When Will the Foretold World Destruction Come?
1. What grand purpose does God have for mankind?
WHAT a relief it would be to see war, crime and pollution of the earth brought to an end! How pleasant to live under a truly righteous administration, where there could be the enjoyment of full security for oneself and one’s family! The Bible shows that God will make these things a reality. But when?
2. (a) When “Jehovah’s day” comes, who will be caught by surprise? (b) How can we avoid having that happen to us?
2 With reference to the world destruction that clears the way for God’s righteous new order, an apostle of Jesus Christ wrote: “Jehovah’s day is coming exactly as a thief in the night.” Then, addressing himself to persons who study and heed God’s Word, he adds: “But you, brothers, you are not in darkness, so that that day should overtake you as it would thieves.” (1 Thessalonians 5:2, 4) Those who fail to heed the warning will be taken by surprise. When “Jehovah’s day” arrives, they will be like an animal caught suddenly in a snare from which it cannot escape. But that does not have to be your experience. As the scripture states, there are people who “are not in darkness.” This is not because of any wisdom originating with them. Rather, it is because they study and take to heart God’s Word. What does that Word say regarding our day?—Luke 21:34-36.
3, 4. (a) Where is the full significance of the events of the twentieth century explained? (b) What four main points set out in Bible prophecy are we going to examine now?
3 It describes events of this twentieth century. But it did this some two thousand years in advance! While many of the events themselves are common knowledge, only the Bible points out their full significance.
4 Among the information contained in the Bible regarding our day is the following: (1) Identification of a specific year as the time when God would give rulership over the “kingdom of mankind” to “the one whom he wants to.” (2) Listing of significant events that would take place during the period known as “the conclusion of the system of things.” (3) Indication as to the length of time from the beginning of “the conclusion of the system of things” until the foretold world destruction arrives. (4) Mention of a striking development in world affairs as a final signal that world destruction is about to begin. Let us examine these points one at a time.
THE MARKED YEAR—1914 C.E.
5. At how early a date did Jehovah’s witnesses realize that the Bible pointed to 1914 C.E. as a significant year?
5 The year 1914 C.E. is marked by Bible prophecy as a time when major events in the heavens would have far-reaching effects on human affairs. As far back as 1876 Jehovah’s witnesses (then known as “Bible Students”) realized that fact and gave it wide publicity. You can examine the details for yourself in your own Bible.
6 Open your Bible to Daniel chapter 4. There you will find a prophecy that reveals God’s purpose as to exercising his sovereignty over the earth. The purpose of that prophecy is stated as being “that people living may know that the Most High is Ruler in the kingdom of mankind and that to the one whom he wants to, he gives it.” (Da 4 Verses 3, 17) We know that this “one” to whom the Most High chooses to give the “kingdom” is Christ Jesus. The last book of the Bible tells of the time that “the kingdom of the world” is given to Christ as heavenly king. (Revelation 11:15; 12:10) This means, then, that the prophecy of Daniel deals with the time when the Most High God would intervene in human affairs by conferring “the kingdom of the world” on his own Son, Jesus Christ. When does the prophecy show that would be?
7. What is the gist of the prophetic dream in Daniel chapter 4, and how did it apply to King Nebuchadnezzar?
7 The prophetic dream recorded by Daniel mentions an immense tree that was chopped down and banded with iron and copper until “seven times” passed over it. During that time, it was said, “the heart of a beast” would be given to it. (Daniel 4:10-17) What did this mean? God caused his own prophet Daniel to explain: Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, was to be removed from his throne and driven from among men to live as a beast. After seven years the king’s sanity returned, he acknowledged the superiority of God’s rulership, and he himself was restored to his throne. (Daniel 4:20-37) All this had a greater meaning, however, and for that reason it is recorded in the Bible.
8. (a) The greater meaning of the prophecy relates to what kingdom? (b) In this greater fulfillment, what is represented by the cutting down of the tree, and how was ‘the heart of a beast given to it’?
8 This greater meaning relates to a rulership from which all living things on earth would benefit. From it, as the prophecy says, there would be “food for all,” and protection for even the animals and birds. (Daniel 4:12; compare Matthew 13:31, 32.) The only rulership that truly can provide this is the kingdom of God. For centuries the righteous principles of that kingship were demonstrated by means of the government of Judah, with its king of the royal line of David in Jerusalem. But because of their unfaithfulness, Jehovah let them be conquered by the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar. It was as if the immense tree seen in the dream had been cut down and bands put around the stump. Gentile governments then exercised world domination, and Babylon, ruled by Nebuchadnezzar, was most prominent. These Gentile kingdoms are represented in the Bible by “beasts.” (Daniel 8:1-8, 20-22) So, what was taking place in the affairs of government was as an angel from heaven had announced: “Let the heart of a beast be given to it, and let seven times pass over it.” (Daniel 4:16) Eventually, however, those “seven times” would expire, the ‘bands’ would be removed, and the “tree” would grow as world domination began to be exercised by the one to whom Jehovah said that he would give “the kingdom of the world.”
9, 10. (a) In figuring the length of the “seven times,” how long does each ‘time’ prove to be? How does the Bible indicate this? (b) When did the “seven times” begin, how many years do they cover, and when do they end?
9 How long would those “seven times” prove to be? They were far more than seven literal years, because hundreds of years later Jesus Christ indicated that they had not yet expired. In the first century of our Common Era, he made mention of them as “the appointed times of the nations,” that is, the Gentile nations, which had held world domination since Babylon’s conquest of Jerusalem in 607 B.C.E.—Luke 21:24.
10 Notice for yourself how the Bible refers to prophetic “times.” Revelation 11:2, 3 shows that 1,260 days comprise forty-two months, or three and a half years. Revelation 12:6, 14 mentions the same number of days (1,260) but refers to them as “a time and times and half a time,” or three and a half “times.” Each of those “times,” then, must be 360 days (3-1/2 x 360 = 1,260). Furthermore, each day of the prophetic “times” of Daniel’s prophecy stands for a whole year, according to the rule, “A day for a year,” as recorded under inspiration by two separate prophets of God. (Numbers 14:34; Ezekiel 4:6) With this established, it is not difficult to determine that “seven times” (7 x 360) is 2,520 years. Counting from autumn of 607 B.C.E., when the typical kingdom of God in Judah was brought low by Babylon, 2,520 years bring us to the autumn of 1914 C.E. (606-1/4 + 1913-3/4 = 2,520) as the time when “the kingdom of the world” was due to be entrusted to Jesus Christ on his heavenly throne.
11. What do historians say as to the significance of the year 1914?
11 After realizing that the Bible did indeed point to the year 1914 C.E., Jehovah’s witnesses had to wait for several decades before they saw the outcome. Early in the year 1914 the peacefulness of the world situation made it appear to many persons, including world leaders, that nothing was going to happen. But before the summer was over, the world had been plunged into a war that was without precedent in all human history. Concerning the events of that year, Oxford historian A. L. Rowse has written:
“If ever there was a year that marked the end of an era and the beginning of another, it was 1914. That year brought to an end the old world with sense of security and began the modern age, characteristic of which is the insecurity that is our daily portion.”23
And a report on a book on the life of British statesman Winston Churchill likewise notes:
“The shot which was fired on June 28, 1914, in Sarajevo, had shattered the world of security and creative reason . . . The world has never been the same place since. . . . It was a turning point, and the wonderful, calm, attractive world of yesterday had vanished, never again to appear.”—Review of the book Winston S. Churchill, Vol. 2, by Randolph Churchill.24
That year, marked by Bible prophecy about two and a half millenniums earlier, indeed proved to be a turning point in history. Its true significance became even more clear as further events began to unfold.
12. What was the reason for the great upheaval in human affairs in 1914 and thereafter?
12 It may at first seem strange that the time when Christ was to take his throne to rule over the world of mankind would be marked by unprecedented war on earth. But do not forget that “the ruler of the world” of mankind alienated from God is Satan the Devil. (John 14:30) He did not want to see the newborn kingdom of God in the hands of Christ take over the control of earth’s affairs. Evidently in an endeavor to divert the attention of men from that event of universal importance, he maneuvered them into a war to uphold their own claims to sovereignty. Furthermore, as the Bible shows, when the Kingdom was brought to birth and became fully operative, Satan and his demons were ready to devour the newborn government. What was the result? “War broke out in heaven.” “Down the great dragon was hurled, the original serpent, the one called Devil and Satan, who is misleading the entire inhabited earth; he was hurled down to the earth, and his angels were hurled down with him.” Satan knew that he had remaining only “a short period of time.” His anger was great. (Revelation 12:3-12) What would be the result? Nineteen centuries in advance the Bible provided an accurate description.
EVENTS WITH SPECIAL SIGNIFICANCE
13. What led up to Jesus’ stating the ‘sign of his presence and of the conclusion of the system of things’?
13 Back in the year 33 C.E. Jesus had described in detail ‘the sign of his presence and of the conclusion of the system of things.’ This is recorded in the Bible in Matthew chapters 24 and 25, Mark 13 and Luke 21. While with a group of his disciples in Jerusalem, Jesus.had foretold the destruction of the magnificent temple standing there. Shortly thereafter, when he sat down on a hillside outside the city, his disciples asked for further information, saying: “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 24:1-3.
14. Name some of the significant events that Jesus included in “the sign.”
14 After warning them not to be misled by impostors who, in an endeavor to get followers, would claim to be Christ, he said in answer: “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 [or, does not occur immediately]. For 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.” As Luke 21:11 shows, he also made mention of ‘pestilences in one place after another.’ He warned of “the increasing of lawlessness,” and because of this, he said, “the love of the greater number will cool off.” And, significantly, he 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 24:4-14.
15, 16. (a) Did any of those things happen before Jerusalem was destroyed in 70 C.E.? (b) How do we know that there must also be another, even more important, fulfillment?
15 But the question may be asked: ‘Were not some of these prophecies fulfilled before the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in the year 70 C.E.?’ Yes, some of them were; but more was to come, as the prophecies themselves show. Jesus was answering a question that was of immediate concern to his disciples, but, in so doing, he used the opportunity to provide long-range information about matters of even greater importance. He told them that he was also speaking about the time when “the Son of man” would come “with power and great glory” and that what he was saying had reference to the coming of “the kingdom of God.”—Luke 21:27, 31.
16 These things did not take place by the time of Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 C.E. The last book of the Bible, the Revelation, written shortly before the end of the first century, showed that these events in relation to the Kingdom were yet future. (Revelation 1:1; 11:15-18; 12:3-12) In symbolic language the book of Revelation also showed that the war, food shortage, and pestilence that Jesus had foretold would have a future fulfillment, on an unusual scale, at the time when Christ would begin and complete his conquest of all opposers of God’s kingdom. (Revelation 6:1-8) But the fact that major portions of Jesus’ prophecy to his disciples did have a fulfillment in the first century stamped it as truthful, and this gives sound reason for confidence in the fulfillment of everything else contained in that prophecy.
17. Are the conditions in the world today really very different from what they were before 1914?
17 Have these prophecies found that greater, complete fulfillment in this twentieth century? To uninformed persons who are less than seventy years of age, conditions that surround them in the world today may not seem particularly significant. Not remembering a time when life was much different, they may feel that perhaps our times are quite ‘normal.’ But older persons, as also those who are informed on matters of history, know that this is not the case. Thus, concerning the events that broke upon the world in the year 1914 C.E. a history textbook used in Swiss schools stated:
“Only fifteen countries did not get involved in the war . . . But among them there was no great country that would have had the power to act as mediator. This had never occurred in world history; no war had ever had such dimensions. The prophecy of the Holy Bible: ‘Nation will rise up against nation and kingdom against kingdom,’ was literally fulfilled.”—Schweizergeschichte vom Dreiländerbund bis zum Völkerbund, by Gustav Wiget.25
18. Why would we be wrong if we were to conclude that widespread war was all there was to “the sign”?
18 But it was not just ‘nation rising against nation and kingdom against kingdom’ that Jesus had stated to be “the sign.” Using an illustration, 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. Truly I say to you, This generation will by no means pass away until all things occur.” (Luke 21:29-32) If you were to see just one tree putting forth leaves out of season, you would not be fooled into thinking that summer was at hand. But when you see all the trees budding, you know what it means. Likewise, Jesus foretold that his “presence” and “the conclusion of the system of things” would be marked, not just by war, but by a number of things all taking place in one generation.
19. (a) As shown on the accompanying chart, how have the various features of “the sign” been fulfilled since 1914? (b) Why do earlier wars, food shortages, earthquakes, and so forth, not constitute “the sign” of which Jesus spoke?
19 Have those things come to pass? Examine the accompanying chart that bears the heading “What Will Be the Sign?” As you do so, you may recall reading about wars of earlier centuries. But it is evident that World War I stands out from all the others as distinctive, as a turning point in history. You may recall, also, that notable food shortages, pestilences, earthquakes or times of lawlessness have been reported by historians as taking place before 1914. Yet, at no other time in history have all these things come on one generation in such overwhelming measure. The other features of “the sign” as recorded by the Gospel writers are also clearly in evidence. In all honesty, if the events since 1914 do not fulfill the sign, what more is required? Without a doubt, we live in the generation of which Jesus spoke.
20, 21. How did the events associated with World War I prove to be only “a beginning of pangs of distress,” as Jesus foretold?
20 The appearance of these features of “the sign” did not mean that God’s kingdom would immediately clean all wickedness out of the earth. As Jesus foretold, “all these things are a beginning of pangs of distress.” (Matthew 24:8) Others were to follow. In regard to what developed, the World Book Encyclopedia states: “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.”26 A few years later World War II erupted, many times more horrible than the first. Since then, disregard for life and property has grown, and fear of crime has become part of everyday life. Morals have been shoved aside. The “population explosion” is posing problems to which leaders say they have no real solution. Pollution of the environment is spoiling the quality of life and threatening to wipe it out. As a result, a report on a United Nations Conference on the Human Environment declared that the human family stands at the threshold of “a crisis more sudden, more global, more inescapable, and more bewildering than any ever encountered by the human species.”27
21 When was it that these “pangs of distress” began? The London Star observed: “Some historian in the next century may well conclude that the day the world went mad was . . . [in] 1914.”28 As we have already seen, that year, 1914 C.E., had long in advance been marked by Bible prophecy.
NOTEWORTHY RELIGIOUS DEVELOPMENTS
22. (a) With what did Jesus associate his forecast of increased lawlessness and the cooling off of love? (b) How have the teachings of the clergy of Christendom contributed to this situation?
22 Among the significant events that Jesus listed as due to occur during the “conclusion of the system of things” were the following: “Many false prophets will arise and mislead many; and because of the increasing of lawlessness the love of the greater number will cool off.” (Matthew 24:11, 12) It should be noted that Jesus associated the increased lawlessness and the cooling off of love with the influence of false prophets, that is, religious teachers who falsely claim to speak for God. Earlier in this book evidence was presented showing that the clergy of Christendom have blessed the wars of the nations, advocated the idea that Bible standards of morality are out-of-date and labeled portions of the Bible as “myth.” What has been the result? A ‘cooling off’ in love for God and concern about his law. This has been a major factor in the general breakdown in morality, including disregard for authority and the lack of concern for one’s fellowman.—2 Timothy 3:1-5.
23, 24. As a result, what has been happening to the churches in recent years?
23 Because of the conditions that have developed, people by the thousands are leaving the religious organizations of Christendom. Some are turning to the Bible and are conforming their lives to its ways. Others are merely withdrawing in disappointment and disgust, seeing that the churches are failing to provide genuine spiritual help. Many are becoming enemies of the churches.
24 That is why the New York Post could say: “The area in which the old order seems to be reeling past us with the speed of light is religion.”29 And the New York Times reported: “Institutional religion is on the way out, a German expert on sociology of religion said.”30 The Vatican weekly L’Osservatore Della Domenica admitted that the Roman Catholic Church in the United States was being shaken by a “tremendous earthquake.”31 It said that nearly every day “some new disaster” was befalling the church, such as priests deserting, nuns quitting and Catholic schools and seminaries closing. In all the religions of Christendom, fewer young men are entering the seminaries, religious schools are closing their doors, and a great number of religious magazines have ceased publication. The churches in general are finding their attendances growing smaller. Many church buildings are up for sale.
25. (a) In contrast, what does the Bible indicate would be taking place in regard to true worship in this time? (b) Under whose direction is this gathering of worshipers of the true God done, and on what basis? (c) So, with what issue are people of all nations being confronted?
25 By contrast with this, the Bible indicates that a “great crowd” out of all nations would be drawn to true worship in this time of the end. (Revelation 7:9, 10, 14) This gathering together of worshipers of the true God is done under the direction of Christ Jesus. He foretold that, when he returned “in his glory,” he would give attention to people of all the nations, separating them one from another with a view to their preservation through the “great tribulation” or their eternal destruction. (Matthew 25:31-33) On what basis are they separated? Jesus said that it would be on the basis of how they treated his spiritual “brothers” here on earth. Why? Because these are representatives of God’s kingdom in the hands of Jesus Christ. In obedience to him, the message they preach is “this good news of the kingdom.” And they are doing so “in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations.” (Matthew 24:14) This news of the Kingdom confronts the people of all nations with the issue of universal sovereignty. Are they for rulership by God? Or, in harmony with Satan’s urging in Eden, do they want independent rulership by men? Jehovah God through his Son gives people the opportunity to choose.
26, 27. (a) To what extent has this witness work already been done? (b) Why is one’s response to the Kingdom message a serious matter?
26 A worldwide witness has been given. In 208 lands Jehovah’s Christian witnesses visit people in their homes and offer to study the Bible with any family or individual, free of charge. The publications they use to announce God’s kingdom are among the most widely circulated in the earth, available in over 160 languages.
27 Already this separating work has been proceeding for many years. It is now very near its conclusion. According to God’s Word, those who have deliberately rejected his Kingdom rule, as well as those who indifferently pass up the opportunity to learn of him, will then be cut off in everlasting destruction. (Matthew 25:34, 41, 46; 2 Thessalonians 1:6-9) For others who willingly and gladly identify themselves as genuine supporters of God’s kingdom, this will mark a time of grand relief. How soon, then, does the Bible indicate that this expression of judgment will come?
“THIS GENERATION WILL BY NO MEANS PASS AWAY”
28. How soon did Jesus say the foretold world destruction would come?
28 As to “that day and hour,” Jesus said, “nobody knows, neither the angels of the heavens nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Matthew 24:36) But Jesus did give a helpful time indicator when he said: “This generation will by no means pass away until all these things occur.” (Matthew 24:34) All what things? All the various features of “the sign” about which he was speaking, as well as the “great tribulation,” which he had also mentioned. For these things to take place within a generation would mean that persons who were on hand to observe what happened in 1914 C.E. at the beginning of the “conclusion of the system of things,” would still have to be alive at the end of this period, when the “great tribulation” strikes. Those who remember the events of 1914 are getting up in years now. Many of their number have already died. But, Jesus assures us, within “this generation,” before they have all died, destruction of this wicked system of things will come.
29. By allowing events since 1914 to develop to the point that they have, how has God made it easier for humans to make the right decision?
29 How patient God has been in allowing this time period! During this generation, for the first time in history, one problem after another has reached gigantic proportions—war, pollution, overpopulation and more. Any one of them could bring complete ruin. By letting the evidence pile up, God has made it easier for humans to realize that rule by man holds no real solution. At the same time, by means of the preaching of the “good news of the kingdom,” he has helped honest-hearted ones to recognize that the kingdom of God is the only hope for true peace and security and to identify themselves on his side of the great issue.
30. What final signal of the closeness of world destruction does the Bible specify?
30 There is yet one more definite event to come that serves as an unmistakable signal that world destruction is imminent. This signal was pointed to by the apostle Paul when he wrote: “Jehovah’s day is coming exactly as a thief in the night. Whenever it is that they are saying: ‘Peace and security!’ then sudden destruction is to be instantly upon them . . . and they will by no means escape.”—1 Thessalonians 5:2, 3; Luke 21:34, 35.
31, 32. (a) Will the “peace and security” that political rulers proclaim be genuine? (b) Why would it be dangerous to be misled by it?
31 The political leaders of the world know that, if they were to get involved in nuclear war, no one could win. It would result in virtual extinction. Furthermore, the grave problems involving pollution of the environment, the “population explosion” and other domestic problems demand attention and money. So, they have worked hard to try to achieve a relaxation of the strained international relations. Of course, their negotiations are not making any real changes in the people so that they love one another. They are not putting a stop to crime, or eliminating disease and death. Yet the prophecy shows that the time will come when they will declare that “peace and security” at last exist. When that occurs, then “sudden destruction” will come “instantly” upon those misleaders of mankind, along with all who put their trust in them.
32 But there will be survivors. Will you be among them?
[Box on pages 82, 83]
“What Will Be the Sign?”
“NATION WILL RISE AGAINST NATION”—
“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 . . . covered so large a part of the earth. . . . Never had the slaughter been so comprehensive and indiscriminate.”—“World War I,” by H. Baldwin.
World War I killed over 9 million combatants, and millions more of civilians.
World War II left 55 million dead.
Within about two decades after World War II, there were more than 300 further coups, uprisings, rebellions world wide.
“THERE WILL BE FOOD SHORTAGES”—
Food shortages ravaged many lands after World War I, and again after World War II.
Despite years of unprecedented scientific advance, in 1967, it was reported, 10,000 were dying every day, 3,500,000 every year due to malnutrition.
“In the 1970’s the world will undergo famines—hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now.”—“The Population Bomb,” by Dr. Paul Ehrlich.
No recorded pestilence has ever equaled that of the Spanish influenza of 1918-1919. It struck at least 500 million persons; over 20 million died.
Today, medical research has not been able to prevent heart disease from reaching epidemic proportions; cancer is common. The number of cases of venereal disease has skyrocketed.
“EARTHQUAKES” IN MANY PLACES—
In 1915 at Avezzano, Italy, 29,970 died in an earthquake; 180,000 in China in 1920; 143,000 in Japan in 1923; 60,000 in India in 1935. The 1960’s saw great quakes in Iran, Chile, Morocco, Yugoslavia, Libya, El Salvador, Russia, Colombia, France, Indonesia and Turkey, among others. In 1970 an earthquake killed 70,000 in Peru, and over 12,000 died in Nicaragua in 1972.
“INCREASING OF LAWLESSNESS”—
You know the facts. Your own life has been affected. In your community, what has been happening in the schools? Is there illegal use of drugs in your area? What about dishonesty in business? How safe do you feel on the streets at night?
So widespread is the “crime crisis” that, in 1972, the Secretary-General of the United Nations called for international action.
The lawlessness is not only as regards human law, but even more so is the law of God ignored.
GOD’S KINGDOM PREACHED WORLD WIDE—
This work is regularly being done in 208 lands.
During just the past thirty years, 3,676,343,869 hours have been devoted by Jehovah’s Christian witnesses to public preaching of this message. In that same period they published, in over 160 languages, more than 5 billion pieces of literature pointing to God’s kingdom as man’s only hope.
Of what are these things “the sign”? That we are living now in “the conclusion of the system of things.” That Christ has taken his heavenly throne, and is separating out from people of all nations those who truly do the will of God. That the “great tribulation” is very near!