In the beginning God made Adam and Eve to look after and protect His creation. He gave them free will, and simple rules to teach them responsibility and morality. When these rules were broken the relationship between God and man was disturbed: man had chosen to follow his own judgement instead of relying on the Almighty Creator.
Suffering in the world
God is a consistent and moral Being, and so pronounced the punishment on Adam, Eve and their descendants (literally Dying, you will die). However, God also promised that one of Eve’s descendants would provide a way for man to be reconciled to God. This consecrated, or “specially devoted” one, is the meaning of the Hebrew word Messiah.
As we look at the world around us we can see this punishment manifest in many apparent injustices. Why are millions starving, or torn by war? Why does God allow these things to happen?
- God created a Universe of cause and effect. To ask God to suspend natural laws would allow us to escape the responsibility of our actions. We could act without regard and our free will would be worthless.
- Man chose to live by his own rules. Much suffering in the world is caused by man’s own inhumanity to man. But God gives us His commandments in the Bible for us to choose to follow. Paul summarizes them as: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Romans 13 v 9).
- Suffering tests us. Our suffering can bring us to a closer knowledge of God, teaching us to trust in Him and get our priorities right in our lives. So God says to Israel: “Behold, I have refined you… I have tried you in the furnace of affliction.” (Isaiah 48 v 10).
When Paul wrote a letter of hope to the persecuted believers in Rome he was careful to point out that suffering was of no consequence to those who hope for a new life after resurrection.
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. – Romans 8 v 18 (ESV)
The devil and Satan
The Bible often uses “personification” to help readers understand different concepts. For example, wisdom is personified as a woman: Wisdom has built her house Proverbs 9 v 1, also Proverbs 1 v 20. Compare this to the following reference:
… Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith … – 1 Peter 5 v 8, 9 (ESV)
The term “devil” here is used to personify human nature, for James tells us that each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. The word “Satan” also does not indicate a supernatural being: it is simply the untranslated Hebrew word for “adversary”.
Jesus, the Messiah
God’s promise of a Messiah was fulfilled in Jesus. By placing our trust in God and being associated with Jesus in baptism, God will overlook our sins and we can look forward to a new life in the Kingdom of God.
And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.” – Revelation 21 v 3, 4 (ESV)