Every generation judges the next. But are moral, social, and religious changes now leading to what the Bible calls the most troubled time in human history?
Newscaster Tom Brokaw described the men and women who endured the Great Depression and survived World War II as “The Greatest Generation.” Some of its members were displaced by the American “Dust Bowl,” immortalized in John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. After the hardships and carnage of the 1930s and ’40s, they helped rebuild and put the world back together again. That was my parents’ generation. Life was often hard, and they faced many challenges.
Those who have never studied the history of that generation likely do not appreciate its accomplishments. But was that truly the greatest generation? Those living through the first half of the twentieth century are certainly contenders for the title, but they are not alone. Every generation has its challenges—some more than others.
We who are older may be tempted to think that there will never again be the likes of Henry Ford, John D. Rockefeller, or Thomas Edison. Other great names from the past come to mind, such as Alexander Graham Bell, Johannes Gutenberg, Marie Curie, Louis Pasteur, George Washington Carver, Sir Isaac Newton, and Aristotle. And there are countless others whose names we may not know, but who contributed greatly to the world we now see.
As in the past, this generation has its greats: Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Jack Welch, Oprah Winfrey, and others come to mind. Consider Elon Musk, the architect of the most successful electric car company in the world. He is also busy sending rockets and satellites into space and plans to send men and women to Mars—all while finding the spare time to buy Twitter.
When it comes to technological advancements, our age must surely be second to none. Never before has the world seen such technological advances come so rapidly as they do now. Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) is now talked about everywhere. The term and some of its uses are not new, but—especially in recent months—it has taken on new implications. The speed of its sudden breakthrough is breathtaking. The potential of A.I. for science, medicine, and industry carries the promise of transforming our world for the good, but its potential for mischief and destruction is ominous. Some think it could end civilization.
So, what about us today? If we could immediately go forward 75 years and view from there a snapshot of our current world, how would the future judge us? What moniker will we be given in the future? Will it contain the word “great”? Or will today’s world garner far less esteem?
Will this generation be the new kid on the block who dethrones the previous king of the hill? Could ours be the greatest generation? How will future generations see us as they look back on those who live today?
Rockets to the moon, GPS, electric vehicles, A.I., smartphones—all are the result of the accumulation of knowledge over mankind’s time on earth, and all owe their existence to previous generations of advancement. Each, for instance, relied on Gutenberg’s invention of a movable-type printing press nearly six centuries ago. Without his breakthrough, there would have been no proliferation of books paving the way for breakthroughs in our modern world.
This is truly an amazing world we were born into, but smartphones, laptops, air transport, electric vehicles, and air conditioning do not tell the whole story. While mankind has shown genius for invention and innovation, every generation has failed miserably in human relations. Aircraft carry not only passengers and cargo, but also powerful weapons of war. Virtually every invention provides new ways to kill, subdue, or scam one’s fellow man.
The technology that sent men to the Moon and brought them back safely has not enabled us to get along with one another. There are too many failed marriages; too many murders, rapes, and assaults; too many wars cutting short the hopes and dreams of millions. The Internet may bring families together and proliferate knowledge, but it also destroys families and lives as it proliferates pornography and facilitates endless new scams and deceptions. The “Greatest Generation” failed to put an end to war or any of these other human problems, and so has every generation since. Human nature is clearly inadequate—incomplete!
Have you ever wondered why mankind has so much greater capacity than animals? Even the animals with larger brains fail to come near to man’s capacity to reason, to think, to innovate. None can go to the moon and return. None can build a radio, a television, or a computer. You may love your pets and even find their intelligence amazing, but there is something fundamentally different between you and them.
What makes the difference? How is it that man can build machines to go higher, faster, and farther than any animal? Evolutionists tell us that man is merely a higher animal form, but they cannot explain the huge difference in mental capacity between man and beast—what makes humans different from animals. So why is it that with all their intelligence, human beings cannot get along with each other? Why divorce? Why wars between nations? Why people scamming, robbing, bludgeoning one another?
The answers can be found in the most famous book Gutenberg printed with his new invention. It is the Bible—and only the Bible—that reveals the answers to these fundamental questions. Its opening verses introduce us to something else evolutionists cannot explain—God’s purpose for 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.’ So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:26–27).
How many of us have read over these verses without considering what they mean? Read them carefully: In plain language, if it is not already evident enough, God did not make man after any animal kind, but, rather, after His kind—God’s own kind. We are different because we are created in God’s image and likeness.
But, then, why don’t we conduct ourselves in a godly manner? Something is missing.
When God put mankind on earth, He created us with amazing ability to think, to reason, and to accomplish marvelous things. But He also gave us free will. Human beings were given the ability to choose between right and wrong, to choose “life and good” on one hand or “death and evil” on the other (Deuteronomy 30:15). This choice was symbolized by two literal trees. Choosing the one tree would lead to blessings and life, but choosing “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” would lead to curses and death (v. 19; Genesis 2:9, 16–17). As we know, Adam chose poorly, and we have all followed his lead. That choice represented rejection of God’s knowledge—mankind taking for itself the prerogative to determine right and wrong.
Adam was kicked out of the Garden of Eden as a result of his rebellion. We have followed Adam’s lead, and God has let us choose our own ways ever since. Only when we come to the place of imminent total destruction will He step in and stop our madness (Matthew 24:21–22).
The idea that God is creating man in His own image is truly profound—and this theme is found throughout Scripture. King David, looking up at the night sky and wondering why God would be interested in puny little man, asked, “What is man that You are mindful of him, and the son of man that You visit him?” (Psalm 8:4). The book of Hebrews picks up this question and explains:
“You [that is, God] have put all things in subjection under his [man’s] feet.” For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we do not yet see all things put under him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings (Hebrews 2:8–10).
A careful study of the Scriptures reveals a plan and purpose being worked out, and it is far greater than what so many theologians have imagined—the so-called “beatific vision” in which mankind goes off to heaven for a kind of “retirement,” just staring into the face of God for eternity. Why do people not accept what the Bible plainly tells us? The Apostle Paul is not vague about our future. He explains that we will become sons of God and joint heirs with Christ. “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father’” (Romans 8:14–15).
Now, notice what Paul writes next: “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (v. 16). Did you catch that? God is begetting children for His Family. We are, as brought out in Genesis 1, made in the image and likeness of God Himself, and not of any animal kind! Can you believe what the Bible clearly says? Notice further: “… and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together” (v. 17).
In previous generations we understood that mankind represented both men and women when used in such contexts. But if anyone is offended by that “microaggression,” note that God does not leave women out: “I will be a Father to you, and you shall be My sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty” (2 Corinthians 6:18).
Notice that verse 16 describes two spirits—God’s Spirit and our human spirit. In this we find the difference between God’s thinking and man’s thinking. Humanly speaking, we do not think as God thinks (Isaiah 55:1–8). Without His indwelling Spirit, we lack genuine love and self-control, however intelligent we may be in material matters. This verse outlines how we all think without His help: “Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like” (Galatians 5:19–21).
But does that mean we can never think as He thinks? Let Paul give us the answer: “But as it is written: ‘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.’ But God has revealed them to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:9–10).
Paul next reveals the difference between animal brain and the mind of man. “For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him?” And similarly, he explains the difference between the mind of man and the mind of God. “Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God” (2:11). Here we again find the two spirits: the spirit in man and the Spirit of God. The spirit in man empowers the human brain to a degree that animals can never attain, but without the Spirit of God dwelling in us, we can no more understand the things of God than my dog Marcus could understand calculus!
To think as God thinks—to be fully made in the image and likeness of God—these two spirits must unite in us. “For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, ‘Abba, Father.’ The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together” (Romans 8:14–17). Wow—read that again. We are to be “children of God… heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.”
This explains why man can build complex machines but cannot find the way to peace. Collectively and individually, human beings are unable to set aside selfish desires. The result? Paul makes it plain: “Destruction and misery are in their ways; and the way of peace they have not known” (Romans 3:16–17). The next verse explains what is behind it all: “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”
But why does mankind reject God? The answer involves a third spirit, one that also works with the spirit in man. “And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others” (Ephesians 2:1–3).
So, we see the work of three spirits: God’s Holy Spirit, the spirit in man, and the spirit of the devil. These spirits are real! And the spirit in man is not an ever-living soul, as many mistakenly assume. As the prophet Ezekiel tell us, “The soul who sins shall die” (Ezekiel 18:4, 20). We do not now have immortality—we must obtain it at the resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:53–54).
The human spirit enables the brain to think beyond the animal kingdom. It is an essence that empowers the physical brain to think far beyond eating, procreating, and surviving. This spirit lets us appreciate art and beauty, read about previous generations, and plan for the future. We construct complex machines, build hospitals, create artificial intelligence.
Yet we are incomplete without a second spirit—the Spirit of God. Only after baptism (picturing putting to death our old ways and submitting to God’s will) and the laying on of hands by the ministry do we receive the spark of God’s mind and begin the process of being transformed into a person defined by God’s own qualities: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22–23).
Technologically, we have built on the greats of the past—and we have greats of our own. No generation in man’s history has seen the knowledge explosion we now have (Daniel 12:4). But that is not the whole picture. How will we be seen by future generations? What will they think about a generation in which a United States Supreme Court justice—along with leaders in government, university professors, and so many supposedly educated students—refuses to admit what a woman is? What will they think about a people whose mothers take their toddlers to be entertained by drag queens? What will they think about a society in which criminals are protected and the lawful are routinely ignored? How will they view a nation so foolish as to allow a de facto open border, allowing drugs and bad actors in?
Will ours be viewed as the “Greatest Generation”? Or will we be viewed as the Foolish Generation—maybe even the Dumbest Generation? I suggest another name based on Bible prophecy: The Generation that Nearly Destroyed All Life (Matthew 24:21–22). But we can be glad in knowing that the story does not end there. In fact, after the generations of our present age, we will see the beginning of a new world of Generations in Whom God’s Spirit Dwells (Ezekiel 11:19–20). Only then will the prophecy of Isaiah 2:3–4 come to pass:
Many people shall come and say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. 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.
This is the message Jesus proclaimed of a time when the Kingdom of God rules on earth (Mark 1:14–15). This is the same message we preach—the message of tomorrow’s world, when God will raise up the genuinely greatest generations!
Editor's Note: The printed version of this article incorrectly refers to retired news anchor Tom Brokaw as having died. In reality, Mr. Brokaw is very much alive as of July 10, 2023. We apologize for this error.