When Will Suffering Cease?

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When Will Suffering Cease?

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The world will finally see an end to suffering, but it won’t come through human effort. Bible prophecy reveals how that wonderful future will finally come about!

In the preceding chapter we saw that God has a purpose that extends beyond this life. His grand purpose takes into consideration the suffering of each person who responds to His call. However, most members of the human race either are not responding to or are unaware of this fantastic purpose. Therefore in this “present evil age” (Galatians 1:4 Galatians 1:4Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father:
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) God is allowing human beings to learn important lessons.

He wants mankind to know that sin produces horrible consequences and that, ever since the Garden of Eden, we have brought much grief on ourselves by rejecting His instructions. Although swayed by the corrupt and evil influence of Satan, human beings must take full responsibility for the consequences of their actions. The world could have been a place of peace, security and happiness if only man had chosen to follow God’s ways rather than Satan’s.

God is determined that we learn that lesson, painful though it may be. The Bible records that on many occasions He attempted to dissuade people from continuing in their evil ways. But the overwhelming majority have repeatedly rejected His commands, just as Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

Man’s reaction to God’s messengers

For example, after God delivered ancient Israel from Egyptian slavery, the Israelites made a covenant with Him to keep His commandments. But they reneged on their agreement.

Then God sent many prophets, whose messages are preserved for us in the Bible, to warn them and urge them to repent. “But they mocked the messengers of God, despised His words, and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against His people, till there was no remedy” (2 Chronicles 36:16 2 Chronicles 36:16But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against his people, till there was no remedy.
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Instead of listening, they persecuted and often killed God’s messengers. Through Isaiah God spoke of how they repeatedly spurned His offer of help. “I have stretched out My hands all day long to a rebellious people” (Isaiah 65:2 Isaiah 65:2I have spread out my hands all the day to a rebellious people, which walks in a way that was not good, after their own thoughts;
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Because they refused to respond, God sentenced them to national punishment. The Assyrian Empire conquered Israel and removed its people into captivity in the eighth century B.C. (2 Kings 17:5-8 2 Kings 17:5-8 5 Then the king of Assyria came up throughout all the land, and went up to Samaria, and besieged it three years. 6 In the ninth year of Hoshea the king of Assyria took Samaria, and carried Israel away into Assyria, and placed them in Halah and in Habor by the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes. 7 For so it was, that the children of Israel had sinned against the LORD their God, which had brought them up out of the land of Egypt, from under the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt, and had feared other gods, 8 And walked in the statutes of the heathen, whom the LORD cast out from before the children of Israel, and of the kings of Israel, which they had made.
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). The kingdom of Judah was subjugated by Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon and removed into exile a little more than a century later (2 Chronicles 36:15-20 2 Chronicles 36:15-20 15 And the LORD God of their fathers sent to them by his messengers, rising up betimes, and sending; because he had compassion on his people, and on his dwelling place: 16 But they mocked the messengers of God, and despised his words, and misused his prophets, until the wrath of the LORD arose against his people, till there was no remedy. 17 Therefore he brought on them the king of the Chaldees, who slew their young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary, and had no compassion on young man or maiden, old man, or him that stooped for age: he gave them all into his hand. 18 And all the vessels of the house of God, great and small, and the treasures of the house of the LORD, and the treasures of the king, and of his princes; all these he brought to Babylon. 19 And they burnt the house of God, and broke down the wall of Jerusalem, and burnt all the palaces thereof with fire, and destroyed all the goodly vessels thereof. 20 And them that had escaped from the sword carried he away to Babylon; where they were servants to him and his sons until the reign of the kingdom of Persia:
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Part of the nation of Judah returned to the Jewish homeland in the fifth century B.C. so that Jewish descendants lived in the land at the time of Christ. When they heard Jesus’ message commanding repentance and obedience, what was their reaction? The majority rejected Him as they had the earlier prophets. Then they killed Him!

On occasion God sent prophets to warn gentile nations. In all history we read of only one example of a non-Israelite people temporarily repenting of its sins en masse after God’s warning. The prophet Jonah preached to the ancient city of Nineveh, warning its residents, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” (Jonah 3:4 Jonah 3:4And Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.
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). The king and the rest of the people responded by repenting of their sins, and God spared them (Jonah 3:5-10 Jonah 3:5-10 5 So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them. 6 For word came to the king of Nineveh, and he arose from his throne, and he laid his robe from him, and covered him with sackcloth, and sat in ashes. 7 And he caused it to be proclaimed and published through Nineveh by the decree of the king and his nobles, saying, Let neither man nor beast, herd nor flock, taste any thing: let them not feed, nor drink water: 8 But let man and beast be covered with sackcloth, and cry mightily to God: yes, let them turn every one from his evil way, and from the violence that is in their hands. 9 Who can tell if God will turn and repent, and turn away from his fierce anger, that we perish not? 10 And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do to them; and he did it not.
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). Later, however, they returned to their wickedness. As a result, invading armies conquered them in 612 B.C.

The historical record shows that, even when God freely offered His help and guidance to nations, they customarily rejected them—just as Adam and Eve had done.

The same old attitudes

We’re no different today. Mankind still rejects God’s instruction. His Word—the Bible—is readily available throughout most of the world. Yet relatively few read it regularly, and even fewer obey it. Not only do they disobey its instruction, but increasingly, particularly among those who presume themselves to be intellectual, people hold the Bible in disdain. Even some religious leaders pay mere lip service to the Bible while disputing major portions of it. They pick and choose which parts they will adhere to and which they feel free to ignore.

Israel’s king Solomon aptly summed up the human condition when he wrote, “What is crooked cannot be made straight” (Ecclesiastes 1:15 Ecclesiastes 1:15That which is crooked cannot be made straight: and that which is wanting cannot be numbered.
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). Mankind has historically rejected God’s instruction and continues to do so. Having rejected God’s revelation, we have cut ourselves off from the only lasting solutions to our problems.

The result is a continuation of pain and sorrow among the nations. As a result, God’s practice from the first century until now has been to call only a few individuals here and there out of this evil age to become His faithful servants.

The rest of humanity gropes in the dark. They search for understanding and meaning in life but remain largely ignorant of the reasons we are plagued with so much suffering. “Always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” is how Paul expresses it (2 Timothy 3:7 2 Timothy 3:7Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
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). Duped by the devil and captive to sin, mankind as a whole is cut off from godly understanding and is the unknowing target of Satan’s hatred and wrath (Ephesians 2:3 Ephesians 2:3Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
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).

Humanity consistently blames God for evil and suffering in the world. But it is not God who is to blame. The responsibility rests squarely on us for our decision to reject His guidance and choose a life of disobedient rebellion—and on Satan for his deception of humanity and incitement to sin.

When will it end?

The good news is that God has not given up on mankind. Just as He allowed Adam and Eve the freedom to choose, so He lets the nations and the nations’ inhabitants go their own way. He allows the world to suffer to teach us we cannot find lasting peace, security and contentment without Him.

We are learning the hard lesson that we cannot rightly govern ourselves apart from God and His laws. The eventual result of our efforts is that, just before Jesus returns to the earth, humanity will teeter on the brink of annihilation. “If that time of troubles were not cut short, no living thing could survive” (Matthew 24:22 Matthew 24:22And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.
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, REB).

This was Jesus’ warning nearly 2,000 years ago. Only in recent times have we entered an age in which we actually possess the power to destroy the world. Leaders of government, science and religion believe that the only way we can avoid destruction is to establish a system of international cooperation.

Michio Kaku, scientist, author and television host, writes that the “sheer power of … scientific revolutions will force the nations of the earth to cooperate on a scale never seen before in history.” He adds: “In the background always lurks the possibility of a nuclear war, the outbreak of a deadly pandemic, or a collapse of the environment” ( Visions: How Science Will Revolutionize the 21st Century, 1998, p. 19).

Christ prophesied that the nations, not surprisingly, will fail in their efforts to peacefully cooperate. He warned that warfare will not cease, but will increase (Matthew 24:6-8 Matthew 24:6-8 6 And you shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that you be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. 7 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. 8 All these are the beginning of sorrows.
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). Suffering will not disappear; it will intensify in the years leading up to His return(Matthew 24:21-22 Matthew 24:21-22 21 For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. 22 And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect’s sake those days shall be shortened.
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).

God is allowing people to attempt to rule themselves even as they fumble in spiritual darkness. But because they have cast His commandments aside they cannot succeed. God will bring all people to realize they cannot achieve world peace and bring an end to misery and suffering without His intervention.

As the living and just God, our Creator will not allow an evil and unjust world to continue indefinitely. He will not allow us to annihilate ourselves. He will send Jesus to earth, this time to rule as King of Kings (Revelation 19:16 Revelation 19:16And he has on his clothing and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.
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). The Messiah will intervene at the hour of man’s gravest crisis (Daniel 12:1 Daniel 12:1And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which stands for the children of your people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time your people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.
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In effect, God must tear everything down and start over. Once the worldwide destruction described in Revelation 6-19 and other biblical prophecies has run its course, Christ will intervene to establish a kingdom of righteousness and begin to rectify the injustice and unfairness in the world.

How those who suffer will finally find peace

God’s plan includes a way to redeem all who have suffered and died in the past without understanding why they suffered. Billions of men, women and children have lived and died throughout history without knowing God or realizing His purpose. The majority of these never heard of Jesus during their lifetimes. They lived and died ignorant of why He came and with no comprehension of God’s plan.

The Bible reveals that, 1,000 years after Jesus returns, God will bring back to life all who ever lived but received little or no understanding of God’s purpose. He will resurrect them to a temporary physical life and give them a final opportunity to exercise their free will—but this time with an understanding of true spiritual knowledge in a world in which God’s way, not Satan’s, holds sway.

At that time they will have to choose, or knowingly reject, God’s way of life. Their choice will determine whether they will receive eternal life or perish in the lake of fire (Revelation 20:15 Revelation 20:15And whoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.
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This will be their first opportunity for salvation, because they were previously alienated from God through the deception of the devil (2 Corinthians 4:3-4 2 Corinthians 4:3-4 3 But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: 4 In whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine to them.
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; 1 John 5:19 1 John 5:19And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lies in wickedness.
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; Revelation 12:9 Revelation 12:9And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceives the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
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With Satan blinding them, they never comprehended God’s purpose. When God resurrects them into a world in which His truth will be freely available (Jeremiah 31:34 Jeremiah 31:34And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, said the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.
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; Isaiah 11:9 Isaiah 11:9They 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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), they will reflect on the immense suffering that sin caused down through history and can choose anew, this time with full understanding of the consequences of sin and the suffering it brings. Most will begin to make right choices and accept Christ as Savior—a path that, if chosen, will lead them to eternal life.

Revelation 20:12 Revelation 20:12And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
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describes this resurrection: “And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books [books of the Bible, revealing the right way to live] were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books” (Revelation 20:12 Revelation 20:12And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works.
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God will resurrect these people, and they will then be judged by biblical standards according to how they respond to the spiritual enlightenment they will have now received for the first time. (For more details about the resurrections described in the Bible, be sure to download or request the free booklets What Happens After Death? and God’s Holy Day Plan: The Promise of Hope for All Mankind . )

This present evil world is not just and never can be. As we have seen, it is Satan’s world, not God’s. But God is perfectly just, righteous, merciful and fair. His plan provides for a transformed world, a way for all mankind to be redeemed and, when all is said and done, all suffering to be erased.

Revelation 21:3-4 Revelation 21:3-4 3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God. 4 And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.
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describes the time when suffering will be no more: “And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, ‘Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God. And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.’” What encouraging words!

What should you do?

Many people hold to an erroneous concept that was popular in Jesus’ day. At that time people commonly assumed that a person’s health and wealth were an indicator of his righteousness or guilt. Those who had a comfortable, prosperous life were presumed to be blessed by God while those who suffered from poverty, disease or other adversities were thought to be divinely cursed for their sins.

Jesus addressed this notion when people told Him of a tragedy that had stunned the inhabitants of Jerusalem. On the Roman governor’s orders, several men had been brutally killed while bringing sacrifices to the temple.

Jesus asked: “Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:2-3 Luke 13:2-3 2 And Jesus answering said to them, Suppose you that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? 3 I tell you, No: but, except you repent, you shall all likewise perish.
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It was incomprehensible to those who heard Christ’s words that such a tragedy could befall people who were in the very act of doing good. They couldn’t begin to understand how God could allow such a disaster.

Jesus made the point that no one is immune to the twists and turns of this life. The lesson? Unless we repent we will perish.

Jesus reinforced the lesson with another example. “Those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:4-5 Luke 13:4-5 4 Or those eighteen, on whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think you that they were sinners above all men that dwelled in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, No: but, except you repent, you shall all likewise perish.
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Untimely deaths, such as the murder of the Galileans bringing their sacrifices, were simply a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time. The victims of these tragedies weren’t greater sinners than other men and women; they were random victims of random events. They were sinners, however, and, as with all who sin, they were destined to die.

The same is true for us. We may not be the victims of random violence or a collapsing building, but we are sinners, and eventually something will do us in. When we realize that, Jesus’ warning should pierce our consciousness: “Unless you repent you will all likewise perish.”

Knowing that we live in a world awash in misery, in which tragedy can strike at any time, shouldn’t we heed Christ’s warning to repent and begin aligning our life with His? As Jesus told a man He had healed of a longtime affliction: “Sin no more, lest a worse thing come upon you” (John 5:14 John 5:14Afterward Jesus finds him in the temple, and said to him, Behold, you are made whole: sin no more, lest a worse thing come to you.
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Christ expects us to repent and turn to God. Indeed, God “now commands all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30 Acts 17:30And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commands all men every where to repent:
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). Knowing our time on earth is short, we had better be sure to concentrate on the things that are most important to Him. (To understand what repentance is all about, download or request our free booklet Transforming Your Life: The Process of Conversion . )

When you suffer

If you are suffering, what should you do? Take your problem to God through prayer in faith and ask for His comfort and encouragement! In the book of Psalms we read of King David asking the Creator many times to relieve his sufferings.

Jesus came to earth to ease our sufferings. He is no stranger to the suffering of humanity. He offers comfort, help and hope to those who suffer. “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden,” He says, “and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29 Matthew 11:28-29 28 Come to me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke on you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest to your souls.
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We need not be discouraged by the evil that pervades the world. Knowing that suffering occurs for valid reasons helps us deal with the question of why God allows it in the first place. God is sovereign and ultimately in charge. He has promised to liberate the world from suffering—not now, but when Christ returns to establish God’s Kingdom. He tells us to pray for the arrival of that Kingdom and to wait patiently for that time (Matthew 6:9-10 Matthew 6:9-10 9 After this manner therefore pray you: Our Father which are in heaven, Hallowed be your name. 10 Your kingdom come, Your will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
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; Luke 21:19 Luke 21:19In your patience possess you your souls.
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). Only then will suffering end.

As for your own life, be sure you have surrendered to God in genuine repentance, as Jesus commanded (Luke 13:3-5 Luke 13:3-5 3 I tell you, No: but, except you repent, you shall all likewise perish. 4 Or those eighteen, on whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think you that they were sinners above all men that dwelled in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, No: but, except you repent, you shall all likewise perish.
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). When Christ came to live on the earth as the Son of God 2,000 years ago, He realized He was coming to a people groaning under the burden of injustice and pain. Of that world He said, “The people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned” (Matthew 4:16 Matthew 4:16The people which sat in darkness saw great light; and to them which sat in the region and shadow of death light is sprung up.
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, NIV). The light Jesus spoke of was Himself and the truth of God that He revealed.

Jesus told the people that their responsibility was to turn to God: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17 Matthew 4:17From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
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). This, above all else, is what we need to do. We cannot avoid suffering in a world full of evil, but when we turn to God we can experience the comfort and hope of looking forward to a world free of suffering.

Take strength, courage and hope from the promises of God. In spite of the sorrows of this life, we can experience great joy in living according to His will today while having faith in His revealed truth about the world to come. As we’ve seen, Paul explained that the sufferings of this age are not worthy to be compared with the glorious future we will experience in God’s Kingdom (Romans 8:18 Romans 8:18For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.
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).

So wonderful will it be that, in the scope of eternity, all the pain and suffering of today will seem minor and fleeting, though it is hard to bear for the moment. As Paul said in 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 17 For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, works for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; 18 While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal.
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(New Living Translation): “For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.”