Every day we read in our newspapers of the great sadness so many in the world are experiencing. Calamity upon calamity; and one act of man’s wickedness follow another. Yes there are glimmers of hope to encourage us, but they seem to be few and far between. And despite the best efforts of political systems and benevolent organizations, we do not seem to make any real progress in eliminating evil, pain and suffering.
Is the world getting better, or worse? Is mankind inherently good, or evil? We could answer these questions with an optimistic, self-generated hope, and say that the world is getting better and that mankind is inherently good. But do history and current world events support that position? And more importantly, if the Bible is God’s Word (and I believe the evidence overwhelmingly testifies that it is), what does the Bible say about these questions?
Yes, mankind was created in God’s image. But then we encounter God’s observations concerning humanity in Genesis 6:5, “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” I do not think this was a surprise to God, Who created mankind. I believe God knew man’s wickedness would manifest itself. I believe this is part of a process that will one day result in absolute perfection. But we are not there yet.
All of the Bible describes a process. There is only one place where we see a brief glimpse of the ultimate, perfect conclusion that will one day come to pass, and that is 1 Corinthians 15:20-28. Here we see Christ accomplishing His mission, all enemies defeated, all things in subjection to God, and God finally becoming All in all. Currently God is All in some; but when the process is completed He will be All in all.
Other than this 1 Corinthians passage, reach into the Bible and we see all things in a process. Throughout the Bible, as in our newspapers today, we see men doing horrendous things to other men. We see jealousy, greed and pride. We see agony and suffering.
Where is the hope?
First; our ultimate hope is in the perfect conclusion God is working toward. (The word used in the Bible is better translated “expectation” since it is a sure conclusion, and not just a “hope” as we understand that word today.) We know that one day all wickedness and evil will be eliminated, all consequences for man’s various behaviors addressed, and a complete restoration and reconciliation of all things to God. We must come to see that the best of political intentions or benevolent programs can never solve the many problems we experience in this world. They can never fully eliminate the pain and suffering of man. But one day God will set things right and bring absolute perfection, as He has promised in His Word.
Second, this does not mean that we are to sit back and be content with the way things are, waiting for God to bring the permanent fix. Each of us is gifted in specific ways. And if we use these gifts not simply for our own enjoyment or betterment but for the good of all men, we can play a part. We need not be discouraged that the part we play does not eliminate the problems in this world, since we know this will not happen and that ultimately God will be bringing the complete and permanent solution. But in using our gifts for the good of mankind we are being faithful in using what God has given us, and our acts become a testimony to others that will cause them to see God working thru us. And so in using the gifts God has given us, we are playing a part within the process whereby men are coming to recognize God as God, and are becoming subjected to and reconciled to Him.
There is hope. Better than hope, there is expectation. Thankfully the solution is not within the grasp of men alone. If it were so, we would become very discouraged. But because we know that God is ultimately in control, we can be content in knowing that the small part we play is doing some good, causing some to see God thru us, and is moving the world one step closer to the plan of God to restore and reconcile all things.
Most preachers, Bible teachers, and believers within organized churches will tell you that God will save and reconcile some mankind, but others will be tormented forever in hell because they did not believe in Jesus Christ in this short lifetime. If this were so, there would never be completion to God’s plan and He could never become All in all. And since every person probably has at least one family member or friend that would be destined for eternal torment, where is the hope for any of us? Thankfully organized religion is wrong, for the Bible tells us very clearly of God’s plan to ultimately save ALL mankind; not just some. Escape the bonds of organized religion and study God’s Word for yourself … very carefully and using concordances to challenge even the translation you are using … and you will see God’s perfect plan for the reconciliation of all things!
For those among Christians who believe that Christ has already returned spiritually, and is now establishing His kingdom upon the earth, I would say that historical evidence and current events do not seem to support this conclusion. Things are getting worse, not better. The kingdom is not yet established upon this earth. Only a small foretaste of that kingdom can be seen in the body of Christ. But Christ will one day return and establish His kingdom, in a day of God’s choosing. There is no reason to force a spiritual application to the Bible on this question. That which is spoken of concerning Christ’s return is literal.
Why doesn’t God move more quickly to get us to the conclusion? I do not claim to understand why all of the evil must exist in this temporal time, resulting in so much pain and suffering. If I did try to offer an explanation, I would be as Job’s friends who thought they knew enough about the ways of God to be able to counsel Job. But I do know that our pain and suffering is tempered when we realize the ultimate plan of God. And we can trust God, the creator of all things and the inventor of love, that one day all that we experience will be set right, and all things will be restored and reconciled.