Fear—A Sign of the End?
ARE we living in the twilight of an age of uncertainty and anxiety where “men become faint out of fear and expectation of the things coming upon the inhabited earth”? Just a brief review of world events and the motives for fear since 1914 will refresh the memory and help us to see whether we are approaching the foretold “end.”—Luke 21:9, 25, 26.
Fear and War
Monuments to the dead of World War I in France bear the words “la Grande Guerre.” Yes, what we now term the first world war (1914-18) was originally called the Great War. It was so great and awful in death and destruction that men hopefully termed it the war to end wars. After such a dreadful lesson, surely it was thought civilized man would ‘learn war no more.’ (Isaiah 2:4) Only another 18 years was needed to shatter that illusion with the outbreak of the terrible Spanish Civil War (1936-39) in which more than half a million Spaniards died. Germans and Italians participated in that conflict, which served as a rehearsal for what had to be called the second world war (1939-45). That world catastrophe ended with the holocausts of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
With those atom-bomb explosions over Japan a new source of fear and anxiety burst onto the world stage—the fear of atomic war. How true the words of Professor Albert Einstein in December 1945: “The world was promised freedom from fear, but in fact fear has increased tremendously since the termination of the war”! Then he added, “The picture of our postwar world is not bright.”
That mounting fear is reflected today by the millions of people all over the world who are demonstrating against nuclear weapons. Even the clergy are getting involved in the issue. Yes, nuclear weapons have transformed world politics and military strategy. As historian E. P. Thompson stated in his recent book Beyond the Cold War: “These weapons operate in the medium of politics, ideology and strategy; they are perceived as menacing and are intended to be so; they induce fear and they simultaneously enhance and frustrate feelings of aggression.”—Italics ours.
This fear of nuclear war is universal. A recent Soviet booklet stated: “The Soviet Union holds that nuclear war would be a universal disaster, and that it would most probably mean the end of civilization. It may lead to the destruction of all mankind.” Now the two main ideological blocs face each other in a tenuous stalemate based on what is known as Mutual Assured Destruction—MAD for short. Little wonder that mankind is in ‘fear and expectation of the things coming on the earth’—just as Jesus prophesied.
Fear and Crime
There is another kind of fear that strikes nearer to home. What is it? Fear of crime in your own neighborhood. There was a time when a burglar, or robber, took only valuables. Now they take lives as well. There is little fear of the law, and crime does pay handsomely for many. Thus real fear strikes deep in the big cities and wealthy suburbs. For example, the number of people using the New York subway is the lowest since 1917. Why? One of the principal reasons is the fear of being robbed or murdered. A report from Britain states: “The much-needed community spirit is being destroyed by fear of crime which is keeping many people at home.” Even in formerly secure cities like Barcelona, Spain, the sale of reinforced doors has increased, and many homes now have at least two or three locks and bolts on their doors. In the United States many women are learning to use handguns for self-defense. One study indicates that 52 percent of American families have guns! The same report warns, “Fear of crime is slowly paralyzing American society.”
Inspired Bible writers knew that such extreme conditions would strike in the time of the end. Thus the apostle Paul warned: “But know this, 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.” (2 Timothy 3:1-3) How many crimes are motivated by what the apostle lists here! And how much fear is spread by the ever-growing criminal population!
Fear and Unemployment
Another factor sowing fear and anxiety in the 20th century is the instability of the world economy, resulting in highs of relative prosperity and depressions that have left millions without a job. Even those with a job often feel insecure. ‘Who will be next out on the street?’ is the nagging question. With so many people living on credit, this real threat causes daily anxiety. There are more than 30 million jobless in the Western nations alone. One commentator even gave the somber warning that many of the unemployed may never work again!
International bankers are holding their breath as they watch one country after another go into virtual bankruptcy. As reported by The Guardian, “Altogether in the last three years around 25 countries have had to ask banks and governments for more time to pay their debts, most of them coming back more than once.” Therefore the economic situation is one more factor in the fulfillment of the words of Jesus that ‘men will become faint out of fear and expectation of the things coming on the earth.’
Fear and Outer Space
Man’s fears and anxieties do not spring just from his mundane problems. Since 1914 menacing and destructive forces have rained down from the skies in two world wars and many other major conflicts. But now the threat comes from much higher than the skies—it lurks in outer space. The Spanish daily El País recently carried the headline “Space, About to Be Converted Into a Theater of Military Operations.” The article continued: “Both the United States and the Soviet Union thus take one more step in the space race, the military aspects of which have been highlighted in a spectacular way in recent months. It can be said that the era of the offensive militarization of space has started.”
The threat from outer space is confirmed by a statement made by Lieutenant General Richard C. Henry, deputy commander of the U.S. Space Command, who said: “Space is not a mission, it is a place. It is a theater of operations. It is now time that we treat it as a theater of operations.” And General Robert T. Marsh, commander of the Air Force Systems Command, affirmed: “The space shuttle will change the way we do business. We will depend upon it for launching virtually all of our national security payloads [read here, military equipment].” These remarks show that space can no longer be viewed as a harmless vacuum. As the UN secretary-general warned: “We must oppose vigorously the increased militarization of outer space. We have time—but very little.” Only time will tell what further signs will appear in the realm of the “sun and moon and stars” to cause fear and expectation.—Luke 21:25.
Different From Previous Generations?
Some are inclined to discount the Bible warnings, saying that earlier generations have experienced similar crises and that the present fear and anxiety are not a sign of the end as Jesus foretold it. Certainly it is true that previous generations have experienced calamity. The 14th century was the time of the Black Plague when people across Europe lived in dread of pestilence, famines and wars. But just compare the scale of things in our century.
Scientist René Dubos recently wrote: “I am as much disturbed as anyone by the thousand devils of the present social, technological and environmental crises. . . . I also realize that several aspects of the present world problems make them quantitatively and qualitatively different from those of the past. For example: . . . Today’s problems are no longer isolated and confined to small population groups.” (Italics ours.) He also listed the harmful effects on a global scale of certain agents such as radioactivity, acid rain and pesticides. Another factor is the greater interdependence of the nations so that all are affected by a crisis such as that precipitated in 1973 by the increase in the price of oil. That was not the case in past generations.
Therefore it just is not true that previous generations have been afflicted equally by fear and anxiety, and for the same reasons that Jesus stated in Luke chapter 21. No generation previous to that of 1914 ever experienced a world war, never mind two. No previous generation ever faced the madness of “mutual assured destruction” by means of nuclear weapons. No previous generation ever ruined the earthly globe by such widespread contamination and pollution.—Revelation 11:18.
And one more vital factor—no previous generation has ever had so extensive a preaching of ‘this good news of the kingdom in all the earth as a witness.’ (Matthew 24:14) Jehovah’s Witnesses are doing that effectively now in over 200 lands, in every nation where God has made it possible. That is one reason why you are reading this magazine right now. God’s message of hope and judgment is being proclaimed on time. That is a sure sign that the end must soon come. Then what remains? Jesus answers: “When you see these things occurring, know that the kingdom of God is near.”—Luke 21:29-33.
If you would like more information on this interesting subject, feel free to write to the publishers of this magazine or contact the local congregation of Jehovah’s Witnesses at their Kingdom Hall. Without any obligation to you, your questions will be answered.
[Blurb on page 6]
“The era of the offensive militarization of space has started”
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According to one study, 52 percent of American families have guns
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‘Space is not a mission—it is a theater of operations’