The Bible answers some of life’s biggest questions. These are the questions people all over the world seem to be asking:
• Does God exist, and, if so, what is He like?
• Who am I?
• Why am I here?
• What is my purpose in life?
• Why is there so much pain and suffering in the world?
• How can I live a joyful, meaningful life in a world with so much evil?
• What happens after I die?
• Is history headed somewhere?
Most religions attempt to answer these questions. Even anti-religions like atheism, naturalism, and secular humanism still offer answers to these kinds of questions, even though sometimes the answer they provide is that there is no answer. (For example, in answering, “What is my purpose in life?” the naturalist might well answer, “You don’t have one” or “You make it whatever you want it to be.”)
The Bible answers Does God Exist? in its first four words: “In the beginning God . . .” (Genesis 1:1). In other words, at the beginning of the universe and all life as we know it, God was there already. What is God like? is answered through the rest of the Bible, but two of the dominant features are that God is loving but also holy. Since He is holy, He must punish sin; but, since He is loving, He wants to forgive sin as well. This is a dominant theme that is developed in Scripture.
Who am I?, Why am I here?, and What is my purpose in life? are also answered in the first chapter of Genesis. Genesis 1:27–28 says, “God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’” We are here because God created our first parents and put them on earth. We are created in God’s image, and our purpose is to act as God’s representatives on the earth, living in obedience to and fellowship with Him. How we respond to others is a good measure of what we think of the One they represent. When we work, cultivate, invent, explore, innovate, have children, and love others, we are doing what God put people on earth to do. However, if we do these things but are not in fellowship with Him, we are missing the key component.
Why is there so much pain and suffering in the world? is addressed in Genesis 3. God had given our first parents, Adam and Eve, the whole world and only one prohibition—there was one tree from which they were not supposed to eat. He warned them that, if they ate the fruit, they would die. However, in disobedience to God, they ate the fruit. As a result, they immediately felt shame and isolation from each other and from God as evidenced by their fashioning “clothing” from fig leaves and hiding from God when He came to meet with them as He had been doing daily. Because of their sin, pain and death were introduced into the world. Eve would have to experience pain in childbirth. Adam would have to work hard and experience pain in order to provide food for his family. And both of them would grow old and die. All of creation “fell,” and all of the pain we see around us was introduced because of sin. Even the animals were affected. One of Adam and Eve’s sons, Cain, killed his brother Abel (Genesis 4). The pattern of pain and suffering and death continues as people live in rebellion against God.
How can I live a joyful, meaningful life in a world with so much evil? God did not abandon Adam and Eve and their descendants. God continued to reach out to people and provided a way for them to be made right with Him in the midst of an evil world. God chose Abraham (Genesis 12) to be a special conduit of blessing for the world. Through Abraham would come the people of Israel, who gave us the Scriptures that show us what God is like. Ultimately, Jesus Christ, who would save us from sin and its penalty, was born into the world through the people of Israel. Jesus was God in human flesh; He lived a perfect life and died to pay for the sins of human beings. (This was foreshadowed in the animal sacrifices that God prescribed for Israel.) But, unlike the animal sacrifices, Jesus rose again from the dead, guaranteeing that His sacrifice was sufficient. On the cross, God punished sin but made it possible for the sinner to be forgiven—both God’s holiness and His love were combined in this one event. In Christ we can be forgiven of all our sins and made acceptable to God. We can also begin to be reconciled with other people and truly begin to live the kind of life that God wants us to live. Because God’s Spirit lives within the believer, he begins to experience love, joy, peace, and a multitude of other virtues that make life better for everyone. This is a small taste of what is to come.
What happens after I die? is also answered in the Bible. Hebrews 9:27 says that “people are destined to die once, and after that to face judgment.” For those who have been reconciled to God by faith in Christ, there is no condemnation (Romans 8:1). For the Christian, to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8), but, for those who do not know Christ, there is only a “fearful expectation of judgment” (Hebrews 10:27). Death is only a transition to eternity. People, made in God’s image, will live forever either in God’s presence or banished from Him in eternal punishment.
Death is not the only end in sight. The Bible tells us that history is headed somewhere. God intends to create new heavens and a new earth—replacements for what was spoiled by sin. The new one will be filled with God’s righteousness (2 Peter 3:16). Christians are told to wait patiently for that day, since Christ could return at any time and bring all of God’s plans for earth to culmination.