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Where Are We From?
Our origin, features and problems.
Where Did Man Come From?
The Bible tells us that God Himself is man's Creator. God said, "Let Us make man in Our image" (Genesis 1:26, KJV). This meant that He was going to create a spiritual being, for God is a spirit; that He would create a moral being, because God is a moral being; and that He would create a rational being--someone who had a mind and could think. That much we know. Just how the human body, for example, or the human brain images God, we do not yet know.
The Bible tells us that God took a handful of dust (which speaks of the earth), and He breathed life into it (which speaks of spirit), and "man became a living soul (nephesh)" (Genesis 2:7, KJV). Thus, the merger of the spiritual with the physical elements of the earth created a human soul, made in the image of God.
Man is therefore the only creature we know of, other than the angels themselves, who has the ability to relate to God and to worship Him. You do not find horses and cattle on their knees praying for wisdom and guidance! Yet man not only prays but builds churches and cathedrals in which to worship God. God gave that desire to man. We were made with the precious nature of God, in the image of God, by God Himself.
What Is Man Like?
Man was created in God's image and has a spirit, which the Bible often speaks of as the heart (see Romans 10:10). He has a soul, which is essentially his sense of self, the center of which would be the mind. And he has a body, which holds it all together. Human beings are made up of body, soul, and spirit. God intended that the spirit of man be continuously in touch with the Spirit of God. The spirit, in turn, is supposed to radiate through the mind and the body to the outside world.
The problem we are facing today is that most people are directed instead by external stimuli that come to us through the bodily senses. So the body begins to be the controlling factor through gluttony, sex, pride, or whatever. Because the body controls the soul, the soul is able to conceive of schemes to make the body happy. And the end result is that the spirit of man is submerged by selfishness.
The spirit of the first man was like a mirror, reflecting the glory of God. He had the imago dei, "the image of God," clearly within him. Because God was personally revealed to him, God's way was uppermost. But when man sinned, his inner mirror was clouded or darkened. He could no longer see God clearly. As a result, instead of being directed by God's Spirit, people are manipulated by their bodies or their minds toward evil. In Genesis we read, "The imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth" (Genesis 8:21).
When man was created, he had the capacity to serve God, and doing that came naturally because he was in the presence of God.
As long as man's spirit functions as it should, serving God is natural, so man tends toward good. But once he is removed from God, self-preservation becomes more important; and man will kill, lie, cheat, and hurt others in order to preserve his self-esteem, his self-image, and his life. Humans have a tremendous capacity for good or evil because they are made in the image of God. Man can do more good, but also more damage, than any animal because man has a godlike capacity.
Theologians have a saying that Adam in the Garden of Eden was posse non peccare (able not to sin), and if he had continued in that, he would have come to the point where he was non posse peccare (not able to sin). He would have become so established in righteousness that he would not have been able to sin. From then on he would have been transformed to ever higher righteousness. But instead, he fell, and as a result became evil.
That is why Jesus said that every man or woman had to be born from above, or "born again," in order to see God's kingdom
(see John 3:3).
Man's spirit has to be restored by being cleansed from sin by Jesus Christ, then created anew by operation of God's Spirit. With his own spirit under the control of God's Spirit, the remainder of man's being--soul and body--would be controlled from within instead of from without.
Were Adam and Eve Real, or is the Story of the Garden of Eden Just a Fairy Tale?
I believe it is real. It is as good an explanation of what happened as there could be. The word Adam means "red" or "of the earth." It also is a generic term for man. It does not offend my reason to think there was one original couple that God made, and that from this couple came all the other people on the earth. Nor would my faith be shattered if one day I learned that this story was an allegorical description of God's creation of man.
These original humans were not subhuman or Neanderthal creatures. They were beautiful human beings, created in the image of God, with tremendous intelligence and ability. If man has gone away from that, he has gone down instead of up.
Some people may ask where the Garden of Eden was. The Bible says that it was to the east (of Israel) and mentions four rivers relative to it: The Pishon, the Gihon, the Tigris, and the Euphrates (see Genesis 2:10-14). These meager references would place the garden somewhere around modern Iraq or possibly northern Syria.
Ancient Chinese culture may refer to Eden. The written Chinese language symbol for west means two people in a garden. This character dates back at least three thousand years. If a Chinese person were asked to explain the word west, he would have to say, "Well, that is where two people lived in a garden." The existence of this remarkable symbol would indicate a pre-Christian tradition that the people who populated China came from the west, perhaps someplace in the Tigris-Euphrates valley, and that the early Chinese ancestors were familiar with the story of the first couple living in a garden--possibly the Garden of Eden.
Where Did All the Races Come From?
According to the book of Genesis, the races all came from Noah. The human race started with Adam and Eve and grew evil very quickly. Pretty soon, "Every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually" (Genesis 6:5). When God looked at the earth He saw violence. The earth had become a terrible place to live, because lust for self-preservation had grown so strong that in order to eat and find a mate and protect their families, men were killing each other. So God said He was going to destroy all the people and start a new race with Noah and his sons (see Genesis 6:7-8). God did this by bringing a great flood upon the earth. After the flood there were Noah and his wife and their three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and their wives.
Ham became the father of the Egyptians, the Ethiopians, and the other black races, as well as the Canaanites who once lived in the land now occupied by Israel.
Japheth was the father of the Greeks, the people who lived in the islands of the sea and who settled Europe and Russia.
Shem was the father of the Semitic people--the Jews, Arabs, and Persians.
What is Original Sin?
Original sin is a theological term that goes back to the fall of man. As I said before, man was created in God's image, righteous and free. He was a free moral agent, freely able to choose God or turn away from Him. By eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he did the one thing he was asked not to do. Breaking God's one commandment to him was sin. At that point he was driven from the Garden of Eden and cut off from the tree of life (see Genesis 3:2-24).
From that moment on, the spirit of man was damaged. It is as if man is now born with a moral handicap. He is lame in the most important part of his being--his spirit.
That is original sin. The Bible says, "They go astray as soon as they are born, speaking lies" (Psalm 58:3). There is a rebellious nature in most children. They just like to do whatever you tell them not to do. This natural rebellion stems from man's original sin. Instead of being morally free, man has a decided tendency toward sin--urged on toward evil by what is called "the world, the flesh, and the devil."
Only those who come to Jesus can be rid of this tendency. That is the whole concept of being born again. Our spirits are re-created. Our spirits are now joined with God's Spirit, and we have the ability to live a godly, holy life in Jesus Christ. On our own, we simply cannot do it. The apostle Paul says, "O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death" (Romans 7:24)? He says, the thing that I want to do, I cannot do. The good I would do, I cannot do, whereas evil lies close at hand (see Romans 7:15-20).
Paul struggled against his fallen nature until he realized that "There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit" (Romans 8:1). He also said, "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death" (Romans 8:2). The renewal and change in Jesus Christ can free people from the bondage of original sin.
We should keep in mind that original sin is a tendency to do evil, not an act of evil. Guilt comes when we commit acts of evil. There is no such thing as "original guilt." God does not punish people for tendencies, only for what they do in light of what they know. Therefore, little babies do not go to hell because of original sin, because babies have never committed any sinful acts.
Will There Ever Be A Cure For All Diseases?
Remarkable advances in science have led to the cure of such dreaded diseases as polio and tuberculosis. But, because much of the disease and illness people experience is caused by sin and by ignoring principles of healthy living, there will never be a cure for all disease until Satan's power is done away with.
Our bodies are only a part of what makes us human beings. We also have souls and spirits (see I Thessalonians 5:23). The body is the physical part of our nature. The soul corresponds to the mind. The spirit is that part of us that sets us apart from the animals, that stamps upon us the image of God. The spirit is the part of us that yearns for communion with God. If the spirit in us is not in tune with God, then you do not have access to the source of healing. If you lived in the perfect presence of God, there could be neither sickness nor death. There would not be infection or disease because such things cannot exist in the presence of God.
Some disease is caused directly by sin. Much sickness is the result of deep-rooted bitterness and uncontrolled stress. When people refuse to forgive or when they let themselves be "stressed out" by the pressures the world puts on them, that frequently leads to sickness.
Those who live harried and hurried lives frequently develop ulcers, arthritis, high blood pressure, asthma, and similar ailments. Alcohol and cigarettes are also great contributors to disease because they weaken the human body.
Another reason for disease is that much of the food we eat contains poison and unhealthy additives. Sugar and salt and white flour and other harmful substances weaken our bodies when used in excess. We do not get enough of the natural nutrients we should have. We try to milk too much out of our land, and, in doing so, we wind up damaging the crops we grow for food. When we eat what is contaminated, our bodies are harmed also.
There will never be a decrease in diseases until people learn to eat properly, exercise properly, treat their bodies properly, and stop ingesting chemicals and other foreign substances that hurt their bodies. Nor will disease decrease while people continue polluting the water and air with carcinogens and fighting wars that destroy vegetation, uproot whole nations, and bring about famine. All these things are contributors to disease--and disease, because of infection and contagion, has a way of growing.
Sickness and disease will be a part of life on this planet until Jesus comes back. When He comes, He will set things properly in order, and there will be no more sickness and no more death.
That is the promise we have from God. In Revelation 22:2, we are told that the heavenly city of New Jerusalem will contain a tree whose leaves "were for the healing of the nations." We are reminded in Revelation 21:4 that when we dwell in the presence of God, "There will be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away."
Man, through his own efforts, will never find a cure for all diseases. But Jesus, when He returns to earth, will do away with disease and sickness forever.
Why Is There Evil in the World?
First of all, God does not cause evil. Evil is a result of two major forces: The first force is a being named Satan. There is a spiritual being who is the enemy of mankind. He is malevolent, very powerful, and he wants to destroy God, so he seeks to destroy men and women, who are made in the image of God (see Genesis 1:26). Much of the trouble that is in the world is a direct result of the evil that Satan himself causes.
The second source of evil is the human heart. The old radio show "The Shadow" started out with this phrase: "Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men?" God knows that there is a great deal of evil lurking in men's hearts. Because of the evil in their hearts, they hurt one another; and we have war, crime, injustice, racism, and all sorts of pain and heartbreak.
There is evil, then, because of Satan and because of man's nature--and evil has a tendency to multiply itself. The more evil men there are, the more society as a whole begins to take on an evil nature. If God did not give men the chance to be evil, there would be no freedom. What would happen if every time a man cursed God his tongue rotted out? God could do that, but then He would be ruling the universe through fear. God is not a dictator. He wants men to choose to love and serve Him, and to do what is good. The other side of that choice is that men may decide not to serve God, and to do what is evil. Giving man the freedom to choose between good and evil has been God's policy since He created the first man, Adam.
Adam was what we call the "federal head" of mankind. Just as a decision by the president of our country can have an impact upon all the country's citizens, so the decision that Adam made affects all of humankind. We are all tainted by his original sin. When Adam disobeyed God, death came not only to humanity but also to the animals, the plants, and the earth as a whole. From that moment on, man has had to sweat and slave and strain to survive. The fall of Adam introduced pain and suffering into the world, as Genesis 3 details.
A few short generations after Adam, the Bible records that men had given themselves up almost entirely to evil (see Genesis 6:5). That illustrates how fast evil spreads and how it progresses from generation to generation. The human race is linked together in such a way that we are able to draw upon the accumulated wisdom and blessings of those who have lived before us, but we also receive an inheritance from their curses and their evil.
In the beginning, Adam was morally in neutral. He was able to choose to sin--and he was able to choose not to sin. Adam's sin predisposed all of his descendants toward evil. Therefore, we all have a tendency that pulls us toward sin.
Although we have a predisposition toward sin and evil, we can turn away from sin and turn toward God. God wants us to resist evil. He is willing to help us in the battle. But it is a hard one. Even Jesus Christ Himself was genuinely tempted to sin.
It is indeed regrettable that there is evil in the world. The real news, though, is that there is a way to overcome evil. And that way is through the Son of God--Jesus Christ.
Will Man Ever Love His Fellow Man?
There will always be people who love their fellow man, people of good will who want to live in peace. Those who truly follow the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ, always want to live in love and harmony with others.
Why, for instance, would any woman want to spend her life in the worst slums of India? Why would she want to devote herself to working among the poor, to giving them a home, and to making their lives easier to bear? Mother Teresa does all these things because she wants to follow Jesus Christ. She has His love in her heart, and that makes her want to reach out in love to the less fortunate.
There are hundreds and thousands of other examples, although Mother Teresa is probably the best known. When people allow Jesus to govern their actions, they stop fighting and start showing love for one another. That is the hope of the world.
Granted, there are people who are not Christian believers who strive for peace, and there are Christian believers still filled with selfishness and hate. But in the final analysis, outside of the love of Christ, there is no hope for true peace. Until those who make the world's decisions are followers of the Prince of Peace--and until Jesus Christ Himself returns to earth--there will never be true love among men. There will be rivalries, racial hatred, and difficulties of all kinds--and men will not love their fellow men as God would have them to do.
Remember, though, that Jesus Christ is coming back to reign on this earth. When He does come, assuming His rightful role as our king, men of every nation, race, and culture will be able to live side by side in perfect harmony. Not because they have been forced to do so, but because they have accepted Jesus Christ as their king and He has changed their hearts.
In Isaiah 11:6-9, we catch a glimpse of what the world will be like after Jesus returns: "The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; their young ones shall lie down together; and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play by the cobra's hole, and the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper's den. 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."
In that day there not only will be lasting love and fellowship among the people of the earth but also, according to the prophet, among the animals as well!
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