These Are the Last Days!
1. Why do many feel somewhat lost when contemplating the world scene, but where can a reliable explanation of world events be found?
HOW did our turbulent world get to this point? Where are we heading? Have you ever asked such questions? Many feel somewhat lost when they look at the world scene. Realities such as warfare, disease, and crime leave people wondering what the future holds. Government leaders offer little hope. However, a reliable explanation of these distressing days is available from God in his Word. The Bible reliably helps us to see where we are in the stream of time. It shows us that we are in “the last days” of the present system of things.—2 Timothy 3:1.
2. What question was Jesus asked by his disciples, and how did he reply?
2 Consider, for example, the answer Jesus gave to some questions raised by his disciples. Three days before Jesus died, they asked him: “What will be the sign of your presence and of the conclusion of the system of things?”* (Matthew 24:3) In reply, Jesus told of specific world events and situations that would clearly show that this ungodly system had entered its last days.
3. Why did conditions on earth get worse when Jesus began to rule?
3 As shown in the preceding chapter, Bible chronology leads to the conclusion that God’s Kingdom has already begun to rule. But how can that be? Things have become worse, not better. Actually, this is a strong indication that God’s Kingdom has begun ruling. Why so? Well, Psalm 110:2 informs us that for a time Jesus would rule ‘in the midst of his enemies.’ Indeed, his first act as heavenly King was to cast Satan and his demon angels down to the vicinity of the earth. (Revelation 12:9) What was the effect? It was just what Revelation 12:12 foretold: “Woe for the earth and for the sea, because the Devil has come down to you, having great anger, knowing he has a short period of time.” We are now living in that “short period of time.”
4. What are some features of the last days, and what do they indicate? (See box.)
4 Not surprisingly, therefore, when Jesus was asked what the sign of his presence and of the conclusion of the system of things would be, his reply was sobering. Various components of the sign are found in the box on page 102. As you can see, the Christian apostles Paul, Peter, and John provide us with further details concerning the last days. True, most features of the sign and of the last days involve distressing situations. Yet, the fulfillment of these prophecies should convince us that this wicked system is near its end. Let us take a close look at some of the principal features of the last days.
FEATURES OF THE LAST DAYS
5, 6. How are prophecies regarding warfare and famine being fulfilled?
5 “Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom.” (Matthew 24:7; Revelation 6:4) Writer Ernest Hemingway called World War I “the most colossal, murderous, mismanaged butchery that has ever taken place on earth.” According to the book The World in the Crucible—1914-1919, this was “a new scope of war, the first total war in the experience of mankind. Its duration, intensity, and scale exceeded anything previously known or generally expected.” Then came World War II, which proved much more destructive than World War I. “The twentieth century,” says professor of history Hugh Thomas, “has been dominated by the machine gun, the tank, the B-52, the nuclear bomb and, finally, the missile. It has been marked by wars more bloody and destructive than those of any other age.” True, much was said about disarmament after the Cold War ended. Still, one report estimates that after proposed reductions some 10,000 to 20,000 nuclear warheads will remain—more than 900 times the firepower used during World War II.
6 “There will be food shortages.” (Matthew 24:7; Revelation 6:5, 6, 8) Since 1914 there have been at least 20 major famines. Afflicted areas include Bangladesh, Burundi, Cambodia, China, Ethiopia, Greece, India, Nigeria, Russia, Rwanda, Somalia, and Sudan. But famine is not always caused by a lack of food. “The world’s food supply over recent decades has grown faster than its population,” concluded a group of agricultural scientists and economists. “But because at least 800 million people remain in deep poverty, . . . they are unable to purchase enough of the abundance to lift them out of chronic malnutrition.” Political meddling is involved in other cases. Dr. Abdelgalil Elmekki of the University of Toronto cites two examples in which thousands starved while their countries were exporting massive amounts of food. The governments seemed far more concerned with raising foreign currency to finance their wars than with feeding their citizens. Dr. Elmekki’s conclusion? Famine is often “a matter of distribution and government policy.”
7. What are the facts about pestilences today?
7 “Pestilences.” (Luke 21:11; Revelation 6:8) The Spanish influenza of 1918-19 claimed at least 21 million lives. “The world had never in history been ravaged by a killer that slew so many human beings so quickly,” writes A. A. Hoehling in The Great Epidemic. Today, pestilences rage on. Each year, cancer kills five million people, diarrheal diseases claim the lives of more than three million infants and children, and tuberculosis slays three million. Respiratory infections, mainly pneumonia, annually kill 3.5 million youngsters under five years of age. And a staggering 2.5 billion—half the world’s population—suffer from sicknesses that stem from insufficient or contaminated water and poor sanitation. AIDS looms as a further reminder that man, despite his significant medical accomplishments, is incapable of eradicating pestilences.
8. How are people proving to be “lovers of money”?
8 “Men will be . . . lovers of money.” (2 Timothy 3:2) In lands around the world, people seem to have an insatiable hunger for greater wealth. “Success” is often measured by the size of one’s paycheck, “accomplishment” by how much one owns. “Materialism will continue to be one of the driving forces in American society . . . and an increasingly important force in other major markets as well,” declared the vice president of an advertising agency. Is this happening where you live?
9. What can be said about the foretold disobedience to parents?
9 “Disobedient to parents.” (2 Timothy 3:2) Present-day parents, teachers, and others have firsthand evidence that many children are disrespectful and disobedient. Some of these youngsters are either reacting to or imitating their parents’ misbehavior. Increasing numbers of children are losing faith in—and rebelling against—school, the law, religion, and their parents. “As a trend,” says one veteran schoolteacher, “they seem to have very little respect for anything.” Happily, though, many God-fearing children are exemplary in behavior.
10, 11. What evidence is there that people are fierce and lacking in natural affection?
10 “Fierce.” (2 Timothy 3:3) The Greek word translated “fierce” means ‘untamed, wild, lacking human sympathy and feeling.’ How well this fits many perpetrators of today’s violence! “Life is so traumatic, so bloodied with horror that it takes a cast-iron stomach to read the daily news,” said one editorial. A housing-police sergeant noted that many youths seem to blind themselves to the consequences of their actions. He said: “There is a feeling that, ‘I don’t know about tomorrow. I’ll get what I want today.’”
11 “Having no natural affection.” (2 Timothy 3:3) This phrase is translated from a Greek word meaning “heartless, inhuman” and denoting a “lack of natural, family affection.” (The New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology) Yes, affection is often missing in the very environment in which it should flourish—the home. Reports of abusive treatment of marriage mates, children, and even of elderly parents have become disturbingly common. One research team commented: “Human violence—be it a slap or a shove, a knifing or a shoot-out—occurs more frequently within the family circle than anywhere else in our society.”
12. Why can it be said that people have only a form of godly devotion?
12 “Having a form of godly devotion but proving false to its power.” (2 Timothy 3:5) The Bible has the power to change lives for the better. (Ephesians 4:22-24) Yet, many today use their religion as a screen behind which they carry on unrighteous activities that displease God. Lying, stealing, and sexual misconduct are often condoned by religious leaders. Many religions preach love but support warfare. “In the name of the Supreme Creator,” observes an editorial in the magazine India Today, “human beings have perpetrated the most abominable atrocities against their fellow creatures.” In fact, the two bloodiest conflicts of recent times—World Wars I and II—erupted in the heart of Christendom.
13. What evidence is there that the earth is being ruined?
13 “Ruining the earth.” (Revelation 11:18) More than 1,600 scientists, including 104 Nobel laureates, from around the world endorsed a warning, issued by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), that stated: “Human beings and the natural world are on a collision course. . . . No more than a few decades remain before the chance to avert the threats will be lost.” The report said that man’s life-threatening practices “may so alter the world that it will be unable to sustain life in the manner that we know.” Ozone depletion, water pollution, deforestation, loss of soil productivity, and the extinction of many animal and plant species were cited as urgent problems that must be addressed. “Our tampering with the interdependent web of life,” said the UCS, “could trigger widespread effects, including collapses of biological systems whose dynamics we imperfectly understand.”
14. How could you prove that Matthew 24:14 is being fulfilled in our day?
14 “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth.” (Matthew 24:14) Jesus foretold that the good news of the Kingdom would be preached earth wide, for a witness to all the nations. With divine help and blessing, millions of Jehovah’s Witnesses are devoting billions of hours to this preaching and disciple-making work. (Matthew 28:19, 20) Yes, the Witnesses realize that they would be bloodguilty if they did not declare the good news. (Ezekiel 3:18, 19) But they are delighted that each year thousands gratefully respond to the Kingdom message and take their stand as true Christians, that is, as Witnesses of Jehovah. It is an inestimable privilege to serve Jehovah and thus spread the knowledge of God. And after this good news is preached in all the inhabited earth, the end of this wicked system will come.
RESPOND TO THE EVIDENCE
15. How will the present wicked system end?
15 How will this system end? The Bible foretells a “great tribulation” that will begin with an attack by this world’s political element upon “Babylon the Great,” the world empire of false religion. (Matthew 24:21; Revelation 17:5, 16) Jesus said that during this period ‘the sun would be darkened, and the moon would not give its light, and the stars would fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens would be shaken.’ (Matthew 24:29) This may denote literal celestial phenomena. In any case, the shining lights of the religious world will be exposed and eliminated. Then Satan, called “Gog of the land of Magog,” will use corrupted humans in making an all-out assault upon Jehovah’s people. But Satan will not succeed, for God will come to their rescue. (Ezekiel 38:1, 2, 14-23) “The great tribulation” will reach its climax in Armageddon, “the war of the great day of God the Almighty.” It will clean out every last vestige of Satan’s earthly organization, opening the way for endless blessings to flow to surviving mankind.—Revelation 7:9, 14; 11:15; 16:14, 16; 21:3, 4.
16. How do we know that the prophesied features of the last days apply to our time?
16 By themselves, some features of the prophecies describing the last days might seem to apply to other periods of history. But when combined, the prophesied evidences pinpoint our day. To illustrate: The lines making up a person’s fingerprint form a pattern that cannot belong to any other individual. Similarly, the last days have their own pattern of marks, or happenings. These form a “fingerprint” that cannot belong to any other time period. When considered along with Bible indications that God’s heavenly Kingdom is now ruling, the evidence provides a solid basis for concluding that these are indeed the last days. Moreover, there is clear Scriptural proof that the present wicked system will soon be destroyed.
17. What should the knowledge that these are the last days move us to do?
17 How will you respond to the evidence that these are the last days? Consider this: If a fiercely destructive storm is impending, we take precautionary measures without delay. Well, what the Bible foretells for this present system should move us to action. (Matthew 16:1-3) We can clearly see that we are living in the last days of this world system. This should motivate us to make any adjustments necessary to gain God’s favor. (2 Peter 3:3, 10-12) Referring to himself as the agent for salvation, Jesus sounds the urgent call: “Pay attention to yourselves that your hearts never become weighed down with overeating and heavy drinking and anxieties of life, and suddenly that day be instantly upon you as a snare. For it will come in upon all those dwelling upon the face of all the earth. Keep awake, then, all the time making supplication that you may succeed in escaping all these things that are destined to occur, and in standing before the Son of man.”—Luke 21:34-36.
Some Bibles use the word “world” instead of “system of things.” W. E. Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words says that the Greek word ai·onʹ “signifies a period of indefinite duration, or time viewed in relation to what takes place in the period.” Parkhurst’s Greek and English Lexicon to the New Testament (page 17) includes the expression “this system of things” in discussing the use of ai·oʹnes (plural) at Hebrews 1:2. So the rendering “system of things” is in harmony with the original Greek text.
TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE
What did the Bible foretell about world developments at the onset of Christ’s rule?
What are some features of the last days?
What convinces you that these are the last days?
[Box on page 102]
SOME FEATURES OF THE LAST DAYS
• Increasing lawlessness.—Matthew 24:12.
• Ruining of the earth.—Revelation 11:18.
• Earthquakes.—Matthew 24:7.
• Critical times hard to deal with.—2 Timothy 3:1.
• Inordinate love of money.—2 Timothy 3:2.
• Disobedience to parents.—2 Timothy 3:2.
• A lack of natural affection.—2 Timothy 3:3.
• Loving pleasures rather than God.—2 Timothy 3:4.
• A lack of self-control.—2 Timothy 3:3.
• Without love of goodness.—2 Timothy 3:3.
• Taking no note of the impending danger.—Matthew 24:39.
• Ridiculers reject proof of the last days.—2 Peter 3:3, 4.
• Global preaching of God’s Kingdom.—Matthew 24:14.
[Full-page picture on page 101]