Our World -- Why No Peace?
by Hermanus W. Smeenk
A World At War
†††††††††No matter which newspaper or magazine you read, which television program you watch, or to whom you talk, the news is always the same. Fighting between Russia and Chechnya, India and Pakistan, terrorists killing people in Afghanistan, Indonesia, Algeria, Colombia, Palestine, the Congolese Republic, and governments being overthrown in places too numerous to mention. No sooner has an uneasy truce been negotiated between two warring factions then another conflict starts on another part of the globe. What is going on? Why do we people become so easily involved in conflicts? And not only do we have conflicts occurring between nations, but we also have conflicts within the cities of the industrial world and developing nations. Today the press touts as good news that in the past year there were 5 percent less killings than the year before, but when you look at the underlying figures, we find that hundreds of young men and women, old people, mothers, fathers, and husbands and wives are still being killed in each of our large cities. According to the Japan National Police Agency, in 1990 there were about 6,000 serious crimes in Japan. By 1999, that number had risen to 9,087. According to Interpol, in 1997, there were 6.7 homicides in the United States per 100,000 population. This was by far the greatest number of homicides in the world. The next highest number was experienced in Hungary with 2.79 per 100,000, and the lowest on the scale was Australia with .86 per 100,000. Why do these crimes continue on to occur on such a large scale?
†††††††††The Drug Enforcement Agency, too, even with the cooperation of local sheriffís offices and police precincts, is unable to control the drug trafficking in our cities. And, according to a recent article in the Washington Post, because of the pressure being applied by law enforcement, many drug dealers are now setting up in the smaller towns and country areas. Theft is also on the rise. Many cars have been stolen, even while the owner of the car was seated in the driverís seat. Thieves literally jerk the driver out of the car, push him or her out of the way, and take off in the car. Security agencies have been doing a prolific business selling sophisticated alarm systems to the public. The public has come to the point where they canít trust anyone anymore. Innocent people who desperately need help due to stalled cars on the highway are unable to flag someone down who is able to help. Everyone is afraid of being "taken in" or being ambushed and left to die on the side of the road.
†††††††††Over a billion dollars have been given in grants and block grants to law enforcement agencies across the United States to enable them to hire more police officers. But, to date, this has not had an appreciable effect on the total crime figures in our major cities. Even the police officers that have been sworn to protect the citizens fail to possess the honesty and integrity needed to perform their duties. Very recently, in Washington D.C., 11 police officers were arrested for being involved in drug dealings. People have become overly covetous of the "good" life, amassing material goods, looking for entertainment and stealing the money to pay for it. Millions of people are filing for bankruptcy proceedings, itís like a revolving door into the bankruptcy courts. Credit cards are charged to the maximum amount almost immediately as people search for all the modern conveniences to ease their way through life. How could all of this happen? How can an individual who presents such a responsible friendly, outgoing personality be found to have embezzled the company funds and fled the country before charges can be filed against him or her? Why do people behave the way they do?
In The Beginning...
†††††††††For the answer, we must go back thousands of years, back to the beginning when God first made man and placed him in the garden of Eden. (For the skeptics, the Bible does not teach that the earth has existed only about 6,000 years. That was the interpretation of individuals who did not bother to compare the writings of the Bible with reality. In Genesis 1:1 God tells us that "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth" That was millions of years prior to the creation week. Genesis 1:2 tells us that the earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep: and the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters." This verse does not imply that this was the condition of the earth in the very beginning, but rather the condition of the earth just prior to creation week. It was at this point that God stepped in and re-created the earth and re-populated it with trees, grass, bushes, flowers, birds, fish, animals and other creeping things. So there is no contradiction here at all between the words of the Bible and the findings of archeologists).
†††††††††God formed man, Adam, from the dust of the ground and placed him in the garden of Eden that He had planted for Adam to dress it and keep it (Gen. 2:15). In the middle of the garden, God planted two trees, the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. In Gen. 2:16, God commanded Adam that he could eat freely of every tree in the garden, including the Tree of Life, but of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil Adam was not to eat, for in the day that he did, God told him, he would surely die. Genesis 3 relates the story every one has heard, and most people consider the story no more than a fable or a myth. But, as the facts are presented, God created a woman from one of Adamís ribs, to be a help to him, some bible translations have this as "to fit with him". As the woman and Adam were walking through the garden one day, Satan, using a snake as his agent, enticed the woman to eat from the forbidden fruit and she took of it and gave some to her husband who also ate the fruit. Immediately thereafter, it seemed that scales had fallen from their eyes, and they saw and knew that they were naked. When God came to see them at the end of the day, He learned from them that they had eaten the fruit of the tree that He had commanded they should not touch. As a result of their disobedience, God drove Adam and the woman, whom Adam later called Eve at the birth of his first son, Cain, from the garden and stationed an angel with a flaming sword at the Tree of Life to prevent anyone from taking of its fruit, for as God said, lest they should eat of it, and live forever (Gen. 3:22).
The Trees In The Garden
†††††††††These two trees, the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil symbolized two ways of life, the fork in the road of life, for Adam and Eve. God allowed them to make the choice of which road to follow. Apparently, the choice had not previously come up for Adam, although the fruit of the Tree of Life was available to him at any time. As an aside, this shows that God willingly allowed man to make the choice on his own and never made an attempt to entice the man to take of the fruit of the Tree of Life. On the other hand, Satan was not of such a magnanimous disposition. He did not want to see man take of the Tree of Life. Because if he did, that would result in man choosing obedience to God and as a consequence, receiving eternal life. Satan stood a lot to lose. We read in Ezekiel 28:11-19 where God revealed how He had created Satan as a cherub, perfect in beauty and full in wisdom, how at one time he covered the very throne of God with his wings, but although at one time he was perfect in his ways, at one point he was found to have iniquity in himself.
†††††††††God tells us how Satanís heart was lifted up because of his beauty and that he had corrupted his wisdom by reason of his brightness. As a result, God had him thrown out of heaven and cast him down to the earth. In Revelation 12:4 we find that Satan, here symbolically referred to as a great red dragon, took one third of the angels, symbolically referred to as stars, with him when he was cast down to the earth. It was there where Satan was banished and, apparently, may have been the ruler over the earth for previous millenia. This is born out in Matthew 4 which relates the temptation of Jesus by Satan. Satan promised Jesus rulership over the whole world if Jesus would bow down before Satan and worship him. Jesus acknowledged that Satan had the power to give him that rulership since Jesus did not contradict Satan by telling him that God ruled the world. And again, in John 14:30, Jesus told his disciples shortly before he was arrested that the prince of the world was coming but had nothing in him, Jesus.
Satan -- Ruler Of This World
†††††††††Satan, therefore, was the ruler of the earth and all that was on the earth. Adam, if he had taken of the Tree of Life would have qualified to supplant Satan as the ruler over the earth. However, he failed. Jesus Christ, on the other hand, did qualify to sit on the throne of the earth after He was crucified on the cross (see John 16:33, "These things I have spoken unto you, that in me you might have peace. In the world you shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world"). At His second coming, which is now much closer to that time than ever before, Christ will come to establish His Kingdom upon this earth, supplanting Satan who will be banished for a thousand years to a bottomless pit (Rev. 20:2-3).
†††††††††As you can see, Satan had a lot to lose, so he set out to deceive the woman, speaking through the mouth of a snake to move her to take of the forbidden fruit. He told her that, contrary to what God had told them, they would NOT die, but instead, would become as God, knowing good from evil. Eve believed the lie and also gave of the fruit to her husband who was with her. (Ever since that time, people have believed the lie that they do not die, but live forever as a spiritual soul). As soon as Eve and Adam had eaten the fruit, they came under the rulership of Satan. Paul tells us in Romans 6:16, "Donít you know that to whomever you yield yourselves to serve, his servants are you to whom you obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?" (Paraphrased) Adam and Eve, therefore, came under the rulership of Satan instead of God. Although they did not immediately die physically, they died spiritually because they had rejected obedience to God and lost the opportunity to attain to the eternal life that God had held out to them. As a further result, they became estranged from God and no longer had access to Him except for a very small number of individuals whom God chose to carry on His work down through the ages among of the people. It took Christ's death on the cross for the forgiveness of our past sins to make atonement for us with God so that we could be reconciled to Him and once again had access to God. Figuratively speaking, this would place us back in the Garden of Eden and give us the opportunity to eat the fruit from the Tree of Life and to reject the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.
†††††††††After Satan usurped the power over mankind through Adam and Eve, he instilled his attitude in varying degrees upon us all. Because the Tree of Knowledge symbolized both good and evil attitudes, mankind retained a share of goodness, as man interprets it among themselves and towards one another. However, mankind has also accepted Satanís ways of competition, corruption, lying, stealing, murdering and hate towards those with whom we share our place in the world. It is for this reason that we find ourselves living in a world of crime, divorce, rebelliousness, hate between peoples and among ourselves, and wars, for both religious as well as economic reasons. Satan does not want to see peace in this world, heíll do whatever it takes to corrupt mankind to the point that they cannot change even when God has opened the way for men to be freed from the power of Satan. Satan knows that Godís purpose for creating mankind is to offer all men and women the opportunity to join the God family and ultimately to rule the entire universe with Him. For that reason, Satan will not allow peace between nations or between or within families. He will continue to influence people to be selfishly motivated and treat others with disrespect and contempt. In addition, Satan has embarked on a whispering campaign to keep thoughts of God and obedience to Him out of the minds of our judges, rulers, and citizens. For those that may disbelieve the whispers, he uses other methods to convince them that there is no God. He may cause them to suffer through the loss of a job or a husband or wife, the death of a child, robbery or rape, or any similar calamity. People are always looking for a reason that things happened to them, and unless they are strong in the faith, they will doubt the existence of a loving God, asking themselves: "If there is a God, why does He allow these things to happen to me? Canít He see what has happened? Doesnít He care?"
What Is God Doing Now?
†††††††††God does care. He knows all that is happening in this world. But when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit, they, in essence, rejected God. They wanted to have the "wisdom" to decide for themselves the difference between good and evil, to decide for themselves what is good and what is evil. For these last nearly 6,000 years, man has been making these decisions, and failing miserably to make the right decisions. The pain and misery suffered by mankind during all these years attests to this fact. However, God continues to allow mankind to experience the results of his follies until mankind reaches the point at which he will surely annihilate himself unless God steps in and stops him from doing so. At that time, Jesus Christ will be sent to stop mankind from annihilating himself and will establish Godís kingdom on the earth, at last supplanting Satan and his demons. Until then, God allows us to write our history in our misery and blood so that we may learn and remember that only God can rule over us and cause us to live in peace and of one mind.
†††††††††However, as I mentioned earlier, God does continue to perform His work here in the world through a very small number of individuals. God has called these individuals for a special purpose, to learn to live in obedience to Him now and to acquire Godís very nature and characteristics through the workings of God's Holy Spirit. Their reward (not their earnings for we cannot earn our salvation) which is God's gift to them, will be to take part in the first resurrection (I Corinth. 15: 51-57) and to live and reign with Christ after His return to the earth (Rev. 5:10). In the next chapter we will contrast human nature with God's nature and discuss how to conquer our human nature. Continue to read the next chapter titled:††"Conquering Human Nature"
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