Heed God’s Prophetic Word for Our Day
“See how former predictions have come true. Fresh things I now foretell; before they appear I tell you of them.”—ISAIAH 42:9, The Jerusalem Bible.
1. Why can we say that Jehovah is the God of unfailing prophecy?
JEHOVAH is the God of unfailing prophecy. This certainly proved true in the ruin and restoration of Jerusalem, the fall of ancient empires and the fulfillment of Messianic prophecy! But were all Bible prophecies fulfilled only in the past? How wrong to think so!
2. As regards prophecy, how do Jehovah’s servants differ from the world?
2 God told his ancient people: “See how former predictions have come true. Fresh things I now foretell; before they appear I tell you of them.” (Isaiah 42:9, JB) By opening up an understanding of prophecies already in the Bible, Jehovah is still giving his loyal servants advance knowledge, and surely we should pay attention to it. As the apostle Peter so well expressed matters: “You will be right to depend on prophecy and take it as a lamp for lighting a way through the dark until the dawn comes.” (2 Peter 1:19, JB) In fact, heeding God’s prophetic word marks Jehovah’s people as different from this dark, confused world. Proverbs 4:18, 19 aptly states: “The path of the virtuous is like the light of dawn, its brightness growing to the fulness of day; the way of the wicked is as dark as night, they cannot tell what it is they stumble over.”—JB; compare Psalm 119:105.
Listen When God’s Son Speaks!
3. What proof is there that Jesus is present today?
3 It is vital that Jehovah’s Witnesses “pay more than the usual attention” to things spoken by Jesus Christ. (Hebrews 2:1-4) And what a dramatic prophecy he gave regarding our day! Pointing to the final days of this dying system of things, Jesus gave a striking “sign” of his “presence.” He foretold such developments as total warfare, pestilences, famines and earthquakes. (Matthew 24:3-8) Can any well-informed person deny the overwhelming evidence of Jesus’ presence today? World War I killed over 9 million combatants and millions of civilians, whereas the second world war cost 55 million lives. The Spanish flu of 1918-19 brought death to some 20 million. According to an estimate by the Food and Agriculture Organization, 450 million people are even now at the point of starvation, and as many as a billion have too little to eat. Earthquakes have claimed the lives of some 1,600,000 people in the 20th century—over 22,000 yearly since 1914.
4. (a) When did the Gentile Times begin, and when did they end? (b) What evidence is there that Jehovah’s people had advance knowledge about 1914?
4 That year 1914—what of it? Over a century ago, C. T. Russell (who became the first president of the Watch Tower Society) linked the Gentile Times with the “seven times” mentioned in the book of Daniel. (Daniel 4:16, 23, 25, 32; Luke 21:24, Authorized Version) Writing in the Bible Examiner of October 1876, Russell said: “The seven times will end in A.D. 1914.” He also was a joint publisher of the 1877 book Three Worlds, and the Harvest of This World, which showed (on pages 83 and 189) that the 2,520-year period of Gentile world domination without interference by any kingdom of God began with the Babylonian overthrow of the kingdom of Judah in the late seventh century B.C.E. and would end in 1914 C.E. Similarly, the Watch Tower issue of March 1880 stated: “‘The Times of the Gentiles’ extend to 1914, and the heavenly kingdom will not have full sway till then.”
5. How could Jehovah’s Witnesses have known in advance about the significance of 1914?
5 Today, Jehovah’s Witnesses point to the “sign” given by Jesus and look back upon 1914 as the year when his invisible presence in Kingdom power became a reality. But how could they have had advance knowledge of such a momentous event? Not because of extraordinary human wisdom. No, but because they have prayerfully studied the Scriptures, heeded God’s prophetic word and paid more than usual attention to what God’s Son foretold. (2 Peter 1:19; Hebrews 1:1, 2; 2:1) Grateful that Jehovah has ‘told them fresh things before they have appeared,’ the Witnesses are delighted to be spreading this knowledge earth wide. (Isaiah 42:9) They do so in keeping with Jesus’ words: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations.” Then what? “And then the end will come”!—Matthew 24:14.
Rival Kings in Conflict
6. What two kings are discussed in Daniel chapter 11, and what questions arise concerning them?
6 Before “the end” comes, however, other 20th-century developments merit our consideration. For instance, the prophecy of Daniel declares: “In the time of the end the king of the south will engage with [the king of the north] in a pushing, and against him the king of the north will storm.” (Daniel 11:40) Who are these battling kings, and of what significance are their foretold actions?
7. (a) When did the conflict between the two kings begin? (b) Why were the names “king of the north” and “king of the south” appropriate? (c) With what first-century power is “the king of the north” identified, and how was it that ‘an exactor passed through the kingdom’?
7 The conflict between these kings began after the empire of Alexander the Great was divided. In part, Seleucus Nicator got control of Syria and Ptolemy Lagus established a dynasty in Egypt. These battling dynasties, situated north and south of the land of Jehovah’s people, the Israelites, became the first “king of the north” and “king of the south.” (Daniel 11:2-5) But as time passed, the identity of these kings changed. By the first century C.E., the Roman imperial power had become “the king of the north.” At that point in history ‘one was to stand up and cause an exactor to pass through the splendid kingdom.’ (Daniel 11:20-22) As foretold, Caesar Augustus dispatched an “exactor” by calling “for all the inhabited earth to be registered.” Because of this decree, Joseph and Mary went to Bethlehem for registration in 2 B.C.E., resulting in Jesus’ birth at that foretold location.—Luke 2:1-7; Micah 5:2.
8. (a) How do we know that there were to be 20th-century developments involving the two kings? (b) When was “the appointed time” for “the king of the north” to come against the south? (c) With what powers earlier in this century can the two kings be identified?
8 In the spring of 33 C.E., Jesus Christ gave a marvelous prophecy on “the time of the end.” He quoted from Daniel 11:31 and thus indicated that there would be dramatic 20th-century developments involving “the king of the north” and “the king of the south.” (Matthew 24:15) It had been foretold that “the king of the north” would come against the south “at the time appointed.” (Daniel 11:29, 30) When was that? Why, in 1914—the very year in which the Gentile Times ended and the Kingdom of God was established in heaven! In that year a Germanic “king of the north” began fighting against “the king of the south,” the Anglo-American World Power. Germany and her allies were defeated in World War I and again in the second world war. “The king of the north” then assumed a new identity.
9. (a) What position do Jehovah’s Witnesses maintain as regards political affairs? (b) Does this prevent them from seeing certain political developments in advance?
9 Jehovah’s Witnesses maintain strict Christian neutrality. They are no part of this world and do not involve themselves in its political affairs. (John 17:16) Nevertheless, they do heed God’s prophetic word, and this has enabled them to see how Daniel’s prophecy now moves into its final stage of fulfillment. (Isaiah 42:9) Again, in the post-World War II period, two superpowers hold the center of the stage, each vying with the other in a suicidal arms race that has forced the world’s annual military budget up into the $800 billion (U.S.) bracket.
10. (a) What is the “disgusting thing” of Daniel 11:31? (b) How have both kings treated Jehovah’s people, and why?
10 Speaking of Daniel’s prophecy concerning “the disgusting thing that causes desolation,” Jesus said: “Let the reader use discernment.” (Matthew 24:15; Daniel 11:31) “Discernment” of the fulfillment of Bible prophecy has shown that “disgusting thing” to be the UN organization, which has been brought forth in opposition to God’s Kingdom. “Discernment” also leaves no question as to the identity (at this climax of the prophecy’s unfolding) of “the king of the north” as he competes with “the king of the south” in their final all-out power struggle. Neither he nor “the king of the south” is willing to relinquish sovereignty to God’s heavenly Kingdom, now being announced earth wide by Jehovah’s Witnesses. Both kings have shared in the persecution of the Witnesses.—Daniel 11:36-39; Matthew 5:10-12; John 15:19, 20.
11. (a) What claim does “the king of the north” make? (b) How does this “king” speak against Jehovah?
11 Concerning “the king of the north,” the prophecy says: “He will exalt himself and magnify himself above every god; and against the God of gods he will speak marvelous things. . . . Over everyone he will magnify himself.” (Daniel 11:36, 37) This atheistic “king of the north” claims that the State has the right to demand much from its subjects. Moreover, this “king” speaks against Jehovah by aiming for world domination to the exclusion of God’s Kingdom. Of course, “the king of the south” wants nothing to do with that Kingdom either, any pious Bible-quoting by his political spokesmen notwithstanding.—Revelation 11:17, 18.
“King” With an Unusual God
12. To what god does “the king of the north” give glory?
12 As irreligious as “the king of the north” may seem to be, however, he does have a god. Says the prophecy: “But to the god of fortresses, in his position he will give glory.” (Daniel 11:38) Has this “king” paid homage to “the god of fortresses,” exalting modern, scientific militarism as the savior of the peoples of his bloc of nations?
13. Why can it be said that both of these kings are ‘putting their trust in war chariots’?
13 Indeed he has! According to The Military Balance 1981-1982, The International Institute for Strategic Studies placed the armed forces of the principal nation in the realm of the ‘northern king’ at more than 4,000,000, compared with over 2,049,000 for the leading nation of the “south.” In mid-1982, SIPRI (Stockholm International Peace Research Institute) reported that the “south” was capable of delivering 9,540 nuclear warheads having a total explosive power of 3,448 megatons, compared with 8,802 warheads of the “north” with a force of 4,535 megatons. How potentially devastating, since one megaton alone has an explosive force equal to that of a million tons of TNT! Clearly, both rival kings are ‘putting their trust in war chariots.’—Isaiah 31:1.
14. (a) What “pushing” is now taking place? (b) Can you give evidence that mankind is imperiled?
14 “The king of the south” is now “pushing” his rival politically, even militarily. (Daniel 11:40) In progress today is a relentless arms race that threatens mankind with nuclear holocaust. Highlighting the peril, the SIPRI Yearbook 1982 warned:
“The balance between the two great powers in intercontinental nuclear weapons is becoming unstable. . . . Instead of what might once have seemed to be a stable system of deterrence—a balance of mutually assured destruction (MAD)—we have the fear of a first strike being used as the rationale for the very big increases now in prospect in strategic weapon programmes and procurement. Between them, the two great powers, with the nuclear weapons at their command, have a total destructive power which is probably equivalent to about half a million Hiroshima bombs: but that is not enough. There can be no better example of the way in which developments in weapon technology—in this case the increasing accuracy of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs)—lead to a reduction rather than to an increase in security.”
15. (a) Would these kings ever use their weapons against each other? (b) But what does God’s prophetic word make clear?
15 “Pushing” by “the king of the south” was to cause “the king of the north” to ‘storm against him with chariots, horsemen and many ships.’ Yes, the kings would have some occasion to use at least their conventional weapons against each other. “The king of the north” would also gain control of many “desirable things” of this world. (Daniel 11:40-43) By 1981 “the king of the north” wielded authority over some 1.5 billion people in 16 nations, and time alone will tell how far this “king” will extend his power. But the judgment of destruction upon these kings comes from another source. God’s prophetic word makes that clear.
Disturbing Reports—And Then the End!
16. Where do the ‘disturbing reports’ originate, and how do they reach “the king of the north”?
16 This dramatic prophecy concludes: “But there will be reports that will disturb him, out of the sunrising and out of the north, and he will certainly go forth in a great rage in order to annihilate and to devote many to destruction. . . . And he will have to come all the way to his end, and there will be no helper for him.” (Daniel 11:44, 45) These disturbing reports really issue from Jehovah through Jesus Christ. The Scriptures locate God relatively in the north, and he and Christ are symbolically called “kings from the rising of the sun,” the east. (Revelation 16:12; Psalm 48:2; 75:6, 7) But how can these “reports” reach “the king of the north”? Why, through God’s earthly organization, Jehovah’s sanctuary class and their companions of the “great crowd”!
17. (a) Because of the “reports,” what will “the king of the north” do? (b) Will “the king of the south” stand idly by? (c) What will Jehovah then do in behalf of his loyal witnesses?
17 God will determine the contents of these “reports.” Whatever their nature, however, they will so infuriate “the king of the north” that he will act to destroy Jehovah’s people. In fact, Satan the Devil, the symbolic Gog of Magog, will maneuver both “the king of the north” and “the king of the south” into his full-scale assault upon God’s true servants. (Ezekiel 38:10-12) But Jehovah’s loyal witnesses need not fear annihilation. The Most High will rescue them, and both kings will be among those destroyed in “the war of the great day of God the Almighty” at Har–Magedon.—Revelation 16:14-16; Ezekiel 38:18-23.a
18. (a) Do Jehovah’s Witnesses need to fear future developments? (b) Why do they have continued confidence in God’s prophetic word?
18 Down to the end of this system of things, therefore, Jehovah’s Witnesses will fearlessly declare the Kingdom message. (Matthew 24:14) Neither “the king of the north” nor “the king of the south” nor the Devil and his demon hordes will be able to stop them. We are absolutely certain of this. Why? Because such conviction is solidly based on the promises of our heavenly Father, and Jehovah’s word is sure. (2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1-5) Divine prophecies and promises have always been fulfilled. With wholehearted trust, then, may all of Jehovah’s organized people continue to heed God’s prophetic word for our day.
a For further information on these kings, please see chapters 10 and 11 of the book “Your Will Be Done on Earth,” published in 1958 by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
Can You Remember?
□ How do we know that Jesus is present in Kingdom power today?
□ Regarding political affairs, what position is maintained by Jehovah’s Witnesses?
□ What is the present-day identity of “the king of the north” and of “the king of the south”?
□ What end awaits these kings?
□ Why should we have confidence in God’s prophetic word?
[Chart on page 16]
607 B.C.E. 1914 C.E.
October, 607 B.C.E.—October, 1 B.C.E. = 606 YEARS
October, 1 B.C.E.—October, 1914 C.E. = 1,914 YEARS
SEVEN GENTILE TIMES = 2,520 YEARS
[Picture on page 18]
“The king of the north” gives glory to “the god of fortresses”