The Sign—Have You Seen It?
“FAR beneath the surface of the sea, a long, round-nosed submarine hangs steady, unmoved by the great waves that rush over the sea’s stormy surface. A hatch in the submarine’s deck opens and a rocket more than 30 feet [9 m] long and 4 1/2 feet [1.4 m] thick darts out and up towards the surface. The rocket starts its journey propelled upward by compressed air, but upon reaching the surface of the sea, its engine ignites and the rocket bursts from the water with a roar.”
That description of a submarine-launched ballistic missile, from the book Rockets, Missiles and Spacecraft, by Martin Keen, gives meaning to an ancient prophecy foretelling a time of world distress due to “the roaring of the sea.” (Luke 21:25) How great is the threat from ballistic missile submarines?
According to the book Jane’s Fighting Ships 1986-87, Britain, China, France, the Soviet Union, and the United States have 131 ballistic missile submarines in active service. No city lies beyond their reach, and the warheads usually land within a mile of the target. Some carry sufficient warheads “to obliterate any country within 5,000 miles [8,000 km],” according to The Guinness Book of Records. Even worse, some have claimed that the warheads in just one ballistic missile submarine could cause a nuclear winter that would imperil all life on earth! The control of distant submarines is also a problem. It is feared that a rash act in one submarine could unleash a fatal nuclear war.
Many have linked such frightening prospects to Jesus’ prophetic sign. Could it be that our generation is experiencing the fulfillment of that sign? The facts answer yes. And this means that deliverance from the threat of nuclear war is near. (Luke 21:28, 32) With such an optimistic prospect, we invite you to consider evidence of the sign’s fulfillment. Some outstanding features of the sign are next set out here along with their modern fulfillment.
“Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.” (Luke 21:10)
Since 1914 over 100,000,000 people have died from wars. World War I started in 1914 and involved 28 countries, not counting the several European colonies of that day. Few countries remained neutral. It cost over 13,000,000 lives with more than 21,000,000 wounded soldiers. Then came World War II, which was much more destructive. And since then? In the article “Wars of the World,” the South African newspaper The Star quoted the London Sunday Times as saying: “A quarter of the world’s nations are currently caught up in conflicts.”
“And there will be great earthquakes.” (Luke 21:11)
In their book Terra Non Firma, Stanford University professors Gere and Shah list details of 164 “significant earthquakes of the world” spanning over three thousand years into the past. Of this total, 89 struck since 1914, taking an estimated 1,047,944 lives. This list included only major earthquakes, and since publication of Terra Non Firma in 1984, destructive earthquakes have occurred in Chile, the Soviet Union, and Mexico, resulting in thousands more deaths.
“There will be . . . pestilences.” (Luke 21:11)
In 1918 a deadly pestilence struck mankind. Called the Spanish flu, it spread to every inhabited place except the island of St. Helena and killed more people than were brought down in the four years of war. Medical science has made great advances since that time, and yet there is a paradox. Explains The Lancet: “The persistence of the sexually transmitted diseases (STD) as the commonest group of notifiable infections is a paradox of modern medicine. . . . Control of the sexually transmitted diseases seemed at one time to be within our grasp but has eluded us in recent years.”
There are other pestilences that modern medicine has also been unable to control, such as cancer and coronary artery heart disease. The latter, according to S[outh] A[frica] Family Practice, “is a new phenomenon. . . . It is a consequence of post first world war society.” In Britain, heart disease and hypertension “are the principal cause of mortality,” according to the book Cardiovascular Update—Insight Into Heart Disease. It adds that “very little progress has yet been made towards their control.”
In developing countries, millions suffer from malaria, sleeping sickness, bilharzia, and other diseases. One of the world’s worst killers is diarrhea. Explains the magazine Medicine International: “It has been estimated that 500 million episodes of diarrhoea [per] year are likely to occur among the infants and small children of Asia, Africa and Latin America, with between 5 and 18 million deaths.”
“There will be . . . food shortages.” (Luke 21:11)
Food shortages normally accompany war. World War I was no exception. Terrible famines followed in its wake. And since? Reports a special paper The Challenge of Internationalism—Forty Years of the United Nations (1945-1985): “While there were about 1,650 million malnourished persons in 1950 there were 2,250 million in 1983; in other words, an increase of 600 million or 36 per cent more.” A devastating famine followed Africa’s recent drought. “In one year,” states the magazine Newsweek, “as many as 1 million Ethiopian peasants and 500,000 Sudanese children died.” Thousands from other countries also perished.
“There will be fearful sights and from heaven great signs. Also, there will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth anguish of nations, not knowing the way out because of the roaring of the sea and its agitation, while men become faint out of fear and expectation of the things coming upon the inhabited earth.” (Luke 21:11, 25, 26)
World War I introduced terrible new weapons. From the heavens, airplanes and airships rained down bombs and bullets. Even more terrifying was the destruction that rained down on helpless civilians in World War II, including that of two atom bombs.
The sea also became the scene of new horrors. When World War I started, submarines were considered very insignificant, but by the end of World War II, they had sunk over ten thousand vessels. “Sinking merchant ships, including [passenger] liners, without warning seemed to be part of the new and terrifying practice of ‘total war,’” states Norman Friedman in his book Submarine Design and Development.
Today many consider ballistic missile submarines to be the world’s capital ships. Deadly weapons are also carried in cruise missile submarines, aircraft carriers, and other warships. According to the book Jane’s Fighting Ships 1986-87, there are now 929 submarines, 30 aircraft carriers, 84 cruisers, 367 destroyers, 675 frigates, 276 corvettes, 2,024 fast attack craft, and thousands of other military vessels in the active service of 52 nations. Add to this countless small but deadly mines. Never has there been such dangerous “agitation” of the sea by man.
Man has also reached into the region of “sun and moon and stars.” Ballistic missiles streak into space before hurtling down on their targets. Spacecraft have penetrated the solar system and beyond. The nations have become heavily dependent on man-made satellites orbiting the earth. Navigational and meteorological satellites enable them to aim strategic missiles with deadly accuracy. Extensive use is also made of communications and spy satellites. “Satellites,” states Michael Sheehan in his book The Arms Race, “have become the eyes, ears and voices of the superpowers’ armed forces.”
A recent example was the air attack on Libya. Reports Aviation Week & Space Technology: “U.S. . . . satellite photos were used in attack preparations and post attack assessments. The Defense Meteorological Satellite Program provided weather data for the attack and military communications spacecraft were involved in command and control.” Because of the vital role performed by military satellites, both superpowers possess antisatellite weapons. The basing of weapons in space is the open intention of one superpower in a program popularly called Star Wars. Whether the superpowers actually engage in space war or not, time alone will tell.
Meanwhile, as foretold, “men become faint out of fear and expectation of the things coming upon the inhabited earth.” Crime, terrorism, economic collapse, chemical pollution, and radiation poisoning from nuclear power plants, together with the mounting threat of nuclear war, are all causes of “fear.” The British magazine New Statesmen reports that “over half” that country’s teenagers “feel that nuclear war will occur in their lifetimes, and 70 per cent believe that it is inevitable one day.”
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The Sign—What Does It Mean?
Millions, after examining the sign in the light of 20th-century history, have become convinced of its fulfillment. (See also Matthew, chapter 24 and Mark, chapter 13.) The 1914 generation is indeed a marked one. It is the one involved in the second fulfillment of Jesus’ words: “This generation will by no means pass away until all things occur.” (Luke 21:32) The “all things” include deliverance from mankind’s perplexing problems.
Jesus assured his followers: “As these things start to occur, raise yourselves erect and lift your heads up, because your deliverance is getting near. . . . When you see these things occurring, know that the kingdom of God is near.” God’s Kingdom, a superhuman world government, will transform this earth into a global paradise. Hence, as surely as the sign has come true so deliverance will come too.—Luke 21:28, 31; Psalm 72:1-8.
Perhaps you have not considered the prophetic sign before. We encourage you to continue examining God’s Word. Doing so will enable you to understand more about God’s purposes for mankind. Thus you will learn what Jehovah God requires of those whom he will ‘deliver’ into the coming earthly Paradise.—Psalm 37:10, 11; Zephaniah 2:2, 3; Revelation 21:3-5.
[Picture Credit Lines on page 5]
Courtesy of German Railroads Information Office, New York
[Picture Credit Lines on page 6]
Jerry Frank/United Nations
U.S. Air Force photo