Life on Earth is a certainly a great struggle. The tiny chick struggles to peck its way out of its shell. The butterfly wrestles persistently to break free of its cocoon. The salmon rushes upstream, full of zeal and determination to propagate the next generation before it dies. A billion sperm cells fervently strive to be the one to reach the egg. All the others will die trying. The mother labors in pain to bring that new life into the world. And as Job said, “Man is born to trouble, as surely as sparks fly upward.”1
Surely the ancients understood that there was a purpose for the struggle. Even nature teaches us that the little chicken would not have the strength it needs to live without the great effort it takes to escape from its shell, the butterfly would not be strong enough to fly, and the salmon would quickly become extinct apart from its treacherous journey upstream to where it was spawned. So also Job understood that his struggle on Earth would determine his eternal destiny.
If a man dies, will he live again? All the days of my struggle I will wait until my change comes. (Job 14:14)
So who does man think he is? Who does God think man is?
When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained; what is man that You take thought of him, and the son of man that You care for him? Yet You have made him a little lower than God, and You crown him with glory and majesty! You make him to rule over the works of Your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field, the birds of the heavens and the fish of the sea, whatever passes through the paths of the seas. (Psalms 8:3-8)
It’s really quite amazing what God revealed to David in this psalm. Imagine this young shepherd boy sitting on a grassy knoll as his little sheep rested around him. Gazing into the night sky as he played his harp and sang to the God of his fathers, it was as if eternity opened up before him. In that moment, revelation filled his heart and mind. He suddenly realized the great love that God had for man, and the wonderful purpose He had in His heart for him. Even in David’s day, man had fallen far short of what the psalmist understood that night. But somehow the truth was communicated to David, recorded and preserved for us, so we can understand what our Creator has planned for us.
Man is God’s highest thought, the central figure in His eternal purpose. He doesn’t think of anything else but redeeming man to be what He created him to be. But for now creation is on hold until that time comes when man can be crowned with glory and majesty, and be worthy to rule over all the works of His hands, even the moon and the stars.
I wonder how many people today understand that the earth is God’s testing ground? Our character is tried and proven by every aspect of what’s been given us to care for and rule over — our marital relationships, our children, animal and plant life, how we use (or abuse) natural resources, how we relate to authority, etc. How we interact in our particular environment reveals the true condition of our heart. The choices we make in this life fashion our character and will ultimately determine our eternal destiny.
All men are born with the instinctive knowledge of God – knowing good and evil.2 Also, the wonderful witness of creation supports the natural law in our conscience.3 So it’s not that God puts man under the most horrible strain making it impossible for him to live by his conscience. All men could pass the test. No matter how difficult your struggle, you will always be able to find someone whose circumstances are beyond what you experience, but who are able to persevere with great dignity and do good through great adversity. As the old saying goes, “I used to be sad that I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet.”
If you falter in times of trouble, how small is your strength! Rescue those being led away to death; hold back those staggering toward slaughter. If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,” does not he who weighs the heart perceive it? Does not he who guards your life know it? Will he not repay each person according to what he has done? (Proverbs 24:10-12)
Man was created to have dominion over the earth and to depend on it for his sustenance. The intention was that there would be a relationship whereby man would work hard to cultivate and care for the earth, which would yield to him its bounty.4 But man born into modern society does not have the same opportunity he once had to experience this fundamental relationship with the earth. God understands this and will certainly take it into account in the final analysis, for the judgment will take every fact and factor into consideration, including the thoughts and intentions of the heart.5
We are living in the days the apostle Paul spoke of prophetically, when so many are exchanging what is natural and good for what is against nature.6 Though they began life knowing God instinctively in their conscience, they chose not to retain that knowledge,7 but gave themselves to every imaginable evil pursuit. So God gave them over to a reprobate mind, like reprobate silver, which cannot be purified. They have gone past the point of no return — over the waterfall, having brought about their own destruction. The reprobate, who are filled up8 with all unrighteousness, will be rejected by God and man as unworthy to rule over the works of His hands in eternity.
Yet, as amazing as it may seem (especially to Christians),9 there are those among the nations who still suffer and struggle to keep the knowledge of God in their conscience.10 Through their perseverance in doing good, they seek for glory, honor, and immortality.11 There will be a second life for them after the great Judgment.12 These are the sheep in the Parable of the Sheep and the Goats, to whom the King will say, “Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”13 This kingdom is the eternal nations of those who are found worthy, after great testing, to fill the earth and the infinite universe with the image of God.
Earth is the only planet that is habitable. Obviously, there is a purpose being played out here. Surely the infinite universe has a greater purpose than providing pretty lights for the night sky of our tiny planet. Once the testing of mankind is complete, the earth will have served its purpose. Then the heavens and the earth will be changed.
Of old You laid the foundation of the earth, And the heavens are the work of Your hands. They will perish, but You will endure; Yes, they will all grow old like a garment; Like a cloak You will change them, And they will be changed. But You are the same, And Your years will have no end. The children of Your servants will continue, And their descendants will be established before You. (Psalm 102:25-28)
Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. (Revelation 21:1-2)
He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe. (Ephesians 4:10)
All the planets will be made habitable for man, who has been tested to be worthy to colonize the universe. The planets will be qualitatively changed. And through his great struggle, man will also be qualitatively changed. Never again will he choose evil. Man will forever use his will to do good and to love. And God, the Father, will have all authority forever and ever.
Then comes the end, when He [Christ] delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power. For He must reign till He has put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy that will be destroyed is death. For “He has put all things under His feet.” But when He says “all things are put under Him,” it is evident that He [God, the Father] who put all things under Him is excepted. Now when all things are made subject to Him, then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that God may be all in all. (1 Corinthians 15:24-28)