|HIGHLIGHTS OF DAWN||August 2013|
Permission of Evil
Part 1—The Reason
“Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”
WHY DOES GOD PERMIT all the evil and suffering that is in the world today? This question is asked in time of war when cities are destroyed, and the young, the old, the infants, the righteous, the wicked, the believers and the unbelievers perish because of man’s inhumanity to man. It is asked by those who experience or observe suffering on beds of sickness. Why does God allow an innocent baby to sicken and die? Why does he permit the unrighteous to prosper, while his own faithful people often experience hardships?
Then there are those who are killed or injured by natural disasters such as hurricanes, typhoons, earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, and, most recently, the horrific tornadoes in Oklahoma, and the wildfires in Arizona which claimed the lives of nineteen firefighters just days before this writing—cannot God do something about these things? When we read and hear of such events, the question arises concerning this terrible loss of life, “Has God no pity?” Indeed, there are countless situations in which man, who the Bible says was created in the image of God, experiences suffering, and, of course, finally death.
This situation is not limited to our generation, nor is it confined to one part of the earth; it is universal. As far back as history reaches, man has suffered and died in war, in pestilence, in famine, in calamities, in sickness and disease. All in every generation have died, having been beaten down by the great enemy, Death. Abel, a son of Adam, whose sacrifice was pleasing to God, was the first to suffer and die, being murdered by his brother, Cain. Today, over 150,000 humans die worldwide every twenty-four hours. Our hospitals, nursing homes, mental institutions, and many other kinds of care facilities are filled with the suffering and dying. No wonder many question where God is, and what he is doing about the distresses of his human creatures.
JOB SEEKS THE ANSWER
The question of why God permits evil is not a new one. It has been asked by thinking men and women throughout the ages. Thousands of years ago, Job, a faithful servant of God, became personally concerned with discovering the meaning of his own suffering. The record of this is found in the book of the Bible which bears his name. The first verse of this book informs us that Job was an upright man who feared God and shunned sin.
To begin with, Job was a prosperous man, abundantly blessed by God along material lines. The record is that “his substance … was seven thousand sheep, and three thousand camels, and five hundred yoke of oxen, and five hundred she asses, and a very great household; so that this man was the greatest of all the men of the east.” (Job 1:3) Job was also blessed with a large family, and he desired that they too should be blessed by the Lord. Job prayed for his family, and offered sacrifices, because, as he said, “It may be that my sons have sinned, and cursed God in their hearts.” (vss. 4,5) Job felt, apparently, that in the event that his sons had sinned, his prayers on their behalf would be heard and favorably answered.
However, experiences were ahead for Job for which he was not wholly prepared. Satan, the great adversary of God and men, charged that this servant of the Lord was loyal to God only because his loyalty had been bought by the abundance of good things with which he had been blessed. In answer to this charge, God permitted Satan to inflict calamities upon Job to test his fidelity. God had no doubt about the outcome of this trial, and in his wisdom knew that any temporary suffering he permitted to come into Job’s life would, in the end, prove to be a great blessing to him.
Job did experience great trouble. The record states: “There was a day when his sons and his daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house: and there came a messenger unto Job, and said, The oxen were plowing, and the asses feeding beside them: And the Sabeans fell upon them, and took them away; yea, they have slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee. While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The fire of God is fallen from heaven, and hath burned up the sheep, and the servants, and consumed them; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee. While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, The Chaldeans made out three bands, and fell upon the camels, and have carried them away, yea, and slain the servants with the edge of the sword; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee. While he was yet speaking, there came also another, and said, Thy sons and thy daughters were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother’s house: and, behold, there came a great wind from the wilderness, and smote the four corners of the house, and it fell upon the young men, and they are dead; and I only am escaped alone to tell thee.”—vss. 13-19
JOB STILL LOYAL
Job’s reaction to these evil tidings was: “Naked came I out of my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return thither: the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” We read that “in all this Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly.” (vss. 21,22) Then God permitted further troubles to come upon Job. His health was taken away. He was smitten with “boils from the sole of his foot unto his crown. And he took him a potsherd to scrape himself withal; and he sat down among the ashes.” (chap. 2:7,8) Then Job’s wife turned against him, and said, “Curse God, and die.” To this Job replied, “Thou speakest as one of the foolish women speaketh. What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not receive evil?”—vs. 10
Job did not turn away from God when trouble came upon him, as so many throughout the ages have done. His chief concern was to know why God permitted him to be afflicted with such bitter experiences, and throughout his book we find evidences of his search for this understanding. After Job was stricken down with disease, three of his friends visited him for the supposed purpose of giving comfort. Later in the book we are informed that these three did not speak the truth concerning God, implying that the viewpoints they expressed to Job were not correct.—Job 42:7
There is chapter after chapter of philosophizing and interchange on the part of Job and his three friends. However, what it all amounted to was that, according to Job’s friends, he was suffering because he had committed some gross sins which he was hiding from them, and for which he had not repented and sought God’s forgiveness. Job, of course, knew that he was not perfect, but he also knew that he had not willfully transgressed God’s laws, so he could not accept this explanation.
WHY DO EVIL MEN PROSPER?
Job knew that, while as a servant of God he was now suffering, frequently evil men prospered, and apparently escaped the evils that come upon so many. So in answer to his friends, he said, “Wherefore do the wicked live, become old, yea, are mighty in power? Their seed is established in their sight with them, and their offspring before their eyes. Their houses are safe from fear, neither is the rod of God upon them. Their bull gendereth, and faileth not; their cow calveth, and casteth not her calf. They send forth their little ones like a flock, and their children dance. They take the timbrel and harp, and rejoice at the sound of the organ. They spend their days in wealth, and in a moment go down to the grave [without suffering a long, painful illness].”—chap. 21:7-13
Job knew that the explanation offered by his friends was not the true one, yet he did not understand why God was allowing him to suffer so severely. In a beautiful, poetic manner he describes his search for an understanding of God in the light of his own experiences, saying, “Behold, I go forward, but he is not there; and backward, but I cannot perceive him: On the left hand, where he doth work, but I cannot behold him: he hideth himself on the right hand, that I cannot see him; But he knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.”—chap. 23:8-10
Job realized, by faith, that there was a divine purpose for his being tried so severely, but he had not yet discovered that purpose. He also knew that if he maintained his integrity before God he would pass the test successfully, and would “come forth as gold.” Job’s wife wanted him to curse God, but he knew this would be foolish. In all ages, there have been those professed believers who, when affliction came upon them, have wondered where God was, and what he was doing to protect their interests. Many such have even turned against God, but faithful Job did not.
Beginning with chapter 38 of the Book of Job we find God’s answer to Job’s searching. This answer is couched largely in question form. The many questions were designed to remind Job that he really knew very little about God, and because of his limited knowledge in every field where the Lord manifests himself, he should not be surprised at failing to comprehend fully why he was being permitted to suffer.
This is an important viewpoint for us to keep in mind when we ask why God does not do something about human suffering, are we not assuming that if God had the intelligence we possess he certainly would do something? Then, perhaps, if we do not see our wishes carried out, we may tend to doubt that there is a God. If we should find ourselves guilty of such faulty reasoning, it would be well to consider the questions which God asked Job.
There are four chapters of these questions. They all concern the wonders of God’s creation. God asks Job if he was present when he laid the foundations of the earth—if he understood the laws by which the tides of the sea were controlled. He asks him about the instincts and habits of the various birds and animals, and even of the great creatures of the sea. Then Job is asked if he can explain the wisdom and power that are represented in these marvels of creation.
As the questioning proceeds, Job interrupts and says, “Behold, I am vile; what shall I answer thee? I will lay mine hand upon my mouth. Once have I spoken; but I will not answer: yea, twice; but I will proceed no further.” (Job 40:4,5) In Job’s expression, “Behold, I am vile,” the meaning of the Hebrew word translated vile is, according to Prof. Strong, literally, “swift, small, sharp.” Apparently Job was acknowledging to God that he had spoken too quickly—that his viewpoint was too limited, and that it was voiced too sharply.
IMPORTANT LESSON FOR ALL
Job was now beginning to understand his own proper position before the Lord—that it was not for him to judge God according to his own limited understanding, and then so freely to speak his opinions when he really knew little about the matter. This is also a good lesson for all of us. The basic fact is that the world is filled with evil. It is not for us to lose faith in God because of this, or even to criticize him. Our proper attitude should be one of humility, and of earnestly seeking the answer to our questions from the only proper source, which is the Word of God.
God’s questions continued, and eventually Job spoke again, saying, “I know that thou canst do every thing, and that no thought can be withholden from thee. Who is he that hideth counsel without knowledge? therefore have I uttered that I understood not; things too wonderful for me, which I knew not. Hear, I beseech thee, and I will speak: I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me. I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee.”—chap. 42:2-5
Job finally learned the meaning of his severe trial. He learned that its loving purpose was to give him a clearer understanding of God, that he might serve him more faithfully and with greater appreciation. He speaks of this clearer understanding as “seeing” the Lord, instead of merely having heard about him. Since he had gained such a wealth of understanding, Job’s brief period of suffering must have seemed to him to have been a most valuable experience.
Besides restoring Job’s health, we read that “the Lord blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning: for he had fourteen thousand sheep, and six thousand camels, and a thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand she asses. He had also seven sons and three daughters. … And in all the land were no women found as fair as the daughters of Job: and their father gave them inheritance among their brethren.”—Job 42:12-15
God’s design in the general permission of evil throughout the ages was, and is still today, the same as in the case of Job. He created Adam a perfect human, in his own image. Being in the image of God implied an ability to reason. One of the questions which God asked Job was, “Who hath put wisdom in the inward parts? or who hath given understanding to the heart?” (chap. 38:36) It was the Creator who had endowed Adam with the ability, through the process of reasoning, to attain knowledge and wisdom. This was in contrast to what we call instinct, which had been given to the lower animals.
However, God did not miraculously implant knowledge upon Adam’s mind with the intention that he would arbitrarily be governed by this knowledge. God did not desire his human creation to be like robots, which move about mechanically and without any sense of understanding. Man was given the ability to learn, and was free to make choices for himself by the knowledge he attained. What man would do with this knowledge was ultimately to determine his eternal destiny.
Man acquires knowledge through his five senses. He learns from observation, which is the exercise of his sense of sight. He learns from what he hears, the sense of hearing being the “antenna” which collects information. With the sense of touch, man feels pain when he comes in contact with boiling water, and learns by experience to temper the water he uses for internal and external purposes. Man smells the fragrance of a rose and is delighted by it, but turns in revolt when his sense of smell detects the presence of unpleasant odors. Man rejoices in the taste of wholesome food, but learns to avoid the eating of unpalatable things, even though his sense of sight might at first indicate that they are beautiful.
Thus we see that in the exercise of his five senses man learns from information communicated to him through observation, and through experience. According to the dictionary, man also acquires knowledge through “intuition,” but this is not strictly true, because the so-called intuition of man is based upon information already at hand. God alone possesses the inherent ability to acquire and develop knowledge entirely independent of all outside sources. The knowledge acquired by man through his claimed intuitive ability is, at best, trifling and of little value.
For man to be a faithful child of God it is essential that he receive a knowledge of evil as well as of good, that he might be able to make an intelligent choice between the two. God desires those to worship him who “worship him in spirit and in truth,” Jesus said. (John 4:23,24) God does not desire blind worship, but a fidelity to, and trust in him which is based upon understanding and appreciation. The accomplishment of this in connection with Adam and his offspring is one of the major objectives of the permission of evil in God’s great plan of human salvation from sin and death.
EXPERIENCE—THE ALL-IMPORTANT FACTOR
Right and wrong, as principles, are established by divine law. The world today is filled with war, crime, chaos, and suffering because God’s laws—his standards of right and wrong—are ignored and denied. While man was endowed with a conscience, the conscience itself is not aware of what is right and what is wrong unless it is furnished with this information from an authoritative source. This source, we believe, is only to be found in the Word of God, the Bible.
Knowing that Adam possessed the ability to understand facts which were communicated to him, God placed a test of obedience upon his human son, defining the law which was involved. The Creator had provided our first parents with a wonderful home “eastward in Eden,” possessing “every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food.” (Gen. 2:8,9) There were the trees of life, and another which is described as “the tree of knowledge of good and evil.” God commanded Adam not to partake of this particular tree, and informed him that the penalty for disobedience would be death: “In the day thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (vs. 17) The Creator had a right to demand obedience from his human creature, and to sentence him to death if he disobeyed.
This demand of obedience was a divine law, and since God informed Adam that death would be the penalty for disobeying, we can say that by information he knew the result of transgression. True, Adam could not look down through the ages and visualize all the suffering and death that would be brought about by human sin and selfishness which had their beginnings in his own disobedience. However, he did know that his disobedience would lead to his own death.
However, this information was not sufficient to deter Adam from taking the wrong course. He lacked a heart understanding of what was involved in his disobedience, because his knowledge was based, not on experience, but merely on what he had been told. Doubtless, Adam loved his Creator, but perhaps falsely reasoned that since Eve had already transgressed, and would die, it would be better to die with her than to live without her. So, not having the additional strength that experience would have given him, Adam transgressed divine law and was plunged into death.
A KNOWLEDGE OF GOOD AND EVIL
In God’s plan, in which he could foresee man’s fall, it was Adam’s freewill disobedience that was to lead ultimately to his acquiring a fuller knowledge of God and of his standards of right and wrong. The tree of which he was forbidden to partake was “the tree of knowledge of good and evil.” It followed that having partaken of this tree he would gain the knowledge implied by its name, even though in the process he would need to suffer and to die.
After both Adam and Eve had partaken of the forbidden fruit, God said concerning them, “Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil.” (Gen. 3:22) This does not mean that the forbidden fruit had some magical effect upon our first parents, enabling them at once to have a full knowledge of good and evil. We do read that soon after their disobedience they became ashamed of their nakedness, but this was no doubt due in part to the sense of guilt they felt in having disobeyed their Creator’s command.
We think God’s statement means, rather, that because of disobedience man was now destined to know both good and evil, and that he was to gain this knowledge through experience. Thus, the education of our first parents immediately began. They were driven out of their garden home into a harsh environment where they would die. They were to be plagued with all sorts of unfavorable elements, spoken of as “thorns” and “thistles,” which the “cursed” ground would bring forth to them, and against which they would have to struggle until, in death, they would return to the earth from which they were taken.—vss. 17-19
Part 2—The Result
“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”
GOD’S DESIGN IN THE creation of our first parents was that they should be the progenitors of an entire race. God also knew that in order for Adam’s children to really know him and have a true appreciation of his standards of right and wrong they, even as Adam, would need to learn by experience the terrible results of disobedience, and later, by contrast, the blessings which would be showered upon them by his love. So the Creator designed that all of Adam’s offspring should be carried into death with him. Paul wrote, “As by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that [in whom, Margin] all have sinned.”—Rom. 5:12
DEATH PLAGUES ALL
For six thousand years the human race, having come under condemnation to death because of sin, has been exposed to evil, and by experience has been learning the terrible results of disobedience. The seeds of death have manifested their presence in humans, young and old, by myriads of infirmities and diseases of both mind and body. Neither the young nor the old have escaped the plague of death—infants often falling before this enemy at a tender age with no understanding of what is taking place in and around them. Perchance, some live to “a ripe old age,” finally succumbing to the ravages of death which preys upon all.
Not only by disease are the people brought down to the grave, but as cited earlier, upheavals of nature contribute to the process, as do accidents, and men’s own cruelties to one another in war, in crime, and in many other types of human conflict.
Throughout all the ages God has not interfered with the great enemy Death. Paul informs us concerning mankind as a whole, that “God gave them over to a mind void of judgment.” (Rom. 1:28, Margin) This implies that he has not restrained the human race from taking its own course, selfish and sinful though that course has mostly been, nor has he interfered with the carrying out of the death sentence, in the sense of protecting some and not protecting others.
Thankfully, God’s great design does not end with the human race prostrate in death, for through Jesus, the Redeemer, he has made a provision for all to be awakened from death and to be restored to perfection of life. Paul wrote, “Just as all men die by virtue of their descent from Adam, so all such as are in union with Christ will be made to live again.” (I Cor. 15:21,22, Williams Translation) This provision of life through Christ is based on Jesus’ own death and resurrection. He said, “My flesh … I will give for the life of the world.” (John 6:51) It was for this reason that Jesus was born into the world as a human.—Heb. 2:9,14
In describing the arrangement by which Jesus became the Redeemer of the world through his death, the Bible uses the word “ransom,” which, according to the Greek word from which it is translated, means “corresponding price.” Jesus was a perfect man, even as Adam was a perfect man before he sinned. Thus in death Jesus became a corresponding price for the forfeited life of Adam. As all mankind lost life through Adam, so all mankind is redeemed from death through Christ.
JUST AND UNJUST
In God’s due time, all will be awakened from the sleep of death. Paul informs us that there is to be “a resurrection of the dead, both of the just and unjust.” (Acts 24:15) Yes, throughout the ages, while sin and selfishness have predominated, there have been noble men and women who, by virtue of their faith and obedience to God’s laws of righteousness, are spoken of by Paul as “just.” However, these also have been allowed to suffer, even as did Job—not to punish them, but to test and prepare them further for exalted positions which the Creator has designed for them in his arrangements for the future.
There have also been millions of noble, unselfish people throughout the ages who have had no faith in God. One reason for their unbelief has been their observation that the innocent suffer as well as the guilty. They have not been able to understand why an infant is allowed to die. They have not been able to reconcile the idea of a loving, powerful God with the fact that so many, through no willful fault of their own, have suffered for years on beds of sickness, while others have been afflicted with disease, mental illness, and every other conceivable malady. Had the unbelievers known the full plan of God they would have understood these situations.
Additionally, throughout the ages, the true God of the Bible has been flagrantly misrepresented. Many of the professed believers in Christianity, who bemoan the suffering they see taking place around them, try to believe that all who die in unbelief will be tortured eternally in a burning hell of fire and brimstone. This blasphemous teaching has helped to create many unbelievers, for a properly reasoning mind cannot believe that a God of love would thus torture his creatures. Such cruelty is even contrary to the laws of civilized men.
MANKIND TO PROFIT
The fact presents itself that few in all the ages have as yet profited by their experience with evil. Indeed many, as noted, have been turned to unbelief by it. This is understandable, and if we were to base our conclusions on man’s limited abilities and his restricted viewpoint, there would be no satisfactory answer as to why God permits evil. In the limited viewpoint of many, death is the end of existence. To others it is the end of all opportunity to learn and to profit from past experiences. These viewpoints, however, are not supported in the Bible.
As we have seen, according to the Bible, those who are asleep in death will be awakened from that sleep and given an opportunity to profit from the experiences of the present life. Just as it often happens now, the difficulties and distresses of a certain day are understood and appreciated only at a later day. So it will be on a grander scale, as those who are now sleeping in death are awakened and they enter another term, as it were, in their school of experience.
THERE WILL BE “JOY IN THE MORNING!”
In Job’s case, while he could not understand at the time why God allowed him to suffer, yet, when the experience was over, he could say, “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee.” (Job 42:5) So it will be with the world of mankind. When the experience of suffering and death is over and they are awakened from death, their faulty vision or understanding of God will be corrected, and they will rejoice to learn of the gracious and loving provision the Creator has made for them through Christ, the Redeemer, to ransom them from death. They will be restored to perfection of life if, in the light of this true knowledge of God, they obey him by conforming their lives to his standards of right and wrong.
The psalmist wrote, in the words of our opening text, “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” (Ps. 30:5) This “night” of sin, sorrow, and death began with the disobedience of our first parents, and it has indeed been a night of weeping. The sorrow that has borne down upon the human race has been bitter, and many in their distresses have wondered whether or not God has any pity, or even exists at all.
However, there is to be a morning of joy for the human race! That morning of joy will be ushered in by what the Scriptures refer to as the rising of “the Sun of Righteousness,” who will have “healing in his wings.” (Mal. 4:2) Jesus is this glorious Sun of Righteousness. The new day of blessing he will cause to dawn will be brought about through the establishment of his kingdom, which is the government of righteousness foretold by all God’s holy prophets since the world began.
Associated with Jesus as rulers in his kingdom will be his faithful followers—those who have suffered and died with him. Jesus died the just for the unjust. Likewise, his footstep followers voluntarily suffer and die with him, and will be exalted to the highest of all spiritual realms of life, to be associated with Jesus in the rulership of his kingdom. Jesus said to his disciples, “I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” (John 14:2,3) The Scriptures also declare that these will live and reign with Christ a thousand years, being brought forth from death in “the first resurrection.”—Rev. 20:6
Christ and his followers, a “little flock,” will be the invisible rulers of the world during the thousand years of his kingdom. (Luke 12:32) They will be represented here on earth by another group of God’s faithful servants, each one of whom proved loyal to God under adversity during the ages preceding the coming of Jesus. These, as the Bible tells us, will be made “princes in all the earth.” (Ps. 45:16) This group will consist of the ancient and worthy servants of God of past ages, beginning with righteous Abel. It will include such outstanding figures as Abraham, Moses, David, Elijah, Daniel, and all God’s holy prophets.
These “princes in all the earth” will be awakened from death in the resurrection, and for a thousand years will be the representatives of the divine Christ among men. What a wonderful governmental arrangement this will be! It will establish universal and lasting peace, which man in his selfishness has been unable to do. The divine head of this government, who is Christ, is referred to in prophecy as “The Prince of Peace,” and we are assured that “of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end.”—Isa. 9:6,7
THE HOUSE OF THE LORD
In Micah 4:1-4, the kingdom of Christ is referred to as God’s ruling “house”—this ruling house consisting of Jesus and those who, through faithfulness in following in his footsteps, are also exalted to heavenly glory as sons of God. This prophecy reads, “In the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it. And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the Lord of hosts hath spoken it.”
The ancient nation of Israel, to whom this prophecy was first addressed, was governed from a mountain. It was Mount Zion in Jerusalem, so God uses this background in presenting this prophecy of Messiah’s kingdom, and his promises of the blessings that it will assure to the people. The “mountain of the Lord” is the kingdom of God, centered in the Christ, and represented by the symbolic “Zion” of this prophecy.
Notice that under the rulership of this kingdom the people learn God’s way. The entire period of Christ’s kingdom will be one of learning—of education. In this prophecy, one of the results of this education is that the people will learn war no more. It will be then that the angels’ message of “peace on earth” will be translated into reality. The Prince of Peace will then reign supreme.—Luke 2:13,14
UNDER VINE AND FIG TREE
In addition, there will be economic security. This is symbolized in the prophecy by the assurance that every man will dwell under his own vine and fig tree. Much of the suffering in the world throughout the ages has been due to lack of food, clothing, and shelter. Even today millions of the human race exist on subnormal supplies of food, have but little clothing, and live with no roof over their heads. However, this will be corrected through the agencies of Christ’s kingdom.
Peace and security will not be the only blessings guaranteed to the people under the rulership of “the mountain of the house of the Lord.” Isaiah wrote, “In this mountain shall the Lord of hosts make unto all people a feast of fat things, a feast of wines on the lees, of fat things full of marrow, of wines on the lees well refined. And he will destroy in this mountain the face of the covering cast over all people, and the vail that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death in victory; and the Lord GOD will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people shall he take away from off all the earth: for the Lord hath spoken it. And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, … we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”—Isa. 25:6-9
In addition to the “feast of fat things” which this prophecy assures us will be spread for mankind in Messiah’s coming kingdom, we are also informed that the covering and the veil now cast over the faces of the people will be removed. This clearly refers to a symbolic curtain which hinders the people from seeing and knowing God in his true light. Another prophecy says that then “the eyes of the blind shall be opened.” (Isa. 35:5) Those literally blind will then have their sight restored, and those spiritually blind will acquire a true vision of God and his glorious character.
ALL EVIL TO BE DESTROYED
Of this same time of Christ’s kingdom, we read, “They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.” (Isa. 11:9) Then there will be no more suffering and death as a result of Adam’s transgression. It will be the time when Adam’s children are being made alive through Christ. Killing, as well as all other kinds of calamities, will no longer be permitted. The peaceful and prosperous conditions which men and women today would like to see throughout the earth will then exist, because “the knowledge of the Lord will fill the earth as the waters cover the sea.”
God assures us further that he “will swallow up death in victory,” and that he will wipe away tears “from off all faces.” What blessed assurances these are! Paul wrote that Christ would reign until all enemies are put under his feet, and that “the last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.” (I Cor. 15:25,26) The result of this is described in Revelation 21:4, which reads, “God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”
FIRST EXPERIENCE WITH GOOD
It will be during the reign of Christ that Adam and his children in general will receive their first real experience with “good.” It will be this that will complete their education with respect to the validity and importance of the standards of right and wrong established by God. Though perfect when created, Adam did not then have sufficient knowledge from experience to prevent his transgression. Job maintained his integrity before God under test, yet he also needed to experience evil and to be delivered from it in order to “see” God. Adam and his race will likewise “see” God as a result of their experiences.
The God they will then see and know will be the one they have longed to understand and to serve. They will recognize the value of the experiences through which they have passed. Understanding real values, they will realize that the few short years of hardship through which they passed while under condemnation to death were as nothing compared with the eternity of joy then stretching out before them under the panoply of divine love. No wonder they will then say, “Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, … we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”
At the conclusion of the harrowing experiences through which Job passed, he was restored to health, and his family was also restored to him. This partially illustrates the great blessing which lies ahead for all mankind during the reign of Christ. Peter speaks of this period as “times of restitution of all things,” which, he declares, had been spoken “by the mouth of all his [God’s] holy prophets since the world began.”—Acts 3:20,21
Peter’s declaration concerning the restoration of the human race to health and life was based on the miracle he had just performed of healing a man who had been lame from the time of his birth. During “the times of restitution,” all the lame will be restored to soundness of limb, and all other human maladies will be cured by the “Sun of Righteousness,” who will then rise “with healing in his wings.”—Isa. 35:6; Mal. 4:2
As we have seen, this loving provision for the human race includes those who have fallen asleep in death. This is, in reality, the key to an understanding of why God permits evil, for it means that his viewpoint of human experience is not dependent upon man’s present short span of life. God is viewing man’s experience with sin and death, rather, as a lesson which, in the resurrection, can be compared with all the “good” which will then be showered upon the people, that “feast of fat things” which he will then spread before all nations.
A TIME OF LEARNING
This future period of blessing is also described in the Bible as one of judgment, or trial. Isaiah wrote that when God’s judgments are abroad in the earth, “the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness.” (Isa. 26:9) All the inequalities of the present will then be righted. Those who now willfully oppose God and his laws, and unjustly treat their fellows, will then receive appropriate discipline designed to correct their wrongdoings. All the present circumstances relative to every individual will then be taken into consideration, and the people dealt with, and blessed or punished accordingly.
Even those who have died in infancy will be awakened, mature to adulthood, and have an opportunity to enjoy God’s blessings. In a comforting promise to mothers who lose their children in death, we read, “Thus saith the Lord; A voice was heard in Ramah, lamentation, and bitter weeping; Rachel weeping for her children refused to be comforted for her children, because they were not [they were dead]. Thus saith the Lord: Refrain thy voice from weeping, and thine eyes from tears: for thy work shall be rewarded, saith the Lord; and they shall come again from the land of the enemy. And there is hope in thine end, saith the Lord, that thy children shall come again to their own border [they shall return to life on earth].”—Jer. 31:15-17
Having had real experience with both good and evil, each individual will be able to decide intelligently whether or not he wishes to choose the good and live forever, or choose evil and again be sentenced to death—a death from which there will be no resurrection. Christ will then be King supreme in his kingdom, and he will be Judge supreme. Peter also refers to him as a great “Prophet,” and informs us that it shall come to pass “that every soul, which will not hear [that is, obey] that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people.”—Acts 3:22,23
During the present nighttime of sin and death, all die—believers and unbelievers, the innocent and the guilty, the righteous and the unrighteous. However, during the reign of Christ only those who willfully disobey the laws of God will be destroyed. All others will continue to live and to mature toward perfection. If these continue faithful, they will enter as perfect humans into the everlasting future ages of happiness and life “with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”—Isa. 35:10