World Destruction First—Then World Peace
1-3. (a) What is the world destruction that human leaders are warning about? (b) Why is that not what the Bible refers to as the world destruction that will pave the way for lasting peace and security?
ACCORDING to Bible prophecy, before mankind can ever enjoy enduring peace, a world destruction must first take place. (2 Peter 3:5-7) But why is that necessary? From where does the destruction come? And what does it mean for humans on this planet?
2 First we need to understand that the world destruction the Bible foretells is not the same as the global catastrophe that many world leaders, scientists, and others are warning about. The calamity they talk about would come in the form of some man-made disaster brought on by such things as pollution or the nuclear arms race, or both. But, of course, such a catastrophe would leave no hope for lasting peace and security on this planet.
3 Earth would be ruined for living creatures. For example, nuclear radiation or the speculated “nuclear winter” would leave survivors no better off—if not worse off—than those who had died. Survival would be largely a matter of chance, though the poor would likely be among the first to suffer. What hope would you have of being among the survivors of such a catastrophe? And even if you did survive, what hope would there be that life would not drift back into the same strife-ridden uncertainty that now prevails?
What the Bible Foretells Gives Hope
4. Who are to be destroyed in the world destruction of which the Bible speaks?
4 What makes the world destruction that the Bible foretells different is that it will be selective, purposeful. It will not be some calamity that comes just as the culmination of man-made blunders. Rather than bring death indiscriminately, it will efface from the earth only those who really deserve to be destroyed. This kind of world destruction is in agreement with the divine principle at Proverbs 2:21, 22: “For the upright are the ones that will reside in the earth, and the blameless are the ones that will be left over in it. As regards the wicked, they will be cut off from the very earth; and as for the treacherous, they will be torn away from it.”
5, 6. (a) What will happen to the earth itself during that world destruction? (b) In this respect, how will it be “just as the days of Noah were”?
5 What, then, will be destroyed? Many think the Bible predicts the total burning up of the planet Earth and everything on it. But this is not the case. Jesus Christ himself said: “Happy are the mild-tempered ones, since they will inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5) Surely that ‘inheritance’ is not to be a burned-up, lifeless cinder! The Bible also gives God’s definite assurance that the earth will remain forever as a place for people to live.—Psalm 104:5; Isaiah 45:18; Matthew 6:9, 10.
6 In harmony with this, the Bible speaks of survivors who will remain on earth after that “great tribulation” has passed. Jesus Christ said that “just as the days of Noah were, so the presence of the Son of man will be.” When global destruction took place in Noah’s time there were also survivors.—Matthew 24:21, 37; 2 Peter 2:5, 9; Revelation 7:9, 10, 13, 14.
7. What is it that will come to its end at that time?
7 What is to be destroyed? It is the worldwide system of things that men have built up on earth—along with all those who uphold it rather than look to God and his promised rule for the earth. (Psalm 73:27, 28) That is why the phrase “the end of the world,” found in some Bible translations, is more accurately rendered in other Bibles as “the end of the age” (NE), “the conclusion of the age” (Ro), “the conclusion of the system of things” (NW).—Matthew 24:3.
8. (a) From what source will the destruction come? (b) This must occur before the present world system reaches what state?
8 The source of the coming world destruction will be—not men—but Jehovah God. The modern blights of pollution, famine, nuclear terror, and similar things that have resulted from human ignorance, error, and corruption are not what will cause the destruction. Instead, these are proof of the selfishness and utter failure of the present world system. They provide just cause for Jehovah God to do away with that system completely. He promises to take such action before ever the present world reaches a state of collapse or carries out its own self-destruction. (Revelation 11:17, 18) But is such drastic action really the only way?
Why This System Must End for True Peace to Come
9, 10. How does human history show that something more drastic is needed than just a reform of the present world?
9 Some might feel that God should simply make some changes in the present system, rather than destroy it. But the Bible shows that God realistically recognizes that it is beyond reform.
10 Consider for yourself the many changes that have been made by humans down through the centuries. Think of all the different kinds of government that men have developed. There have been city-states, monarchies, democracies, communistic and socialistic governments, and dictatorships. Remember how often the existing ruler or government has been replaced with a new one—by election, coup d’etat, or revolution. Yet there has been no lasting solution to the problems of mankind. Even well-meaning men who try to improve man’s lot find their efforts frustrated by the system of things into which they themselves are locked. As a wise ruler of ancient times discovered, by human efforts alone “that which is made crooked cannot be made straight.”—Ecclesiastes 1:14, 15.
11-13. (a) What prevents men from making changes in the present system for the good of all mankind? (b) So, how might the extent of the change needed be illustrated?
11 The world’s cities, for example, are plagued with problems. But men cannot dismantle them and start afresh. The same is true of the whole economic and industrial system of the world. Self-interest and nationalism undermine and block any real change for the good of mankind as a whole.
12 The entire system of things is thus like a house built on a bad foundation, according to poor plans, and constructed with defective materials. What good will it do to rearrange the furniture or to remodel the house? As long as it stands, the problems will continue, and the house will keep deteriorating. The only sensible thing to do is to tear down the house and build another, on a good foundation.
13 Jesus Christ used a somewhat similar illustration in saying that people do not “put new wine into old wineskins.” The old wineskin would burst from the new wine. (Matthew 9:17) He therefore did not try to reform the Jewish system of things under which he lived. Instead, he preached God’s Kingdom as the only hope for peace and security. (Luke 8:1; 11:2; 12:31) So, too, in our day Jehovah God will not simply adjust the present system of things, because that could bring no lasting benefit.
14. Would the passing of new laws make people love righteousness?
14 God’s Word emphasizes the truth that it is impossible to legislate righteousness into people’s hearts. If they have no love for what is right, no amount of legislation will ever put it there. At Isaiah 26:10 we read: “Though the wicked one should be shown favor, he simply will not learn righteousness. In the land of straightforwardness he will act unjustly and will not see the eminence of Jehovah.”—Compare Proverbs 29:1.
15, 16. How is the lack of true love for righteousness on the part of many people shown in their response to God’s will?
15 The hard fact is that many people prefer to stay with this present system despite its failures and evils. They do not want to turn to righteousness and submit to rule from God. They may see the corruption of this world’s political systems, the futility of its wars, the hypocrisy of its religions, and the clear evidence that its technology has created even greater problems than it has solved. But despite all of this, many prefer to be lulled into a false sense of security by religious and political leaders whose interests lie in maintaining the status quo. They are like the Israelites of whom God said: “The prophets themselves actually prophesy in falsehood; and as for the priests, they go subduing according to their powers. And my own people have loved it that way; and what will you men do in the finale of it?”—Jeremiah 5:31; Isaiah 30:12, 13.
16 Likely you know of people who have habits that endanger their own health and security and that of their families. Yet they resist all efforts to help them change. But when people resist God’s counsel and guidance, the matter is far more serious. Those who do this show that they really do not love truth and righteousness. Of such ones Jesus said: “For the heart of this people has grown unreceptive, and with their ears they have heard without response, and they have shut their eyes; that they might never see with their eyes and hear with their ears and get the sense of it with their hearts and turn back, and [God] heal them.”—Matthew 13:15.
17. If it is true that God does not take pleasure in bringing destruction on mankind, why is he going to do it?
17 Rightly, God’s patience and mercy have their limits. If not, where would his love for the righteous ones be? He cannot turn a deaf ear to their pleas for relief from the suffering that wickedness brings upon this earth. (Luke 18:7, 8; Proverbs 29:2, 16) So, the circumstances require world destruction. They oblige God to act if he is to remain true to what is right and if he is to show compassion for those who also love what is right. It is not a case of God’s taking pleasure in bringing destruction upon mankind. “‘Do I take any delight at all in the death of someone wicked,’ is the utterance of the Sovereign Lord Jehovah, ‘and not in that he should turn back from his ways and actually keep living? . . . So cause a turning back and keep living, O you people.’”—Ezekiel 18:23, 32.
18. What is the price that must be paid to redeem from insecurity the people who love what is right?
18 The destruction of those who prefer this present system of things, then, is the price that must be paid to redeem from insecurity and suffering those who love what is right. This is in agreement with the Bible principle: “The wicked is a ransom for the righteous one.”—Proverbs 21:18; compare Isaiah 43:1, 3, 4.
19. What barriers to world peace will be removed by the destruction of this system of things?
19 The destruction of the present system and its supporters will allow for a righteous new system earth wide in which the survivors will be able to work together unitedly, not in selfish competition. Down will come divisive national frontiers and political boundaries. Gone will be the crushing burden of military spending. And gone too will be the social barriers that keep mankind from being a united family. A vital factor in all of this will be that everyone then living will speak the ‘one pure language’ of truth to one another, worshiping their Creator “with spirit and truth.” This will keep them free from divisive religious superstitions, traditions, and man-made creeds.—Zephaniah 3:8, 9; John 4:23, 24.
20. As indicated by Psalm 72, what condition will come to exist earth wide?
20 With God’s government by his Son Christ Jesus exercising sole dominion over all the earth, the ancient psalm of the Bible will see fulfillment: “In his days the righteous one will sprout, and the abundance of peace until the moon is no more. And he will have subjects from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth.”—Psalm 72:7, 8.
21. How will the earth itself benefit from the coming world destruction?
21 The earth will benefit from the coming world destruction. It will no longer be marred by greedy polluters and ruthless destroyers. The lakes, rivers, oceans, and atmosphere will gain relief from the wastes poured into them and will soon cleanse themselves. God will thus demonstrate that he has not abandoned his purpose to have a clean, gardenlike planet filled with people who reflect their Creator’s splendid qualities.—Genesis 1:26-28; Isaiah 45:18; 55:10, 11.
22. How is the bringing of such destruction consistent with God’s being a ‘God of peace’?
22 So, God’s bringing world destruction is not contrary to his being the ‘God of peace.’ Nor is it contrary to Jesus’ being the “Prince of Peace.” It is because of their love of peace and justice that they take this action to restore earth to a clean, righteous state.—1 Corinthians 14:33; Isaiah 9:6, 7.
23, 24. If we are to enjoy a future of peace and security, what is it vital for us individually to do now?
23 As individuals, then, what should we do? Jesus showed that those ignoring God’s instructions were building their hopes for the future on “sand,” and that such building would never endure the coming destructive storms. He showed the vital need to build our hopes on obedience to God’s Word if we are to have a peaceful and secure future.—Matthew 7:24-27.
24 But why has God waited so long to bring wickedness and suffering to an end? The Bible answers this question also, and it shows what God has been doing during all the centuries past in working out his purpose.
[Picture on page 37]
Just as people survived the Flood, there will be survivors of the “great tribulation”