The Greatest Pressure of All Time Begins
THE human family has always had pressures, true. There have been wars, crime, hunger and other ills throughout history. However, there came a key turning point, a time when the pressures suddenly became much more pronounced.
That time was the year 1914. In 1914 the world changed drastically. Events during that year triggered the onslaught of tremendous pressures that have continued to mount to our day.
To appreciate the difference in pressures since 1914, one needs to consider what the world was like before. Before that year the world lived in relative security. No major war had occurred for decades. Hopes were high, especially since many inventions were being introduced to lighten man’s burdens. Peace and prosperity were the order of the day.
In his book The Origins of World War I Joachim Remak says: “Too much was right with the World of 1914: the nations, on the whole, had learned to live with the differences that divided them. . . . Nowhere, even in the summer of 1914, was a calculated, advance decision made for global war.”
History Professor René Albrecht-Carrié of Barnard College puts it this way: “The nineteenth century is now often regarded as a century of peace, a view certainly warranted by the contrast between it and our own time of cataclysmic strife.” Then he states: “That era sharply came to an end in 1914. The pace of change thereafter, the magnitude and the intensity of struggle, have been characteristic of the twentieth century.”
Because of the long era of relative peace and rising expectations that went before it, World War I proved to be a frightful shock. None of the world’s leaders imagined such a horrible or prolonged conflict.
Because the world changed so drastically from 1914 onward, many historians now say that it was a highly significant time marker. Historian Oron Hale, in The Great Illusion, writes: “The First World War was a great divide, a watershed in world history.” Professor D. F. Fleming of Vanderbilt University says: “More and more historians look back upon World War I as the great turning point of modern history, the catastrophic collapse which opened the way for others, perhaps the final one.”
Age of Greatest Pressures
So in the autumn of 1914 one era ended, and another began. And what began was an era of unprecedented pressures. These huge pressures on people everywhere were brought about by global war, famine, disease, rebellion, race hatred, rising crime and economic troubles.
The opening part of this age of greatest pressure began with World War I. It had a deep, brutalizing effect on the minds of hundreds of millions of people. And what it led to provided further shocks, one after another. As the foreword of the book The First World War by French General Richard Thoumin states:
“Never before had so many countries and such large armies faced each other in such gigantic battles; never had such high proportions of combatants been killed or maimed; never had man gone to war with such powerful weapons. . . .
“The blood and tears of the First World War changed the face of the earth.
“The First World War was the first ‘total’ war, and as such made a profound impact upon the minds of all participants. . . . Many of them even believed that they were participating in ‘the last’ of all wars! . . . Their supreme disillusionment, however, came some twenty years later when the voices of hatred summoned the obedient masses to a new and still greater slaughter.”
World War II was even more frightful than World War I. Yet, the first global conflict was the one that opened the door to an era of unparalleled pressures. As the introduction to the English edition of the book Germany’s Aims in the First World War by professor Fritz Fischer of Hamburg notes: “Although the period since 1945 has been dominated by the problems left by the Second World War, more and more people, both among historians and the general public, have come to see the First World War as the crucial event in the first half of the twentieth century.”
Truly, after 1914 nothing was ever the same again. It was the opening year of a generation filled with horror.
However, what has happened since 1914 is of far greater significance than most people realize. That year was long ago marked as the time when the pressures would be bound to come. Where was it “marked” in this way? In God’s Word, the Bible. Consider the evidence and see what the Bible says about our time.
When we examine carefully Bible prophecy, written under the direction of God’s powerful active force, we find that the year 1914 was indeed a “watershed” in history. It marked the start of a period the Bible calls the “last days.”—2 Tim. 3:1.
The “last days”? What does that mean? Well, when you hear about the “last days of Pompeii” or the “last days of the Roman Empire,” what does it bring to your mind? You think of a system nearing its end, soon to be destroyed or replaced by another.
That is also what the Bible means by the phrase the “last days.” It signifies that mankind has entered a specific period of time that will end with the destruction of the entire present system of things. This includes the political, economic and religious elements that dominate the peoples of earth today. They will all be replaced by an entirely new system of God’s making.—2 Pet. 3:13.
Jesus Christ, as well as his disciples, foretold many things that would take place as evidence that the “last days” had begun. Among the many things enumerated were war, famine, disease epidemics, rising lawlessness and declining faith in God. All of these things were to happen simultaneously, on an unprecedented scale. History confirms that they started with World War I in 1914.—Matt. 24:3-12; 2 Tim. 3:1-5.
How long a period of time is covered by the “last days”? Jesus limited it at most to ‘one generation’ from beginning to end. (Matt. 24:34) This means that some persons who saw the beginning of the “last days” in 1914 would live to see the end. That end will come when God displays his almighty power to crush out of existence the prevailing wicked system of things.—Dan. 2:44.
The pressures that began in 1914 were foretold to continue intensifying until the end of the “last days.”
When Jesus mentioned conflict, famine, pestilence, lawlessness and godlessness he warned: “All these things are a beginning of pangs of distress.” (Matt. 24:8) This may be compared to a woman experiencing the first of her labor pains before giving birth. She knows for a certainty that many other, more severe pains will follow.
So World War I was only the beginning of many painful events. Other world-shaking pressures would soon follow. They did, for although, as one source shows, about 9 million combatants and about 5 million civilians were killed in the war from 1914 to 1918, about 20 million were killed by the Spanish flu that followed. And later, World War II killed about 55 million combatants and civilians, according to one recent estimate. Since then, there has been a constant procession of pressure-causing events including wars—large and small—as well as racial, social, economic and religious troubles.
Now, after fifty-seven years of such huge pressures, what do we find? The New York Times reports: “In almost every corner of the earth a spirit of internal lawlessness is manifested by violent riots, murders, kidnappings, piracy and hijacking of airplanes. Everywhere and without respect to ideology or governmental forms we find steady deterioration of the accepted rules.”
Building Toward Climax
Authorities in every field generally agree that the pressures of today are building up to some sort of climax.
Not long ago scores of respected scientists, economists, historians and philosophers met in the United States to discuss mankind’s problems. There was much disagreement on various points. But on one thing they all agreed: “All insist that the human family is approaching an historic crisis which will require fundamental revisions in the organization of society.”—The New York Times.
On another occasion, television commentator Walter Cronkite said: “The scientists themselves disagree on the schedule of disaster. Each specialist counts the time to his own special catastrophe. But we found not one scientist who disagreed that some disaster portends.”
Authorities were asked how long they thought it would take for the current problems to reach “crisis” proportions. And a problem was said to have reached that point when it caused the deaths of at least a million people a year, or severely affected their health, welfare or standard of living. A chart was drawn up based on their opinions. Some of the items listed were as follows:
Note that the problem of overpopulation was considered as already having reached crisis proportions. One reason for this is that about 10,000 people a day now die as a result of malnutrition, an estimated 3,500,000 a year. Also, instead of slowing down, the rate of population increase has actually risen in recent decades. The world’s population is now doubling every thirty-five years!
Any one of the problems in the chart could have catastrophic effects on all earthly life. And they do not even include the threat of nuclear war. Combine all of these and you can understand why experts are so pessimistic about the future. They see mankind moving swiftly and certainly to some sort of disastrous climax.
God’s Word, the Bible, foretold this time of unprecedented pressures. The events experienced since 1914 fulfill Bible prophecy with amazing accuracy. However, while bringing about huge pressures, those events, of themselves, are not the basic causes of the pressures. And unless these are eliminated, nothing can be done to relieve the heavy pressures on humankind today. What, then, are the basic causes?
[Graph on page 17]
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ESTIMATED MINIMUM DATE OF CRISIS
1970 1975 1980 1985
Urban Air Pollution
Water & Land Pollution