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Utopia: Is It Humanly Possible?

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Utopia: Is It Humanly Possible?

MP4 Video - 1080p (1.03 GB)
MP4 Video - 720p (638.22 MB)
MP3 Audio (13.88 MB)

Will mankind ever live without war, grief and suffering? Is world peace even possible? If so, how will it happen?


[Darris McNeely] Have you ever longed for a place where peace and human harmony is not just a dream? A place where people worked together, shared together and genuinely cared for one another? There's a town in the heart of the United States formed for this very purpose. Did it work? Did people create a utopia in a place they called, New Harmony?

We went there to learn about two noble efforts to create a paradise on earth. What we learned is that it takes more than good will and well-intentioned ideals to create a place where human nature is tamed.

How will this utopia be achieved? Join us on Beyond Today as we discuss "Utopia: Is It Humanly Possible?"

[Announcer] Join our host, Darris McNeely on Beyond Today!

[music playing in background]

[Darris] This is New Harmony, Indiana. 200 ago, this town was carved out of the wilderness of the American Midwest by religious group called Harmonists. They came here to build a self-sufficient community.

Their community lasted 10 years. The town and its buildings were sold to another group who also sought to create a perfect, utopian, society. This second venture failed in less than three years.

What happened? Why did these human efforts to bring about world peace and equality fall short of expectations? Why did these noble efforts fail? Let's look at both communities that existed on this spot and learn why they didn't work. The lessons learned here apply to every other human attempt to create a perfect society.

The Harmonists - a German fundamentalist group - came to the Indiana wilderness in the summer of 1814. They were led by a charismatic leader named George Rapp. Rapp had begun to preach that Jesus Christ's return was imminent and for he and his followers to be properly prepared for the second coming, they needed to remove themselves literally into a wilderness and create a place where they could be prepared.

They read the scripture in Revelation 12 where "the woman" - a symbol for the church, fled into the wilderness for three and one half years (Revelation 12:6 Revelation 12:6And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and three score days.
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). Rapp and his followers believed their action in coming to this spot was in fulfillment of this verse. They interpreted another passage from the book of Micah as an "era of the golden rose," and they carved a rose into the stone lintel above the door of their church to symbolize this belief (Micah 4:8 Micah 4:8And you, O tower of the flock, the strong hold of the daughter of Zion, to you shall it come, even the first dominion; the kingdom shall come to the daughter of Jerusalem.
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You can see the rose here on the recreated doorway of their church here in New Harmony today. In this place, the Harmonists believed they had created something revolutionary. A place where people could live together in peace, love and perfect unity - perfect harmony if you will. Harmony to these people was a place where the essence of God's Kingdom on earth could be created by the "unreserved pursuit of Christian perfection."

Harmonists interpreted the early Church of the book of Acts as a communal society where all material goods were shared in common. They modeled their town on this belief. New Harmony was a town where members held common shares in the profits of their work.

Labor was communally organized. There was full employment. People rotated jobs to learn all the trades and to avoid boredom. All the essential trades needed to build and maintain a 19th century town were represented. There were stonecutters, masons, bricklayers, and carpenters, weavers spinners, shoemakers, tailors, blacksmiths all were represented. In addition, the skills needed to plant and process food from the fields to the tables of the town were there.

Here is one of the original community ovens. These ovens were scattered throughout the community. Here the townspeople would take their turns to keep the ovens hot for others to use and taking turns baking their own breads and pastries. The Bible talks about "breaking bread" or sharing meals with each other. This relic, this community oven here, tells us the story of how they lived. They wanted to share their lives together and baking their daily bread was one way they did it.

This was one of the Harmonists community buildings. Here they lived; gathered for fellowships, meals and meetings. Education of children and adults regardless of gender. The Harmonist culture was committed to universal education. Their approach was decades ahead of any other public school system in America.

Just imagine what these kids were being taught. Here children would hear about the world they came from in meetings, in rooms and places like this in their buildings. And they would hear how their society would be completely different. You can imagine them being told that when they grew up, they would live in a perfect society. Remember that everyone here involved in the community, they were in it together. They shared a vision of a society working together in peace and harmony preparing for the return of Jesus Christ.

In many ways this community of believers succeeded in its efforts. They created a sanctuary that allowed members to pursue their version of Christian perfection. For most of a decade they lived in a stable environment while they waited for the second coming of Jesus Christ and the end of human history.

The Harmonists had one significant belief that had a built-in problem. In order to prepare for the golden age to come following Christ's second coming, Rapp interpreted certain biblical scriptures to mean one should remain celibate - no sexual relations. While this was not strictly enforced, some marriages and subsequent births did occur in New Harmony, it did lead to the inevitable backlash. If predictions of the world to come fail then people will move on with the normal parts of life - marriage and sexual relations being prominent.

But in 1824, Rapp decided to sell New Harmony and remove his followers back to Pennsylvania to create a new settlement. Christ had not returned as predicted and like any movement built around failed prophecy, the leader saw a need to renew the commitment of the faithful through the idea of creating a new life with a new town. On May 24, Rapp left the town with the first wave of his people and he never returned.

One of the followers carved this final thought into the stairwell of his home:

"On the Twenty-fourth of May 1824 we have departed. Lord, with Thy great help and goodness, in body and soul protect us."

So what happened? Why did this group fail to create the perfect society? A close look at the Harmonists shows a group of sincere people who in 10 years at New Harmony accomplished a great deal. They left their mark on Indiana and American history. But the community had to deal with the basic problems of human nature, even in this protected environment. Their story is one of a great German work ethic that combined with a misreading of key biblical teachings and principles. Even though they sincerely believed they were being prepared for the second coming of Jesus Christ, their effort to create the Kingdom of God on earth in advance of the reality fell far short.

Ironically, Rapp and his Harmonists sold their town to another utopian visionary. This next chapter of the New Harmony story again illustrates the point of this program - no human effort to create a utopian society on earth can succeed.

We'll look at this second story in just a moment.

If this effort to create a utopia failed, then what hope can we look to? Where can we look for the sure promise of a better world? The Bible describes the coming of God's reign on earth - the Kingdom of God.

And to help you learn more about this, we have prepared a free Bible study aid titled, Christ's Reign on Earth: What It Will Be Like. This easy-to-read booklet will help you better understand why human beings will not be able to create a utopian society on earth, but how God will! To discover how this will happen, order your own personal copy of Christ's Reign on Earth: What It Will Be Like, by calling toll free: 1-888-886-8632. That's 1-888-886-8632. Or you can go online to BeyondToday.tv.

We only have a limited number of copies of this study aid available in print. Once we run out, it will be available only as an electronic download. If you request it right now, you can have this limited-edition study aid in print. So, call: 1-888-886-8632 to request Christ's Reign on Earth: What It Will Be Like. Or go online to BeyondToday.tv. If you live outside of North America, please visit us on the Web or write to us at the address shown on your screen [Beyond Today, PO Box 541027, Cincinnati, OH 45254].

The next chapter in the story of New Harmony involves another visionary utopian. When the original settlers, the Harmonists, decided to sell the town they found an eager buyer - a Scottish industrialist named Robert Owen. This is the home of one of his sons. This street corner has four original homes of the time. You can get a feel for how they lived; that's still preserved.

Robert Owen was a prosperous owner, one of Great Britain's largest cotton-spinning mills. His mills in Lanark, Scotland employed upwards of 1,500 people. Owen ran his mills based on his social principles that one's environment determined a man's belief and character. Owen believed the human condition could be improved through education, good health and personal improvement. Overall his living conditions of his employees were better than most workers of the day.

Owen's dream grew to the point where he desired to plant his social ideas into communities which he felt would create a new and reformed society. He determined the Old World would not be suitable so he looked to the New, to America. When he learned New Harmony was for sale with a readymade set of homes, factories and infrastructure, it seemed the solution to try his experiment.

Using his own money and that of others, Owen bought the town in early 1825. His social ideas for the improvement of mankind were received at the highest levels of American society. He spoke before the United States Congress and the U.S. President James Monroe. His enthusiasm for his project attracted widespread attention.

Robert Owen's vision was to create a community where property would be equally owned by all the town's residents. In fact, the town's constitution called for all to have "similar food, clothing and education" and all were "to live in similar houses" and "be accommodated alike."

Owen believed that an individual's beliefs and character were based on his or her environment. Creating a society where everyone was equal financially and socially should level out the morals of the community. So raising the education and material goods would ultimately raise the character of a man. Not always so.

Listen to the words of one initially enthusiastic supporter of the experiment. "All (here) are to be in a state of perfect equality. Oh, if you could see some of the rough uncouth creatures here, I think you would find it rather hard to look upon them exactly in the light of brothers and sisters."

Rather than reflecting the ideals of the name of the town "New Harmony," the residents displayed an increasing tendency toward disharmony. They endlessly debated each other about the town's constitution. They quarreled over the division of property and work requirements and educational practices. The result was that in just three, short years the community disintegrated.

In fact, several communities formed out of the original. The divisions were along the lines of personal interests of the individuals. The "intellectual" group - well they were more interested in things of the mind rather than working with their hands. Farmers, artisans and tradesmen were more interested in doing practical work. The attempted solution to these divisions resulted in a plan to organize around separate "societies": Agricultural and Pastoral, Mechanical and Manufacturing, and School and Educational.

Like so many other communal living efforts, those who worked hard and greatly contributed, were put off by those who worked less but expected to share equally in the rights and goods of the community.

Unfortunately for this social project these divisions ultimately led to the collapse of Robert Owen's dream. Despite Owen's continued optimism the divisions were too large. Squabbles over property and other interests led to lawsuits and bitter feelings.

In time, Robert Owen left America and returned to Scotland. His children however, carried on in New Harmony and they made substantial contributions to America in their own right, but completely apart from the utopian ideas of their father.

So, here in this place, called New Harmony, we have the story of two distinctly different visions for a perfect peaceable Kingdom on earth. Both failed in their goals. They did not create the Kingdom of God on earth. Why did they not succeed and why have countless other humanly-devised, utopian concepts of social and government order been so unsuccessful? Everyone involved wanted so desperately for it all to work out.

A part of the answer can be found in the very name given to these ventures. It's the word utopia. The word utopia comes from the Greek and the literal meaning is "no place." It is used to describe human dreams of a good or perfect environment. The reality is there never has been a place on this earth where humans created a perfect peaceful community - in spite of the many noble efforts to do so.

So as we peer through the looking glass of time, we see that their vision of a perfect world came to nothing. One question still remains: Can we ever achieve a community of peace? What about nationally? Globally? I am here to tell you about a coming world of peace. The Bible shows us how peace will come to the entire earth.

You can understand how real, lasting peace and prosperity will finally come to the earth! To help you understand this wonderful truth, we have prepared a brand new, free Bible study aid titled: Christ's Reign on Earth: What It Will Be Like. This important study aid will provide you with many more details that I don't have time to cover during today's program.

But please keep in mind we're offering this special Bible study aid in print just for a limited time! After that, it will only be available online. So, if you would like your own, personal printed copy of Christ's Reign on Earth: What It Will Be Like, please call us today - toll free: 1-888-886-8632. That's 1-888-886-8632.

When you order your study aid, we'll also send you a free subscription to Beyond Today magazine. Each issue of Beyond Today includes educational and inspiriational articles on practical Christian living, prophecy, doctrine and current events in light of the Bible. Again to order your free study aid Christ's Reign on Earth: What It Will Be Like and your free subscription to Beyond Today magazine call 1-888-886-8632 or go online to BeyondToday.tv to read or download these informative publications.

I have to tell you, I was fascinated by the story of New Harmony. It represents mankind's biggest hope and dream - a place where humans can live together and in peace.

The Bible opens with the description of a perfect orderly world known as the Garden of Eden. The first humans created in the image of God lived here until they sinned against God. Their choice to defy God's teaching and reject His way led to their expulsion. Mankind has never been able to return to Eden, to the perfect age or world depicted in the Bible.

Only God can bring about a restoration of the conditions that first existed in Eden. Notice what's written in the book of Acts. Peter was inspired to encourage repentance and conversion on his audience that "your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven and earth must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began" (Acts 3:19-21 Acts 3:19-21 [19] Repent you therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord. [20] And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached to you: [21] Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.
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Here is the key to understanding why human efforts to build a perfect utopian society have failed. Here is the revealed truth of how it will be done - through Jesus Christ coming to this earth to rescue mankind from oblivion, and to restore harmony through the just rule of the Kingdom of God. The Bible contains many passages that have motivated these ventures.

Let's look at two from the prophet Isaiah.

In Isaiah 2 the prophet describes it this way. "He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore" (Isaiah 2:4 Isaiah 2:4And he shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many people: and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
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It is one of the most impressive images from the Bible. A man taking his sword and instead of running it through his enemy, he takes a hammer and beats it into a farming tool. And when he is done with this job, he takes his spear and turns it into a pruning hook to use it in the orchards and the vineyards to tend the crops.

Another scripture in Isaiah describes a "kingdom of peace," where even the nature of wild animals is tamed. Let's read that one:

"The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, The leopard shall lie down with the young goat, The calf and the young lion and the fatling together; And a little child shall lead them. The cow and the bear shall graze; Their young ones shall lie down together; And the lion shall eat straw like the ox. The nursing child shall play by the cobra's hole, And the weaned child shall put his hand in the viper's den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, For the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea" (Isaiah 11:6-9 Isaiah 11:6-9 [6] The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatted calf together; and a little child shall lead them. [7] And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. [8] And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice' den. [9] They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.
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These are powerful scriptures. And many others tell of a time when the desert shall blossom like a rose (Isaiah 35:1 Isaiah 35:1The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.
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) and the streets of cities will be safe for children and the elderly (Zechariah 8:5 Zechariah 8:5And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof.
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). It is God's desire to restore to this earth the conditions of paradise where He once had a relationship with man based on trust, good will and love. This is what God desires more than anything in all creation.

So what will be the difference in mankind that will be essential to the creation of the Kingdom of God on earth? What must change? Why did the Harmonists' efforts fail to build a religious utopia? Why did Robert Owen's socialist vision fail?

Let's understand. These two efforts, and all others like them, failed because of one critical element - the stony human heart - otherwise known as human nature.

God has a solution for this and it is critical if we are to see these biblical scriptures come to pass. Notice what God says through the prophet Ezekiel.

"Then I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them, and take the stony heart out of their flesh, and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep My judgments and do them; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God." (Ezekiel 11:19-20 Ezekiel 11:19-20 [19] And I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within you; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh: [20] That they may walk in my statutes, and keep my ordinances, and do them: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God.
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Only the Eternal God can change man's unyielding, hard, stony heart. And He will do that very thing!

God will change mankind's very nature and replace it with His own. That is the key. Human nature will have to be fundamentally changed before peace can break out within the human family. And that change is based on a willing choice by each person to admit a need for God in their life, and then submitting their will to God's will.

This is the main action that must be done by each one of us. God has given you the freedom as a human being. He gives you freedom of choice. And He commands people everywhere to repent, to change and to choose life. And that will be the necessary step to begin creating God's "utopia" on earth - the Kingdom of God.

It can begin now in your life. You can decide to live today by the teachings and way of life God will establish within His coming Kingdom. Christ's words in Mark are fitting. He says "...Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel'" (Mark 1:14-15 Mark 1:14-15 [14] Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, [15] And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent you, and believe the gospel.
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Christ brought to earth the eternal gospel of the Kingdom. He showed us the way of life He desires us to have. We need to live that way now if we want to enter that Kingdom. Christ announced the coming Kingdom of God and He showed any who hear how to get a mind that fits the Kingdom.

Peter explains that God has given us "exceeding great and precious promises" so we "may be partakers of the divine nature…" (2 Peter 1:4 2 Peter 1:4Whereby are given to us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these you might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
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What is that divine nature? It is the very mind of God. It's the way He thinks, believes, judges and acts! That virtuous, righteous nature - that change of heart - that is produced by God's Holy Spirit! And that spirit can dwell in you.

So, contrary to what Robert Owen believed and predicted, humankind will not develop a new, cooperative nature by humanly devised social reforms. It just can't. And it won't be accomplished that way!

You see, a change of heart, a change of thinking and attitude is absolutely needed. It is utterly required if mankind is really to survive! But it can't be accomplished by human effort. It can only come from Almighty God!

In the book of Romans, the apostle Paul wrote: "…do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God" (Romans 12:2 Romans 12:2And be not conformed to this world: but be you transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
American King James Version×

The transformation, the overhaul of man's mind, can only be brought about by God through the Holy Spirit.

It has been said, if we are to create the perfect community we must begin where we are. Visionaries have made noble efforts to improve mankind by venturing into utopian experiments. Communal experiments have been tried on every scale and by virtually all forms of belief. All came to an end without accomplishing their goals.

If we look at the Bible, we have to conclude that God is beginning to create His Kingdom now with the individual. You will not be able to change the world. You will not be able to change even your town or your own neighborhood. Now, don't get me wrong. You can get involved with a good cause, and you can and you should. You can do good works and you can make a difference within your sphere of influence. And a measure of good can alleviate suffering and help make your world a better place. But let's also be realistic. This world has large problems that are beyond human ability to solve. And while much good can be done, we must also admit the global solutions must come from the Creator God.

If you believe in God and His Word, then you must believe His promises to restore the conditions of peace and safety to His creation and to this world. God is faithful and He alone has the power to bring utopia to this earth. And the good news is, He will.

We want you to learn more about this from the pages of your Bible. Because of that, we have prepared a free Bible study aid, Christ's Reign on Earth: What It Will Be Like. I want you to have your own copy. This study guide goes deeper into the Bible to show you what God promises will be created on this earth through the righteous work of Jesus Christ.

And also be sure to get your free subscription to our thought provokig Beyond Today magazine. To receive both publications, all you have to do is call: 1-888-886-8632. Once again that number is: 1-888-886-8632. Or you can go online anytime and read them at BeyondToday.tv.

The United Church of God has hundreds of Sabbath-keeping congregations meeting each Saturday across the United States, Canada, Australia, and around the world. Go to BeyondToday.tv - click on the "Contact" tab to find a congregation nearest you. Then, call one of our knowledgeable and caring pastors to share your story with him.

The dream of utopia - world peace, mankind living without war and suffering - will come to earth but in a different manner than any sought by these visionary communities. It will come in a manner foretold by the biblical prophets - through Jesus Christ's second coming in all power and glory. What these men and women wanted in New Harmony will be realized, but only through the rule of Jesus Christ on earth.

You can understand what this coming age will be like and you can experience it in your life today. The choice is yours.

Thanks for joining us, and be sure to tell your family and friends about Beyond Today. Tune in again next week and join us in praying, "Thy Kingdom come." For Beyond Today, I'm Darris McNeely - thanks for watching.

[Announcer] For the free literature offered on today's program, go online to BeyondToday.tv. Please join us again next week on Beyond Today!