HAVE YOU ever looked down on the Earth from a high hill or a mountain or an airplane? From such high places the planet we live on looks very huge, even though we can see only a small part of it. Perhaps it is difficult for you to imagine how something so big could be built. But someone planned and built it, just as someone planned and built the home you live in. Wouldn't you like to be whisked back into the long ago and see some of the amazing things that happened before the Earth came to be the way it is now? And wouldn't you like to learn about who lived on this planet long before men lived here? And how and why YOU came to be here?
A Time Machine
Then let's suppose we have a wonderful machine by which we can tune into the Stream of Time. This machine would be able to show on its screen things that happened long before now and things that will happen in years to come! Suppose that you live in a small town or city in North America and that you would like to know what that town or city was like in the year 1800. You press a button on the time machine and say into its microphone what you want to see. The screen lights up with a picture you don't recognize. It shows mostly a deep forest. The scene changes, and now you see familiar things. There is the big hill south of your town and the river that flows by it! But there are no buildings, no streets and no cars. Instead, there is heavy forest. But what are those things in the little clearing at the river's edge? Indian teepees! As the screen picture zooms in for a close-up of Indians moving about, you realize that your town hadn't even started to be built back in 1800. Just as there was a time when your town and your parents didn't exist, there was also a time when the planet we live on didn't exist. And just as there was a reason for the Earth coming into being, there was a reason for YOU coming into being. Do you know what it was? If you know the exciting answer to that question, then you have a wonderful bit of wisdom most people don't have. Even most men who are thought of as being very wise can't give you the truth about why man exists. To learn what really did happen a long time ago, let us ask the time machine to show us how things looked before there was anything in the vast space where our universe is now. It's difficult for our minds to imagine back over such a long period of time when there was nothing to see. But there was something else there in place of stars and planets. The time machine screen is inky black. You are gazing into cold, empty, dark space! At first the screen appears dead, but as it begins to pick up something that is more than of a material nature, a strange, hazy glow comes in sight. (I John 1:5; John 1:4.) It emanates from an invisible Personage, and gradually spreads out to become so big and bright that it entirely fills what at first appeared to be an expanse of nothingness. Now something that isn't material is brilliantly clear. WHO could it be? It is GOD.
"In the Beginning — God"
God had to be there first because He made everything that ever was. (Genesis 1:1.) Probably one of the first things you wonder about God is where He came from. He didn't come from anywhere. He has always existed right here in space because there never has been any place outside of space. God inhabits eternity (Isaiah 57:15.) He had no beginning (Hebrews 7:3.) Because we are physical, these things are hard for us to understand. We have to realize that there are matters that God keeps secret from us. Many other things He reveals to us, especially if we are obedient. (Deuteronomy 29:29.) God always was and always will be. (Revelation 1:8.) What is God like? We know what people are like because we can see them. Your parents and brothers and sisters — if you have brothers and sisters — are a family of human beings made of flesh and blood in the image or shape of God. (Gen. 1:26.) God is not just one person, but is really a Family (Ephesians 3:15) of very special Spirit Beings. (John 4:24.) Spirit is eternal. It never dies. (II Corinthians 4:18.) It is not subject to the laws of time and space. Spirit is something human beings can't usually see or feel or hear. That's why you can't see God by looking into the space of millions of years ago, even though God was all that existed then. However, we can sometimes see some of the things that God produces. There are two Spirit Beings now in the God Family. One is God the Father. The other is Jesus the Son. Each Person in the God Family is called God, just as each human person in your family is called by your last name. God the Father and Jesus are both composed of spirit, and they are holy and perfect. Their Spirit, like their light that radiates from them, goes out from them everywhere, and is called the Holy Spirit. (Psalm 139:7.) Now we know that we have gone back in time as far as we can go and still learn something. Next we should ask the time machine to show us something of what happened when God later created the great universe in the vast expanse of space. We don't know just when the universe was made nor how long it took to make it, so we'll simply ask for a view of it after it was created.
The black curtain of depthless space becomes jeweled by millions of specks and patches of light of various hues. Each of those brighter specks of light is a gigantic, flaming sun, some of which are millions of times larger than the one that gives us our light. And though the distant suns, or stars appear to be grouped together like clusters of diamonds, they are many billions of miles apart! (Isa. 54:2.) The universe is so big that we can see only part way through it. Our minds can't even begin to realize its tremendous size, but this should give us some idea of how much wiser and more powerful our Creator is than we are. (Job 22:12 and 38:4-6.) In those clusters of beautiful stars our Earth was created. Men have thought up various theories of how it came to be there. Many foolishly believe and teach that all the stars and planets just "happened" without God having anything to do with their creation. This idea is the subject of much study in most schools throughout the world. (Psa. 53:1.) WHY the Earth was created should be more important than HOW it came into being. If we were to ask our time machine to show how it looked after it was made, we would see a huge blue-green globe of great beauty hanging against the star-studded backdrop of space. You wouldn't recognize any of our planet's continents or markings, because when it was first formed it was quite different. To create all objects in the universe, God had to provide material just as carpenters needed material to build the place where you live. (Heb. 11:3.) As you already know, God is composed of Spirit. As light shines from a lamp throughout a room, God's Holy Spirit emanates from Him to all the universe. This mysterious and wonderful power is the very essence of God. By its power the universe was created and by it every physical force and celestial body is controlled.
God didn't make the universe just so He could admire His work. He also created millions of spirit beings, or angels, to live in it. Many of them served Him in the third heaven, the place of His throne. (II Cor. 12:2.) We are not told where the third heaven is, but possibly it's somewhere in the northern sky. (Isa. 14:13.) We do know that it is invisible to human eyes, just as spirit beings can't be seen by us (II Cor. 4:18). A long time ago there was a chief angel in heaven. His Latin name "Lucifer" meant "Light Bringer", or "Shining Star of the Dawn". God created Lucifer to be very wise, good and capable. He was perfect in his ways when he was brought into being, and brilliant in knowledge and appearance. Therefore God made Lucifer ruler over the newly created Earth, where millions of angels were sent to dwell. Lucifer was to govern the angels of the Earth by carrying out all of God's orders and laws. Because God created and owns the universe, He is the supreme ruler over it. Lucifer at first was subject to Him. He did all that God commanded. There were years and years of happiness and contentment among the angels while they and Lucifer obeyed every one of God's laws. This was because God's laws are given to make beings happy. Matters went very well as long as Lucifer obeyed every rule and instruction. (Ezekiel 28:13-15.) But in time he permitted wrong thoughts to come into his mind. "I am king over millions of angels," he thought. "From them I could form a great army powerful enough to attack God's angels. If I could seize God's throne in heaven and depose God, I could become supreme ruler of the whole universe!" (Isa. 14:12-14.) The mere thought of conquering and replacing God caused great pride and ambition to grow. With it grew greed and a burning desire to carry out his desires. At last Lucifer made his plans known to those who were most likely to succumb to his tempting promises to make them rulers, under him, of other worlds, and to give high offices even in heaven to those who would rebel with him. He was elated to learn that a third of all the angels were foolishly willing to risk their happiness by joining his evil cause. (Rev. 12:4 and Job 4:18.) The other two thirds remained loyal to their Creator. The pride, lust and greed that had grown from an evil idea caused Lucifer's great wisdom to become perverted. Otherwise, he would have know that successful war against his Creator would be impossible. His thinking was so distorted that from then on his reasoning became false. Filled with the belief that he could actually conquer his Creator, Lucifer moved to carry out his rebellious plan. With millions of angels willing to obey him, instead of God, he swept up to heaven with them for the attack. The war that resulted between vast numbers of spirit beings was an incredible, awful thing. Human beings know nothing of the strange and cataclysmic forces that were used. Even hydrogen or cobalt bombs are puny compared to the powers at God's command. God has always been the most powerful Being to exist. No armies of human beings or spirits are strong enough to dethrone Him. Lucifer ran into dreadful defeat. The terrible power of the Creator was unleashed with such frightful force that the attackers were blasted out of heaven and back down to Earth. (II Peter 2:4 ,and Isa. 14:15.) God wasn't done with the rebellious angels, however. Lucifer's sin of rebellion against the rule of God turned him into a devil. His name was changed to Satan, which means ENEMY in Hebrew. (Rev. 12:9.) Those angels who had followed him were from then on known as demons. Demons are hateful, bitter, unhappy spirit beings whose pure spirit light has gone out forever, and who have only a miserable, hopeless future (Jude 13).
Awful Penalty of Sin
Whenever God's laws are broken, suffering, trouble and destruction are bound to follow. During the great battle when Satan and his demons tried to conquer God, an awesome change came over the Earth. (Gen. 1:2.) What had long been a beautiful planet had been turned into a cosmic wreck because Lucifer rebelled against his maker. The atmosphere was filled with smoke and poison gases so thick that nothing could live in it. The raging elements pounded the Earth. Little or no physical life could survive through that terrible time. (Ps. 104:29.) The only living beings left on the planet were the evil, restless demons whose lawbreaking had broken the perfect balance, harmony and beauty of a world God had lovingly created for His creatures. For a time our world stayed buried in a deep blanket of gases, smoke and water. Oceans covered the whole Earth. There was no longer any dry land. The atmosphere was so clogged with clouds of tiny bits of matter that no light could reach the seas. We don't know how long this condition lasted, but later came the time when God started preparing for a very important event in His great plan. That was the bringing of human beings into existence. There are several other planets besides Earth swinging around our sun, and probably there are more here and there in the universe. As far as we know, Earth was the only planet God chose and prepared to be the home of human beings patterned after His image.
How God Creates
For five days God worked at making Earth over into a place that would be just right to support human life. (Gen. 1:23.) It took mighty power and awesome forces to alter the whole surface of the planet in less than a week. Remember that God isn't just one Person, but the Divine Family. The Father does the supreme planning. He decided what to do. Then He told the second Person of the God Family to do it. The second Person is called the Word of God because He is the Spokesman who does the speaking as the Father commands Him. This second Person is the one who later was born as a human, and became Jesus Christ. So this second Person, or the Word, commanded what God the Father decided to do. Instantly the mighty and all-powerful Holy Spirit produced whatever the Word commanded. That is how God created and formed everything by Jesus Christ. (John 1:3.) On the first day of reforming Earth's surface, God prepared periods of night and day by clearing away much of the smoke, gases and matter that filled the skies. Thus a little light came through to Earth for the first time since Satan and his demons were cast back from heaven. (Gen. 1:3-5.) On the second day God produced a vast layer of fresh air over the Earth. Through it much of the water vapors seeped upward to form massive, clean clouds high in the sky, and healthy air that could be safely breathed. This combination of healthy gases (Gen. 1:6-8) was necessary to keep man alive. God called this atmosphere heaven. (Gen. 1:8.) He also spoke of two other heavens: one is the space beyond our atmosphere (Gen. 1:14), and the other, called the third heaven, is where His throne is. (Acts 7:49 and II Cor. 12:2.) He doesn't tell us where it is, and astronomers have never seen it because it's invisible.
On the third day, the Creator molded Earth's crust so that some of it was high and some of it was low. The great layer of water surrounding the planet drained into the low areas, causing various shapes of seas. Large areas of land were left above water, forming continents. (Gen. 1:9-10.) On the continents God caused vegetation — trees, bushes, flowers, grass — to grow out of the ground. In that same day the lands began to be green with plants of all kinds springing up from the soil. (Gen. 1:11-13.) On the fourth day the Creator swept the last of the dust and harmful gases from the skies, thus letting the sun, moon and stars shine in their full brilliance on the lands and seas. (Gen. 1:14-19.) On the fifth day he planted whales and many kinds of water creatures in the sea. On that day He also formed various types of birds to fly through the air. Soon the skies and the waters were swarming with living things. The Creator had renewed the face of the Earth and had bedecked it with numerous kinds of life in five days. At last He was almost ready to bring man into being. But before creating man on the sixth day, there were special land creatures to be brought on the scene. Those included elephants, cattle, horses, rodents, worms, insects and every kind of thing that walks, creeps or crawls. (Gen. 1:24-25.)
Finally God performed the most important task of physical work. Using the material from which He formed the Earth, He made a human being! (Gen. 1:26-28.) The first human being was fashioned in such a way that he looked very much like God. It was as if God were a sculptor, making a statue of Himself in flesh and blood and bone. Actually, He made this first man out of the dust of the ground and then caused him to breathe air and become alive, so that he became the first living soul of his kind. (Gen. 2:7.) God named this first human being Adam. He was the first living mortal man on this planet. (I Cor. 15:45.) The Creator had already prepared a beautiful park for Adam to live and work in. This was in Eden, a land on the other side of the world from North America.
God knew that Adam would become lonely if he were the only human being. He took one of Adam's ribs, while he was sleeping, and formed it into a woman. She was given to Adam for a companion. Adam named the woman Eve. (Gen. 2:18-22.) Thus ended the first week in the history of the refashioned planet on which human beings have lived for almost six thousand years. On the seventh day God rested from His six days of tremendous labor. He called that seventh day the Sabbath (Exodus 16:26), thus creating a special day of rest and setting it apart as a twenty-four hour period as His particular day. He made a law that man should observe that same day every week by resting and assembling for worship. God made that day holy time, and commanded all people to always keep it holy. The first six days were for man to work and play, but the last day of the week God kept for Himself. (Ex. 20:8-11.)
God's Sense of Beauty
Let us turn to the time machine again to get a view of part of the beautiful garden of Eden, the park where Adam and Eve lived. The screen shows a deep green, grassy slope leading down to a stream of sparkling, blue water. The slope is decked with graceful shade trees, fruit trees and colorful clusters of plants and flowers. Beyond the fern-banked stream is a towering cliff of red and yellow agate, over which falls a foamy ribbon of glistening water. At one side, in the distance, are rolling hills covered with green groves of leafy trees and flowering bushes. In the distance on the other side is a lush jungle of amazingly beautiful vines trailing thickly between tall, graceful palms. (Gen. 1:31.) Close-ups on the time machine screen show birds of bright hues flying from tree to tree. Their songs fill the air with soothing music that tells that here is real peace and happiness. Another view shows Adam and Eve beside the stream. They are amusedly watching the antics of fish, turtles and other water creatures playing in the clear, cool water. Still another view later shows Adam contentedly pruning some lush shrubs. Eve is close by happily choosing and plucking fruit for their next meal. The ability to talk and sing has been instilled in them. They spend much of their time singing together, even while they work. In their leisure time they enjoy walking in the park. Then there is the greater pleasure of often communing with their Creator. You will notice that Adam and Eve have perfectly formed bodies. Adam is muscular and handsome. Eve is beautiful and graceful. This is very evident because they are unclothed. No clothes are needed to keep them comfortably warm, and there are no thistles or thorns to scratch them. Being naked is a natural condition that gives them no discomfort of mind or body. (Gen. 2:25.)
The screen shows a huge lion moving quietly out from the deep shadows of the thick trees, and creeping slowly up behind Adam and Eve! The two human beings are so occupied with the water creatures that they are unaware of the nearness of the great beast. Then Adam's keen sense of hearing causes him to turn and look. He swings a strong right arm out to seize the lion's heavy mane — and fondly scratches the head of this beast that has come for a friendly visit! Before Eve was created, God asked Adam to name all creatures. (Gen. 2:19-29.) In that time of perfect peace, all creatures were friendly and harmless. They will be that way again in another time of peace to come to the world in just a few years. (Isa. 11:6-9.) In looking at these scenes from the distant past, probably you have paid little attention to what the time machine looks like. Observe it closely. It's the Bible! Perhaps for the first time you realize that it is shaped much like an open book. Still closer examination will reveal that what you thought was the machine's viewing screen is actually the open pages of the most important of all books — the Bible!