As Age-Old Institutions Crumble, Is Survival Possible?
WHEN the spirit of the people is affected it has a shaking effect upon governments, educational institutions, religions and established ways and customs. No matter how old and venerable they may be, they are seriously altered or crumble into ruin.
In previous issues of The Watchtower the spirit of the world has been defined as the frame of mind, the inclination of the mind, the persistent tendency that controls the world of mankind. It moves the world to certain characteristic conduct, namely, to speak, to think and to take certain attitudes and viewpoints and to decide and act in a certain way that follows a definite pattern.
The Bible speaks of the Devil, the source of this spirit, as “the spirit that now operates in the sons of disobedience,” and shows that the ruler of the authority of the air motivates people to act disobediently toward God. (Eph. 2:2) This ruler is described as the “god of this world,” as the wicked one in whose power the whole world lies and as the Devil and Satan, who is misleading the entire inhabited earth.—2 Cor. 4:4; 1 John 5:19; Rev. 12:5.
WHAT THE SPIRIT OF THIS WORLD PRODUCES
There is no doubt that the spirit of the world has lately been stirred up to bring about sweeping changes. We find it expressed in the spirit of uncertainty, the spirit of unbelief and of rebellion, the spirit of doing just what one desires without any restraint or consideration of the rights of others. Donald Thorman, publisher of the National Catholic Reporter, described the attitude of Roman Catholics today to be free to deny or ignore doctrine and yet to count themselves as good members of the church;a he said this is an “age of unbelief that has finally begun to hit the church in America.” Philosopher Michael Novak believes that the Roman Catholic Church faces “a cultural crisis of the first order of magnitude.” We see similar attitudes expressed by students of universities and colleges, also by the professors and teachers, lawlessness increasing in greater percentages than the population and governments falling or being changed often and almost overnight. Old, established standards of morality are forsaken for loose morality. Coups d’etat, that is, unconstitutional changes in government, take place about once a month.
God is, of course, displeased with the spirit of this world. The Bible book of Revelation shows that he expresses his indignation against it by pouring out one of the seven plagues or bowls of his anger upon it. This is bound to stir up Satan and also to stir up the spirit of the world, to cause it to become more active, more violent and destructive and more obviously and definitely against God. The plague reveals how God views men influenced by the spirit of the world and also portrays the actual results to them of his anger carried out against them.
At Revelation 16:17-21 we read: “And the seventh [angel] poured out his bowl upon the air. At this a loud voice issued out of the sanctuary from the throne, saying: ‘It has come to pass!’ And lightnings and voices and thunders occurred, and a great earthquake occurred such as had not occurred since men came to be on the earth, so extensive an earthquake, so great. And the great city split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell; and Babylon the great was remembered in the sight of God, to give her the cup of the wine of the anger of his wrath. Also, every island fled, and mountains were not found. And a great hail with every stone about the weight of a talent [around a hundred pounds] descended out of heaven upon the men, and the men blasphemed God due to the plague of hail, because the plague of it was unusually great.”
GOD MAKES KNOWN HIS ANGER
When Jehovah’s witnesses are used to announce or declare these plagues they have no part in enforcing the effect of them or of carrying out God’s judgments; God himself does this. At a convention of God’s people in Detroit in August 1928, a marked declaration of this plague upon the spirit of the world was expressed.b Revelation 16:18 says in connection with the seventh plague: “And lightnings and voices and thunders occurred.” These were, of course, not literal lightnings, thunders and heavenly voices, but symbolic ones. On August 1 of the Detroit convention the Society’s president delivered a Bible talk on “God’s Lightnings.” Since then there have been other flashes of spiritual enlightenment, other thunderings of divine judgments and other voicelike proclamations or publications of Bible truth.
A prominent fulfillment of this occurred at the 1953 international assembly of Jehovah’s witnesses at Yankee Stadium, New York city, on Thursday, July 23, when the address on the subject “New World Society Attacked from the Far North” was delivered to an audience of 112,000. It revealed that “Gog of the land of Magog,” foretold in Ezekiel, chapters 38 and 39, is Satan the Devil. Since he has been thrown out of the heavens, as described in Revelation 12:5-10, his spirit has violently affected the spirit of the whole world. He can fight God by fighting those on earth who represent His kingdom. He is foretold to make a final assault upon the peaceful New World society of Jehovah’s witnesses. This will bring God’s invisible protective hosts in full fury against Satan’s organization on earth, to destroy it completely. Satan is very busy cultivating his spirit among the nations in order to lead them to this fight, which will prove so disastrous to them.
EARTH’S MOST TREMENDOUS SHAKE-UP
The description of the effects of the plague continues: “And a great earthquake occurred such as had not occurred since men came to be on the earth, so extensive an earthquake, so great.” Earthquakes are the most destructive of the natural forces that man has experienced, and they are increasing in frequency in our times. One of more than average intensity took place at noon on September 1, 1923, and left Tokyo, Japan, and adjacent cities in ruins. The death toll was 100,000, and 43,000 remained missing. The violence was such that in some fields potatoes were thrown out of the ground. The depth of Sagami bay was increased in places a maximum of 690 feet and decreased as much as 820 feet. The earthquake that destroyed Lisbon, Portugal, in 1903 was said to have shaken an area four times as large as Europe.
What, then, would happen to man’s works if an earthquake should shake the entire earth? Revelation’s earthquake, however, is symbolic, though literal quakes may well be used by Jehovah in the final part of the shaking. Revelation’s vision therefore symbolizes a colossal shaking to come. It is more than a shaking of institutions merely because of the spirit of the world being stirred up. It is a shaking from the Almighty God as an expression of his anger against that spirit in the people.
The shaking is greater than the shaking now taking place due to the proclamation of the Kingdom message. The publication of the established kingdom of God does not destroy this world. It causes consternation, especially in Babylon the Great, shaking its member religious organizations, shaking out from the nations the “desirable things.” That is, it causes to come forth from the world to Jehovah’s organization the people who love God and who fear him and want to serve him. God is interested in lives, and these right-hearted persons are the really valuable things in God’s eyes. (Hag. 2:6, 7, 21, 22) The earthquake here described will bring the cities of the nations crashing down in ruins and the national governments of this world will be shaken to destruction with them. Only God’s heavenly kingdom and the kingdom interests in the earth will remain standing. This earthquake pictures the world’s final trouble, the climax of the great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning until now, no, nor will occur again.—Matt. 24:21; Heb. 12:20-28.
BABYLON THE GREAT IRREPARABLY SMASHED
“And the great city split into three parts, and the cities of the nations fell; and Babylon the great was remembered in the sight of God, to give her the cup of the wine of the anger of his wrath.” The “great city” has reference to Babylon the Great, spoken of in Revelation 17:18 as “the great city that has a kingdom over the kings of the earth.” It is a religious kingdom and represents the world empire of false religion. The number three is used in the Bible many times, representing emphasis. Babylon’s being split into three parts symbolizes a very serious, thorough breaking up of it.
From this we can see what a tremendous shaking the world empire of false religion will undergo and how it will be torn apart and will fall beyond repair or recovery. While the rulers, as the Bible indicates, will have to do with the destruction of false religion, yet it is really from Jehovah God that this destruction comes, for the Revelation says that it is God who gives her the cup of the wine of his wrath. This cup of his wrath first exposes her, then causes her to be destroyed. It will make her so drunk with woe and shame that she will never recover from its effects and wake up. God has not ignored her centuries of wickedness. He has seen and has kept a record. All the wickedness that she has done has been “in the sight of God” and he pays her back with destruction.
“Also, every island fled, and mountains were not found.” To destroy a mountain or an island would be greater than destroying a city, but the coming world earthquake of trouble at God’s hands will affect the sea and land tremendously. Nothing will be too distant or isolated, as an island in the sea, or too lofty and sturdy like a mountain in Satan’s visible organization, to escape destruction. The age of the institutions will make no difference. Some institutions have been able to survive turbulent times and the raging of the sea of revolutionary, radical, nihilistic elements for hundreds of years. But in this earthquake there will be no escape, none able to withstand the shaking at God’s hands. Only those supporting his Kingdom will find refuge.—Ps. 46:2, 3.
AT THE LAST, A DEVASTATING HAILSTORM
The seventh plague poured out upon the air or spirit of this world accomplishes these things and also much more, because it affects the atmosphere itself. Therefore Revelation 16:21 continues: “And a great hail with every stone about the weight of a talent descended out of heaven upon the men, and the men blasphemed God due to the plague of hail, because the plague of it was unusually great.” So from the atmosphere there crash down hailstones on men, hailstones of tremendous size, weighing ninety-six pounds avoirdupois. They fall with great speed and cause stupendous destruction. Since hailstones are congealed water, this hailstorm pictures that heaven would send down upon worldly mankind a barrage of hard Biblical truths. Jehovah’s witnesses are now preaching a message of deliverance and salvation for those who will take refuge in the Kingdom, which cannot be shaken. But the hailstones picture, not a message of deliverance, but the hard, unyielding proclamation of God’s vengeance against Satan’s visible organization. Jehovah’s witnesses will at the last deliver this stinging message, presaging the destruction of the men upon whom it falls.
The men who are affected by this hailstorm are those who did not call upon the name of Jehovah for salvation, but who blasphemed him at hearing the judgment messages and the execution of these. They refused in the past to hear the message that would have meant salvation for them and now they especially hate this condemning declaration. (Joel 2:32; Rom. 10:13) The fact that the plague of it was unusually great foreshows that at the last there will be an unusually great proclamation of God’s vengeance by Jehovah’s witnesses.
That the seventh plague will indeed finish the anger of God upon the world is illustrated in the picture here given in Revelation. It indicates that those who survive the symbolic earthquake will without fail be destroyed by the accurately aimed executional hailstones from the heavens. Not that the truths themselves kill them, but the judgments that God executes in harmony with the truths expressed.—Job 38:22, 23; Ps. 148:7, 8; Isa. 28:2-17.
CAN ANYTHING REMAIN?
But what about survival? Is it possible to live and experience something better than the present situation? It is true that this judgment will be severe indeed on those who hate God and who blaspheme him, but it will be good for those who love God and who want to see righteousness in the earth. Such persons will escape this last plague by studying his Word. They must now apply themselves to the cultivation of God’s spirit to produce the fruitage of the spirit, which constitutes the things that bring good into the lives of men. They are “love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control.” (Gal. 5:22, 23) They are the exact opposite of the things produced by the spirit of this world, which things do good to no one, namely, the works of the flesh: “fornication, uncleanness, loose conduct, idolatry, practice of spiritism, hatreds, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, contentions, divisions, sects, envies, drunken bouts, revelries, and things like these.”—Gal. 5:19-21.
The questions clearly set for decision before each one who hears the proclamation and reads and understands these things are, Which fruitage do you want? Do you want to live a short time in a world filled with works of the flesh and then die forever, or do you want everlasting life in a world filled with the fine fruitage of God’s spirit? Right now, when this seventh and last plague is being poured out, the time is fast being reduced during which there is an opening for one to receive salvation from the earthquake and the unusually great rain of hailstones. Act quickly to escape the final crash. Even though you may look upon a religion, a government or an institution or ideology as age-lasting, forsake it now for the only lasting thing, God’s kingdom by Christ.
a Time, September 16, 1966.
b See The Watchtower, December 15, 1966.