Why Does God Allow Suffering?
A Jewish woman who survived the Holocaust of World War ii tells a chilling story. She had witnessed a host of terrible things in her time in the German concentration camps—more than many people could handle in a lifetime.
One day this woman saw two little Jewish boys fall from a truck that was taking them somewhere. A Nazi soldier picked them up, slammed them against the truck until they bled, picked them up, threw them back on the truck, and sent the truck on its way.
That was the day, this woman said, that she stopped praying to God.
Was this woman justified in her decision? Is it not fair to ask how a loving, all-powerful God could allow such horrific suffering?
How could this be God’s world?
Think of the billions whose lives have been tragically cut short by war, violence, disease epidemics, starvation and malnutrition. Think of the billions who have lived unfulfilled, unhappy lives. How could God allow such things to go on? Why doesn’t He put a stop to it?
Of all fields of human knowledge, religion should best be able to answer such difficult questions. But when we examine the answers religion offers, we are left even more confused.
Consider: Most religion teaches that this is God’s world!
Religion tells us that God is trying to convert the world today. What else would motivate the efforts of missionaries and evangelists? Religious youth movements and church drives? Crusades, inquisitions and “holy” wars—past and present? The zeal to gain converts for God would all but disappear if not for the idea that heaven comes only to those who profess a particular religion or belief before they die.
But think of the billions, over the past 6,000 years, who have lived and died never knowing Christ. If God is trying to save the world now, He must be failing miserably. How could a just God allow so many to fall by the wayside, never having a chance for salvation? Yet, that is what mainstream Christianity would have you believe—that the billions who have died not knowing Christ will never have a chance for salvation.
In Galatians 1:4, the Apostle Paul refers to the age in which we live as “this present evil world.” Elsewhere, Paul referred to Satan the devil as the “god of this world” (ii Cor. 4:4). In Revelation 12:9, the Apostle John says that Satan “deceives the whole world.”
If God is struggling against Satan to save this world now, these many verses reveal God to be losing the battle. Is that what is happening today?
To get real answers to these questions, we must set aside preconceived ideas and prejudices. We must put on hold any ideas we have invented.
We must let God speak for Himself!
God has not left us without answers. He reveals in clear and plain terms just why the world is the way it is, and what He is doing today.
In this article, we will see that God is not losing the battle against Satan—man is! But God is allowing it so that man might learn, by his own tragic experience, a lesson he will never forget.
The Two Trees
In his original created state, man was a perfect creation physically (Gen. 1:31), yet unfinished spiritually. God offered man His Holy Spirit which, when combined with man’s human spirit, would have completed his spiritual creation (Rom. 8:16; i Cor. 2:9-11). But Adam rejected God’s Spirit when he followed his wife and partook of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Most people are familiar with the story of Adam and Eve, but have never understood its true significance. It is not about two fruit trees—it is about two ways of life.
The tree of life represented living God’s way as led by His Holy Spirit. By obeying God’s commands, Adam could have partaken of the tree of life and received God’s Holy Spirit (Acts 5:32). This would have given Adam the power to think like God—to have a godly relationship with his Creator and with his fellow man.
The tree of the knowledge of good and evil represented Satan’s way. In taking from this symbolic tree, Adam and his offspring would willingly subject themselves to the seductive and deceitful spirit of Satan (Eph. 2:2).
More importantly, by taking from this wrong tree, Adam—acting on behalf of his descendants—would cut mankind off from having access to God and His Spirit. This is the path Adam chose. Genesis 3:22 and 24 explain the outcome of Adam’s rebellious decision: “And the Lord God said, Behold, the man is become as one of us, to know good and evil: and now, lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever…. 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.”
Here we see that this story is about much more than trees. Eating from the tree of life would have given Adam eternal life. God was not offering eternal life to Adam through an actual fruit tree—He offered it by His Spirit, represented by the tree of life. Romans 8:10 even refers to God’s Spirit as life. This spirit-life comes only as a gift from God (Rom. 6:23).
Adam rejected that incredible gift and instead ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil—the tree of human reasoning. When he did that, God pronounced a sentence on mankind in general.
The 6,000-Year Sentence
Herbert W. Armstrong described this “sentence” best in his book Mystery of the Ages. When Adam made his fateful decision, God said, in effect, “You have made the decision for yourself and the world that shall spring from you. You have rejected me as the basic source of knowledge—you have rejected power from me through my Spirit to live the righteous way—you have rebelled against my command and my government—you have chosen the ‘getting,’ ‘taking’ way of Satan. Therefore I sentence you and the world you shall beget to 6,000 years of being cut off from access to me and my Spirit—except for the exceedingly few I shall specially call. And that few shall be called for special service preparatory for the Kingdom of God. They shall be required to do what you have failed to do—reject, resist and overcome Satan and his ways, and follow the ways of my spiritual law.
“Go, therefore, Adam, and all your progeny that shall form the world, produce your own fund of knowledge. Decide for yourself what is good and what is evil. Produce your own educational systems and means of disseminating knowledge, as your god Satan shall mislead you. Form your own concepts of what is god, your own religions, your own governments, your own life-styles and forms of society and civilization. In all this Satan will deceive your world with his attitude of self-centeredness—with vanity, lust and greed, jealousy and envy, competition and strife and violence and wars, rebellion against me and my law of love.
“After the world of your descendants has written the lesson in 6,000 years of human suffering, anguish, frustration, defeat and death—after the world that shall spring from you shall have been brought to confess the utter hopelessness of the way of life you have chosen—I will supernaturally intervene. By supernatural divine power I shall then take over the government of the whole world. With reeducation, I will produce a happy world of peace. And on repentance, I shall then offer eternal salvation to all. After a thousand years of that happy world to come, I will resurrect from death to mortal life all who have died uncalled during this present 6,000 years. Their judgment shall then come. And on repentance and faith, eternal life shall be offered them.
“During this 6,000 years, when I myself shall cut them off from me, they shall not be eternally judged. Only, as they sow during their lifetimes, they shall reap. But when I open eternal salvation to them, there shall be no Satan to hinder or deceive them—no Satan for them to overcome. Those few called during this first 6,000 years shall have to reject and resist Satan’s pulls and overcome. But those who overcome shall sit with me in my throne, and have power under me to rule all nations under my Supreme Rule” (Mystery of the Ages, pp. 120-121).
You might find it amazing that anyone could deduce that much from the Garden of Eden account. But Mr. Armstrong got that accurate description of what transpired 6,000 years ago right out of the Bible. We will send you a copy of Mystery of the Ages so you can study God’s plan of salvation in much greater detail. The book is free upon your request.
Mr. Armstrong referred to this 6,000-year “lesson” man is recording by his own experience as aversion therapy. Some clinics still employ this method of therapy to help people overcome addictions. If a person is an alcoholic, for instance, he would be forced to drink alcohol until it made him so sick that he would never want another drink!
In a sense, that is what God is doing with this world. Though He is not forcing us to go the way of Satan, He certainly is allowing us to fill our minds full of Satan’s way of life. God is allowing it to bring us to the point where we will absolutely loathe and abhor this “present evil world.” He is allowing man to go his own way so that he might see the fruits of living contrary to God’s law of love.
To this point, however, mankind in general has shown no signs of learning the lesson God is trying to teach. But that is only because we refuse to see where our present course is heading. We have rejected God’s inspired word which plainly reveals the outcome.
The evils of our present generation are not unlike those of Noah’s day. Genesis 6:5 says that every imagination of the thoughts of man “was only evil continually.”
The Bible prophesied of those same immoral conditions to be widespread in this end time: “But as the days of Noe [Noah] were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (Matt. 24:37). In Noah’s day, the masses mocked God’s warnings until the floodwaters came and “took them all away” (v. 39).
In this end time, the majority of mankind will again ridicule God’s warning message. But that will not alter the prophesied outcome one iota: “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened” (Matt. 24:21-22).
This will be the end result of man’s rebellion against God, which began in the Garden of Eden nearly 6,000 years ago. Once the Great Tribulation is upon us, mankind will have seen the results of his 6,000-year experiment. The fruits of going it alone, without God, will begin to sink in. Finally, man will be fed up with all the evils and sufferings he has brought upon himself. Finally, man will want to seek after God and His way of life.
The lesson in aversion therapy will have served its purpose. Jesus will return to this Earth, remove Satan from his throne, and then rule all nations with God’s government of love. The few who were called out of Satan’s world in this age will have been prepared to personally assist Christ in God’s family government.
Then, finally, God will offer salvation to every human being who has ever lived!