Are These Really the “Last Days”?
DOES this age of violence mean that we are now living in the “last days”? Those who ask this question in all sincerity will find a satisfying answer. But others ask with a wrong motive, and concerning these the apostle Peter writes: “In the last days there will come ridiculers with their ridicule, proceeding according to their own desires and saying: ‘Where is this promised presence of [the Lord Jesus Christ]? Why, from the day our forefathers fell asleep in death, all things are continuing exactly as from creation’s beginning.’” (2 Pet. 3:3, 4) In today’s godless world, such ridiculers of the Word of God abound—in itself an indication that we have entered the “last days.”
Peter calls the attention of the ridiculers to the destruction of the world of Noah’s day by the deluge, and adds:
“By the same word [of God] the heavens and the earth that are now are stored up for fire and are being reserved to the day of judgment and of destruction of the ungodly men.” (2 Pet. 3:5-7)
The governmental powers and human society of this wicked world face just such a destruction. But can we really be sure that these are the “last days”?
EVIDENCES OF THE “LAST DAYS”
The apostle Paul tells us that “in the last days critical times hard to deal with will be here,” and adds:
“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.”
Paul then tells us to turn away from such. (2 Tim. 3:1-5) Do we not see this lack of real love, this “self first” attitude accentuated throughout the world today? It contributes greatly to the critical problems of the times.
This materialistic, worldly spirit even endangers the Christian congregation. It is for this reason that Jesus’ half brother James warns persons who are well off against living in luxury, or for sensual pleasure, telling them, “something like fire is what you have stored up in the last days.” (Jas. 5:1-5) So, “the last days” are not the time for genuine Christians to pursue the self-indulgent ways of a world alienated from God.
We noted in the previous article that an era of total warfare and terror began on the earth in the year 1914. Few will question that 1914 marked an unprecedented turning point in human affairs, “a beginning of pangs of distress,” as Jesus described it. Yes, a “beginning,” and Jesus’ great prophecy, recorded at Matthew chapters 24 and 25, Mark chapter 13 and Luke chapter 21, details distresses without parallel that have been experienced by mankind since 1914: wars, food shortages, earthquakes, pestilences, fearful sights, lawlessness, lovelessness, fear, anguish. “The disgusting thing that causes desolation,” also identified in Revelation 17:3, 8 as “a scarlet-colored wild beast,” has also appeared, first as the League of Nations and later as the United Nations, but it has not supplied a way out for mankind.—Matt. 24:15, 16; Dan. 11:31.
Along with the world in general, followers of Christ have had to endure these distresses. Christians have also gone through additional hardships described by Jesus in his prophecy: court trials, beatings, hatreds and persecutions. During World War I they were hounded and oppressed, even in democratic countries. Before and during World War II, they became the butt of Nazi-Fascist-Shinto hatreds. More recently, Communist Europe and a number of radical African countries have vented their spleen on the Witnesses. But, Christians, take courage! All of this has been “in order that the tested quality of your faith, of much greater value than gold that perishes despite its being proved by fire, may be found a cause for praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”—1 Pet. 1:7.
A POWERFUL EVIDENCE
Convincing proof that we are now in the “last days” is to be found in the work that the Lord Jesus Christ has directed on this earth since the fateful year 1914. It is in fulfillment of that part of his great prophecy recorded at Matthew 24:14:
“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.”
Further on in this same prophecy, Jesus described how this work would be carried through on the earth under the direction of himself and the holy angels of heaven:
“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, and he will separate people one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. And he will put the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on his left.”
The righteous “sheep” class go on into everlasting life, but the unappreciative “goats” into everlasting destruction.—Matt. 25:31-46.
Thus, in the “last days,” a grand worldwide witness must be given concerning Christ’s incoming kingdom. Has such a witness been in evidence since 1914? Indeed it has! Modern historians record that Jehovah’s Witnesses have covered the earth with their preaching. And with what result? By 1977 they had distributed Bibles and publications explaining the Bible to the number of 4,831,823,111 in 210 different languages, made Christian disciples of more than two million persons in 216 lands and territories and comforted millions of others through free Bible studies in their homes. This work, accomplished in fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy, is truly powerful evidence that these are indeed the “last days.”
“THE FINAL PART OF THE DAYS”
Other Bible prophecies, notably Isaiah chapter 2 and Micah chapter 4, refer to “the final part of the days.” The testimony of these two prophets is almost identical, being repeated, no doubt, for emphasis. Note what Micah 4:1, 2 says:
“It must occur in the final part of the days that the mountain of the house of Jehovah will become firmly established above the top of the mountains, and it will certainly be lifted up above the hills; and to it peoples must stream. And many nations will certainly go and say: ‘Come, you people, and let us go up to the mountain of Jehovah and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will instruct us about his ways, and we will walk in his paths.”
Thus, in beautiful pictorial language, the prophet describes how, at the time of the world’s end, Jehovah’s spiritual temple—his house of worship—is exalted above all forms of human worship, yes, “above the hills.” People of all nationalities flow in a stream to Jehovah’s house of worship, where they receive his instruction and learn to walk in his ways of righteousness. There is only one time in human history when persons “out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues,” all around the globe, have become united in the one worship of the true God. (Rev. 7:9) This prophecy concerning “the final part of the days” is being fulfilled before our very eyes today, among the Christian witnesses of Jehovah.
However, the prophecy has another significant fulfillment today. And what is that? Listen to these further words:
“They will have to beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning shears. They will not lift up sword, nation against nation, neither will they learn war anymore.”—Mic. 4:3.
Are swords being beaten into plowshares today? Surely the worldly nations are not doing this! They keep on arming, and with more than swords and spears! They continue to stockpile horrendous weapons of mass annihilation, in armament programs that are racing out of control. The possibilities are terrible. As Richard J. Barnet wrote in the New York Times of June 6, 1978:
“Either we change the rules by which all great powers play—through serious, substantial disarmament, limitations on bases, on global arms traffic, on covert operations—or the game we are in will end in nuclear war in our time.”
However, there is a people in our time that does not participate in that “game.” This is the international group known as Jehovah’s Witnesses. If they ‘learned war,’ this would pit them against their Christian brothers in other sections of the world. They prefer to cultivate love toward fellow Christians, and toward all mankind, and thus they share in fulfilling Micah’s prophecy. The Witnesses’ neutrality has won them respect in many parts of Africa, in Ireland, in Lebanon and other places where religion has divided the people into militant factions. By their consistently ‘beating swords into plowshares,’ even under the pressure of persecutions, Jehovah’s people are identified as fulfilling this prophecy “in the final part of the days.”
Happily, “in the final part of the days” there is one people on earth, united world wide in the bond of love, that is determined to walk, not according to the “gods” of sectarian religion, but in the precious name of ‘Jehovah their God,’ forever. (Mic. 4:5) They firmly believe, on the basis of fulfilled prophecy, that we are living through the “last days,” and that, as Peter described it, “Jehovah’s day will come as a thief” to destroy the wicked system that now controls God’s earth. They are diligent, therefore, in giving heed to the admonition:
“Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of persons ought you to be in holy acts of conduct and deeds of godly devotion, awaiting and keeping close in mind the presence of the day of Jehovah.”—2 Pet. 3:10-12.
That “day” will not end their ‘walking in the name of Jehovah their God,’ for they expect to do this forever. Hence, in anticipation of Jehovah’s marvelous provision of a new order, they do their utmost to prove worthy of entering into that glorious time. Their bright hope is expressed in Peter’s further words:
“There are new heavens and a new earth that we are awaiting according to his promise, and in these righteousness is to dwell.” (2 Pet. 3:13)
This is a real hope, a present hope, for all the evidence adds up to show that these really are the “last days” of the present world system. It is urgent that we recognize them as such.
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Never before have persons out of all nations around the globe been united in pure worship on the basis of the Bible