If humans are to venture out from Earth and colonize the cosmos, we need a space-travel revolution—and that is putting it mildly. The distances involved are simply impossible to even begin to bridge using present transportation technology.
Earth isn’t quite 8,000 miles wide. The sun is 864,300 miles wide—and it is 93 million miles away. If the sun were an 8-inch bowling ball, the Earth would be a peppercorn 26 yards away. Pluto would be the head of a pin over half a mile away.
In a spacecraft, man can only go as far as the moon; humans cannot store vitamin D long enough to get to Mars. We are simply too finite and our solar system too vast. Its voluminous depths contain pinpoint planets and deep, drastic distances. Set a random heading, hit light speed, and you’ll still rarely encounter a particle of matter. This is especially true after you leave our solar system.
Make an even smaller scale model—where the 93 million miles between Earth and the sun is just under a quarter of an inch. At that scale, the orbits of Mercury, Venus, Earth and Mars would fit on a dime. Neptune, the outermost large planet in our solar system, would have an orbit 14 inches across. Keep in mind, the Voyager 2 spacecraft, launched in 1977, traveled 12 years before it passed Neptune.
On this model, the next nearest star would be located 1 mile away. That star is called Proxima Centauri, Proxima meaning “close” (by astronomical standards). It would take Voyager more than 60,000 years to fly there. That’s 10 times longer than the entire history of man. Even traveling at light speed—670 million miles an hour—the journey would take more than four years and two months.
Yet reaching Proxima Centauri doesn’t even get us out of our celestial front door. Our sun and Proxima Centauri are just two of over 200 billion stars in our galaxy. To grasp the size of the universe beyond our sun, we have to try first to wrap our minds around just how immense the Milky Way truly is.
Our Galactic Neighborhood
Stretching out in great glowing swaths from the Milky Way’s bright, hot, bulbous pinwheel center are spinning trailing arms, sparkling with stars of all types and stages, many of them forming the cores of other solar systems.
On our scale model, traveling to the center of our galaxy would require a trip of 6,000 miles—the distance from Los Angeles to London. At the speed of light, the trip would take you 26,000 years.
The entire galaxy would be 12½ Earths wide. Try to comprehend it—and remember, within that vastness, our sun and its four closest planets fit on a dime.
To fly from one edge of our galaxy to the other at light speed nonstop would take 100,000 years. It would take the 35,000-mph Voyager more than 660 million years.
Yet with respect to the universe, we’re still in our front yard. The Milky Way, with its billions of stars and trillions of planets, is just one of billions of other galaxies discovered so far. And it is just above average in size. Some galaxies are far bigger. Can you wrap your mind around that? A 200 billion-star galaxy is just run-of-the-mill.
Now let’s use a different scale. Picture the Milky Way as a softball. Our solar system is now more like a molecule. Move 15 and 17 inches away to the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds, two of our closest neighboring galaxies. Now move 15 feet away to our nearest large galaxy—Andromeda. Astronomers think Andromeda contains 1 trillion stars. On this scale, it would be about the size of a beach ball.
Andromeda is considered to be in ourneighborhood, yet it is over 2 million light-years away!
The closest cluster of galaxies is the Virgo cluster. Virgo has over 1,000 galaxies. By our scale, we would find this super cluster 150 feet away from our softball.
Thankfully, the properties and laws of light enable us to see places we could never go. Scientists can see far, far beyond Virgo and its hundreds of trillions of stars, its thousands of trillions of planets and its virtually innumerable moons, comets and asteroids. They have uncovered, for example, the existence of the Great Wall—a huge conglomeration of galaxies that stretches across the universe for 500 million light-years. This wall is also 200 million light-years wide and 15 million light-years thick. Wow! A wall of galaxies that would take 500 million years to travel from one end to the other—if we could move 186,000 miles per second.
If you were to carry the softball to the edge of the visible universe, you would have to walk for 31 miles! Remember: As you walk that road, every 3.8 inches (the diameter of a softball), you are covering the distance light travels in 100,000 years.
And that is just the edge of the known universe. Astronomers have no idea how much more is beyond.
Jeremiah 31:37 and other scriptures imply that the heavens cannot be measured. So perhaps we should take scientists’ estimates of the size and age of the universe with a grain of salt.
Nevertheless, the incomprehensible vastness of the universe fills us with awe as we say, like King David before us, “The heavens declare the glory of God.”
The Father of Lights
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17).
The “lights” to which James refers are those of the universe. God is the Father of that vast material creation. He created all those lights—every bit of everything we see in those Hubble pictures, so dazzling in their brilliance—through Jesus Christ (e.g. Ephesians 3:9; Colossians 1:16).
The expression “with whom” in James 1:17 should read “in whom.” InGod is “no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” This is referring to our Father’s perfect character. He cannot sin. There isn’t even a speck of a shadow of evil in His nature. God is 100 percent love (1 John 4:8, 16). His love toward us is perfect and absolute. Everything He does is for our ultimate good. His goal is for us to become perfect as He is perfect (Matthew 5:48). He is totally focused on giving to us and opening up a wonderful future for all mankind.
Every good and perfect gift comes from that illustrious God. Look at what He created! Clearly, He has all kinds of gifts to give!
Hebrews 2:8 talks about God giving us the whole universe. When the Apostle Paul wrote that, before modern telescopes, people could not see very much in the night sky. Their view of the heavens, impressive as it was, was quite limited.
The penetrating views of the cosmos given to us by the Hubble telescope help us understand more deeply how meaningful and inspiring Hebrews 2:8 really is! We have a much more complete understanding of just what is out there. And God says, I’m going to give it all to YOU! Nothing will be withheld!
But how is that possible? The very nature of human beings, with our physical limitations, prevents us from even being able to reach most places in the depths of space, let alone populate them.
Remember the expression in Isaiah 51:16: God is going to “plant the heavens.” That implies a seeding with life.
We can only see how this would be possible when we understand the “mystery” revealed in Scripture: that God is actually re-creating Himself in man. He is transforming human beings into spirit-composed God beings.
God Himself is not bound by the limitations imposed by the laws of physics. He “inhabits eternity” (Isaiah 57:15). The vastness of the cosmos and the limits of time impose absolutely no constraints on Him whatsoever, as evidenced by His having named every star and His sustaining the universe with His power.
Those physical constraints will no longer bind us, either, once we “bear the image of the heavenly” and “put on incorruption” and “put on immortality”! (1 Corinthians 15:49, 53).
Thus, God will be able to plant the heavens—seed the cosmos with life—using human beings who have been transformed into spirit-born members of His Family.
Try to wrap your mind around that future. God wants to continue to extend His building program forever. He wants to make the entire universe exquisite—beautiful beyond what our imaginations can conceive!
The Bible says God left nothing not put under man. He is going to give it all to mankind! That means everything we can see—all the Hubble telescope has photographed and a lot more. God is going to just give it to man. Of course, as Hebrews 2:8 tells us, God also says, “not yet.” There is something we have to learn and understand before God can let us inherit the universe (inset, “Why Not Yet?”, page 45). And there are many, many people today whom God hasn’t reached yet; however, the Bible explicitly describes a time in the near future, in His own time frame, when He will reach them, and teach them (request a free copy of The Wonderful World Tomorrow—What It Will Be Like).
Can you even begin to imagine how much real estate is out there? If someone were to tell you he had 100,000 acres of prime real estate and he was going to give it to you, you would probably faint. But 100,000 acres is a mere postage stamp compared to what God is offering.
Hebrews 2:8 ought to set our imaginations ablaze! Soon it will set the imagination of the whole world on fire, when all people will begin to realize that God is offering them the whole sparkling universe. Then they will begin to see the size of the cosmos, and their hope will grow and expand—just like that universe.
God simply wouldn’t have made the universe so great, so expansive, if He didn’t have astronomical plans for expanding His Family. Note this electrifying prophecy: “Of the increase of his [God’s] government and peace there shall be NO END, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this” (Isaiah 9:7).
There will be no end to the expansion of the government and peace of God. It will flow out from the Earth to the whole universe and never end!
What does that mean? The implications are tremendous.
First, doesn’t that imply there is endless space out there? Perhaps the Creator is in the process of making an endless universe. Perhaps He already has. Only God knows for certain. But we do know that He has something in mind for us that goes on forever!
But how could there be “no end” to the increase of God’s government and peace? Spirit beings do not reproduce in the way human beings do. Angels cannot have children. And God can only have real sons through the process we are undergoing now: living life as a human being and choosing God’s way through the exercise of free will, before being given the gift of eternal life and being born into His Family.
Consider: Would there ever come a point in the future when all human beings will be gone, either burned to ash or converted into spirit? If so, wouldn’t that mean an end to the expansion of God’s government? How could God’s government continually expand if there were a constant, finite number of God Family beings?
Consider further: God also says that there will be no end to the increase of His peace. You don’t need to bring peace to empty planets. Nor do you need to bring peace to a Family of perfectly righteous God beings.
An endless increase in God’s government and peace seems to require the existence of a race of beings made in God’s image and likeness that can reproduce and populate the way human beings do.
Though the Bible doesn’t specifically reveal it, it appears God might populate the universe—including a number of the untold quadrillions or quintillions of planets it contains—with more human beings! People who are made in the image and likeness of God—people who have the potential to be born into the God Family!
Obviously there would have to be direct supernatural intervention to transport or create such beings in areas of space so remotely distant from our home here on Earth. That is hardly impossible, considering God did it once before.
The idea of using humans to seed the vast universe with life almost sounds unbelievable. Yet consider: Why would God have created such an enormous, empty physical universe and physical matter if there wouldn’t be more physical beings? Some people estimate that, throughout its history, Earth has been home to some 110 billion humans—yet that’s not even one person for each galaxy.
The Apostle Paul seemed to be thinking along these lines when he said that he wanted “to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 3:9). The word fellowship really should be translated dispensation. This “mystery” is the truth that God is re-creating Himself in mankind in order to expand His eternal Family. God wants this truth dispensed toall men. Even more, this verse says all men need to take on that desire to dispense that wonderful truth even further! If all men are dispensing God’s wonderful truth, who are they dispensing itto? (For more explanation of this truth, request our free booklet The God Family Vision.)
“Ephesians 3:9 says all men must see that the mystery of God needs to be declared,” Gerald Flurry writes in his booklet Prophesy Again. “Think about that statement. God will give all the people of this world a vision like they have never, ever seen before! Perhaps He wants to show them that they are going to have to get that mystery out to the universe—and perhaps to other men and women that God will create on other planets. Ephesians 3:9 certainly does allow for that. Is God’s mystery going to be dispensed on and on and on—where men elsewhere in the universe will have this mystery revealed to them after they go through some experience like we have on Earth? I don’t know exactly what God has in mind. But the worddispensationhas mind-staggering implications! The mystery must be dispensed, or declared, to every son who enters God’s Family.” (Request a free copy of Prophesy Again.)
It’s possible the whole purpose of God’s plan for humans—“Operation Earth”—is not only to create an immediate Family of God. Maybe it is also designed so God can use mankind to spread an even greater, never-ending, always growing, God Family throughout the whole universe—to perhaps trillions of galaxies.
God’s family government will be established on the whole Earth—and from there eventually transferred throughout the universe. Operation Venus and Operation Mars could be the beginnings of the most amazing and wonderful plan ever: an infinite cycle of births into the Family of God!
The last glimpses the Bible gives us into the future are absolutely spectacular.
There is coming a time when our beloved planet will be purified with fire. “[T]he elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10). All the incorrigibly wicked who refused to submit to God’s law will be completely consumed—reduced to ash—in this “lake of fire” (Malachi 4:1, 3; Revelation 20:13-15). The Earth as we know it today will be passed away (Revelation 21:1).
At that point, something extraordinary and breathtaking will occur. A new Earth and a new heaven will take the place of this present Earth.
God the Father will descend to make this new Earth His home (verses 2-3). This will become His seat of government over the entire cosmos. Universe headquarters.
God’s headquarters city, new Jerusalem, will be a cube or perhaps a pyramid of something like 1,500 miles square at the base—and 1,500 miles high! (verse 16). This is a city utterly unlike anything that exists on our planet today.
That spirit-composed city will have “no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God [the Father] did lighten it, and the Lamb [Jesus Christ] is the light thereof” (verse 23). Science tells us that if our sun fulfilled its normal lifespan as a star, it would get hotter and hotter until boiling away our oceans and incinerating life; eventually it would become a red giant—growing so enormously large and hot as to roast the Earth completely if not actually envelop it—before flaming out. But this scripture tells us that we need not fear such fatalistic scenarios. God will ensure that nothing ever disturbs His eternal headquarters dwellingplace.
In this remarkable city, we see total union between these two God Family members and those human beings who have been born into that Family: “[T]he throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it; and his servants shall serve him” (Revelation 22:3). From that place, God will direct His Family in an expanding array of beautification and population projects throughout the universe.
All around us, throughout the cosmos, are places made to be governed, to be nourished and to abound with life! Those shining cosmic places are groaning for their future opportunity to be beautified and governed—by none other than the little human beings presently treading this tiny speck in this vast place.
Yes, today, there are people being taught to qualify for that potential. They are doing so in the only way possible: by starting small. But after they qualify, they will hear those words: “Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make theerulerovermany things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Matthew 25:21). Their future is as big as the universe itself.
Our human minds, no matter how impressive, can’t comprehend that truth. It’s too big for the mind of man. The only way we can comprehend it is to let God give us another Spirit—the Holy Spirit—to work with our human spirit (1 Corinthians 2:9-12). Scientists, physicists, astronomers and the inhabitants of the world cannot even imagine it today—but soon they will. Someday these very scientists who study the universe and puzzle over untold unanswered questions will qualify and become members of the Family of God. They will then be able to travel to the outer edges of this vast universe and observe the answers firsthand!
We need to awaken ourselves to our potential. Our future is truly something to get stirred up about! It should fill us with joy—so much so that we want to live by every word of the Creator God, who is literally opening up the universe to us.
The last book Herbert W. Armstrong wrote before his death was Mystery of the Ages. This book clearly covers God’s plan for this universe and the destiny of man (we will send you a free copy upon request). Here are the words he used to close this inspiring book:
“How wonderful beyond the ability of words to express is the glory of God and His wonderful purpose actually now in progress. Praise, honor and glory be to God and to Jesus Christ forever and forever.
“With God’s great master plan of 7,000 years finally completed—the mystery of the ages finally revealed, and with the re-creating of the vast universe and eternity lying ahead, we come finally to … the beginning.”
As physical beings, we can only see this future as “through a glass, darkly” (1 Corinthians 13:12)—though new scientific discoveries are certainly adding light. The universe is filled with incredible mysteries waiting to be discovered. Is the universe really limitless? Does “dark matter” really exist? How does God’s spiritual power work? What lies beyond the edges of space?
These are fantastic, mind-boggling questions. Draw close to the Designer, Creator and Sustainer of the universe, and one day soon, you will be able to answer those questions from firsthand experience. That is when the most exciting phase of God’s plan will begin!
What wonders await!
The heavens truly do declare the glory of God.
Lift up your eyes! Behold your future.
Our Expanding Universe
Born in 1889 in Marshfield, Missouri, Edwin Hubble came of age in a golden era of physical scientific discovery. This was the age of Albert Einstein, Max Planck, Alfred Wegener, Richard Feynman and Harlow Shapley. Mankind’s understanding and explanation of the world was rapidly transforming; new instruments were being designed that would build the foundation of physical science today.
Hubble was able to join the prestigious staff of astronomers at the Mount Wilson Observatory. It was an astronomer’s dream: Here was the world’s largest telescope—the 100-inch Hooker Telescope. There Hubble worked with one of his senior colleagues, Harlow Shapley, whose work focused on estimating the dimension of the Milky Way. Using bright stars, Shapley estimated the galaxy was 300,000 light-years wide. His findings were astounding—the universe now had dimension well beyond previous estimates. Further, Shapley’s observations supported Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity.
Though Hubble assisted Shapley with his work, he was far more interested in the “hazy blobs” he saw, known as nebulae. These were thought to be gas clouds within the Milky Way. It was only after Shapley’s departure to the Harvard College Observatory that Hubble could finally focus on the hazy blobs. What he was to discover changed our understanding of the universe.
In working to determine the distance between Earth and the hazy blobs, using the technique developed by Shapley, Hubble found that each blob was colored red. Though he wasn’t the first to note the red color of distant stars, Hubble was the first to suggest a provable explanation.
You know that the pitch of a police car’s siren changes as it passes you. This is called the Doppler effect. Sound and light travel in wave motion, like ripples in water. As a wave moves toward you, its wavelength gets shorter, so the frequency increases—raising the pitch. When the siren passes and moves away, the pitch drops because the wavelength increases and the frequency drops.
Light waves behave the same way. If a light source is moving toward you, the color shifts more toward blue (shorter wavelength, higher frequency). But as the light source passes and moves away, the color of the light shifts toward red. In astronomy, this is known as redshift.
Coupling the Doppler effect with his observations, Edwin Hubble theorized the stars were traveling away from us because their light appeared red through the telescope. Hubble was right; every distant star he observed outside of the Milky Way was red.
The implications were astounding. By 1929, Hubble had proved the universe was expanding into the unknown reaches of space. This idea revolutionized the way physicists and astronomers explained the world around us.
The launch of the Hubble Space Telescope in 1990 has resulted in discoveries that answer some long-standing questions—and raise many new questions. Not only did it confirm that the universe is expanding, its findings suggested that it is accelerating in its expansion! This discovery has since been confirmed using other telescopes.
According to Hubble’s law, the farther away a galaxy is from the Earth, the faster it is racing into the depths of space. The expanding universe concept is now the foundation for the field of modern cosmology.
Scientists’ understanding of why this is happening remains foggy. Known, observable, measurable laws of physics would suggest the universal expansion should be slowing because of gravity. Clearly, some other force is in play to produce the opposite effect.
It is likely God is using a type of physical energy that functions according to a predictable law that He Himself established in order to accomplish universal expansion—perhaps dark energy or something very like it. We should certainly view an accelerating expansion of the universe as evidence both of God’s power as Sustainer and of God’s ambition for the endless expansion of His government and peace.
Edwin Hubble never received the Nobel Prize for his research because astronomy was not recognized as a field of physics until after his death. Yet nasa honored Hubble by naming its greatest telescope after him. Surely, Hubble would be honored by this distinction more than any prize.
A Zillion Times More Impressive
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17).
The “lights” to which James refers are those of the universe. God is the Father of that vast material creation. He created all those lights through Jesus Christ. All of those heavenly lights inspire God. They represent incredible promise and potential, just waiting to be realized!
This is an inspiring verse. But we can’t get distracted by that massive universe because James just uses it as an introduction to set up what he is really getting at! No matter how magnificent the universe may be, it is as nothing compared to what James is about to discuss. So let’s not be distracted by the universe.
Notice the very next verse: “Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures” (verse 18). Here is where James—the brother of Christ—puts the emphasis! Really work to comprehend what he is saying here!
The limitless stars are impressive to anyone—but all that is trivial compared to Godbegetting you! You have the potential to become God—God’s son—with the capacity to even create a universe and animals, perhaps even create more sons of God! Remember, God wants to re-create Himself in you!
That is what we must emphasize! That is where the real excitement is: your life!
We were begotten by the Father!
If He isn’t calling you or hasn’t begotten you with His Holy Spirit, you cannot truly understand this. If you do understand it, then you have received that unparalleled spiritual begettal from the Father of lights!
What is it worth to be begotten by that Father who created all those lights? That magnificent Creator God made you a firstfruit—the highest, most wonderful calling you could ever have! That calling is a zillion times more important than anything the Hubble telescope can show us.
Be in awe of the universe, but be a zillion times more in awe of your potential!
Consider it: What would all the universe out there be worth without God beings to rule over it? What if, as a worst-case scenario, God had the universe, but no sons? What would that be worth to Him? I don’t think God would put much value on it.
Sure the universe is magnificent and luminous—but it is just material stuff. It means nothing compared to a son of God! It’s not even worthy of comparison!
The universe becomes much more impressive to behold when you realize that God put it there in order for His sons to rule over it.
God’s supreme creation isn’t the universe—but His masterpiece of re-creating Himself in man.
—Excerpted from The Epistle of James,
by Gerald Flurry; request a free copy.