The Last Days—What’s Next?
“I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.”—Jesus Christ, Matthew 24:34, New International Version.
JESUS, when explaining “the sign . . . of the conclusion of the system of things,” said to his amazed disciples the words quoted above. (Matthew 24:3) Now just what did Jesus mean by the word “generation”? And what events would lead into the end of the system of things? In other words, what events should we be looking for in the immediate future?
How Long Can a Generation Last?
The American Legion Magazine pointed out that 4,743,826 U.S. men and women had participated in World War I. But in 1984 only 272,000 remained alive, and they were dying off at an average of nine every hour. Does that mean, then, that the generation of 1914 has already disappeared?
The Greek word for generation is geneá, used by Matthew, Mark, and Luke in their accounts of Jesus’ words. It can have different applications according to the context. However, The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology defines it as: “Those born at the same time . . . Associated with this is the meaning: the body of one’s contemporaries, an age.” A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament states: “The sum total of those born at the same time, expanded to include all those living at a given time generation, contemporaries.” These definitions allow for all those who were born around the time of a historic event and all those who were alive at that time.
J. A. Bengel states in his New Testament Word Studies: “The Hebrews . . . reckon seventy-five years as one generation, and the words, shall not pass away, intimate that the greater part of that generation [of Jesus’ day] indeed, but not the whole of it, should have passed away before all should be fulfilled.” This became true by the year 70 C.E. when Jerusalem was destroyed.
Likewise today, most of the generation of 1914 has passed away. However, there are still millions on earth who were born in that year or prior to it. And although their numbers are dwindling, Jesus’ words will come true, “this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.” This is yet another reason for believing that Jehovah’s thieflike day is imminent. So, what events should alert Christians watch for?
“Peace and Security” Soon?
“You yourselves know quite well that Jehovah’s day is coming exactly as a thief in the night. Whenever it is that they are saying: ‘Peace and security!’ then sudden destruction is to be instantly upon them.”—1 Thessalonians 5:2, 3.
Ever since the end of World War II in 1945, mankind has teetered on the brink of war as the two opposing powers, the United States and the Soviet Union, have contended with each other. The Cuban missile crisis of 1962 was a dangerous direct confrontation. But the Soviet Union withdrew its missiles from Cuba, and the United States quietly removed its missiles from Turkey. This was just one of the many manifestations of the Cold War.
Disarmament has been a subject for debate for decades and has usually finished up as a propaganda exercise for both countries. Now, in the waning months of President Reagan’s term and in the thawing atmosphere of Secretary Gorbachev’s glasnost (openness) policy, there appears to be serious talk about defusing the nuclear arms situation. Whether this is a prelude to bring about a supposed peace and security for the world in general, we cannot foresee. But in accordance with Bible prophecy, that is what Christians are looking for. When it happens, then what?
Careful students of the Bible will not be fooled “whenever it is that they are saying: ‘Peace and security!’”—whether it emanates from the United Nations or independently from the great powers themselves. The Bible clearly shows that true peace and security can only come from righteous rulership, God’s Kingdom government by Christ.
For that reason a future significant global announcement of peace and security by world leaders will be the signal for God to move into action, “exactly as a thief in the night,” taking the unbelieving world by surprise. Yes, “sudden destruction” will then befall the ecclesiastical and political powers that have spurned Jehovah and his witnesses. How do we know this?
Decisive Action by the Rider of the White Horse
Returning to the vision of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse, there is one rider that we have not mentioned—the first one, mounted on a white horse. The Bible writer describes him: “I saw, and, look! a white horse; and the one seated upon it had a bow; and a crown was given him, and he went forth conquering and to complete his conquest.” This is the same one that is described in chapter 19 of Revelation: “Look! a white horse. And the one seated upon it is called Faithful and True, and he judges and carries on war in righteousness. . . . And out of his mouth there protrudes a sharp long sword, that he may strike the nations with it, and he will shepherd them with a rod of iron.” And who is this one? The same account tells us that he has a name written, “King of kings and Lord of lords.” It is the resurrected Son of God, Christ Jesus.—Revelation 6:2; 19:11-16.
What, then, calls for action by this “King of kings”? A point is reached where “the king of the north” (the anticapitalist camp) and “the king of the south” (the capitalist nations under the United States’ umbrella), highlighted in Daniel chapter 11, achieve a stalemate. (As Daniel 11:40 foretold, “the king of the north” has already overflowed into many lands, especially since 1945.)a
So, what else must take place before God’s decisive intervention to bring an end to the present system of things?
Bible prophecy indicates that at some point the radical political elements in the United Nations will turn against the world’s meddling religions and unmask them, destroying their power and control over the superstitious people.—Revelation 17:16, 17.b
This destruction of the false religious elements of the world will no doubt have as a sequel an assault on Jehovah’s Witnesses. This in turn will trigger a counterattack by Jehovah’s King, the Rider of the white horse. (Ezekiel 38:10-12, 21-23) And what does Daniel 2:44 say about the result? “In the days of those kings [present political powers] the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be brought to ruin. . . . It will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, and it itself will stand to times indefinite.” Yes, God’s battle of Armageddon against Satan’s visible political elements on earth will result in total victory for Jehovah and his King of kings.—Revelation 16:14-16; 19:17-21.
What will follow? Why, the agelong desire of peace-loving, God-fearing Christians—the Millennial Rule of God’s Kingdom government over obedient mankind! Then will be fulfilled the glorious promises of Revelation 21:3, 4: “Look! The tent of God is with mankind, and he will reside with them, and they will be his peoples. And God himself will be with them. And he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.”
If you would like more information about those remarkable Bible prophecies and what they mean for us individually, please contact Jehovah’s Witnesses in your area or write to the publishers of this magazine in your country.
a For a detailed consideration of this conflict, see the book “Your Will Be Done on Earth,” chapter 11, “The Appointed Time of the End,” published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
b For a detailed consideration of this prophecy, see the Watchtower publication “Babylon the Great Has Fallen!” God’s Kingdom Rules!, chapter 26, “The Judgment Upon the Great Harlot,” also published by the Watchtower Society.
[Blurb on page 14]
Generation—“The sum total of those born at the same time, expanded to include all those living at a given time.”—“A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament”
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Bible prophecy indicates that radical political elements in the United Nations will turn against the world’s meddling religions
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After Armageddon, in God’s new world of peace and righteousness, ‘the former things will have passed away.’—Revelation 21:3, 4