Where Is This World Heading?
WHAT will the next 10, 20, or 30 years bring? It can be frightening to contemplate the future in this age of terrorism. Technology is booming. Globalization has made many nations interdependent. Will world leaders unite and pave the way for a brighter tomorrow? Some people say yes, hoping that by the year 2015, leaders will be able to stem the tide of poverty and hunger, reverse the spread of AIDS, and halve the proportion of those without access to safe drinking water and sanitation.—See the box “Optimism Versus Reality.”
However, man’s vision of the future has often proved to be illusory. For example, decades ago one expert said that by 1984, farmers would plow the ocean floor with underwater tractors; another said that by 1995, cars would be equipped with computerized hardware that would prevent collisions; and another predicted that by 2000, there would be some 50,000 people living and working in space. Of course, those who made such predictions likely now wish they had remained silent. One journalist wrote: “There’s nothing like the passage of time to make the world’s smartest people look like complete idiots.”
A “Map” to Guide Us
People speculate endlessly about the future, but sometimes their vision is more idealistic than realistic. Where can we turn for a reliable view of what lies ahead?
Consider an illustration. Imagine that you are traveling by bus through a foreign land. Because the area is unfamiliar, you begin to feel uneasy. ‘Just where am I?’ you wonder. ‘Is this bus really headed in the right direction? How far am I from my destination?’ By consulting an accurate map and by observing the signs outside your window, you can find the answers to your questions.
The situation is similar for many today who feel anxious as they think about the future. ‘Where are we heading?’ they wonder. ‘Are we really on the road to global peace? If so, when will we reach that destination?’ The Bible is like a map that can help us to answer those questions. By carefully reading it—and by looking closely at what is happening outside our “window” on the world scene—we can learn much about where we are and where we are heading. First, though, we need to consider how our problems began.
A Tragic Starting Point
The Bible tells us that when God created the first man and woman, they were perfect and that he placed them in paradisaic surroundings. Adam and Eve were made to live forever—not just for 70 or 80 years. God said to them: “Be fruitful and become many and fill the earth and subdue it.” God’s purpose was for Adam, Eve, and their descendants to extend Paradise to all parts of the globe.—Genesis 1:28; 2:8, 15, 22.
Adam and Eve rebelled against God. As a result, they lost their Paradise home. More than that, they began a slow but steady process of physical and mental deterioration. Each day, Adam and Eve moved one step closer to the grave. Why? Because by turning against their Creator, they had sinned, and “the wages sin pays is death.”—Romans 6:23.
Adam and Eve eventually died but not before having a number of sons and daughters. Would these children be able to carry out God’s original purpose? No, for they inherited their parents’ imperfection. In fact, from one generation to the next, all of Adam’s descendants have inherited sin and death. We have too. “Through one man,” the Bible says, “sin entered into the world and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men because they had all sinned.”—Romans 3:23; 5:12.
Pinpointing Our Present Location
The rebellion of Adam and Eve marked the beginning of a long and bitter journey for mankind that has continued till our day. The way one Bible writer put it, mankind has been “subjected to futility.” (Romans 8:20) How well that describes the human struggle! Why, Adam’s descendants have included brilliant men and women of science, masterminds of medicine, and trailblazers of technology. Yet, not one of them has been able to bring about the global peace and optimal health that God purposed for man.
The rebellion of Adam and Eve affects each of us in a personal way. Who, for example, has not felt the sting of injustice, the fear of crime, the pain of chronic illness, or the grief that overwhelms us when a loved one dies? Any calm in our life seems to be quickly interrupted by tragedy. Even with its pleasant moments, our existence is just as the ancient patriarch Job described it when he said: “Man . . . is short-lived and glutted with agitation.”—Job 14:1.
Considering where we came from and the lamentable condition in which we now find ourselves, the future may look bleak. But the Bible assures us that God will not allow such conditions to continue indefinitely. His original purpose for man will succeed. (Isaiah 55:10, 11) Why can we be sure that this will happen soon?
According to the Bible, we are now passing through a critical era called “the last days.” (2 Timothy 3:1) That phrase does not signify the end of planet Earth and of all life upon it. Rather, it means “the conclusion of the system of things” and therefore the end of the conditions that cause us sorrow. (Matthew 24:3) The Bible describes the events and the traits of people that would be prevalent during the last days. Note some of these in the box on page 8, and then look outside the “window” at the world scene. Our map, the Bible, helps us to pinpoint our present location as being very close to the end of this system of things. But what will follow?
The Road Ahead
Immediately after Adam and Eve rebelled, God began to reveal his purpose for an arrangement to install a Kingdom “that will never be brought to ruin.” (Daniel 2:44) That Kingdom, which many have been taught to pray for in what is commonly called the Lord’s Prayer, will bring untold blessings to mankind.—Matthew 6:9, 10.
God’s Kingdom is not some vague concept that exists in the heart. It is a real heavenly government that will have profound effects on earth. Just consider what God promises to accomplish for humans by means of his Kingdom. The Bible says that God will first “bring to ruin those ruining the earth.” (Revelation 11:18) What will he do for those who demonstrate their obedience to him? His written Word says that he will “wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore.” (Revelation 21:4) What human could ever accomplish those things? Only God can bring us to the condition he originally purposed for mankind.
How can you benefit from the blessings that God’s Kingdom will bring? John 17:3 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.” Jehovah’s Witnesses are involved in a worldwide educational program that is helping people to do just that. Their ministry is carried out in some 230 lands, and their literature is published in more than 400 languages. If you would like to learn more, contact Jehovah’s Witnesses locally or write to the appropriate address listed on page 5.
[Blurb on page 6]
“Listen to me, you that say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will travel to a certain city, where we will stay a year and go into business and make a lot of money.’ You don’t even know what your life tomorrow will be!”—James 4:13, 14, Today’s English Version
[Blurb on page 6]
The Bible traces our history back to the first man and woman. Thus, it tells us where we came from. It also indicates where we are heading. But to understand what the Bible is telling us, we need to study it closely, as we would a map
[Blurb on page 7]
“Sin” can refer to a wrong act or to a condition of being inclined toward badness. We are born in a sinful state, which affects our actions. “There is no man righteous in the earth that keeps doing good and does not sin.”—Ecclesiastes 7:20
[Blurb on page 8]
If you were to photocopy a sheet of paper that had a dark spot on it, that spot would appear on all the copies. As Adam’s descendants—copies, so to speak—we have the stain of sin upon us. It is the same mark that appeared on Adam, the “original”
[Blurb on page 8]
The Bible says: “It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step.” (Jeremiah 10:23) This explains why man’s efforts to achieve world peace have met with failure. He was not created to “direct his step” independent of God
[Blurb on page 9]
The Bible psalmist said to God: “Your word is a lamp to my foot, and a light to my roadway.” (Psalm 119:105) As a lamp, the Bible helps us to take wise steps when we are faced with decisions. As a ‘light to our roadway,’ it illuminates the path ahead so we can discern what the future holds for mankind
[Box on page 7]
OPTIMISM VERSUS REALITY
In September 2000, member states of the United Nations unanimously set a number of goals to be met by 2015. These included the following:
▪ Reduce by half the proportion of people living on less than a dollar a day as well as those who suffer from hunger.
▪ Ensure that all children complete primary schooling.
▪ Eliminate gender inequality at all levels of education.
▪ Reduce by two thirds the mortality rate among children under five years of age.
▪ Reduce the maternal mortality rate by 75 percent.
▪ Halt and begin to reverse the spread of HIV/AIDS as well as the incidence of other major diseases, such as malaria.
▪ Reduce by 50 percent the proportion of people who do not have access to safe drinking water.
Can these goals be reached? After reevaluating matters in 2004, a panel of health officials from around the world concluded that optimism has to be tempered with the realization that hoped-for gains do not reflect what is really happening. The foreword to the book State of the World 2005 reports: “Poverty continues to undermine progress in many areas. Diseases such as HIV/AIDS are on the rise, creating public health time bombs in numerous countries. In the last five years, some 20 million children have died of preventable waterborne diseases, and hundreds of millions of people continue to live with the daily misery and squalor associated with the lack of clean drinking water and adequate sanitation.”
[Box/Pictures on page 8, 9]
SOME FEATURES OF “THE LAST DAYS”
Increasing lawlessness.—Matthew 24:12.
Ruining of the earth.—Revelation 11:18.
Great earthquakes.—Luke 21:11.
Critical times hard to deal with.—2 Timothy 3:1.
Inordinate love of money.—2 Timothy 3:2.
Disobedience to parents.—2 Timothy 3:2.
Lack of natural affection.—2 Timothy 3:3.
Loving pleasures rather than God.—2 Timothy 3:4.
Lack of self-control.—2 Timothy 3:3.
Without love of goodness.—2 Timothy 3:3.
Taking no note of the impending danger.—Matthew 24:39.
Ridiculers reject proof of the last days.—2 Peter 3:3, 4.
Global preaching of God’s Kingdom.—Matthew 24:14.
© G.M.B. Akash/Panos Pictures
© Paul Lowe/Panos Pictures
[Picture on page 9]
Jehovah’s Witnesses are known for preaching the good news of God’s Kingdom