GIFT of FREE WILL
G OD INFORMS US ABOUT HIS PURPOSES. A LOVING God does indeed reveal his purposes to sincere ones who search for him. He does provide inquiring humans with answers to their questions ---- such as why he has permitted suffering.
The Bible states: “If you search for [God] he will let himself be found by you.
“There exists a God in the heavens who is a Revealer of secrets.” “The Sovereign Lord Jehovah will not do a thing unless he has revealed his confidential matter to his servants the prophets.” ---- Chronicles 28:9; Daniel 2:28; Amos 3:7.
Where Are the Answers?
The answers to questions such as why God permits suffering and what he will do about it are found in the record he inspired for our benefit. That record is his Word, the Holy Bible. “All Scripture is inspired of God and beneficial for teaching, for reproving, for setting things straight, for disciplining in righteousness, that the man of God may be fully competent, completely equipped for every good work.”
—2 Timothy 3:16, 17.
The Bible is truly a very unique book. It contains the most accurate record of human history and even goes back beyond the creation of humans. It is also up-to-date, for its prophecies have to do with events of our time and of the near future too.
No other book has such credentials for historical accuracy. For example, only a few manuscripts of ancient classical writers exist. But many manuscripts, some partial and some complete, exist of the Bible: about 6,000 of the Hebrew Scriptures (the 39 books of the “Old Testament”) and about 13,000 of the Christian Greek Scriptures (the 27 books of the “New Testament”).
Almighty God, who inspired the Bible, has seen to it that its textual integrity has been preserved in those manuscript copies. So our Bibles today are essentially the same as the original inspired writings. Another factor that helps us to appreciate this is that some manuscript copies of the Christian Greek Scriptures go back to within a hundred years of the time of the original writing. The few manuscript copies of ancient secular writers that are still in existence seldom date to within even several centuries of the original authors.
The Bible is the most widely distributed book in history. Some three billion copie s have been printed. No other book comes close to that figure. And the Bible or parts of it have been translated into some 2,000 languages. Thus, it is estimated that 98 percent of the population of our planet could have access to the Bible. Surely a book that claims to be from God and has all the extra external and internal evidences of authenticity is worthy of our examination. It explains the purpose of life, the meaning of world conditions, and what the future holds. No other book can do that.
Yes, the Bible is God’s communication to the entire human family. He directed the writing of it by his active force, or spirit, with some 40 humans doing the recording. Thus God speaks to us through his Word, the Holy Bible. The apostle Paul wrote: “When you received God’s word, which you heard from us, you accepted it, not as the word of men, but, just as it truthfully is, as the word of God.” —l Thessalonians 2:13.
Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States, called the Bible ~~the best gift God has ever given to man . . . But for it we could not know right from wrong.” Now then, what does this superlative gift tell us about how suffering began, why God permitted it, and what he will do about it?
THE WONDERFUL GIFT
OF FREE WILL
TO UNDERSTAND WHY GOD has permitted suffering and what he will do about it, we need to appreciate how he made us. He did more than create us with just a body and a brain. He also created us with special mental and emotional qualities.
A key part of our mental and emotional makeup is FREE WILL. Yes, God implanted in us the faculty of freedom of choice . It was indeed a wonderful gift from him.
HOW WE ARE MADE
Let us consider how free will is involved in God’s permission of suffering. To begin with, think about this: Do you appreciate having the freedom to choose what you will do and say, what you will eat and wear, what kind of work you will do, and where and how you will live? Or would you want someone to dictate your every word and action every moment of your life?
No normal person wants his life taken out of his control so completely. Why not? Because of the way God mad e us. The Bible tells us that God created man in his ‘image and likeness,’ and one of the faculties God himself has is freedom of choice . (Genesis 1:26; Deuteronomy 7:6) When he created humans, he gave them that same wonderful faculty—the gift of freewill. That is one reason why we find it frustrating to be enslaved by oppressive rulers.
So the desire for freedom is no accident, for God is a God of freedom. The Bible says: “Where the spirit of Jehovah is, there is freedom.” (2 Corinthians 3:17) Hence, God gave us free will as part of our very makeup. Since he knew the way our minds and emotions would work, he knew that we would be happiest with free will.
To go with the gift of free will, God gave us the ability to think, weigh matters, make decisions, and know right from wrong. (Hebrews 5:14) Thus, free will was to be based on intelligent choice. We were not made like mindless robots having no will of their own. Nor were we created to act out of instinct as were the animals. Instead, our marvelous brain was designed to work in harmony with our freedom of choice.
The Best Start
To show how caring God was, along with the gill of~ free will, our first parents, Adam and Eve, were given everything that anyone could reasonably want. They were put in a large, park-like paradise. They had material abundance. They had perfect minds and bodies, so they would not have to get old or get sick or die—they could have lived in this paradise forever. They would have had perfect children who could also have had a happy, everlasting future. And the expanding popu-lation would have had the satisfying work of eventually turning the entire earth into a paradise. —Genesis 1:26-30; 2:15.
Regarding what was provided, the Bible relates: “God saw everything he had made and, look! it was very good.” (Genesis 1:31) The Bible also says of God: “Perfect is his activity. ” (Deuteronomy 32:4) Yes, the Creator gave the human family a perfect start . It could not have been better. What a caring God he proved to be!
Freedom Within Limits
However, did God purpose for free will to be without limits? Imagine a busy city without any traffic laws, where everybody could drive in any direction at any speed. Would you want to drive under those conditions? No, that would be traffic anarchy and would surely result in many accidents.
So too with God’s gift of free will. Unlimited freedom would mean anarchy in society. There have to be laws to guide human activities . God’s Word says: “Behave like free men, and never use your freedom as an excuse for wickedness.” (1 Peter 2:16, JB) God wants free will to be regulated for the common good. He purposed for us to have, not total freedom, but relative freedom, subject to the rule of law.
Whose laws were we designed to obey? Another part of the text at I Peter 2:16 (JB) states: “You are slaves of no one except God.” This does not mean an oppressive slavery, but, rather, it means that we were designed to be happiest when in subjection to God’s laws. (Matthew 22:35-40) His laws, more than any laws devised by humans, provide the best guide. 1, Jehovah, am your God, the One teaching you to benefit yourself, the One causing you to tread in the way in which you should walk.” —lsaiab 48: I’7.
At the same time, God’s laws allow for great freedom of choice within their boundaries. This results in variety and makes the human family fascinating. Think of the different types of food, clothing, music, art, and homes throughout the world. We surely prefer to have our choice in such matters rather than have some other person decide for us.
Thus we were created to be happiest when subject to God’s laws for human behavior. It is similar to being subject to God’s physical laws. For instance, if we ignore the law of gravity and .jump off a high place, we will be injured or killed. If we ignore the internal laws of our body and stop eating food, drinking water, or breathing air, we will die.
As surely as we were created with the need to submit to God’s physical laws, we were created with the need to submit to God’s moral and social laws. (Matthew 4:4) Humans were not created to be independent of their Maker and be success-ful. The prophet Jeremiah says: “ It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step. Correct me, O Jehovah.” (Jeremiah 10:23, 24) So in every way humans were created to live under God’s rulers hip, not their own.
Obedience to God’s laws would not have been burdensome for our first parents . Instead, it would have worked for their welfare and that of the entire human family. Had the first pair stayed within the limits of God’s laws, all would have been well. In fact, we would now be living in a wonderful paradise of great pleasure as a loving, united human family! There would not have been wickedness, suffering, and death.
WHY GOD HAS PERMITTED SUFFERING.
WHAT WENT SO WRONG? What took place that spoiled the fine start God gave our first parents in the Paradise of Eden? Why, instead of the peace and harmony of Paradise, have wickedness and suffering prevailed for thousands of years?
The reason is that Adam and Eve misused their free will. They lost sight of the fact that they were not created to prosper apart from God and his laws. They decided to become independent of God, thinking that this would improve their lives. So they stepped outside the God-ordained limits of free will. —Genesis, chapter 3.
THE ISSUE OF UNIVERSAL SOVEREIGNTY.
Why did God not just destroy Adam and Eve and start over with another human pair? Because his universal sovereignty, that is, his inalienable right to rule, had been challenged.
The question was: Who has the right to rule, and whose rule is right? His being almighty and the Creator of all creatures gives God the right to rule over them . Since he is all-wise, his rule is best for all creatures. But God’s rule had now been challenged. Also, was there something wrong with his creation —man? We will later examine how the question of human integrity is involved.
By man’s becoming independent of God, another question was implied: Could humans do better if not ruled by God? The Creator certainly knew the answer, but a sure way for humans to find out was to allow them the total freedom they wanted. They chose that course of their own free will, so God permitted it.
By allowing humans enough time to experiment with total freedom, God would establish for all time whether humans are better off under God’s rule or on their own. And the time permitted would have to be long enough to allow humans to come to what they considered the peak of their political, industrial, scientific, and medical achievements.
Therefore, God has allowed man a free rein clear down to our day to show beyond any doubt whether human rule independent of him can succeed. Thus man has been able to choose between kindness and cruelty, between love and hate, between righteousness and unrighteousness. But he has also been confronted with the conse-quences of his choice: goodness and peace or wickedness and suffering.
REBELLION OF SPIRIT CREATURES
THERE IS ANOTHER FACTOR TO CONSIDER. Our original parents were not the only ones to rebel against God’s rule. But who else was in existence at the time? Spirit creatures. Before God created humans, he created a higher form of life, great numbers of angels, to live in the heavenly realm. They too were created with free will and also with the need to submit to God’s rule — Job 38:7; Psalm 104:4; Revelation 5:11.
The Bible shows that rebellion first broke out in the spirit realm. A spirit creature wanted total freedom. He even wanted humans to worship him. (Matthew 4:8, 9) This spirit rebel became a factor in influencing Adam and Eve to rebel, claiming falsely that God was withholding something good from them. (Genesis 3:1-5) So he is called Devil (Slanderer) and Satan (Adversary) Later, he induced other spirit creatures to rebel. They became known as demons. —Deuteronomy 32: 17; Revelation 12:9; 16:14.
Humans, by rebelling against God, gave themselves over to the influence of Satan and his demons. That is why the Bible calls Satan ~~the god of this system of things,” who “has blinded the minds of the unbelievers.” Hence, God’s Word says that “the whole world is lying in the power of the wicked one.” Jesus himself called Satan “the ruler of this world.” -----2 Corinthians 4:4; 1 John 5:19; John 12:31.
Satan raised another issue that challenged God. In effect, he charged that God was mistaken in the way He created humans and that no one would want to do the right thing when put under pressure. In fact, he claimed that under test they would even curse God. (Job 2:1-5) In this way Satan called into question the integrity of the human creation.
Therefore, God has permitted enough time for all intelligent creatures to see how this issue as well as the issue of God’s sovereignty would be resolved. (Compare Exodus 9:16.) The eventual experience of human history would reveal the truth about these two issues.
First of all, what would time reveal regarding the issue of universal sovereignty, the rightness of God’s rule’? Could humans rule themselves better than God? Would any system of human rule apart from God usher in a happy world free from war, Crime, and injustice? Would any eliminate poverty and provide prosperity for all? Would any conquer sickness, old age, and death? God’s rule was designed to do all of that. —Genesis 1:26-31.
Regarding the second issue, what would time reveal as to the worth of the human creation? Was it a mistake for God to have created humans the way he did? Would any of them do the right thing under test’? Would any people show that they wanted God’s rule instead of independent human rule?
WHAT HAS BEEN THE RESULT OF REBELLION?
REGARDING THE ISSUE OF GOD’S RIGHT TO RULE, what has been the result of all these centuries of human rule independent of God? Have humans proved to be better rulers than God? If we judge by the record of man’s inhuman-ity to man, surely not.
WHEN OUR FIRST PARENTS REJECTED GOD’S RULE, DISASTER FOLLOWED. They brought suffering upon themselves and all the human family that came from them. And they had nobody to blame but themselves. God’s Word says: “They have acted ruinously on their own part; they are not his children, the defect is their own. —Deuteronomy 32:5.
History has shown the correctness of God’s warning to Adam and Eve that if they moved out from under God’s provisions, they would deteriorate and eventually die. (Genesis 2:17; 3:19) They did move out from under God’s rule, and in time they did deteriorate and die.
What happened afterward to all their offspring wa s as Romans 5:12 explains:
“Through one man Adam, mankind’s family [ head ] sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men. So when our first parents went and rebelled against God’s over-seership, they became defective sinners. In harmony with the laws of genetics, the resulting imperfection was all they could pass on to their offspring. That is why all of us have been born defective, prone to sickness and death.
Many centuries have passed. Empires have come and gone . Every conceivable type of government has been tried. Yet, over and over, dreadful things have happened to the human family. After six thousand years, one would think that humans would have progressed to the point of establishing peace, justice, and prosperity earth wide and that by now they would have mastered the positive values of kindness, compassion, and cooperation.
‘The reality, however, is just the opposite. No type of human government ever devised has brought true peace and prosperity for all. In this 20th century alone, we have seen the systematic murder of millions during the Holocaust and the slaughter of over 100 million in wars. In our time countless numbers of people have been tortured, murdered, and imprisoned because of intolerance and political differences.
The Situation Today
In addition, consider the overall condition of the human family today. Crime and violence are rampant. Drug abuse is epidemic. Sexually transmitted diseases are pandemic. The dreaded disease AIDS is affecting millions of people. Tens of millions of people die of hunger or disease each year, while a small number have vast riches. Humans pollute and pillage the earth. Family life and moral values have broken down everywhere. Truly, life to-day reflects the ugly rulership of ‘the god of this world,’ Satan . The world he is master of is cold, ruthless, and most thoroughly corrupt. —2 Corinthians 4:4.
God has allowed enough time for humans to come to the peak of their scientific and material progress. But is it genuine progress when the bow and arrow have been replaced by machine guns, tanks, jet bombers, and nuclear missiles? Is it progress when people can travel into space but cannot live together in peace on earth? Is it progress when people are afraid to walk the streets at night, or even in the daytime in some places?
WHAT TIME HAS SHOWN
What the test of centuries of time has shown is that it is not possible for humans to direct their own steps successfully apart from God’s rule. It is no more possible for them to do that than it is for them to live without eating, drinking, and breathing. The evidence is clear: We were designed to be dependent on our Creator’s guidance just as surely as we were created to be dependent on food, water, and air.
By permitting wickedness, God has once and for all time demonstrated the sad resuLts of misusing freewill. And free will is such a precious gift that rather than take it away from humans , God has allowed them to see what its misuse means. God’s Word speaks the truth when it says: “It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step.” It is also truthful when it says: “Man has dominated man to his injury.” —Jeremiah 10:23; Ecclesiastes 8:9.
“God’s permission of human rule for six thousand years forcefully illustrates that man is unable to stop suffering. At no time has he done so. For instance, in his day King Solomon of Israel, with all his wisdom, wealth, and power, could not straighten out the misery resulting from human rule . (Ecclesiastes 4:1-3) Similarly, in our day world leaders, even with the latest technical advances, are not able to eliminate suffering. Worse yet, history has shown that humans independent of God’s rule have increased suffering instead of eliminating it.
GOD’S LONG-RANGE VIEW
God’s permission of suffering has been very painful for us . But he has taken a long-range view, knowing the good results that will come in the long run. God’s view will benefit creatures, not just for a few years or a few thousand, but for millions of years, yes, for all eternity.
Should the situation ever arise at any future time that someone misuses free will to call into question God’s way of doing things, it would not be necessary to grant him time to try to prove his views. Having already allowed rebels thousands of years, God has established a legal precedent that can be applied throughout eternity and anywhere in the universe.
Because Jehovah has permitted wickedness and suffering at this time, it will already have been amply proved that nothing that is out of harmony with him can prosper. It will have been shown beyond doubt that no independent scheme of men or spirit creatures can bring lasting benefits. Hence, God will then be fully justified in swiftly crushing any rebel. “The wicked ones he will annihilate.” —Psalm 145:20; Romans 3:4.
GOD’S PURPOSE MOVES TOWARD FULFILLMENT
THE rulership of rebellious men and demons has been dragging the human family downward for many centuries. Yet, God has not ignored our sufferings. Rather, during all the centuries, he has been making provision to release humans from the grip of wickedness and suffering.
At the time of the rebellion in Eden, God began to reveal his purpose to form a government that would make this earth a paradise home for people. (Genesis 3:15) Later, as God’s chief spokesman, Jesus made this coming government of God the theme of his teaching. He said it would be mankind’s only hope. —Daniel 2:44; Matthew 6:9, 10; 12:21.
Jesus called that incoming government of God “the kingdom of the heavens,” since it was to rule from heaven. (Matthew 4:17) He also called it “the kingdom of God,” since God would be its Author. (Luke 17:20) Over the centuries God inspired his penmen to write down prophecies about those who would make up that government and what it would accomplish.
Earth’s New King
It was Jesus. nearly two thousand years ago, who fulfilled the many prophecies about the one who would be King of God’s Kingdom. He proved to be God’s choice for Ruler of that heavenly government over mankind. And after his death, God resurrected Jesus to life in heaven as a powerful, immortal spirit creature. There were many witnesses to his resurrection. —Acts 4:10; 9:1-9; Romans 1:1-4;
1 Corinthians 15:3-8.
Jesus then “sat down at the right hand of God.” (Hebrews 10:12) There he awaited the time when God would empower him to take action as King of God’s heavenly Kingdom. This fulfilled the prophecy at Psalm 110:1, where God tells him: “Sit at my right hand until I place your enemies as a stool for your feet.”
While on earth, Jesus showed that he qualified for such a position. Despite persecution, he chose to maintain his integrity to God. By doing so, he showed that Satan had lied when he claimed that no human would be faithful to God under test. Jesus, a perfect man, the “second Adam,’ showed that God was not mistaken in creating perfect humans. —1 Corinthians 15:22, 45; Matthew4: 1-11.
What ruler ever accomplished as much good as Jesus did in the few years of his ministry? Empowered by God’s holy spirit, Jesus healed the sick, the crippled, the blind, the deaf, the speechless. He even raised the dead! He demonstrated on a small scale what he would do for mankind on a global scale when he came into Kingdom power. —Matthew 15: 30,31; Luke 7:11-16.
Jesus did so much good while on earth that his disciple John said: “There are, in fact, many other things also which Jesus did, which, if ever they were written in full detail, I suppose, the world itself could not contain the scrolls written.” —John 21 :25.
Jesus was kind and compassionate, having very great love for people. He helped the poor and the downtrodden, but he did not discriminate against those of wealth or position. Honest hearted people responded to the loving invitation of Jesus when he said: “Come to me, all you who are toiling and loaded down, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me. for I am mild-tempered and lowly in heart, and you will find refreshment for your souls . For my yoke is kindly and my load is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 ) God-fearing persons flocked to him and looked forward to his rulership. —Jobn 12:19.
Just as human governments have associate administrators, so does God’s heavenly Kingdom. Others besides Jesus are to share in ruling over the earth, for Jesus promised his close associates that they would rule with him as kings over mankind —John 14:2, 3; Revelation 5:l0;20:6.
Hence, together with Jesus, a limited number of humans are also resurrected to heavenly life. They make up the Kingdom of God that will bring eternal blessings to mankind. (2 Corinthians 4:14; Revelation 14:1-3) So down through the ages, Jehovah has laid the groundwork for a rulership that will bring everlasting blessings to the human family.
INDEPENDENT RULE TO END
In this century God has taken a direct hand in earth’s affairs. Bible prophecy shows that God’s Kingdom under Christ was set up in 1914 and is now poised to crush Satan’s entire system. That Kingdom is ready to “go subduing in the midst of Christ’s enemies.” —Psalm 110:2.
In this regard the prophecy at Daniel 1 2:44 says: “ln the days of those kings [now existing] the God of heaven will set up a kingdom [in heaven] which shall never be destroyed, nor shall its sovereignty be left to another people [ human rule never again to be permitted.]
WATCH TOWER .Magazine
Copyright @ 1992. (Pgs. 9 - 18)
Watch Towe r Bible & Tract Society of Pennsylvania
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