Keep Close in Mind “The Conclusion of the System of Things”
“Tell us, When will these things be, and what will be the sign of your presence and of the conclusion of the system of things?”—Matt. 24:3.
1, 2. (a) What harvest brings both joy and sorrow? (b) What did Jesus say about “the time of the end”?
HARVESTTIME usually brings great joy as the fruitage of months of labor is reaped and the crops are gathered in to provide for the months ahead. However, there is one harvest, a figurative one, that brings, not only joy to some, but also sorrow and weeping to others. This harvest is a worldwide one to which Jesus referred when he stated: “The field is the world . . . The harvest is a conclusion of a system of things.”—Matt. 13:38, 39.
2 When you hear expressions such as “the time of the end,” “the close of the age,” or “the conclusion of the system of things,” what is your impression of what will happen? Jesus was very emphatic that there would be an end to the present world system with all its troubles. He talked about the harvest as being a conclusion of a system of things. He told of the angels going out to separate the wicked ones from the righteous. He mentioned that the good news of the Kingdom would be preached and then the end would come. He told his disciples to continue preaching all the things he had commanded and that he would be with them until the conclusion of the system of things. But you may ask, What does it all mean? How can we identify “the time of the end,” and why should it be of interest to us now?—Matt. 24:14; 28:19, 20.
3. What changes will the end of this system bring?
3 It is hard for many to imagine any marked change in the present system of things on earth. Yet this is just what Jesus spoke about. He told his disciples to pray for God’s kingdom to come, for His will to be done on earth. For this kingdom to rule with power and authority will mean a great change. Thus at Daniel 2:44 it was prophetically foretold that this kingdom would crush and put an end to all other kingdoms existing world wide at the “time of the end” and that it would stand forever.
4. What action will God take toward those defaming him?
4 We should not be surprised at what the Bible says about this. Why should we think that Jehovah God, the great Creator, would continue to let the earth be ruined and defaced, his name insulted and maligned, people saying, “Why doesn’t God do something? Maybe there is no God. Maybe he is dead”? Why should the Creator of the universe continue to let Satan mislead the people by means of a multitude of false religions that teach doctrines out of harmony with his will and purpose? Rather than letting such conditions continue, the Bible shows definitely that God has set a time limit and that he has determined a conclusion to this system of things. Thereafter by his kingdom he has promised to bring a better system with untold blessings to men of faith.—Ezek. 6:10; 2 Pet. 3:9.
5. How can we be sure that the troubles plaguing the world will soon end?
5 In the meantime what do we see about us In the world? Troubles of all kinds—more and more crime and dishonesty. Many lands suffer from drought, hunger and plagues. People are afflicted by sickness, old age and death. War ravages many lands, with its resultant loss of life and property, its pitiful orphans and sorrowing widows. People are troubled by high taxes, poor housing, unemployment, inflation, and many other problems. Although Jesus foresaw such troubles, he confidently prayed to his heavenly Father and taught Christians to do the same, saying: “Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.” How will this come about? Not by the conversion of the world, but rather, as the apostle Peter said, by the conclusion of this system of things and the ushering in of a “new heavens and a new earth” in which righteousness is to dwell. (Matt. 6:10; 2 Pet. 3:13) It is interesting to note that exactly the same hope was recorded by inspired penmen at Isaiah 65:17 and Revelation 21:1. All three of these Bible writers, Isaiah, Peter and John, were inspired by God; so we have God’s definite promise that he is going to establish new heavens and a new earth—a new system of righteousness by means of his kingdom—and God does not lie.
PROSPECTS FOR THE FUTURE
6. What prospects do we have before us, and how will they come about?
6 There is good reason for rejoicing over the approach of this new system in view of the blessings and beneficial changes it will bring to mankind. As Proverbs 12:7, 28 says: “There is an overthrowing of the wicked ones and they are no more, but the very house of the righteous ones will keep standing. In the path of righteousness there is life, and the journey in its pathway means no death.” Only Jehovah God, the great source of wisdom and power, can bring this about. He is described at Daniel 7:13, 14 as the Ancient of Days, the oldest one in the universe, the only one without beginning or end. To his Son Jesus he gives “rulership and dignity and kingdom, that the peoples, national groups and languages should all serve even him. His rulership is an indefinitely lasting rulership that will not pass away, and his kingdom one that will not be brought to ruin.” With his rulership extending to the ends of the earth, there will be no more boundaries between lands or tribal or national divisions. All mankind will be subjects of their heavenly King. There will be no more war under the rulership of the Prince of Peace. No longer will poor living conditions foster revolutions or changes of government, as his rulership will be “indefinitely lasting,” with security for the people.
7. What are some troubles that will not exist in the new system?
7 Among the benefits that will follow the establishment of the new system of things will be the eradication of slums and poverty. The prophecy at Isaiah 65:21, 22 tells how those living in the new system will build their own homes and plant their own gardens, not for someone else to benefit from their labors, but to enjoy themselves with their families. Perfect health will be enjoyed by all. The inhabitants of earth will no longer say, “I am sick.” In fact, even death will no longer threaten faithful mankind. Those who have died will be resurrected to be given instruction in righteousness on a paradise earth with eternal life in view. There will be no food shortages in the new system. Psalm 72:16 tells us, “There will come to be plenty of grain on the earth.” And Psalm 67:6 adds: “The earth itself will certainly give its produce; God, our God, will bless us.”—Isa. 33:24; Rev. 21:4.
8. How will the knowledge of Jehovah affect all creation?
8 Even the animals will be peaceable. Imagine a calf and a lion or a cow and a bear feeding together! Parents will not have to fear if their child plays with a lion or leopard. In fact, the scripture at Isaiah 11:6-9 pictures a wolf and a lamb living together peacefully. With these blessings from God, no one will inquire any longer, “Who is Jehovah?” as did Pharaoh of old. Rather, the knowledge of Jehovah will fill the earth just as the waters cover the sea, and all people living will come to bow before him in pure worship.—Isa. 66:23; Ezek. 34:25-27.
HOW DO WE KNOW?
9. What evidences do we have of a coming change?
9 But you may ask, How do we know these things will really come, that there actually will be a conclusion to this system of things? There are quite a number of proofs. Several events are recorded in history when earlier systems of things came to their end, those events being prophetic of our time. We also have Jesus’ testimony and that of other inspired writers regarding the conclusion of this system. Bible chronology indicates the rapid approach of the end for this old system under the god of this world, Satan. Additional evidences include Bible prophecy now in course of fulfillment and the testimony of world leaders who show growing concern for the present system as they see no way out of its problems. So today the question that was asked Jesus by his disciples is especially appropriate: “Tell us, When will these things be, and what will be the sign of your presence and of the conclusion of the system of things?”—Matt. 24:3.
10. What comparison and warning did Jesus give regarding his second presence?
10 In commenting on this, Jesus compared his second presence and the end of this system to the events occurring in Noah’s day, which terminated with the flood. (Matt. 24:36-39) In those days the people were eating, drinking and marrying, oblivious to Noah’s warning, until the flood swept them all away. Jesus commented: “So the presence of the Son of man will be.” By this parallel Jesus indicated an end of the present system of things that began after the flood when wickedness again entered the earth and that will continue until the “great tribulation” and the abyssing of Satan. Jesus warned how important it is to be alert to this time of change. He said that two men would be in the field, one would be taken along and the other abandoned. So Jesus advised: “Prove yourselves ready, because at an hour that you do not think to be it, the Son of man is coming.”—Matt. 24:44.
11. What hope does the example of Noah give us?
11 However, since Noah and his family lived through the cataclysmic end of that early system of things, there is hope to survive the end of this system also. Jehovah set a time limit for the end of the wicked system that prevailed before the Flood, but he also made provision for the protection of those serving him by the construction of an ark. Noah found favor in the eyes of Jehovah. He raised his sons in righteousness separate from the violence around them, and as a result they were spared with their wives to live through the end of that system.
12. What is the modern-day “ark,” and how can we hope to enter it?
12 In order to survive the end of this system of things in our day we must keep Jesus’ words of warning in mind and follow the faithful example of Noah. He served as a preacher of righteousness to his generation, and that is what Jehovah’s people today must do. (2 Pet. 2:5) We must enter into the Christian system of things, which was pictured by the ark. This Christian system is being built by the Greater Noah, Christ Jesus, and has replaced the Mosaic system of things that ended legally when Jesus applied the value of his death on the torture stake. (Col. 2:14) This Christian system includes the pure worship of Jehovah, following the high standards of Christian conduct set forth by Jesus, such as being faithful to one wife and showing the fruits of God’s spirit. It means cooperating in the building up of this Christian system just as Noah’s sons helped in building the ark. No one can expect to be preserved through the end of this system unless he shows himself to be amenable to the Christian system and advancing its interests.—2 Pet. 3:7.
13. How did a system of things end in the first century?
13 Jesus also prophesied the end of the Jewish system of things that was existing in his time. (Matt. 23:37, 38) It had its beginning over fifteen centuries before, at the time that Jehovah gave the Law to the Israelites at Mount Sinai. The Jewish system included the Law Covenant with its priesthood, sacrifices, tabernacle or temple worship and festivals, as well as a national system involving a human king. It came to its legal end in 33 C.E. when the establishment of the new covenant made the old obsolete. (Heb. 8:13) However, as history shows, the various priestly and sacrificial arrangements under the Law Covenant continued to be practiced by Israel until 70 C.E., when the Romans finally captured and destroyed Jerusalem.
14, 15. How did some escape the destruction of Jerusalem, and what meaning does that have for us?
14 This matter is of particular interest to us because back there some Jews survived the end of a system of things as Christians. They had recognized the legal end of that system of things under the Law and that a new arrangement or system had been made possible by the death, resurrection and ascension to heaven of Jesus Christ. They appreciated that they had a new mediator, a new covenant and a new relationship with God as spiritual sons. They heeded Jesus’ warning that when they saw Jerusalem surrounded by encamped armies they should flee to the mountains. (Luke 21:20-22) So when the Romans withdrew after initially surrounding the city in 66 C.E., those who put faith in Jesus’ words, and who recognized that the Christian system was in effect even though the Jewish was still operating outwardly, did leave Jerusalem and stayed out, showing faith and perseverance until Jerusalem was razed in the terrible slaughter of the year 70 C.E.
15 Their flight to the mountains and remaining at Pella in Peraea until Jesus’ prophecy was fulfilled can be likened to the flight to safety of dedicated, spirit-begotten Christians from this present system of things with its politics and false religions to the place of protection that Jehovah has provided. It is in his spiritual system of things under the direction of Christ that Jehovah directs and protects his dedicated servants in the short remaining time before the old system is finally destroyed.
“TIME OF THE END” IN PROPHECY
16. What are some of the Scriptural signs marking the “time of the end”?
16 Just as Jesus’ prophetic words proved true regarding Jerusalem, we can be sure his prophecy regarding the “conclusion of the system of things” would also be true, since these words “were written for a warning to us upon whom the ends of the systems of things have arrived.” (1 Cor. 10:11) So consider now how Jesus’ answer to the apostles’ question about the sign of his presence helps us to identify with surety the generation marking the end of this system. To emphasize its importance, various features of the sign were recorded in the Bible at Matthew chapters 24 and 25, Mark 13, Luke 21, 2 Timothy 3 and Revelation 6. What did Jesus and his apostles tell us to look for? They mentioned one generation in particular during which there would be an increase of lawlessness with distress of nations, world war, earthquakes and pestilence. Jesus foretold the intensive preaching of the good news of God’s kingdom coupled with hatred against those preaching it, that the love of many for God would cool off and that false prophets would arise. He warned of the establishment of something disgusting in God’s sight that would cause desolation. He emphasized that there would be a time of trouble greater than any other from the beginning of the world until that time and than ever would occur thereafter.—Matt. 24:6-21.
17. What are some of the evidences we see fulfilled in our time?
17 Despite all this, Jesus foresaw that God would have on the earth a “faithful and discreet slave” class serving as his channel of communication in providing spiritual food to his servants as they had need of it, and he also foresaw that there would be a gathering of the chosen ones in a great harvest work. Even from heaven there would be unusual displays. In addition, Paul spoke of the “last days” as “critical times hard to deal with,” and warned that people would come to lack natural affection, showing more love for money, pleasure and personal interests than for God. He saw that they would be lacking in self-control, not open to any agreement, and that this would be reflected in disobedience of children to parents. But all these conditions as foretold in the Scriptures could not stop the work that God assigned to be done—the warning of the people so that some might escape destruction with this system and live right through to enjoy the blessings of the new system of righteousness. Jesus likened his work then to separating sheep from goats.
18, 19. Is there evidence that Revelation 6:4 is having fulfillment? Explain.
18 Have we been seeing the fulfillment of these prophecies? The facts since 1914 C.E. indicate that we have. As Jesus foretold, international war reached peaks never before experienced so that historians labeled the conflicts World Wars I and II. (Rev. 6:4) However, the wars of this generation continue, almost without letup. Time magazine listed forty wars just from 1945 to 1965.
19 Not only has unprecedented destructiveness been witnessed on an international scale, but it has also reached to the neighborhood scene as people have turned overnight against their neighbors, looting, burning and killing. In Indonesia it was estimated that over 400,000 were killed in the sanguinary 1966 purge of communists. Racial violence and deaths have taken their toll in countries as far apart as the United States and Mauritius. Indeed, with rioting and bloodshed throughout the earth we are reminded how close we are to the fulfillment of the words of Zechariah 14:13 (AV) that the hand of every man would be raised against his neighbor.—Ezek. 38:21.
20, 21. What evidence is there of food shortages as foretold in Revelation 6:5?
20 The black horse of Revelation 6:5 with a man holding a pair of scales as its rider can be seen more and more throughout the world as a result of the food shortages Jesus foretold. No longer is it just a matter of famine following war, but as Science News said, “Some experts say the Great World Famine has already begun.” Mankind is currently doubling in population every thirty-five years. Already it has been estimated that at least three million people die each year from lack of protein foods. Dr. Ewell, an expert on food production, estimated that within ten to fifteen years there will be mass starvation.
21 Time magazine reported that in the previous five years before its issue the world’s population had increased twice as fast as its food production. It has been calculated that it took from the beginning of human history until the year 1800 for the population of the earth to reach one billion, 130 years more to reach 2 billion and just 36 years later the population had jumped to 3.28 billion. In recent years the United States has been feeding one out of twenty persons in Africa, Latin America and parts of Asia. It has been reported that India devoured a quarter of the United States’ wheat crop in 1966 as compared to a fifth the year before and an eighth five years earlier. No wonder the book Famine—1975! reports there will be “a famine that will happen no matter what anyone does.” Certainly a new system of things is needed to overcome the specter of mass starvation as the “black horse” continues its famine-striking course.
22. To what extent have earthquakes affected this generation?
22 To add to the troubles, earthquakes continue to rock the earth as Jesus forecast for this generation. Among the most deadly were the 1920 China quake when 180,000 lost their lives, followed by the 1923 Tokyo killer that took the lives of 143,000. Two thousand five hundred died in Turkey from earthquakes in 1966, and official statistics put the number dead in that country from quakes during the twentieth century at 40,000. In 1967 Colombia had its worst quake ever, with 75 dead and 300 injured; in France 1,100 were made homeless by an earthquake; in Indonesia 41 died, 370 were injured and 2,000 homes were destroyed. Sicily, Greece and Iran experienced quakes in the opening months of 1968. It has been reported that the severity and deadliness of earthquakes have increased markedly since the “time of the end” commenced for this old system in 1914. In fact, over 900,000 persons have died from earthquakes in this century, including close to 1,250 in the United States.
23. What evidence is there of an “increase of lawlessness”?
23 What of the other evidences the Scriptures foretold: the increase of lawlessness, lack of natural affection and self-control? What do the facts show in recent years? United States FBI Director Hoover reported: “Crime during the 1960’s outstripped our population growth by over 11 to 1.” All categories of crime showed a marked increase, with rape, aggravated assault and robbery heading the list. No wonder our time has been referred to as an “era of anarchy.” Former U.S. Secretary of Defense R. S. McNamara commented, “In the last eight years alone there have been no less than 164 internationally significant outbreaks of violence.” Truly no place on earth is safe from this “increase of lawlessness.”
24. What other indications do we have that we are living at “the conclusion of the system of things”?
24 Daily we read in the papers of prostitution, divorce, abortions, fornication, homosexuality. Increasing numbers of women are turning to abortions as the remedy for unwanted children, contrary to God’s Word. A report from India estimates that in one year 180,000 women died of home-attempted abortions. A recent report from Japan shows that registered abortions average 3,000 daily. In the first nine months of 1967, 70,000 women in Czechoslovakia requested abortions. But did not the Scriptures foretell that particularly in this generation there would be a lack of self-control as people show themselves to be lovers of pleasure, without love of goodness and lacking in natural affection?
25, 26. What is the attitude of many toward Bible prophecy, but what is the wise course to follow? Why?
25 The facts show that conditions have never before been so critical. So do not let yourself be found among those who ridicule the significance of the events of our time which are in such exact fulfillment of Bible prophecy. The very fact that so many are losing faith in God and in what the Scriptures say about the end of this system and the establishment of Jehovah’s righteous new system only confirms the prophecy of Peter that “in the last days there will come ridiculers with their ridicule, . . . saying: ‘Where is this promised presence of his?’” Despite such ridicule the facts indicate that this is the generation that will see the end of this system of things and the establishment of an entirely new earthly system under Jehovah’s kingdom of righteousness.—2 Pet. 3:3, 4.
26 Knowing the drastic changes in store for mankind, now is the time to show ourselves alert and awake to what is taking place. It is the time for us to share in the ingathering work before it is completed, so that we will be among the happy ones for whom “the conclusion of the system of things” brings, not weeping, but joy as survivors into Jehovah’s new earth of righteousness.—Rom. 13:11.
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To survive the end of this system we must follow Noah’s example. We must enter into what is pictured by the ark—the Christian system of things