Where Are We According to God’s Timetable?
FROM reading God’s Word the Bible one cannot but conclude that God knows what the future holds. For the frightful events of our time were all foretold by him centuries ago and are appearing on the world scene precisely on schedule according to his “timetable.” Not that God Almighty is responsible for all that has happened on earth down through the ages. He himself testifies that men “have acted ruinously on their own part,” that “the defect is their own.” (Deut. 32:5) Rather, in his infinite wisdom he has been able to predetermine what course nations would take, and for our guidance and encouragement has caused a record of these prophetic events to be written down in his Word the Bible.
Therefore, knowledge of this “timetable” is of intense interest to man, for it provides him with priceless information that marks his location in the stream of time. It also reveals what events are about to break forth on the world scene. So with this information close at hand we can chart a course in life that will lead to a happy conclusion.
For example, the Bible “timetable” indicates that we are at the threshold of a new era, that this earth is in store for a number of dramatic changes in this very generation—changes that will affect your life and that of every other person for all time to come. It shows we are facing the day for the expression of God’s wrath against all wickedness in the battle at what the Bible calls “Armageddon.” Following that war will be the glorious thousand-year reign of Jesus Christ. (Rev. 16:16; 20:4-6) Exercising faith in these promises, a great crowd of mankind have arranged their lives in harmony with God’s Word in hope of becoming recipients of the blessings that are to come.
But how can we be confident that these promises are sure of fulfillment? The answer is simple: Because these are the promises of a God who cannot lie. (Heb. 6:18) They are scheduled events in the “timetable” of God.—Matt. 24:34, 35.
For instance, in the book of Ecclesiastes (3:1, 8) the Creator assures us: “For everything there is an appointed time, even a time for every affair under the heavens: . . . a time for war and a time for peace.” Without doubt, then, there is a precise time for the war of Armageddon to be fought and also a set time for the peaceful thousand-year reign of Christ to begin.
A close study of the Bible helps us to appreciate that world events can be anticipated and understood in advance by those who are acquainted with Bible prophecies. For example, from a study of the Hebrew Scriptures Jesus Christ knew that he was destined to suffer, die and be resurrected to life. So he told his disciples in advance that “he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the older men and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised up.” (Matt. 16:21-23) The reason for such prophecies was given by Jesus in these words: “So now I have told you before it occurs, in order that, when it does occur, you may believe.” (John 14:25-29) This is the advantage of knowing prophecy and seeing its fulfillment. We gain faith and strength in witnessing the fulfillment of God’s promises and can look ahead with confidence to seeing other promises fulfilled. Therefore, those who do not believe forfeit the value of God’s “timetable” for themselves.
PROPHECIES FOR ENCOURAGEMENT
God’s promises and prophecies are for our encouragement. For example, long before the Hebrews were enslaved in Egypt, God told Abram: “You may know for sure that your seed will become an alien resident in a land not theirs, and they will have to serve them, and these will certainly afflict them for four hundred years.” (Gen. 15:13) The beginning of that affliction was when Ishmael, son of the Egyptian Hagar, mocked Isaac in the year 1913 B.C.E. Subtracting 400 years from 1913 brings us to 1513 B.C.E., the precise year when God delivered the Israelites from Egyptian bondage. Knowledge of this prophecy to Abram could have served as a source of great encouragement to those enslaved and afflicted Jews, for it also told of deliverance.—Gen. 50:24, 25.
Another example where knowledge of a recorded prophecy served as an encouragement can be found in the prophecy of Jeremiah. Jehovah caused his prophet Jeremiah to write that the Jews would be held captive in Babylon while their land was desolate for seventy years. (Jer. 29:10) The prophet Daniel, while in Babylon, took encouragement from these prophetic words and looked for the releasing of his people and their return to Jerusalem, which took place in 537 B.C.E., precisely seventy years after Judah had been left uninhabited when the last Jews fled to Egypt not long after Jerusalem’s desolation. This again emphasizes the accurateness of God’s “timetable.”
At the beginning of the first century of our Common Era faithful Jews were looking for the Messiah because of recorded prophecies. The prophet Daniel was told “that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the anointed one [Messiah], the prince, shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks.” (Dan. 9:24, 25, AS) In other words, sixty-nine weeks of years or 483 years (for these are symbolic weeks) would pass. (Ezek. 4:6) It was in 455 B.C.E. that King Artaxerxes decreed that the city of Jerusalem and its wall be rebuilt. (Neh. 2:1-8) Counting from 455 B.C.E., the 483 years would end 29 C.E. In 29 C.E. Jesus of Nazareth was anointed with holy spirit, at which time he became Jesus Christ or Jesus the Messiah, the anointed one. In that year Andrew the brother of Simon Peter declared: “‘We have found the Messiah’ (which means, when translated, Christ).” (John 1:41) This was precisely as foretold by the prophet Daniel centuries before.
Since prophecies and promises of God were an encouragement for men throughout all ages, we who live at the conclusion of this system of things would be wise to turn to the same sources for our encouragement.—Rom. 15:4.
END OF THE GENTILE TIMES
Ours is a most critical generation. Bible chronology and prophecies agree on this fact. We who live today stand at the threshold of Armageddon, God’s war in which the wicked will be wiped off the earth. This also means we stand at the threshold of the incomparable peaceful, righteous rule of Christ that is to follow. But how can we be sure? Because of prophecies and God’s unerring “timetable.”—2 Tim. 3:1-5; Matt. 24:21; 2 Pet. 3:13.
Consider the time factor that Jesus gave. He said: “Jerusalem will be trampled on by the nations, until the appointed times of the nations are fulfilled.” (Luke 21:24) After this, as he said, “nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be food shortages and earthquakes in one place after another. All these things are a beginning of pangs of distress.” (Matt. 24:7, 8) The “appointed times of the nations,” mentioned by Jesus, indicated a period in which there would be no representative government of Jehovah in the hands of the royal line of King David to interfere with the Gentile domination of the earth. So when did those “times” begin, and for how long a period would they extend?
Those Gentile Times began to count in 607 B.C.E., when Jerusalem, the capital of God’s representative government on earth, was destroyed by the king of Babylon. They were to run for seven symbolic times, as shown by Daniel chapter 4. There in Daniel is found a prophecy concerning the kingdom of God (Dan. 4:34), a prophecy that pointed to the time when the one chosen by God would be given the right to rule (Dan. 4:17, 25, 32) after a period of “seven times” had elapsed. The Bible indicates that each of those “times” would be 360 years in length, and that the seven would, therefore, be 2,520 years in duration.a That time period ended in the autumn of 1914 of our Common Era. This fact is significant because, according to the prophecies of God’s “timetable,” the earth was to witness a marked change after 1914. Well, did it?
EVIDENCE MARKING THE END
For over thirty-five years in advance Jehovah’s witnesses proclaimed that 1914 would be a marked year. As early as 1877 their publications warned that 1914 would see Gentile rule interrupted by the kingdom of God. They firmly believed that Jesus’ prophecy of the conclusion of the system of things would come true, that following the end of the Gentile Times God’s Messianic kingdom would come into full power and the Gentile powers on earth be ousted.
But nothing in the early part of 1914 indicated that world upheaval was at hand. The nations were at peace. The world’s scene was a scoffer’s dream, and scoff many did. It was not until late June of 1914 that the world began to feel the jitters of world instability. But by October 1, 1914, it was obvious that Jesus’ prophecy was fulfilled and that the “appointed times of the nations” had ended. Historians and statesmen speak of 1914 C.E. as being a “dividing line in history,” “the day when the world went mad,” a “turning point,” when ‘the world began its march toward disaster.’ This is precisely what God’s “timetable” said 1914, the year marking the end of the Gentile Times, would be.
World War I did not settle the world’s problems. It merely sowed the seeds that plunged the world into another and even greater war within the same generation, namely, World War II. Shortly thereafter came smaller wars and revolutions. As Jesus foretold, the end of the Gentile Times would mark “a beginning of pangs of distress” for the earth, and so it has been.
Since 1914, the earth has also experienced unprecedented famine. Food shortages have affected more than twice as many people as were affected in the 900 years before. Pestilences have increased in the earth and go on increasing. Mental and nervous disorders, heart diseases and cancer are reaching the proportions of a global calamity. And earthquakes, too, are bringing increased woe. The yearly toll in lives lost from earthquakes since 1914 has been ten times what it was before that year.
These events emphasize the preciseness of God’s “timetable.” They make us witnesses of fulfilled prophecies. They tell us what Satan the Devil already knows, namely, that we stand at the threshold of Armageddon, that his wicked rule is about to end, that ‘God’s kingdom come’ will soon be a reality for the earth.—Rev. 12:12.
THE END OF 6,000 YEARS
In examining these Scriptural facts, something else also captures our attention. According to Bible chronology, we are already over fifty-two years into the wicked system of things’ “time of the end.” That time began in the autumn of 1914 C.E., at the termination of the “appointed times of the nations,” and it is already far advanced. Jesus said that “this generation” that saw the beginning of this time period in 1914 would also see its end. The generation that was old enough to view those events with understanding in 1914 is no longer young. It no longer has many years to run. Already many of its members have died. But Jesus showed that there would still be members of “this generation” alive at the time of the passing away of this wicked system of things in both heaven and earth. (Luke 21:32, 33) How much longer will it be, then, before God takes action to destroy the wicked and usher in the blessings of his Kingdom rule?
Interestingly, the autumn of the year 1975 marks the end of 6,000 years of human experience. This is ascertainable from reliable chronology preserved in the Bible itself. What will that year mean for humankind? Will it be the time when God executes the wicked and starts off the thousand-year reign of his Son Jesus Christ? It very well could, but we will have to wait to see. Yet of this we can be certain: the generation that Jesus said would witness those events is nearing its close. The time is close at hand. On God’s “timetable” we are in the closing days of a wicked system of things that will soon be gone forever. A glorious new order is immediately before us. This is, therefore, good reason for Christians everywhere to rejoice. Yes, they rejoice because fulfillment of their prayers for the kingdom of God is now at hand.—Luke 21:28.
Therefore, keep in mind the admonition of the Lord Jesus when speaking of our day: “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 21:36) The prophecy is sure; the time is short.
a See the book “Babylon the Great Has Fallen!” God’s Kingdom Rules!, pages 174-181.