The Question of the Ages
Does life a have a purpose? Does it have real meaning? Is life anything more than a brief span on earth, with nothing but eternity on either side of this physical existence? This is the question of the ages, a riddle that has challenged humans since they came to be. Why am I here? Why do I exist? This booklet will help you understand the incredible truth about your destiny.
What is your destiny? Why do you exist? Is there a reason, a purpose, for human life? These questions have baffled the greatest thinkers and philosophers down through the ages.
We ponder the meaning of life. A child naturally wonders, "Where did I come from?" As adults we ask, especially in our twilight years: "Is this physical life all there is? Does my life have a purpose?"
Think about your own existence. Can you see a purpose for your own life with its ups and downs, its mixture of joys and sorrows?
Do you perceive lasting value in its toil, challenges and uncertainties?
Life's greatest question
Why were you born? That's the question of the ages.
Three thousand years ago King David considered the apparent insignificance of human beings when compared to the vastness of the night sky. As a shepherd he had spent many nights outdoors gazing at the star-studded skies. He recorded some of his thoughts in Psalm 8:3-4: "When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained, what is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?"
David wondered why, in the magnificent and vast universe, God is so concerned with human beings and their future.
David realized that, within the larger scope of the vast heavens, we can appear to be insignificant. Yet he perceived that, in the plan of the great Creator God, no part of God's physical creation even begins to compare with His purpose for human beings. Not even the angelic creation can compare.
Understanding that only God can reveal His purpose for creating us, David continued his reflection on the destiny of man: "For You have made him a little lower than the angels, and You have crowned him with glory and honor. You have made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands; You have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen—even the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea that pass through the paths of the seas" (verses 5-8, emphasis added throughout).
God's supreme creation
David realized that humans are potentially God's supreme creation. He pointed out that God has already granted humans the capacity to manage a good part of His creation—planet earth and its wonders. David concluded that God's purpose for creating humankind, for making us unique among His creatures, must be of overriding importance in His master plan.
Notice how God Himself explains His purpose for creating mankind: "Then God said, 'Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth" (Genesis 1:26).
In all of God's physical creation, He made only man in the image and likeness of Himself. He gave only man dominion or rule over the creation. Mankind is unique within the creation of God.
Do you grasp what God has in store for those who develop a proper relationship with Him? As the apostle Paul put it: "Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him" (1 Corinthians 2:9). The Scriptures reveal that our destiny can exceed anything we could imagine in our wildest dreams. Isn't it time we let God explain—from His Word—what He has in mind for us?
A prophetic passage gives us our first clue to our fantastic future. Speaking of the resurrection of the dead, it tells us that a time is coming when "many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt." It adds: "Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever" (Daniel 12:2-3, New Revised Standard Version).
This is the amazing future God has planned for us: to live eternally while shining like brilliant stars!
What man is
Before we can comprehend man's eternal destiny, however, we need to clearly understand what man is now. We are physical beings composed of the chemical substances of earth. That is how God created us. "And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being" (Genesis 2:7).
But almost all ancient religions taught the error that man is more than just a physical being. They taught that man has a dual composition, that a human being is both a physical body and an immortal soul.
Even today most people believe that after our physical body dies our supposedly immortal "soul" will continue as a living and conscious entity apart from the body.
This idea that we have a soul that is immortal is never taught in the Holy Scriptures. It came to us from the superstitions of ancient religions—possibly as far back as Eden, when Satan convinced Eve she would not die if she disobeyed God (Genesis 3:2-4). On the contrary, the Bible clearly tells us that our "soul" is mortal rather than immortal because it is subject to death (Ezekiel 18:4, 20). (For a thorough explanation of what really occurs at death, and the many misconceptions associated with it, be sure to write for our booklet What Happens After Death?)
The Bible makes it plain that immortality is not something we already possess. Paul clearly tells us that God alone has immortality (1 Timothy 6:13-16). He explains that we are "corruptible" and "mortal" and "this mortal must put on immortality" by being changed from corruptible to incorruptible when Jesus Christ returns at the last trumpet (1 Corinthians 15:51-53; compare 1 Thessalonians 4:16; Revelation 11:15).
At this present time God's servants are those who "seek for glory and honor and immortality" (Romans 2:7). They do not already possess immortality. But they do understand that, by sacrificing His life for ours, Jesus Christ "has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel" (2 Timothy 1:10). Immortality is available only through mankind's Savior, Jesus Christ (Acts 4:12).
What, then, is man?
Man is mortal! Human life is temporary! We are physical beings who can die; we can cease to exist. Our life does not reside in some supposedly immortal soul. No such teaching can be found in the Scriptures. When we die, our consciousness ceases (Psalm 6:5; Ecclesiastes 9:5, 10); it doesn't continue in some other form. Our only hope for eternal life lies in the gracious mercy of God. "For the wages of sin is death [not immortal life in some other form or place], but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23).
Eternal life is the gift God has in store for those who turn from the way of sin and begin obeying Him from the heart. He "desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:4). He is "not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). God desires to give us the precious gift of life forevermore. He will do everything He can to ensure that we receive the eternal destiny He has planned for us.
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