“The End of the World” Is at Hand!
1. How would Christ’s earthly followers know when he had begun to rule in heaven?
WHEN JESUS CHRIST threw Satan and his angels out of heaven and began his Kingdom rule, it meant that the end of Satan and his wicked system was near. (Revelation 12:7-12) But how could Christ’s followers on earth know that this event in heaven, unseen to their eyes, had taken place? How could they know that Christ was invisibly present in Kingdom power and that “the end of the world” was near? They could know by checking to see if the “sign” that Jesus gave was being fulfilled.
2. What question did Christ’s disciples ask him?
2 Shortly before Jesus’ death, while he was sitting on the Mount of Olives, four of his apostles came to ask him for a “sign.” This is the way their question has been read, in the King James Version, by millions of people: “Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and the end of the world?” (Matthew 24:3) But what do these expressions, “thy coming” and “the end of the world,” really mean?
3. (a) What do the expressions “thy coming” and “the end of the world” really mean? (b) How, then, is the question asked by Christ’s disciples correctly translated?
3 The Greek word here translated “coming” is parousia, and it means “presence.” So, then, when the “sign” is seen, this means we would know that Christ is present though unseen, that he has already come in Kingdom power. The expression “end of the world” is also very misleading. It does not mean the end of the earth, but, rather, the end of Satan’s system of things. (2 Corinthians 4:4) The apostles’ question therefore accurately reads: “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, New World Translation.
4. (a) What makes up “the sign” that Jesus gave? (b) In what way can “the sign” be compared to a fingerprint?
4 Jesus did not give just one event as “the sign.” He told of many happenings and situations. Other Bible writers besides Matthew mentioned additional events that would mark the “last days.” All these things that were foretold would take place during the time that Bible writers called the “last days.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5; 2 Peter 3:3, 4) These happenings would be like the different lines that make up a person’s fingerprint, a print that cannot belong to any other person. The “last days” contain their own pattern of marks, or happenings. These form a positive “fingerprint” that cannot belong to any other time period.
5, 6. As you examine 11 evidences of the “last days” on the following pages, what do you understand about “the conclusion of the system of things”?
5 In chapter 16 of this book we considered Bible evidence that Christ returned and began ruling in the midst of his enemies in the year 1914. Now take a careful look at the various features of “the sign” of Christ’s presence and further evidence of the “last days” of Satan’s wicked system of things. As you examine these foretold things on the next few pages, note how they have been undergoing fulfillment since 1914.
“NATION WILL RISE AGAINST NATION AND KINGDOM AGAINST KINGDOM.”—Matthew 24:7.
Surely you have seen this part of the “sign” being fulfilled since 1914! In that year World War I began. Never in history had there been such a terrible war. It was total war. World War I was much greater than all the major wars fought during the 2,400 years before 1914. Yet only 21 years after that war ended, World War II began. And it was four times as destructive as World War I.
Terrible wars continue to be fought. Since World War II ended in 1945, more than 25 million persons have been killed in some 150 wars fought around the globe. On any given day, there have been, on the average, 12 wars going on somewhere in the world. And there is the continual threat of another world war. The United States alone has enough nuclear weapons to destroy every man, woman and child on earth 12 times over!
“THERE WILL BE FOOD SHORTAGES.”—Matthew 24:7.
Following World War I came the greatest famine in all history. In northern China alone 15,000 died every day from starvation. But the shortage of food was even greater after World War II. A fourth of the world was then starving! And ever since, food has remained scarce for many people on earth.
“Every 8.6 seconds someone in an underdeveloped country dies as a result of illness caused by malnutrition,” said the New York Times in 1967. Millions still die of starvation—some 50 million a year! By 1980, about one fourth of the people on earth (1,000,000,000 persons) were hungry because they could not get enough to eat. Even in places where food is plentiful, many are too poor to buy it.
“IN ONE PLACE AFTER ANOTHER PESTILENCES.”—Luke 21:11.
Right after World War I more people died of the Spanish flu than had died of any disease epidemic in the history of mankind. The death toll was some 21 million people! Yet pestilence and disease continue to rage. Millions die each year from heart trouble and cancer. Venereal disease is spreading rapidly. Other terrible diseases, such as malaria, snail fever and river blindness, occur in country after country, especially in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
“THERE WILL BE . . . EARTHQUAKES IN ONE PLACE AFTER ANOTHER.”—Matthew 24:7.
From 1914 until now, there have been many more major earthquakes than in any other like period in recorded history. For over 1,000 years, from the year 856 C.E. to 1914, there were only 24 major earthquakes, causing some 1,973,000 deaths. But in the 63 years from 1915 to 1978, a total of some 1,600,000 persons died in 43 great earthquakes.
“INCREASING OF LAWLESSNESS.”—Matthew 24:12.
From all over the world come reports of increasing lawlessness and crime. Crimes of violence, such as murder, rape and robberies, are now running wild. In the United States alone, a serious crime is committed, on the average, about every second. In many places no one feels safe on the streets, even during the daytime. At night people stay in their homes behind locked and barricaded doors, afraid to go outside.
“MEN BECOME FAINT OUT OF FEAR.”—Luke 21:26.
Fear is probably the biggest single emotion in people’s lives today. Not long after the exploding of the first nuclear bombs, atomic scientist Harold C. Urey said: “We will eat fear, sleep fear, live in fear and die in fear.” For much of humankind this is what is happening. And it is not simply because of the ever-present threat of nuclear warfare. People also fear crime, pollution, disease, inflation and many other things that threaten their security and their very lives.
‘DISOBEDIENCE TO PARENTS.’—2 Timothy 3:2.
Parents today often have little control over their children. Youths rebel against all authority. So every country on earth is affected by the plague of youth crime. More than half of all serious crimes in some countries are committed by children 10 to 17 years of age. Murder, rape, assault, robbery, burglary, car theft—all these things children are doing. Never in history has disobedience to parents been so common.
“LOVERS OF MONEY.”—2 Timothy 3:2.
Wherever you look today you can see acts of greed. Many will do practically anything for money. They will steal or even kill. It is not unusual for greedy persons to produce and sell products that are known, in one way or another, to make others sick or to kill them. Either openly, or by the way they live, people are saying of money: ‘This is my god.’
“LOVERS OF PLEASURES RATHER THAN LOVERS OF GOD.”—2 Timothy 3:4.
Most people today think only of doing what pleases them or their families, not what pleases God. Particularly do many love what God condemns, including fornication, adultery, drunkenness, drug abuse and other so-called pleasures. Even pleasures that, in themselves, can be wholesome are put ahead of any effort to learn about God and serve him.
“HAVING A FORM OF GODLY DEVOTION BUT PROVING FALSE TO ITS POWER.”—2 Timothy 3:5.
World leaders and common people alike often make an outward show of being godly. They may attend church services and make contributions to religious causes. Those in government may put their hand on a Bible when they take office. But often it is simply “a form of godly devotion.” Just as the Bible foretold, the true worship of God is not really a force in most people’s lives today. They are not motivated by a real power for good.
“RUINING THE EARTH.”—Revelation 11:18.
The air we breathe, the water we drink and the land our food is grown on are being polluted. It is so serious that scientist Barry Commoner warned: “I believe that continued pollution of the earth, if unchecked, will eventually destroy the fitness of this planet as a place for human life.”
6 After considering the foregoing, is it not clear that “the sign” Christ gave and the evidences foretold by his disciples are now being fulfilled? Although there are many other proofs, those listed here should be enough to show that we really are living in the time the Bible foretold as the “last days.”
7. (a) What makes the Bible prophecies regarding Christ’s presence and the “last days” so remarkable? (b) In contrast with what the Bible foretold, what were world leaders forecasting just prior to 1914?
7 Yet some persons may say: ‘Such things as wars, famines, pestilences and earthquakes have occurred often throughout history. So it would not be hard to foretell that they would occur again.’ But think: The Bible not only foretold these things, but indicated that they would occur on a worldwide scale. Also, the Bible said that all these things would happen upon the generation that was alive in 1914. Yet what were prominent world leaders foretelling just before 1914? They were saying that conditions promising world peace were never more favorable. Yet the terrible troubles the Bible foretold began right on time, in 1914! In fact, world leaders now say that 1914 was a turning point in history.
8. (a) Which generation did Jesus indicate would see the end of this system of things? (b) So of what can we be certain?
8 After drawing attention to the many things that have marked the period from 1914 onward, Jesus said: “This generation will by no means pass away until all these things [including the end of this system] occur.” (Matthew 24:34, 14) Which generation did Jesus mean? He meant the generation of people who were living in 1914. Those persons yet remaining of that generation are now very old. However, some of them will still be alive to see the end of this wicked system. So of this we can be certain: Shortly now there will be a sudden end to all wickedness and wicked people at Armageddon.
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Jesus told his disciples what would be visible proof of his invisible presence in Kingdom power
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Some of the generation living in 1914 will see the end of the system of things and survive it