What Does It All Mean?
IF YOU were to analyze moral standards in recent years, you would see a clear trend. Without a doubt, moral standards are being increasingly undermined among a growing number of people. What is the real significance of this?
Does it mean, as some individuals claim, that our entire civilization and all mankind are doomed, nearing annihilation? Or are such changes just part of the normal ebb and flow of history?
The latter is what many people think. They view the moral breakdown of our time as just a trend, one of many that have come and gone throughout history. They fully expect that the pendulum will eventually swing back and that higher moral standards will return. Are they correct?
“The Last Days”
Let us consider the facts in the light of a book that for centuries was a widely accepted authority on moral issues—God’s Word, the Bible. It is very enlightening to compare today’s world with the prophetic description that the Bible gives of the most decisive era in human history. This is the time period it calls “the last days” or “the conclusion of the system of things.” (2 Timothy 3:1; Matthew 24:3) As these expressions imply, this period is to mark the definite end of an epoch and the beginning of a new one.
God’s Word foretold that the last days would be marked by “critical times hard to deal with.” To help watchful observers to identify the last days, the Bible gives a number of details that together provide a clear description, or composite sign, of this unique time period.
Bad Traits in People
Note one of the features of this sign that is prominent today: ‘Men will have a form of godly devotion but prove false to its power.’ (2 Timothy 3:2, 5) No other period in history has been characterized by such powerful and thorough secularization. God has been widely rejected as the only authority, and most people do not accept the Bible as the only source of truth. Of course, religions still exist, but many have little influence. They are only a veneer.
The Bible mentions another feature of the sign: “Men will be . . . without self-control, fierce,” and “because of the increasing of lawlessness the love of the greater number will cool off.” (2 Timothy 3:2, 3; Matthew 24:12) The Greek word translated “fierce” means, among other things, “lacking human sympathy and feeling.” Today ever younger children are showing themselves to be “fierce” and are committing increasingly violent crimes.
Furthermore, fast-paced technical and economic developments, and the greed these have brought with them, have caused more and more people to throw aside old values. Without regard for others, they use any available means, even dishonest ones, to grab as much as they can to satisfy their selfish desires. The huge increase in gambling is another evidence of selfishness, and the crime statistics of the past few decades speak loudly and clearly about this.
A feature especially prevalent in our time is this one: “Men will be . . . lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God.” (2 Timothy 3:2, 4) One example of this is that people want sensual pleasure, but they do not want the responsibility of living with one marriage partner for a lifetime. The result has been a tidal wave of wrecked family relations, unhappy and rootless children, single parents, and sexually transmitted diseases.
Another aspect of the sign is that “men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money.” (2 Timothy 3:2) According to the German magazine Die Zeit, “the motor of [today’s economic] system is selfishness.” More than ever before, the pursuit of money is the most important thing in many people’s lives. In this selfish pursuit, other values are ignored.
Besides describing the breakdown in human values, the Bible also foretold that the last days would be marked by extraordinary upheavals that would affect the human family. It says, for example, that “nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there will be great earthquakes, and in one place after another pestilences and food shortages.”—Luke 21:10, 11.
Except for the 20th century, there has been no period in history when so many people have been involved in so many world-shaking catastrophes during such a limited span of time. For instance, well over 100 million people were killed in wars during that time, a figure many times greater than the number of war casualties in several previous centuries put together. The 20th century gave us two wars so different from any others that they were called world wars. Global conflicts like these had never occurred before.
An Evil Driving Force
The Bible also reveals the existence of a powerful, evil spirit creature, “the one called Devil and Satan,” whose purpose is to lure people away from true values and pull them down into moral corruption. It says that during the last days, he has come down to the earth, “having great anger, knowing he has a short period of time.”—Revelation 12:9, 12.
The Devil is described in the Bible as “the ruler of the authority of the air, the spirit that now operates in the sons of disobedience.” (Ephesians 2:2) This implies that the Devil exercises a powerful influence on many humans, usually without their noticing it, just as we sometimes may not notice an invisible pollutant in the air.
For example, Satan’s influence is seen in many modern means of communication: videos, movies, television, the Internet, advertising, books, magazines, and newspapers. Much material, especially that focused on unsuspecting youths, is filled with extreme and repugnant trends, such as racism, occultism, immorality, and sadistic violence.
Many sincere people have been struck by the similarities between the description the Bible gives of the last days and the actual circumstances in the world of our day. True, there have been some events in history before the 20th century that in lesser ways seemed to fit the Bible’s description. But it is only during the 20th century, and now the 21st century, that all the elements of the sign can be observed.
The Coming New Epoch
Neither those who believe that mankind will be destroyed nor those who claim that things will continue the way they always have are correct. Instead, the Bible clearly shows that the present world society dominating the earth will be replaced by something completely new.
After Jesus listed a number of the features of the sign of the last days, he said: “In this way you also, when you see these things occurring, know that the kingdom of God is near.” (Luke 21:31) God’s heavenly Kingdom was the main theme of Jesus’ preaching. (Matthew 6:9, 10) And God appointed him to be the King of this Kingdom, which is a government that will soon rule over all the earth.—Luke 8:1; Revelation 11:15; 20:1-6.
At the end of the last days, God’s heavenly Kingdom in the hands of Christ is going to eliminate all who are its enemies—the Devil and those who support him—and replace today’s present morally bankrupt society with a righteous new world. (Daniel 2:44) In this new world, righthearted people will enjoy eternal life on an earth transformed into a paradise.—Luke 23:43; 2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:3, 4.
Those who detest today’s moral breakdown and discern that the composite sign of the last days is being fulfilled in current events can look forward to a magnificent future. For this we thank Almighty God, who cares about us humans and who has a glorious purpose for his creation, the earth.—Psalm 37:10, 11, 29; 1 Peter 5:6, 7.
Jehovah’s Witnesses invite you to learn more about our loving Creator and the prospect of life in a morally clean world, which he holds out to all searching individuals. As the Bible says, “this means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.”—John 17:3.
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Righthearted people will enjoy eternal life on a paradise earth