Mystery of the Ages Synopsis, Part 4: Mystery of Civilization
Herbert W. Armstrong wrote Mystery of the Ages just before his death in 1986. He believed it was the second-most important book on Earth because it was a summary of the most important book: the Holy Bible. Anyone who studies Mystery of the Ages with an open mind will agree that no man could have written it; God must have used Mr. Armstrong to record this precious instruction, relevant to every human.
Of all the literature produced and distributed by the Philadelphia Church of God, Mystery of the Ages receives by far the most requests and feedback. Countless readers have praised this book for changing or saving their lives. One reader from Pennsylvania wrote:
Mr. Armstrong spent a lifetime accumulating all these truths written down in Mystery of the Ages. All this truth wasn’t just handed to him in one day. He had to fight for [it]. He spent most of his life praying for that wisdom and understanding and truth, digging into the very Word of God and looking for the truth as if it were gold or silver. (emphasis mine throughout).
Another reader replied:
It is a great testimony of true character for a man to emotionally proclaim in his ninety-fourth year that it was a big day in his life because of sharing, in the form of a book, the revelatory gift of God concerning the great mysteries of life that have plagued the world.
Mr. Armstrong knew that Mystery of the Ages would help people understand why human civilization is so advanced yet so cursed. He explained this particular truth in Chapter 4: Mystery of Civilization.
The Two Trees
The developed nations of the world have achieved awesome progress and every luxury imaginable. At the same time, these nations are cursed with crime, violence, injustice, family breakdown, divorce and childrearing trouble. Developing nations suffer terrible poverty and other ills. More than half the world is illiterate.
This is not God’s world. There are so many horrendous problems that man has proven incapable of solving. Who can solve them?
To understand how we got to this point in human history, we must go back to the very beginning. Otherwise, it’s like we’re viewing only the end of a movie; we won’t understand the movie because we haven’t seen most of it.
The foundation of modern civilization was laid in the Garden of Eden. Adam and Eve, the first man and the first woman, lived in this lush, bountiful environment. In the Garden of Eden were two symbolic trees: the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which you could call the tree of death. These two trees probably looked exactly the same. After receiving abundant instruction from God about the difference between the trees, Adam and Eve faced temptation from Satan the devil. They had to choose between God’s way of life and Satan’s way of death. They chose wrong.
All mankind is now suffering from Adam and Eve’s horrible decision! Satan took the vast majority of humans captive from the beginning.
Throughout Mr. Armstrong’s ministry, people would wonder why he spoke so often about the two trees. I heard students at Ambassador College and members of the Worldwide Church of God complaining about that! Why did Mr. Armstrong go back to the Garden of Eden? Because it’s the foundation of our present civilization! If you don’t understand this vital truth, you will be deceived just like Adam and Eve were. Even 95 percent of God’s own Church, people who attended Mr. Armstrong’s lectures and sermons about the two trees, were deceived because they didn’t care to know why mankind has veered so far off course!
What is wrong with mankind? What is causing our terrible problems, the worst one being our threatening of our own survival? Why is this world infested with filth and squalor? God doesn’t believe in living in poverty and ruin, doomed to a miserable future. The throne room where He dwells is the opposite of the alarming conditions on Earth. It is full of the most brilliant splendor, beauty, quality and character that we can even imagine! God wants to give us the very best as well. But first, we must develop the ultimate beauty of His righteousness and holiness (1 Chronicles 16:29).
Mr. Armstrong founded three Ambassador College campuses that won numerous awards for their beauty. Yet what he cared about so much more was the beauty, the godly character, being developed in the students! Ambassador College was a character-building institution. The students at our two Herbert W. Armstrong College campuses today also work toward building godly character. We are all sinners, but we ought to be working feverishly to overcome our sins.
What are the fruits of man’s 6,000 years on Earth? He has polluted everything, destroyed all hope for lasting peace through countless bloody wars, and, worst of all, degraded his own character. We are here on Earth to build God’s character, not tear it down! (Matthew 5:48). Because of the choice of the first man and woman, God has cut mankind off from the tree of life. This is the rotten foundation of a civilization that produces rotten fruits. Adam’s children have followed in his footsteps.
Convinced by Satan, Adam and Eve took it upon themselves to form their own systems of government, education, religion, finance, agriculture and industry. They said, We’ll work it out. We’ll do it our way. They rejected God and the tree of life. The world has been enslaved to Satan ever since.
The Master Broadcaster
God had to pay a ransom to one day redeem every human who has ever lived from the clutches of our kidnapper, Satan. He sent His Son to Earth to be savagely beaten so that we may receive healing of our physical infirmities, and to be brutally crucified so that we may be forgiven of our spiritual sins and reconciled with our Father. All people will soon be resurrected and given an opportunity to know God.
But today, Satan rules the world. The Bible calls him “the prince of the power of the air” (Ephesians 2:2). He broadcasts constantly, like transmitters broadcast soundwaves and pictures to a radio or a television. He broadcasts to human beings in the form of feelings, attitudes, moods and impulses. If we would let God empower us to tune out from that influence, Satan wouldn’t hold such sway over us.
“Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it” (John 8:44).
Satan has been a murderer from the beginning. He caused Adam’s firstborn son, Cain, to kill his own brother, Abel. The very first child born on Earth became a murderer! Satan stirred Cain up with hostility. He worked on Cain’s feelings and attitudes until he snapped. When God confronted Cain about his sin, Cain lied—just like Satan!
Only Christ’s blood can pay for our sins. Every one of us has broken God’s law, making that agonizing penalty necessary.
Satan comes as an angel of light (2 Corinthians 11:14). This is how he deceives mankind! The whole world is deceived (Revelation 12:9). Satan is a murderer and a liar! He is the father of liars, the god of this world (2 Corinthians 4:4). This is straight out of a horror movie!
“To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne” (Revelation 3:21). We must follow Christ’s lead. While on Earth, He engaged in a titanic struggle with Satan for world domination. He won. So can we.
Those loyal few who do God’s Work before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ will receive the ultimate reward. “Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honour to him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his wife hath made herself ready” (19:7). Christ needs a Bride to rule with Him forever! He will cast Satan into outer darkness.
“He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches” (3:22). Our problems are spiritual in nature. The solution to our problems is spiritual! We need God’s input.
This is the key to understanding the mystery of civilization. Adam and Eve chose the wrong tree. They chose to reject God’s spiritual revelation and to confine their knowledge to the material, physical realm. God won’t force anyone to develop His character. We must choose. Otherwise, it isn’t character.
We live in an age of remarkable progress yet appalling evils. God says that human civilization in the end time is as immoral, if not more so, than the time of Noah (Matthew 24:38). God wiped out the wicked civilization of Noah’s day with a worldwide flood! Humans will continue to suffer God’s curses until they choose to live His way.
After the Flood, a mighty black hunter named Nimrod raised up a new civilization in direct defiance against God (Genesis 10:8). Modern civilization is even worse.
The good news is, God will give all people a second chance through a resurrection (Revelation 20:11-12). They will finally have an opportunity to know who and what God is, why man exists, and what his purpose on Earth is.
One reader of Mr. Armstrong’s greatest book wrote this response: “Mystery of the Ages stirred my imagination to what lies beyond this Earth. Look at the stars, moon and sun, and even beyond! They are waiting for us!”
That’s exactly right! God wants to give us rule over the Earth and over the whole universe. Those who serve Him today will rule with Jesus Christ on the throne of God forever!