or, “soliloquise.” During Jesus’ forty-day fast and isolation in the wilderness after his baptism he meditated, trying to take in the full meaning of the things that the opened heavens had bared to his view. This meditation fortified him for what was ahead. The Bible shows that from time to time Jesus sought solitude for meditation and prayer: “He went up into the mountain by himself,” and, “He continued in retirement in the deserts and praying.” But it was difficult for Jesus to get the solitude he needed for meditation and prayer: “He went out and proceeded to a lonely place. But the crowds began hunting about for him and came out as far as he was,” and, “Early in the morning, while it was still dark, he rose up and went outside and left for a lonely place,” but “those with him hunted him down and found him.” To avoid city crowds “he continued outside in lonely places. Yet they kept coming to him from all sides.”—Ps. 145:5, RS; RoPss; Matt. 14:23; Luke 5:16; 4:42; Mark 1:35, 36, 45, NW.
7. Who makes it hard for us to meditate today, and by what means?
7 Though not sought by crowds as Jesus was, his followers today are hard-pressed by modern living to find solitude for meditation. In many places in the world simplicity of living has been replaced by a life of complexity, with waking hours crammed with both important and trivial matters. Moreover, people today are developing an aversion to thinking. They fear being alone with their own thoughts. If other people are not around, they fill the void with television, movies, light reading matter, or if they go to the beach or park the portable radio goes too so they will not have to be with their own thoughts. Their thinking must be channeled for them, ready-made by propagandists. This suits Satan’s purpose. He deluges the mass mind with anything and everything but God’s truth. To keep minds from doing godly thinking Satan keeps them busy with thoughts that are either trivial or ungodly. It is tailor-made thinking, and the tailor of it is the Devil. Minds work, but in the way that a horse is led. Independent thinking is difficult, unpopular and even suspect. Thought conformity is the order of our day. To seek solitude for meditation is frowned upon as antisocial and neurotic.—Rev. 16:13, 14.
8. What conditions are necessary for the best meditation?
8 As Jehovah’s servants we must obey his command to meditate. The rush of events sometimes sweeps us along like a chip on the river, with no chance to guide or control our own course unless we put up a struggle against the current and work our way into a side eddy or calm pool for pause and reflection. We are like sparrows in a tornado, whirled in circles, round and round the daily cycles with no chance for repose, unless we can fight our way into the calm eye of the windstorm for regular periods of meditation on spiritual matters. To meditate we must have peace and quiet, must shut out sounds that assault the ear and blind ourselves to sights that distract the eye. The organs of sense must be soothed so they will not be occupying the mind with their messages, thus freeing the mind to think of other things, new things, different things, freeing it to probe within itself instead of being barraged from without. If a room is full more persons cannot enter. If the mind is occupied new thoughts cannot come. We must make room to receive when we meditate. We must open the arms of the mind to new thoughts, and do this by clearing our mind of the everyday thoughts and concerns, by shutting out the daily jumble of complex modern living. It takes time and solitude to thus empty and free the mind of the daily whirling turmoil, but if we do this the mind will graze its way through the green pastures of God’s Word and will be soothed by the restful waters of truth. Meditation will bring you many fresh, delectable, spiritual tidbits; doing it regularly will spiritually revive, renew and replenish you. Then you can say of Jehovah: “He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters; he restores my soul.” Or, “He gives me new life.”—Ps. 23:2, 3, RS; AT.
9. In what ways is meditation compared to a well of water?
9 If a well is full some water must be dipped out before more can filter in. If it is dipped out rapidly with no time allowed for refilling the well will go dry. If you never take water out it will become stagnant. If trash is thrown into the well there is less room for water. There is only so much space and the water level is constant. So it is with the mind. It can be a well of wisdom, full of Jehovah’s waters of truth that bring life: “The mouth of a righteous man is a well of life.” Words from the mouth, like water from the well’s opening, can refresh and enliven people. “The words of a man’s mouth are deep waters; the fountain of wisdom is a bubbling brook.” If our words are to be a bubbling brook of wisdom instead of a babbling brook of trivialities, we must meditate. We must empty our mind of old thoughts to make room for new ones, then we must give time for the new ones to filter in by meditation. If we do not keep our thoughts moving, changing, they become stagnant and stale. If we let all the worldly trash and satanic propaganda fill our mind there will be no room for godly thinking. So it is with the mind as with the well: if we are always dipping out the well goes dry, if we never dip out it becomes stale. There is a time for dipping out, there is a time for seeping in. There is a time to speak and a time to refrain, a time to meditate and a time to communicate, a time to think and a time to tell what you have thought. To give we must first get. We must take in before we can give out. We must fill before we can empty, and must empty before we can fill again. It is a process of both getting and giving, not just one or the other. Keep the waters of truth running into your mind, through your mind, out of your mouth. Then it will be “a well of living water.”—Prov. 10:11; 18:4, AT; Gen. 26:19, NW, mar.
10. What improves the power to meditate fruitfully?
10 The power of the mind to meditate is like a muscle: it improves with use. Hebrews 5:14 (NW) says: “Solid food belongs to mature people, to those who through use have their perceptive powers trained to distinguish both right and wrong.” Just as we cannot eat all the time but must allow time for digestion, so periods of study must be interspersed with meditation to assimilate what we have read. As a grazing animal must later chew its cud, we must chew our mental cud, so to speak, after an intake of spiritual food. We must occasionally bring up to our conscious mind previously learned facts or truths to be ruminated upon meditatively until all the value is extracted. Otherwise so much stays in the recesses of the unconscious mind, unused. Those who fail to meditate really do not know their own mind, what is really buried in it. Deep thoughts are within, and we have to go deep to bring them out. Time and solitude are the pick and shovel for mining them through meditation. You cannot keep your mind on the surface and hope to see to the bottom of deep subjects. After listing good things to think about, Paul advises: “Continue considering these things.” The more you do the more efficient your mind will become.—Phil. 4:8, NW.
MAKE A NAME TO BE REMEMBERED
11. What is the basic reason for meditating on God’s Word, and what scriptures show meditation in connection with this purpose?
11 This meditation is for one purpose, the same one given to Joshua when he was told to meditatively read God’s law in an undertone day and night: “In order that you may take care to do according to all that is written in it.” We are to “always offer to God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips which make public declaration to his name.” We must put our mind to it before our tongue: “The mind of the righteous ponders how to answer.” Paul told Timothy: “Ponder over these things, be absorbed in them, that your advancement may be manifest to all persons. Pay constant attention to yourself and to your teaching,” and, “Give constant thought to what I am saying.” So we must study privately, read the Bible and theocratic Bible helps, meditate on the things read, practice them, attend meetings to be further edified and to incite others to love and right works, and in unity all go forth to praise the name of Jehovah in order to live in God’s new world forever.—Josh. 1:8; Heb. 13:15, NW; Prov. 15:28, RS; 1 Tim. 4:15, 16; 2 Tim. 2:7, NW.
12. How can it be true that the day of death is better than the day of birth?
12 The name of the wicked rots from God’s memory, but the good name of the obedient God remembers, either to preserve them through Armageddon if they are living then or to resurrect them to life if they have died before then. Hence the statement that may at first strike us as strange is nonetheless true: “A good name is better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one’s birth.” We might naturally think the start of one’s life is better than its end, but here it means that if one has a good name with God when he dies that is better than his birth, at which time he has no good name with God. All are brought forth in iniquity and conceived in sin, without the right to life and under divine condemnation: “He that exercises faith in the Son has everlasting life; he that disobeys the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God remains upon him.” The inherited sin and condemnation we start life with remains unless we show faith and obedience toward God and Christ. When we start life it is not known how we shall use it, it being unpredestinated. But when we finish life with a good name that has been built up by godly works our future in the new world is secure. If we die with a good name God will resurrect us; if we come to Armageddon with one he will preserve us.—Eccl. 7:1; John 3:36, NW.
13. Why is it more profitable to go to the house of mourning than to the house of feasting?
13 “It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to his heart,” Solomon continues. This is no recommendation for sadness over rejoicing. How could it be, when we have a happy God, a joyful Christ, and a commission to make mourners rejoice? It refers to a specific time, to the time when a person has died and the house is in mourning. Go there to console the sad survivors rather than callously forget them and feast and revel. It was a Jewish practice to mourn for seven days after the death of a near relative, and to visit the mourners of the house was considered meritorious. It not only comforted the bereaved but also induced the visitor to remember life’s brevity, to know that the death that has come to this house will come to all soon enough and that those living should keep it in mind. It is while you are still living that you can make a good name, not when you are dying. And a good name is the only thing worthwhile to the dying.—Eccl. 7:2; Gen. 50:10; John 11:31.
14. Why is sorrow better than laughter, and the rebuke of the wise better than the song of fools?
14 Solomon goes on to say: “Sorrow is better than laughter: for by the sadness of the countenance the heart is made better.” Laughter is good medicine, but there are times when we must soberly view our life and the way we are living it. If we see we are wasting too much time in frivolous feasting and not making a good name by doing good works, we had better be sorry and change; it will make our heart better. It will help us make a good name so that the day of our death, or the day of Armageddon, will be better for us than the day of our birth. “The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning; but the heart of fools is in the house of mirth. It is better to hear the rebuke of the wise, than for a man to hear the song of fools.” The wise heart in a house where one has died is attuned to the seriousness that is natural in a house of bereavement and it influences the wise heart to watch how life is lived, but the careless mood in a place of revelry appeals to the foolish heart and causes life to be faced with a shallow, reckless spirit. If you are straying from right paths the rebuke of a wise man will put you back in the way of life by correcting you and enabling you to make a good name for yourself. But to hear the song or psalm or fulsome praise of a fool, how can such empty flattery that conceals faults and confirms us in them be helpful? It would keep us making a bad name, not correcting us into ways leading to a good name with Jehovah.—Eccl. 7:3-5.
15. Why is the burning crackle of thorns under a pot like the laughter of a fool?
15 “For as the crackling of thorns under a pot,” Solomon next says, “so is the laughter of the fool: this also is vanity.” Thorns are not satisfactory fuel. They flame up quickly, but are just as quickly burned to ashes. They do not last long enough to finish cooking what is in the pot, so they do not accomplish the task for which the fire is lit. Their showy, noisy, blazing crackling is futile and vain. And so are the frivolous gigglings and follies of the fool. They help no one to advance in the serious task of making a good name that God will remember, and thereby ensure that the day of death will be better than the day of birth.—Eccl. 7:6.
16. If this life were all that there is for man, why would it be so unimportant?
16 We should not waste this life on vanities, but use it to secure entry into the future, real life in the new world. If this life is all there is, there is nothing important. This life is like a ball thrown into the air that soon falls into the dust again. It is a fleeting shadow, a fading flower, a blade of grass to be cut and soon withered. What we do, say or think, or refrain from doing, saying or thinking, does not really matter, if this life is all there is. On the scales of eternity our life span is a negligible speck. In the stream of time it is not even a healthy drop. Certainly the Preacher is right when he reviews life’s many human concerns and activities and pronounces them vanity. We are so soon gone we might as well have never come, one of billions to come and go, with so few ever knowing we were here at all. This view is not cynical or somber or morose or morbid. It is truth, a fact to face, a practical view, if this life is all there is.
17. But since it is not all that is possible for man, what should he do?
17 But if this is not all, if there is a Creator who gave us life, and who inspired a book to tell us how to keep life, then we had better give heed with every ounce of energy to do what he says is necessary to make this temporary grassblade into an abiding Sequoia tree, to make this fleeting shadow stop in its tracks, to fix the colors in this fading flower. There is no present work, no occupation, no thoughts, no words more important—or even important at all—than those that will make our life permanent, that will make it a permanent swimmer in the stream of time. This is the most practical, the only practical, course in this life that is a mere tick in time. So after showing all the vanity of this life and its futile pursuits by frantic specks of humanity, the Preacher brushes aside all the vain occupations and efforts and foibles of men to put his finger on the one and only thing of any consequence in this momentary existence: “The conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.”—Eccl. 12:13.
18. The answers to what questions will determine whether we shall get to live on earth forever or not?
18 We can look around us with our eyes and see the evidence of the Creator’s existence and power, his wisdom and majesty. We can read his Word, the Bible, and open our mind’s eye to more truth concerning him, his earth, his purpose for the earth, and our possibilities of living on it forever. Will we do the whole duty of man: fear God, study his will, meditate upon it, do it, tell it to others, help them do it? Will we shun this world under Satan, its works, its blasphemies, its ruining of the earth? Will we use the earth in harmony with God’s will, cultivate it, beautify it, care for the wildlife on it, and help it reflect Jehovah’s praise? Or will we wickedly dirty this mirror of God so that it will not brightly reflect his wisdom and power and praise? The way we answer these questions and live up to the answers will determine the answer as to whether we shall get to live on earth forever or not: “The upright will inhabit the land, and men of integrity will remain in it; but the wicked will be cut off from the land, and the treacherous will be rooted out of it.”—Prov. 2:21, 22, RS.