A Global Time of Trouble—Why, and When?
“Those slain by Jehovah will certainly come to be in that day from one end of the earth clear to the other end of the earth. They will not be bewailed, neither will they be gathered up or be buried.”—Jer. 25:33.
1-3. What examples bear out the fact that people often ignore warnings to their harm?
“IT HAPPENS in every disaster. There are people—many people—who refuse to act on a warning. . . . They die, so many and so uselessly, through disregard of warnings.” Thus writes the author of a book dealing with disasters. The 1953 floods that inundated large areas of the Netherlands, in which many hundreds lost their lives, are among the many, many examples he cites to prove his point. He says: “Many of these 1,835 people did not have to die. They could easily have escaped. They had ample time.” But they failed to heed the warnings given. They died—needlessly.
2 Among such must also be included the 135 and more who lost their lives in the flash flood in Colorado’s Big Thompson Canyon on Saturday evening, July 31, 1976. Reporting on it, the Denver, Colorado, Post, August 2, said: “Everyone had good warning from the sheriff,” for three times the sheriff’s cars with loudspeakers drove through the canyon sounding the warning. Only people who heeded those urgent warnings and fled from the canyon survived.
3 Then again, The Unesco Courier, May 1976, told how Chinese scientists very accurately predicted an earthquake to occur in Haich’eng of the Liaoning Province. Practically the whole population heeded the warning, to the saving of their lives. However, one family took no note and three of them paid the price with the loss of their lives.
4. What may be some of the reasons why people so often ignore such warnings?
4 Why do people so often fail or refuse to heed warnings given when their lives are at stake? Why? It could be an inborn indifference, not really appreciating or caring for the precious treasure of life. Or it might be because they value material things more than life itself. At times it is doubtless because previous warnings proved to be false.
5. How have some people looked in vain for help?
5 On the other hand, when faced with a threat of disaster some persons have turned to that which could not help. Thus, back in 1944 when Mount Vesuvius erupted and the lava flowed down the mountainsides, superstitious peasants placed religious statues in the path of the lava as if these could stop its flow. Of a similar frame of mind was the Californian who, when forest fires threatened his home in the summer of 1976, rushed about clutching an image of a saint and complaining, “It doesn’t work!” because it proved of no help in stopping the forest fire.
6, 7. (a) Why is it so urgent to heed God’s warning today? (b) In view of the foregoing, what questions do some persons ask?
6 The fact that many persons in the past have lost their lives because of disregarding warnings is a strong reason why today, more than ever before, it is important to heed the warning of God the Creator, as found in his Word, the Holy Bible. Yes, this is of the greatest urgency. Why? Because today, not only those living in a certain area or city, but all humankind face a threat to their survival. By this, we do not mean the threat of nuclear warfare between earth’s leading nations. Rather, the threat we are speaking about is the great catastrophe foretold in God’s Word. It is the catastrophe that will be brought on by the great Creator, Jehovah God, himself.
7 But some may ask, How can we be certain that God will interfere in the affairs of earth and man? How can we be assured that the promises or warnings recorded in the Bible are to be taken seriously? For that matter, how can we be certain that God even exists and that the Holy Bible is his revelation to us? Such questions call to mind the words of the apostle Paul: “Faith is not a possession of all people.”—2 Thess. 3:2.
8, 9. (a) Why can we be certain that the Bible’s prophecies of a global time of trouble will be fulfilled? (b) What did God prophesy regarding it, through Jeremiah, Zephaniah, Daniel and Jesus Christ?
8 Because so many Bible prophecies have been fulfilled (even as noted in the foregoing article) we can be certain that those prophecies that foretell a coming worldwide catastrophe, or a time of trouble, will also be fulfilled. This time of trouble will be brought on by none other than the Creator, Jehovah God, himself. In this sense it will be like the destruction described at Jeremiah 25:33, which says: “Those slain by Jehovah will certainly come to be in that day from one end of the earth clear to the other end of the earth. They will not be bewailed, neither will they be gathered up or be buried. As manure on the surface of the ground they will become.”
9 In regard to that catastrophe, the prophet Zephaniah was inspired to write: “‘Therefore keep yourselves in expectation of me,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘till the day of my rising up to the booty, for my judicial decision is to gather nations, for me to collect together kingdoms, in order to pour out upon them my denunciation, all my burning anger; for by the fire of my zeal all the earth will be devoured.’” (Zeph. 3:8) And of this time, the prophet Daniel under inspiration said: “During that time Michael will stand up, the great prince who is standing in behalf of the sons of your people. And there will certainly occur a time of distress such as has not been made to occur since there came to be a nation until that time.” (Dan. 12:1) Jesus Christ referred to this time in his great prophecy regarding the conclusion of this system of things, saying: “Then there will be great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning until now, no, nor will occur again. In fact, unless those days were cut short, no flesh would be saved.” (Matt. 24:21, 22) And the book of Revelation tells of the battle of the great day of God the Almighty, taking place at Armageddon.—Rev. 16:14, 16; 19:11, 19.
10, 11. (a) What condition prevailed on earth upon the completion of the six creative days? (b) What is one reason why God will take action to remedy affairs on earth?
10 But why should the Creator want to bring such a worldwide holocaust, such a global catastrophe upon humankind? Because as the Creator and Owner of the earth he is keenly interested in this planet and the people upon it. On completing his six days or epochs of creation “God saw everything he had made and, look! it was very good.” (Gen. 1:31) And some three thousand years later King Solomon testified to the same effect: “Everything he has made pretty in its time.”—Eccl. 3:11; Ps. 111:2; 104:5-27.
11 And today, what do we see on this planet? A shocking abundance of wars, revolutions, all manner of injustices, crime and corruption, oppression and tyranny, as well as a host of physical and mental ills that afflict humankind and cause great suffering. But remember, Jesus Christ, God’s Son, told us to pray for God’s kingdom to come, for God’s will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. (Matt. 6:10) For that prayer to be answered God will need to rid the earth of all violence and wickedness, together with all men and institutions opposed to his sovereignty, opposed to having God’s will done on earth.—Ps. 37:10, 11.
12-14. (a) What two qualities of God make it certain that he will take action regarding the earth and humankind? (b) Why can we have confidence that God is able to accomplish whatever he chooses in this regard?
12 Pertinent here is also the fact that Jehovah is a God of justice: “The Rock, perfect is his activity, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness, with whom there is no injustice; righteous and upright is he.” (Deut. 32:4) Not only does he himself act justly at all times, but he is concerned with justice holding sway throughout his dominions. Certainly he is not less interested in the lot of those suffering injustices than was Job of ancient times, who said of himself: “I would rescue the afflicted one crying for help, and the fatherless boy and anyone that had no helper.” (Job 29:12) God will not for all time tolerate injustices.
13 Moreover, do we not read of Jehovah that “God is love”? (1 John 4:8) And do we not read that “God loved the world [of humankind] so much that he gave his only-begotten Son, in order that everyone exercising faith in him might not be destroyed but have everlasting life”? (John 3:16) Great as Jehovah God is, he has empathy; he is able to ‘put himself in the shoes,’ as it were, of his lowly, weak earthly creatures. Bearing this out are the words of his prophet: “During all their distress”—that is, of the children of Israel—“it was distressing to him.” It hurt him to see his people suffering and so he repeatedly delivered them, from the time of Moses onward.—Isa. 63:9; Ex. 2:23, 24; Judg. 2:18.
14 God’s justice and love assure us that he will act in behalf of the oppressed of humankind. But does he have the means and ability to set matters straight on this earth? Surely he does! His power is unlimited, for he is the Almighty One. (Gen. 17:1; 18:14, 25) In view of the power and wisdom he displayed in creating the universe, there can be no doubt about his being able to bring about a global catastrophe that will make an end of wickedness and suffering on this earth.—Prov. 3:19, 20.
15, 16. What is an even stronger reason why Jehovah God is certain to bring about a global time of trouble to cleanse the earth of wickedness?
15 There is an even stronger reason why the Creator, Jehovah God, will bring about this global catastrophe, doing away with all the wicked. And what is that? Because all wickedness is rebellion against him as the almighty Sovereign. All such is an affront to him, which he cannot tolerate indefinitely. That is why Jesus began his Model Prayer with the petition: “Let your name be sanctified.”—Matt. 6:9.
16 God’s comments about the days of Noah show that the wicked conditions back there were an affront to him and so he took action. (Gen. 6:3, 5, 6) And now, for ages, righteous men have been asking the question that the prophet Habakkuk asked as to why a just and righteous God permits the wicked apparently to triumph over the righteous. (Hab. 1:13) Thus we find God’s Word telling that he will call a halt to all oppression and wickedness, in order that men will know that he is the Sovereign Lord of the universe. Some sixty times in the prophecy of Ezekiel alone is the statement made that God will act so that ‘men will know that he is the true God, Jehovah.’ (Ezek. 6:7–39:28) Also, the Hebrew psalmist prayed that God would act so that “people may know that you, whose name is Jehovah, you alone are the Most High over all the earth.” (Ps. 83:18) Yes, both because Jehovah God has compassion for suffering humankind and because his sovereignty and name are involved, he will bring about the global catastrophe that will put an end to all wickedness and suffering on earth.
WHEN? WHEN? WHEN?
17. What did Jesus say about our knowing the exact time for “that day”?
17 For many persons the all-important question is, When will this “great tribulation,” this worldwide disaster, this global catastrophe take place? When will the Creator intervene in human affairs as he did in ancient times and bring an end to distressing world conditions? As much as God’s servants have earnestly longed to know the time, one thing is certain: No man can pinpoint the exact day and hour. Jesus himself made that point clear, saying: “Nobody knows, neither the angels in heaven nor the Son, but the Father.” He also said that it would be ‘at a time that his followers would not think to be likely.’—Mark 13:32; Luke 12:40.
18. What indicates that Jehovah does indeed have set times for action?
18 But Jehovah God does have a set time for it. We read in his Word, the Bible: “For everything there is an appointed time, even a time for every affair under the heavens.” (Eccl. 3:1) In Noah’s day, when conditions on earth reached the limit of Jehovah God’s long-suffering, he sent the great deluge. (Gen. 6:3, 5-7) When his people Israel were in bondage in Egypt, he delivered them in his due time. The record says: “In time God heard their groaning and . . . God took notice,” and led them out by the hand of Moses. (Ex. 2:24, 25) Later, when the nation of Israel exhausted God’s patience by reason of their apostasy and wickedness, “until there was no healing,” God “brought up against them the king” of Babylon. (2 Chron. 36:15-17) Also, “when the full limit of the time arrived,” God sent his Son to earth.—Gal. 4:4.
19. What may be considered one reason for concluding that God will act soon?
19 The time for God to end wickedness on the earth must be soon, for if present worsening conditions were not called to a halt by the Creator, selfish men would bring an end to humankind on the earth, either through their pollution of it or by nuclear warfare. According to ecologists, the rapid spreading of pollution in the earth, in the air and particularly in the oceans, presents a clear threat to the survival of the human family. In line with the words of Jesus Christ, the present wicked system of things is a house divided against itself; hence, it cannot keep standing much longer. And according to another Scriptural illustration, the nations ‘have sown the wind and so will reap the whirlwind’ of destruction.—Matt. 12:25, 26; Hos. 8:7.
20-22. (a) What prophecies of Jesus indicate that the global time of trouble is near? (b) How do Paul’s words show that we are in the “last days”?
20 Particularly do fulfilled Bible prophecies make it certain that we are living at the conclusion of this wicked system of things. In answer to a question by his apostles as to when the ‘end of the world’ or the end of this system of things would take place, Jesus Christ foretold widespread wars, famines, earthquakes and pestilences as marking the nearness of that end. Certainly in our generation we have seen all these things occur on an unprecedented scale, particularly since 1914.—Matt. 24, 25; Mark 13; Luke 21.
21 Also pinpointing this present time are the prophetic words of the apostle Paul that “in the last days critical times hard to deal with will be here. For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, self-assuming, haughty, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, disloyal, having no natural affection, not open to any agreement, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, without love of goodness, betrayers, headstrong, puffed up with pride, lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God, having a form of godly devotion but proving false to its power.” (2 Tim. 3:1-5) Who can deny that these conditions prevail today, and to an extent never witnessed before? Certainly no honest, knowledgeable person can do so.
22 As part of his composite “sign” of the end of this system of things, Jesus foretold that “this good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.” (Matt. 24:14) This prophecy also has had a remarkable fulfillment, particularly within the last fifty years. In all justice and fairness Jehovah God warns the wicked before he proceeds against them, striking instances being the warning he had his prophets proclaim before Jerusalem and its temple were destroyed in 607 B.C.E. and again in 70 C.E.
23. What import is there for us in the nearness of these events?
23 What does all of this imply, what does it all mean? It means that there is a possibility of survival even as there was such in previous great catastrophes brought on by the Creator, Jehovah God. And it also means that there is an urgency about taking steps for survival, even as there was an urgency in the days of Lot and at the time the early Christians saw the armies of Rome encircling Jerusalem. Yes, it is a time for promptly acquiring faith and acting on it.