Fear—Common Now but Not Forever!
STUDENTS of God’s Word are not surprised that fear is so common. As Jehovah’s Witnesses have publicized extensively in their ministry, there is abundant evidence that we are living in a marked time in human history. You know it is marked by widespread fear. But long ago Jesus marked, or pointed to, our time. He was responding to the apostles’ questions about his presence and the conclusion of the system of things, or ‘the end of the world.’—Matthew 24:3.
Here is part of what Jesus foretold:
“Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there will be great earthquakes, and in one place after another pestilences and food shortages; and there will be fearful sights and from heaven great signs.”—Luke 21:10, 11.
Did you note his comment about “fearful sights”? Later in that same reply, Jesus made another significant observation about fear that may directly and decisively touch you and your loved ones. But before giving attention to that, let us briefly review some additional evidence that we are living in the last days.—2 Timothy 3:1.
Justified Fear of War
Military conflicts have left many parts of the earth devastated. For example, Geo magazine called oil wells that were left burning at the end of a recent Middle Eastern conflict “the greatest environmental catastrophe ever inflicted by human hand.” Wars have killed or crippled tens of millions of people. Beyond the millions of military and civilian deaths in World War I, 55 million were killed in World War II. Recall that as part of the sign that the end of the world was near, Jesus said that “nation [would] rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.”
We also cannot overlook man’s attempts at genocide—destruction of whole races or peoples. The deaths of millions of Armenians, Cambodians, Jews, Rwandans, Ukrainians, and others have added to mankind’s staggering bloodguilt during the 20th century. The slaughter continues in lands where ethnic hatreds are encouraged by religious extremists. Yes, wars still soak the earth with human blood.
Modern wars claim victims even after the fighting ends. For instance, consider the indiscriminate sowing of land mines. According to a report by the research organization Human Rights Watch, “some 100 million mines around the world threaten civilians.” Such mines continue to be dangerous to innocent men, women, and children long after the war they were used in has ended. It is said that each month thousands are maimed or killed by land mines in more than 60 countries. Why is this threat to life and limb not systematically removed? The New York Times noted: “Far more mines are being planted each day than are deactivated in mine-clearing operations, so the casualty toll is steadily increasing.”
That 1993 newspaper article reported that selling these mines has become a business that “pays up to $200 million annually.” It involves “some 100 companies and government agencies in 48 countries” that “have been exporting 340 different types” of mines. Diabolically, some mines are designed to look like toys in order to make them attractive to children! Imagine, deliberately targeting innocent children for maiming and destruction! An editorial entitled “100 Million Infernal Machines” claimed that mines have “killed or maimed more people than chemical, biological and nuclear warfare.”
But land mines are not the only death-dealing commodity sold on the world’s markets. Avaricious weapons dealers are doing a multibillion-dollar business earth wide. The Defense Monitor, published by the Center for Defense Information, reports: “Over the last decade [a leading nation] exported weapons valued at $135 Billion.” This powerful nation also “authorized the sale of a staggering $63 Billion worth of weapons, military construction, and training to 142 nations.” Seeds are thus being sown for future warfare and human suffering. According to The Defense Monitor, in “1990 alone, wars kept 5 million people under arms, cost more than $50 Billion, and killed a quarter of a million people, most of them civilians.” You certainly can think of numerous wars that have raged since that year, bringing fear and death to millions more!
More Ruining of the Earth and Its Life
Professor Barry Commoner warns: “I believe that continued pollution of the earth, if unchecked, will eventually destroy the fitness of this planet as a place for human life.” He goes on to say that the problem is not ignorance but willful greed. Do you think that our just and loving God will tolerate this situation indefinitely, leaving us to increased fear of pollution? The despoiling of the earth cries out for an accounting with the despoilers and then a divine rehabilitation of the planet. That is part of what Jesus dealt with in his reply to the apostles concerning ‘the end of the world.’
Before we consider how God will bring about that accounting, let us further examine man’s record. Even a partial list of man’s desecrations is saddening: acid rain and greedy logging practices that destroy whole forests; careless dumping of nuclear waste, toxic chemicals, and raw sewage; weakening of the protective ozone layer; and careless use of herbicides and pesticides.
Commercial interests befoul the earth in other ways for profit. Tons of waste products are daily dumped into the rivers, oceans, air, and soil. Scientists litter the heavens with space junk, not picking up after themselves, as it were. Earth is fast becoming ringed by an orbiting garbage dump. If it were not for the natural processes that God made so that the earth can renew itself, our terrestrial home would not support life, and man would likely long ago have suffocated in his own refuse.
Man even pollutes himself. Take, for example, tobacco and other drug abuse. In the United States, such substance abuse has been termed “the nation’s number one health problem.” It costs that country $238 billion annually, $34 billion of which is spent on “unnecessary [that is, avoidable] health care.” What do you think tobacco’s cost in money and lives is where you live?
Permissive and deviant life-styles, which many insist on as a right, have produced a frightening crop of death-dealing sexually transmitted diseases, bringing many to an early grave. It has been observed that the obituary columns of major city newspapers now show an increasing number dying in their 30’s and 40’s. Why? Often because destructive habits soon caught up with them. Such tragic increase in sexual and other diseases also fits into Jesus’ prophecy, for he said that there would be “in one place after another pestilences.”
The worst pollution, however, is that of the human mind and spirit, or attitude. If you review all the forms of contamination we have mentioned until now, is it not true that most of them are the result of polluted minds? Look at the havoc sick minds create in the form of murders, rapes, robberies, and other kinds of violence inflicted by one person on another. Many recognize, too, that the millions of abortions performed annually are a sign of mental and spiritual contamination.
We see much in the attitude of youth. Disrespect for parental and other authority is contributing to family breakdown and defiance of law and order. This lack of a healthy fear of authority is directly linked with youth’s lack of spirituality. Therefore, those teaching evolution, atheism, and other faith-destroying theories bear considerable guilt. Also guilty are the many religious educators who, in their efforts to be accepted as modern and “correct,” have turned their backs on God’s Word. They and others imbued with the wisdom of the world teach contradictory human philosophies.
The results today are obvious. People are driven, not by love of God and fellowman, but by greed and hate. The bad fruitage is widespread immorality, violence, and hopelessness. Sadly, this leaves honest people in fear, including fear that man will destroy himself and the planet.
Will It Get Worse or Better?
What does the near future hold as respects fear? Will fear keep on increasing, or will it be overcome? Let us again note what Jesus told his apostles.
He pointed to something that lies in the near future—great tribulation. Here are his words: “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then the sign of the Son of man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will beat themselves in lamentation, and they will see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.”—Matthew 24:29, 30.
So we can expect that the great tribulation will soon begin. Other Bible prophecies indicate that its first part will be a reprisal on false religion around the globe. Then will come the shocking developments just quoted, including celestial phenomena of some sort. What will be the effect on millions of people?
Well, consider a parallel account of Jesus’ reply, where we find amplified prophetic comments:
“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; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”—Luke 21:25, 26.
That lies ahead of us. But not all humans will then be in such fear as to make them become faint. On the contrary, Jesus said: “As these things start to occur, raise yourselves erect and lift your heads up, because your deliverance is getting near.”—Luke 21:28.
He addressed those encouraging words to his true followers. Rather than being faint or paralyzed with fear, they would have reason to lift their heads fearlessly, even though knowing that the climax of the great tribulation was imminent. Why no fear?
Because the Bible clearly says that there will be survivors of this entire “great tribulation.” (Revelation 7:14) The account promising this says that if we are among the survivors, we can enjoy unparalleled blessings from God’s hand. It concludes with the assurance that Jesus “will shepherd them, and will guide them to fountains of waters of life. And God will wipe out every tear from their eyes.”—Revelation 7:16, 17.
Those—and we can be included—who enjoy such blessings will not have the fears that plague people today. Yet, that does not mean that they will have absolutely no fear, for the Bible does show that there is a good and healthy fear. The following article will consider what this is and how it should affect us.
[Picture on page 8]
Jehovah’s worshipers happily await the approaching new world
[Picture Credit Line on page 7]
Pollution: Photo: Godo-Foto; rocket: U.S. Army photo; trees burning: Richard Bierregaard, Smithsonian Institution