Utopia: Is It Humanly Possible?

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Is It Humanly Possible?

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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?

Around 200 years ago, this town in what is today Indiana was carved out of the wilderness of the American Midwest by a religious group called Harmonists. They set out 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.

Human attempts to create paradise

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 that he and his followers, to be properly prepared for the second coming, needed to remove themselves literally into a wilderness and create a place of preparation in fulfillment of 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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In this place, the Harmonists believed they could create something revolutionary —a place where people could live together in peace, love and perfect unity. Harmony to these people was a place where the essence of God’s Kingdom on earth could be achieved.

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. They had 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—stonecutters, masons, bricklayers, carpenters, weavers spinners, shoemakers, tailors and blacksmiths. They also had the skills needed to plant and process food from the fields to the tables of the town.

They were committed to universal education. Their approach was decades ahead of any other public school system in America.

They taught their children about how their society would be completely different—they would live in a perfect society. They shared a vision of a society working together in peace and harmony, preparing for the return of Jesus Christ.

In many ways those of this community of believers succeeded in their 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.

Paradise lost

The Harmonists, though, had one significant belief that had a built-in problem. To prepare for the golden age to come following Christ’s second coming, Rapp interpreted certain biblical passages to mean one should remain celibate—no sexual relations. While this was not strictly enforced, it did lead to an inevitable backlash.

In 1824, Rapp decided to sell New Harmony and lead his followers back to Pennsylvania to create a new settlement. Christ had not returned as he 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 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.

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.

Another attempt to create paradise

Ironically, Rapp and his Harmonists sold their town to another utopian visionary, Robert Owen. The story of Owen’s New Harmony is unsurprisingly similar to Rapp’s. Despite best intentions and best efforts, the lesson we learn from New Harmony is that mankind is unable to engineer the perfect society.

Both Rapp and Owen failed in their goals. They did not create the Kingdom of God on earth. Why didn’t they succeed? Why have countless other humanly devised utopian concepts of social and government order been so unsuccessful?

Only God can create paradise

Part of the answer can be found in the very name given to these ventures. It’s the word “utopia.” This word is formed from Greek roots literally meaning “no place.” It is used to describe human dreams of a good or perfect environment. The reality is that there never has been a place on earth where human beings created a perfect peaceful community—in spite of the many noble efforts to do so.

Can we ever achieve a community of peace? The good news is that the Bible shows us how peace will come to the entire earth.

Isaiah 26 tells us: “O Lord, we have waited for You . . . For when Your judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness . . . Lord, You will establish peace for us” (Isaiah 26;8-9; Isaiah 26:12 Isaiah 26:12LORD, you will ordain peace for us: for you also have worked all our works in us.
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, emphasis added).

Notice also what’s written in the book of Acts. Peter was inspired to encourage repentance and conversion so 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 returning to earth to rescue mankind from oblivion and to create harmony through the just rule of the Kingdom of God.

Isaiah foretold a paradise on earth

The prophet Isaiah further foretold: “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’s one of the most impressive images from the Bible—a man taking his sword and, instead of running it through his enemy, beating it with a hammer into a farming tool. He then takes his spear and turns it into a pruning hook to use in the orchards and vineyards, tending crops.

Another passage in Isaiah describes a kingdom of peace in which even the nature of wild animals is tamed: “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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God’s desire is to set up a paradise where He will have a relationship with man based on trust, good will and love. This is what God desires more than anything.

The key to peace—a change of heart

Why did the Harmonists’ efforts fail to build a religious utopia? What will be different in God’s Kingdom?

Any and all human efforts to create a perfect society fail because of one critical element—human nature.

God has a solution for this problem. 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. That change is based on a willing choice by each person to admit a need for God and then submit his or her will to God’s will in every aspect of life.

God has given us freedom of choice. He commands people everywhere to repent, to change and to choose life. Once people do, God can begin to create a paradise on earth—the establishment here of the Kingdom of God.

This process needs to begin in your life now. You can decide to live today by the teachings and way of life God will establish within His coming Kingdom. Jesus paved the way for this change when He said: “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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He showed us the way of life He desires us to have. We need to be striving with His help to live that way now if we want to enter His Kingdom.

Peter explained 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’s the very mind and character of God! It’s the way He thinks, believes, judges and acts. That virtuous, righteous nature—that change of heart—is produced by God’s Holy Spirit! And that Spirit can dwell in you following the process of repentance leading to baptism (Acts 2:38 Acts 2:38Then Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
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The coming paradise of God

Various utopian experiments, such as that at New Harmony, have sought to improve mankind and create a peaceable environment. Peace has been sought on every scale and by virtually all forms of belief. All attempts to accomplish the goal have failed. But God’s effort to bring peace will not fail. It will succeed—through Jesus Christ and the establishment of God’s Kingdom.

If you believe in God and His Word, then you must believe His promises. God is faithful, and He alone has the power to bring paradise to earth. The good news is that He will!

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