The Sign—Are You Heeding It?
“WE WANT people of every country to enjoy prosperity, welfare and happiness. The road to this lies through proceeding to a nuclear-free, non-violent world.”—Perestroika, by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.
Justifiably, many doubt that man is really capable of producing such world conditions. Another leader, Jesus Christ, promised something grander—a paradise earth where even the death process will be reversed. (Matthew 5:5; Luke 23:43; John 5:28, 29) Of course, the means to accomplish this is divine intervention. In answer to the question of “when” such intervention would come, Jesus said: “The kingdom of God is not coming with striking observableness.” At first, only keenly observant ones with a figurative eagle eye would realize it. (Luke 17:20, 37) Why so?
Why We Need the Sign
Since his ascension to heaven, Jesus Christ “dwells in unapproachable light, whom not one of men has seen or can see.” (1 Timothy 6:16) Thus, literal human eyes will never see him again. As Jesus said on the last day of his earthly life: “A little longer and the world will behold me no more.” (John 14:19) He can be seen only in a figurative way.—Ephesians 1:18; Revelation 1:7.
Yet, Jesus said that it would be possible for his disciples to discern when God’s Kingdom would commence ruling. How? By means of a sign. In answer to the question, “What will be the sign of your presence?” Jesus outlined visible proof of his future invisible rule.—Matthew 24:3.
Included in the sign was an illustration showing what kind of people would benefit from it. “Wherever the carcass is,” said Jesus, “there the eagles will be gathered together.” (Matthew 24:28) All who want to survive the end of the present system into God’s new world must ‘gather together’ and enjoy spiritual food along with Christ’s eaglelike “chosen ones.”—Matthew 24:31, 45-47.
Guarding Against Impatience
No human can work out the date for the end of the present wicked system. “Concerning that day or the hour,” Jesus said, “nobody knows, neither the angels in heaven nor the Son, but the Father.”—Mark 13:32, 33.
Might it be, though, that the sign could occur over the span of many human generations? No. The sign is to occur during one particular generation. The same generation that witnessed the beginning of the sign will also witness its climax in “a tribulation such as has not occurred from the beginning of the creation.” Three historians, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, recorded Jesus’ assurance of this.—Mark 13:19, 30; Matthew 24:13, 21, 22, 34; Luke 21:28, 32.
There is, however, the danger of becoming impatient. Seventy-four years have passed since the outbreak of World War I in 1914. From a human viewpoint, this may seem a very long time. But some eagle-eyed Christians who saw World War I are still very much alive. Their generation has not passed away.
When he gave the sign, Jesus warned about the danger of becoming impatient. He spoke of individuals who would say in their heart: “My master is delaying.” Jesus showed that such feelings, if not checked, could lead to foolish action. (Matthew 24:48-51) Christ’s apostles had more to say about this.
According to the Bible writer Jude, Christ’s apostles sounded the following warning: “In the last time there will be ridiculers, proceeding according to their own desires for ungodly things.”—Jude 17, 18.
The desire for life in a clean new world can easily be replaced by “desires for ungodly things.” This is especially dangerous today because of the world’s methods of expression and communication. Never before in human history have violence, spiritism, and sexual immorality been paraded to such an extent. They are often the theme of radio and music presentations, and they are seen in numerous TV programs, videos, advertisements, books, and magazines.
The sign points to the end of such ungodliness. Naturally, then, some people who have an appetite for ungodly things ridicule the sign. As foretold, they argue that “all things are continuing exactly as from creation’s beginning.”—2 Peter 3:3, 4.
‘Love Cools Off’
Recently, a 75-year-old American author, Paul Bowles, was interviewed by Newsweek magazine. Answering the question, “What is your view of the world?” Bowles said: “The world has gone to pieces in a moral sense. No one is honest anymore the way they were 60 years ago. There was a concept of what is a gentleman; it was a valued attribute of our Western culture. Now no one [cares]. There is also an enormous emphasis on money.”
This situation is just as the Bible predicted. Jesus foretold: “Because of the increasing of lawlessness the love of the greater number will cool off.” (Matthew 24:12; 2 Timothy 3:1-5) As selfishness and greed increase, love for God decreases. More and more people show that they put their own desires ahead of God’s laws by engaging in criminal acts, terrorism, dishonest business practices, sexual immorality, and drug abuse.
Some recognize the fulfillment of the sign but fail to act on it because of being so wrapped up in pleasing themselves. On the other hand, heeding the sign requires endurance in showing unselfish love for God and neighbor.—Matthew 24:13, 14.
“Anxieties of Life”
Jesus also warned that, besides selfish pleasures, legitimate physical needs could so absorb some that they would neglect the sign. He urged: “Pay attention to yourselves that your hearts never become weighed down with overeating and heavy drinking and anxieties of life, and suddenly that day be instantly upon you as a snare. For it will come in upon all those dwelling upon the face of all the earth.”—Luke 21:34, 35.
The Bible, of course, encourages happy family life. (Ephesians 5:24–6:4) Often this requires that a family head be involved in some sort of employment or business to make provisions for his wife and children. (1 Timothy 5:8) Yet, it would be shortsighted to allow one’s life to revolve solely around family, business, and material things. Because of this danger, Jesus warned: “Just as it occurred in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of man: they were eating, they were drinking, men were marrying, women were being given in marriage, until that day when Noah entered into the ark, and the flood arrived and destroyed them all. . . . The same way it will be on that day when the Son of man is to be revealed.”—Luke 17:26-30; Matthew 24:36-39.
“Taken Along” or “Abandoned”?
The hour is late. Soon, God’s Kingdom will intervene to set matters straight. Then every human will be affected in one of two ways. As Jesus explained: “Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken along and the other be abandoned; two women will be grinding at the hand mill: one will be taken along and the other be abandoned.”—Matthew 24:40, 41.
When that crucial time arrives, what will your position be? Will you be abandoned to destruction, or will you be taken along for survival? To guide you in the right direction, consider again the illustration that Jesus gave: “Where the body is, there also the eagles will be gathered together.”—Luke 17:34-37; Matthew 24:28.
Jesus was thus emphasizing the need for farsighted, united action. Those who are taken along for survival are ones who regularly gather together and benefit from the spiritual nourishment God provides. Millions have experienced that such spiritual feeding comes through close association with one of over 55,000 congregations of Jehovah’s Witnesses and through studying Bible-based publications such as the one you are reading.
Over three million of Jehovah’s Witnesses show faith in the sign by sharing the “good news of the kingdom” with their neighbors. (Matthew 24:14) Are you responding positively to the good news? If so, you can take to heart the promise of survival into an earthly paradise.
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Many are so absorbed in pleasures that they neglect the sign
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Heeding the sign involves gathering together to feed on God’s Word