“The Scene of This World Is Changing”
“This I say, brothers, the time left is reduced.”—1 CORINTHIANS 7:29.
1, 2. What changes have you seen in your lifetime?
WHAT changes have you seen in your lifetime? Can you recount some of them? There is, for example, the progress that has been made in medical science. Thanks to research in that field, the average life expectancy in some lands has increased from under 50 years at the beginning of the 20th century to well over 70 years today! Think, too, of the ways in which we have benefited from the proper use of radio, television, cell phones, and fax machines. Not to be overlooked are the forward steps that have been taken in education, in transportation, and in human rights, all of which have improved life for millions.
2 Of course, not all changes have been for the better. It is impossible to ignore the devastating effects of soaring crime rates, plummeting moral values, mounting drug abuse, skyrocketing divorce rates, spiraling inflation, and the rising threat of terrorism. In any case, you will likely agree with what the apostle Paul wrote long ago: “The scene of this world is changing.”—1 Corinthians 7:31.
3. What did Paul mean when he wrote that “the scene of this world is changing”?
3 When Paul made that statement, he was comparing the world to a stage. The performers on that stage—political, religious, and cultural icons—make their appearance, play their respective roles, and then leave the stage to others. This has gone on for centuries. In times past, a dynasty might rule for decades—even centuries—and changes were slow. Not so today, when the course of history can shift in the time it takes for an assassin’s bullet to find its mark! Yes, in these turbulent times, we do not know what tomorrow will bring.
4. (a) What balanced view do Christians need to have regarding world events? (b) What two convincing lines of evidence will we now consider?
4 If the world is a stage and its leaders are the performers, then Christians are the spectators.* Being “no part of the world,” however, they do not overly concern themselves with the performance or even the identity of the players. (John 17:16) Rather, they are eagerly looking for indications that the drama is reaching its climax—a catastrophic finish—for they know that this system must end before Jehovah ushers in the long-awaited new world of righteousness.* Let us therefore examine two lines of evidence that demonstrate that we are living in the time of the end and that the new world is at hand. These are (1) Bible chronology and (2) deteriorating world conditions.—Matthew 24:21; 2 Peter 3:13.
A Mystery Solved at Last!
5. What are “the appointed times of the nations,” and why are they of interest to us?
5 Chronology is a study of the relationship between time and events. Jesus spoke of a time during which the leaders of the world would occupy center stage without interference from God’s Kingdom. Jesus called that period “the appointed times of the nations.” (Luke 21:24) At the end of those “appointed times,” God’s heavenly Kingdom would come to power, with Jesus as its rightful Ruler. At first, Jesus would rule “in the midst of [his] enemies.” (Psalm 110:2) Then, according to Daniel 2:44, the Kingdom would “crush and put an end” to all human governments, and it would stand forever.
6. When did “the appointed times of the nations” begin, how long did they last, and when did they end?
6 When would “the appointed times of the nations” end and God’s Kingdom rule begin? The answer, which was “sealed up until the time of the end,” involves Bible chronology. (Daniel 12:9) As that “time” approached, Jehovah took steps to reveal the answer to a group of humble Bible students. With the help of God’s spirit, they discerned that “the appointed times of the nations” began with the destruction of Jerusalem in 607 B.C.E. and that those “times” were 2,520 years in length. From this, they deduced that 1914 marked the end of “the appointed times of the nations.” They also came to realize that 1914 was the beginning of the end for this system of things. As a Bible student, can you explain from the Scriptures how the date 1914 is calculated?*
7. What scriptures help us to figure out the beginning, the length, and the end of the seven times mentioned in the book of Daniel?
7 One clue is concealed in the book of Daniel. Since Jehovah used King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon to destroy Jerusalem at the beginning of “the appointed times,” in 607 B.C.E., He revealed through that ruler that the nations would continue without divine interference for a total of seven symbolic times. (Ezekiel 21:26, 27; Daniel 4:16, 23-25) How long are those seven times? According to Revelation 11:2, 3, and Re 12:6, 14, three and a half times are 1,260 days long. Thus, seven times must be twice that long, or 2,520 days. Is that the end of it? No, for Jehovah gave a contemporary of Daniel, the prophet Ezekiel, the rule for interpreting the symbolism: “A day for a year, a day for a year, is what I have given you.” (Ezekiel 4:6) Therefore, the seven times would actually be 2,520 years long. Using 607 B.C.E. as the starting point and 2,520 years as the length, we can conclude that the appointed times were to end in 1914.
“The Time of the End” Confirmed
8. What evidence can you point to that world conditions have worsened since 1914?
8 World events from 1914 onward confirm that the above understanding based on Bible chronology is correct. Jesus himself said that “the conclusion of the system of things” would be marked by wars, famines, and pestilences. (Matthew 24:3-8; Revelation 6:2-8) That has certainly been the case since 1914. The apostle Paul added to the picture, saying that there would be a marked difference in the attitudes of people toward one another. His description of the changes that we have all witnessed was right on target.—2 Timothy 3:1-5.
9. What do observers have to say regarding world conditions since 1914?
9 Has “the scene of this world” really changed so much since 1914? In the book The Generation of 1914, Professor Robert Wohl observes: “Those who lived through the war could never rid themselves of the belief that one world had ended and another begun in August 1914.” Confirming this, Dr. Jorge A. Costa e Silva, as the mental-health director for the World Health Organization, wrote: “We live in a time of extremely fast changes, which end up causing anxiety and stress at levels never before seen in mankind’s history.” Has that been your personal experience?
10. How does the Bible enlighten us about the cause of worsening world conditions since 1914?
10 Who is the villain behind the worsening world conditions? Revelation 12:7-9 unmasks the culprit: “War broke out in heaven: Michael [Jesus Christ] and his angels battled with the dragon [Satan the Devil], and the dragon and its angels battled but it did not prevail, neither was a place found for them any longer in heaven. So down the great dragon was hurled, . . . who is misleading the entire inhabited earth.” So Satan the Devil is the guilty troublemaker, and his ouster from heaven in 1914 has meant “woe for the earth and for the sea, because the Devil has come down to you, having great anger, knowing he has a short period of time.”—Revelation 12:10, 12.
How the Final Act Will Play Out
11. (a) What methods does Satan use to mislead “the entire inhabited earth”? (b) To what special effort of Satan did the apostle Paul draw attention?
11 Aware that his end is approaching, Satan since 1914 has been stepping up his efforts to mislead “the entire inhabited earth.” Always the master deceiver, Satan works behind the scenes, putting on the stage the world’s leaders and trendsetters as role players. (2 Timothy 3:13; 1 John 5:19) One of his goals is to deceive mankind into thinking that his way of governing can bring them true peace. By and large, his propaganda has succeeded, for people remain optimistic in spite of mounting evidence that conditions are going from bad to worse. The apostle Paul foretold that just before this system of things is destroyed, there will be a notable expression of satanic propaganda. He wrote: “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.”—1 Thessalonians 5:3; Revelation 16:13.
12. What ongoing efforts have there been to bring peace in our time?
12 In recent years, politicians have often used the phrase “peace and security” to describe various human schemes. They even dubbed 1986 the International Year of Peace, although that year did not live up to its name. Do such efforts by world leaders constitute the complete fulfillment of 1 Thessalonians 5:3, or was Paul referring to a specific event of such dramatic proportions as to claim world attention?
13. When Paul foretold the cry of “Peace and security!,” to what did he compare the destruction to follow, and what can we learn from this?
13 Since Bible prophecies are often fully understood only after they are fulfilled or are in the process of fulfillment, we will have to wait and see. It is of interest, though, that Paul compared the sudden destruction following the cry of “Peace and security!” to the birth pang of a pregnant woman. Over a period of about nine months, an expectant mother becomes increasingly aware of the baby that is growing within her. She may be able to hear her baby’s heartbeat or feel its movements in the womb. It may even kick her. The signs often become more and more pronounced until, one day, she feels a sharp pain, a pang, indicating that the hoped-for event—the baby’s birth—has arrived. Hence, however the prophesied cry of “Peace and security!” may be fulfilled, it will lead to a sudden, painful, but ultimately blessed event—the destruction of wickedness and the beginning of a new world system.
14. In what general order will future events unfold, leading to what outcome?
14 The coming destruction will be fear-inspiring for faithful Christians watching from the sidelines. First, the kings of the earth (the political part of Satan’s organization) will turn on the supporters of Babylon the Great (the religious part) and will destroy them. (Revelation 17:1, 15-18) Thus, in a stunning plot twist, Satan’s kingdom will become divided against itself, with one part attacking the other, and Satan will be powerless to prevent it. (Matthew 12:25, 26) Jehovah will put it into the hearts of the kings of the earth “to carry out his thought,” namely, to rid the earth of his religious adversaries. After false religion is destroyed, Jesus Christ will lead his heavenly armies in a complete rout of what is left of Satan’s organization—the commercial and political elements. Finally, Satan himself will be put out of action. With that, the curtain will fall, and the long-running drama will come to an end.—Revelation 16:14-16; 19:11-21; 20:1-3.
15, 16. What impact should the reminder that “the time left is reduced” have on our lives?
15 When will all these things occur? We do not know the day or the hour. (Matthew 24:36) We do know, however, that “the time left is reduced.” (1 Corinthians 7:29) It is vital, then, that we make wise use of the time that remains. How? As the apostle Paul explains, we must ‘buy out the opportune time’ for the more important things at the expense of what is nonessential and make every day count. The reason? “Because the days are wicked.” And ‘perceiving what Jehovah’s will is’ for us, we will not waste the precious little time that is left.—Ephesians 5:15-17; 1 Peter 4:1-4.
16 Knowing that dissolution awaits the entire worldly system of things, how should we be affected personally? The apostle Peter wrote for our benefit: “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of persons ought you to be in holy acts of conduct and deeds of godly devotion!” (2 Peter 3:11) What sort of persons indeed! In harmony with Peter’s wise advice, we need (1) to keep close watch on our conduct in order to be sure that it is holy and (2) to make sure that our zealous deeds in Jehovah’s service always reflect our deep love for him.
17. Against what snares of Satan must faithful Christians remain on guard?
17 Love for God will prevent us from becoming attached to this world because of its allurements. In view of what is in store for the present system of things, it is dangerous for us to become enamored by the glitter and glamour of the worldly, hedonistic way of life. Although living and working in the world, we should heed the wise counsel not to use the world to the full. (1 Corinthians 7:31) In fact, we must do our best to guard against being misled by the world’s propaganda. This world will not succeed in working out solutions to its problems. It will not keep on sustaining itself indefinitely. Why can we be so sure? Because the inspired Word of God says so: “The world is passing away and so is its desire, but he that does the will of God remains forever.”—1 John 2:17.
The Best Is Yet to Come!
18, 19. What changes are you looking forward to in the new world, and why will it have been worth the wait?
18 Jehovah will soon ring down the curtain on Satan and his supporters. Thereafter, with God’s blessing, faithful survivors of the end of this system will begin to work on “scene” changes that will endure forever. War will no longer mar the scene; God will make “wars to cease to the extremity of the earth.” (Psalm 46:9) In place of food shortages, “there will come to be plenty of grain on the earth; . . . there will be an overflow.” (Psalm 72:16) Gone will be prisons, police stations, sexually transmitted diseases, drug czars, divorce courts, bankruptcy proceedings, and terrorism.—Psalm 37:29; Isaiah 33:24; Revelation 21:3-5.
19 The memorial tombs will be emptied, and billions of resurrected ones—more players—will come into view. What joy there will be as one generation is reunited with another and when long-separated loved ones hug one another in a warm, heartfelt embrace! Eventually, everyone living will worship Jehovah. (Revelation 5:13) When the changes are complete, the curtain will rise upon an earth-wide paradise. How will you feel as you survey the scene? No doubt you will be moved to exclaim, ‘I waited a long time for this, but it has been well worth the wait!’
In a different context, Paul spoke of anointed Christians as being “a theatrical spectacle to the world, and to angels, and to men.”—1 Corinthians 4:9.
The Bible itself indicates that Jerusalem fell 70 years before the return of the exiled Jews in 537 B.C.E. (Jeremiah 25:11, 12; Daniel 9:1-3) For a detailed discussion of “the appointed times of the nations,” see pages 95-7 of Reasoning From the Scriptures, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
How Would You Answer?
• How have the apostle Paul’s words “the scene of this world is changing” proved true in our time?
• How does Bible chronology pinpoint the end of “the appointed times of the nations”?
• How do changing world conditions confirm that 1914 marks the beginning of “the time of the end”?
• How should the fact that “the time left is reduced” affect us?
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At last—the mystery is solved!