The opening paragraphs of an article entitled, “Summit to Save the Earth,” which appeared in Time magazine, June 1,1992, reads, in part, as follows:

“But with one week to go before the opening ceremonies, the outlook for the Rio conference is far from certain. It is still possible that the Earth Summit will be one of those landmark events that change the course of history, recasting the relationship of the nations of the world not only to one another but also to their environment. Or it could end up to be a diplomatic disaster of global proportions, driving the wedge deeper between the industrial countries and developing countries and thus setting back the cause of environmentalism. …

“The world has changed dramatically since the first Earth Summit, held 20 years ago in Stockholm. …

“… The world has lost 200 million hectares (500 million acres) of trees since 1972, an area roughly one-third the size of the continental U.S. The world’s farmers, meanwhile, have lost nearly 500 million tons of topsoil, an amount equal to the tillable soil coverage of India and France combined. Lakes, rivers, even whole seas have been turned into sewers and industrial sumps. And tens of thousands of plant and animal species that share the planet with us in 1972 have since disappeared. …

“Today the more meaningful division—especially on environmental issues—is not between East and West but between “North” (Europe, North America and Japan) and “South” (most of Asia, Africa and Latin America). And though the immediate threat of nuclear destruction has lifted, the planet is no less at risk. …

“The tensions between North and South, and the financial conflicts that underlie them, run through every issue before the Rio negotiators—even to the question of whether those are the proper issues to be discussed.”

The doubtful ability of the many diverse parts of the world to cooperate successfully in implementing common solutions to these perilous problems of our planet gives rise to the pessimistic question: If this fails …

Who Will Save the Earth?

“God created the man in his own image, in the image of God created he him, male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said to them: Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it. … and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the bird of the heavens, and over every living thing that moveth on the land. And God said … Low I have given to you … every herb yielding seed which is on the face of all the land, and every tree wherein is the fruit of a tree yielding seed, … to you shall it be for food; and to every living thing of the land … and to every bird of the heavens, and to everything that moveth on the land wherein is a living soul, every green herb for food.” —Genesis 1:27-29, Rotherham Translation

FOR A NUMBER of years the human race has been warned of the dangers of the current population explosion—that the quantity of food and its distribution will become less and less adequate for the needs of a population which is doubling every thirty or forty years. And now we have the grave danger of environmental pollution thrust upon us, which, regardless of what efforts man may be able to make to alleviate it, is constantly being made worse by the rapidly increasing population. Some scientists are fearful that even now our poisoned environment is planting potentials of destruction within humans which will reveal themselves in later generations, when it will be too late to do anything about it.

The news media of the world are constantly calling our attention to the already baneful results of environmental pollution and the efforts which are being made to combat it. There is nothing which we could hope to add to this information which is not already known. Our chief interest in the subject is the manner in which this further failure of man may be related to the outworking of the divine plan for the redemption and recovery of man from sin and death.

Indeed, man has miserably failed in working out the destiny designed for him by his Creator. This is because, in the very beginning of his experience, man chose to disobey his Creator’s laws. It was then that selfishness became the motivating power in human activity, and throughout the ages selfishness has continued to lead humanity into all sorts of dilemmas fraught with frustration, suffering, and death. There has hardly been a time when wars did not rage in some part of the earth. Man’s inhumanity to man has made countless millions mourn. Through it all, those who have maintained a semblance of faith in God have kept hoping for a better time to come, which up to now has not come.

God’s command to multiply and fill the earth has progressed throughout the centuries, and now that the earth is nearly ‘fully populated it is under conditions which are causing mankind to look ahead with fear as to what the results may be. Man was commanded to subdue the earth, but now, in the final analysis, it would seem, the best he can do is to pollute it to the point where it might well be incapable of sustaining life of any kind.

God provided every necessary food-producing tree to sustain his human creation, but man is killing them off with poison fumes spewed forth from his inventions, and by other poisons, such as insecticides. After more than six thousand years of existing upon the earth, man has not only failed to subdue it, but has defiled it to the point where, unless a sudden turnabout is accomplished, the race could become poisoned and die in the very place that was originally designed to be a beautiful paradise home for him forever.

Although no special mention is made in the Bible that God provided mineral deposits in the earth for man’s use, we believe that this was the case, and man has been using these minerals, at least to a limited degree, almost from the beginning of his existence. Nor is there anything in the Bible to indicate that the ancients had knowledge of the gas, coal, and oil deposits which are such vital factors in our industrial age. A few in the distant past had dim knowledge of the existence of electricity, but did not know how to harness it for the use of man. This has come about in modern times, and has a very important part in the technology of our times. There is reason to believe that the widespread use of metals, coal, oil, and electricity was reserved by the Creator for the very time in which we are now living, which is described in the prophecies as “the time of the end”—not the end of time, nor the end of human experience on the earth, but the end of man’s futile efforts to rule himself, and to bring the earth under control for his peace, happiness, health, and life.—Dan. 12:4

At this time when the earth, the sea, the rivers, the lakes, and the atmosphere are all being polluted by man’s inability properly to use the resources which God has provided for him, we have this worst of all defilements, which is the pollution of the human mind and heart by sin and selfishness. These pollutants have always been abroad throughout the earth, plaguing mankind and the various societies he has tried to create; but now in these ‘last days’ the situation has become acute, for as we have seen, this disease of sin and selfishness has now reached crisis proportions.

In this ‘time of the end’, when the prophetic increase of knowledge should be providing not only an affluent life, but a peaceful, happy, and healthy one for the people of all nations, in many respects the very opposite is true. Of what value is it to humanity that men can reach the moon, when countless millions throughout the earth are starving, without homes, and in constant fear of being destroyed by poisons which selfish man is spewing into the air, water, and land in his gross misuse of the natural resources of the earth which the Lord has so bountifully provided?

Of what real satisfaction can it be to know that technology has contrived instruments which can fly to Mars, when that same technology is stockpiling deadly weapons of war with terrifying potentials of destruction in sufficient quantities to destroy the human species a hundred times over? These paradoxes arising out of human selfishness certainly raise the question as to what the great Creator is doing about this dilemma which has been thrust upon an unsuspecting world.

The present chaos and distress, which have come unexpectedly upon the world, are not a surprise to the Lord, for there are many prophecies in his Word which have forecast such a condition. One of them, presented in symbolic language, is found in Isaiah 24:1-5, RSV, which we quote:

“Behold, the Lord will lay waste the earth and make it desolate, and he will twist its surface and scatter its’ inhabitants. And it shall be, as with the people, so with the priest; as with the slave, so with his master; as with the maid, so with her mistress; as with the buyer, so with the seller; as with the lender, so with the borrower; as with the creditor, so with the debtor. The earth shall be utterly laid waste and utterly despoiled; for the Lord has spoken this word. The earth mourns and withers, the world languishes and withers; the heavens languish together with the earth. The earth lies polluted under its inhabitants; for they have transgressed the laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant.”

Many times the words ‘earth’ and ‘world’, when used in the prophecies of the Bible, denote a social structure which may exist on the planet at any given time, one of the important parts of which is the people. However, the literal earth is also often referred to in the prophecies, and sometimes there is an intermingling of the symbolic and literal in the same prophecy. An example of this is Psalm 46:6,10, RSV. Verse 6 reads, “The nations rage, the kingdoms totter; he [the Lord] utters his voice, the earth melts.” In this verse the earth ‘melts’, but in verse 10 the earth still exists, and God’s name is exalted in it. We quote: “Be still, and know that I am God. I am exalted among the nations, I am exalted in the earth.”

In this prophecy of the time in which we are now living it is the symbolic earth that melts, whereas the literal earth remains, and by divine decree to the raging nations, peace is brought to the people, and God’s name becomes exalted among the people. So in the prophecy quoted above from Isaiah 24, we find the symbolic earth ‘twisted’, and we find a leveling of all segments of human society, and finally a polluting of the earth, and certainly this latter is being fulfilled literally today, to the great consternation of the worldly-wise.

As pointed out in Psalm 46:10, in the Lord’s due time he will say to the raging nations of earth, “Be still, and know that I am God.” This suggests divine intervention in the affairs of men at a juncture when, if left to their own devices, the sin-sick and selfish people of the earth would utterly fail in their efforts to solve the problems which they have brought upon themselves. Thus, in our approach to the subject, we should keep in mind that the great Creator is still interested in his human creatures, and will deliver them. Man will not be permitted to destroy himself, either by nuclear weaponry or by pollutants.

God’s wonderful plan for the salvation of mankind from the result of his own folly and selfishness is presented to us in the Bible in various ways. The outline of one of these begins with the story of the Garden of Eden. We read that in this garden the Lord provided “every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food; the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil. And a river went out of Eden to water the garden.”—Gen. 2:9,10

The word paradise simply means ‘a garden’, and that beautiful spot prepared for man ‘eastward in Eden’ was a most beautiful and wonderful paradise. Mistakenly, the idea of paradise has been associated with some sort of spiritual existence far removed from this planet. But God’s intention from the beginning was that the earth was to be man’s paradise, and that small section of land which God prepared especially for our first parents was but a sample of what the whole earth was to be, and yet will be, when God’s glorious design concerning man has been fully accomplished.

In the original paradise much emphasis was placed on beauty. In describing the trees of the garden, those ‘pleasant to the sight’ are mentioned first, and then those which were ‘good for food’. We conclude from this that God not only made preparation to sustain the lives of his human creatures, but he wanted them also to enjoy their lives through appreciation of the beautiful things of Creation by which they were surrounded. God was delighted with his human creatures, and he wanted them to delight themselves in him by being constantly reminded of his love and care.

How beautiful indeed the earth truly is, or at least was, before man began to pollute it with refuse and poisons. Is there anything more majestic than a range of mountains which pushes its higher peaks at times above the clouds, and which are laden with snow the year around? How beautiful are the rivers, the lakes, and the oceans. Then there is the great variety of trees, each with its own particular type of beauty, and all ‘pleasant to the sight’. Every square mile of the earth’s surface has its special type of beauty—all designed by the Creator to add to the value and zest of living.

Even the food-producing trees of the earth are beautiful. And think of the beauty of growing wheat and other grain as it is wafted to and fro by gentle summer breezes. All this beauty of landscape and foliage as it left the hands of God in the Garden eastward in Eden must have been beyond words to describe. This was man’s home, and he was commanded to ‘subdue’ the remainder of the earth and to fill it with his progeny. It was a glorious outlook, and could have worked to the eternal glory of the Creator and the everlasting joy of man.

Actually, this will yet be the case, for while man has failed through disobedience, and has defiled the earth which he was commanded to subdue, God’s redemptive plan through Christ is designed to restore his human creatures to their lost home, which, when the plan is completed, will see this whole planet one gorgeous paradise, providing health, joy, and life for humanity which by then will fill the whole earth.

The original paradise, in addition to its life-giving trees, contained one called “the tree of knowledge of good and evil.” (Gen. 2:9) It is not necessary that we know the nature of this tree. The important lesson for us is that our first parents were forbidden to partake of it, and the death penalty was attached to disobedience. At the same time, during the long centuries since their disobedience, the human race has been acquiring an experimental knowledge of evil, and during the thousand years of Christ’s kingdom will have the opportunity to acquire a knowledge of good, which will enable them finally to make a considered choice between the two.

In the Garden of Eden there was also a river. We are told that this river went out of Eden to water the garden. Thus in that original paradise we have the life-giving trees, and we have a river. But, because our first parents disobeyed God they were driven out of that garden into the unfinished earth to die. “The Lord God sent him forth from the Garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the Garden of Eden cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life.”—Gen. 3:23,24

The Apostle Paul wrote, “The wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Rom. 6:23) Death was the penalty which was inflicted upon man. The ‘thorns and thistles’ and the banishment from Eden and from the trees of life were the means used by the Lord to inflict that penalty. And how efficient these ‘executioners’ have been. For more than six thousand years man has been a suffering and dying creature, unable to overcome the hazards of his environment and keep himself alive.

It seemed that as a result of the Industrial Age better progress would be made, but again man is failing. The technology which might have lifted him above at least some of the drudgery of an ebbing life is now polluting his environment more than ever before. We have learned to destroy thorns and thistles and other pests, only to poison ourselves, birds, fish, and plants, with polluted air, water, and land. Man made a strenuous effort to lift himself up by his own bootstraps, only to find that human selfishness has him hopelessly bogged down in the pollutants of his own making.

While throughout the centuries all human plans and efforts to better the condition of the fallen race have failed, God has a plan which will not fail, which is his messianic kingdom. In brief this plan is, through Christ, to reestablish divine authority in the earth. It is suggested in the prayer which Jesus taught to his disciples, “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” (Matt. 6:10) Man is in his present and worsening dilemma because of disobedience to divine law, and only by obedience to the Creator’s law will he be able to survive and to enjoy peace and health and life.

This kingdom remedy for the many ills of man which have been brought on by disobedience is presented to us in various ways in the Bible. One speaks of a “river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb.” (Rev. 22:1,2) The ‘throne’ of God suggests the exercise of divine authority in the earth. This is also the throne of the ‘Lamb’, which reminds us that the exercise of this authority will be through Christ, who died for the sins of the world, and thus made possible the reestablishment of the divine will among the world of mankind for whom he died.

Flowing out from the throne of God and of the Lamb is a ‘pure river of water of life, clear as crystal’. In some places in the Bible, water is used to symbolize a cleansing agency in the heart and the mind, a cleansing by the truth, but here it represents life—it is a pure river of water of life, and it is clear as crystal! While this is a symbolic river, as we read about it we are reminded of how man is now polluting the natural rivers of the earth, so that instead of being life-giving agencies, quite the opposite is becoming more and more true. How hopeless would be the outlook for man’s future on this earth but for the wonderful provisions the Lord has made!

“In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life.” (vs. 2) When our first parents transgressed the divine law they were driven out of Eden in order that they might not be able to partake of the tree of life which the Lord had planted there. God saw to it then that man would have no opportunity to perpetuate his life. He had sinned, and now the penalty, “Dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return” (Gen. 3:19), fell upon him, and there was to be no way of man’s getting himself out from under it. But God still loved his earthly creatures, and he had made a provision of his own for their escape from death. That provision was Jesus, who, in the symbology of the prophecies, became the slain Lamb, the “Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world.”—John 1:29

And now we find that Lamb empowered with governmental authority, and from the throne of God and of the Lamb is flowing the water of life—not a limited supply, but a river—and on either side of this river is the ‘tree of life’. It is as though in the outworking of the divine plan, instructions were given from the ‘throne’ that those cherubims should no longer keep the people away from the tree of life, that the time had now come for them to return to paradise where they could have free access to the source of life of which they had been deprived.

Concerning that future tree of life, the prophecy states that it will “bare twelve manner of fruits” (Rev. 22:1,2) and that it will yield her fruit “every month.” The numerology here involved is interesting, in that it suggests a continuous, never-failing source of life-giving fruit. It is symbolic language, of course, but again we are reminded of how miserably man has failed to provide the literal necessities of life.

It is true that in certain western countries, such as North America, and in many parts of Europe, food is in plentiful supply to those who can afford it, and we are prone to think of the ‘world’ from the standpoint of our restricted surroundings. The truth is that on the earth as a whole, many millions starve to death each year, and half of humanity never has enough to eat. We speak of our affluent society, but let us remember that our world is a very small one, which, while it may be well fed, is quite unlike the world at large, so great a part of which is hungry and starving.

We know not the details of how the Lord will supply an abundance of food for the countless millions who will ultimately be filling the earth in keeping with the divine decree, but we know that he is fully able to do it. While we need not think of the fruit on the symbolic ‘tree of life’ as representing only literal food, we know that man will need food. And then, supplied with all the wholesome food that is needed, through faith and obedience, the symbolic fruits of the tree of life will be available, and will enable him to live forever.

We are further informed concerning the tree of life that its leaves will ‘be for the healing of the nations’. In another prophecy of the river of life, where it is shown flowing from the temple, or sanctuary of the Lord, we read, “On the banks, on both sides of the river, there will grow all kinds of trees for food. Their leaves will not wither nor their fruit fail, but they will bear fresh fruit every month … because the water for them flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for healing.”—Ezek. 47:12, RSV

And how great will be the need of the nations for healing! This will be true of the people of all nations, not only those which exist now, but those who have suffered and died throughout past ages. As the life-giving reign of the kingdom begins, the people of all nations will be, as it were, wounded and bleeding, and only the provision which the Lord has made will heal their wounds, and restore them to health and life. All this is pictured by the river of life and its tree of life which are provided by the throne of God and of the Lamb.

Promises and prophecies of the Bible which give assurance of health and life in the kingdom are often misapplied to what it is believed conditions will be like in heaven. For example Revelation 21:4 assures us of a time when there shall be no more death, and when all tears will be wiped away. Many fail to note the expression “no more death,” which implies that this is a provision of the Lord for people on earth where for over six thousand years death has been constantly present.

So when we read that the ‘nations’ will be healed, we should remember that the sick nations exist, not in heaven, but here, and that it is here on earth where these refreshing blessings of the river of life will flow out to the people. Nationalism will not exist in the kingdom, but all nationalities of earth will have an opportunity to receive the life-giving blessings of the river of life and its tree of life. This, indeed, is one of the most beautiful, symbolic pictures of the fulfillment of that original promise which God made to father Abraham when he said to him that through his seed—which is the Christ—all the families, or nations of the earth shall be blessed.—Gen. 12:3; Gal. 3:16,27-29

Abraham could not know when God made this promise to him that by the time it would be fulfilled the earth would be filled, and that the families of the earth would be scattered to inhabit all its continents and the isles of the sea. Indeed, it is doubtful if Abraham had much idea of the broad expanse of this beautiful earth which God proposes to transform into a paradise for the eternal joy of all the willing and obedient humans. This includes all who will turn to him in obedience and faith, and thus be among that multitude who will be healed and who will have their tears wiped away.

This is the divine remedy for all the problems which have been created by human sin and selfishness, including the problem posed by the nuclear bomb, dread diseases, or even the pollution of our environment which all continue to threaten the very existence of the human race. And what a wonderful solution it is! When fully activated, it will lead to peace, happiness, and everlasting life among all nations, for the nations will be healed, and the refreshing waters of the river of life will restore the people to that God-provided heritage which, through sin, they lost for a while, but because of God’s love, will have been regained forever!

Dawn Bible Students Association
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