Why God Allows Suffering and Wickedness

(1) For centuries many noble men, philosophers, and religious leaders have tried to explain why mankind suffers. Most of those who have tried to answer the question of human affliction have not understood God’s overall purposes. Thus the answers they have come up with cannot completely satisfy our minds. Many people have become atheists or agnostics because of the agony they have either seen or experienced.

(2) It is not enough to say that God allows or sends us grief so we will appreciate the good even more. For instance, a five year old child dies from starvation in Ethiopia. How can one explain the benefits of this child’s suffering? Probably all he has experienced in his short life has been misery. Was his pain purposeless? Will he and millions of others like him receive any benefit from the agony they suffered in the small amount of time they spent in this world? There must be a complete and satisfying explanation. Why are wickedness and suffering permitted? What good could possibly come from it? We also need to know if mankind will forever be subject to suffering. Will the time come when all afflictions will cease?

(3) The Bible attributes mankind’s overall suffering to the first man’s sin. “Therefore, as sin came into the world through one man and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all men sinned. . . . Many died through one man’s trespass. . . . The judgment following one trespass brought condemnation. . . . Because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man. . . . One man’s trespass led to condemnation for all men. . . . By one man’s disobedience many were made sinners.” (Romans 5:12,15-18) These scriptures bring even more questions to our mind. “Why did he permit Satan to present the temptation to our first parents, after having created them perfect and upright? Or why did he allow the forbidden tree to have a place among the good?” Despite all attempts to turn it aside, the question will obtrude itself — “Could not God have prevented all possibility of man’s fall?”

(4) Some inquire: “Could not God, with whom all things are possible, have interfered to prevent the full accomplishment of Satan’s design?” God could have prevented the first man from sinning. This he did not do. He allowed the first man to sin. Therefore, we must reasonably conclude that Jehovah (Yahweh) foresaw some greater advantage by allowing man to experience sin and suffering.

(5) God’s plans, seen in their completeness will prove the wisdom of the course pursued. Doubtless he could have prevented the first man from sinning. However, such interference would have prevented the accomplishment of God’s own purposes. His purpose is twofold: first, to make manifest to men and angels the perfection, majesty and righteous authority of his law to the glory of his name; second, to prove both to men and to angels the wicked results from its violation. — Ephesians 3:10,11; Ezekiel 38:23; Psalm 67:1-5; 145:5-12

(6) Besides, some things are impossible with God, as the scriptures state. It is “impossible for God to lie.” (Hebrews 6:18) “He cannot deny himself.” (2 Timothy 2:13) He cannot do wrong, and therefore he could not choose any but the wisest and best plan for introducing his creatures into life.

(7) Most, however, have short-sighted vision. (Isaiah 56:10; 59:10; Ephesians 4:17-19; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Romans 11:33-36) Therefore for a time they fail to discern the hidden springs of Jehovah’s infinite wisdom.

(8) The Scriptures declare that all things were created for Jehovah’s pleasure. (Revelation 4:11) Yes, Jehovah takes pleasure in dispensing blessings. And surely these blessings are all in harmony with his personal attributes of love, justice and wisdom. God is not permitting wickedness and suffering simply for evil’s sake. Nor is Jehovah in league with sin. He declares that he is “not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness.” (Psalm 5:4) Though opposed to sin in every sense, God permits (that is, does not hinder) it for a time. Why? Because his wisdom sees a way in which it will provide a lasting and valuable lesson and eventual blessing to his creatures.

Right and Wrong Principles

(9) It is commonly accepted that for every right principle there is a corresponding wrong principle. For instance, we all know of truth and falsity, love and hatred, justice and injustice. We distinguish these opposite principles as right and wrong, by their effects when put into action. If an active principle brings harmony and happiness, we think of that as a right principle. If a principle, once activated, brings discord and unhappiness, we think of that principle as a wrong principle.

(10) Man, in his sinful state, may not be able to discern these principles very well. A person may think that a certain action has brought good results when in reality it has only seemed to be good for a short time. Sometimes what appears to be good in the eyes of man may not be so in finality. (Isaiah 5:20; Proverbs 14:12) Thus the Bible says that the very conscience of the wicked has become branded with deception as with a hot iron. Therefore he may think that what is right is wrong and what is wrong is right. — 1 Timothy 4:2.

(11) The first man’s conscience was fully in accord with God in its discernment of right and wrong. Jehovah had endowed him with this sense of right and wrong — of justice and injustice. (Ecclesiastes 7:29) This had to be so for we read that Adam was not deceived although he disobeyed. (1 Timothy 2:14) It is by this sense of conscience that we are able to recognize that God is good. It is to this conscience that God always appeals to prove his righteousness or justice. — Psalm 34:8

(12) By his sense of conscience Adam could discern sin, or unrighteousness, to be harmful, even before he knew all its consequences. The lower orders of God’s creatures are not endowed with this sense of conscience. A dog has some intelligence, but not to this degree. He may learn that certain actions bring the approval and reward of his master, and certain others his disapproval. He might steal or take life, but would not be termed a sinner. Likewise, he might protect property and life, but would not be called virtuous — because he is ignorant of the principles involved in his actions.

(13) God could have made mankind devoid of ability to discern right and wrong, or able only to discern and to do right. Such a being, however, would have been only a living machine. He certainly would not be a mental image of his Creator.

(14) God could have made man perfect and a free agent, as he did, and have guarded him from Satan’s temptation. In that case, man’s experience would be limited to only good. He would have been continually liable to suggestions of wickedness from without, or to ambitions from within. This would have made his everlasting future uncertain, and an outbreak of disobedience and disorder might always have been a possibility. Additionally, good would never have so highly appreciated except by its contrast with the bad.

Results From the Permission of Sin and Suffering

(15) God first made his creatures acquainted with good. They were surrounded with good in Eden. Afterwards, as a penalty for disobedience, he allowed them to experience the bad. God expelled them from Eden and deprived them from fellowship with himself. Outside the garden God let them experience sickness, pain, and death, that they might thus know wickedness and the exceeding sinfulness of sin. By comparison of results they came to an appreciation and proper estimate of both. “Jehovah said: `Look! Man has become as one of us, knowing good and bad.'” — Genesis 3:22.

(16) The whole human family has inherited a share in this knowledge. However, unlike Adam and Eve, they first acquire their knowledge of badness. Thus Adam’s family cannot fully realize what good is at present. Thank Jehovah that mankind has been redeemed! They will realize the goodness of God in the Millennial Kingdom. — Psalm 90:3; 2 Timothy 2:3-6; Revelation 21:2-4.

(17) Man was created in the likeness of his Creator. The law of right and wrong was written into his natural constitution. It was a part of his nature, as it is a part of the divine nature. (Genesis 1:27) Adam’s conscience, or judgment of right and wrong, and the liberty to use it, which Adam possessed, were the most important features of his likeness to God.

(18) But let us not forget that today man does not have this image to same degree that Adam had it. Fallen mankind has lost much of its clear outline through the erasing, degrading influence of sin. Hence it is not now what it was in the first man. Mankind’s conscience has become defiled. (Titus 1:15; 1 Corinthians 8:7) But this was not God’s design for man.

(19) It is Jehovah’s desire for mankind to express perfect love. (1 John 2:4,5; 5:2,3) But love that is forced is not true love at all. Therefore Jehovah gave the first man the ability to choose to love or not to love, even as Jehovah himself can choose to love or not to love. (Psalm 11:5,7) This liberty of choice, termed free will, is a part of man’s original endowment. This, together with the full measure of his mental and moral faculties, constituted him an image of his Creator. Today, after six thousand years of degradation, much of the original likeness has been erased by sin. Mankind is no longer free. He is bound to a greater or less extent, by sin and its entailments. (Romans 3:9; 7:14-17) The result has been that sin is now more easy and therefore more agreeable to the fallen race than is righteousness.

(20) God could have deterred Adam from sin by giving him a vivid impression of the many adverse results of sin. God foresaw, however, that an experience of suffering and wickedness would be the surest and most lasting lesson to serve man eternally. Therefore God did not prevent but permitted man to take his choice, and to feel the aftermath of wickedness.

(21) If Jehovah had not allowed an opportunity to sin, then man could not have resisted it. Thus there would have been neither virtue nor merit in his right-doing. God seeks those who desire to worship him in spirit and truth. He desires intelligent and willing obedience, rather than ignorant, mechanical service. He already had in operation inanimate mechanical agencies accomplishing his will. His design, however, was to make a nobler being. God desired an intelligent creature in his own likeness. This being was to be a lord of the earth. His loyalty and righteousness would be based upon an appreciation of right and wrong, of good and bad.

(22) The principles of right and wrong, as principles, have always existed, and must always exist. All perfect, intelligent creatures in God’s likeness must be free to choose either, though the right principle only will forever continue to be active. The Scriptures inform us that the activity of the corrupt principle will only be permitted long enough to accomplish God’s purpose. Then it will forever cease to be active, and all who continue to submit to its control will forever cease to exist. (1 Corinthians 15:25,26; Hebrews 2:14) Righteousness and right-doers, only, will be active forever. — Psalm 37:9-11,18,28,29.

(23) But the question persists in another form: “Could not man have been made acquainted with wickedness in some other way than by experience?” There are four ways of gaining knowledge, namely, by intuition, by observation, by experience, and by information received through sources accepted as positively truthful. An intuitive knowledge belongs only to Jehovah himself, the eternal fountain of all wisdom and truth. (Job 36:5; Romans 11:33-36) Of necessity and in the very nature of his being, Jehovah is superior to all his creatures. (Isaiah 55:9) Therefore, man’s knowledge of good and bad could not be intuitive. Man’s knowledge might have come by observation. But for this to happen, he would have needed some exhibition of wickedness and its results. This would imply the permission of wickedness somewhere, among some beings. Why not as well among men, and upon the earth, as among others elsewhere?

(24) Why should not man be the illustration, and get his knowledge by practical experience? It is so. Man is gaining a practical experience. He is furnishing an illustration to others as well, being “made a spectacle to angels.” — 1 Corinthians 4:9.

(25) Adam already had some information concerning wickedness. Jehovah had told him that if he ate from a certain tree that he would die. Thus he had a knowledge of wickedness by information.(1) That, however, was insufficient to restrain him from trying the experiment. Adam and Eve knew God as their Creator. They recognized him as one who had the right to control and direct them. God, in speaking of the forbidden tree, told them: “In the day that you eat from it, dying, you will die.” They had, therefore, a theoretical knowledge of wickedness, though they had never observed or experienced its effects. So they did not fully appreciate their Creator’s loving authority and his beneficent law, nor the dangers from which he thereby proposed to protect them. They therefore yielded to the temptation. God wisely permitted this, for his wisdom had already traced the good that would come in due time.

(26) Few appreciate the severity of the temptation under which our first parents fell. Nor do many recognize the justice of God in attaching so severe a penalty for what seems to many so small an offense.

(27) However, a little reflection will make all plain. The Scriptures tell the simple story of how the woman, the weaker one, was deceived. Thus, she became the first to disobey. Her experience and acquaintance with God were even more limited than Adam’s, for he was created first. God had directly communicated with him before her creation the knowledge of the penalty of sin. Eve probably received her information from Adam. Then the serpent approached her with a lie. She convinced herself that what he said was true. She thus partook of the forbidden fruit. Evidently, she did not understand the full extent what her disobedience would mean. Although she was deceived, the apostle Paul tells us that she was a transgressor, though not as responsible as if she had transgressed against greater light. — 1 Timothy 2:13,14.

(28) Adam, we are told, unlike Eve, was not deceived. (1 Timothy 2:14) Hence, he must have transgressed with a fuller realization of sin. He knew that if he disobeyed, he would die. Up until that time, as a son of God, he had been led by the spirit of God. (Romans 8:9,14; Luke 3:38) While enjoying the provisions in the Garden, his main attachment was to his Creator. He had not received any temptation to do otherwise. We must remember that Adam was in the image and likeness of his Creator. Yet, as long he obeyed, his quality of god-like love was otherwise his to express freely in whatever way he desired. As long as he continued to be led by the spirit of God, he would be showing his supreme love for his Creator.

(29) But Eve approached him with a temptation to disobey his Creator. He was now tempted to reject the leads of God’s spirit in order to follow that of the flesh. Now a desire for his wife enticed him to walk after the flesh rather than the spirit. We can readily see what was the temptation that impelled him to disobey, and thus walk after the flesh with the result of death. (James 1:14,15; Romans 8:6,7) His love for God was now being strained. Would he love his Creator more than his wife? Or would he obey his wife? He decided to show more love for his wife than his Creator. Therefore he listened to the voice of his wife. Both were “in the transgression,” as the apostle Paul shows. (Romans 5:14; 1 Timothy 2:14) Adam and Eve were counted as “one” and not “two”. Hence Eve shared the sentence which her conduct helped to bring upon Adam. — Romans 5:12,17-19.

(30) God had given man the freedom to choose. God also knew that man lacked the fullappreciation of sin and its results. (Psalm 44:21) Therefore God foresaw that man, when tempted, would give in to sin. God also foresaw, in order to establish before all creation the exceeding sinfulness of sin, that once man became acquainted with sin that he would still choose it. This is because that acquaintance would so impair his conscience and will that wickedness would gradually become more agreeable and more desirable to him than good.

(31) Still, God designed to permit wickedness. God had already provided the remedy for man’s release from sin’s effects. He saw that the result would be to lead mankind, through experience, to a full appreciation of sin’s `exceeding sinfulness.’ Further mankind could then understand the matchless brilliancy of virtue in contrast to it. (Romans 7:13) Mankind could thus learn to the greatest degree to love and honor his Creator, the source and fountain of all goodness. All this experience would lead man to forever shun that which brought so much woe and misery. So the final result will be greater love for God, and greater hatred for all that is opposed to his will. Thus God’s permission of sin and wickedness for a short time will result in the firm establishment in everlasting righteousness of all such as will profit by the lessons God is now teaching.

(32) However, a wide distinction should be observed between the indisputable fact that God has permitted sin, and the serious error of some which charges that God is the author and instigator of sin and wickedness.(2) The latter view is both blasphemous and contradictory to the facts presented in the Scriptures. Those who fall into this error usually do so in an attempt to find another plan of salvation than that which God has provided through the sacrifice of Jesus (Yahshua) as our ransom-price. They convince themselves and others that God is responsible for all sin and wickedness and crime.* They want us to believe that man as an innocent tool in God’s hands was forced into sin. Thus they clear the way for the theory that not a sacrifice for sins, nor mercy in any form, was needed, but simply and only JUSTICE.

(33) Additionally, they lay a foundation for another part of their false theory, that is, universalism. This teaching claims that as God caused all the sin and wickedness and crime in all, he will also cause the deliverance of all mankind from sin and death. And reasoning that God willed and caused the sin, and that none could resist him, they therefore claim that when God wills righteousness, all will likewise be powerless to resist him. But if we reason this way, we have to set aside the most striking feature of man’s likeness to God, that is, his liberty of will or choice. Without this, man’s noblest quality, he is theoretically degraded to a mere machine which acts only as it is acted upon. If this were the case, man, instead of being the lord of earth, would be inferior even to insects, for they undoubtedly have a will or power of choice. Even the little ant has been given a power of will which man, though by his greater power may be able to oppose and thwart, cannot destroy.

(34) True, God has power to force man into either sin or righteousness, but his Word declares that he has no such purpose. He could not consistently force man into sin for the same reason that “he cannot deny himself.” (Titus 2:13) Such a course would be inconsistent with his righteous personal qualities, and therefore an impossibility. And he seeks the worship and love of only those who would worship him in spirit and in truth. (John 4:23) To this end he has given man a liberty of will like his own, and he desires man to choose righteousness. — Deuteronomy 30:19; Joshua 24:15; Esther 7:7; Proverbs 1:29; 3:31; 16:16; 22:1; 31:9; Jeremiah 8:3; Acts 4:19; 13:46; 1 Corinthians 2:15; 10:14,15; Hebrews 11:11.

(35) Permitting man to choose for himself led to his fall from divine fellowship and favor and blessings, into death. (Genesis 2:16-17; 3:1-19; 5:3) By his experience with sin and death, man learns practically what God offered to teach him theoretically, without his experiencing sin and its results. God’s foreknowledge of what man would do is not used against him, as an excuse for degrading him to a mere machine-being. On the contrary, it is used in man’s favor. God, foreseeing the course man would take if left free to choose for himself, did not hinder him from tasting sin and its better results experimentally. But he did begin at once to provide a means for man’s recovery from his first transgression. He promised a Redeemer, a great Savior, able to save to the uttermost all who would return to God through him. (Hebrews 7:25) God provided not only a ransom for all, but a guarantee that all would receive its testimony in due time. — 1 Timothy 2:3-6

(36) The severity of the penalty was not a display of wickedness or malice on God’s part. It was but the necessary and inevitable, final result of sin. Through this God allowed man to see and feel its harmful effects. God can sustain life as long as he sees fit, even against the destructive power of actual wickedness. Notwithstanding, it would be as impossible for God to sustain such a life everlastingly, as it is for God to lie. (Titus 1:2; 2 Timothy 2:13) His justice will not allow it. Such a life could only become more and more a source of unhappiness to itself and to others. (Ecclesiastes 2:23) Consequently, God is too good to sustain an existence so useless and harmful to itself and others. Accordingly, when he removes his sustaining power, destruction, the natural result of wickedness, follows. Life is a favor, a gift of God, and it will be continued forever only to the obedient. — Hebrews 5:9; Acts 3:32.

(37) No injustice has been done to the human race in condemning them without giving each an individual trial. Jehovah was no sense bound to bring us into existence. Having brought us into existence, there is no law of equity or justice which binds him to perpetuate our being everlastingly, nor even to grant us a trial under promise of everlasting life if obedient.

(38) Mark this point well. The present life, from cradle to the tomb is but a process of dying. Notwithstanding all its suffering and disappointments, it is still a boon, a favor, even if there should be no life after this one. The large majority cherish life as such. Only a few, through severe depression, consider their life unworthy of living. (Even these, however, usually would desire to live, but their circumstances have caused them so much pain that they no longer esteem life something to hang onto.) But what if we each were given a separate trial under the same circumstances as Adam? Would we not all do the same as he?

(39) Many have believed the erroneous idea that God placed our race on trial for life with the alternative of eternal torture. In spite of this, nothing of the kind is even hinted at in the Bible as the penalty. The favor or blessing of God to his obedient children is life — eternal life — free from pain, sickness and every other element of decay and death. Adam had this blessing in full measure. He had eternal life, but this eternal life was conditional upon his continuance in obedience. Thus Adam was warned: “In the day that you eat from it, dying, you will die.” (Genesis 2:17) Adam lost eternal life because of his disobedience. (Genesis 3:22) He knew nothing of a life in torment, as the penalty of sin. Only those who remain obedient are continued in everlasting life. (Hebrews 5:9) Life is God’s gift, and death, the opposite of life, is the penalty he prescribes. — Romans 6:23.

(40) Eternal torture is nowhere suggested in the Hebrew Scriptures, and only a few statements of the Christian Scriptures can be so misconstrued as to appear to teach it. Even these are found either in the symbolisms of Revelation, or in the parables and obscure sayings of Jesus. (For a full understanding of these scriptures, see our publication: Hope of Life After Death) These sayings of Jesus were not understood by people who heard them. (Luke 8:10) Today they seem to be but little better comprehended by most Bible readers. “The wages of sin is death.” (Romans 6:23) “The soul that is sinning, will itself die.” — Ezekiel 18:4.

(41) Many have supposed God unjust in allowing Adam’s condemnation to be shared by his posterity, instead of granting each one a trial and chance for everlasting life similar to that which Adam enjoyed. But what will such say if it should now be shown that the world’s opportunity and trial for life will be much more favorable than was Adam’s? What if we can show that the world’s trial will be more favorable because God adopted this plan of permitting Adam’s race to share his penalty in a natural way? We believe this to be the case, and will endeavor to make it plain.

(42) God assures us that as condemnation passed upon all by one person’s condemnation, Adam, so he has arranged for a restoration of Adam and his race. “Therefore as by of the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life.” (Romans 5:12,18,19) Thus seen, the death of Jesus, the undefiled, the sinless one, was a complete settlement toward God of the sin of Adam. One man had sinned, and in him all had shared his curse, his penalty. So Jesus, having paid the penalty of that one sinner, bought not only Adam, but all his posterity — all men — who by heredity shared his weaknesses and sins and the penalty of these — death. Our Lord, “the man Christ Jesus,” himself unblemished, approved, and with a perfect seed or race in him, unborn, likewise untainted with sin, gave his all of human life and title as the full ransom-price for Adam and the race or seed in him when sentenced. — 1 Timothy 2:5-7; 1 Peter 1:19

(43) After fully purchasing the lives of Adam and his race, “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.” (2 Corinthians 5:19) “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” God adopts these as children by Jesus the Messiah to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will. (Ephesians 1:5) Eventually the creation itself also shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” (Romans 8:21) Therefore we read: “As in Adam all are dying, even so in Christ all will be made alive.” — 1 Corinthians 15:22

(44) The injury we received through Adam’s fall (we suffered no injustice) is, by God’s favor, to be more than offset with favor through Messiah. All will sooner or later (in God’s due time) be restored to the same standing that Adam enjoyed before he sinned and have an opportunity to live forever. Most do not receive a full knowledge, and, by faith, an enjoyment of this favor of God in the present time (including children and those not professing Christianity). These will assuredly have these privileges in the next age, or “world to come,” the dispensation or age to follow the present. To this end, “all that are in their graves . . . will come forth.” As each one (whether in this age or the next) becomes fully aware and appreciative of the ransom-price given by our Lord Jesus, and of his subsequent privileges, he is considered as alive and on trial, as Adam was. Obedience brings everlasting life, and disobedience everlasting death — the second death. Perfect obedience, however, without perfect ability to render it, is not required of any. Under the covenant of favor true worshippers during the Good News age, have had the righteousness of Christ imputed to them by faith, to make up for their unavoidable deficiencies through the weakness of the flesh. (Romans 4:13-25; 7:14-25; 8:1-4) Divine favor will also operate toward “whosoever will” of the world during the Millennial age. (Revelation 22:17) It will be the privilege all who are unjust to symbolically walk on the highway of holiness in that age to come, since that highway is for the unclean, that they might clean up their ways. However, not all reach its end, so those who remain in their unclean condition will not pass over it. (Isaiah 35:8) Those who do pass over it will have proven themselves to be incorruptible, incapable of being corrupted, by which death is swallowed up in victory. (1 Corinthians 15:54; Isaiah 25:8) That new trial, the result of the ransom and the New Covenant, will differ from the trial in Eden, in that in it the acts of each one will affect only his own future. (Jeremiah 31:29,30) During the time of resurrection, the time of regeneration (Matthew 19:28), there will be no marrying, and thus no offspring. — Matthew 22:30.

(45) But wouldn’t this be giving some of the race second chance to gain everlasting life? We answer: The first chance for everlasting life was lost for himself and all of his race, yet in his loins, by Adam’s disobedience. Adam was our first father. Under his original trial “condemnation passed upon all men.” God’s plan was that through Christ’s redemption-sacrifice Adam, and allwho lost life in his failure, should be given the opportunity to turn to God through faith in the Redeemer. (First, however, man must taste the bitterness of the exceeding sinfulness of sin and the weight of its penalty.) If any one chooses to call this a “second chance,” let him do so. It must certainly be Adam’s second chance. In a sense at least it is the same for all the redeemed race. But it will the first individual opportunity for his descendants, who, when born, were already under condemnation to death. Call it what we please, the facts are the same — all were sentenced to death because of Adam’s sin. Likewise, all will enjoy (in the Millennial age) a full opportunityto live forever under the favorable terms of the New Covenant. This, as the angels declared, is “good tidings of great joy which will be for all people.” And, as the apostle declared, this grace of God — that our Lord Jesus “gave himself a ransom for all” — must be “witnessed” to all “in due time.” (Romans 5:17-19; 1 Timothy 2:4-6) Men, not God, have sought to limit opportunity at a person’s death in this age. God, on the contrary, tells us that the Good News age is merely for the selection of the Church, the seed of Abraham, through whom, during a succeeding age, all others will be brought to an accurate knowledge of the truth and granted full opportunity to secure everlasting life under the New Covenant.

(46) But what advantage is there in the method pursued? Why not give all men an individual chance for life now, at once, without the long process of Adam’s trial and condemnation, the share by his offspring in his condemnation, the redemption of all by Christ’s sacrifice, and the new offer to all of everlasting life upon the New Covenant conditions? If wickedness and suffering must be permitted because of man’s freedom to choose, why is its extermination accomplished by such a peculiar and circuitous method? Why allow so much misery to intervene and to come upon many who will ultimately receive the gift of life as obedient children of God?

(47) Ah! that is the point on which interest in this subject centers. God could have ordered the propagation of our species differently. He could have made it so that children would not partake of the results of parental sins. He could have arranged it so each one of us would have a favorable Edenic condition for our testing. Thus only those who failed would have been condemned and suffer the death penalty. But if God has chosen this method, how many might we suppose would, under all those favorable condition, be found worthy and how many unworthy of life?

(48) Adam was in every respect a sample of perfect manhood. If we take the one instance of Adam as a criterion, what might we expect? The conclusion would be that none would have been found perfectly obedient and worthy. None would possess a clear knowledge of and experience with God. They would not have been able to develop full confidence in his laws, beyond their own personal judgment. We are assured that it was Jesus’ knowledge of the Father that enabled him to trust and obey implicitly. — Isaiah 53:11

(49) But let us reason at little. Suppose that one-half were found worthy and the other half would suffer the wages of sin — death. Then what? Let us suppose the other half, the obedient, had neither experienced nor witnessed sin. Would they not forever feel a curiosity toward things forbidden, only restrained through a kind of fear of God and of the penalty? Their service could not be so hearty as though they knew good and bad, and hence had a full appreciation of the benevolent designs of the Creator in making the laws which govern his own course as well as the course of his creatures. Then, too, consider the half that would have gone into death as a result of their own willful sin. They would be lastingly cut off from life. Their only hope would be that God would in love remember them as his creatures, the work of his hands, and provide another trial for them. But why do so? The only reason would be a hope that if they were re-awakened and tried again, some of them, by reason of their larger experience, might then choose obedience and live.

(50) But there two other objections to the plan suggested, of trying each individual separately at first. One redeemer was quite sufficient in the plan which God adopted, because only one had sinned, and one had been condemned. (Others shared his condemnation.) But if the first trial had been an individual trial, and if one-half of the race had sinned and been individually condemned, it would have required the sacrifice of a redeemer for each condemned individual. One unforfeited life could redeem one forfeited life, but no more. The one perfect man, “the man Christ Jesus,” who redeems the fallen Adam (and our losses through him), could not have been “a ransom [a corresponding price] for ALL” under any other circumstance than those of the plan which God chose. If we suppose the total number of human beings since Adam to be one hundred billion, and that only one-half of these had sinned, it would require all of the fifty billion obedient, perfect men to die in order to give a ransom [a corresponding price] for all the fifty billion transgressors. And such a plan would involve no less suffering than is at present experienced.

(51) The other objection to such a plan is that it would not allow participants from those who have shared in the fallen flesh as part of the judging body. Even if such a plan were put into effect, there would still be question of the fairness of God’s judgment. (With the plan that Jehovah in his wisdom has chosen “the saints will judge the world” with Jesus.) Likewise God could not justly command the fifty billion obedient sons to give their rights, privileges and lives as ransoms for the sinners. Under Jehovah’s law their obedience would have won the right to live forever. Hence, if those perfect men were asked to become ransomers of the fallen ones, it would be God’s plan, as with our Lord Jesus, to set some special reward before them, so that they, for the joy set before them, might endure the penalty for their brothers. Suppose that the same reward should be given them that was given to our Lord Jesus. He was made highly exalted above angels, principalities, powers, and every name that is named — next to Jehovah. (Ephesians 1:20,21) Under the alternative plan under discussion, then, there would be an immense number taken from the human to the spiritual realm, which the wisdom of God evidently did not approve. Furthermore, these fifty billion, under such circumstances, would all be an equality, and none among them chief or head. But under the plan God has adopted there is only a need for oneredeemer, one highly exalted above the angels. Additionally, provision was made for a small number of those whom he redeemed, who prove worthy to be “joint-heirs” with him through joint-suffering with him through self-denial. (Galatians 8:17) These will share his name, his honor, his glory and his position on the Father’s throne, even as a wife shares with the husband. — Matthew 19:28; 1 Corinthians 6:2.

(52) By condemning all in one representative, the way was opened for the ransom and restoration of all by one redeemer. Those who can appreciate this feature of Jehovah’s plan will find in it the solution of many perplexities. They will see that the condemnation of all in one was the reverse of an injury. It was a great favor to all when taken in connection with God’s plan for providing justification for all through another one’s sacrifice. Wickedness and suffering will be forever extinguished when God’s purpose in permitting it shall have been accomplished, and when the benefits of the ransom are made co-extensive with the penalty of sin. It is impossible, however, to appreciate rightly feature of the plan of without a full recognition of the sinfulness of sin, then nature of its penalty — death, the importance and value of the ransom which our Lord Jesus gave, and the positive and complete restoration of the individual to favorable conditions, conditions under which he will have full and ample trial, before being judged worthy of the reward (living forever), or of the penalty (death forever). In view of the great plan for redemption, and the consequent “restoration of all things,” through Jesus, we can see that blessings result through the permission of wickedness and suffering which, probably could not otherwise have been so fully realized.

(53) How much more like the wisdom of God to confine sin to certain limits, as his plan does. How much better even our finite can discern it to be, to have but perfect and impartial law, which declares the wages of willful sin to be death — cutting off from life. God thus limits the sinfulness which he permits. The time will come when the permission of sinfulness will end. The Millennial reign of Jesus will accomplish a full extinction of suffering and also of willful evildoers. (Revelation 20:2-4,9; 21:1-4; Psalm 37:9-11,29) Afterwards and for all eternity righteousness will prevail amongst all creation, based upon full knowledge and perfect free-will obedience by perfect beings. — Psalm 145:10-13.

(54) Mankind will forever be benefitted by the experience gained. The angels will be benefitted by their observation of mankind’s experience. (1 Corinthians 4:9) Not only this, but all will be further advantaged by a fuller acquaintance with Jehovah’s personal qualities as manifested in his plan. When his plan is fully accomplished, all will be able to read clearly his wisdom, justice, love and power. (Romans 11:32-36) They will see the justice which could not violate the divine decree, nor save the justly condemned race without a full cancellation of their just penalty by a willing redeemer. They will see the love which provided a noble sacrifice and which highly exalted the Redeemer to God’s own right hand, giving him power and authority thereby to restore to life those whom he had purchased with his precious blood. They will also see the power and wisdom which were able to work out a glorious destiny for his creatures, and so to overrule every opposing influence as to make them either the willing or the unwilling agents for the advancement and final accomplishment of his grand designs. If wickedness had not been permitted and thus overruled by divine providence, we cannot see how these results could have been attained. The permission of wickedness for a time among men thus displays a far-seeing wisdom, which grasped all the attendant circumstances, devised the remedy, and marked the final outcome through his power and grace.

(55) During the Good News dispensation sin and its attendant suffering have been further made use of for the discipline and preparation of the Church. If sin had not been permitted, the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus and the joint-heirs, who receive the reward of immortality in the spirit realm, would have been impossible.

(56) It seems clear that substantially the same law of God which is now over mankind, obedience to which has the reward of life, and disobedience the penalty of death, must ultimately govern all of God’s intelligent creatures. That law, as our Lord defined it, is briefly comprehended in the one word Love. “You must love Jehovah your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind — and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27) Ultimately, when the purpose of God will have been accomplished, the glory of the divine qualities will be manifest to all intelligent creatures. The temporary permission of wickedness and suffering will be seen by all to have been a wise feature in the divine policy. Now, this can only be seen by the eye of faith, looking forward through God’s Word at the things spoken by the mouth of all the holy prophets since the world began — the restoration of all things! — Acts 3:21

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Questions

(1) What have most of those who have tried to answer of the question of human affliction not understood?

(2) What questions need to be answered concerning wickedness and suffering?

(3) a) To what does the Bible attribute mankind’s overall suffering? b) What further questions does this raise?

(4) Since God allowed the first man to sin, what do we reasonably conclude?

(5) a) When seen in their completeness, what do God’s plans prove? b) Why did God not interfere to stop the first man from sinning?

(6) What else shows that God could not choose any but the wisest and best plan for introducing his creatures into life?

(7) Why do many fail to discern the hidden springs of Jehovah’s infinite wisdom?

(8) Does God take pleasure in wickedness? What do reasonably conclude, then, concerning God’s permission of sin and wickedness?

(9) How are the principles of good and bad, right and wrong generally perceived?

(10) How has sin affected man’s ability to discern right and wrong?

(11) & (12) Could the first man distinguish right from wrong? What is the basis for your answer?

(13) What if God had made mankind devoid of ability to discern right and wrong, or able only discern and to do right?

(14) What if God had made man perfect and a free agent, and guarded him from Satan’s temptation?

(15) What did the first human pair experience as a result of their disobedience?

(16) Who else is experiencing wickedness and suffering besides the first human pair? Will these ever experience the good so as to obtain a proper appreciation of both?

(17) What were the most important elements of Adam’s likeness to his Creator?

(18) What does man today not have the image of God to the same degree that Adam had it?

(19) What is it Jehovah’s desire for man to express? What is meant by “free will,” and how has this free will been affected by sin?

(20) Why did Jehovah not give Adam some vivid impression of the results of sin instead of permitting him to suffer the actual experiences of wickedness?

(21) What would be the case if Jehovah had not allowed man an opportunity to sin?

(22) a) How long have the principles of right and wrong existed? b) And which principle alone will continue to active forever?

(23) a) What are the four ways of knowing things? b) And why might not Adam have known good and bad by intuition or observation?

(24) In which of these four ways has mankind been gaining knowledge?

(25) a) What knowledge did Adam and Eve have about wickedness and suffering? b) Was this knowledge sufficient to keep them from experimenting with wickedness?

(26) What do few appreciate concerning the temptation of our first parents?

(27) What can be said concerning Eve’s responsibility for her disobedience?

(28) What was Adam’s main attachment or love before he sinned? What freedom did he have?

(29) How was Adam’s love for his creator put to the test and with what results to both Adam and Eve?

(30) Could God foresee that the man would disobey and partake of the forbidden fruit?

(31) What results did God foresee in permitting mankind to sin and suffer?

(32) What theory is not supported by the fact that God permitted sin?

(33) What is the theory of universalism, and what does this theory deny of man?

(34) Why would God not force man into sin?

(35) Why is God’s foreknowledge of man’s sin not to be used against him?

(36) Why is the death sentence not too severe, nor a display of malice or wickedness on God’s part?

(37) Why is not unjust on God’s part to condemn all for Adam’s sin without giving each an individual trial for life?

(38) Even though we may go through many sufferings and disappointments, how should we esteem our present life?

(39) & (40) What have many considered to be the penalty for disobedience? What do the scriptures say?

(41) What do we believe to be case for Adam’s posterity who have been condemned because of Adam’s sin?

(42) & (43) How has God arranged for a restoration of Adam and his race?

(44) How and when are all “made alive” in Christ?

(45) How do we respond to those that say that this would be giving the majority of the race a “second chance”?

(46) What questions are not presented?

(47) What other method could Jehovah have chosen?

(48) What might we expect the result to be if God had chosen the method under consideration?

(49) If Jehovah had chosen the method under consideration, what should we expect if one-half had proven faithful and did not disobey?

(50) What would be required to redeem those who fell if Jehovah had chosen the plan under consideration?

(51) What other objection is there to the suggested plan?

(52) Appreciation of what feature of God’s plan brings solutions to many perplexities?

(53) How else is God’s wisdom manifest in the plan he has chosen?

(54) How will mankind and angels be forever benefitted by the permission of wickedness and suffering?

(55) What else would not have been possible if sin had not been permitted?

(56) What conclusions do we draw respecting God’s permission of wickedness and man’s future blessing?

Endnotes:

1.

Some have thought that Adam had a working knowledge of death while in the Garden of Eden. They claim he saw animals dying. This idea is sometimes used to make it appear that Adam was guilty of the second death and that therefore the ransom sacrifice of Jesus did not cover his sin. The only scripture that is used to support this idea is 2 Peter 2:12: “And these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, . . .” From this some have assumed that when God created animals in the Garden of Eden, they were “made to be taken and destroyed.” But this is not the case. In Ephesians 2:2,3 we read the same of the children of disobedience. Paul there says that the early Christians had in times past been “by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” Certainly this does not mean that God created Adam and Eve as “children of wrath.” No, but they became such through disobedience. (Colossians 3:6; Ephesians 5:6) By nature, their sin resulted in wrath upon them and all in their charge, including the lower animals. Had Adam actually seen wickedness and suffering being performed, or performed such himself, in or upon the lower animals, then he already had working knowledge of good and bad before he sinned. But the Bible states that he came to have this knowledge after he sinned. (Genesis 3:22) Therefore, we conclude that Adam had never seen death at all until after he had sinned.

2. Two texts of scripture (Isaiah 45:7 and Amos 3:6) are used to sustain this theory, but by a misinterpretation of the word evil in both texts. Sin is always an evil, but an evil is not always a sin. An earthquake, a conflagration, a flood or a pestilence would be a calamity — an evil. But none of these would be sins. The word evil in the texts cited signifies calamities. The same Hebrew word is translated in the King James Version as affliction in Psalm 34:19, 107:39, Jeremiah 48:16, and Zechariah 1:15. It is translated trouble in Psalm 27:5, 41:1, 88:3, 107:26, Jeremiah 51:2, and Lamentations 1:21. It is translated calamities, adversity, and distress in 1 Samuel 10:19, Psalm 10:6, 94:13, 141:5, Ecclesiastes 7:14, and Nehemiah 2:17. And the same word is in many places rendered harm, mischief, sore, hurt, misery, grief, and sorrow.

In Isaiah 45:7 and Amos 3:6 Jehovah is reminding Israel of his covenant made with them as a nation — that if they would obey his laws he would bless them and protect them from the calamities common to the world in general. But if they would forsake him he would bring calamities (evils) upon them as chastisements. — See Deuteronomy 28:1-14,15-32; Leviticus 26:14-16; Joshua 23:6-11,12-16.

When calamities came upon them, however, they were inclined to consider them as accidents and not as chastisements. Therefore word was sent to them through the prophets, reminding them of their covenant and telling them that their calamities were from him and by his will for their correction. It is absurd to use these texts to prove that God is the author of sin, for they do not at all refer to sin.