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Where Are We Going?
Our purposes, choices and destiny.
What Is God's Purpose For Man?
If you go back to Genesis, you find God telling men to "be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion..." (Genesis 1:28). God wants man to be fruitful. That can mean reproduction in terms of having children, but it also means spiritual reproduction. It means bearing fruit for the Lord, producing love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (see Galatians 5:22-23).
God wants human beings to increase and grow. Artificial limits on growth are not biblical. The concept of zero growth, for example, is not biblical; and the concept of the socialist-type government, which puts arbitrary controls on a man's ability to make money or create or invent, is not biblical. God wants man to be a fruitful, creative, reproducing individual.
God also wants men to have dominion over Satan. He wants us, as His representatives, to subjugate Satan. Jesus Christ gave us that authority. He wants us to do away with the works of Satan--to take away poverty, to lift the yoke of oppression, and to take away ignorance and lack of faith. He wants us to bring a blessing to people and to liberate them from the forces that would destroy them.
Then, when we have taken dominion over the things that will hurt our fellow man, He wants us to take dominion over the earth. We are to have dominion over the streams and the air, and the fields and the birds, and the animals in our world. We are not supposed to pollute the streams and befoul the air and rip up the minerals in this earth just for personal gain. We are supposed to be intelligent stewards, under God, of all these things. God wants us to manage the world as His sons and daughters. He wants us to bring about righteousness in this world. Our main purpose for being on earth is to be stewards of God's creation, to grow in God, and to function as God's sons and daughters.
In the WESTMINSTER SHORTER CATECHISM, the Presbyterians say that man's chief aim is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. The mandate in Genesis to take dominion has no meaning apart from giving glory to God. We are to be subject to Him, to love Him, to walk with Him, and to have fellowship with Him.
The prophet Micah sums it up when he says, "And what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God" (Micah 6:8)?
How Can I Have Free Will If God Knows Everything In Advance?
This is another question that theologians have wrestled with for years. The Bible tells us definitely that God knows everything. Furthermore we are told that God has planned (or predestined) certain things. We were chosen in Christ from the foundation of the earth (see Ephesians 1:4). So if God knows everything, and He also has the ability to control everything, then how, indeed, can we have free will? Doesn't God have to work it all out in advance? The answer to that is no.
His foreknowledge could be likened to a motion picture. If we watch a movie we see the frames in sequence, so it looks as if Act 2 follows Act 1 and Act 3 follows Act 2. We see what looks like consecutive action. But if you were to take that same piece of film and hang it up on the wall, you could see the end, the beginning, and the middle all at once. You really would not have to control the action in order to see what was going to happen. In an imperfect sense this illustrates how God's foreknowledge and our free will can coexist.
Yet there are dimensions of life that are beyond our understanding. The concept of predestination and foreknowledge, as opposed to free will, makes up one of those dimensions. If we say, "Well, it is all up to man," then we err, because that is not the case. If, on the other hand, we say, "It does not matter what we do, because God has prearranged it all anyhow," we are wrong.
There seems to be a tension between two ostensibly irreconcilable points: The free will of man, and the foreknowledge and predestination of God. Our theology is lopsided if we fail to include the reality of free will and predestination together.
The way I like to look at it is as if you have a basketball game consisting of visible and invisible players. The ones who make the points are the visible players, and yet the invisible ones are there feeding the ball and strategy to the visible players. Assume that the invisible players could act and interact with the visible players, or at least they could whisper signals and directions over the shoulders of the visible players.
In this illustration, the invisible players would be controlling the action. But from all an onlooker could see, the visible players are in charge of the entire game. In this analogy, the visible players represent man's free will, while the invisible players represent God's Spirit, angels, and demons. Visible and invisible are working and interacting together. There is not some timeless, immutable decree from God that governs man, but constant, loving help and direction from Him as well as hindrance from the enemy.
We will understand the full mystery when we know God better.
What Is Predestination?
Predestination is a term that refers to God's determination in advance that something will happen in accordance with His fixed purpose. Although the noun predestination is never used in Scripture the verb predestinate is used four times (Romans 8:29,30, Ephesians 1:5,11) and refers to God's determination that the Christian will be blessed as a result of salvation. God's choice of individuals who would be saved is referred to by the word election.
Two seemingly opposite concepts are involved in the idea of predestination and election. First, God, who is sovereign in the universe, is in complete control of human events and the lives of individuals. If that were not so, He would not be sovereign, and, thus, would not be God. Second, God has given people a freedom of choice to do as they will. We are accountable for our own actions and nobody can say, "When I sinned, I just did what God wanted me to do, and so why is He holding me accountable for it?"
Scholars have struggled with these seemingly opposed concepts for centuries, and two major views of predestination have developed. Calvinism holds that God offers irresistible grace to those whom He elects to save. If you are among the elect, you cannot say "no" to God. Arminianism, on the other hand, holds that God's grace is the source of redemption, but it can be resisted. In Calvinism, God has chosen the believer; in Arminianism, the believer has chosen God.
The apostle Paul, in explaining the obstinate refusal of Israel to accept the gospel of Jesus Christ, could have given a synthesis of predestination and free will that appeals to human reason and fairness. Instead, he said, "God has mercy on whom He wants to have mercy, and He hardens whom He wants to harden" (Romans 9:18). Then he described Pharaoh, King of Egypt, about whom the Bible says, God hardened his heart (see Exodus 9:12). We must remember, however, that sunlight hardens clay and melts wax. It all depends on the substance being dealt with. If Pharaoh's heart had been tender, God's power would have softened it, not hardened it. Therefore, the concept of predestination and election is never an excuse to sin; as the apostle concludes, "O the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His paths beyond finding out" (Romans 11:33).
What Does The Bible Say About How Long People Should Live On Earth?
The psalmist said that our days on earth "are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years, yet their boast is only labor and sorrow" (Psalm 90:10). So man, according to the Psalms, has seventy years, and sometimes by reason of strength, eighty years or more. Now that is the average for modern man. But if you go back to the days of the patriarchs in Israel, one hundred thirty, one hundred forty or one hundred fifty years was not uncommon. If you go all the way back to the days just following creation, men lived nine hundred years or more. I wonder if, when the Millennium comes and there is no more sin on earth, people will once again live two hundred or three hundred years, or even longer.
Where Do People Go When They Die?
Their bodies usually go into the ground, and they go back to the dust from whence they came. The spirit of man, on the other hand goes into an everlasting state, because spirits are immortal and cannot die. As I understand the Bible, at death those who are Christians go to be with the Lord, to a place of bliss called paradise. Those who are not Christians go to a place of suffering and torment called hell. They wait there for a final judgment, while those who are dead in Christ wait for their final rewards.
The Bible does not teach soul sleep. For example, Jesus told about a rich man and a beggar named Lazarus (see Luke 16:19-31). When he died, the beggar went to a place called Abraham's bosom, where he was comforted by the patriarch Abraham and other Old Testament saints. When the rich man died he went to hell, or Hades. He asked Lazarus to come over and give him just a few drops of water, saying he was tormented in the flames. In this story we note that both men were conscious. They knew their own identity, and they recognized other people as well.
There was also some kind of torment. Since fire does not hurt spirits, it is possible that the fire may be symbolic (see Daniel 3:25-27). It could be the fire of remorse, of thinking what could have been, yet was missed. Hell is also pictured as outer darkness, where there is loneliness and weeping and gnashing of teeth (see Matthew 8:12). There are other references to a lake of fire (see Revelation 20:14-15). Whatever hell is, it consists of eternal and unending anguish apart from God and all that is good.
Is Reincarnation Taught In The Bible?
Reincarnation is an Eastern concept that speaks of the transmigration of the human soul. In certain cultures it is believed that the souls of those who die come back as dung beetles, or as the rain or the dew. In Nepal they teach that evil men come back as dogs, so they beat the dogs unmercifully. In India cows, rats, and grasshoppers are viewed as people who have been reincarnated.
The overarching concept of reincarnation comes from the Hindu belief that life and death make up an eternal wheel. Each individual is attached to the wheel, and attached to each individual is a karma, or fate. People supposedly purge their karmas by successive incarnations. There is no end, only bad incarnations or possibly good incarnations. There is no understanding, no rules, no reason; just mindless fate and hopeless attempts at the cleansing of guilt.
The Bible does not teach this at all. The Bible says, "It is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment" (Hebrews 9:27). In the story of the rich man and Lazarus, when the rich man died, he went to Hades. When Lazarus died, he went to paradise, called by the Bible "Abraham's bosom." There was no thought of coming back.
When Jesus Christ was on the Mount of Transfiguration, He met with Moses and Elijah and He talked with them (see Matthew 17:1-3). Moses had been dead for years, but he was still Moses. Moses did not come back as King Tut or Marie Antoinette. Moses was Moses. He never lost his identity. The Bible teaches that when you are born you have the identity you will have for all eternity (see Matthew 17:1-8, Mark 9:2-8, Luke 9:28-36).
You are never going to lose that identity. You are absolutely accountable for what you do in this life. There is no second chance and no opportunity to come back and purge yourself of the sins and wrongs you have done. Reincarnation vitiates the major teachings of Christianity about responsibility and judgment.
There are those who claim that reincarnation is a Christian concept, but it is not. It is a Hindu concept that has been totally discredited. It gives people a false hope, a false expectation, or a false despair--false because thinking about what awaits you in the next life makes it very hard to bring about any kind of moral reformation in this one. When you have this concept of karma (the same thought is found in the Mohammedan concept of kismet), then you say, "Well, these people are the lower classes and that is their karma." You do not have to worry about feeding them, educating them, uplifting them, because they have that karma. They are where they belong. You will never find social justice and social progress in countries where the doctrine of reincarnation has a strong hold.
In comparison, the Bible says we are responsible for our brothers. We must be kind and good to the poor and the needy. The Bible teaches that all people are beloved by God and that they all have an equal chance, but the chance lasts only during this lifetime.
Does The Bible Teach Evolution?
To answer this question we must first define evolution. To the scientist the theory of evolution customarily means a process by which the whole universe came about through a progression of interrelated phenomena. In biology or zoology the theory of evolution supposes that existing animals and plants have their origins in simpler forms that have been progressively modified through successive generations over extended periods of time. Scientific evolution eliminates belief in God or special creation and ascribes the origins of all life to the action of random chemical and physical forces.
The Bible does not teach random evolution. The Bible does teach an act of creation by God of a universe out of a formless void, and then individual acts of creation in an ascending order from the simpler forms of aquatic life to the mammals and finally to a creature made in God's image--man (see Genesis 1:20-25). Human beings did not evolve out of the primordial ooze. They are the special creation of an all-powerful God (see Genesis 1:26-27).
Therefore, it can be said that the Bible teaches "creation in ascending order." When the scientists discover the ascending order of the plants and animals on earth, their factual observations are generally in harmony with the Bible. The scientists go wrong, however, when they attempt to draw theological theories of origins from their findings.
The ascending order of living creatures is an observable fact. Apart from the Bible or the revelation of God, the source of their origin is unknown and scientific speculation about their origin can only be theory--never fact.
However, one major empirical fact negates the theory of scientific evolution. There has never been one observable case of any creature shifting (or evolving) from one biological class to another or from one phylum to another. There is no case where we have remains or fossils of an animal that died during the evolutionary process. The reason is clear. The Bible says that God made each animal "after its kind" through a special act of creation for each one of them.
I think the greatest example of this truth is the mule. The mule is a cross between a donkey and a horse. Mules are born sterile. They are unable to reproduce themselves. In other words, the horse and the donkey were close enough in the biological ladder to interbreed with each other, but their offspring could not continue the breeding process. Even that close link could not reproduce. Certainly nobody has ever bred a bird with a snake or an ape with a man. There is no reproductive evidence to support evolution.
Will There Ever Be Lasting World Peace?
Absolutely! We will have lasting peace on earth when the Prince of Peace returns. Jesus Christ has told us, and the Bible assures us, that He will come back again. When He comes, several things are going to happen. First, the rebellion of man against God is going to be put down. For a thousand-year period, God will restrain the evil that is in man and will not allow nations to fight one another (see Revelation 20:3-6). When that happens, men will take the tools of war and turn them into tools of peace. Isaiah 2:4 says that men will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks, and that people will not learn war anymore. With Satan out of the way, and man restrained, there will finally be peace.
The Bible goes on to say: "When the thousand years have expired, Satan will be released from his prison and will go out to deceive the nations which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle, whose number is as the sand of the sea. They went up on the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of the saints and the beloved city. And fire came down from God out of heaven and devoured them (Revelation 20:7-9).
When this prophecy is fulfilled, when Satan's final rebellion is crushed, there will be permanent peace. God will put away, out of His kingdom forever, everything that offends. He will take Satan and his followers and put them permanently into a place of captivity. From that time forward, there will never again be war. Until the earthly reign of Jesus comes, however, men will continue to fight one another. Jesus said there will be "wars and rumors of wars" right up until the time of the end (see Matthew 24:6).
There is no way that a United Nations, a League of Nations, peace treaties, disarmament treaties, or any other human instrument can bring about peace. Such things mean nothing when one nation desires the land and resources of another. A lasting peace will never be built upon man's efforts, because man is sinful, vicious, and wicked. Until men are changed and Satan's power is removed, there will not be peace on earth.
Until that day comes, all we can do is be strong enough to restrain the evil that is among us. To do anything other than that is utopian and based upon wishful thinking rather than upon reality.
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