The Last Days—Famine, Plague, Pollution—And Kingdom Preaching
“Hunger comes in another form. It is the day-in-day-out hunger that over 700 million people suffer. . . . Every year this largely invisible hunger kills as many as 18 to 20 million people—more than twice the number who died each year during World War II.”—World Hunger—Twelve Myths, by Frances Moore Lappé and Joseph Collins.
JUST as Jesus foretold, our generation has also had its share of famines and food shortages but with less justification in some cases than previous generations. Why so? Because modern technology and methods of communication and transport should have made famine a thing of the past. Yet, landowners and politicians have used people as pawns, regardless of the suffering inflicted on the poor and the landless.
Hunger and famine continue to haunt Africa. As recently as September 1987, warning was given that Ethiopia was again under siege as “hunger was again spreading rapidly in that impoverished African country,” reported The New York Times. Ethiopia’s former head of famine relief stated: “It appears there are now about five million people affected by famine, and we don’t know how bad it may get.”
At the same time, reports from the vast subcontinent of India paint another grim picture caused by drought. The national Minister of State for Agriculture said: “About 60 percent of our total population will be hurt by this drought.” He added that “this figure was far higher than earlier estimates and meant that about 470 million of the population of 780 million were affected.” Can we really digest and absorb those figures and their impact on the human family?
Add to the constant cycle of famines, floods, and droughts the terrible price paid in hunger during the two world wars and their aftermath. As one writer on the situation in 1945-46 reported: “There was a worldwide food shortage as a consequence of the war and the situation throughout Europe . . . was calamitous. There was soon to be serious famine in parts of Russia and Rumania and in Greece thousands would starve to death. Even in Britain bread was to be rationed for the first time in the nation’s history.”
Yes, the black horse of famine, with its rider swinging a pair of scales in the air, has plunged through the nations and is still galloping over humankind.—Revelation 6:5, 6.
Pestilence and Plague
Jesus prophesied that part of the sign of the last days would be “pestilences.” (Luke 21:11) Has our 20th century seen its share of pestilence and plague? Starting with the Spanish flu that struck at the end of World War I and took some 20 million lives, mankind, as in previous generations, has been afflicted with diseases. But even with the advances of science and medicine in these last days, the toll of sick and dying still runs into the millions each year.
In the affluent Western world, we hear constant appeals for funds and cures for cancer, heart disease, and AIDS. True, hundreds of thousands are dying each year from these and other afflictions. Yet, there are diseases that are wiping out millions every year in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
In his book Mirage of Health, René Dubos wrote: “Malaria, other protozoan infections, and worm infestations are the source of physiological and economic misery in most underprivileged areas.” As a consequence, “millions upon millions of human beings in Asia, Africa, and Latin America suffer and die every year from hookworm disease, African sleeping sickness, or malaria.” The misery caused by these diseases is not measured just by the number who die as a result of them. Dubos states: “Microbial diseases have not been conquered.”
Dubos continues: “In contrast, [the white man’s] selfishness makes him endow with scientific glamour any discovery that bears on his own well-being.” Thus, the emphasis in the Western world is on cancer and heart disease—and not to be forgotten are sexually transmitted diseases. One medical journal states that there are approximately three million new cases of gonorrhea annually in the United States alone.
But whether we examine the developed or the underdeveloped world, we see evidence of the ‘pale horse of Death and deadly plague,’ the fourth horse of the Apocalypse.—Revelation 6:8.
Ruining the Earth
On a world scale, man is already ruining and destroying the delicate balance of nature in his own slim biosphere by means of pollution, exploitation, neglect, and deforestation.
Acid rain or precipitation, due to the mixing of rain and snow with exhaust products (nitrogen oxides and sulfur) from coal- and oil-burning power plants, is affecting the lakes and forests of the Northern Hemisphere. As the writers of the book Earth state: “One result of acid precipitation has been the transformation of many lakes in places like New England and Scandinavia from biotically rich and productive ecosystems to impoverished, sometimes virtually dead, bodies of water. For instance, all the fishes have been killed in hundreds of lakes in the Adirondacks, and almost 50,000 Canadian lakes are threatened with a similar fate.”
As for the forests, many are suffering from “forest death.” “Symptoms of ‘forest death’ have been observed in forests in Eastern Europe, the USSR, Italy, Spain, Canada, Britain and the upper Midwest of America.” The same writers continue: “In a sense, humanity is running a gigantic experiment, poisoning much of one hemisphere (and probably parts of the other hemisphere), then waiting to see what will happen.”
Pressure on the biosphere is increased by another inexorable factor—world population recently passed the five billion mark. Biologists Anne and Paul Ehrlich state: “Virtually all of Earth’s life-forms are suffering from the expansion of Homo sapiens.” Man expands and exploits. Future generations must care for themselves.
Rivers, seas, and oceans are being contaminated by man’s conscienceless abuse of these resources. Sewage, garbage, and chemical pollutants are dumped into the oceans as if these were a local swill bin, a superfluous adjunct to life on earth.
This, therefore, is the first generation in human history that has been able literally to ruin the earth. Now, for the first time, the prophecy of Revelation 11:18, which says that God will “bring to ruin those ruining the earth,” can be fulfilled. That must take place at the culmination of “the time of the end.”—Daniel 12:4.
A Unique Warning Work
There is still another facet of Jesus’ prophecy that is being fulfilled in a remarkable way. He foretold that a great preaching work, a witnessing work, would be carried out in all the nations before the end would come. (Matthew 24:14; Mark 13:10) And it would be done within the lifetime of the generation of 1914. This has been possible only in the 20th century when modern advances in transport, communication, computers, and printing have permitted Jehovah’s Witnesses to extend their vast educational work in some 200 languages throughout the earth.
Now the Witnesses are producing the Watchtower magazine in 103 languages! More than 13 million copies of each issue are distributed. The magazine you are reading is published in 54 languages, and over 11 million copies are printed of each issue. Nearly three and a half million Witnesses are regularly announcing the good news of God’s Kingdom government in their ministry in 210 countries.
This unique work is being accomplished in spite of the worldwide persecution that Jesus also foretold for his true followers. Yes, the very activity and survival of Jehovah’s Witnesses on a world scale are living proof that we are in the last days!—Mark 13:9, 10.
The Climax Is Near
Thus, in the modern fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy, all these events form a composite sign of Jesus’ invisible presence and of the last days, or “the conclusion of the system of things.” (Matthew 24:3) (See box on page 11.) They come together like a jigsaw puzzle, making a complete picture that says, “These are the last days for this system of things.”—See also 2 Timothy 3:1-5, 12, 13.
While many of the conditions Jesus foretold have individually existed also in earlier generations, a combination of all of them in the same generation has never taken place before. As we have seen, some have never occurred in any earlier generation, nor could they have done so. Some still await a complete fulfillment before this generation runs out. And there are other events that Jehovah’s Witnesses now await with great interest. Those events are the prelude to God’s extending his Kingdom rule over this earth. So the question now is, What’s next?
[Box on page 7]
How Would You Answer? Since 1914 . . .
1. What major wars have been fought?
2. How many major earthquakes can you recall?
3. Has mankind suffered any major diseases and plagues?
4. What major famines and food shortages have afflicted the world?
5. Have false prophets and false messiahs presented themselves?
6. Is there evidence of increased violence and lawlessness?
7. Has there been a waning of love and neighborliness?
8. Has any organization claimed that it will bring peace to the world?
9. Is there anguish of nations and fear of the future?
10. Do you see proof of a worldwide Kingdom-witnessing work?
(For answers, see page 11.)
[Box on page 11]
Answers to Questions on Page 7*
1. Matthew 24:7—Two world wars (1914-18; 1939-45); Spanish Civil War (1936-39); Korean War; Vietnam War; Iraq-Iran; Middle Eastern wars and others.
2. Matthew 24:7—Earthquakes: 1920 and 1932, Kansu, China, 200,000 and 70,000 dead respectively; 1923, Kanto, Japan, 142,000 dead; 1935, Quetta, Pakistan, 60,000 dead; 1939, Chillán, Chile, 30,000 dead; 1939, Erzincan, Turkey, 30,000 dead; 1960, Agadir, Morocco, 12,000 dead; 1970, Peru, 66,700 dead; 1972, Managua, Nicaragua, 5,000 dead; 1976, Guatemala City, Guatemala, 23,000 dead; 1976, Tangshan, China, 800,000 dead.
3. Luke 21:11—Heart disease; cancer; AIDS; onchocerciasis (river blindness); malaria; sexually transmitted diseases.
4. Luke 21:11—Famine: 1920-21, northern China, an estimated 20 million affected; 1943-44, India, 1,500,000 died; 1967-69, Nigeria, more than 1,500,000 children died; 1975-79, Kampuchea, 1,000,000 deaths; 1983-87, Black Africa, 22 million people affected.
5. Matthew 24:11—Charismatic religious leaders, TV messiahs, and gurus continue to mislead millions.
7. Matthew 24:12—Doors are now bolted and barred; attack dogs are used to protect property; neighbors are often strangers.
9. Luke 21:26—Two world wars caused untold suffering and anguish. The threat of nuclear annihilation since 1945 has spread fear and anguish to all the world.
10. Matthew 24:14—Over three million of Jehovah’s Witnesses are preaching the ‘good news of God’s kingdom’ in some 200 languages.
This list gives a sampling of events; it is not complete.
[Pictures on page 10]
Famine is afflicting large sections of the globe
Man is polluting the biosphere that he shares with all other living creatures
Millions of people are affected by various diseases
A unique warning work is being done in some 200 languages worldwide
[Picture Credit Line on page 10]