The Reliable Commentator on This World Distress
1. What questions come up about the world distress since 1914, and regarding the answers, what do oldsters of this generation prefer to do?
THE world distress that man has experienced without letup since 1914 C.E. must have a meaning. Is it left for man himself to figure out its meaning? What is the reason for it, and for it to persist so long? As it had a beginning, so it must have an end, but how will it end? Who has the right, the authority, to say that man will be saved out of it? And that this salvation is at hand? The person able to comment on man’s present world distress with answers to these vital questions would have to be an extraordinary person. None of us oldsters who have gone through all this world distress since its inception in 1914 will claim to be that person, even with all the observations each one of us has made and the experience that we have gained. Rather, we prefer to point all men to that qualified person.
2, 3. In the face of predictions by spiritists, whom do we prefer to consult as a foreteller of the future, and why?
2 Many predictions have been made concerning future times by men and women, by spiritists or fortune-tellers, for example, but of what benefit are such predictions to us as world distress threatens to reach a climax that we do not like to think about?
3 The foreteller of events whom we would like to consult today, right now, would be the one that has proved to be correct in predicting events and conditions that affect us now at this stage of world distress. Since he proved himself true with regard to what has happened till now, he can be relied upon as being true in what he foretells as being just ahead of us. His prediction of man’s salvation out of this world distress is something upon which we can confidently base our hopes and plans for the future.
4. In what sector of the earth was that reliable foreteller of events specially interested, and why does what he said interest us today?
4 We here desire to refer to such a trustworthy person. He was not out to deceive people. He was born into our race as a man. Thus he came to sense man’s problems keenly, firsthand. Today all mankind is concerned about what is going on in the Middle East. Mankind knows that the two nuclear-equipped superpowers are involved in what goes on in that sector of the earth. Likewise, the aforementioned man of reliable prophetic ability was keenly interested in the course of events in the Middle East, during the first century of our Common Era. What was to take place there was to set a pattern for the course of world events since the critical year of 1914 C.E. So what he had to predict interests us today.
5. At the time of giving his prophecy of world importance, where was the prophet, and what had he predicted regarding what he looked at below?
5 It was on the eleventh day of the spring month that was then locally called Nisan, in the year 33 C.E. At the time when a prophecy that deserves world attention was to be forthcoming, the prophet sat upon what is still called the Mount of Olives, which rears itself up to the east of that controversial city, Jerusalem. As he looked down upon the eastern section of the city he did not see on the sacred area of the city the Mohammedan mosque of today, called the Dome of the Rock. He saw a religious structure built by a non-Jew, the Edomitish king called Herod the Great. It was a gorgeous temple to the God to whose worship Herod and his family had become proselytes. Outside the northwest section of the temple area was the Tower of Antonia, where occupation troops representing the Roman Empire were quartered. Earlier on that day of Nisan 11 and while the prophet was down in the city and at the temple, he predicted the destruction of that awe-inspiring temple, within that generation. This to the consternation of twelve intimate men who were accompanying him then.
6. How, by what he said to Jerusalem, did the prophet indicate that he would go away and return?
6 He also intimated that he himself was going away and would return, when he said: “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!’”a
7. Why did the prophet not predict the rebuilding of the Jerusalem temple, and so to what kind of temple would he not be welcomed back?
7 When, shortly afterward that same day, this man made further prediction about the destruction of that “house” or temple, he did not predict also the rebuilding of that temple. He gave no prophecy that such a thing would ever occur. It is not strange, therefore, that today, nineteen hundred years after the destruction of Herod’s temple, the Mohammedan “Dome of the Rock” stands upon the location of the former Jewish sanctuary. After the destruction of the Jewish temple in the first century C.E., no further temple of stone and wood would ever again be needed there on Mount Moriah of Jerusalem for the worship of Jehovah. The Jerusalem temple of that day was then in its “time of the end.” So it would not be to any such material “house” or temple that the prophet then taking his farewell would be welcomed back by people with the jubilant outcry: “Blessed is he that comes in Jehovah’s name!” Obviously, the close of an era, the end of a national system of things, was in the offing! It proved to be so!
A PREDICTION TO BE VIEWED IN THE LIGHT OF MODERN EVENTS
8. What triple question did the prophet’s intimate associates put to him, and why should we today be interested?
8 The man that sat there on the Mount of Olives on that Tuesday, Nisan 11, 33 C.E., looked down upon the then holy city of Jerusalem and its temple with more than a feeling of sheer admiration at the beauty of the sight. His twelve intimate associates were greatly disturbed at what they had heard him say. One of those men, named Matthew Levi, has recorded the triple question that was put to that man with confidence in his prophetic ability to give the reliable answers. Are we today, like those men back there, aware that we also are close to the end of an era, to what promises to be the disastrous end of a system of things? If so, then we should be interested in what they asked the man who qualified as a prophet. They asked: ““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.
9. Although those inquirers were asking about Jerusalem’s destruction, why may we not dismiss that destruction as of no consequence to us today?
9 By this inquiry the questioners were asking for prophetic information about the destruction of Jerusalem, which, because of its temple, was considered “a holy place,” “the holy city.” (Matthew 24:15; 4:5) Preoccupied as we are today with the pressing problems of a crumbling world, some persons might exclaim: “Oh, just a city in a small country of the world destroyed! Of what consequence to me is that?” So it might seem to some, but—what if, shortly, Vatican City, which occupies 108.7 acres of modern Italy, were violently destroyed? Would that be of little concern, little consequence to hundreds of millions of religious people throughout the earth today? Would such desolation of Vatican City arouse in other millions dread forebodings for other politico-religious organizations with which they are connected and about which they have awe-inspiring views? Likewise, if something that is the modern-day counterpart of that Jerusalem of the first century C.E. ends in a violent way, it will directly affect at least a quarter of the present world’s population! It will also forebodingly indicate something as imminent for other hundreds of millions!
10. Having our own times in mind as we now read the prophecy, we should look for what on the modern scene?
10 Back there, as the inquiring men listened to the “answer man,” they had their times in mind. And we today, as we listen in on the answer given to their inquiry, can have our times in mind. To get the proper appreciation of the prophetic answer, we should have in mind the modern-day parallels and counterparts, inasmuch as such things do really exist. As we now read just twenty verses out of the lengthy answer given, let us see whether we of ourselves can see some of the modern-day parallels and counterparts. We shall read from the records made by Matthew Levi and the medical doctor Luke:
11. By whom were the prophet’s associates not to be misled, and by what not to be terrified?
11 “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. [Why not?]
12. “The end” was not to be understood as having been reached just because of the happening of what things?
12 “For nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be food shortages and earthquakes in one place after another [and in one place after another pestilences (Luke 21:11)]. All these things are a beginning of pangs of distress.
13. What other things of real significance were to occur before the “end” would come?
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.
14. When those in Judea saw the disgusting thing “standing in a holy place,” what were they to do, and why?
14 “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; for then 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 24:4-22.
15. For how long was Jerusalem to be trodden down by the non-Jewish nations?
15 “They will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led captive among all nations; and Jerusalem will be trodden down by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”—Luke 21:24, The American Revised Standard Version Bible.
PARALLEL SIGNIFICANCE TODAY!
16. The things predicted reached a high point in what event, and this marked the end of what system of things?
16 In agreement with that prophetic statement that “Jerusalem will be trodden down by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled,” the predictor of the world distress carried on his prophecy much farther, even with definite reference to our own twentieth century. Since part of the question asked back there was, “What will be the sign . . . of the conclusion of the system of things,” the predicted things that reached a high point in the desolation of Jerusalem and the province of Judea in the year 70 C.E. marked the calamitous end of the then system of things, a system that revolved around the “holy place,” “the holy city,” Jerusalem.
17. Parallelwise, the oldsters of this generation ask whether there would be a marking of anything by what modern events?
17 Parallelwise, what turning point in history shall we reasonably say is marked by those things that we oldsters of this generation have seen occur on a global scale since 1914 C.E., that year which those International Bible Students had been declaring since 1876 C.E. would seal the end of the “times of the Gentiles”?
18. What do those events mean for this system of things, and for what can it be impeached?
18 We would be blinding ourselves to the ominous “sign” if we did not discern that the end of the global system of things is marked by such things occurring since 1914 C.E. From that never-to-be-forgotten year onward this world system of things can be impeached before all humanity for the most gory wars of all human history, for food shortages humanly induced to a large extent, for pestilences traceable to human misconduct, for increase of lawlessness, for the cooling off of the divine quality of love, for betrayal of mankind, for outright hatred and persecution in all the nations toward those Christians who were counteracting false prophets by preaching in all the inhabited earth “this good news of the kingdom” for a “witness to all the nations”!
19. According to those articles of impeachment, how does this system of things stand before the Court of the Universe, and what consistent decision must it render toward this system?
19 This system of things stands guilty according to all those articles of impeachment. All those articles of impeachment are provable by the historical records kept since 1914 C.E. The Highest Court of the Universe is aware of all of this, and this global system of things is answerable to that Supreme Court. Accordingly this Court is left to but one decision to render. Its decision must be consistent with that which it pronounced in the year 70 C.E. on the system of things that had synagogues both inside and outside the Roman Empire. The Court’s consistent decision for today must be for the end of this global system of things in the “great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning until now, no, nor will occur again.”—Matthew 24:21.
20, 21. (a) Why does that “great tribulation” mean the end of world distress? (b) According to what further words of the prophet do we not need to have the mournful outlook of the world?
20 This is the tribulation that will end the world distress, for it comes according to the judicial decision of the Highest Court of the Universe against this global system of things that has caused so much distress for all mankind. Since the year 1914 this system of things has been undergoing “pangs of distress,” which pangs will cease only with the painful death of the system. The outlook is mournful indeed for the system of things and for those who are selfishly wrapped up in it. But we do not need to have their outlook; we do not need to mourn. We know that it is only in one respect that the “sign” appearing since 1914 means “the conclusion of the system of things,” but we note another significance, an accompanying significance, to that “sign.” What the important side effect of this “sign” would be, the first-century prophet on the world distress indicated when he said to his listeners:
21 “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. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will by no means pass away.”—Luke 21:29-33.
22. (a) The prophet told his listeners to assume what posture as they saw these things start to occur? (b) Why do we of this century have the strongest of reasons to adopt this posture?
22 That is it! Not only would the “sign” mean the “conclusion of the system of things” in “pangs of distress,” but the calamitous things that combine to make up this “sign” would indirectly indicate that the “kingdom of God,” welcome like summer in the Middle East, was near. What wonder, then, that the commentator on world distress had said just before this in his prophecy: “But as these things start to occur, raise yourselves erect and lift your heads up, because your deliverance is getting near”! (Luke 21:28) More than sixty years ago we saw these things start to occur from 1914 onward, and we of this twentieth century, rather than those men of the first century, are the ones that have the strongest of reasons to raise ourselves up out of a dejected posture and lift our heads up with radiant faces. Our deliverance has drawn near, is now nearer than ever before. Yes, “the kingdom of God is near”!
23. Why can we be certain of the meaning of these “pangs of distress” upon the world system, and why is the prophet’s predicting of what is to come reliable?
23 There is solid basis for announcing that ‘Man’s salvation out of world distress is at hand!’ In saying this we are not attaching any false meaning to the “pangs of distress” that have been racking the whole system of things since 1914 C.E. These things were foretold nineteen centuries ago in answer to a specific question on what to look for that would indicate a certain thing or set of things. Hence, the things foretold, on coming true, have this certain meaning. In this way the man who foretold them has proved himself to be a reliable commentator on the world distress. He can therefore be considered most reliable in predicting also a salvation of some of mankind alive out of this worsening world distress so as to enjoy on earth the blessings of God’s kingdom. This is the government that will bring in a joy-laden righteous new system of things.
24. (a) Why has the source of the prophecy been kept nameless till now? (b) Therefore, why must it be said that Jesus Christ was a true prophet of God and a reliable commentator?
24 The man with whose prophecy we have here been dealing said that his disciples would become “objects of hatred by all the nations” on account of his name. (Matthew 24:9) This meant that he himself would be hated, and that anything to which his name was attached would also be hated or discredited. We have thus far let his prophecy go nameless, that the prophecy might speak for itself. For the time being we have avoided causing any favorable or unfavorable reflection to be cast upon the prophecy by naming the source of the prophecy. The point has been, when viewed objectively, has the prophecy proved true or not? Is the prophet, regardless of his name, proved true or false? Prejudice against a person’s name or identity should not sway us in our judgment of truth or falsehood. In the light of the facts, both of the first century and of our twentieth century, the prophecy is proved true. So, in all fairness, it must be said that Jesus Christ was a true prophet of God and a reliable commentator on the world distress. We do ourselves harm in not heeding what he has said.
25. Why is the aforementioned man not now a dead prophet of the past?
25 In this time of world perplexity with politicians not knowing which way to turn and the clergymen of Christendom not having any relevant message for the people, it will do us good to remember that the aforementioned prophet is not a dead person of the past. He is a living person of today! Yes, and highly interested in the fulfillment of his own inspired prophecy! His life on earth nineteen hundred years ago was a marked life. It had been foretold, in its vitally important aspects, in the inspired Hebrew Scriptures, in order to identify who the Messiah from God was. Inasmuch as the Messianic prophecies of those Hebrew Scriptures were fulfilled in this Jesus, the descendant of the patriarch Abraham and of King David of Jerusalem, he was proved beyond doubt to be the Messiah or the Christ. In harmony with the inspired Hebrew Scriptures, Jesus Christ foretold his own violent death and his resurrection from the dead on the third day of his death. He, as well as the Hebrew Scriptures, proved to be absolutely true in these regards. That is why he lives today, nineteen centuries later! Psalm 110:1-4 foretold his glorification to God’s right hand!
26. In view of what testimony is it of no use for any of us today to quibble about whether Jesus Christ was resurrected?
26 It is of no use for us today, almost two thousand years later, to quibble about whether this Jesus Christ was raised from the dead on the third day. We have Jewish witnesses to that fact, not just the two or three witnesses required by the Mosaic Law, but “upward of five hundred” Jews who saw him at one time, on one occasion, before he ascended to God’s right hand forty days after his resurrection. (1 Corinthians 15:3-6) We have today, in thousands of handwritten copies, the written testimony of seven of these eyewitnesses of his resurrection, namely, Matthew Levi, John Mark, John the son of Zebedee, Peter the son of Jonah (John), James and Jude, both half brothers of Jesus Christ, and Saul of Tarsus, who was surnamed Paul. Their testimony is contained in the inspired Christian Greek Scriptures.
27. (a) What Scriptures would not have been written and what Scriptures would have fallen flat if Jesus Christ had not been resurrected? (b) Who were willing to stake their lives on the actuality of Messiah’s resurrection?
27 The fact of the matter is that the twenty-seven books of those inspired Greek Scriptures would never have been written if Jesus Christ had not been raised from the dead and thereafter glorified with Jehovah God in the heavens. Furthermore, the inspired Hebrew Scriptures, from the writings of Moses down to the prophecy of Malachi, would have fallen flat to this day if Jesus Christ had not been resurrected from the dead by the almighty power of Jehovah God. (Luke 24:44-48; Revelation 19:10) The eyewitnesses of the resurrected Jesus Christ were willing to stake their lives upon the actuality of his resurrection. Stephen of Jerusalem suffered stoning to death for testifying to the Messiah’s resurrection. James the brother of the apostle John was put to death by the sword by King Herod Agrippa I of Jerusalem. The apostle John was sentenced to exile on the penal island of Patmos by Rome’s decree for testifying to Messiah’s resurrection.
28, 29. (a) Before whom did Saul of Tarsus (surnamed Paul) boldly testify concerning the resurrection of the dead as based on Christ’s resurrection? (b) What were the reactions of Governor Festus and King Agrippa?
28 And what about that former Pharisee, Saul of Tarsus, who was surnamed Paul? In synagogue after synagogue in Palestine, Asia Minor and Greece, he testified to his fellow Jews regarding the resurrection of the Messiah, Jesus. Before the pagan Greek judges of the Court of the Areopagus in Athens, Greece, he was bold enough to give like testimony. From the staircase of the Tower of Antonia he faithfully bore testimony to a Jewish mob that had tried to tear him to pieces in the temple courtyard of Jerusalem. To the doctrinally divided Sanhedrin Court of that holy city, he said: “I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. Over the hope of resurrection of the dead I am being judged.” (Acts 23:6) To successive Roman governors of Judea, Felix and Festus, he emphasized the resurrection hope that was based on Messiah’s own resurrection. Later, Paul’s graphic testimony about his miraculous encounter with the resurrected Jesus caused faithless Governor Festus to cry out: “You are going mad, Paul! Great learning is driving you into madness!” Then, when the guest of Festus was questioned by Paul about his faith, the Jewish proselyte, King Herod Agrippa II, said:
30. Who did Paul say would be “most to be pitied” if there were no resurrection of the dead?
30 The fact of the matter is, that, if the Messiah Jesus were not raised from the dead to heavenly life, there would be no future “resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Acts 24:15) So much depended upon Messiah’s resurrection, and the apostle Paul had suffered so much persecution for preaching it, that if Paul were a liar, then, as he wrote: “In fact, also, those who fell asleep in death in union with Christ perished. If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all men most to be pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15:18, 19) So, too, with our generation in this twentieth century. After all that we have gone through since 1914, our generation would be, of all generations, the “most to be pitied.”
31. (a) How do worthy ones of this generation have a valid hope of not needing a resurrection? (b) What things worthy of consideration will such spared ones yet have to pass through shortly?
31 Think of it, though! Worthy ones of this generation of mankind will be saved alive out of the rest of this world distress so as to survive the worst of it and enter into God’s Messianic new system of things and not need a resurrection from the dead to life here on earth! This is a valid hope well founded on what was said by Jesus Christ in his prophecy on the “sign of [his] presence and of the conclusion of the system of things.” (Matthew 24:3) But our being thus spared alive through the rest of the world distress under God’s protection will mean that we shall yet have to pass through stirring events and trying situations. These we do well to consider now according to Bible prophecy, that we may know better how to react when we encounter these foretold things.
[Picture on page 18]
Dome of the Rock, in modern-day Jerusalem
[Picture on page 22]
“Let the man on the housetop not come down to take the goods out of his house”