March / April 2016
An Urbanized World
“So the LORD scattered them abroad from there over the face of the whole earth; and they stopped building the city” (Genesis 11:8 NAS).
Listen to audio:
The human population has lived a rural lifestyle throughout most of history. The world’s population today, however, is becoming “urbanized” as people migrate to the cities. While the definition of an urban area varies from country to country, the United Nations defines settlements of over 20,000 as urban, and those with more than 100,000 as cities. In the United States, an urbanized area is a city and its suburbs containing at least 50,000 inhabitants. These metropolitan areas are socially and economically integrated.
This trend, according to a study by the University of Michigan, began in the 50-year period between 1950 and 2000, driven by both natural increases in population (excess of births over deaths), and migration from isolated rural areas. In general, cities are perceived as places where the poor from rural areas can have a better life, better opportunities, higher salaries, better services, and better lifestyles. This is especially true in developing countries within Asia and Africa.
Urban areas now house over half of the world’s seven billion people, and it is expected to rise to about five billion by 2030. Much of the current increase has come in developing areas such as China, where almost two billion people now are considered middle class. Research by Credit Suisse published in October, 2015, reported that there are 109 million Chinese (out of a total population of 1.5 billion) with wealth of between U.S. $50,000 and $500,000. (Credit Suisse measured wealth rather than income to avoid temporary changes caused by unemployment, for example.) According to a McKinsey Consulting Group study, by 2022, more than 75 percent of China’s urban consumers will earn annually between 60,000 and 229,000 renminbi ($9,000 to $34,000). In purchasing- power-parity terms, that range approximates the average per capita income of Brazil and Italy.
(Sources: Urbanization and Social Change published by U of M, United Nations Population Fund, McKinsey Consulting, Zurich Insurance Group)
New Problems Created
Although the growth of urban population has led to a better economic life for many, it has brought new problems to society. Power shifts are occurring within many countries as tension develops between ethnic groups. Population concentration changes produce clashes within communities and multicultural workforces, due to different values, behaviors, approaches and ways of addressing problems. Special interest groups form, attacking long-held practices or beliefs.
In places such as India, where 285 million people live in urban settings (just 28 per cent of the population), serious crises proliferate. The sheer magnitude of the population, haphazard and unplanned growth of urban areas, and a desperate lack of infrastructure has put heavy pressure on public utilities such as housing, sanitation, transport, water, electricity, health, and education. Poverty, unemployment and under-employment among the rural immigrants, beggary, thefts, burglaries and other social ills are on a rampage. By 2030, more than half of India’s population — an additional 400 million people — is expected to live in urban areas. One can only surmise the problems that may arise if nothing changes.
God’s Kingdom an Answer
While recent centuries have witnessed a gradual rise in the economic living standards of many as a result of urbanization, more than 1.3 billion people still live in extreme poverty (< $1.25 per day), infectious disease kills over 13 million annually (16 percent of all deaths), and almost half-a-million people are murdered each year. The dispersion of the population since the days of Babel has developed without divine guidance and evil is still rampant. Left to their own devices, mankind has developed into a huge cultural anarchy.
The Bible promises to eradicate this situation through the establishment of a divine government ruled by Christ (Matthew 6:10). That government will reorganize society and produce an equal living standard for all its inhabitants, those living and all those who have ever lived. “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth.” (John 5:28, 29) The difference between that kingdom and the kingdoms of this present world will be enormous.
Christ’s kingdom will be based on justice (Isaiah 9:7, 11:4). Through its leaders, Christ and the church (1 Peter 2:9, Revelation 20:6), all will be taught righteousness and be brought to holiness. “When thy (God’s) judgments are in the earth, the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness” (Isaiah 26:9).
The resurrection of earth’s masses will produce global citizens without knowledge of where they have been and what has happened to the world since they left it. Under the guidance of the Ancient Worthies and with the oversight of Christ and his Church, the populace will be taught the ways of God (Isaiah 35:8-10).
The Garden of Eden provided all the resources its inhabitants needed to sustain life (Genesis 1:29). The restoration of the earth will likewise, with the equitable participation of its inhabitants, provide abundant resources for all. This kingdom work will bring peace, harmony, social and economic equity (Hosea 13:14, Isaiah 65:21-23, Micah 4:4).
Restitution will bring man everlasting life, perfect health, dominion over the earth, and sonship with God — those things lost by Adam when he disobeyed in the Garden of Eden. Restitution will also mean removal of the curse upon the earth. The kingdom will bring an end to rebellion against God on both the spiritual and earthly planes of existence. All the enemies of God, including death itself, shall be destroyed so that God “may be all in all” (1 Corinthians 15:28).
The scope of Christ’s kingdom will be worldwide. It will liberate all mankind from the prison house of Adamic death (Isaiah 42:7, 49:9, 61:1). It will dissolve all of the present earthly kingdoms and transform mankind into a single holy nation (Psalm 2:9, Daniel 2:44, Revelation 2:27). It will educate everyone about God (Jeremiah 31:34, Isaiah 11:9, Habakkuk 2:14). It will replace today’s environment of sin and selfishness with the paradise that all have been waiting for (Romans 8:19, Revelation 21:1-4).
In this kingdom, the knowledge of the Lord will cover the earth “as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9). “They shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD” (Jeremiah 31:34). Through the kingdom God will “turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the LORD, to serve him with one consent” (Zephaniah 3:9). The word of the Lord shall go forth from Jerusalem and the knowledge of Jehovah will be world-wide (Isaiah 2:3, Jeremiah 31:34).
Violence and hostility between nations, peoples, races, and ethnic groups will come to an end. Because of the civil power of the Kingdom, “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 11:9). Under the direction of Christ’s kingdom, mankind “will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore” (Isaiah 2:4, NIV). The people will turn their implements of war and destruction into implements of peace and production, bringing blessings to themselves and others. All will learn peace based on love for God and the entire human race. Let us look forward eagerly to that time!