How We Know We Live in the “Last Days”
An entire system of things is to pass away. How can we be certain it is in our day?
THE “last” of anything means the final part, the finish, the end. For example, the last day of the week means the final twenty-four hours that bring the week to a conclusion.
When the Bible speaks of the “last days,” it has reference, not just to days of a week, but to something far greater. When 2 Timothy 3:1 states that “in the last days critical times hard to deal with will be here,” it refers to a period of time marked by catastrophic events world wide. It means that all elements of this system of things, the political, the military, the economic, the social and the religious, would be nearing their cataclysmic finish.
As the last day of a week has a definite beginning and a definite end, so the “last days” of this entire system of things have a definite beginning and a definite end. During that limited span of time world events are to build rapidly toward a climax. That climax will come when God himself brings to an end this wicked system and replaces it with one that is good. The Bible promises: “There are new heavens and a new earth that we are awaiting according to his promise, and in these righteousness is to dwell.”—2 Pet. 3:8-13.
HOW WOULD WE KNOW?
But how can we know when the world has reached its “last days”? Apart from Bible chronology, is there any way to determine for a certainty which period of time will see the end of this present system of things?
In the first century the disciples of Jesus wanted to know that too, so they pointedly asked him what would be the sign “of the conclusion of the system of things.” (Matt. 24:3) In answer, Jesus enumerated many of the momentous events that would take place. These events would come together within one generation to identify the “last days” clearly. They 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 unique grouping of marks, or events, forming a positive “fingerprint” that cannot belong to any other time period.
When the many factors are put together, we find that our generation, our day is the one that is identified in the Bible as the “last days.” In fact, in this year 1967 we are actually living in the final part of that time! This can be compared to, not just the last day of a week, but, rather, the last part of that last day.
1914 BEGINS THE “LAST DAYS”
Before describing the “last days,” Jesus cautioned: “You are going to hear of wars and reports of wars; see that you are not terrified. For these things must take place, but the end is not yet.” (Matt. 24:6) True to his words, there were many disturbances among nations during the centuries that followed, and the simple fact is that the “last days” did not come during that time.
Then Jesus related some of the events that would mark the “last days.” He stated: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.” Following this “there will be great earthquakes, and in one place after another pestilences and food shortages.” (Luke 21:10, 11) What was Jesus telling his future followers? To look for a disastrous war the dimensions of which were unheard of in history, one that would be accompanied quickly by other disasters, such as disease, food shortages and earthquakes.
Which war was Jesus speaking about? World War I! It was the first war to fill the description he gave, for it included, not just nations, but entire kingdoms, indeed, the entire world. Speaking of World War I, Life magazine stated: “It killed more men than any previous war, and it was the first war to suck in whole nations, including civilians.”1
No previous war in history compared with it. It was so different that historians of that time called it The Great War. Of it, an encyclopedia states: “World War I took the lives of twice as many men as all major wars from 1790 to 1913 put together.” It noted that total military casualties were over 37,000,000, and added: “The number of civilian deaths in areas of actual war totaled about 5,000,000. Starvation, disease, and exposure accounted for about 80 of every 100 of these civilian deaths. Spanish influenza, which some persons blamed on the war, caused tens of millions of other deaths.”2 World War! Pestilences! Food shortages! Just as Jesus foretold!
Yes, 1914 marked the “beginning of pangs of distress,” as Jesus declared. (Matt. 24:8) It was the dividing line, the start of the “last days,” as can be noted from the statements of many authorities. On the anniversary of World War I the London Evening Star commented that the conflict “tore the whole world’s political setup apart. Nothing could ever be the same again. If we all get the nuclear madness out of our systems and the human race survives, some historian in the next century may well conclude that the day the world went mad was August 4, 1914.”3
Former chancellor of West Germany Konrad Adenauer spoke of the time “before 1914 when there was real peace, quiet and security on this earth—a time when we didn’t know fear. . . . Security and quiet have disappeared from the lives of men since 1914. And peace? Since 1914, the Germans have not known real peace nor has much of mankind.”4 Similarly, former president of the United States Dwight D. Eisenhower said: “A deterioration has been going on since the first World War.”5
Also, as Jesus foretold, after 1914 a series of earthquakes rocked the globe, causing more damage and casualties than ever before. In 1915, at Avezzano, Italy, 30,000 were killed. In 1920, 180,000 died in Kansu, China. In 1923, 143,000 perished in Japan. And earthquakes have continued to occur with frightening intensity, taking a toll of lives greater than in any other period of human history. Now almost every year sees a major tragedy due to earthquakes. Just since 1960 there have been devastating earthquakes in Morocco, Chile, Iran, Yugoslavia, Alaska, Turkey and other areas. Clearly it makes up another mark of the “fingerprint” of these “last days.”
MORE TO COME
However, the events that took place in connection with World War I were, as Jesus said, only the “beginning” of the “last days.” Much more was to come. And it did.
Note what one history source says: “World War I and its aftermath led to the greatest economic depression an history during the early 1930’s. The consequences of the war and the problems of adjustment to peace led to unrest in almost every nation.” All of this led directly to World War II. How costly was it? “World War II killed more persons, cost more money, damaged more property, affected more people, and probably caused more far-reaching changes than any other war in history. . . . It has been estimated that the number of war dead, civilian and military, totaled more than 22,000,000. The number of wounded has been estimated as more than 34,000,000.”6
That is a total of 56,000,000 casualties, almost 20,000,000 more than in World War I! Truly, the “pangs of distress” were becoming more acute as the “last days” moved toward their end.
This is also true of other catastrophes, such as food shortages. During and after World War II “more died of starvation” than in World War I, says the same source. It adds: “The war left millions in Europe and Asia without adequate food, shelter, or clothing. They lacked fuel, machinery, raw materials, and money. Their farms lay devastated. Infant mortality and disease were high.”7
Nor have such conditions eased. In India today, says U.S. News & World Report of December 27, 1965, “a natural calamity almost unprecedented in modern times is facing this nation. Widespread famine, of a kind not seen in the world in this generation, is expected as the inevitable consequence unless outside aid can come.”
VIOLENCE, IMMORALITY, DEGENERACY
Jesus also said there would be an “increasing of lawlessness.” (Matt. 24:12) The apostle Paul foretold juvenile delinquency, violence, corruption and selfishness gone to seed: “In the last days . . . men will be lovers of themselves, . . . disobedient to parents, . . . without self-control, fierce, without love of goodness, . . . lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God, . . . wicked men and impostors will advance from bad to worse.”—2 Tim. 3:1-5, 13.
The record of our time, verified in the daily news headlines, shouts out that these things are happening right now! Note this report: “Fighting that sometimes resembled guerrilla warfare raged in the streets of American cities . . . A wave of crime and rioting is sweeping across the United States . . . In many cities, women are afraid to go out after dark. And they have good reason. Rapes, assaults, sadistic outbursts of senseless violence are on the rise. Crimes often seem to be committed out of sheer savagery . . . Respect for law and order is declining.”8
This is not confined to one country. Reports from all over the world are the same. From the Philippines: “No Filipino is safe in the streets today. . . . thrill killing, vandalism, and general mayhem is steadily increasing.”9 South Korea: “We can’t have even one day of peaceful life in Seoul because in the evenings the streets become streets of terror.”10 Sweden: “These critical situations that are a worry to all are expected to become even more severe.”11 England: “General lawlessness is greater—a breakdown of the sense of duty and of obligation and truthfulness.”12 And the Communist countries? “Almost everywhere, including Soviet Russia, there appears to be an increase in crime, and particularly, alas, in juvenile crime.”13
What is happening all over the world is just as the head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation in the United States said of his land: “Citizens of this country ought to be able to walk all the streets of our cities without being mugged, raped, or robbed. But we can’t do that today. All through the country, almost without exception, this condition prevails.”14
And immorality is sweeping the world like a forest fire. In the United States the number of children born out of wedlock has more than doubled since 1945. In Latin America the rates are many times higher. “For every 1,000 live births, 716 are illegitimate in Guatemala, 613 in El Salvador, 739 in Panama and 240 in Argentina.”15 “Uruguay produced a figure of three abortions for every live birth.”16
In Great Britain editor and author Malcolm Muggeridge said: “The position of this country . . . in my opinion, is absolutely ghastly.” When asked about the rebellion of British youth against the old values, he replied: “I think it’s sheer degeneracy. . . . They’re just degenerate . . . the antics of an exhausted stock.”17 Another source reported: “The collapse of private morality in Britain is becoming the talk of a wondering world.”18
ANGUISH OF NATIONS
A dean of American education told a meeting of teachers that the human race today is “just about lost.” He added: “All the things that happened since 1914 are things that ‘just couldn’t happen’ and we will see a lot more of them.”19
Hence, what has happened since the “last days” began in 1914 is just as Jesus foretold: “On the earth anguish of nations, not knowing the way out . . . men become faint out of fear and expectation of the things coming upon the inhabited earth.” (Luke 21:25, 26) Of this very fear, columnist David Lawrence states: “The fact is that today the biggest single emotion which dominates our lives is fear.”20
And little wonder, for aside from skyrocketing violence, crime, hunger, disease and immorality, mankind has another dread. The New York Times reported the United States Secretary of Defense as saying that “more than 120 million Americans would die in the event of a Soviet missile attack . . . If it were to include urban centers, . . . the death toll would be 149 million.”21
There is no escaping it. All the lines of the “fingerprint” are there to show conclusively that we have been in the “last days” since 1914, over fifty-two years now! And calling attention to this is not calamity howling. The near end of this system of things and the establishment of God’s kingdom are facts that God himself is having proclaimed throughout the world today, thus fulfilling another mark of the “last days,” for Jesus said that this message “will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.”—Matt. 24:14.
Hence, do not be deceived by this world’s propaganda that promises a bright tomorrow for this system. God promises its end. Whom are you going to believe? For your everlasting happiness listen, learn and then do what God requires of you, for “the world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever.”—1 John 2:17.
1 Life, March 13, 1964, p. 45.
2 The World Book Encyclopedia, 1966, Vol. 20, p. 377.
3 London Evening Star, quoted in the New Orleans Times-Picayune, August 5, 1960.
4 Cleveland West Parker, January 20, 1966, p. 1.
5 U.S. News & World Report, September 13, 1965, p. 20.
6 The World Book Encyclopedia, 1966, Vol. 20, pp. 379, 380, 410.
7 Ibid., pp. 410, 411.
8 U.S. News & World Report, August 1, 1966, pp. 5, 46, 47.
9 Philippine Islands Weekly Graphic, May 13, 1964.
10 South Korea Chosun Daily, April 14, 1964.
11 Stockholm Becko-Journalen, May 14, 1964.
12 Look, September 24, 1963.
13 U.S. News & World Report, November 1, 1965, p. 80.
14 Ibid., September 19, 1966, p. 43.
15 Science News Letter, May 18, 1963, p. 309.
16 Look, July 14, 1964.
17 U.S. News & World Report, July 25, 1966, pp. 67, 69.
18 Intelligence Digest, September 1966, p. 4.
19 St. Paul Dispatch, January 19, 1963, p. 2.
20 U.S. News & World Report, October 11, 1965, p. 144.
21 The New York Times, February 19, 1965, p. 1.