The “Sign” of Imminence of the World Government
1, 2. (a) Proof of imminence of God’s world government is furnished in what? (b) What needs to be done before the “great tribulation”?
HOW HAPPY we can be that rule of all the earth by political governments of imperfect men is nearing its end! At the same time the perfect world government promised by God is imminent. The proof of this is available today. Since the year 1914 we have discerned the unfolding, unerring “sign” of this. Nineteen centuries ago a prophet greater than Daniel described that “sign” in detail. We can now read its meaning if we will. The Describer of this timely “sign” made reference to things foretold in Daniel, chapter twelve. For instance, along in his great prophecy he said to his twelve apostles on the Mount of Olives:
2 “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. “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 24:14-22; Mark 13:14-20.
3. When did Christianized Jews flee from the “holy place”? Why?
3 Back in the days of the apostles of Jesus Christ the “holy place” was the city of Jerusalem with its gorgeous temple for the worship of Jehovah as God. Judea was a Roman province, of which Jerusalem was the religious capital. The “disgusting thing that is causing desolation,” as referred to at Daniel 12:11, was the military legions of the Roman Empire, the Sixth World Power of Bible prophecy. By a violent military attack the “disgusting thing” of that day was “standing” for a time in the “holy place” in the autumn of the year 66 C.E. That was a warning signal to the Christianized Jews still residing in Jerusalem. So, after the “disgusting thing” withdrew temporarily from Jerusalem, the now duly warned Christians obediently fled from the doomed “holy place.” Many of these fugitives fled to the “mountains” in the Roman province of Perea on the other side of the Jordan River.
4. What things came as foretold on that Jewish generation?
4 It was well that those Christianized Jews did so, for, four years later, the “disgusting thing” returned. It desolated all the province of Judea and capped the desolation by destroying both Jerusalem and its holy temple in a “great tribulation” that shocked Jews inside and outside the Roman Empire. The Christianized Jews in safe places of refuge outside Judea survived Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 C.E. Some Jewish “flesh” that had remained inside the rebellious city also survived, but only to be carried off captive by the Romans. So that generation of unchristianized Jews did not act on the “sign” that Jesus Christ had foretold. For that generation he had foretold wars, famines, pestilences, earthquakes, persecution of Christians, lawlessness, Kingdom preaching world wide, and the standing of the “disgusting thing” in the “holy place.” All these things had come upon that generation of Jews as a “sign” to them of the fast-approaching destruction of the Jewish system of things.—Matthew 24:3-22; Luke 21:10-23.
THE CLIMAX OF THE MODERN-DAY “SIGN” IMMINENT
5. Why did God’s world government not follow Jerusalem’s ruin?
5 However, was Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 C.E. followed by God’s world government in the hands of Jesus Christ, the worthy Descendant of King David? No! The Roman Empire continued on as the Sixth World Power and kept increasing to attain its greatest dominion in the reign of Emperor Trajan. So the Gentile Times of 2,520 years of duration moved on toward their termination in 1914 C.E. History worked just as Jesus had foretold: “Jerusalem will be trampled on by the [Gentile] nations, until the appointed times of the nations are fulfilled.” (Luke 21:24) The Seventh Gentile World Power was yet to arise in the form of the Anglo-American Dual World Power, starting in 1763 C.E. It still functions, and the American member of that Dual World Power celebrated its two hundredth anniversary, its bicentennial, on July 4, 1976. That celebration was nearly sixty-two years after the Gentile Times ended in the year 1914.
6. What nations refuse to recognize God’s newborn kingdom?
6 Not only the United States of America and the British Commonwealth of Nations but all the other Gentile nations refuse to recognize God’s Messianic kingdom, the birth of which was repeatedly called to their attention.—Revelation 12:1-5.
7. How much longer will Christ put up with resistant nations?
7 The “presence” or parousia of the glorified Messiah Jesus in Kingdom authority is an accomplished fact since 1914! How much longer will Jehovah’s enthroned, crowned Messianic King put up with the combined resistance of earthly political governments now that their lease of world domination without God’s interference has expired? Not much longer, if we are to judge by the details of the foretold “sign of [Christ’s] presence [parousia] and of the conclusion of the system of things.”—Matthew 24:3.
8. To whom does the word “generation” in Matthew 24:34 apply?
8 Jesus Christ had our generation in mind as well as the Jewish generation of his day, when he said: “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 24:34, 35.
9. What has “this generation” already seen fulfilled since 1914?
9 Well, then, what are we of “this generation” yet waiting for? We have seen, heard, and experienced the international wars, famines, pestilences, earthquakes, worldwide persecution of Jehovah’s Christian witnesses, increase of lawlessness, decrease of love of God by the majority, and the preaching of “this good news of the kingdom” by the Christian witnesses of Jehovah since 1914 C.E. We have gone through these things in fuller measure than did the Jewish “generation” of nineteen hundred years ago. We have witnessed the removal of the “constant feature” of Jehovah’s worship during World War I by the persecutions heaped upon Jehovah’s worshipers by the warring nations. We have also observed the “placing of the disgusting thing that is causing desolation” in the ‘setting up’ of a man-made substitute for God’s Messianic kingdom, namely, the League of Nations, in 1919, and its successor, the United Nations, in 1945. (Matthew 24:4-15; Daniel 12:11) So what is “this generation” shortly to expect?
“KNOW THAT HE IS NEAR AT THE DOORS”
10-12. For “this generation” of today, what does Matthew 24:23-31 say?
10 With a swift skipping of intervening centuries of our Common Era, Jesus Christ passed from the “great tribulation” that resulted in Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 C.E. down to our critical period, “the time of the end.” (Daniel 12:4) He said:
11 “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 [parousia] of the Son of man will be. Wherever the carcass is, there the eagles will be gathered together.
12 “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 24:23-31; Mark 13:21-27.
13. How do we know that the remnant of “chosen ones” are with us?
13 Like a “great trumpet sound” the message foretold in Matthew 24:14, “this good news of the kingdom,” has been increasingly sounded forth world wide since the year 1919 by the present-day remnant of “his chosen ones.” The more of these “chosen ones” that have been gathered from the four cardinal points (“the four winds”), the louder or more widespread has been the sound of the “good news” trumpet. For this reason we know that the “chosen ones” who are in line for a place in the heavenly kingdom are with us in this “time of the end.” We have not visibly seen any spirit angels gathering them together, but we do see the effect of such angelic activities according to the will of the glorified Son of man. By their preaching work publicly and from house to house, the remnant of gathered “chosen ones” have made themselves seen and heard.
14. Into what have the angels gathered the “chosen ones”?
14 No, they have not been gathered under angelic guidance into any one place in any one land. Rather, they have been gathered into a worldwide unity of thought and activity according to the unfolding Holy Scriptures, and they regularly meet together in their congregations, in homes or in Kingdom Halls. Even when banned by hostile worldly governments, they persist in gathering together, “underground,” so to speak, to build one another up in Christian faith and to organize their preaching efforts. At their annual celebration of the Lord’s Supper, the commemoration of Christ’s death on Nisan 14 (Bible calendar), they partake of the emblematic bread and wine. On April 14 (Nisan 14), of the year 1976, 10,187 of such “chosen ones” thus celebrated and partook of the emblems.
15. The gathered remnant now look for what “sign” to appear?
15 These faithful “chosen ones” are waiting for the “sign of the Son of man” in the heavens as he comes in the role of God’s Executioner to destroy all the nations who continue in opposition to his Messianic kingdom over all the earth. No wonder that, when he makes his presence felt by his destructive operations, it will be as if they actually saw him “coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.” All good reason for them to “beat themselves in lamentation.”—Matthew 24:30; Revelation 1:7.
THE POINT TO BE LEARNED NOW
16. What illustrates how we can know he is near at the doors?
16 We are, or at least we all should be, interested in knowing whether the grand climax of developments will come in our time. How can we know the possibility of this and be guided accordingly? For the guidance of us living today, Jesus as the Prophet concerning the “conclusion of the system of things” went on to say to his twelve apostles: “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; compare Luke 21:27-33.
17. We who saw these things start, do what and know what?
17 Those of the “chosen ones” alive today who witnessed the outbreak of World War I in 1914 can recall how we all rejoiced because we saw “these things start to occur.” We knew that the newly enthroned Christ was “near at the doors” for his executional work against this wicked “system of things.” We exulted because “the kingdom of God is near” for taking over full world control and functioning as a world government. We have not grown tired of being reminded over and over again during these past sixty years and more that the Messianic kingdom of God is “near at the doors.” This reminding of us has not grown stale and lost its potency and soul-stirring force toward us. We know that we are of the “generation” that saw the start of these things in 1914 at the close of the Gentile Times, and we believe Jesus’ assurance that this same “generation” of ours will see the finish of these significant things, all this culminating in the total take-over by the triumphant Kingdom of all human affairs.
18. Is our warning people just a scaring of them to do right?
18 A global catastrophe affecting far more people and institutions than the deluge of Noah’s day affected is about to break upon this “world of ungodly people.” (2 Peter 2:5) This needs to be—it deserves to be—drummed into the ears of the “chosen ones” and of all others who are interested in a perfect, righteous world government. This is not a case of frightening people with a false scare like that of the God-defaming doctrine of “eternal torment in a hell of literal fire and brimstone” in order to force their conversion and their attendance at some church. Not merely the life, but the eternal life, of the imperiled people is at stake, and, as God’s appointed ‘watchmen,’ we are under obligation to warn honest-hearted, righteously disposed persons. (Ezekiel 3:17-21; 33:6-20) We do not wish to come short of our responsibilities toward God. We are not frightening ourselves into doing our duty when we take this matter seriously. Our aim is to display love toward God and toward our fellow humans, especially our Christian brothers.
19, 20. Did Jesus want his warning to be wasted on his apostles?
19 Jesus Christ himself did not want to preach and prophesy to no purpose. He did not want his warning to be in vain for his disciples, when he said to them: “Concerning that day and hour nobody knows, neither the angels of the heavens nor the Son, but only the Father. For just as the days of Noah were, so the presence [parousia] of the Son of man will be. For as they were in those days before the flood, eating and drinking, men marrying and women being given in marriage, until the day [!] that Noah entered into the ark; and they took no note until the flood came and swept them all away, so the presence of the Son of man will be. Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken along and the other be abandoned; two women will be grinding at the hand mill: one will be taken along and the other be abandoned. Keep on the watch, therefore, because you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.
20 “But know one thing, that if the householder had known in what watch the thief was coming, he would have kept awake and not allowed his house to be broken into. On this account you too prove yourselves ready, because at an hour that you do not think to be it, the Son of man is coming.”—Matthew 24:36-44.
21. What questions and argument does Jesus’ illustration raise?
21 Does Jesus’ illustration of the householder mean that, if he let us disciples of today know in advance the day and the hour of his coming for the settling of accounts, he would make sure of finding us all awake and on the watch? Hence ought we not to be given prior notice of the exact day and hour? That would be the way we do things today: give our receptionists advance notice in order that they may not be taken by surprise but have all things ready and not be embarrassed.
22. Why does Jesus not give advance time notice of his coming?
22 It is different with Jesus Christ, for his disciples are really his purchased slaves. At all times he desires them to be interested in his coming for judgment proceedings and so be serviceable at all times, out of love for him. He does not want them to be hypocritical eye-pleasers, putting on at the last minute before his arrival a show of being always active in his service. By not being notified ahead of time just exactly when he will arrive, the disciples have their love and obedience toward him tested constantly. Are they sincerely interested in his kingdom and are they always preparing for a share in that world government? Or, do they take time out to meddle in worldly affairs, say, in worldly politics? The King Jesus Christ detests lukewarm service, halfhearted attention. He wants no hypocrites in his kingdom.
23, 24. By what illustrations did Jesus emphasize the above point?
23 This vital point is emphasized by Jesus Christ in the illustrations of the “faithful and discreet slave” and “that evil slave,” the illustrations that he gave right after urging his disciples to ‘prove themselves ready’ at all times. (Matthew 24:45-51) There is a grand reward reserved for Christ’s disciples who prove themselves to be faithful, discreet and loving slaves of his, uncompromisingly devoted to his handling of the promised world government. We are serving him not just for the sake of a reward. Nevertheless, he promises a grand reward out of his appreciation. Do we desire such a reward? It is the alternative of a punishment for unfaithfulness. (Luke 12:35-46) Out of love for Jehovah’s anointed King we want the reward of faithfulness, do we not? Our answer being Yes! then let us do what the King Jesus Christ tells us:
24 “What I say to you I say to all, Keep on the watch.”—Mark 13:32-37; Luke 21:36.
25. So, on what should we now keep our eyes fixed, and why?
25 Let all of us watchers keep our eyes fixed on the “sign” that has been readable since 1914 C.E. (Matthew 24:3) May it stimulate us ever to keep alert, for the Messianic world government is imminent!