When Suffering Will Be No More
SUFFERING was not part of God’s original purpose for the human family. He did not design it, nor does he want it. ‘If that is so,’ you may ask, ‘how did it start, and why has God allowed it to continue till now?’—Compare James 1:13.
The answer is found in the earliest record of man’s history, the Bible, particularly the book of Genesis. It says that our first parents, Adam and Eve, followed Satan the Devil in his rebellion against God. Their actions raised fundamental issues that struck at the very foundation of universal law and order. When they claimed the right to decide for themselves what was good and what was bad, they challenged God’s sovereignty. They questioned his right to rule and to be the sole arbiter of “good and bad.”—Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-5.
Why Not Immediately Enforce His Will?
‘Why, then, did God not immediately enforce his will?’ you may ask. To many, the matter seems so simple. ‘God had the power. He should have used it to destroy the rebels,’ they say. (Psalm 147:5) But ask yourself this, ‘Do I unhesitatingly applaud all who use superior power to enforce their will? Do I not instinctively feel a sense of revulsion when a dictator uses death squads to eliminate his enemies?’ Most reasonable people recoil at such a thing.
‘Ah,’ you say, ‘but if God wielded that power, no one would question his actions.’ Are you sure? Is it not true that people do question God’s exercise of power? They question why he has not used it at times, as in his tolerance of evil. And they question why he has used it at other times. Even faithful Abraham had a problem with God’s use of power against His enemies. Remember when God decided to destroy Sodom. Abraham mistakenly feared that good people would die with the bad. He cried out: “It is unthinkable of you that you are acting in this manner to put to death the righteous man with the wicked one.” (Genesis 18:25) Even right-minded people like Abraham need assurance that absolute power will not be abused.
Of course, God could instantly have destroyed Adam, Eve, and Satan. But think how that could have affected the other angels or future creations, who might later become aware of his actions. Might this leave them with nagging questions about the rightness of God’s rule? Would it not expose God to the charge that he was, in fact, some kind of totalitarian despot, as Nietzsche described him, a God who ruthlessly eliminates anyone who opposes him?
Why Not Make People Do What Is Right?
‘Could not God just make people do what is right?’ some may ask. Well, consider this also. All through history, governments have tried to make people conform to their way of thinking. Some governments or individual rulers have practiced various forms of mind control, perhaps using drugs or surgery, robbing their victims of the wonderful gift of free will. Do we not treasure being free moral agents, even if that gift is open to abuse? Do we condone any government’s or ruler’s attempts to take that away?
What alternative was there, then, to God’s immediate use of power to enforce the law? Jehovah God determined that the rebellion would best be dealt with by allowing a temporary period of independence from his rule for those who rejected his laws. This would allow the human family, descended from Adam and Eve, a limited time in which to govern themselves without being subject to God’s law. Why did he do this? Because he knew that, in time, incontrovertible evidence would build up, proving that his way of ruling is always right and just, even when he uses his limitless power to enforce his will, and that any rebellion against him will result, sooner or later, in calamity.—Deuteronomy 32:4; Job 34:10-12; Jeremiah 10:23.
What About All the Innocent Victims?
‘In the meantime, what about all the innocent victims?’ you may ask. ‘Is it really worth their pain to prove some point of law?’ Well, God has not allowed evil to exist just to prove some obscure point of law. On the contrary, it is to establish once and for all the fundamental truth that he alone is sovereign and that obedience to his laws is essential for the continued peace and happiness of all his creations.
One crucial thing to keep in mind is that God knows that he can undo completely any harm that this may bring to the human family. He knows that in the long term, the temporary period of pain and suffering will have a beneficial outcome. Think of the mother who holds her child firmly while the doctor inflicts the pain of injecting a vaccine to give protection against some disease that would otherwise kill the child. No mother wants her child to feel pain. No doctor wants to cause distress to his patient. At the time, the child does not appreciate the reason for the pain, but later he will understand why it was permitted.
Real Solace to Those Suffering?
Some may feel that just knowing these things may be of little solace to those who are suffering. Hans Küng makes the point that a rational explanation for the existence of suffering is “about as helpful to the sufferer as a lecture on the chemistry of foodstuffs to a starving man.” He asks: “Can all the shrewd reasoning really give new heart to man, almost overwhelmed by suffering?” Well, all the “shrewd reasoning” of men who ignore God’s Word, the Bible, has not given heart to those who are suffering. Such human reasoning has only added to the problem by suggesting that God meant for man to suffer and that the earth was designed as a valley of tears or a testing ground for those who will eventually gain life in heaven. What a blasphemy!
Yet, the Bible itself does give real solace. It not only provides a consistent explanation for the existence of suffering but also builds confidence in God’s sure promise that he will undo all the harm that this temporary permission of suffering has caused.
The “Restoration of All Things”
Very soon now God will restore things to the way he meant them to be before his first human creations rebelled. His appointed time for man’s independent rule has nearly run out. We are living at the time when he will send forth “Jesus, whom heaven, indeed, must hold within itself until the times of restoration of all things of which God spoke through the mouth of his holy prophets of old time.”—Acts 3:20, 21.
What will Jesus Christ do? He will rid the earth of all God’s enemies. (2 Thessalonians 1:6-10) This will be no summary execution, such as is meted out by human dictators. The mountain of evidence proving the catastrophic consequences of man’s misrule will show that God is fully justified in soon using his limitless power to enforce his will. (Revelation 11:17, 18) Initially this will mean “tribulation” such as the earth has never experienced before, similar to but much greater than the Flood of Noah’s day. (Matthew 24:21, 29-31, 36-39) Those who survive this “great tribulation” will experience “seasons of refreshing” when they see the fulfillment of all God’s promises given “through the mouth of his holy prophets.” (Acts 3:19; Revelation 7:14-17) What has God promised?
Well, God’s prophets of old say that there will be an end to the suffering caused by war and bloodshed. For example, Psalm 46:9 tells us: “He is making wars to cease to the extremity of the earth.” No more innocent victims and tragic refugees, those raped, crippled, and killed in cruel wars! Says the prophet Isaiah: “Nation will not lift up sword against nation, neither will they learn war anymore.”—Isaiah 2:4.
The prophets also foretell an end to the suffering caused by crime and injustice. Proverbs 2:21, 22 promises that “the upright are the ones that will reside in the earth” and that those who cause pain and suffering “will be torn away from it.” No longer will ‘man dominate man to his injury.’ (Ecclesiastes 8:9) All the wicked will be removed forever. (Psalm 37:10, 38) Everyone will be able to live in peace and security, free from suffering.—Micah 4:4.
Moreover, the prophets also promise that there will be an end to suffering caused by physical and emotional maladies. (Isaiah 33:24) Isaiah promises that the blind, the deaf, the disabled, and all those afflicted with sickness and disease will be cured. (Isaiah 35:5, 6) God will even reverse the effects of death. Jesus foretold that “all those in the memorial tombs will hear his voice and come out.” (John 5:28, 29) In his vision of “a new heaven and a new earth,” the apostle John was told that “God himself . . . will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore.” (Revelation 21:1-4) Imagine that! No pain, no tears, no outcry, no death—no suffering anymore!
Whatever tragedies may have occurred during this temporary toleration of evil will all be remedied. Even the memories of human pain and suffering—never purposed by God—will be totally erased. “The former distresses will actually be forgotten . . . The former things will not be called to mind,” Isaiah prophesied. (Isaiah 65:16, 17) God’s original purpose for a perfect human family living in total peace and happiness on a paradise earth will be fully realized. (Isaiah 45:18) Confidence in his sovereignty will be absolute. What a privilege to be living at the time when God will end all human suffering, a time when he shows that he is not some kind of “despot, impostor, swindler, executioner,” as Nietzsche charged, but that he is always loving, wise, and just in his exercise of absolute power!
[Picture on page 5]
Some rulers have practiced mind control, robbing their victims of free will
[Picture on page 7]
When suffering is no more, all will enjoy life to the full