Sign of the Kingdom in Power
Can we see it today? Is it unmistakable?
THE weather signs are carefully noted each day by multitudes of persons all around the globe. Comfort, livelihood and even life itself may well depend upon doing so. Yet these same multitudes pay little attention to the signs of the times in which we live, signs that point to a great storm of trouble ahead. If, instead of adopting the position that the future is a sealed book that no one should even try to understand, people would seek reliable information about it and how to read the signs of these times accurately, they would be asking as did Jesus’ disciples: “Teacher, when will these things actually be, and what will be the sign when these things are destined to occur?”—Luke 21:7.
What were “these things” about which the disciples inquired? At Lu 21 verse six of this same chapter of Luke’s Gospel there is record of Jesus’ warning about the approaching destruction of the temple at Jerusalem. At Lu 21 verses twenty to twenty-four he also prophesied that Jerusalem would be desolated and her inhabitants would “fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled on by the nations, until the appointed times of the nations are fulfilled.” One of those four inquiring disciples (John) survived to the year 70 C.E., when over a million Jews perished, mostly by the sword, and when General Titus shipped almost 100,000 into slavery in various parts of the Roman Empire. The city and its temple were burned and razed to the ground. Events thus proved the accuracy of Jesus’ prophecy.
WARS AND DISORDERS
In a parallel account it is to be noted that the disciples also inquired about something else: “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?” (Matt. 24:3) Note now Jesus’ reply to this inquiry. After pointing out that many would come and falsely claim to be the returned Lord and unduly excite people about the imminence of the end of the system of things, he declared: “Furthermore, when you hear of wars and disorders, do not be terrified. For these things must occur first, but the end does not occur immediately.” (Luke 21:9) This, then, is an intimation that a considerable period must elapse before the sign of his second presence would be observed.
The “wars and disorders” heard about by that and succeeding generations of Christians doubtless included the Jewish rebellions against Rome, one in 66 C.E. and another in 132 C.E., the long struggle between the Eastern and Western portions of the Empire for supremacy, the invasions by northern barbarians, the numerous wars among the splinters of the disintegrating Empire, the Crusades, the Thirty Years’ War, the Napoleonic War and many others. Why may we so understand the matter? Because Jesus had informed his disciples that “Jerusalem will be trampled on by the nations, until the appointed times of the nations are fulfilled.” (Luke 21:24) Through all that turbulent history up to the close of the nineteenth century they saw no emancipation for Jerusalem.
Not until in the latter half of the nineteenth century did watchful Christians begin to realize from prayerful study of Bible chronology that “the appointed times of the nations,” a period of 2,520 years during which godless human rulerships were to enjoy sway over earth’s inhabitants uninterrupted by heavenly intervention, were due to run out in the year 1914.a Not until that date, then, could there be fulfillment of the prophecy: “When the Son of man arrives in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit down on his glorious throne. And all the nations will be gathered before him” for judgment. (Matt. 25:31-33) So that year 1914 was awaited with great expectation. When World War I broke out that year involving all the leading nations of earth, and when unprecedented disease, epidemics and famine conditions followed, students of the Bible quickly detected fulfillment of Jesus’ words: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there will be great earthquakes, and in one place after another pestilences and food shortages; and there will be fearful sights and from heaven great signs.”—Luke 21:10, 11.
THE “SIGN” OF CHRIST’S PRESENCE
Distinguishing this war from the “wars and disorders” that preceded it, we should note that the national economies of all the combatant nations were so geared that every man, woman and child was forced to contribute toward the war effort. This war’s cost in terms of human lives lost in combat alone—almost 13,000,000—was more than double the cost of all the wars of the previous 125 years put together. In money value the cost ran well over $337,000,000,000, a staggering figure indeed. As the war drew to a close the “influenza” epidemic spread across the earth, greatly debilitating the more than 500,000,000 stricken by it, and leaving over 20,000,000 dead in its wake. Food shortages, occasioned in part by the concentration of manpower in war, took their ghastly toll of life also. In Soviet Russia alone several millions died from starvation between World War I and World War II.
After 1914, particularly since 1948, great subterranean forces seem to have been at work, convulsing our planet, rippling its surface with tremors and almost annually producing one or more disastrous earthquakes. In 1960 Peru, Morocco, Algeria, Japan and Chile were all stricken, with a total death toll exceeding 26,500. In Chile alone damage was estimated at more than $300,000,000. In 1962 Iran and Colombia suffered from great upheavals, Iran reporting some 12,400 dead. In 1963 Libya, Yugoslavia and Kashmir, India, were hardest hit, with a total of 1,390 dead and some 16,000 rendered homeless. Early this year, 1964, Alaska literally writhed, and damage from the quake and the subsequent seismic sea wave was reported to be in the neighborhood of $750,000,000. Certainly Jesus’ forecast that “there will be great earthquakes” has been undergoing a striking fulfillment in our time.
Jesus also foretold “fearful sights and from heaven great signs.” Had we been within a kilometer of Hiroshima, Japan, on that fateful date in 1945 when an atomic explosion mushroomed into the skies and rained down a living death upon any remaining life in the immediate area, we should have experienced the chill of fear. Since then, as we learn of mere humans having it in their power to explode bombs of vastly greater power of destruction, mankind’s future seems very limited. As men with their greatly improved scientific instruments probe into the mysteries of sun, moon and stars, doing so with military objectives as the main concern, fear and anxiety for the future are greatly heightened. Conjectures of some scientists about the future of the sun and our planet are most disquieting to many people. Some foresee the sun running out of energy and leaving our earth out in the frigid cold, while others see the sun’s radiance intensifying to the point where earth and its contents are roasted to a crisp. The specter of fear today haunts all mankind.
JERUSALEM STILL TRAMPLED BY NATIONS?
Surely all the features comprising the “sign” of Christ’s second presence with Kingdom power are now observable! But what about earthly Jerusalem? Would she now be emancipated? No; rather, strife and partition have come to that Palestinian city where Arab and Jew haggle over real estate. But reverent students of God’s Word have come to realize that it was not this Jerusalem and Israel to which the promised relief would come. Had not Jesus clearly stated that “the kingdom of God will be taken from you [fleshly Israel] and be given to a nation producing its fruits”? (Matt. 21:43) What nation is that? Paul shows that all the promises that fleshly Israel failed to obtain would now be fulfilled on Abraham’s spiritual descendants, for he declares: “Moreover, if you belong to Christ, you are really Abraham’s seed, heirs with reference to a promise.” (Gal. 3:29) As to that spiritual Israel the same apostle writes that “our citizenship exists in the heavens,” while John testifies that the holy city, the New Jerusalem, has its location in heaven.—Phil. 3:20; Heb. 12:22.
In 1914 the “appointed times of the [Gentile] nations” ended and the heavenly Jerusalem gave birth to God’s kingdom that must rule all those Gentile nations with a rod of iron, to smash them to bits. (Rev. 12:1-5) Now those Gentile nations must themselves be trodden in the winepress of God’s anger. (Rev. 19:15, 16) Their end nears!
In the year 1919 spiritual Israelites still on earth who were suffering from a crippling of their God-given preaching work by the nations of earth were freed from a state of fear and inactivity and disorganization. From then till now their fearless preaching of the Kingdom good news in all the earth, in peacetime and in wartime, regardless of the national and international pressures exerted against them, can be explained only by the fact that the invisible Kingdom rule of Christ has emancipated these citizens of the New Jerusalem for the very work foretold by Jesus: “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.” (Matt. 24:14) Only after heavenly intervention came due, when the “appointed times of the nations” were fulfilled in 1914, could such a message be appropriately proclaimed earth-wide.
How unmistakable, then, the “sign” of the Kingdom’s powerful invisible presence! Forearmed with this information, we can and should take the steps that will bring protection from the oncoming, greatest storm of all time, the storm of Jehovah’s anger and execution against all the nations and their system of things. “Seek meekness. Probably you may be concealed in the day of Jehovah’s anger,” is the counsel of God’s prophet. Concealment will mean life under the righteous, everlasting rule of Christ’s peaceful kingdom.—Zeph. 2:3.
a For a detailed discussion of this point, see the book “Babylon the Great Has Fallen!” God’s Kingdom Rules!, pages 174-181.