Nobody today needs to tell you that the world is suffering from a giant ecological headache. If you live in a pollution-plagued metropolis, you are only too well aware of it. But what is the primary cause — and, even more important, the only ultimate cure?
Think for a moment of the earth's ecosystem as a finely tuned precision piece of machinery. Man sits at the control console twisting various knobs, levers and buttons. Invariably a big red "tilt" sign lights up every time a new adjustment is made. After almost 6,000 years of such repeated trial and error, the operator still doesn't understand how the thing ticks. Reason? He failed to read and apply the manufacturer's instruction manual. Not only that, but in this instance the operator figured he could run the machine just about any way he saw fit — regardless of what the manual said.
World Pollution — The First Cause
It all started with the first man — Adam. The One who designed and created the planet earth did not leave him in ignorance regarding the care and maintenance of its ecosystem. In Genesis 1:28 God told Adam: "...Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth." God gave Adam the responsibility of caring for, maintaining, and improving his environment. Adam's first specific job involved the Garden of Eden. He was told to dress and keep (maintain, improve) this lush, verdant piece of real estate (Genesis 2:15). But Adam forfeited His God-given stewardship and responsibility over the earth. Instead of following God's instructions, he opted for the approach originated by Satan the devil — that of lust, greed and selfishness (Genesis 3:6; Ephesians 2:2-3). Rather than do things God's way, Adam figured he could launch out on his own and take a few expedient shortcuts (Genesis 3:1-7). But Adam paid dearly for this wrong decision. He not only lost his tenure in the Garden of Eden, but incurred some rather stiff ecological penalties as well. Notice Genesis 3:17-19: "And unto Adam He [God] said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return." Ever since that time, human history has been a continuous chronicle of one environmental debacle after another. Adam's son Cain continued in his father's footsteps. The Jewish historian Josephus records that he "forced the ground." Apparently, in Cain's case, economic profit came ahead of ecological principle. By the time Noah stepped onto the scene a few centuries later, the world was in a sad state of ecological affairs. The scripture records that "The earth also was corrupt before God.... for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth" (Gen. 6:11, 12). God intervened by flooding the earth with forty days and nights of water. After the Flood He made a rather unique covenant with Noah. Its details are recorded in Genesis 9:13-16: "I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth.... And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh...."
A National Reawakening
Centuries after Noah's Flood, God decided to call out the nation of Israel to carry on where Adam and the rest of mankind had previously failed. God intended that Israel be a national showpiece for the rest of the world (Deut. 4:5-8). All they had to do to qualify was to obey the statutes, judgments and laws that He set before them. Obedience would mean fabulous physical blessings. Disobedience would bring on just the opposite results (see Deut. 28; Lev. 26). Interestingly enough, many of the laws that God gave Israel specifically dealt with environmental matters. He instructed them on proper care of the soil, waste disposal and sanitation, timber management, animal husbandry and wildlife conservation. So it was probably more than coincidental that many of the blessings and cursings listed in Deuteronomy 28 and Leviticus 26 were related directly to ecological matters (see Deut. 28:2-6, 16-18 and Lev. 26:4-6, 22-26). But even more important, these principles exemplified a fundamental attitude that God intended for man to have toward His creation. God made the earth's ecosystems to be used by man for his sustenance and pleasure. He also intended that man should never tax the environment beyond its natural capacity. The whole approach perhaps is summed up by one of the major spiritual precepts He gave to ancient Israel: "Thou shalt not steal."
Failure on a National Scale
But Israel, true to the leanings and dictates of human nature, failed in this assignment. Rather than follow God's way of giving and sharing, they chose the same selfish route Adam had taken. Although the Scriptures do not specifically enumerate every one of Israel's national sins, environmental transgressions were obviously involved. For instance, notice Leviticus 26:33-34: "And I will scatter you among the heathen, and will draw out a sword after you: and your land shall be desolate, and your cities waste. Then shall the land enjoy her sabbaths, as long as it lieth desolate, and ye be in your enemies' land; even then shall the land rest, and enjoy her sabbaths." Like Cain, the Israelites undoubtedly thought more about what they could "get" from the soil than what they would put back into it. By the time Israel went into captivity, her land was in a state of extreme depletion. The Prophet Jeremiah, just prior to the fall of Jerusalem, gave a brief description of what had happened: "How long shall the land mourn, and herbs of every field wither, for the wickedness of them that dwell therein? the beasts are consumed, and the birds; because they said, He shall not see our last end" (Jer. 12:4). Israel paid the price for her national sins by the eventual loss of what had been a land of "milk and honey." Today the hot, arid and parched condition of much of the Holy Land bears witness to her former inhabitants' cavalier treatment of the environment. No other nation since that time has ever come close to treating the environment with the respect it has been due. The Romans, Greeks, Europeans and Americans have all left a lengthy legacy of their ecological sins. Had the nation of Israel set the proper example, things might have been different today. But they, along with every other nation, never really got in tune with the environment.
World Pollution — The Cure
Almost 2000 years ago, a final solution to man's age-old environmental problems was proclaimed to the world for the first time. The announcement came in the form of a futuristic message that was brought by the foremost Newscaster and Prophet that ever walked the face of the earth — Jesus Christ. Much of Christ's message centered around the famous Olivet prophecy recorded in the 24th chapter of Matthew. In answer to His disciples' question, "What shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?," Christ outlined a detailed scenario for specific future fulfillment. First He mentioned the rise of false prophets, followed by wars and rumors of wars (verses 4-6). Then, in verse 7: "Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places." In the sixth chapter of Revelation the same sequence of events is apparently described by the well-known Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: a white horse (representing false Christs), a red horse (representing war), a black horse (representing famine) and a pale horse (disease epidemics). John's vision of the Four Horsemen occurred some twenty years after the severe local Jewish war and famine of A.D. 70. Therefore, these prophecies were for a time yet future. Neither do the Four Horsemen refer to the events surrounding the Black Death or other historical European famines. The Four Horsemen were to symbolically ride at a time when an army of 200 million adult males was to emerge from the East (Rev. 9:16). Until the 20th century, the world did not have this kind of population. But much more was involved in this prophecy than wars, famines and plagues. In the 8th chapter of Christ's end-time revelation, ecological disasters are included. Notice verses 7-11: "... And the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up.... and the third part of the sea became blood; and the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died.... and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters, and the name of the star is called Wormwood: and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter." During this time God is going to punish men for the high-handed manner in which they have treated the earth. Jesus Christ described this period as "the days of vengeance, that all things which are written [prophesied] may be fulfilled" (Luke 21:22). Just as with any other type of sin, men will eventually reap what they sow (Jer. 2:19; Gal. 6:7). In this regard notice the 11th chapter of Revelation, verses 15 and 18: "And the seventh angel sounded ; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ.... And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth."
Old Testament Futurists
Prophecies of such future worldwide ecological calamities are not limited to the New Testament alone. The One who was later to become Jesus Christ also inspired Old Testament prophets such as Isaiah: "The land shall be utterly emptied, and utterly spoiled: for the Lord hath spoken this word. The earth mourneth and fadeth away, the world languisheth and fadeth away, the haughty people of the earth do languish. The earth also is defiled under the inhabitants thereof; because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore hath the curse devoured the earth, and they that dwell therein are desolate: therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men left" (Isa. 24:3-6). Also Hosea 4:1-3: "... For the Lord hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land. By swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery, they break out, and blood toucheth blood. Therefore shall the land mourn, and everyone that dwelleth therein shall languish, with the beasts of the field, and with the fowls of heaven; yea, the fishes of the sea also shall be taken away." These prophecies seem to reveal, then, that future large-scale ecological catastrophes will occur in tandem with the wars, famines and plagues mentioned in Matthew 24, Revelation 6 and elsewhere. Could not the wars, in part then, be triggered by nations scrambling for a diminishing base of resources? Could not worldwide famines be aggravated by a defiled landscape, unhealthy livestock, and oceans bereft of protein-rich sea life? And wouldn't it be possible for pestilence and plague to run rampant if the world's freshwater supply was unfit for human consumption? Man left to himself in such miserable conditions would surely perish off the face of the earth. That's why Christ stated in Matthew 24:22: "Had not those days been cut short, not a soul would be saved alive; however, for the sake of the elect, those days will be cut short" (Moffatt translation).
Ecological Balance God's Way
God — not technology or science — will eventually deliver man from his self-made ecological problems. This will be accomplished as the events described in Matthew 24 and the book of Revelation reach an earth-shaking crescendo. But before humanity destroys itself, Jesus Christ will return to restore the government of God on this earth (Luke 1:32; Rev. 19). One of the first things He will do is to rid human society of the influence of Satan the devil (Rev. 20:2). Universal salvation will be available to all peoples (Isa. 52:10; 45:22). This, combined with Satan's removal, will mean that humanity at long last will be freed from the bonds of his selfish nature (Rom. 8:7). Men will be taught God's laws under the jurisdiction of Christ's government (Micah 4:1-4; Isa. 2:1-4). The world's ecosystems will flourish as never before. A massive clean-up campaign will be organized (Rev. 19:17-18); desert lands will be reclaimed (Isa. 35:1, 2, 6); the world's oceans and freshwater systems will be purified (Ezek. 47:8); cities will be properly planned and laid out (Amos 9:14; Zech. 8:4-5); and world agricultural production, aided by a rich, thick topsoil, will break all known records (Amos 9:13). Mankind in general will learn for the first time a proper respect and appreciation for the environment. Godly character will gradually replace the carnal selfish drives of humanity (Rom. 8:19-23). Eventually the world will achieve such a pinnacle of ecological success that the supreme Ruler of the universe, God the Father, will relocate His headquarters to this earth (Rev. 21:3). This, then, is the future ecological heritage of the planet earth. But it won't come until man first experiences some painful ecological lessons. You as an individual, however, do not have to suffer through the disasters that may soon be engulfing this planet. God has promised protection for "the little flock" — those who are willing to start living by His principles and laws in this present life (Rev. 3:10; 12:14). He has also promised these same people an opportunity to help administer His globe-girdling government in the world tomorrow (Rev. 3:21:20:4).