A Kingdom “Sign” Fulfilled
WHAT A JOLT! In 1914 C.E. this earth was struck by a shock wave from which it has never recovered. For World War I catapulted mankind into critical times that continue till this day. As the English philosopher, Bertrand Russell, expressed it: “Ever since 1914 the world has been reeling drunkenly toward disaster.” And more than 50 years after 1914, statesman Konrad Adenauer of Germany reflected: “Thoughts and pictures come to my mind, . . . thoughts from before the year 1914 when there was real peace, quiet and security on this earth—a time when we didn’t know fear. . . . Security and quiet have disappeared from the lives of men since 1914.”
What a turning point that year 1914 proved to be! As the leading nations of earth became locked in total warfare, existing forms of government were shaken to the foundations. Until that time, much of the earth had been ruled by kingdoms with real kings. But one after another these kingdoms tottered and fell. Russian czardom received its deathblow, and was soon replaced by atheistic Communism. Socialistic governments were on the ascendancy.
But what does all of this have to do with God’s kingdom? When Jesus was here on earth, his disciples were most interested in that kingdom. On one occasion they asked him: “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?” This “presence” refers to his being present as reigning king for the purpose of judging the nations on earth. How do we know this? Because, in the course of replying to his disciples, Jesus said: “When the Son of man arrives in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit down on his glorious throne. And all the nations will be gathered before him.” (Matt. 24:3; 25:31, 32) His “presence” is therefore in the spirit realm. That is why a visible “sign” is given to show men on earth that he has begun reigning as King.
Let us examine some of the features of the “sign” that Jesus gave. As we do so, we can ask ourselves, Do these things really pinpoint our times since 1914 as “the conclusion of the system of things”? First, Jesus spoke of international wars, “nation . . . against nation and kingdom against kingdom.” (Matt. 24:7, 8) Since 1914, the two world wars alone took 69 million lives. And now we stand at the brink of nuclear warfare. It is significant that former United States Secretary of State Henry A. Kissinger stated on January 10, 1977, just before leaving office: “The American people must understand that strategic nuclear weapons confront all mankind with a new circumstance, namely that for the first time in history, mankind can literally destroy itself.” What a fearful possibility! Truly, the fulfillment of still another feature of Jesus’ “sign” is plain for all to see:
“There will be . . . on the earth anguish of nations, not knowing the way out . . . while men become faint out of fear and expectation of the things coming upon the inhabited earth.”—Luke 21:25, 26.
The turmoil in the earth shows that “the appointed times of the nations” for ruling independently of God ran out in 1914. Now we are living through the time of worldwide distress that immediately precedes the replacing of man-rule by God’s kingdom, for the everlasting benefit of mankind.—Luke 21:24.
OTHER FEATURES OF THE “SIGN”
However, there are many more features of Jesus’ “sign.” He said that the “conclusion of the system of things” would be marked by great “food shortages.” In the wake of World War I terrible famines took the lives of millions, and now the twentieth-century population explosion, coupled with administrative disunity and greed, leaves a half billion people undernourished or facing starvation. Jesus spoke also of “earthquakes in one place after another.” (Matt. 24:7) These are certainly in evidence since 1914, being climaxed by that in Tangshan, China, in 1976, concerning which Communist Party chairman Huo Kua-feng said: “It caused a loss of life and property rarely seen in history.” Casualties were more than 655,000 killed and 790,000 injured, bringing the total loss of life in earthquakes since 1914 to well over 1,500,000 persons. Truly, earthquakes have abounded since 1914—as part of the “sign.”
Space does not permit us to recount today all the features of Jesus’ “sign.” But it is clearly to be seen. Why, even pontiffs of the Roman Catholic Church have noted the import of the “sign.” In his encyclical of November 1, 1914, Pope Benedict XV declared World War I to be the “beginning of the world’s death pangs.” And his successor, Pope Pius XI, in the Encyclical “Miserentissimus Redemptor” reviewed the sad state of the world, and concluded: “Indeed, it is impossible to refrain from thinking that these are truly the signs of the last days, such as were announced by Our Lord.” Then, why has not the Catholic Church given support to Jesus’ further words in connection with the “sign”? Jesus said: “And 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.
Sadly, both Catholicism and Protestantism have failed to proclaim to the world that God’s kingdom is now at hand. It has been left to the Christian witnesses of Jehovah to carry out that work. And as one modern-day historian stated: “Jehovah’s Witnesses have literally covered the earth with their witnessing.”a
Now is the time to pay the most urgent attention to Jesus’ prophecy. And why is that? It is because we are well along in the generation that saw the start of these “pangs of distress” upon mankind. (Matt. 24:8) We are fast approaching the culminating feature of the “sign,” concerning which Jesus said:
“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; but on account of the chosen ones those days will be cut short.”—Matt. 24:21, 22, 34.
Do you want to be among the favored ones when the final tribulation strikes? Then you must learn how God’s Kingdom government can benefit you!
Commencing on page 12, we will examine more closely how the great need arose for this Kingdom government, what are the qualifications its King must meet, and why it has taken God thousands of years to make preparation for the Kingdom.
a C. S. Braden, These Also Believe, 1950.