Are We Nearing Armageddon?
“Then there will be great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning until now, no, nor will occur again.”—Matt. 24:21.
1. (a) What do some people understand “Armageddon” to mean? (b) Is Armageddon merely another war between nations?
THE word “Armageddon” rings ominously in the ears of many people. Some understand it to be the “end of the world” when all human life will be destroyed and the earth made uninhabitable, perhaps by means of a nuclear war between nations. True, the English word “Armageddon” does denote a cataclysmic event, a war. But the Bible says that it is “the war of the great day of God the Almighty,” which is fought at a place called “Har–Magedon.”—Rev. 16:14, 16.
2. Will Armageddon mean the end of mankind, or of the earth?
2 Could God’s war of Armageddon possibly mean the end of all mankind, or the end of this planet? No, not at all. God’s own Word assures us: “This is what Jehovah has said, the Creator of the heavens, He the true God, the Former of the earth and the Maker of it, He the One who firmly established it, who did not create it simply for nothing, who formed it even to be inhabited.”—Isa. 45:18.
3. What will Armageddon accomplish?
3 While Armageddon will not mean the end of all mankind, nor of the earth, it certainly will mean the end of a system of things (or, “world”) as we know it. Armageddon will be God’s way of totally crushing out of existence today’s deteriorating political, economic, social and religious systems that have caused so much grief. “My judicial decision,” says Jehovah, “is to gather nations, for me to collect together kingdoms, in order to pour out upon them my denunciation, all my burning anger.” (Zeph. 3:8) Thus, God’s war of Armageddon will mean the execution of his adverse judgment against “kings,” “nations” and “kingdoms.” Others to receive his adverse judgment, the Bible says, are the supporters of this present wicked system of things, the “military commanders,” “strong men,” “freemen,” “slaves” and “small ones and great.”—Rev. 16:14; 19:18.
4. How does Bible prophecy describe conditions after Armageddon?
4 The end of the present system will pave the way for an entirely new order of God’s making, a human society in which the will of God is going to be carried out “as in heaven, also upon earth.” (Matt. 6:10) In that new order after Armageddon, Bible prophecy tells us, “righteousness is to dwell.” (2 Pet. 3:13) How refreshing, how thrilling that will be after so many centuries of injustice, suffering, heartache and tears! With God’s will being done over all the earth and with righteous conditions established, a time of unprecedented happiness will be ushered in. The Bible foretells: “The meek ones themselves will possess the earth, and they will indeed find their exquisite delight in the abundance of peace.” (Ps. 37:11) It is no wonder that Jesus called it “Paradise.”—Luke 23:43.
THE COMING “GREAT TRIBULATION”
5. What is the “great tribulation,” and how do we know it will last only a short time?
5 God’s war of Armageddon will be the final part of a period of time called the “great tribulation.” Jesus spoke of it in this way: “Then there will be great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning until now, no, nor will occur again.” (Matt. 24:21) Considering the catastrophes that have taken place in the past, it is apparent that the coming “great tribulation” will be a time of upheaval unequaled in the entire history of the human family. But mercifully, it will be a very brief time, one that God will “cut short.”—Matt. 24:22.
6. Why can we face the “great tribulation” with confidence?
6 However, while the “great tribulation” will be the worst of times, we can be comforted by the fact that it immediately precedes the best of times—in God’s new order. Also, there is the very happy prospect that many people now living will survive that coming time of trouble! God’s Word promises that “a great crowd, which no man was able to number, out of all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues” will “come out of the great tribulation” as survivors. Even now God has wiped out every tear from their eyes. (Rev. 7:9, 14, 17) For this reason, Jesus was very optimistic of the future, although knowing that mankind yet had to face the “great tribulation.” His hope-filled words are: “As these things start to occur, raise yourselves erect and lift your heads up, because your deliverance is getting near.”—Luke 21:28.
7. Why do others sense that a climax in human affairs is approaching?
7 For many decades, Jehovah’s Witnesses alone have been very active on the international scene in sounding the warning about this coming time of trouble that would climax at Armageddon. (Mark 13:10) At times, though, others sense that something cataclysmic is approaching, for they observe world conditions worsening with no hope of genuine or lasting improvement. For example, on May 4, 1980, the editor of the Miami Herald, Jim Hampton, wrote:
“Do you have, growing deep in your gut these days, the same kind of knot I have growing in mine? The awful, keep-you-awake-nights knot that tells you something is dreadfully wrong with your country, with the whole world? The knot that makes you shiver sometimes because it has just dawned on you that Armageddon isn’t just some allegory you read about in the Bible, it’s real? And that for the first time in your life the match is so close to the fuse that Armageddon is actually possible?
“I have that knot. And I’m not ashamed to admit it, because I have asked a dozen of my friends if they have it too, and not one doesn’t. . . .
“Anyone with half a logical mind can put together the cataclysmic events of the past few years and see that the world is at a historic threshold. It’s a threshold as important as the Renaissance, the Industrial Revolution, or the Electronic Age. It will change forever the way men live.
“But unlike those thresholds, which were essentially benevolent for civilization’s progress, this one . . . holds the potential for malevolence such as the world has never seen.”
While this editor was not viewing Armageddon entirely from the Biblical context, he was correct in saying that mankind is nearing a time of trouble “such as the world has never seen.” What mankind actually is nearing is the “great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning until now, no, nor will occur again,” as Jesus foretold.
8. What information do we need, and why?
8 Therefore, if we love life and want to live in a righteous new order of God’s making, we very much need to learn about this coming “great tribulation” and its Armageddon climax. We need authoritative answers to such questions as: How do we know we are really nearing the “great tribulation”? What event will be a sure sign that it actually has begun?
HOW WE KNOW WE ARE GETTING NEAR
9, 10. How does the Bible describe the period of time leading up to the “great tribulation”?
9 When Jesus spoke of the coming “great tribulation,” he also foretold some of the evidence that would indicate its approach. On one occasion his disciples asked him what would be the “sign” of the “conclusion of the system of things.” (Matt. 24:3) Jesus spoke of a particular generation of people who would begin experiencing problems on a scale never before seen. He foretold for that generation international war, disease epidemics, and food shortages and earthquakes “in one place after another.” He called these “a beginning of pangs of distress.” So intense would the difficulties be that there would be great “anguish of nations, not knowing the way out,” with many people becoming “faint out of fear and expectation of the things coming upon the inhabited earth.”—Matt. 24:7, 8, 34; Luke 21:10, 11, 25, 26.
10 About 32 years later, the apostle Paul, under the inspiration of God’s holy spirit, wrote prophetically about the “conclusion of the system of things,” saying: “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.” The prophecy also says that “wicked men and impostors will advance from bad to worse,” showing that after the beginning of the “last days” there would be a continued degeneration in human affairs, to be climaxed by the outbreak of the “great tribulation.”—2 Tim. 3:1-5, 13.
11, 12. Why was the year 1914 a turning point in history?
11 Without a doubt, the time period that Jesus and inspired Bible writers such as Paul pointed toward is that in which we now live! In fact, it has been in progress since the “turning point” of modern history, the year 1914, which saw the outbreak of World War I. Many historians correctly point to that year as the pivotal one for mankind, because that is when the world entered a period of difficulty never before experienced on such an earth-wide scale. World War I was an evidence of this, since it was so much worse than any war that had ever preceded it, which is why, at the time, it was called “The Great War.” It was the first global or world war. It was total warfare and affected nearly every country on earth.
12 Regarding World War I, the book La Grande Guerre (The Great War), by General Richard Thoumin, published originally in France, says: “The blood and tears of the First World War changed the face of the earth.” The general also wrote:
“When in November 1918 the arms were laid down at last, ten million men had lost their lives, and twice that many had been wounded or crippled. Little wonder the conflict should be called the ‘Great War ‘. . .
“The unique ‘greatness’ of the First World War . . . was one of scope and numbers, of industrial output and material destruction. . . . Never before had so many countries and such large armies faced each other in such gigantic battles; never had such high proportions of combatants been killed or maimed; never had man gone to war with such powerful weapons.”
13. What other events surrounding World War I show that the “last days” began then?
13 In 1918, before the war was over, the Spanish influenza epidemic began sweeping the earth. It killed over 20 million people, more than the number that died in the war. During and after the war, millions of others died from starvation. Also, earthquakes took a high toll: in 1915 nearly 30,000 were killed in Italy; in 1920 about 180,000 died in China; in 1923 some 143,000 perished in Japan. For good reason did reporter Frank Peters write in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “Civilization entered on a cruel and perhaps terminal illness in 1914.” Yes, world war, disease epidemics, food shortages and earthquakes “in one place after another.” Surely, these were “a beginning of pangs of distress” that Jesus foretold. The “last days,” the “time of the end,” had indeed begun!—Matt. 24:8; 2 Tim. 3:1; Dan. 12:4.
14. Why can we say we are deep into the “last days”?
14 Now, in late 1980, 66 years have passed since the crucial date of 1914. During that time, World War II also took place, killing some 55 million people, and ending with the atomic destruction of two cities, ushering in the nuclear age. Since then, conditions show that mankind is unable to solve its problems, and every part of this system of things is experiencing decay. All of this tells us that we are deep into the “last days,” and that events are moving rapidly toward the “great tribulation.”
15, 16. What do others say about conditions in our time?
15 For instance, at the end of 1979 economist Leonard Silk wrote: “This holiday season, the scarcest commodity is probably not oil but hope. For, with the turbulent decade of the 1970’s in its final days, the dangers facing the world economy—and world peace—are intensifying.” Columnist Max Lerner said in the spring of this year, 1980: “The world seems to have reached a stage where inflation, strikes, bankruptcy, fanaticism and terrorism come close to guaranteeing that nothing works and no one is in control. Can anyone anywhere govern?”
16 When the mayors of large cities in the United States were asked why so many of these urban centers were in such deplorable conditions, one answered: “The problems are almost insurmountable. Anyone who is not frustrated is not thinking.” Another mayor was asked if the cities were “ungovernable” now, and he commented that the facts “would lead one to at least think along these lines.” Similarly, Gus Tyler, author of the book Scarcity, said: “Mugging, burglary, assassination of police, dope peddling have brought a semianarchy to many cities.”
17. Intensive research led a group headed by a prominent political official to what conclusion recently?
17 Former chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany Willy Brandt headed a group that investigated world conditions for two and a half years. This was their conclusion recently:
“At the beginning of the 1980s the world community faces much greater dangers than at any time since the Second World War. It is clear that the world economy is now functioning so badly that it damages both the immediate and longer-run interests of all nations. . . .
“The problems of poverty and hunger are becoming more serious; there are already 800 million absolute poor and their numbers are rising; shortages of grain and other foods are increasing the prospect of hunger and starvation. . . .
“Between 20 and 25 million children below the age of five die every year in developing countries . . .
“A number of poor countries are threatened with the irreversible destruction of their ecological systems while many more face growing food deficits and possibly mass starvation. In the international economy there is the possibility of . . . a collapse of credit with defaults by major debtors, or bank failures . . . [and] an intensified struggle for influence or control over resources leading to military conflicts.”
18. What other recent developments in world affairs verify that the way is being prepared for the “great tribulation”?
18 Add to this the well-documented disintegration of family life and marriage in recent years, the vast increase of crime and violence of all sorts, the enormous growth of drug abuse and alcoholism, and the upsurge of juvenile lawlessness. Is it not obvious that the very fiber of human society is breaking down, as Jesus said it would just prior to the “great tribulation”? (Matt. 24:12) In addition, consider this development, as noted in World Press Review: “The world of the Eighties is in many ways frightening, not just because of the poverty and injustice from which so many suffer . . . but because of the machinery of global destruction with which men play.” It called that machinery of destruction “horrifying,” and no wonder, for Britain’s New Scientist reports: “There are about 60,000 nuclear warheads in today’s arsenals, with an explosive power equivalent to more than 16,000 million tons of TNT (equal to 1,250,000 Hiroshima bombs).” Some of those weapons are so deadly that one bomb alone can wipe out a small country, or an entire section of a large country. Yes, for the first time in history, man is capable of annihilating most life on earth.
19. Whom should we trust to solve today’s problems?
19 Are we to think that somehow, though, world leaders, because they may be sincere, intelligent, well informed and powerful, will solve these problems? Note what former United States Secretary of the Treasury Michael Blumenthal says: “No one fully understands the present situation. That includes all government officials making policy. They are as puzzled as you are when you open the paper in the morning. The fact is that no one . . . really has been able to predict with any degree of accuracy the problems we got into.” But the Bible did, and adds this wise counsel: “Do not put your trust in nobles, nor in the son of earthling man, to whom no salvation belongs.” Instead, “happy is the one . . . whose hope is in Jehovah his God, . . . the One keeping trueness to time indefinite.”—Ps. 146:3-6.
20. Of what can we be certain, and so what questions do we need answered?
20 For a certainty, all the conditions foretold in Bible prophecy are here. We are indeed very deep into the “last days” of this system of things and nearing the final part, the “great tribulation” with its Armageddon finish. And just what will mark the outbreak of that “great tribulation”? An event that already is well along in development. What is this event? A discussion of it follows in the next article.
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In God’s new order, people will “find their exquisite delight in the abundance of peace”