God’s Kingdom Comes to Power in the Midst of Its Enemies
1. (a) To what have men of faith long looked forward? (b) Has not God always been King?
FOR thousands of years men of faith have lived in eager expectation of the day when God’s kingdom would begin its rule. They have felt keenly the need for God to take a direct hand in earth’s affairs. Does this mean that God has not been King during the centuries past? No, for Jehovah has always been the Supreme Ruler of the universe. (Jeremiah 10:10) But here at the earth his rulership has been challenged. And, as we have already seen, for sound reasons and with a loving purpose in view, God has allowed human governments under the influence of Satan to rule for a fixed period of time.
2. What is God’s kingdom, and to whom does he give the ruling power?
2 Jehovah promised, however, that at the end of that time he would take direct action against all rebels and opposers of his rule. And he would bring the earth and its inhabitants completely under his rule again. How? By the Kingdom, a new heavenly government under his Son Christ Jesus. So the coming of that kingdom to power means that great changes are near at hand. It means that Jehovah God has given to his Son “rulership and dignity and kingdom, that the peoples, national groups and languages should all serve even him.”—Daniel 7:13, 14.
3. Why may some at first find it strange to think that God’s kingdom has already come to power?
3 That event has already taken place in heaven. Kingdom authority has already been given to Jehovah’s Son. Does that sound strange to you? It might, especially in view of the terrible conditions afflicting mankind. But, really, it is because of these very conditions that we can be certain that this is true. Why is this?
4. (a) Why do not all creatures welcome God’s kingdom? (b) So what was it foretold that God would say to his Son when granting him power to act as king?
4 This is so because the coming to power of Jehovah’s kingdom is not welcomed by all creatures. Not everyone wants to live under a government that insists on righteousness. (Luke 19:11-14) For this reason, Jehovah long ago recorded in his Word that when he ‘begins ruling as king’ toward the earth ‘the nations would become wrathful.’ (Revelation 11:17, 18) He foretold that, at the time of empowering his Son to act, it would be necessary for him to say: “Go subduing in the midst of your enemies.”—Psalm 110:2 [109:2, Dy].
5. What action was then to take place in heaven, and with what result for the earth?
5 Christ Jesus would then oust Satan from heaven, the seat of government, hurling him down to the vicinity of the earth, in preparation for putting him completely out of action. In the heavens the grand announcement would then be made: “Now have come to pass the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ.” But for the earth, what? “Woe . . . , because the Devil has come down to you, having great anger, knowing he has a short period of time.” (Revelation 12:5, 7-10, 12) Full control of earth by God’s kingdom must soon follow! However, the start of the rule by God’s kingdom does not mean immediate peace and righteousness on earth. To the contrary, it triggers a period of unprecedented trouble for earth’s inhabitants.
6. (a) What question did Jesus’ followers ask him about his second presence? (b) Why would a visible “sign” be needed? (c) Of what would this visible evidence be proof concerning this system of things?
6 Realizing this, we can better understand the meaning of what Jesus told his followers about his second presence. They had asked him: “Tell us, When will these things be, and what will be the sign of your presence and of the conclusion of the system of things?” (Matthew 24:3) Jesus then described, for their benefit and ours, what would take place on earth when he would begin to rule in heaven. In this way, although the events in heaven would be invisible to human eyes, there would be visible proof that Christ was at last on the throne, taking action as king. It would be proof that the wicked system of things that has oppressed mankind for centuries had entered its “last days.” (2 Timothy 3:1) Although it was foretold that there would be ridiculers that would try to belittle the facts, yet the evidence would be clear.—2 Peter 3:3, 4.
7. (a) Is there some single event, by itself, that would be proof that “the end” is at hand? (b) How do we know when summer is near? So how can we know when the Kingdom has begun its rule?
7 As we consider the evidence together, it is important to realize that Jesus did not say that any one event, such as threat of war or a terrible earthquake, would be the proof that “the end” was at hand. (Matthew 24:6) Rather, he said: “Note the fig tree and all the other trees: When they are already in the bud, by observing it you know for yourselves that now the summer is near. In this way you also, when you see these things occurring, know that the kingdom of God is near.” (Luke 21:29-31) If we see one tree put out its leaves in midwinter because the weather is warm for a few days, we do not reason that summer has come, do we? But when we see all the trees budding and the days growing longer we know that summer has to be near. Likewise, when all the things that Jesus described take place, we can know for sure that Christ is on his heavenly throne and that his kingdom has, indeed, begun active rule. When that happens, liberation is near!
FULFILLMENT OF “THE SIGN”
8. (a) As recorded at Matthew 24:7, what did Jesus say would mark his second presence? (b) Why did the war that began in 1914 fit his description? (c) So what year marked the beginning of the “last days” and the time when God’s kingdom began its active rule?
8 Exactly what did Jesus point to as marking his second presence and the “conclusion of the system of things”? He said: “Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be food shortages and earthquakes in one place after another.” (Matthew 24:7) Here Jesus tells us to look for a new kind of warfare—total war! The war that began in 1914 fits his description. Not only did armies fight on the battlefields; civilian populations too were organized to give full support to the war. As Jesus foretold, entire nations and kingdoms were fighting against one another. For the first time in history the whole world was at war. Hence it is called “World War I.” Of it the book World War I said:
“In its scope, its violence, and above all, in its totality, it established a precedent. World War I ushered in the century of Total War, of—in the first full sense of the term—global war.
“Never before 1914-1918 had a war absorbed so much of the total resources of so many combatants and covered so large a part of the earth. Never had so many nations been involved. Never had the slaughter been so comprehensive and indiscriminate.”a
The World Book Encyclopedia noted that the number of soldiers killed and wounded was over 37,000,000, and added:
“The number of civilian deaths in areas of actual war totaled about 5,000,000. Starvation, disease, and exposure accounted for about 80 of every 100 of these civilian deaths. Spanish influenza, which some persons blamed on the war, caused tens of millions of other deaths.”b
This was just as Jesus foretold. Put together, these facts mark 1914 as the beginning of the “last days” and the year that God’s heavenly kingdom began its active rule.—See also Luke 21:10, 11.
9. What other event marking the “last days” has taken place with unusual frequency since 1914?
9 Also, after 1914 a series of earthquakes rocked the earth, causing great damage. In 1915, in Italy, nearly 30,000 were killed. In 1920, in China, 180,000 died. In 1923, 143,000 died in Japan. And major earthquakes have continued to take place with unusual frequency since then. As Jesus foretold, they are another mark of the “last days.”
10. What shows that the events that marked 1914 were only the “beginning of pangs of distress”?
10 However, Jesus said that the events that marked the beginning of the “last days” in 1914 were only the “beginning of pangs of distress.” (Matthew 24:8) Greater trouble was to come. True to his prophecy, it did. The World Book Encyclopedia says: “World War I and its aftermath led to the greatest economic depression in history during the early 1930’s. The consequences of the war and the problems of adjustment to peace led to unrest in almost every nation.” This paved the way for World War II. And of that war the same source notes:
World War II killed more persons, cost more money, damaged more property, affected more people . . . than any other war in history. . . . It has been estimated that the number of war dead, civilian and military, totaled more than 22,000,000. The number of wounded has been estimated as more than 34,000,000.”c
Truly, the “pangs of distress” Jesus foretold have become greater as the “last days” move toward their climax.
11. (a) To what extent have food shortages added to the distress, as Jesus foretold? (b) How do food shortages of our day differ from those previous?
11 During and after World War II widespread food shortages added to the distress. Shortly after the war Look magazine observed:
“A fourth of the world is starving today. Tomorrow will even be worse. Famine over most of the world now is more terrible than most of us can imagine. . . . There are now more people hunting desperately for food than at any other time in history.”d
More recent reports have shown that a constant lack of adequate food, resulting in chronic malnutrition, has become the “major world hunger problem today.”e The London Times reported:
“There have always been famines, but the scale and ubiquity [presence everywhere] of hunger today is on a totally new scale. . . . Today malnutrition is said to affect more than a thousand million people; perhaps as many as 400 million live constantly on the brink of starvation.”—June 3, 1980.
12. (a) What other conditions, foretold in the Bible, have developed at an explosive rate since 1914? (b) So what kind of reports come from nation after nation?
12 Jesus also foretold the “increasing of lawlessness” as a mark of the “last days.” (Matthew 24:12) And God inspired the apostle Paul to add: “In the last days . . . men will be lovers of themselves, . . . disobedient to parents, . . . without self-control, fierce, without love of goodness, . . . lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God, . . . wicked men and impostors will advance from bad to worse.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5, 13) These are the conditions that have developed at an explosive rate since 1914! You have seen them with your own eyes, have you not? Throughout the world lawlessness is running wild. Said one lawyer: “Almost everywhere, including Soviet Russia, there appears to be an increase in crime, and particularly, alas, in juvenile crime.”f From nation after nation come reports such as the following:
“A wave of crime and rioting is sweeping across the United States . . . In many cities, women are afraid to go out after dark. And they have good reason. Rapes, assaults, sadistic outbursts of senseless violence are on the rise. Crimes often seem to be committed out of sheer savagery . . . Respect for law and order is declining.”g
13. (a) At Luke 21:25, 26, what other feature of the “last days” did Jesus foretell? (b) How is the fulfillment of this prophecy evident in the news of our time?
13 As another feature of the “last days,” Jesus spoke of great confusion and fear among the nations and their leaders. He foretold: “On the earth anguish of nations, not knowing the way out . . . men become faint out of fear and expectation of the things coming upon the inhabited earth.” (Luke 21:25, 26) The fulfillment of this prophecy is evident in the news of our time. U.S. News & World Report said:
“Is the world in greater tumult than before World War II? No doubt.
“Shooting troubles, on the average, erupt once a month. Counting out real wars like Korea and Vietnam, the record still shows over 300 revolutions, coups, uprisings, rebellions and insurrections worldwide since the end of World War II.”h
Added to all these things is the fear of being destroyed by the huge supply of nuclear weapons some nations possess. One news editor commented: “The fact is that today the biggest single emotion which dominates our lives is fear.”i It is just as Jesus foretold: mankind is fearful and the nations are in anguish.
14. What does all the evidence show as to the year 1914?
14 All the foretold marks of the “last days” are here. They prove beyond a doubt that we have been in the “last days” since 1914. Hence it was in that year that God’s heavenly kingdom came to power!—Revelation 11:17, 18.
15. Why is our generation unlike all others?
15 It is true that in past generations there were periods marked by violence and much immoral conduct. The decline of the Roman Empire is an example. But never before in human history have all the conditions specified by Jesus been observed in the same generation. And never before have they existed at the same time in every nation of the earth. Today we live, not merely in the last days of one political empire, but in the “last days” of the entire wicked system controlled by Satan.
1914 A MARKED YEAR
16. Did Bible scholars know in advance that there would be great changes in 1914?
16 Years in advance Bible scholars realized that 1914 was to be a year of great significance. Bible chronology specifically points to that year,j and careful students of God’s Word knew that. They expected great changes to take place, and the facts confirm that 1914 was, indeed, a marked year.
17. What do historians say about the year 1914?
17 Others with knowledge of world affairs fully agree that 1914 was a marked year. The London Evening Star commented that World War I “tore the whole world’s political setup apart. Nothing could ever be the same again. . . . some historian in the next century may well conclude that the day the world went mad was August 4, 1914.”k Of the great change 1914 made, the historian H. R. Trevor-Roper said:
“It is instructive to compare the first World War with the second . . . the first war marked a far greater change in history. It closed a long era of general peace and began a new age of violence in which the second war is simply an episode. Since 1914 the world has had a new character: a character of international anarchy. . . . Thus the first World War marks a turning point in modern history.”l
18. What have others said about the significance of 1914?
18 World leaders have also commented on the significance of the year 1914. Former chancellor of West Germany Konrad Adenauer spoke of the time “before 1914 when there was real peace, quiet and security on this earth—a time when we didn’t know fear.” Then he added: “Security and quiet have disappeared from the lives of men since 1914. And peace? Since 1914, the Germans have not known real peace nor has much of mankind,”a Note, too, the comment in the book entitled “1914.” The author 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 . . . from then on nothing could ever be the same.”b
19. Why has this wicked system of things behaved so crazily since 1914?
19 Satan the Devil and his demons know they have only “a short period of time” left before their destruction. (Revelation 12:12) Even when Jesus was on earth, the demons knew that someday they would be destroyed. They showed a vicious disposition back then, and now that they know their time is short they are more vicious and desperate than ever. (Luke 8:27-33) They are out to stir up all the trouble that they can, in order to direct the attention of mankind away from the kingdom of God. That is why this wicked system of things has been behaving so crazily since 1914. It is behaving like a top, a child’s toy, that wobbles crazily just before it tumbles to a complete stop.
20. (a) Why should we not be disheartened by the world situation? (b) What did Jesus foretell that his followers would be preaching at this time? Is it being done?
20 Are we disheartened by this situation? Jesus said that his disciples would have reason to lift their heads up. Why? Because they realize the meaning of it all. They see in these events proof that deliverance is near! (Luke 21:28) And they do not keep this joyful news to themselves, but in all the earth they are preaching the thrilling news that the kingdom of God now rules. As Jesus foretold: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14) This, too, is part of the “sign.” In North and South America, Europe, Africa, Asia and the islands of the seas Jehovah’s witnesses zealously keep proclaiming this urgent message. In both large cities and small villages you will find them, in all parts of the earth. Yes, this part of the “sign” is also being fulfilled.
21. (a) Explain just what took place in 1914. (b) What will the answer to the prayer for God’s kingdom to “come” mean?
21 Beyond all doubt, the evidence points to 1914 as the year when the kingdom of God went into operation, and that event is causing things to happen here on earth. In that same year “the present wicked system of things” entered its “last days.” (Galatians 1:4) Soon, now, the prayer for God’s kingdom to “come” will be answered, when it displays its great power by destroying Satan’s entire wicked system. Then God’s kingdom alone will operate as the one government to rule the earth throughout eternity. (Daniel 2:44) Taking direct control of all earth’s affairs, it will shower down on obedient mankind blessings of peace, happiness and life. The prayer for ‘God’s will to take place, as in heaven, also upon earth,’ will have had glorious fulfillment, for God’s kingdom will have come to rule forever. And think of it! You may enjoy eternal life under the loving rule of that kingdom.—Matthew 6:9, 10.
a World War I, by H. W. Baldwin, 1962, pp. 1, 2.
b The World Book Encyclopedia, 1966, Vol. 20, p. 377.
c The World Book Encyclopedia, 1966, Vol. 20, pp. 379, 380, 410.
d Look, June 11, 1946.
e U.S.A. Presidential Commission on World Hunger (1980).
f U.S. News & World Report, Nov. 1, 1965, p. 80.
g Ibid., Aug. 1, 1966, pp. 46, 47.
h U.S. News & World Report, Nov. 27, 1967, p. 62.
i Ibid., Oct. 11, 1965, p. 144.
j For details concerning this, see the book “Babylon the Great Has Fallen!” God’s Kingdom Rules!, pages 174-181; also From Paradise Lost to Paradise Regained, page 173.
k London Evening Star, quoted in New Orleans Times-Picayune, Aug. 5, 1960.
l The New York Times Magazine, Aug. 1, 1954, p. 9.
a Cleveland West Parker, Jan. 20, 1966, p. 1.
b 1914, by J. Cameron, 1959, pp. v, vi.
[Picture on page 85]
Jesus told his disciples what would be visible proof of his invisible presence in kingly power