How We Know It Is Getting Near
1. As regards “fearful sights and from heaven great signs,” what did Jesus prophesy right after telling of Jerusalem’s being trampled on by the nations to the end of their appointed times?
Note that Luke’s account of Jesus’ prophecy predicted “fearful sights and from heaven great signs.” (Luke 21:11) After describing Jerusalem’s destruction and her being trampled on by the Gentile nations until their “appointed times” are fulfilled, Luke’s account goes on to say: “Also, there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth anguish of nations, not knowing the way out because of the roaring of the sea and its agitation, while men become faint out of fear and expectation of the things coming upon the inhabited earth; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then they will see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.”—Luke 21:25-27.
2, 3. To what extent have the “powers of the heavens” been shaken by the advent of aviation?
2 Have not all these predicted things already come true in large measure, although not altogether to their fullest measure? Have not the “powers of the heavens” been shaken, with an effect upon sun, moon and stars?
3 Till this twentieth century the heavens have been the dominion of the birds and flying creatures, with the exception of some kites, balloons and dirigibles sent aloft by men. More than thirteen thousand years ago, on the fifth creative day God created the creatures of the sea and the flying creatures to “fly over the earth upon the face of the expanse of the heavens.” (Gen. 1:20-23) But with the successful flying of the airplane on December 17, 1903, man really began to invade the domain of the living flying creatures and to go above their realm into outer space. From then on the airplane was improved and was put to use in World War I in shooting and bombing from the air. Rain, snow and hail were thenceforth not the only things to be poured down from the heavens. With the expanding of aviation in war operations and in peacetime transportation the balance of man’s natural environment was due to be shaken, upset, unsettled.
4. How is rocketry causing an invasion of the heavens?
4 During World War I the German “Big Bertha” cannons were used from a distance of thirty miles to heave shells into Paris, France. Thereafter rocketry was specially pushed by the Germans. Rockets were used to carry explosives from the European continent across the English Channel and down upon London and other English cities, in addition to airplane bombing raids. Near the close of World War II atomic bombs of devastating explosive power were introduced into warfare and exploded over Japan. In short order there followed the invention of the still more terrible nuclear bomb. A number of leading nations developed the know-how, so that today there are five nuclear nations. The first atomic bombs were dropped from speedy airplanes, but now rocketry has been applied in behalf of the nuclear bomb. Now the world of mankind shudders in fear of the ICBM’s, the intercontinental ballistic missiles, which streak through the outer space of the heavens across the formerly protective oceans to strike the enemy targets. Man is trying to outdo the lightning bolts of the heavens.
“ANGUISH OF NATIONS”
5. As to “signs in sun and moon and stars,” what darkening of sun, moon and stars and also meteoric showers in these last centuries does history record?
5 What, though, about the foretold “signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth anguish of nations, not knowing the way out because of the roaring of the sea and its agitation, while men become faint out of fear and expectation of the things coming upon the inhabited earth”? (Luke 21:25, 26) Could it mean anything different from what happened on May 19, 1780, when the sun was darkened? This produced a nightlike darkness that extended over 329,000 square miles of New England, United States of America, this being followed on the subsequent night by the darkening of the moon, when at its full, and also of the stars. Also, on the early morning of November 12/13, 1833, there occurred a meteoric shower in which millions on millions of starlike meteors fell over North America and which covered 11,000,000 square miles, a heavenly phenomenon so impressive that it caught the attention of scientific men. Yet not long ago, early on November 17, 1966, there was an awesome meteoric shower that rained on the upper atmosphere of southwestern United States, from Texas to Arizona.
6. (a) Would such heavenly phenomena repeated in this century terrify people into believing that the world’s end was near? (b) How have phenomena different from the above been made known?
6 Well, in our twentieth century of scientific advancement nothing like such strange celestial phenomena would terrify most people into believing that the “end of the world” was near. True, but today the science of astronomy, telescopic and radio, has made such advancement as to detect more phenomena about sun, moon and stars and their effect upon the earth and its inhabitants.
7. What information, scientifically gained, is imparting to us new aspects about sun, moon and stars?
7 Now we are informed of how those great flares of nuclear energy producing so-called sunspots send out streams of powerful electronic particles that not only cause disruption in the field of shortwave radio and magnetic areas but also affect people to an abnormal extent, a new cycle of sunspots due to reach its peak in 1970. The earth is continually being bombarded with cosmic rays. Great belts of ionized particles encircle the earth and endanger astronauts maneuvering in outer space. Tremendous quasars, which are sources of radio waves, are being discovered; and radio telescopes are picking up signals from invisible heavenly bodies. Rockets have released capsules that have given a soft landing to radar cameras on the surface of the moon, transmitting back to earth closeup pictures of the moon’s terrain. The scientific projects of putting men on the moon lead to fears that the moon will be made a military base from which to control the earth.
8. Why has the “anguish of nations” worsened since 1914 C.E., and what new area has become truly menacing?
8 Our awareness of such “signs” in sun, moon and stars as produced by modern scientific findings only adds to the “anguish of nations.” Their difficulties have constantly multiplied since 1914 C.E., both inside nations and between nations. The anguish is made worse because of their “not knowing the way out” by means of human remedies and solutions. It is “because of the roaring of the sea and its agitation, while men become faint out of fear and expectation of the things coming upon the earth.” Of course, submarine earthquakes have occurred, causing tsunami waves to lunge across the ocean and to engulf cities, resulting in great loss of life and property. But the seas and oceans are becoming more menacing for another reason. During World War I submarine warfare was brought into action, and the submarine torpedo boat proved to be a most effective one of the many new instrumentalities of destruction that were employed. Submarine warfare was heavily relied upon by the Germans in World War II.
9. How is the sea being further agitated by powerful nations?
9 More effective use of the sea in warfare is now being pushed by powerful nations. The Communist giant of Soviet Russia is vastly increasing its merchant marine and submarine fleet. The United States is being reminded of the Communist threat to “bury” democratic America, and the fear is being expressed publicly that the Communists will “bury us” in the sea by their submarine and surface ship superiority. Nuclear engines have successfully been installed in submarines, enabling them to go around the world without surfacing. Submarines are being armed with missile-shooting equipment capable of firing from underwater long-range missiles carrying atomic warheads, causing destruction to roar up out of the sea, aimed at distant targets on dry land. Even surface warships are being outfitted for missile warfare. Indeed, the sea is suffering agitation from all these deadly prowlers of the briny deep. In fear of further agitation of the sea, the American president, L. B. Johnson, in July of 1968, urged the seventeen-nation Disarmament Conference, at the start of its new session in Geneva, Switzerland, to start exploring the means of preventing the use of the seabed as a hiding place for nuclear missiles, the use of the ocean floors for the “emplacement of weapons of mass destruction.”—New York Times, as of July 26, 1968.
10, 11. Why, as foretold by Jesus, are men becoming faint?
10 At the same time the political, financial, economic, social and religious elements are becoming more perplexed, and in their frustration these men are becoming faint not only out of fear but also out of expectation of the things that they can calculate are bound to come upon the earth. World famine is predicted for the year 1975. Appeal is being made to the United Nations organization to prevent the spreading of atomic and nuclear weapons into the hands of nations outside the Big Five nuclear powers of today. The missile gap between America and Russia is closing; Russia is nearing equality with the United States. There is great insistence that outer space must not be used for warfare.a
11 Also, defoliation of enemy hideouts by means of herbicides and chemicals needs to be studied as to its long-range effects on man’s environment. Modern industry and even jet-propulsion aircraft are fatally hurting the balance of man’s natural surroundings, in view of which one magazine article headlines and discusses the subject “Can the World Be Saved?” (New York Times Magazine, March 31, 1968) Will our earth shortly become unlivable for the exploding world population? Such are real, valid fears indeed!
12. However, at what time will the great climax to all this come, and how?
12 Yet it is at God’s prefixed time, not man’s, that the great climax comes, just as the next words of Jesus’ prophecy indicate: “And then they will see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” (Luke 21:27) This refers to his coming to destroy Babylon the Great, the world empire of false Babylonish religion, and then to the “war of the great day of God the AlMighty” at Armageddon. (Rev. 16:13-16) Invisible in the spirit he will be as if hidden “in a cloud,” but the nations will discern that it must be the foretold “Son of man,” because of the power that is exercised beyond that of man. Christendom will not share then in his “great glory,” but will be destroyed despite all her hypocritical prayers to God. Neither will there be any glory for the former political lovers of Babylon the Great, for after her these political ruling elements will be annihilated, going down in inglorious defeat because of fighting against earth’s rightful King, the glorified Lord Jesus Christ. They will see, appreciate, that their destruction comes from a source higher than human.
ENCOURAGEMENT AND WARNING
13. What did Jesus say about our attitude while the nations are bowed down with anguish and fear?
13 Well, now, what about us? What does all this mean for us? Should we share in the present “anguish of nations” and their not knowing the way out, their becoming faint, their fears and terrifying expectations? We do not need to do so. Jesus Christ, after detailing all the foregoing things, said in answer to his disciples: “But as these things start to occur, raise yourselves erect and lift your heads up, because your deliverance is getting near.” (Luke 21:28) So, if we are faithful, dedicated, baptized followers of the great Prophet Jesus Christ, we do not need to be bowed down with the nations in their anguish and fears.
14, 15. The deliverance to which we are getting near is from what?
14 To those of us who become real Christians of that kind the words “your deliverance” should have a stirring, encouraging sound, as they did to the disciples to whom Jesus Christ spoke. Why should not the words be encouraging, rousing, since they tell of being freed from persecutors and haters? For, before telling of the deliverance that is getting near, Jesus said: “But before all these things people will lay their hands upon you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, you being haled before kings and governors for the sake of my name. It will turn out to you for a witness. . . . Moreover, you will be delivered up even by parents and brothers and relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death; and you will be objects of hatred by all people because of my name.”—Luke 21:12-17.
15 Our deliverance is from people who not merely persecute and hate us but who hate Jesus Christ, as it is because of his name that they persecute and hate us. Such haters of Him are part of this “system of things,” and it is thus also from this entire system of things that we persecuted, hated ones are delivered.
16, 17. By whom or by what means with this deliverance come?
16 What will the passing of this system of things mean? Deliverance from it will come by whom or by what? Evidently by the one whom the nations see “coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” (Luke 21:27) This is made certain for us by Jesus’ words after he mentioned “your deliverance.” Luke 21:29-33 tells us:
17 “With that he spoke an illustration to them: ‘Note the fig tree and all the other trees: When they are already in the bud, by observing it you know for yourselves that now the summer is near. In this way you also, when you see these things occurring, know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly I say to you, This generation will by no means pass away until all things occur. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will by no means pass away.’”—Compare Matthew 24:32-35; Mark 13:28-31.
18. Since what year have we seen “these things” occurring, in verification of whose words?
18 “These things,” as foretold by Jesus in his prophecy, we who are of “this generation” have seen occurring since the year 1914, in which year the “appointed times of the nations” ended. Sooner would heaven and earth literally pass away than for Jesus’ words to pass away unfulfilled. Therefore Jesus’ words are so worthy of our accepting and believing.
19. From seeing these things occur as foretold, what do we know?
19 Hence, from seeing these things occurring, what do we know? We know that the divine agency for our deliverance, “the kingdom of God,” is near. What should we do, then, to prove that we do believe this? Jesus said: “But as these things start to occur, raise yourselves erect and lift your heads up, because your deliverance is getting near.” (Luke 21:28) We of “this generation” have seen these foretold things “start to occur” in 1914, and now for the last fifty-four years we have seen them occurring. So our convictions have been confirmed. From a long train of foretold events we know that the kingdom of God is getting near to its act of destroying this system of things and its supporters at Armageddon and bringing about our glorious deliverance.
20. Why should we not be bowed down because of the persecution and hatred heaped upon us?
20 Rightly, then, this is no time for us enlightened observers of these fulfillments of Christ’s prophecy to be bowed down, with heads hanging dejectedly, because of the persecution and hatred that are heaped upon us for the sake of Jesus’ name. Better is it for us to suffer thus for the sake of his name than to suffer the “anguish of nations, not knowing the way out because of the roaring of the sea and its agitation, while men become faint out of fear and expectation of the things coming upon the inhabited earth.” Worldly men and nations are suffering such things because they are opposing the kingdom of God, but we are suffering at their hands because of proclaiming “this good news of the kingdom” in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations before their end comes. (Matt. 24:14) They face eternal destruction. We face eternal deliverance. Why not, then, raise ourselves erect and hopefully lift our heads up, also lifting up our voices as we keep on proclaiming God’s kingdom?—Mark 13:10.
21. Because of what other things, as mentioned in Jesus’ warning, should our heads not be bowed down?
21 Now especially we should never become bowed down and let our heads drop and nod in slumber and drowsiness because of our overindulging ourselves with the worldly nations in their efforts to forget and ignore the things taking place since 1914. Because it is now so late and is so far along in the current of world affairs, it is the time of all times for us to keep alert to what is taking place in the world’s speedy approach to the unavoidable climax, and then to act as observant, understanding Christians. We dare not ignore what Jesus included as a warning in his prophecy: “But pay attention to yourselves that your hearts never become weighed down with overeating and heavy drinking and anxieties of life, and suddenly that day be instantly upon you as a snare. For it will come in upon all those dwelling upon the face of all the earth. 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 21:34-36.
22. (a) What will it mean for those caught by that ensnaring day? (b) What heart condition should we avoid?
22 A snare is triggered to snap in on its victim in a fraction of a second before he can escape. So for us to have that day suddenly be upon us in an instant like a snare means to be caught beyond all chance to work ourselves loose and means death for us. That ensnaring day is fast coming in “upon all those dwelling upon the face of all the earth,” just as surely as day follows night. We are all of us bound to enter into that day since it will arrive suddenly earth wide, no dweller on earth being out of its reach. We must all face it. But how? Doing like the people of Noah’s preflood days, eating and drinking to excess and giving way to the “anxieties of life,” including the anxieties over seeking pleasures? This is what the “evil slave” class does. (Matt. 24:38, 39, 48-51) These are not the things to set our hearts upon, letting our hearts be weighed down with these things and growing fatty, thick and unresponsive to Christ’s call to Kingdom service. In this destiny-determining time we need to pay attention to ourselves in order to avoid such a heart condition.
23. To “succeed in escaping all these things,” how should we keep ourselves mentally, and with the aid of what?
23 It is a time for us to keep our full powers and faculties awake, active in God’s service, a time for us to make supplication, because we cannot do this in our own strength. Without God’s help we cannot succeed. Only in this way shall we escape sharing in the anguish, fear and dreaded expectation of the worldly nations and being ensnared in destruction with them at Armageddon.
24. Our purpose, along with our strong supplication, is to do what, and fulfilling this purpose will bring us what?
24 What we are striving to do with all our hearts is to stand before the Son of man who comes “with power and great glory” to the execution of divine judgment upon this system of things and its backers. Let all of Christendom, the antitypical Jerusalem and Judea, fall condemned to destruction before this Son of man whom she hypocritically has claimed to serve. Our purpose, along with our making strong supplication, is to stand approved before the Son of man as his true followers who have kept ourselves raised erect, with our heads lifted up, constantly awake and never looking back at Christendom and Babylon the Great, from which we have fled. Erect in the full dignity of our service as free, dedicated servants of the Most High God, we shall keep our heads up, obediently proclaiming the kingdom of our heavenly Father, Jehovah God, and serving its interests. (Rom. 14:4) This active, faithful course will shortly bring us the grand reward of our being delivered from this wicked system of things into God’s blessed new order, there to worship and serve him at his imperishable temple forevermore.
a For corresponding comment on the fulfillment of Luke 21:10, 11, 25-27 see the book entitled “Your Will Be Done on Earth,” pages 319-323 as published by the Watch Tower Bible & Tract Society of Pennsylvania in 1958.