It is easy to feel discouraged about the state of the human race. All we need to do is listen to the news! Disturbing things happen that make us wonder where we are headed and whether there is any hope of us coming to a better ‘place’.
There are many signs of progress over the past two hundred and fifty years since the Lord’s second coming. We see broader and quicker communication, which increases our sense of mutual acceptance, interdependence and accountability. Though it still happens more than we like, it is more difficult for leaders to dominate their people and hold them in ignorance. There is still too much war, but it is less of an option than it used to be. The economic and political consequences are more quickly, keenly and widely felt. The human race has clearly grown in its acquisition of useful knowledge. In spiritual matters, we can see progress as well. That same boost in communication has brought greater freedom of thought and an ability to see the truth. This is owing to a new state in the spiritual world brought about by the Last Judgment (Last Judgment 73-74).
If we dwell on the bad, we can easily conclude that things have gone ‘downhill’. I’m reminded of the story of the Israelites, told in the Old Testament. It begins with the promise to Abraham and his innocent response. The historical treatment ends in 2 Kings with the destruction of Jerusalem and the expulsion of Abraham’s descendants from their land of promise. The Prophets focus mostly on this failure. And yet a thoughtful reading shows that the Prophets represent a more sophisticated understanding of moral and spiritual issues than we see in the writers from earlier periods. A careful reading also shows that Jehovah’s whole point in allowing His people to experience this failure, was that they might learn and return to Him and to their Promised Land.
As Jeremiah wrote (24:5-7):
“Thus says Jehovah, the God of Israel: ‘…I will acknowledge those who are carried away captive from Judah, whom I have sent out of this place for their own good… For I will set My eyes on them for good, and I will bring them back to this land; I will build them and not pull them down, and I will plant them and not pluck them up. Then I will give them a heart to know Me, that I am Jehovah; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God, for they shall return to Me with their whole heart.’”
This change of heart was brought about through their bad experiences, which the Lord could turn to good:
“I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. And I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. And I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them. Then you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; you shall be My people, and I will be your God.”
In a similar way the Lord can bring about a change of heart through seeming failures in our life – if we let Him. He can do that for us as individuals and He is doing that with the entire human race.
So when we look at the bad things happening in our world, let us remember that while they are reminders of our constant penchant for selfishness and evil (where we tend without the Lord) those horrid events can be and are, a means of our transformation as well. With this idea in mind, think of the implications of the following passage. And let yourself feel hope!
Apocalypse Explained 641:
As regards the successive states of the churches on our globe, they have evidently been similar to the successive states of a human being who is being reformed and regenerated, namely, that to become a spiritual person, he is first conceived, next is born, then grows up, and is afterwards led on further and further into intelligence and wisdom. The church, from the most ancient times to the end of the Jewish Church, progressed like a person who is conceived, born, and grows up, and is then instructed and taught. But the successive states of the church after the end of the Jewish Church, or from the time of the Lord even to the present day, have been like a person increasing in intelligence and wisdom, or becoming regenerate. For this end the interior things of the Word, of the church, and of worship, were revealed by the Lord when He was in the world. And now again, things still more interior are revealed. And in the measure that interior things are revealed a person can become wiser. For to become interior is to become wiser, and to become wiser is to become interior.