Why the Changes in World Governments Since 1914?
TODAY is a time when the most firmly established institutions are falling or changing their principles and structures radically to avoid complete fall. Witness the decay of the colonial system of government and the unrest and instability created by rising tides of socialism and communism. Keen observers of history and world conditions note that the turning point in the affairs of men, especially as to government, was marked by the year 1914. Expressions* such as “the turning point in our time,” “a dividing line in history,” “from the ‘golden age’ into a volcanic epoch,” “The last completely normal year in history was 1913,” “Ever since 1914 the world has been reeling drunkenly toward disaster,” are all quotations from such men concerning the year 1914.
There would be little comfort in these words were it not for the fact that Jehovah, the God of all comfort, has given us a complete answer to the questions that arise as to the cause of these changes, whether there is a purpose behind them or not, and the outcome. It is not for mere history that he preserved the record of the kingdom of Judah with its sad ending. It is so that we may get a correct answer to these very questions and have a sure, reliable guide in a time when nothing else is certain.
God was dealing with Judah to represent things that would take place on a far grander scale. He established the throne of David in Jerusalem and it was called “Jehovah’s throne.” But it was merely typical, for no earthly throne could really be that of the sovereign Ruler of the universe, God himself. It indicated that there would be One far greater than David who would permanently occupy the throne of world domination. This is corroborated by David himself, in speaking prophetically of the Kingdom to come.—Ps. 110:1, 2; Luke 20:41-44; Acts 2:32-36.
Jehovah God held world sovereignty or world domination in his hands. As long as the kings of Judah were faithful, no government in the world could overthrow them, but the time came when Jehovah decreed Judah’s overturn because it became wicked like the pagan nations and no longer reflected the righteous qualities of His sovereignty. This, of course, brought reproach upon God’s name and gave the nations a seeming reason to defame him. (Ezek. 36:20) Those who really desired to live under God’s righteous sovereign government were heartbroken by reason of the captivity that God permitted Babylon to exercise over Judah and the consequent reproach. This sad condition was feelingly summed up by their psalmist:
“By the rivers of Babylon—there we sat down. We also wept when we remembered Zion. Upon the poplar trees in the midst of her we hung our harps. For there those holding us captive asked us for the words of a song, and those mocking us—for rejoicing: ‘Sing for us one of the songs of Zion.’ How can we sing the song of Jehovah upon foreign ground? If I should forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand be forgetful. Let my tongue stick to my palate, if I were not to remember you, if I were not to make Jerusalem ascend above my chief cause for rejoicing. . . . O daughter of Babylon, who are to be despoiled, happy will he be that rewards you with your own treatment with which you treated us. Happy will he be that grabs ahold and does dash to pieces your children against the crag.”—Ps. 137:1-9.
THE MARCH OF WORLD POWERS
These Jews knew from Isaiah’s and Jeremiah’s prophecies that Babylon would be overthrown. (Isa. 47:1-3; Jer. 51:1-4) Daniel’s prophecies would give further details. Daniel was one of the young Jewish captives taken into exile with King Jehoiachin in 617 B.C.E. Daniel and three of his companions, after three years’ special training, were found eminently qualified when they were brought before King Nebuchadnezzar to serve as counselors. (Dan. 1:1-21) This was in the twelfth year of Nebuchadnezzar’s kingship, or in 614 B.C.E. In the second year after Nebuchadnezzar’s destruction of Jerusalem in 607 B.C.E., which would be the twentieth year of his kingship over Babylon but the second year of his exercise of world domination, he had a dream that was a prophecy from God. (Dan. 2:1) In the dream he saw a huge image with a golden head, breast and arms of silver, belly and thighs of copper and legs of iron, with feet of iron and clay. Daniel, interpreting the dream, explained that this golden head represented Nebuchadnezzar (which would include his dynasty) in the position of world domination, but he also said, “After you there will rise another kingdom inferior to you.” (Dan. 2:37-39) It was plain that Babylon would fall, but not by the kingdom of God, which was foretold to strike the image at its feet and to smash the image. Babylon’s fall would come at the hands of a world power represented by the breast and arms of the image, to succeed Babylon as world power. All these world powers, to the number of four after Babylon, would not be permanent, but would be followed by one that would be permanent, the kingdom established by the God of heaven.* Daniel said:
“And in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that will never be brought to ruin. And the kingdom itself will not be passed on to any other people. It will crush and put an end to all these kingdoms, and it itself will stand to times indefinite; forasmuch as you beheld that out of the mountain a stone was cut not by hands, and that it crushed the iron, the copper, the molded clay, the silver and the gold. The grand God himself has made known to the king what is to occur after this. And the dream is reliable, and the interpretation of it is trustworthy.”—Dan. 2:44, 45.
Is there any information given us by the sovereign God who governs these times and events so that we can tell the set time for all this world-shaking change to occur? Yes, thanks to the God of comfort, we do have a clear and definite revelation that brings to Bible students the greatest comfort. The same prophet Daniel records another dream of Nebuchadnezzar in which he saw an immense tree that an angel from heaven commanded to be chopped down. Its stump was then banded with iron and copper and had to stay that way among the grass of the field until “seven times” passed over it. “Let its heart be changed from that of mankind, and let the heart of a beast be given to it, and let seven times pass over it.” To what intent? “To the intent that people living may know that the Most High is Ruler in the kingdom of mankind and that to the one whom he wants to, he gives it.”—Dan. 4:1-18.
JEHOVAH CONTROLS WORLD SOVEREIGNTY
Whom did the tree symbolize? Nebuchadnezzar! As Daniel said: “It is you, O king, because you have grown great and become strong, and your grandeur has grown great and reached to the heavens, and your rulership to the extremity of the earth.” At the time of the dream, Nebuchadnezzar held world domination and had served as Jehovah’s instrument or “cup” of judgment. Hence the tree as represented in this king of the Third World Power pictured world sovereignty or domination. In support of this explanation, Daniel 4:26 says: “Because they said to leave the rootstock of the tree, your kingdom will be sure to you.” He was to be driven from his throne into the field to eat grass like bulls. But, like that tree stump, his kingdom was to be held for him until he had spent “seven times” out in the grassy field like a bull. Then he would come to his senses again and be obliged to confess that the Most High God rules supreme and gives the kingdom of mankind to whom he wants to give it.
This prediction actually befell King Nebuchadnezzar one year later. At a time when Nebuchadnezzar was boasting of his accomplishments in Babylon a voice from heaven announced that the tree dream would now be fulfilled upon him. He was seized with madness such as marks the disease of lycanthropy. Instead of wanting to sit on his throne, he went out into the field to eat grass. His throne was not taken by a usurper, but was held for him by God’s power until his return after “seven times” or seven literal years. When restored to his throne, he acknowledged God as Universal Sovereign and said: “His rulership is a rulership to time indefinite and his kingdom is for generation after generation. And all the inhabitants of the earth are being considered as merely nothing, and he is doing according to his own will among the army of the heavens and the inhabitants of the earth. And there exists no one that can check his hand or that can say to him, ‘What have you been doing?’” He further stated: “Those who are walking in pride he is able to humiliate.”—Dan. 4:19-37.
This return to kingship was not the establishment of the kingdom of God, for Nebuchadnezzar had never been a worshiper of the true God, but worshiped the Babylonian idol gods, as was shown by his attempt to force Daniel’s three faithful companions Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego to worship a great golden idol that he set up on the plain of Dura. For their upholding Jehovah’s sovereignty and refusing to bow to the idol, he threw them into a superheated furnace, but he found out then that Jehovah was superior, for He protected these three uncompromising worshipers of the true God. (Daniel, chapter 3) Nebuchadnezzar never built a temple to Jehovah God even after his restoration from the seven years of madness, but he did build fifty-four temples at Babylon to all the false gods, which gods symbolized merely the attributes of Bel and his son Marduk, or Merodach. He also built great public works. He made Babylon the wonder city of the ancient world and, to satisfy the homesick longings of his Median queen, he built the famous Hanging Gardens of Babylon that were rated as one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.
KINGDOM NEVER RESTORED TO JUDAH
Ever since the kingdom covenant had been made with David and his line of descent, one ruling by Jehovah’s right sat upon the throne in Jerusalem, and the Gentile world powers, therefore, had the kingdom of Judah in their way as a roadblock to complete world domination. But when Judah was cut down and went into exile in 607 B.C.E., then world domination as typically symbolized in the kingdom of Judah passed into the hands of Gentile rulers, beginning with Nebuchadnezzar. In the case of Judah, however, the kingdom was not restored at the end of seven years, neither was it restored at the time of their release and return from Babylon years later, in 537 B.C.E., because even this was done under the authority of another Gentile power, Persia, successor to Babylon as world power and represented in the dream image of Nebuchadnezzar, in Daniel, chapter 2, by the breast and arms of the image, coming after the head of gold. The Jews themselves admitted this later on, 152 years after the Babylonians had destroyed Jerusalem, namely, in 455 B.C.E. The Levites said, in public prayer to Jehovah God before the people gathered at the rebuilt temple:
“Finally you gave them into the hand of the peoples of the lands. And in your abundant mercy you did not make an extermination of them or leave them; for you are a God gracious and merciful. . . . Look! We are today slaves; and as for the land that you gave to our forefathers to eat its fruitage and its good things, look! we are slaves upon it, and its produce is abounding for the kings that you have put over us because of our sins, and over our bodies they are ruling and over our domestic animals, according to their liking, and we are in great distress.”—Neh. 9:4, 5, 30-37.
The long period of Gentile world domination is called the “appointed times of the nations” in the Scriptures. Jesus said, more than five hundred years after the Jews’ release from Babylon and restoration to Jerusalem: “Jerusalem will be trampled on by the nations, until the appointed times of the nations are fulfilled.” (Luke 21:24) Even though Jerusalem at that time was still standing, yet the kingship in the hands of a king of the line of David was not restored. The Jews were under the oppressive hand of the Sixth World Power, the Roman Empire, their nation to be destroyed later, in 70 C.E., by this world power. So certainly the kingdom right, represented by Jerusalem, was being trodden upon and the nation was in the hands of the Gentile rulers.
Nebuchadnezzar, a pagan, and never a worshiper of Jehovah God, was not himself important, and while his kingdom was restored to him after seven years of madness, it was not for his benefit that this drama was enacted. Also, Judah was only a typical kingdom and its kingship was never restored. So, then, there is a great major fulfillment. This would mean that the “seven times” would have a larger, extended meaning, at the end of which “times” the kingdom of God in the hands of Shiloh would be established. What is the length of a symbolic “time” and of the “seven times”?
LENGTH OF THE APPOINTED TIMES OF THE NATIONS
The year of the Jewish and Babylonian calendars varied in length from as low as 354 days to as high as 385 days. But in the Bible’s symbolic or prophetic “time,” or year, the number of days is fixed at 360. Seven of such years would be 7 X 360 = 2,520 days. This is corroborated by the statement in Revelation 12:6, 14, where it speaks of “a time and times and half a time” or three and one-half times, as 1,260 days. If we divide 1,260 by three and one-half (3.5), it gives us three hundred and sixty (360) days to a “time,” or year.
As to the greater length of time that these 2,520 days pictured, we find the rule of “a day for a year” in a prophecy of Ezekiel, who prophesied contemporaneously with Daniel and who also had the matter of “bands” connected with his prophecy. Another prophecy by Daniel with respect to the first coming of the Messiah, namely, the prophecy of the “seventy weeks,” is understood by Bible scholars to apply the same rule.—Ezek. 4:6; Dan. 9:24, 25. See also Numbers 14:34, which deals with a period of punishment or disfavor.
Therefore, the 2,520 days of the “seven times” would be 2,520 years in fulfillment. These years, in their fulfillment, would not be merely 360 days each, but full calendar years as we count them. For we must remember that the variation of the Jewish calendar was to adjust the lunar year to harmonize with the solar year. It could be termed a “soli-lunar” or “bound lunar” year. Days, or months, were inserted at intervals to make up the difference of approximately eleven days between the lunar and the solar year. By this means the seasons always fell in their proper place in the calendar.* So their calendar would be almost exactly in line with the currently used Gregorian calendar. So the 2,520 years are to be counted as solar years.
These 2,520 years began to count in 607 B.C.E., when God let go the world domination as represented by his typical kingdom on earth. That was when Jehovah used Nebuchadnezzar to destroy Jerusalem and its temple, chase King Zedekiah off “Jehovah’s throne” and take him into exile, after which the fear of the Chaldeans caused the lowly people left behind to flee down into Egypt, leaving the territory of Judah desolate, with no governor there, leaving no possibility of interference from Judah. Nebuchadnezzar thereby “chopped down” the “tree” representing world domination, which was now transferred to Babylon. Thus desolation was accomplished in the seventh lunar month of the year 607 B.C.E. First then, Jerusalem, as representative of God’s kingdom, began to be trodden down, and thus the Gentile Times, “the appointed times of the nations,” began. Now Gentile domination, without interference from God’s kingdom, held sway over the earth. Moreover, the Gentile world powers acted beastly, like Nebuchadnezzar during his “seven times” of madness.
Counting from the seventh lunar month (Tishri) of 607 B.C.E., 2,520 years would end in the middle of the month Tishri (or near October 1), 1914 C.E. That is an unforgettable year, for in 1914 World War I broke out and the Gentile system of things has never been the same since then.
In the dream of the tree, the stump had been left in the earth, showing that Jehovah had not abandoned his kingdom covenant with the line of David and had not forever let go of his universal domination. Strong bands of copper and iron were put around the stump, representing Jehovah’s restraining force, his self-restraint in not taking hold of universal domination and putting his king on the throne during the “seven times” in which he would permit the Gentile nations to rule. In 1914 it was time for these bands to be removed and time for the symbolic tree stump to sprout again by Jehovah’s exercise of his sovereignty in taking up universal domination and setting up his theocratic kingdom.—Rev. 11:15-18; Luke 21:24.
ENTHRONEMENT OF SHILOH SHAKES THE NATIONS
At the time of Nebuchadnezzar’s return to his throne God did not take up universal domination again but merely got a confession from Nebuchadnezzar that Jehovah was the Most High and exercised the right in the kingdom of mankind. But in 1914 the government set up was no temporary, pictorial or typical thing, but was the real Kingdom in the hands of Shiloh, to whom it belongs. He is David’s royal descendant who has the legal right to kingship, according to Jehovah’s covenant with King David for an everlasting kingdom. Since 1914, Shiloh, like Nebuchadnezzar, has publicly acknowledged Jehovah to be the “King of the heavens.” However, on earth the Gentile powers have continued on their beastly course, at a pace more destructive than ever.—Gen. 49:10; Ezek. 21:27.
Jehovah had invited this Shiloh, Jesus Christ, when resurrected 1900 years ago, to sit at his right hand in heaven till his time to make all Shiloh’s enemies a stool for his feet. Having been enthroned in 1914, taking up world domination, he now rules in the midst of his enemies. (Ps. 110:1, 2) The enemies, intent on maintaining their own political rulership and trying to hold on to world domination illegally, will not give up without a fight. But they are terribly shaken. Christ is having the message declared worldwide that Jehovah God has again taken hold of his sovereign domination and that the kingdom is established. He calls on all to acknowledge this kingdom, for it has already been cut out of the mountain, “not by hands,” and is moving toward the great image of world governments to destroy and desolate them at the war of Armageddon. This will completely do away with any possibility of interference from Gentile rule. The exercise of God’s sovereignty by his kingdom will remove all the beastliness of oppressive world governments and will mean for mankind unending sanity in government and the blessings of everlasting life and peace. It is a comfort to lovers of righteousness to have such a clear revelation of the meaning of world developments and to see that the present unsettled world conditions mean that God is exercising his sovereignty through the established kingdom under Christ and that political domination by imperfect men is on the way out. As to prophecies that give us further assurance of God’s complete control of world domination in his own decreed times, please see the next several issues of this magazine.
For sources see The Watchtower, December 1, 1954, p. 711.
See The Jewish Encyclopedia, under “Calendar.”