Completion of the Foretold “Sign” Nears
1. Why can we be thankful that Jesus’ apostles asked him the question contained in Matthew 24:3?
WE TODAY can be thankful that the apostles of Jesus Christ asked him the question: “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) Their question led to his giving a lengthy, detailed prophecy the accuracy of which leaves us amazed as we see the progress of its fulfillment in this eventful twentieth century. This aids us in determining with certainty where we are in the outworking of God’s purpose toward suffering mankind. We are strengthened in our belief that we are actually living during the invisible “presence” of Christ in the spirit and in the “conclusion of the system of things,” inasmuch as we do see “the sign” that he foretold.
2. Where is the “sign” in all its features described, and what part of the account shall we now consider?
2 The “sign” in all its details is nearing its stage of complete clarity with no room for any watching observers to be mistaken. The “sign” has many features, as set out in Matthew’s account, Mt chapters twenty-four and twenty-five, Mark’s account, Mr chapter thirteen, and Luke’s account, Lu chapter twenty-one; and it has been almost the lifetime of a generation of mankind for all the features of the “sign” to become manifest in their fullness. In preceding chapters we have considered those features of the sign as described in Matthew’s account, Mt chapter twenty-five. Now we consider those features set out in Mt chapter twenty-four, along with the comparative accounts given by Mark and Luke.
3, 4. When asking Jesus, “When will these things be?” to what things were the disciples referring?
3 When Christ’s apostles opened up their inquiry by saying, “Tell us, When will these things be?” they were referring to the things that Jesus had said prophetically that same day of Tuesday, Nisan 11, of the year 33 C.E. In Jerusalem’s temple, after denouncing the hypocritical religious scribes and Pharisees, Jesus went on to say: “Here I am sending forth to you prophets and wise men and public instructors. Some of them you will kill and impale, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city; that there may come upon you all the righteous blood spilled on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Barachiah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar. Truly I say to you, All these things will come upon this generation. Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the killer of the prophets and stoner of those sent forth to her,—how often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks together under her wings! But you people did not want it. Look! Your house is abandoned to you. For I say to you, You will by no means see me from henceforth until you say, ‘Blessed is he that comes in Jehovah’s name!’”
4 Before Jesus left the temple or house of worship, he added further words of solemn prophecy, concerning which we read: “Departing now, Jesus was on his way from the temple, but his disciples approached to show him the buildings of the temple. In response he said to them: ‘Do you not behold all these things? Truly I say to you, By no means will a stone be left here upon a stone and not be thrown down.’”—Matthew 23:34 to 24:2.
5. On his triumphal ride toward Jerusalem, what had Jesus said with reference to her?
5 Just two days previously, on Sunday, Nisan 9, he had paused in his triumphal ride toward Jerusalem and wept over her because of her coming destruction. Predicting her terrible destruction by the Romans in 70 C.E., he said: “Because the days will come upon you when your enemies will build around you a fortification with pointed stakes and will encircle you and distress you from every side, and they will dash you and your children within you to the ground, and they will not leave a stone upon a stone in you, because you did not discern the time of your being inspected.”—Luke 19:41-44.
6. What kind of predictions were those for the circumcised natural Jewish disciples, and what mental problems were raised for them?
6 For natural, circumcised Jews, such as Christ’s apostles were, those were disturbing predictions. Upon the generation of which they were a part, the innocent blood spilled in the course of Jewish history and earlier was to be visited. Exactly when would these things be fulfilled? They wanted to know. They believed and confessed Jesus to be the Messiah or Anointed One, the Christ. But Jerusalem’s predicted destruction indicated that he would not set up his Messianic kingdom in that doomed city. He spoke of his not being seen “from henceforth,” but also of his coming “in Jehovah’s name.” When would he be present again to carry out his Messianic role? The coming destruction of Jerusalem and her temple must certainly spell the end of the Jewish system of things. With no holy city and no holy temple the Jewish priesthood of the family of Aaron the Levite might be among those of Jerusalem’s “children” who would be dashed “to the ground” or would at least be put out of their temple service. No wonder the apostles asked, not only about the destruction of Jerusalem and her temple, but also: “What will be the sign of your presence and of the conclusion of the system of things?”
7. Why was the apostles’ asking about the “conclusion of the system of things” a question on a proper point of inquiry?
7 Their questions were on proper points of inquiry, for Jesus did come in the “conclusion” of the Jewish system of things. Other scriptures speak of the situation in that same sense. Hebrews 9:26-28 shows that Jesus did not need to make repeated sacrifices of himself and says: “Otherwise, he would have to suffer often from the founding of the world. But now he has manifested himself once for all time at the conclusion of the systems of things to put sin away through the sacrifice of himself. . . . so also the Christ was offered once for all time to bear the sins of many.” Also, 1 Corinthians 10:11 says: “Now these things went on befalling them as examples, and they were written for a warning to us upon whom the ends of the systems of things have arrived.” Counted from the year of Jesus’ prophecy on the subject, the Jewish system of things had thirty-seven years yet to go, less than a generation with a life-span of forty years. Jerusalem was taken and destroyed by the Romans on Elul 7 (or, August 30, 70 C.E., Gregorian calendar time). How many of Christ’s apostles escaped martyrdom and survived till that horrible event, the Bible record does not say.
A TIME OF TESTING AND DISASTERS
8. In answering the apostles, what things did Jesus first describe?
8 In answer to the inquiry of his apostles, Jesus described first the events leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem within that generation. “And in answer Jesus said to them: ‘Look out that nobody misleads you; for many will come on the basis of my name, saying, “I am the Christ,” and will mislead many. You are going to hear of wars and reports of wars; see that you are not terrified. For these things must take place, but the end is not yet.’”—Matthew 24:4-6.
9. The rising of Jews claiming to be Messiah would not betoken what as being in progress, and would not lead to what desired event?
9 Jews would arise, not claiming to be Jesus returned in the flesh, but claiming to be the promised Messiah or Christ. But neither the apostles nor their fellow disciples should be misled by such self-styled Messiahs or Christs, for their operations would not betoken the “presence” or parousia of Jesus Christ nor bring deliverance to the Jewish nation. The Jewish revolt against the Romans in the year 66 C.E. was to be such a Messianic effort, but it led to Jerusalem’s destruction and the scattering of the Jewish nation. The Messianic hopes of these misled people were bitterly disappointed.
10. What about wars, and why were the disciples not to be terrified by such?
10 During this thirty-seven-year period there were to be a number of wars, within earshot of the disciples or merely reported to them in the news. But those wars, while affecting the situation of the Jewish nation, were not the ones that directly brought on the end of the Jewish system of things. So the disciples were not to be terrorized into taking any premature action. “The end is not yet.”
11. What did Jesus predict would be a “beginning of pangs of distress”?
11 “For,” said Jesus in enlarging upon what he had just said about wars and reports of war, “nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be food shortages and earthquakes in one place after another. All these things are a beginning of pangs of distress.”—Matthew 24:7, 8. Also, Mark 13:8.
12, 13. (a) Were those things making up a “beginning of pangs of distress” to come upon any particular people? (b) What things were to come upon the disciples for announcing Messiah and being his followers?
12 Such calamities being merely a “beginning of pangs of distress,” the end was “not yet.” Those calamities were merely indications, not the final death throe. These things would affect the people in general, but there were things that would come specifically upon Jesus’ disciples because they announced the true Messiah or Christ and followed in his footsteps. Hence, Jesus went on to say:
13 “Then people will deliver you up to tribulation and will kill you, and you will be objects of hatred by all the nations on account of my name. Then, also, many will be stumbled and will betray one another and will hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and mislead many; and because of the increasing of lawlessness the love of the greater number will cool off. But he that has endured to the end is the one that will be saved. And 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 24:9-14. Compare Mark 13:9-13.
14. (a) What confirms that those things occurred within the generation then living? (b) The end could not come upon Jerusalem and the Jewish system before what accomplishment?
14 The Bible book entitled “Acts of Apostles” testifies to the fulfillment of those prophetic words of Jesus Christ even within that generation, for this book was written by the medical doctor Luke about the year 61 C.E. Other Bible books, inspired letters written by apostles and other disciples before the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E., confirm the account in Acts of Apostles and add to the record of Christian suffering under persecution and international hatred toward Christianity. The good news of God’s kingdom had penetrated beyond the Middle East into Asia Minor, Continental Asia, Africa, Europe and the islands of the Mediterranean Sea. The preaching of the Kingdom message was being carried on in all the inhabited earth. Although not resulting in world conversion to Christianity, a thing it was never purposed to accomplish, it resulted in a witness to all the nations. (Colossians 1:6, 23) Before this praiseworthy exploit was accomplished by outspoken Christian witnesses, the calamitous end could not come upon Jerusalem and the Jewish system of things.
JERUSALEM’S SECOND DESTRUCTION INDICATED AS AT HAND
15. What did Jesus say would indicate the close nearness of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish system, and what did he say to do thereafter?
15 Having shown in considerable detail the preliminaries that were to precede “the end,” Jesus now specified the particular thing that would indicate the close nearness of the end of Jerusalem and the system of things that was centered in her and her temple. He said: “Therefore, when you catch sight of the disgusting thing that causes desolation, as spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in a holy place, (let the reader use discernment,) then let those in Judea begin fleeing to the mountains. Let the man on the housetop not come down to take the goods out of his house; and let the man in the field not return to the house to pick up his outer garment. Woe to the pregnant women and those suckling a baby in those days! Keep praying that your flight may not occur in wintertime, nor on the sabbath day.”
16. Why was it, as Jesus advised, that Christian Jews and proselytes should abandon Jerusalem and Judea so quickly?
16 Why the great need for the Christian Jews and proselytes in the Roman province of Judea to get out of it at top speed, with no unnecessary burdens, by direct route, at the opportune time, and take refuge in the mountains outside the mentioned province? “For then,” Jesus continues on to say, “there will be great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning until now, no, nor will occur again. In fact, unless those days were cut short, no flesh would be saved; but on account of the chosen ones those days will be cut short.”—Matthew 24:15-22.
17. (a) Why was this counsel of Jesus not to be disregarded by his apostles and their fellow Christians? (b) So what vital question now poses itself?
17 This counsel of Jesus the apostles and other disciples should not forget nor disregard. If any of them delayed their flight out of Judea after seeing the disgusting thing standing in a holy place, it might cost them their lives; they might not be among those comparatively few who are spoken of as “flesh” that is saved only because the days of tribulation are cut short. But what is the “disgusting thing” the sight of which standing in the holy place would certify that not much time was left now before the devastating “great tribulation” was right at hand?
18, 19. (a) By whom had this disgusting thing that causes desolation already been foretold, and where? (b) How did Jesus, according to Luke’s account of his prophecy, show what that disgusting thing would be?
18 Jesus left no doubt as to what it was. He said it was the disgusting thing “as spoken of through Daniel the prophet.” (Matthew 24:15) The “disgusting thing” that is foretold by the prophet Daniel in connection with the second destruction of Jerusalem is the one described in Daniel 9:26, 27 (especially according to the Greek Septuagint Version of the Hebrew Bible text).a Secular history reveals that “disgusting thing” to be the pagan Roman armies under their “leader.” That this is the proper explanation of the prophecy is borne out by a comparison of Matthew’s account of Jesus’ prophecy at this place with Luke’s account at the corresponding place in Jesus’ prophecy. Luke 21:20-24 says:
19 “Furthermore, when you see Jerusalem surrounded by encamped armies, then know that the desolating of her has drawn near. Then let those in Judea begin fleeing to the mountains, and let those in the midst of her withdraw, and let those in the country places not enter into her; because these are days for meting out justice [or, days of vengeance], that all the things written [including Daniel 9:26, 27] may be fulfilled. Woe to the pregnant women and the ones suckling a baby in those days! For there will be great necessity upon the land and wrath on this people; and they will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled on by the nations, until the appointed times of the nations are fulfilled.”—Compare also with Mark 13:14-20.
20, 21. (a) When was it that the Christian Jews in Judea saw the disgusting thing standing in a “holy place”? (b) How long did that disgusting thing thus stand?
20 It was in the year 66 C.E. that the Christian Jews in Jerusalem and Judea began to see the “disgusting thing that causes desolation, as spoken of through Daniel the prophet,” take a stand in a “holy place,” namely, Jerusalem and its environs. It was in that year that the unchristianized Jews revolted with Messianic aspirations against further rule by the Roman Empire. In reaction to this, the Roman general, Cestius Gallus, came down from Syria and surrounded Jerusalem with “encamped armies.” It was at the time that the Jews celebrated the Festival of Booths (or, Tabernacles) from Tishri 15 to 21, which in that year should have run for the seven days of October 22-28 (Gregorian calendar). General Cestius Gallus brought his armies up to within “fifty furlongs” of the celebrating city. The Jews, well armed, sallied forth in attack and inflicted some damage on the Romans.
21 There now followed a “wait for three days.” Then General Gallus, forcing the Jews back to Jerusalem, brought his troops up close to the city. But it was first on the last day of the month Tishri (about November 5) that he got his troops into the city of Jerusalem. He was indeed now in a place considered “holy” to the Jews. For five days the Romans made an attack on the temple wall, and on the sixth day they undermined the wall. This certainly was an assailing of what the Jews considered most holy. Easily the Romans could have now captured the whole city, but then, suddenly, without any valid reason for doing so, General Gallus withdrew from the city and retreated. The elated Jews went in hot pursuit and harassed the retreating Romans and inflicted considerable harm, so that the retreat turned into a rout.b This was a stinging blow at the pride of the world-conquering Romans. Jerusalem was liberated! And in commemoration the Jews coined some new silver shekels bearing on one side the inscription “Jerusalem the Holy.”
22. Why were the Christianized Jews not deceived by that reestablishment of Jerusalem’s independence, and how did they safeguard themselves?
22 Were the Christianized Jews in Jerusalem and in the province of Judea deceived by this reestablishing of the independence of this land of the Jews? Not those who took to heart Jesus’ prophecy and his counsel. They had actually seen the holy city of Jerusalem surrounded by encamped armies. They had seen the “disgusting thing that causes desolation,” with its military standards that were idolized as gods by the soldiers, standing “in a holy place,” “standing where it ought not.” (Mark 13:14) From this they were to “know that the desolating of her [Jerusalem] has drawn near.” (Luke 21:20) It was now high time either to get out of Jerusalem or not to enter into her but to flee from all the province of Judea to the mountains outside, for instance, eastward across the Jordan River to the province of Perea. There, outside the doomed territory, these Christianized Jews could continue their preaching of the good news of God’s true Messianic kingdom, instead of perishing with the doomed unbelieving Jews.
23, 24. (a) Why did the independence of Judea not last long? (b) How serious and menacing did the siege of Jerusalem become?
23 The independence of the Jews in Judea proved to be of short duration. Roman General Vespasian succeeded to General Gallus and reached Palestine early in the following year, 67 C.E. His endeavors to get the rest of the country under control allowed for the Jews to strengthen their defenses. After the death of Emperor Nero in 68 C.E., Vespasian was elevated to imperial power. Leaving Palestine, he reached Rome about the middle of 70 C.E. He left his son General Titus in charge of Roman military forces in Syria. The Jewish Passover of the year 70 approached, and the non-Christian Jews flocked to the city of Jerusalem for the celebration. It was then that General Titus came with four legions and bottled up the celebrating Jews inside the city. To starve out the rebellious Jews, he did what Jesus had foretold, build a fortified stockade, “a fortification with pointed stakes,” about five miles long all around the city, to prevent any Jews from escaping.
24 The straits of the cooped-up Jews inside Jerusalem became desperate. The first-century Jewish historian, Flavius Josephus, in his writings, vividly describes the horrors resulting from the Roman siege. The loss of Jewish lives was mounting higher and higher. It appeared that, if the siege lasted too long, “no flesh” inside the besieged city would survive. It was as Jesus had foretold concerning this “great tribulation” upon Jerusalem and Judea: “In fact, unless Jehovah had cut short the days, no flesh would be saved. But on account of the chosen ones whom he has chosen he has cut short the days.”—Mark 13:19, 20.
25. (a) How were the days of that tribulation upon Jerusalem cut short? (b) Were the surviving Jews the “chosen ones” spoken of by Jesus in his prophecy?
25 Providentially, the days of the siege proved to be relatively short, just 142 days, counted from Nisan 14 to Elul 7, or parts of six lunar months. That is to say, according to the Gregorian calendar, by August 30, 70 C.E., it was all over. Some Jewish flesh was permitted to survive, 97,000 Jews, according to Josephus’ account, whereas he reports that 1,100,000 perished in the siege. Were those 97,000 survivors the “chosen ones” on account of whom Jehovah had cut short the days? Not unless you would call them chosen for captivity and enslavement. For it was just as Jesus had said: “There will be great necessity upon the land and wrath on this people; and they will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled on by the nations, until the appointed times of the nations are fulfilled.”—Luke 21:23, 24.
26. (a) Who, then, were the “chosen ones” spoken of in Jesus’ prophecy? (b) In what way was the number of days of Jerusalem’s tribulation cut short on their account?
26 No! the “chosen ones” on account of whom the number of days of Jerusalem’s “great tribulation” was cut short were not those 97,000 miserable Jewish captives, upon whom Jehovah’s great “wrath” rested in those “days for meting out justice.” Jehovah’s “chosen ones” were the Christianized Jews, to whom he had given the signal to flee without delay from all of Judea, including its capital Jerusalem. He desired all of them to get safely out of the danger zone, by acting in faith on Jesus’ counsel to flee promptly after seeing the “disgusting thing that causes desolation, as spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in a holy place.” After Jehovah got all these “chosen” disciples of his Son Jesus Christ out of the place upon which divine justice was to be meted out, he could let the execution of his vengeance upon the rebellious Jews be of short duration. As it is written: “Jehovah will make an accounting on the earth, concluding it and cutting it short.” (Romans 9:28; Isaiah 10:23) Rightly, then, “on account of the chosen ones” those days of great tribulation on Jerusalem were cut short.
27. (a) Did Jesus stop his prophecy with the description of Jerusalem’s destruction, or did he look beyond that? (b) Why do we say that Jerusalem ceased to be trampled on by Gentile nations in 1914?
27 Secular history records the accuracy of Jesus’ prophecy. But with this account of the destruction of earthly Jerusalem the prophecy of Jesus does not end, for there is more to say concerning the “sign” of his presence and of the “conclusion of the system of things.” He looks beyond the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E., for he says, in Luke 21:24: “And Jerusalem will be trampled on by the nations, until the appointed times of the nations are fulfilled.” Jesus looked to the fulfilled “end” of those appointed times of the nations, usually called the Gentile Times. That means that he looked forward to the year 1914 C.E., for in that year the right of Jerusalem to have a Messianic kingdom in the hands of the Permanent Heir of King David ceased being trampled on by the nations. Why do we say this, inasmuch as in the year 1914 the rebuilt city of Jerusalem over in the Middle East was still under control of the Mohammedan Turks? It is because, in that year, at the close of the Gentile Times, Jehovah God enthroned the Permanent Heir of King David, not in the Turk-controlled earthly Jerusalem, but in the heavenly Jerusalem.—Hebrews 12:22.
FULFILLMENT UPON ANTITYPICAL UNFAITHFUL JERUSALEM
28. In speaking about Jerusalem’s destruction as being so terrible, in what senses must Jesus have been referring to Jerusalem?
28 It becomes plain that, in his prophecy, Jesus was using the city of Jerusalem not only in a literal sense but also in a typical sense, as prefiguring something else of greater proportions. Otherwise, he would not have said concerning her destruction in 70 C.E., “then there will be great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning until now, no, nor will occur again.” (Matthew 24:21; Mark 13:19) All informed persons know that Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 C.E. was not the worst catastrophe since the world’s beginning, for, what about the global deluge of Noah’s day? And as for the equal of Jerusalem’s destruction by the Romans never occurring after 70 C.E., what about World War I and World War II in this twentieth century? Jesus’ language was not exaggerated, but evidently he was thinking of Jerusalem as a prophetic type, as a warning example of something that would embrace the whole world in a similar destruction. He was thinking of the antitypical unfaithful Jerusalem, namely, one of modern times. And what is that? It is Christendom with her hundreds of conflicting religious sects.—1 Corinthians 10:11.
29. (a) To what else, in addition to Christendom’s destruction, does Jesus’ prophecy apply? (b) To what, then, does the time from Jesus’ prophecy to Jerusalem’s destruction correspond?
29 This application of Jesus’ prophecy holds true, not only as to Christendom’s approaching destruction with all her political, commercial, military and judicial paramours, but also as to the world events that immediately lead up to her annihilation. Christendom now lives in a period of time that resembles in her twentieth-century experiences the period of time from Jesus’ prophecy given on the Mount of Olives until the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and her temple in 70 C.E. This particular corresponding period of time for Christendom began at the close of the “appointed times of the nations” in the year 1914. Consider world happenings since then.
30. Since 1914, has Christendom experienced what Jesus said would be the “beginning of pangs of distress”?
30 What things did Jesus say would be a “beginning of pangs of distress”? Were they not to be wars, food shortage, earthquakes, pestilences? (Matthew 24:7, 8; Mark 13:8; Luke 21:10, 11) What “wars” in the days of Christ’s apostles in the first century can compare with World Wars I and II, not to speak of all the other wars since the close of World War II in 1945 C.E.? Did the famines, earthquakes, pestilences of the years 33 to 70 C.E. surpass the food shortages, earthquakes and pestilences Christendom and all the rest of the world have had since the end of the Gentile Times in 1914?
31. (a) What did Jesus say would happen to his disciples before Jerusalem’s destruction? (b) Whose sufferings today correspond with those of the disciples of that time period?
31 Jesus also told his apostles that his disciples would be sorely persecuted, being delivered up to tribulation and being killed, yes, of their becoming an object of hatred by all the nations; also, of the arising of false prophets, false Messiahs, and of the increasing of lawlessness toward God with a consequent cooling off of the quality of love on the part of the great majority of professed religionists; also, of the need of Christian endurance during such a time as that. (Matthew 24:9-13; Mark 13:9-13; Luke 21:12-19) Such developments marked apostolic times of the first century. And what about world developments since the Gentile Times ended in 1914? Has the world become so converted to Christianity that the persecution of Christ’s true disciples has ceased? Is there any religious minority that is more the object of “hatred by all the nations on account of my [Christ’s] name” than Jehovah’s Christian witnesses? Are there any religious persecutions greater than those heaped upon these Christian witnesses of Jehovah all the way from 1914 down to the present time? A record is there for all to consult.
32. What other feature was to distinguish that apostolic period down to 70 C.E., and through whom was this feature then fulfilled?
32 There was another distinguishing feature about that apostolic period of the first century prior to 70 C.E. To his Jewish opposers in Jerusalem, Jesus said: “The kingdom of God will be taken from you and be given to a nation producing its fruits.” (Matthew 21:43) Even with their false Messiahs the Jews were not producing the fruits of God’s kingdom by proclaiming it to the Gentiles. Before Jerusalem’s destruction, they did not take up the message of John the Baptist and proclaim that the kingdom of the heavens was at hand. No, for during his last visit to the temple in Jerusalem Jesus said to the religious scribes and Pharisees: “You shut up the kingdom of the heavens before men; for you yourselves do not go in, neither do you permit those on their way in to go in.” (Matthew 23:13) To whom, then, goes the credit for a fulfillment before the year 70 C.E. of Jesus’ dynamic words: “And this good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations”? (Matthew 24:14; Mark 13:10) It goes to those who were the “objects of hatred by all the nations on account of my name”—his own disciples.
33. Since 1914, who has correspondingly preached the good news of God’s kingdom internationally, and how does this kingdom preached differ from that proclaimed by Christendom?
33 Similarly, in this corresponding period since the close of the Gentile Times in 1914 C.E., it is those who are outstandingly the “objects of hatred by all the nations on account of [Christ’s] name” that are bringing about a modern-day fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy concerning the good news of God’s kingdom. They are the ones who, despite hatred and persecution, have filled the inhabited earth with the preaching of the good news of God’s Messianic kingdom for a witness to all the nations. This is not the message of God’s kingdom such as Christendom has been preaching since the start of her existence in the days of Emperor Constantine in the fourth century—a kingdom within her hundreds of millions of church members, in their hearts, a kingdom that is finally realized by world conversion to Christendom’s churches. In stark contrast, the kingdom preached by Jehovah’s Christian witnesses since the end of the Gentile Times in 1914 is a real government that was born in the heavens in that year. It is the established kingdom of God in the hands of the Permanent Heir of King David, and it will put an end to all the political governments of this earth and bless earth’s inhabitants with everlasting life, peace and happiness.
34. (a) This international Kingdom-preaching was to be part of the “sign” of what fact? (b) What disaster was the accomplishment of this Kingdom-preaching to precede?
34 This remarkable accomplishment, the preaching of such good news in all the inhabited earth for an international witness, by Jehovah’s Christian witnesses is significant. It is a brightly shining feature of the “sign” that was to mark the “presence” or parousia of the reigning King Jesus Christ in spirit. Since the year of his enthronement in the heavens at God’s right hand that preaching from door to door and by all other means of modern communication has been carried on by Jehovah’s Christian witnesses for well over half a century, notwithstanding world wars and other large-scale calamities. Evidently the completing of the witness to all the nations concerning God’s Messianic kingdom that is about to take over all mankind’s affairs must be very near. This worldwide Kingdom-preaching was to precede “the end.” All the inhabited earth has now heard the Kingdom-preaching. No longer do “all the nations” remain without a witness to them. “And then the end will come,” said Jesus, for this system of things!
“THE DISGUSTING THING THAT CAUSES DESOLATION”
35. (a) What feature of the “sign” proved that Jerusalem’s desolation was indeed very near? (b) Inasmuch as that world power of the first century is no more, what question do we ask?
35 Another feature of the “sign” ensures that the long-awaited “end” is near. Although other startling things might occur within the critical period and yet the end would not be right then, Jesus foretold one ominous thing that proved that the hour of calamity was about to strike, that the desolating end was about to overtake all those delaying flight to safety. In the case of the first-century inhabitants of the Roman province of Judea, it was the surrounding of Jerusalem with encamped armies, the standing of the “disgusting thing that causes desolation” in the place where it ought not to stand, “a holy place.” Then of all times it was the occasion for Jews believing in Jesus as Messiah to flee clear out of Judea. But do we see anything today like a “disgusting thing” that is a desolator? Its appearing bodes no good for religious Christendom, for she is the modern-day counterpart of unfaithful Jerusalem of the first century. That holy capital of Jewish worship was desolated by armed forces of the Sixth World Power of Bible history, the pagan Roman Empire. But that imperial world power is now gone!
36. Why is the Seventh World Power of today due to feel the effects produced by the disgusting desolator?
36 Today, since 1914, the world scene is still dominated by the Seventh World Power, the British-American Dual World Power. With Britain’s king or queen claiming to be the head of the Anglican Church, the Church of England, and with the United States of America being declared by its Supreme Court to be a “Christian nation,” this Seventh World Power is a prominent part of Christendom and a stout defender of her. So, in its religious aspect, it is due to feel some of the effects produced by that disgusting desolator.
37. What does Revelation 17:9-11 tell us to indicate whether the seventh one was the last world power?
37 However, the last book of the Holy Bible discloses an EIGHTH WORLD POWER. Intriguingly, Revelation 17:9-11 informs us of what the apostle John was told in his vision of a wild beast, scarlet in color, having seven heads and ten horns, and being ridden by the religious harlot, “Babylon the Great.” The verses say: “Here is where the intelligence that has wisdom comes in: The seven heads mean seven mountains, where the woman sits on top. And there are seven kings: five have fallen, one is, the other has not yet arrived, but when he does arrive he must remain a short while. And the wild beast that was but is not, it is also itself an eighth king, but springs from the seven, and it goes off into destruction.”
38. In the apostle John’s day, which world powers had already fallen, which one then was, and which one was to come, to continue for how long?
38 In the apostle John’s day, in the first century, the Sixth World Power was holding him as a prisoner on the penal island of Patmos. The Seventh World Power had not yet arrived, for history verifies that it arrived first in the eighteenth century, when Great Britain became the commercial and naval mistress of the seas. So this Seventh World Power is just more than two centuries old today, and this is a “short while” in comparison with the nearly eighteen centuries of domination by the Sixth World Power. So the seventh head of the scarlet-colored wild beast represented this Seventh World Power; the other heads represent the preceding six world powers, the Egyptian, the Assyrian, the Babylonian, the Medo-Persian, the Grecian and the Roman. All these seven world powers have had relations with the religious harlot, “Babylon the Great,” who is the world empire of false religion.—Revelation 17:1-6, 18.
39. Why is Communist Russia or the Communist bloc of nations not the Eighth World Power?
39 Since the wild beast “is also itself an eighth king,” it represents an eighth world power. This does not mean Communist Russia or the Communist bloc of nations, for Russia and the Communist bloc did not ‘spring from the seven,’ that is, from the seven preceding world powers. Concerning the Communist bloc of nations it cannot be said that “the wild beast was, but is not, and yet will be present.”—Revelation 17:8.
40. (a) What, then, is the Eighth World Power? (b) When was that world power not, and when did it become present?
40 So what is the Eighth World Power, which the Babylonish world empire of false religion has been riding till now, as the harlot Babylon the Great rode the scarlet-colored wild beast seen in the apostle John’s vision? It is the international organization for world peace and security. Prior to World War II this was called the League of Nations, and since World War II it has been called the United Nations. This “world peace and security” agency was organized in the first post-war year of 1919, but it went into the abyss of inaction and incompetency when World War II broke out in 1939. During World War II it ‘was not’ for all practical purposes as a keeper of world peace. After World War II ended in 1945, it came up out of the abyss, this time under the new name, United Nations. It has been “present” since that time. Today it has a world membership of 132 nations. These are all militarily armed, five of these nations being already armed with nuclear bombs.
41. Why is the United Nations not a Christian organization, and what makes it disgusting to God?
41 Well, but why is the symbolic wild beast, the Eighth World Power, the United Nations of today, identified with the “disgusting thing that causes desolation”? Its being likened to a seven-headed wild beast carrying a harlot on its back shows that it is unclean in God’s sight, “disgusting” to Him. Since it “springs from the seven” non-Christian world powers, it is not a Christian organization. Half of the member nations of the United Nations do not even profess to be Christian, but here we find nations of Christendom in political union with non-Christian or pagan nations. The United Nations is a part of this world and is a “friend of the world” and, consequently, is an “enemy of God.” (James 4:4; John 8:23; 18:36) Messianic hopes are attached to it by its idolizers, and it is accepted by Christendom as a substitute for the established Messianic kingdom of God. Disgusting!
42. What armed forces will the United Nations be like in becoming a “thing that causes desolation”?
42 The United Nations is credited with having done many good things. How possibly could it be called a desolator, a “thing that causes desolation”? Well, the Sixth World Power, the Roman Empire, was trying to preserve the Pax Romana throughout the earth and was trying to hold down peace in the Middle East; but latterly its armed forces turned to becoming the desolator of the religious holy city of Jerusalem. Likewise, the Eighth World Power, the United Nations, has not yet finished its foretold world role before it “goes off into destruction.” (Revelation 17:11) It will yet turn out to be a “thing that causes desolation.” To whom? Revelation 17:15-18 reveals to us to whom. There we read:
43. How does Revelation 17:15-18 symbolically describe the desolating work?
43 “The waters that you saw, where the harlot is sitting, mean peoples and crowds and nations and tongues. And the ten horns that you saw, and the wild beast, these will hate the harlot and will make her devastated and naked, and will eat up her fleshy parts and will completely burn her with fire. For God put it into their hearts to carry out his thought, even to carry out their one thought by giving their kingdom to the wild beast, until the words of God will have been accomplished. And the woman whom you saw means the great city that has a kingdom over the kings of the earth.”
44. Of what, then, does the United Nations become a desolator, and what is the sensible thing to do now regarding the thing to be desolated, in order to be God’s people?
44 So the Eighth World Power, the United Nations, will turn into a “thing that causes desolation” when it brings to desolation the symbolic international harlot, Babylon the Great. Ancient Babylon on the Euphrates River was a city, and Babylon the Great is therefore likened to a “great city.” And since she has a “kingdom over the kings of the earth,” Babylon the Great means the world empire of false religion. The thing for sensible persons to do now is to get out of that Babylonish world empire of false religion before destruction comes upon it, for fear that they might be destroyed with it. This is the very thing that the inspired call from heaven tells persons who desire to be God’s people to do, saying: “Get out of her, my people, if you do not want to share with her in her sins, and if you do not want to receive part of her plagues.”—Revelation 18:1-4.
45. (a) What should be said as to whether people belonging to Christendom’s churches have already got out of Babylon, and why? (b) So why must Christendom be destroyed with Babylon the Great?
45 This is no time for us to be deceived. Because Christendom claims to be Christian, her church people belonging to her hundreds of religious sects should not think that they have already got out of Babylon the Great. As long as they remain a part of Christendom, they are staying with Babylon the Great and sharing in her sins. Why so? Because Christendom is herself a part of Babylon the Great, in fact, the most dominant part of that world empire of false religion. Furthermore, war-guilty, bloodstained Christendom is the antitypical modern-day unfaithful Jerusalem, from whom all of Jesus’ true disciples must flee for their lives. For, when the Eighth World Power (the United Nations) desolates Babylon the Great, it will also destroy the most reprehensible part of Babylon the Great, namely, Christendom. Lovers of life in harmony with the true God must flee out of Christendom without delay, just as the Jewish disciples of Jesus Christ fled out of Judea and Jerusalem after they saw the “disgusting thing that causes desolation . . . standing” in the place that was considered very holy by the Jews.
46. How was an early warning to God-fearing people to get out of Babylon the Great sounded in the year 1917?
46 During this “presence” or parousia of the reigning King Jesus Christ since 1914 C.E., God-fearing persons have been warned to get out of Babylon the Great lest they be caught in her destruction. An early warning was given by the publication of the book entitled “The Finished Mystery” by the People’s Pulpit Association in July of 1917, after the United States of America had got into World War I. This book presented a verse-for-verse commentary upon the entire book of Revelation, including Re chapters seventeen and eighteen. This is the book that came under governmental ban early in the following year. Before this, however, that early warning was sounded extensively on Sunday, December 30, 1917. This was done on the morning of that day by a concerted distribution throughout the land of the four-page tract Bible Students Monthly, Volume 9, No. 9, entitled “The Fall of Babylon.” This simultaneous distribution of this strongly worded tract from coast to coast was followed by public talks on the subject of Babylon that Sunday afternoon.—See The Watch Tower and Herald of Christ’s Presence under date of December 15, 1917, page 370, under the heading “Volunteer Day—December 30th.”
47. (a) After World War I, early postwar thinking by Bible students concerned itself with identifying what thing? (b) What did The Watch Tower as of January 1, 1921, say about it?
47 Since modern-day Babylon the Great (including Christendom) is to be destroyed by the “disgusting thing that causes desolation,” early postwar thinking by Bible students concerned itself with identifying what that disgusting thing or abomination was in twentieth-century developments. After the League of Nations was established and a mandate over Palestine was given to the British Empire, The Watch Tower as of January 1, 1921, page 12, under the heading “Spoken of by Daniel,” said:
. . . since the land belongs to Jehovah, it follows that the beasts in question [of Revelation, chapter 13] have no authority to exercise a controlling power over the land of Palestine; and their man-made thing, the League of Nations (under the authority of which the British Empire holds a mandate over Palestine), is an abomination unto the Lord. This abomination, therefore, is standing where it ought not to stand. . . .
Mark, then, the further corroborative evidence that we have reached the end of the world; viz., the abomination of desolation standing where it ought not to stand—“standing in the holy place”, the Holy Land, God’s own land; and seeing Jerusalem “compassed with armies”—the armies of the other beast; and let him who is able to read understand and know that we have reached the end of the world. . . .
48. In the year 1926 the international organization for world peace and security was identified as being what, and on what occasion?
48 Although being based upon a literal application of Matthew 24:15, and Mark 13:14 (Authorized Version), the conclusion proved to be correct, that the “abomination of desolation” (or, “the disgusting thing that causes desolation”) was at that time the League of Nations. Years afterward, that international organization for world peace and security was identified as being the Eighth World Power of Bible prophecy. This identification came on Sunday night, May 30, 1926, in the public address delivered in the Royal Albert Hall, London, England, and entitled “Why World Powers Are Tottering—The Remedy.” When dealing with the theme “League Foretold,” the speaker, President J. F. Rutherford of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society, said:
God foretold the seven world powers, to wit, Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome and the British Empire, and also foretold that out of the seven would grow the eighth. The latter is also symbolized as a “beast”, because its purpose is to rule and control the peoples of the earth. The Lord foretold its birth, its short existence, and its everlasting end.—Revelation 17:10, 11; Isaiah 8:9, 10.—See The Watch Tower as of July 15, 1926, page 215.
49. Why did the remnant of “chosen” ones not delay about coming out of Babylon the Great until they saw her encircled by encamped armies?
49 Thus after World War I ended in 1918, the surviving anointed remnant of Jehovah’s “chosen” ones began to catch sight of the “disgusting thing that causes desolation” and to get an understanding of it and of what its appearing on the world scene meant. They had come into bondage to Babylon the Great and her political and military paramours during World War I, and now they responded to the heavenly call to get out of her. Those God-fearing persons who were afterward added to His remnant of “chosen” ones also obeyed the divine command and left Babylon the Great (including Christendom). Since the antitypical unfaithful Jerusalem, namely, Christendom, is not confined to earthly Jerusalem and the land of Palestine but is world wide, those fleeing from her did not have to wait until seeing Christendom surrounded by the armed forces of the Eighth World Power (the international organization for world peace and security). The angelic command, “Get out of her, my people, if you do not want to share with her in her sins, and if you do not want to receive part of her plagues,” did not wait until that event.
50. (a) That early flight of Jehovah’s “chosen” ones was an indication of what, and a good example for whom? (b) After what experience of the “disgusting thing” is Babylon the Great to be destroyed?
50 However, the flight of Jehovah’s anointed “chosen” ones before that event was a noteworthy indication that the desolating of unfaithful Christendom and the rest of Babylon the Great was approaching and was due to occur during this generation, during the lifetime of the Eighth World Power, which is short as if for but “one hour.” The prompt early flight of Jehovah’s “chosen” ones was a reliable example for the “great crowd” of Christ’s “other sheep” to follow from the year 1935 C.E. onward till now. The desolating of antitypical unfaithful Jerusalem, Christendom, and the remainder of Babylon the Great by the armed forces of the “disgusting thing” cannot now be far off in the future. Be it noted that the “disgusting thing” does its desolating of Babylon the Great after it, as the Eighth World Power, ascends out of the “abyss.” The Eighth World Power, under the form of the League of Nations, took a fall into the “abyss” of deathlike impotency with the outbreak of World War II in 1939, and it came up out of the “abyss” in 1945, but under the form of the United Nations. (Revelation 17:8, 11, 12) That was nearly thirty years ago. It is unsafe to delay flight much longer!
WHY A “GREAT TRIBULATION” WITHOUT EQUAL
51. (a) Why will the tribulation upon the antitypical unfaithful Jerusalem be indeed a “great” one? (b) What will happen to those who delayed their flight out of Babylon the Great?
51 The desolating of modern-day antitypical unfaithful Jerusalem, Christendom, will be part of indeed a “great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning until now, no, nor will occur again.” (Matthew 24:21) The realm of Christendom is world wide, much larger than the land of Israel in which the earthly city of Jerusalem is located as capital. The realm of Babylon the Great, which “has a kingdom over the kings of the earth,” is still larger in realm than that of mere Christendom. Consequently, when the symbolic “ten horns” and the rest of the scarlet-colored “wild beast” start hating the harlotrous religious Babylon the Great and desolate her, it will be a religious calamity without equal, embracing our entire planet. Christendom will no more get God’s protection than will all the rest of immoral, bloodguilty Babylon the Great. If Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 C.E. was horrible, and is a prophetic picture, this worldwide religious calamity will also be horrible. Then those religionists who did not heed the divine call to get out, but who selfishly stayed in Babylon the Great, will be counted as sharing in her sins and will justly taste a part of her plagues.
52. (a) Why is the destruction of Babylon the Great not the only part of the “great tribulation”? (b) After the Eighth World Power acts as the desolator, what does it do?
52 The destruction of Babylon the Great is not all there is to the coming “great tribulation.” It is merely the first part of it. The political and commercial and social elements of the world have had unclean, pleasure-seeking, materially enriching relations with religious Babylon the Great. They have shared with her in her bloodguiltiness and in her opposition to Jehovah God and in persecuting the true disciples of Jesus Christ and in obstructing their preaching of “this good news of the kingdom” as a witness. For this they have to settle accounts with God. The political elements also lend their support to the Eighth World Power, the United Nations, and their nations make up the members of it. This unchristian Eighth World Power stands in defiant resistance to Jehovah’s Messianic kingdom. It assumes on earth, with the approval of Christendom’s clergymen, the place of God’s rightful kingdom of his Christ. After it desolates its former lover, Babylon the Great, it fights irreligiously, with full militant power, against Jehovah’s reigning King, the Lamb Jesus Christ.
53. Why will what is described in Revelation 17:12-14 be the climax of the “great tribulation”?
53 This final showdown fight the apostle John describes in this symbolic language: “And the ten horns that you saw mean ten kings, who have not yet received a kingdom, but they do [by becoming members of the Eighth World Power] receive authority as kings one hour with the wild beast. . . . These will battle with the Lamb, but, because he is Lord of lords and King of kings, the Lamb will conquer them. Also, those called and chosen and faithful with him will do so.” (Revelation 17:12-14) This will mean the climax of the “great tribulation,” namely, “the war of the great day of God the Almighty” at Har–Magedon. Fuller description of that universal war is given in Revelation 19:11-21.
54. How many earthly enemies does God Almighty then take on in combat, and how will the slaughter compare with any previous one?
54 This will involve the more than three thousand million inhabitants of our earthly globe. Even the deluge of the patriarch Noah’s day, although planetary, did not involve that many humans, just 1,656 years from man’s creation. God the Almighty, in his “war of the great day,” can outmatch all the nuclear bomb power of all the earthly nations and can take on in combat all his earthly enemies combined. (Revelation 16:13-16) It portends to be a slaughter such as this planet has never before experienced, nor will it ever occur again. Little room for surprise, then, that Jesus, looking far beyond ancient Jerusalem’s desolation in 70 C.E., remarked: “In fact, unless Jehovah had cut short the days, no flesh would be saved. But on account of the chosen ones whom he has chosen he has cut short the days.”—Mark 13:20.
55. (a) How is it that the cutting short of the days of tribulation is “on account of the chosen ones”? (b) Who take advantage of this arrangement?
55 Miraculous though it will have to be, some flesh will “be saved.” This will be because Jehovah cuts short the number of the days of the “great tribulation,” doing so “on account of the chosen ones whom he has chosen.” Not by getting his “chosen ones” off the face of the earth, but by getting them out of all partnership with this condemned system of things and by doing so before his scheduled time for the “great tribulation” to begin, Jehovah sees good to cut short the number of the days of tribulation. Not only does he get his anointed “chosen ones” out to a condition of safety under his protection, but he also gets out the “great crowd” of sheeplike “righteous” ones who do good to even the least ones of Christ’s spiritual brothers. (Matthew 25:31-40) Having both his “chosen ones” and the “great crowd” separated from the goatlike people, Jehovah God by his Lamb Jesus Christ can make it a “short” work in executing divine vengeance upon all his enemies who remain a part of the worldwide system of things.—Romans 9:28.
56. At Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 C.E., who made up the “flesh” that was saved, and in spite of what in their disfavor?
56 This will ensure that “flesh” will be saved right here on earth. Jehovah God the Creator is not going to let the human race be wiped out from the earth, either by man-made nuclear bombs or by his heavenly executional forces. “Flesh” in the form of 97,000 Jews was saved at Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 C.E. These 97,000 had seen Jerusalem surrounded by encamped Roman armies in the year 66 C.E. But that short siege and the standing of the “disgusting thing” where it ought not to stand, in the holy place, was not a part of their “great tribulation.” The “tribulation” was not in two parts. That siege by General Cestius Gallus was unexpectedly lifted, and the retreat of the Roman armies was turned into a rout, with a joyful victory for the Jews. But when the “great tribulation” did begin in the spring of 70 C.E., then those 97,000 managed to survive only because the number of days of the tribulation was cut short. Those 97,000 were saved alive in spite of their not being Jehovah’s “chosen ones.” But their lives were spared only for slavery the rest of their days throughout the Roman Empire.
57. Who will comprise the “flesh” that will be saved in the coming “great tribulation,” and what will be said about them?
57 The cutting short of the number of days of the approaching “great tribulation” is a guarantee that again “flesh” will be saved. This time, however, the “flesh” saved will not be that of any of his enemies similar to those rebellious non-Christian Jews cooped up in ancient Jerusalem. This time all his enemies are sentenced to destruction. The “flesh,” aside from his “chosen ones,” will be the “great crowd” of obedient sheeplike persons who have obeyed his commandments and forsaken the doomed system of things (including Christendom) and taken their stand on His side. Saved alive into God’s new order under Christ’s millennial reign, this “great crowd” of “flesh” will have it said of them: “These are the ones that come out of the great tribulation.” (Revelation 7:14) How happy that “great crowd” of survivors will then be! How gracious, too, on Jehovah’s part to cut short the tribulation!
MESSIAH’S WARNING AGAINST FALSE MESSIAHS
58, 59. (a) How did the false Christs whom Jesus foretold prove disappointing, and they left the Jews looking for whom after Jerusalem’s destruction? (b) What did Jesus say further regarding the tactics used in connection with false Christs?
58 In Jesus’ prophecy on the “sign” of his “presence” (parousia) and the “conclusion of the system of things,” Jesus indicated that false Christs would come before the desolating of Jerusalem in 70 C.E. He began his prophecy on this note, saying to his inquiring apostles: “Look out that nobody misleads you; for many will come on the basis of my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many.” (Matthew 24:4, 5) But they proved to be false, impostors, for they did not bring about any deliverance of Jerusalem nor any deliverance at all. After Jerusalem’s destruction the Jews that did not believe in Jesus as the Messiah would have to continue looking for a Messiah in the flesh. On the other hand, the Christians, Jewish and non-Jewish, would have to continue looking for the promised “presence” (parousia) of the true Messiah, Jesus the Son of God. The tactics that the deceivers would employ to induce interested persons to go after Messianic pretenders, Jesus described after foretelling the literal desolating of Jerusalem by the Roman legions. He continued on to say:
59 “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look! Here is the Christ,’ or, ‘There!’ do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will give great signs and wonders so as to mislead, if possible, even the chosen ones. Look! I have forewarned you. Therefore, if people say to you, ‘Look! He is in the wilderness,’ do not go out; ‘Look! He is in the inner chambers,’ do not believe it. For just as the lightning comes out of eastern parts and shines over to western parts, so the presence [pa·rou·siʹa] of the Son of man will be. Wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together.”—Matthew 24:23-28.
60. What would be the reason for a false Christ to be out “in the wilderness” or “in the inner chambers”?
60 Better than anyone else on earth, Jesus “the Son of man” knew how he would accomplish his coming and presence. He would not locate himself either “here” or “there” or in any particular spot on the earth. He would not put in an appearance in some isolated place, “in the wilderness,” so that Messiah seekers should resort to him out there away from observation by the governmental authorities of the land, so that they could train under his leadership out there and prepare to strike a political blow, a coup d’etat, and install him as the Messianic Ruler of the world. (Acts 5:36, 37; compare 1 Samuel 22:1, 2.) Neither would he conceal himself in some “inner chambers,” his location being known to only a select few, that there unobserved and undetected he might conspire and draw up secret plans with accomplices for overturning the world government and have himself anointed as the promised Messiah. (Compare 2 Kings 9:4-14.) To the contrary of this, there was to be nothing to hide about Jesus’ having come as King and beginning his royal presence.
61, 62. (a) In what way was Christ’s parousia to be like the lightning? (b) What words of Jesus regarding publicity as given to his apostles apply to his disciples today?
61 His presence or parousia was to resemble the lightning as to its effects. His parousia was to be like the lightning, not in flashing suddenly, unexpectedly and in the fraction of a second. The emphasis here is not on the lightning’s striking instantaneously unannounced, but on its shining over a broad area, from eastern parts to western parts. (Luke 17:24) The lightning’s illuminative power is like that described in Psalm 97:4: “His lightnings lighted up the productive land; the earth saw and came to be in severe pains.” So, too, the inhabitants of the earth were not to be left in darkness respecting the parousia of the Son of man. From horizon to horizon all the people were to be enlightened concerning his regal parousia. It was to be made as public as is a flash of lightning by its illuminative power, its far-extended shining. To Christ’s disciples today, who are acquainted with his invisible parousia, his words to his apostles nineteen centuries ago apply:
62 “Therefore do not fear them; for there is nothing covered over that will not become uncovered, and secret that will not become known. What I tell you in the darkness, say in the light; and what you hear whispered, preach from the housetops.”—Matthew 10:26, 27.
63. (a) What is the purpose of the rising up of these foretold false Christs and false prophets? (b) How are the faithful “chosen ones” like the eagles that gather where a carcass really is?
63 The purpose of the rising up of false Christs and false prophets is to “mislead, if possible, even the chosen ones.” (Matthew 24:23-25; Mark 13:21-23) But the faithful “chosen ones” will not let themselves be “sent on a wild-goose chase.” They will not let themselves be led in different directions on a search for some visible pretender in the flesh. They will not let themselves be attracted to some visible man in the flesh who claims to be the Christ, making great demonstrations to prove his identity as such. (Luke 17:22, 23) From the Scriptures they know where to look. They are like the eagles whose farsightedness magnifies microscopic things far below on the earth, unerringly. (Job 39:27-29) Hence, they do not gather together to a false Christ only to end up spiritually unfed. Like eagles that can spot the edible carcass from far off and that gather there for a common meal, the “chosen ones” discern where the true spiritual food is to be found, namely, with the true Christ at his invisible parousia, and there is where they gather together and find spiritual nourishment.—Luke 17:37.
64. (a) Where only can false Christs make an appearance of themselves, and why? (b) Where, as Jesus now said, would the sign of him appear after the tribulation of those days?
64 By no means is the King Jesus Christ at his parousia to make a visible appearance in the flesh at any location on the surface of the earth. That is all that false Christs, who are mere men of blood and flesh, can do. But with the resurrected, glorified, reigning Lord Jesus Christ it is different. (1 Timothy 6:14-16) It is to this fact that he called the attention of his apostles as he carried his prophecy still forward, saying: “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then the sign of the Son of man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will beat themselves in lamentation, and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send forth his angels with a great trumpet sound, and they will gather his chosen ones together from the four winds, from one extremity of the heavens to their other extremity.”—Matthew 24:29-31; Mark 13:24-27.
CELESTIAL PHENOMENA “IMMEDIATELY AFTER”
65. To what “tribulation of those days” was Jesus there referring, and did the things he foretold happen “immediately after” or without a break after such “tribulation”?
65 By his expression “immediately after the tribulation of those days” Jesus was evidently referring to the days of the “great tribulation” that came upon Middle Eastern Jerusalem at the hands of the Romans in 70 C.E. However, search the historical records as much as we may, we do not find such things as Jesus described occurred “immediately after” in the sense of instantly after, without a break after, following in unbroken sequence like a chain of events. Instantly after the “great tribulation” that ended in Jerusalem’s destruction, the “sign of the Son of man” did not “appear in heaven” and the Roman besiegers and the other “tribes of the earth” did not “beat themselves in lamentation” at a visible sight of the Son of man coming in clouds and with “power and great glory.” Authentic history records that, after the Roman legions destroyed the holy city of Jerusalem, they laid siege to the last Jewish stronghold, the fortress atop Mount Masada on the west bank of the Dead Sea, and captured it in the year 73 C.E., thereby completing their subjugation of all the province of Judea. Well, then, was Jesus wrong at this point?
66. So, was Jesus here a false prophet, or what evidently is wrong at this point as respects the word “immediately”?
66 No, Jesus was not here a false prophet. Under inspiration of God’s holy spirit he could not be wrong. What, then, is wrong here? It is evidently the common understanding of the expression “immediately after.” Evidently here the meaning of “immediately” is like that in John 6:21 (Authorized Version) where, after Jesus walks over the waters of the Sea of Galilee and gets aboard the ship in which his disciples were, it says: “And immediately the ship was at the land whither they went.” Certainly more than an instant of time elapsed before they landed. It is similar to the word “shortly” in Revelation 1:1, where we read: “A revelation by Jesus Christ, which God gave him, to show his slaves the things that must shortly take place.” This word “shortly” widens out in time from when the apostle John got the Revelation about 96 C.E., to the fulfillments of the Revelation in our twentieth century. (Compare the length of time covered by “shortly” in Romans 16:20.)
67. How, then, are we to understand Jesus’ words, “immediately after”?
67 To harmonize Jesus’ prophecy of Matthew 24:29 with the available facts, we must understand Jesus’ expression “immediately after” to skip a span of centuries of time down to our twentieth century.c At this time, during the parousia of the Son of man since the year 1914 C.E., we do have things and events that do correspond with what Jesus foretold in that verse.
68, 69. (a) How has the world situation since 1914 been like the effects of what Jesus foretold concerning celestial bodies? (b) How, because of lack of self-help, have men been like those described in Isaiah 59:9, 10 and Zephaniah 1:17, 18?
68 Historians will agree that since 1914 C.E. mankind has entered into the blackest period of its existence. It is as if the sun had been “darkened” during the daytime, as if the moon did not “give its light” by night, and as if, during the same nighttime with no moonlight, the stars had fallen from heaven and disappeared into the blackness of the night. For the doomed system of things, including Christendom, there is no brightness to the future outlook during either the daytime or the nighttime. The inability of men, even in Christendom, to see their way out of the world’s situation by their own human means is well pictured in the ancient Bible prophecies, in these words:
69 “We keep hoping for light, but, look! darkness; for brightness, but in continuous gloom we kept walking. We keep groping for the wall just like blind men, and like those without eyes we keep groping. We have stumbled at high noon just as in evening darkness; among the stout ones we are just like dead people.” (Isaiah 59:9, 10) “And I [Jehovah] will cause distress to mankind, and they will certainly walk like blind men; because it is against Jehovah that they have sinned. And their blood will actually be poured out like dust, and their bowels like the dung. Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to deliver them in the day of Jehovah’s fury; but by the fire of his zeal the whole earth will be devoured, because he will make an extermination, indeed a terrible one, of all the inhabitants of the earth.”—Zephaniah 1:17, 18.
70. (a) In the light of scientific observations, how have the heavens lost their benign appearance? (b) In what way have the powers of the heavens been shaken?
70 The heavens seem to have lost their benign appearance. Modern science informs us of the great flares of atomic energy that shoot up thousands of miles into the sky and that appear like sunspots but that send out tremendous streams of particles that reach and affect our earth. Continually our earth is being bombarded by unseen rays of nuclear energy streaming toward us from unknown regions in outer space. Our radar telescopes pick up radar signals from stars that are unseen to the eye of the most powerful telescopes but that give evidence of their existence in space just the same. Landings have been made on the moon by astronauts six times, which moon some militarists would like to turn into a military base for directing warfare against enemies on the earth. And when we think of the supersonic warplanes and of the intercontinental missiles with warheads loaded with atomic and nuclear bombs of frightful destructiveness, we appreciate all the more the solemn meaning of Jesus’ words: “And the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” (Matthew 24:29) Men have invaded the skies and outer space and upset the normal balance of things.
71. (a) How have the seas become something menacing, and the atmosphere been ill affected? (b) What warning did the Medical News-Tribune of London publish in 1970?
71 Even the sea, which was formerly a hidden universe, has now become a menacing region. It swarms with man-made submarines modernized with the latest missile-shooting devices to send up from the depths roaring destruction upon the defenseless inhabitants of the dry land. Added to this, the sea is becoming polluted because of the dumping of life-destroying waste products into the briny deep. The sea is threatened with becoming as dead as the lowest spot on earth, the Dead Sea of the Middle East. At the same time, the atmosphere above the sea as well as the dry land is becoming polluted from the increasing discharges of deadly fumes from industrial plants, motor vehicles and continental and overseas airplanes. Not without good foresight of consequences the London (England) Medical News-Tribune, under date of March 27, 1970, headlined the warning: “By 1984 the Earth Could Be Dead.”
“SIGN OF THE SON OF MAN . . . IN HEAVEN”
72, 73. (a) If not the earthly planet itself, then what is to be destroyed, and how? (b) What kind of sign concerning Messiah was given nineteen centuries ago, but what kind did he say will be given during his parousia?
72 Yet, never will this planet earth be destroyed by man-made nuclear warfare. Never will it come to be entitled “The Late Great Planet Earth.” Never will its Creator permit the earth to become void of all creature life, including human life. It is the international system of things that obtains now upon the earth that will be destroyed. Its destruction will come from God by means of his Messianic King, Jesus Christ, with all his holy angels. When he was on earth in the flesh and was called the Son of man, the skeptical Jews asked Jesus “to display to them a sign from heaven” in proof that he was indeed the promised Messiah. But he told them that nothing but an earthly sign would be given to them, “the sign of Jonah.” That sign was given when Jesus was dead for parts of three days in the heart of the earth and then was raised from the dead on the third day. (Matthew 16:1-4; 12:39, 40) But now, during his invisible parousia in spirit, earth’s inhabitants will be given a “sign . . . in heaven.” After telling how the powers of the heavens would be shaken, Jesus went on to say:
73 “And then the sign of the Son of man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will beat themselves in lamentation, and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”—Matthew 24:30.
74, 75. (a) In Matthew 24:30 Jesus’ word “coming” refers to what, and how is that “coming” effected? (b) This prophecy of the “sign . . . in heaven” is related to what prophecy of Daniel?
74 This refers, not to the beginning of his parousia or at his arrival in spirit, but to his “coming” (Greek: er·khoʹme·non) at the “great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning.” His “coming” being described as a coming “on the clouds of heaven” makes it plain that it is an invisible coming, by the turning of his long-range attention to this earth and by his projecting of his power to it with destructive forcefulness. People will be made aware of it as proceeding, not from men, but from heaven, from the glorified Son of man who acts as God’s Representative. This is related to the sign in heaven that the prophet Daniel saw, and which he describes, saying:
75 “I kept on beholding in the visions of the night, and, see there! with the clouds of the heavens someone like a son of man happened to be coming; and to the Ancient of Days he gained access, and they brought him up close even before that One. And to him there were given rulership and dignity and kingdom, that the peoples, national groups and languages should all serve even him. His rulership is an indefinitely lasting rulership that will not pass away, and his kingdom one that will not be brought to ruin.”—Daniel 7:13, 14.
76. (a) When did that vision of Daniel begin its fulfillment? (b) How will all the tribes see the Son of man “coming,” and who will not join with them then in selfish lamentation?
76 The fulfillment of that vision of Daniel was unseen, in the spiritual heavens, from 1914 C.E. onward. So, at God’s appointed time, the glorified Son of man proceeds with his authority and power against Babylon the Great (including Christendom) and the hostile nations of this earth. The evidences of his proceeding against them, which they will be able to see and feel, will be as a “sign . . . in heaven” for them. In the face of their impending annihilation, “all the tribes of the earth will beat themselves in lamentation.” However, the remnant of God’s “chosen ones” and the “great crowd” of sheeplike ones, all of whom have separated themselves from Babylon the Great and her paramours, will not join with those terrified tribes of earth in their selfish lamentation. They will all have been gathered to the right side of the reigning King, Jesus Christ.—Revelation 7:9-17; Matthew 25:31-40.
THE ANGELIC GATHERING OF THE “CHOSEN ONES”
77. (a) By that time, what gathering will have been accomplished, and since when? (b) How has this gathering been accomplished as with the sound of a “great trumpet”?
77 By that time what Jesus next describes will have been completed, namely: “And he will send forth his angels with a great trumpet sound, and they will gather his chosen ones together from the four winds, from one extremity of the heavens to their other extremity.” (Matthew 24:31) This angelic gathering of the “chosen ones” has been going on during his parousia. It was in the postwar year of 1919 that the “chosen ones” began leaving their bondage in Babylon the Great and returning to their God-given spiritual estate on earth, similar to the return of the Jewish remnant from Babylon to their homeland in the year 537 B.C.E. Like a “great trumpet sound” the proclamation has gone forth since then that God’s Messianic kingdom has been established in the heavens and that they should take their stand firmly on the side of the heavenly kingdom and preach “this good news of the kingdom” world wide. In the direction of the “four winds” this announcement of good news has been blasted as by a trumpet. It has been heard from one extremity of the heavens to the other.
78. (a) This angelic gathering of the “chosen ones” has been apparent to all men especially by what occasions? (b) Who, particularly, have been conscious of such a gathering and have acted?
78 In accordance with the inviting tones of the “great trumpet sound” the heavenly angels who attend the Son of man in his parousia have been gathering his “chosen ones” from all quarters of the globe. This gathering has been apparent for all men to see, especially in the series of large-scale assemblies that have been held beginning with the general convention of the I.B.S.A. September 1-8, 1919, down to the international assemblies on the theme “Divine Victory” held by Jehovah’s witnesses around the globe during the year 1973. (See announcement of the assemblies world wide, on pages 94 and 95 of the February 1, 1973, issue of The Watchtower.) Particularly is the “great crowd” conscious of the angelic gathering of the “chosen ones” during Christ’s parousia, and they also take their stand on the side of Jehovah’s Messianic kingdom and assemble and work with the gathered “chosen ones.”
79. From the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy thus far, it is apparent that what expression of emotion by the earthly tribes is near?
79 From the fulfillment thus far of Jesus’ prophecy regarding the “conclusion of the system of things,” his disciples know that the time is very near for “all the tribes of the earth” to “beat themselves in lamentation” at what they see threatening them at the hands of the glorified Son of man.
AN ILLUSTRATION FOR DETERMINING ITS NEARNESS
80. In order to know that the “great tribulation” is dangerously near, what observation of Jesus at this critical point of his prophecy do we need to heed?
80 It is not necessary for us to know the day and the hour of the exact year when the “great tribulation” is to break out against this entire “system of things.” In order for us to know that now it is dangerously near, all we have to do is to heed what Jesus said at this critical point in his prophecy: “Now learn from the fig tree as an illustration this point: Just as soon as its young branch grows tender and it puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. Likewise also you, when you see all these things, know that he is near at the doors. Truly I say to you that this generation will by no means pass away until all these things occur. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will by no means pass away.”—Matthew 24:32-35.
81. From what evidence can we of this generation know that the “sign” foretold by Jesus is near completion?
81 How much more do we, of this generation that saw the outbreak of World War I in 1914, have to see of the fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy to know that “he is near at the doors”? What more could we want in the way of evidence? We are not left in worrisome ignorance of the meaning of things that have been occurring on earth since the close of the Gentile Times in 1914. As intelligent, understanding Bible-studying persons we are convinced that the completion nears for the “sign of [Christ’s] presence and of the conclusion of the system of things.”—Matthew 24:3.
82. How did Jesus say that we should react to world events during his parousia?
82 Does this depress us? Does this take all joy out of living now? It should not, and it does not. For Jesus told his disciples how they should react toward world events during his invisible parousia, saying: “Also, there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth anguish of nations, not knowing the way out because of the roaring of the sea and its agitation, while men become faint out of fear and expectation of the things coming upon the inhabited earth; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. But as these things start to occur, raise yourselves erect and lift your heads up, because your deliverance is getting near.”—Luke 21:25-28.
83. So this is no time for the “chosen ones” and the “great crowd” to do what, and what does deliverance betoken for them?
83 Have we of this generation seen “these things start to occur”? Have we seen “these things” occurring throughout the decades since 1914 C.E.? Inasmuch as we have done so, there is no reason for us to be bowed down with international “anguish.” There is no reason for us to bend our backs any longer under the religious enslavement imposed by Babylon the Great, including Christendom. It is a time to raise ourselves erect like free worshipers of the Most High God, the Sovereign Lord Jehovah. No longer is it the fitting time for us to look despairingly down to the ground. It is the time to lift our heads up heavenward and see in the brightening light of the Holy Scriptures that contains Jesus’ prophecy the evidences of a most reassuring future for mankind. The meaning of these evidences is unmistakable: Deliverance is at hand! This betokens for God’s “chosen ones” and the “great crowd” of their fellow worshipers survival of the “great tribulation” just ahead. When we under divine preservation come out of that “great tribulation,” we shall leave behind the irreparable ruins of this present death-dealing system of things. Gloriously opens up before us God’s new system of things!
a Daniel 9:26, 27 reads: “And after the sixty-two weeks, the Messiah shall be cut off, though there is no crime in him; and he, with the ruler who is coming, will destroy the city and the sanctuary. They shall be destroyed with a deluge, and even to the end of the war determined on in course, with desolations. Now one week shall confirm a covenant for many and in the half of that week My sacrifice and libation shall be taken away. And upon the temple shall be an abomination of the desolations, and at the end of a time, an end shall be put to that desolation.”—The Septuagint Bible, by Charles Thomson.
b See Josephus’ Wars of the Jews, Book II, Chapter XIX, sections 1-7.
c Compare with The Watchtower as of December 1, 1970, page 726, paragraphs 30, 31. Inasmuch as Jesus said, in the same prophecy at Matthew 24:36, that no creature knew “that day and hour” when he would come to destroy this system of things, nobody was able to say how soon after the destruction of Jerusalem the expression “immediately after” meant. We, who live nineteen centuries later, can appreciate how that short expression bridged such a long period of time. We note that the parallel verse in Mark’s account does not use the adverb “immediately” before the preposition “after.”—Mark 13:24.