An Ingathering Affecting All Mankind
1. Why are many people alarmed, but what should make us happy?
WITH alarming reports of riots, strikes, demonstrations, assassinations, guerrilla activity and financial unrest in all parts of the world, many people wonder what it all means. Like the rising bubbles of a boiling trough or fermenting dough, no one knows where the next outbreak is coming. It is highly significant that Bible chronology and prophecy both identify this generation as a climactic one for mankind, exactly the point that has been made in recent years by an increasing number of historians, scientists and men of world prominence. Not to be overlooked in a consideration of the significance of our times is Jesus’ parable of a great harvest that would mark the end of the present structure of society. (Matt. 13:24-30, 36-43) Before dismissing this account as just a story, something of no consequence to us, note Jesus’ comment: “Where anyone hears the word of the kingdom but does not get the sense of it, the wicked one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart.” Lest this happen to you, first examine the account to see if the facts do fit in our time. By so doing you may be found among those of whom Jesus said: “Happy are your eyes because they behold, and your ears because they hear.”—Matt. 13:19, 16.
2. What events did Jesus mention in connection with the conclusion of this system of things?
2 Jesus’ explanation of this parable to his disciples is found starting at Matthew 13:37: “The sower of the fine seed is the Son of man; the field is the world; as for the fine seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; but the weeds are the sons of the wicked one, and the enemy that sowed them is the Devil. The harvest is a conclusion of a system of things, and the reapers are angels. Therefore, just as the weeds are collected and burned with fire, so it will be in the conclusion of the system of things. The Son of man will send forth his angels, and they will collect out from his kingdom all things that cause stumbling and persons who are doing lawlessness, and they will pitch them into the fiery furnace. . . . At that time the righteous ones will shine as brightly as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let him that has ears listen.”
3. What is the meaning of Jesus’ harvest parable?
3 Over 1900 years ago Jesus planted good seed in the world of mankind when he established the Christian congregation. But soon Satan was active in sowing imitation, weedlike Christians in among the good seed. These weeds were permitted to grow along with the good seed during the intervening centuries until the time of harvest began in 1919 C.E. after Jesus’ sign of the “last days” had commenced fulfillment in 1914. Since then under angelic oversight a separating work has been done. (Matt. 24:31) The distinction between true and false Christians has become clearly discernible as the angels have acted to gather out “all things that cause stumbling and persons who are doing lawlessness.” (Matt. 13:41) Just as a harvest is short in comparison with the growing period, so the time of harvest and separation will be short until the “great tribulation” brings an end to the last ones of the crop of weedlike counterfeit Christians that have grown up during the centuries since the death of the apostles.
4. What contrast is there between true Christians and the false?
4 If you would like to see the close of this system of things with the end of riots, crime, fighting and misery, then consider further the evidences that we are living during the time of fulfillment of this worldwide harvest which presages the end of this system of things. Note how Christ’s anointed followers have already been shining “as brightly as the sun” in letting men know of the blessings that God’s kingdom of righteousness will bring to all “men of good will” in marked contrast to the warring, discriminatory, crime-marked course of those claiming to be Christian, but who were well pictured as weeds originating with the enemy Satan. Note too the parallels between our time and events surrounding the end of the pre-Deluge system of things. By doing so we will not be among those wondering what is going to happen, but we will be rejoicing at knowing the hope God holds out.
A CRITICAL TIME
5. (a) How did Jesus distinguish between the “conclusion” of the system of things and the “end” (telos)? (b) What does an understanding of Bible chronology indicate?
5 Everyone would like to know how much longer the present system will continue and when God’s purpose will be accomplished on earth in the same full way as in heaven. Jesus answered that “this good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth . . . and then the end will come.” Here in the Greek Bible text he used the word telos or “end” to distinguish what he meant from the syn·téleia or “conclusion” of the system of things, the harvest period, in which we now live. (Compare Matthew 24:3, 6, Diaglott.) How close we may exactly be to the end of the present divisive system of things cannot be predicted, as Jesus reported that even he did not know the day or the hour at the time of his earthly ministry. (Matt. 24:36) However, Bible chronology which indicates that Adam was created in the fall of the year 4026 B.C.E. would bring us down to the year 1975 C.E. as the date marking 6,000 years of human history with yet 1,000 years to come for Christ’s Kingdom rule. So whatever the date for the end of this system, it is clear that the time left is reduced, with only approximately six years left until the end of 6,000 years of human history. (1 Cor. 7:29) This corroborates the understanding of Jesus’ words that the generation alive in 1914 with the outbreak of World War I would not pass away until the end comes. Only a short time, then, remains for persons who love righteousness to show God that they want to be in his “ark” of protection and live to see the blessings of the new system of things.—Matt. 24:34-42.
6. What do some commentators say about present world conditions?
6 World observers have also noted the ominous trends evident throughout the world. In fact Time magazine reported Jacques Piccard as saying that he was “seriously doubtful” whether mankind would last out the century, as modern technology “is little else than a widespread suicidal pollution affecting the air we breathe, the water we drink and the land we till.” Similarly Professor Barry Commoner of Washington University argued that before long the earth will not be fit for habitation. He said we are nearing “a crisis which may destroy its suitability as a place for human society.” Early in this generation historian H. G. Wells stated: “The urgent need for a great creative effort has become apparent in the affairs of mankind . . . It is manifest that unless some unity of purpose can be achieved in the world, unless the ever more violent and disastrous incidence of war can be averted, . . . the history of humanity must presently culminate in some sort of disaster, repeating and exaggerating the disaster of the Great War, producing chaotic social conditions, and going on thereafter in a degenerative process towards extinction.” As James Reston commented in the New York Times of June 11, 1967: “This is even more appropriate today than when Wells wrote these prophetic words at the end of the First World War.”
7. How is the Christian view different, and what did Jesus say we should do?
7 However, Christians do not accept the pessimistic view as expressed by Mr. Wells that the human family is headed for extinction. They are realistic and understand the critical meaning of the world events taking place in recent years; yet they have an assured hope for the future. They recall Jesus’ words: “But as these things start to occur, raise yourselves erect and lift your heads up, because your deliverance is getting near. 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 21:28, 34-36.
8. (a) What changes are necessary for those accepting God’s Word? (b) How is Jehovah’s undeserved kindness demonstrated?
8 They recognize that the basis for Christian hope and for all life in Jehovah’s new system is Christ’s ransom sacrifice. As Paul wrote the congregations in Galatia, “[Jesus] gave himself for our sins that he might deliver us from the present wicked system of things according to the will of our God and Father.” (Gal. 1:4) With the old system of which Satan is the god on its way out, and the new system under Christ’s rulership coming in, it is imperative for us to turn aside from the course leading to destruction. As Paul wrote at Ephesians 2:2-7: “You at one time walked according to the system of things of this world, according to the ruler of the authority of the air, the spirit that now operates in the sons of disobedience. Yes, among them we all at one time conducted ourselves in harmony with the desires of our flesh, doing the things willed by the flesh and the thoughts, and we were naturally children of wrath even as the rest. But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love with which he loved us, made us alive together with the Christ, even when we were dead in trespasses—by undeserved kindness you have been saved—and he raised us up together and seated us together in the heavenly places in union with Christ Jesus, that in the coming systems of things there might be demonstrated the surpassing riches of his undeserved kindness in his graciousness toward us in union with Christ Jesus.”
9. Why is it not easy to serve God faithfully, but what prospects do those have who do so?
9 So whether your hope is to be of the “little flock” united with Christ in heavenly places or of the “other sheep” who will enjoy life here on earth, by Jehovah’s undeserved kindness you can look forward to the wonderful blessings to come in these coming systems of things. (Luke 12:32; John 10:16) Living now with the new system in view will not be easy. The same enemy, Satan, who has sown the troublesome, deceptive crop of weeds among the Christian congregation, will cause you trouble too. You may face family opposition or persecution as you share in reflecting the bright truth that Jehovah is making known through his organization. But many have overcome such pressures, even leaving home and family to preach the good news in foreign places before the end comes. There they have been blessed with hundreds of spiritual brothers and sisters, mothers and children, even homes, through fellowship with those of like faith in the New World society, with the prospect of everlasting life in the new system of things.—Mark 10:29, 30.
10. How does the “great tribulation” affect all mankind?
10 As to the fate in store for those who prefer the friendship of the world to the friendship of God, remember that “God . . . did not hold back from punishing an ancient world, but kept Noah, a preacher of righteousness, safe with seven others when he brought a deluge upon a world of ungodly people.” (2 Pet. 2:4, 5) At that time all mankind who had not accepted Jehovah’s arrangement for salvation were destroyed. Now, as Jesus foretold, conditions are as in Noah’s day, and this system with all its supporters will soon be destroyed in the “great tribulation,” but once again those serving God with spirit and truth will survive. So now is the time for us to take action to ensure survival.—Rom. 10:13.
11. (a) How is the situation today parallel to that in Jesus’ time? (b) What blessings can Christians now enjoy?
11 As in Noah’s time, so in Jesus’ day, Jehovah not only had a warning given of coming destruction but also prepared those serving him for what was to follow. In Noah’s time the ark was under construction. In Jesus’ day a Christian system of things was in course of establishment. There was an overlapping of the Christian and Jewish arrangements. The temple was still standing in Jerusalem and the priests were still offering sacrifices, even after the new covenant had been established. Similarly now, although we are living in the midst of the old system of things under Satan’s control, still those of Christ’s “other sheep” who learn the truth come under the Christian system of things, which will serve as an ark of protection for them through the war of Armageddon. Then after Armageddon they will experience the benefits of the “coming systems of things.” (Eph. 2:7; Mark 10:30) The present Christian system will continue until the last member of Christ’s spiritual body completes his earthly course sometime after Armageddon. By that time Satan’s present wicked system of things will have been replaced by Jehovah’s new system, his new heavens and new earth in which righteousness will dwell. (Eph. 1:10) Though dedicated servants of Jehovah live in the last days of a system under Satan’s control, they can enjoy the benefits of the Christian system of things that is still in operation. (Heb. 1:2) Our consciences are no longer burdened with guilt; we have a new spiritual temple with Jesus Christ as the foundation cornerstone, the benefits of his perfect sacrifice which actually cleanses away sins, a new law inscribed on our hearts, a new mediator, a new covenant and many other blessings in a spiritual way now. And these things are like a small-scale view of the blessings yet to come.
EDUCATION FOR LIFE
12. What great work is now being accomplished, and why?
12 Since 1935 C.E. the anointed wheatlike “sons [heirs] of the kingdom,” who have been harvested, have been gathering in a “great crowd” of “other sheep.” Thousands are being trained and educated for life in the earthly new system. In 1969 Jehovah’s witnesses reported a peak of 1,336,112 persons actively engaged in preaching the good news of God’s kingdom in response to the angelic announcement of Revelation 14:6, 7. Since Jesus foretold that this witness work would be accomplished in all the inhabited earth before the end would come, it is no surprise that it was carried on in 203 countries world wide and that 239,769,076 hours were devoted to this life-giving Christian ministry. There were 1,097,237 Bible studies regularly conducted with interested persons without cost. The prospects for growth in the work and for those associated with the New World society are seen by the excellent Memorial attendance of 2,719,860 as the anointed “righteous ones” continue to “shine as brightly as the sun” and let the light of truth beam forth. With a view to the continued expansion of the work this side of the “great tribulation” the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society has just purchased a very large factory building in Brooklyn, and additional housing space for the headquarters’ staff now totaling 1,300 dedicated persons. New branch homes have just been built in Cameroun, Cyprus, Fiji and Puerto Rico as well as in Barbados, Brazil and Dahomey. So even though we are living in the “time of the end” for this old system, Jehovah’s organization is moving ahead rapidly as long as the way is open to do so.
13. (a) What kind of opposition have Jehovah’s witnesses faced? (b) What is their attitude toward this?
13 However, this work is not accomplished without opposition, for Satan knows that the time remaining for this old system is very short. (Rev. 12:12, 17) In Cuba, Malawi, Zambia, Algeria, the United Arab Republic, and other places, officials have interfered with Jehovah’s witnesses’ attending Christian meetings. It is not uncommon to have Bible literature confiscated and Jehovah’s witnesses beaten. In recent times many efforts have been made to coerce Christians to sign statements that they will renounce their faith, stop meeting together and agree to quit the Kingdom ministry. They know that such opposition was foretold and that Jehovah has permitted it for a test. (Matt. 24:9) However, they are determined to endure faithfully to the end to gain the crown of life.—Rev. 2:10.
14, 15. (a) What beneficial effects are accomplished by the ministry? (b) What does Isaiah say about learning of righteousness?
14 In the meantime the fine educational work sponsored by the Watch Tower Bible and Tract Society is accomplishing its purpose. The Kingdom message is being preached throughout the earth. Thousands have been taught to read in congregational literacy schools, the understanding of the Scriptures is being made clear through home Bible studies, and captives are being freed from Babylonish religious captivity. Family unity is being promoted and racial and tribal enmities are overcome. Thousands are gaining experience as teachers and servants. This is especially important now because in the new system the educational work of Jehovah’s organization will gain momentum. That future course of instruction is mentioned briefly by Isaiah: “Righteousness is what the inhabitants of the productive land will certainly learn.” (Isa. 26:9) Of course, the response of the resurrected ones to this training in righteousness will vary.
15 Those who fail to recognize the sovereignty of Jehovah and his right as ruler, his eminence, will finally be cut off, sharing a fate similar to that of the weedlike element of Jesus’ harvest parable. Righteousness will prevail in the new system, and only those who love life under righteous conditions will be permitted to continue enjoying it.
NEED FOR ACTION NOW
16. Why is there an urgency in serving Jehovah now, and what do we need to do?
16 The time is very short now for further preaching and teaching of God’s kingdom among the political nations. So it is important for us now to show that we are no part of the present system of things but that we are living for the new system and the blessings it will bring. If we want to live through this “time of the end” on the nations to enjoy Jehovah’s righteous new system under Christ the King, then there is no time to be lost. Remember that not only the Bible but also world leaders have attested to the urgency of the times in which we live. The few remaining years of this generation do not give much time during which we can show Jehovah we truly want to be pleasing to him so that we will be privileged to enjoy life at his hand in the new system of things. We need to schedule our affairs to show him what really is first in our lives. We need to study his Word to keep our faith strong, to get to the Kingdom Hall to enjoy the meetings that have been prepared by the “faithful and discreet slave” class, and to share the truth with others, especially now as we “behold the day drawing near.” Are you willing to do this?—Heb. 10:25.
17. How can we show Jehovah that we are no part of the present system, but what should we expect as a result?
17 Jehovah knows those who by their course of action show they belong to him, those that he will protect through the climactic end of this “time of the end” when the gathering out of all weedlike Christians will be irrevocably finished. No simple list of requirements to ensure salvation is recorded in the Scriptures, but the sincere student of the Bible knows what Jehovah requires of him and can follow the perfect example that Jesus set out during his life of dedication to his heavenly Father. A “public declaration” of the truth is one requisite for those who have the hope of salvation. (Rom. 10:10) Even though this brings hatred from those who are lovers of the pleasures of this old system more than lovers of God, we need not be surprised, because we know that Jesus warned his servants that they would be “objects of hatred by all people on account of my name; but he that has endured to the end is the one that will be saved.”—Matt. 10:22.
18. Why is seeking Jehovah’s approval so important now?
18 So now is the time to follow the good counsel of Zephaniah 2:2, 3: “Before there comes upon you people the burning anger of Jehovah, before there comes upon you the day of Jehovah’s anger, seek Jehovah, all you meek ones of the earth . . . Seek righteousness, seek meekness. Probably you may be concealed in the day of Jehovah’s anger.” There is no obligation on God’s part; everything depends on his mercy. So if we make a real effort to seek Jehovah and to follow his Word and serve him so as to deserve his mercy, then probably, by Jehovah’s undeserved kindness, we will be hid with those who live through the end of this system to enjoy all the blessings that men of faith will enjoy on the cleansed earth in the post-Armageddon system.
19. Of what should the time of ingathering remind us?
19 So when we see men today gathering in their crops at the time of harvest, we should be reminded of Jesus’ illustration and realize that we are living in a time of ingathering, a time the Scriptures speak of as “the time of the end,” “the conclusion of the system of things.” However, we are thankful that this does not portend the end of all material things, but that we have a living hope, thanks to Jehovah’s undeserved kindness; because at the end of this present wicked system of things Jehovah’s incoming new order of righteousness will be firmly established with blessings for all who live to see it.