“Multiply and Fill the Earth”

SIX thousand years ago the Creator commanded our first parents, whom he had just created, to multiply and fill the earth and subdue it. Today, the carrying out of this divine purpose is posing a serious problem in many parts of the earth. At the present time the number of births over deaths is so great that the total population of the earth in about 35 years will be double what it is now. At the same time, due partly to two global wars in a generation and partly to inadequate systems of distribution, two-thirds of the earth’s population are chronically undernourished.

Increasing populations in all countries, and a proportionate decrease of essential food supplies nearly everywhere, are among the most serious problems facing the world today. While not acute in the sense that either one or both will necessarily cause war this year, nevertheless they are among the basic reasons for the ever mounting tension between the eastern and western worlds, which, if a solution is not found, will help to plunge the nations into a bitter and destructive slaughter more terrible than anything we can now imagine. Many years ago Sir Gladwyn Jebb, when president of the United Nations Security Council, said:

“If the population problems of underdeveloped countries are not solved, there will either be an outburst of anarchy or some attempt will be made to solve them on Stalinist lines—even though this might mean the elimination of millions of people in the areas concerned and human suffering on a colossal scale.”

Americans on the whole seem glad that the population of this country is increasing, but that which may seem desirable here is even now, in view of world instability, a growing menace in many countries. Let’s note a few examples and figures:

Egypt, with one of the highest rates of population growth in the world, and with its 1974 population of 38 million souls largely crowded along the narrow green strip of the River Nile, will by 1984 have a total population of some 50 millions, meaning an additional 12 million mouths to feed.

The tiny Philippines, with an even higher rate of growth, will by 1984 add some 17 millions to their 1974 population of 43 millions, which figure will double in a short 21 years to about 86 millions.

It is calculated that Latin America’s population will double in 26 years from its 1974 figure of 320 millions to about 640 millions in the year 2000.

In 1974 India’s population was estimated at 620 millions, which by 1984 will probably grow to some 800 millions. In this one country alone the increase of 180 millions in a mere 10 years’ time is equal to the combined population of Great Britain, France, West Germany, and Belgium.

In the same period it is estimated that China’s 1974 population of 920 millions will increase to some 1,170 millions by 1984. This indicated 10-year increase of about 250 millions is greater than the entire population of North America at the present time. By the year 2003 it is projected that the 1974 population of China will double in number to some 1,840 millions.

The rapid increase of the world’s population during the last three-quarters of a century is due partly to the lowering death rate resulting from the increase of medical knowledge. This is more pronounced in the United States than in most other countries; although here the birthrate has decreased more rapidly than the death rate, which means that the population increase has lagged far behind that of many other countries. Midway in the 19th century the average length of life in the United States was under 40 years, whereas now it is over 71, and is still rising.

In addition to increasing medical skill, knowledge of all kinds has contributed to this great increase of life expectancy. Even in the United States, a hundred years ago cities were just beginning to install water systems, and as late as 1845 the largest city of the country did not have a public sewage system. There was then no central heating. In fact, there were none of the many modern conveniences which are considered essential to life in this country today.

Without investigating historical facts, many suppose that these improvements in the conditions of living and working were of gradual development. But they were not. They have all come suddenly by comparison with the thousands of years of virtually no progress which preceded the opening of the 19th century. The Bible alone gives us the reason for this. Its prophecies identify our era as “the time of the end,” and they inform us that there would be a phenomenal “increase of knowledge.” (Dan. 12:4) Other prophecies indicate that this increase of knowledge would be brought about by divine providence, one highly symbolic statement being that God’s lightnings would enlighten the earth. (Ps. 77:18) Light is used in the Bible as a symbol of knowledge.

This divinely foretold general enlightenment of the world in the prophetic “time of the end” is also responsible for many of the distressing problems facing the world today. Only recently, for example, a spokesman for India, in a plea to the western world to get a better understanding of Asia’s problems, said that the United States does not seem to realize as yet the great change that has occurred throughout the Asiatic world due to the spread of knowledge, and that these once backward peoples now want their rightful place in the affairs of the world and their just share of earth’s bounties.

Within America, the enlightenment of the people caused a rebellion against conditions which in 1900 gave skilled workers less than $500 a year, while Andrew Carnegie, in the same year, by the exploitation of their labor, made a net profit of $23,000,000, with no income tax to pay. The same power of knowledge is causing backward nations to rebel against the more privileged inhabitants of the earth. The result of this, both within and among nations, was foretold by Daniel as “a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation.” Jesus described it as “distress of nations, with perplexity, … men’s hearts failing them for fear,” as they looked forward to the things coming upon the earth.—Luke 21:25,26

It may seem paradoxical that the increasing knowledge of the people should on the one hand result in so many advantages and blessings, while on the other it leads to increasing tension and trouble throughout the world, one of the problems being the accelerating increase of the world’s population. However, this is understandable when we take into consideration that knowledge alone does not do away with human selfishness, and basically this continues to be, even as in the past, the world’s number one problem.

Only the prophecies of the Bible furnish the real explanation of this complex situation which now confronts the world. That explanation is summed up in such prophetic expressions as “the time of the end,” “the last days,” and “the day of the Lord.” However, “the time of the end” does not mean the end of time. Nor does the expression “last days” mean the end of human experience, or of human life on the earth. “The day of the Lord [Jehovah]” does denote that this time in which we are living is the Lord’s due time for world-shaking changes to occur, a time when the human race will be brought head-on with situations which soon will cause the people of all nations to realize that they cannot continue doing as they like, as has been the case throughout the centuries, but that now a higher power must be recognized and obeyed by all who wish to continue to live.

It is, then, “the time of the end” of a humanly created social order. These are the “last days” of the selfish exploitation of man and of all the suffering caused thereby. It is the time leading to the establishment in the earth of Christ’s kingdom, a rulership which will have to be recognized by all the people, both on this side and on the other side of the Iron Curtain. When we take these scriptural facts into consideration, then everything which is taking place in the world today, paradoxical though it may seem, fits into a prophetic pattern which is harmonious and most revealing.

Take the population problem, for example. As already noted, God’s command was to multiply and fill the earth. The Scriptures reveal that this was due to be accomplished about the time the long-awaited kingdom of Christ would be set up in the earth. The command to multiply was limited, and it is implied that when a sufficient number of people have been born to fill the earth properly, the Lord will intervene to stop human propagation.

And during the reign of Christ, now at the door, sickness and death will be destroyed; for the human race is to be restored to the perfection of life lost by our first parents when they disobeyed God’s law. The secret of life is held by the Lord and will continue to be, which means that miracle-working power will need to be employed in order that all the Bible’s promises of health and everlasting life be fulfilled. This is especially true with respect to the resurrection of the dead, for they are to be brought back to life.

On the other hand, we think it is reasonable to suppose that man will be permitted to cooperate in connection with many of the changes to be wrought by the new kingdom. Already the average length of human life, having reached an all-time low at the beginning of “the time of the end,” has been nearly doubled. This has come about through the increase of knowledge, which itself is of divine providence.

Those who are now so concerned over the possibility that the earth will soon become overpopulated, give as their only hope the fact that medical science will discover new and adequate means of birth control. To what extent man will be permitted to find the solution to this problem, the Scriptures do not reveal; but we can be assured that the Creator who said to our first parents that they should multiply and fill the earth will make certain that procreation ceases when the earth is filled.

Meanwhile, the foretold increase of knowledge continues to support the forces of selfishness which are wrecking man’s world, preparatory to the inauguration of Christ’s kingdom. The governmental controls in that kingdom will restrain evil by first of all binding Satan, the mastermind which set in motion the principle of selfishness. Love will then be made the governing principle in all human relations, and “nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”—Isa. 2:4; Micah 4:4

Dawn Bible Students Association
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