IT IS almost like reading the latest newspaper—wars, earthquakes, pestilences, disease, famine, crime, and fear! All these developments and more are prophesied in the Bible. They pinpoint the times in which all of us live as “the last days.” This means the era leading up to the imminent and promised apocalypse. How can you be sure of this?
You are witnessing fulfillment of Bible prophecies today. “You must face the fact,” says the Bible, “the final age of this world is to be a time of troubles. Men will love nothing but money and self; they will be arrogant, boastful, and abusive; with no respect for parents, no gratitude, no piety, no natural affection; they will be . . . strangers to all goodness, . . . swollen with self-importance. They will be men who put pleasure in the place of God, men who preserve the outward form of religion, but are a standing denial of its reality.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5, The New English Bible) Do you not see these very conditions on every hand?
Many alive today, perhaps even you, recall times when conditions were not as bad as they are now. People were more considerate of one another. Children were more respectful toward their parents and older ones. Men, women, and children were not afraid to walk down the street, even at night. But times are changing rapidly. Even if some of these conditions do not seem to be prevalent in your area, certainly the possibility of a nuclear war—due to man’s arrogant quest for power—affects all of us.
Yes, just as God through his Word, the Bible, has so clearly prophesied “the final age of this world,” so, too, he has provided us with information regarding the time of the apocalypse, when Jesus comes to execute judgment.
Closer Than Many Think
“Fresh things I now foretell,” God says. “Before they appear I tell you of them.” (Isaiah 42:9, The Jerusalem Bible) Yes, he has outlined for us in the Bible the main events that will take place just before the apocalypse.
For example, Jesus spoke of a message to be sounded worldwide and tied it in with the apocalypse. He said: “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.” (Matthew 24:14) That “end” includes the apocalypse. Today, Jehovah’s Witnesses spend hundreds of millions of hours a year diligently proclaiming that Kingdom message from door to door and by any other possible means, in more than 200 lands around the globe!
Drawing a striking parallel for the benefit of his followers, Jesus compared the time leading up to the apocalypse to the time before the Flood of Noah’s day. In Noah’s time people were so absorbed in eating and drinking and having a good time that “they took no note” of Noah’s message concerning the imminent destruction. They were indifferent to his warnings.—Matthew 24:37-39.
How closely our day parallels the circumstances before the Flood! People are so preoccupied with their daily routines that they do not heed warnings and evidence of the approaching apocalypse.
Still, the apocalypse is closer than many think. Regarding the sign of the last days, Jesus declared that “this generation will by no means pass away until all these things occur.” (Matthew 24:34) Of which generation was Jesus speaking?
The 1914 Generation
Referring to “the relatively peaceful and prosperous Victorian age of Great Britain,” former Prime Minister Harold Macmillan said that he considered ‘the world he was born in’ to be one that would get “better and better.” But “suddenly, unexpectedly, one morning in 1914 the whole thing came to an end.” Calling it the end of “100 years of peace and progress,” Macmillan recalled how World War I signaled “the end of an era” and the “start of the confusion that is still happening.” Many others, particularly those who lived through 1914 and are still alive, know this to be true.
Yes, as this magazine has drawn to the attention of its readers over the years, the evidence points to the 1914 generation as the generation spoken of by Jesus.* Thus, “this generation will by no means pass away until all these things [including the apocalypse] occur.”
Even though more than 70 years have gone by since 1914, there are still individuals around who lived through that era. According to The American Legion Magazine for December 1984, in the United States some 272,000 World War I veterans are still alive, and it is similar in other lands. Nevertheless, the number is diminishing quite rapidly. So how long will it be until the last World War I veteran marches into history?
While this statistic may draw our attention to the final hours of the 1914 generation, how specific can we be regarding the exact time of the apocalypse?
“A Thief in the Night”
The Bible forewarns: “As for the times and the seasons, . . . you yourselves know quite well that Jehovah’s day is coming exactly as a thief in the night.” (1 Thessalonians 5:1, 2) Would you reasonably expect a thief to send a telegram announcing when he is planning to burglarize your home?
Appropriately, then, Jesus counsels us regarding the exact hour: “Keep looking, keep awake, for you do not know when the appointed time is.” (Mark 13:32-37) Even so, we have noted that Jesus described various happenings that pinpoint the 1914 generation. And the Bible describes future events that will signal the imminent apocalypse. What may we expect?
A Change of Events
The apostle Paul said: “Whenever it is that they are saying: ‘Peace and security!’ then sudden destruction is to be instantly upon them just as the pang of distress upon a pregnant woman; and they will by no means escape.” (1 Thessalonians 5:3) So as we progress toward the finale of these “last days,” we can expect some outstanding attention to be given to “Peace and security!” in fulfillment of Paul’s words. Then what?
Bible prophecies indicate that world religion, described as “Babylon the Great,” will suddenly be attacked by earthly political powers and will come to an abrupt end! (Revelation 17:5, 16; 18:10, 17) This will mark the beginning of a “great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning until now.” (Matthew 24:21) But how will this affect those who have ‘kept awake’ and on the watch for the apocalypse?
True Christians can be confident that Jehovah will deliver them. (2 Peter 2:9) Yes, as long as they know Jehovah God and unselfishly serve him, they will have no cause for fear when God and Christ come forth to fight the war of Armageddon.—Revelation 11:17, 18; 16:14, 16.
Next, the apocalypse will lead to the isolation of Satan the Devil and his invisible forces from mankind. (Revelation 20:2, 3) Yes, the wrath that is coming will go beyond ridding the earth of people unwilling to serve God. Even wicked spirits who today influence the world around us will be eliminated. (2 Thessalonians 1:6-9) This will mean everlasting blessing for the survivors of the apocalypse.
Apocalypse—Prelude to Paradise
Regarding earth’s inhabitants, the book of Revelation (The Apocalypse, Douay) tells us that God “will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things [will have] passed away.” (Revelation 21:4, New International Version) Instead of a gloomy aftermath of the apocalypse, the Bible reveals that man will be capable of living forever in a paradise on earth.—Psalm 37:9-11, 29.
Paradise? Everlasting life on earth? Just imagine, perfectly healthy, happy people from all races enjoying life to the full! ‘How could this be the result of an apocalypse?’ you may ask. God has given his word. It will be as in the case of God’s dealings with Israel, that “not a promise failed out of all the good promise that Jehovah had made . . . ; it all came true.”—Joshua 21:45.
So, concerning the exact day and hour of the apocalypse nobody knows, but the evidence shows that we are living in the era of the apocalypse. When it strikes, may we be found awake and “on the watch.” For “the world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever.”—Mark 13:33, 37; 1 John 2:17; Matthew 24:36.
For further details about 1914, see the book “Let Your Kingdom Come,” published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc., chapter 14.