Have you ever started watching a movie when it was halfway over? If so, you were probably frustrated because of not knowing what events led up to the moment you came in. You didn't know who the characters were, or what the story was about.
Being born into today's world is much like coming in at the end of a movie. You find yourself in a world that is filled with awesome progress — of incredibly complex marvels of science and technology. Men have even gone to the moon and back!
Yet, at the same time, you find you are living in a world that is threatened with the possibility of total annihilation from nuclear warfare! Poverty, disease, hunger and illiteracy plague more than half the world. Millions are discontented and unhappy, having no hope for the future.
Have you ever wondered how and why the world became this way?
The astounding answers are revealed in the pages of the Bible. So be sure to get your Bible, a pen or pencil and some paper. Reading and writing out the Bible verses that answer the questions asked in this study will help you remember what you'll be learning.
1. What did the apostle Paul call the world of his day? Galatians 1:4. How did he describe "the last days" — the time in which we are now living? II Timothy 3:1-4. Did Jesus Christ warn that the existence of all human life would be threatened at this same time? Matthew 24:3, 21-22.
More than 1,900 years ago, Jesus foresaw our age of technological advancements and scientific discoveries. He was obviously talking about our 20th century, because man did not have the ability to kill all life on this planet until just a few decades ago!
2. Does the Bible reveal that there is a cause for every effect, and therefore a reason for the frightening state of today's world? Proverbs 11:18, 22:8, Galatians 6:7.
Individually and collectively, we always eventually reap what we sow. The war and suffering we see in the world today are the results of humans having chosen to follow a certain way of life.
3. Has God revealed a way of life that will result in abundant blessings and happiness? Read and summarize Deuteronomy 28:1-14, noticing especially verses 1-2, 14. How did Jesus summarize that way? Matthew 22:36-40. What are some of the results of not following God's way? Deuteronomy 28:15-19.
There are just two ways of life, each producing opposite results. One is the way of give, and the other is the way of get. The way of give is the way of outgoing love and concern for others. It is the way of God's great law, which can be summed up in the one word love. "God is love" (I John 4:8, 16), and His law reflects that love (I John 5:3).
If humanity had been following God's way
Hunger and war are symptoms of a sick world. How did our world get to be in such a mess? (Photos: left, Youth 85; right, Adams — Liaison)of give, we would be living in a world of universal peace, happiness and prosperity! Instead, humans have followed the way of get — of selfishness and greed, of wanting and taking what belongs to others.
Believe it or not, this get way of life and the chaotic state of the world today are the results of a decision made in the Garden of Eden nearly 6,000 years ago! Let's learn what happened and how it has influenced the course of history ever since.
4. What kinds of trees did God cause to grow in the Garden of Eden? Genesis 2:8-9. What instructions did God give Adam regarding these trees? Verses 15-17.
In the beautiful garden where God placed the humans He created, there were many trees with fruit they could eat. But God gave Adam and Eve special instructions regarding two trees. These had great symbolic meaning.
One was the tree of life. Eating its fruit symbolized obedience to God's law of love and receiving the gift of God's Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit would have given Adam and Eve spiritual understanding of God's revealed give way of life. This tree also pictured eternal life, which God would have eventually given to them if they had chosen to follow His way of life.
The other tree was the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Taking its fruit symbolized disobedience to God's law. It pictured the way of get that leads to death. It is the way of deciding for oneself what is right and what is wrong — of relying totally on the self rather than God.
5. Was Eve cleverly deceived into disbelieving God and disobeying His direct command? Genesis 3:1-6. Did Adam also choose to disobey God by eating the forbidden fruit? Verse 6.
6. Who was this serpent who lied to Eve, influencing her to disobey God? Revelation 12:9. Is he identified as the father of all lies? John 8:44.
The serpent who lied to Eve and subtly deceived her into disbelieving God's instructions was none other than Satan the devil, the former Lucifer (a powerful spirit being) who long before had rebelled against God (Isaiah 14:12-15, Ezekiel 28:13-15).
7. What happened to Adam and Eve after they disobeyed God? Genesis 3:22-24.
When Adam and Eve rejected God and His way of life, they cut themselves off from God (Isaiah 59:2). And so God cut them and their descendants off from access to the tree of life and all that it represented.
This limited mankind to knowledge of the physical and material — the things that humans can discover and understand with their own human intellect through reasoning and experimentation.
8. What does God say humanity has been lacking that has caused the destruction and suffering in the world? Hose a 4:6, Isaiah 59:8.
Beginning with that fateful day in the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve sinned, God set aside 6,000 years for man to learn through experience the lessons of living without the spiritual knowledge and understanding of His way of life, and without His guidance and help.
Ever since Adam and Eve rejected God's spiritual knowledge of how men should live with one another, humanity has continued to reject God and His way of life, and has been suffering as a result.
As human history has shown, physical knowledge alone cannot solve such basic problems as how to get along with one's neighbor, because these problems are spiritual in nature. This is why humanity now finds itself on the brink of total destruction!
9. Have humans continued to be influenced by the devil, as Adam and Eve were? Read Revelation 12:9 again. Is he the invisible ruler of this world who influences people to disobey God? II Corinthians 4:4, Ephesians 2:2.
Mankind has been under the invisible and unrealized sway of Satan for almost 6,000 years. During this time, he has been deceiving mankind into disobeying God and following the wrong choice made by Adam and Eve.
Human beings have been organizing their own societies, their own governments and their own religions according to the way that seems right to them, but that has led to death (Proverbs 14:12). Following the way of get has led to warfare, as well as the poverty, starvation, crime, terrorism and all other types of violence and suffering we see in the world today.
But God reveals that a time is coming when the cause of war and all human suffering will be eliminated. A world of peace, prosperity and happiness is coming where God's way of give will be followed by all! In next month's study, we'll learn how that world of peace will come about in our lifetime.
(For a more detailed account of how and why this world became the way it is, read Editor-in-Chief Herbert W. Armstrong's fascinating free booklet, Never Before Understood - Why Humanity Cannot Solve Its Evils.)