Is the Bible Realistic?
FOR a guide to be realistic, not only must it be free of myths or false concepts, but it must also provide sound thinking on the affairs and problems we face. On this point, let us compare what people think and forecast for the future with what the Bible says.
Despite threats of continuing inflation, unemployment and numerous international problems, many people believe that things will get better. They see long-range solutions to political differences, racial and nationalistic disputes, food shortages and the energy crisis. They believe that the world is on the threshold of peace and security.
A national magazine recently expressed the opinion that “all in all, it’s a hopeful outlook for [the] U.S. as it enters a period of peace. . . . History suggests [that the] stage is being set for economic growth, happier times for the country. [The] U.S. has come out of troubles stronger in the past, will again.”
Of the world outlook, George W. Shepherd, Jr., writes in The Christian Century: “The real world . . . is one in which peace can be built, painfully, only on the basis of international agreement, giving full recognition to the rights and interests of the majority of the nations, in particular those of the Third World. The only framework we have within which such an agreement can possibly be made to work is the United Nations. That is why we are seeing a revival of that body, along with the development of what might be called new ‘pacific action’ measures for peace.”
But what appeal do we see world leaders making to maintain the people’s hope for a continuation of present systems or a “better world”? Do they not make the same promises that have been made for centuries? Has not every past world power called attention to its glory and power, leading the people to feel that it was the hope of the world? But where is the glory of those powers now? Is not the same appeal made today? And even though many people have lost faith in their leaders, for lack of a better hope they feel that somehow a man may come along who can straighten matters out. Is this realistic?
An example of a human “prophetic” forecast for this world is the statement by the late Walter Lippmann, as recorded in The World Book Encyclopedia: “When we look beneath the surface, we shall see that there is underway what we may call the Great Revolution, and it is upon this Great Revolution that we must rely to bring about peace and stability on which eventually the universal society can flourish.
“. . . What is the Great Revolution? It is a radical change in the human condition. It is a product of man’s advancing knowledge, his knowledge of how to control the material conditions of his life on earth.”
However, there are some persons who see such “prophecies” as only a dream. U.S. News & World Report of May 5, 1975, said: “You hear less and less talk these days of ‘a new world order.’ Hardly surprising. More and more, the world seems to be limited to regional groupings, often competitive, seldom co-operative. Even these appear increasingly troubled, torn by nationalism, insecure.”
The Bible’s Viewpoint—Is It Realistic?
The Bible’s viewpoint, on the other hand, is not confusing or vacillating. It points out why man’s plans fail and why each decade brings more severe problems. As God’s inspired Word, it tells us that humanity’s distress is due to imperfection on the part of all mankind. (Rom. 5:12) The Bible says: “It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step.” (Jer. 10:23) Also the Bible informs us that God’s guidance could help right now, even in this imperfect world, if men would follow it. (Prov. 2:6-9) But men, particularly world leaders, refuse to conform their course to Bible principles, and as a consequence they reap disorder and corruption. Why? Basically, because they want sovereignty independent of God. They do not want to acknowledge God as supreme Counselor and King.—Acts 4:24-26; Rev. 17:12-14.
Yes, the Bible realistically gets at the root of mankind’s problems. It gives a sound view of the present condition and why it exists. What about the future? Does the Bible prophesy doomsday for mankind, or does it hold out a cheerful hope?
A Realistic View of the Future?
For answer, let us look at the prophecy that Jesus gave his disciples who had asked: “What will be the sign of your presence and of the conclusion of the system of things?” (Matt. 24:3) Jesus, by inspiration, accurately described our present time, saying: “Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be food shortages and earthquakes in one place after another. All these things are a beginning of pangs of distress.”—Matt. 24:7, 8.
People living in this generation have seen the fulfillment of this prophecy, since 1914. Did not this year mark a “beginning of pangs of distress” different from past wars and food shortages? James Cameron, in his book entitled “1914,” says: “In the year 1914 the world, as it was known and accepted then, came to an end. Far more than any year before or since was this the punctuation-mark of the twentieth century.”
How was this so? Because the wars this generation has seen were not ordinary wars. They have been well labeled “World Wars.” Also Jesus said, additionally, that nations would be ‘in anguish, not knowing the way out’ and that men would ‘become faint out of fear and expectation of the things coming on the inhabited earth.’ These and many other things that Jesus prophesied in Matthew chapter 24, Mark chapter 13, and Luke chapters 17 and 21 are happening, and they are peculiar to our generation. Jesus also foretold that “this generation [experiencing these things] will by no means pass away until all things occur.”—Luke 21:32.
What are the “all things” that are to occur in the one generation? These include the end of this present man-made system of things, not the literal earth and all mankind upon it. It means deliverance from the corrupt, oppressive, polluted condition in which mankind now finds itself. Jesus said to those who want to do the right thing and who look with faith into the Bible: “As these things start to occur, raise yourselves erect and lift your heads up, because your deliverance is getting near.” (Luke 21:28) The Bible, therefore, does not have a gloomy “doomsday” outlook but a bright one, for those who desire righteousness and peace. It foretells gloom only for those who selfishly hold on to the corrupt things of this failing system, and who refuse to recognize God’s sovereignty.—2 Thess. 1:6-8.
Aside from these evidences—the anguish of nations and the fear of the things coming upon the earth that world leaders are suffering, and the increase in crime, pollution, immorality and danger of nuclear warfare—what proof do we have that the end of this system of things is near? How can we know that it cannot be much longer, or that it will not be put off into future centuries, as some say?
Final World Power Now in Existence
The Bible gives us a record, either actual or prophetic, of seven world powers during mankind’s history. These are not small, insignificant powers, but powers that had the greatest influence during their term of existence. Each, during its time, was the Number One Power with which the nations had to reckon. These were: Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome and the Anglo-American World Power. The prophecy of the Bible book of Daniel accurately spoke of the powers of Daniel’s own day, namely, Babylon and Medo-Persia, then foretold the three to follow. The prophecy called the Medo-Persian and the Grecian World Powers by name and described the following two. What did Daniel’s prophecy have to say about them?
In the vision that God gave him, Daniel saw four huge beasts, representing or picturing “kings.” (Dan. 7:17) These symbolic beasts were a lion (Babylon), a bear (Medo-Persia) and a leopard (Greece), followed by a fearsome beast with teeth of iron, different from all the others, and having ten horns. Out of this beast another “king,” a small horn, grew to become prominent, speaking grandiose words. This final horn faced judgment, not inflicted by another world power, but a judgment directly administered by the Almighty God. The terrible beast was the Roman World Power and the horn growing out of it was the Seventh World Power, which would constitute the last one on earth. That is the Anglo-American World Power.—Dan. 7:2-12; compare Daniel 8:20-22.
If we truly are at the time of the end of this system of things, it is of the utmost importance and urgency. It means that we are at the time for the rule of the Messianic kingdom over this earth. So that we may have ample proof, with no doubts, God has provided for us, in the last book of the Bible, full assurance of the truthfulness of Daniel’s prophecy and the nearness of Messiah’s millennial rule of righteousness over the earth. The apostle John, who lived during the rule of the Sixth World Power, the Roman Empire, records the vision that God gave him. He writes: “There are seven kings: five have fallen [before John’s time], one is [the Roman], the other has not yet arrived, but when he does arrive he must remain a short while.”—Rev. 17:10.
The American part of the Seventh World Power has remained only about 200 years—a short time in world history. Intensifying the nearness of the end, John also speaks of an EIGHTH king. But this king is of very short duration, ‘springing from the seven’ and being concurrent with the Seventh World Power. This “king” would be a composite government made up of features of the seven world powers—a world alliance. It “goes off into destruction” along with the Seventh World Power. The Bible, therefore, lists no world power as surviving the seventh. It is the end.—Rev. 17:11.
Is the Bible realistic, then, when it foretold world conditions exactly as we see them today, when it enables us to locate where we are in the stream of history—when it helps us to see that a time of deliverance is near? Certainly the Bible is frank in its identification of the world powers. And it shows us that the efforts of men cannot solve the problems the world now faces, so as to bring happiness to the people. The Bible is realistic also in saying that the cry of “peace and security” by men’s efforts is a false comfort that will immediately precede the destruction of man-made systems.—1 Thess. 5:3.
Yes, the Bible is more realistic than the promises of politicians, economic experts or even clergymen. It shows why the world’s problems exist and what is actually ahead. But can it give advice for day-to-day living that is practical and will help people now? Let us examine this matter.