Are We Really Living in “the Last Days”?
DEVELOPMENTS in two areas have a bearing on identifying what the Bible calls the last days. The Scriptures foretell events that would take place during the time of “the conclusion of the system of things.” (Matthew 24:3) The Bible also speaks of changes in the attitudes and actions of people living in “the last days.”—2 Timothy 3:1.
World events combined with the behavior and traits of people prove that we are living in the last days and that God’s Kingdom will soon bring everlasting blessings to those who love God. We begin by examining three features that Jesus said would mark the last days.
“A Beginning of Pangs of Distress”
“Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom,” said Jesus, “and there will be food shortages and earthquakes in one place after another.” He added: “All these things are a beginning of pangs of distress.” (Matthew 24:7, 8) Let us examine “these things” individually.
Vast numbers of people were slain in wars and ethnic disputes during the past century. “Three times as many people fell victim to war in [the 20th] century as in all the wars from the first century AD to 1899,” states a scholarly report from the Worldwatch Institute. In his book Humanity—A Moral History of the Twentieth Century, Jonathan Glover writes: “An estimate for the period from 1900 until 1989 is that war killed 86 million people. . . . Death in twentieth-century war has been on a scale which is hard to grasp. Any averaging out of the numbers of deaths is artificial, since about two-thirds (58 million) were killed in the two world wars. But, if these deaths had been spread evenly over the period, war would have killed around 2,500 people every day, that is over 100 people an hour, round the clock, for ninety years.” Can you imagine the grief and pain this must have caused the millions of relatives and friends of those who lost their lives?
Despite the fact that the world produces plenty of food, the features characterizing the last days include food shortages. Researchers say that over the past 30 years, food production has outpaced population increase. Nevertheless, food shortages prevail in large areas of the world because many people do not have sufficient land to grow food or enough money to buy food. In developing countries, some 1.2 billion people subsist on a dollar (U.S.) a day or less. Of these, about 780 million suffer chronic hunger. According to the World Health Organization, annually malnutrition plays a major role in the deaths of over five million children.
What can be said about the foretold earthquakes? According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the number of earthquakes powerful enough to destroy buildings has averaged 17 a year since 1990 alone. On average, earthquakes strong enough to cause almost total destruction of buildings have occurred once each year. “Earthquakes have claimed hundreds of thousands of lives in the last 100 years,” states another source. One reason for this is that since 1914 many large population centers have developed in earthquake zones.
Other Significant Developments
“There will be . . . in one place after another pestilences,” said Jesus. (Luke 21:11) Medical science today is more advanced than ever before. Still, both old and new diseases continue to ravage mankind. A U.S. National Intelligence Council document states: “Twenty well-known diseases—including tuberculosis (TB), malaria, and cholera—have reemerged or spread geographically since 1973, often in more virulent and drug-resistant forms. At least 30 previously unknown disease agents have been identified since 1973, including HIV, Ebola, hepatitis C, and Nipah virus, for which no cures are available.” According to a Red Cross report of June 28, 2000, during the preceding year, the number of people who died from infectious diseases was about 160 times greater than the number who died in natural disasters.
“The increasing of lawlessness” is another noteworthy feature of the last days. (Matthew 24:12) In most places around the earth today, people do not leave their homes unlocked or feel safe on the street at night. And what about the pollution of the air, the water, and the land that we see taking place, often because of illegal practices? This too is in fulfillment of what the Bible foretold. The book of Revelation speaks of God’s appointed time to “bring to ruin those ruining the earth.”—Revelation 11:18.
What the People of the Last Days Are Like
Please open your Bible to 2 Timothy 3:1-5 and read it. The apostle Paul writes: “In the last days critical times hard to deal with will be here.” He then goes on to list 20 personality traits that would characterize ungodly people. Have you observed some of these characteristics in those living in your community? Consider what has been said in recent times about the people of today.
“Lovers of themselves.” (2 Timothy 3:2) “[People are] insistent on doing their own thing as never before. [They] are becoming gods, and expect to be treated as such.”—Financial Times, newspaper, England.
“Lovers of money.” (2 Timothy 3:2) “The ego of materialism has in recent times overpowered the spirit of modesty. Unless you are seen as rich in society your life is not worth living.”—Jakarta Post, newspaper, Indonesia.
“Disobedient to parents.” (2 Timothy 3:2) “Parents are puzzled to find their 4-year-old ordering them around like he’s [French King] Louis XIV or their 8-year-old screaming, ‘I hate you!’”—American Educator, magazine, United States.
“Disloyal.” (2 Timothy 3:2) “The vastly increased willingness of men to leave behind partners and children constitutes perhaps the single greatest change in moral values during the [past 40 years].”—Wilson Quarterly, magazine, United States.
“Having no natural affection.” (2 Timothy 3:3) “Family violence is the dominant factor in the everyday life of communities around the world.”—Journal of the American Medical Association, magazine, United States.
“Without self-control.” (2 Timothy 3:3) “Many stories that occur on the newspaper’s front page every morning reflect minds lacking self control, moral fibre and mercy towards their fellow human beings and even themselves. . . . If our society continues to favour aggression the way it is now, our society will soon enter a phase of moral annihilation.”—Bangkok Post, newspaper, Thailand.
“Fierce.” (2 Timothy 3:3) “Irrational anger and uncontrolled rage [are] seen on the road, in abuse within families, . . . and [in] the apparently gratuitous and unnecessary violence which often accompanies crime. Violence is experienced as random and unpredictable and people are left feeling disconnected and vulnerable.”—Business Day, newspaper, South Africa.
“Lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God.” (2 Timothy 3:4) “Sexual liberation has become a moral crusade, in which Christian morality is the enemy.”—Boundless, an Internet magazine.
“Having a form of godly devotion but proving false to its power.” (2 Timothy 3:5) “[A former prostitute in the Netherlands] acknowledged that opposition to legalization [of prostitution] comes largely from religious groups. She paused, then said with a grin that when she was a prostitute, several [religious] ministers were among her regulars. ‘Prostitutes always say their best clients are from the religious community,’ she laughed.”—National Catholic Reporter, newspaper, United States.
What Lies Ahead?
The world today is filled with trouble, just as the Bible foretold. However, the prophecy about “the sign of [Christ’s] presence and of the conclusion of the system of things” contains a positive feature. “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations,” said Jesus. (Matthew 24:3, 14) The good news of God’s Kingdom is being preached in more than 230 lands. Over six million people who come from “all nations and tribes and peoples and tongues” are actively engaged in the work of Kingdom proclamation. (Revelation 7:9) What has their zealous activity accomplished? This: The message of what the Kingdom is, what it will do, and how to receive its blessings is within the reach of nearly everyone on the earth. Indeed, ‘the true knowledge has become abundant in the time of the end.’—Daniel 12:4.
You have good reason to avail yourself of this knowledge. Consider what will happen after the good news has been preached to Jehovah’s satisfaction. Jesus said: “Then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14) It will be God’s time to eliminate all wickedness on earth. Proverbs 2:22 states: “As regards the wicked, they will be cut off from the very earth; and as for the treacherous, they will be torn away from it.” What about Satan and his demons? They will be cast into an abyss, where they will no longer be able to mislead the nations. (Revelation 20:1-3) Then “the upright . . . and the blameless are the ones that will be left over” in the earth. And they will enjoy wonderful Kingdom blessings.—Proverbs 2:21; Revelation 21:3-5.
What Can You Do?
There is no doubt about it. The end of Satan’s system is close at hand. Those who ignore the evidence that we are living in the last days will be caught off guard when the end comes. (Matthew 24:37-39; 1 Thessalonians 5:2) Therefore, Jesus said to his listeners: “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. Keep awake, then, all the time making supplication that you may succeed in escaping all these things that are destined to occur, and in standing before the Son of man.”—Luke 21:34-36.
Only those standing in an approved condition before the Son of man, Jesus, will have the prospect of surviving the end of this system of things. How vital that we use the remaining time to seek the approval of Jehovah God and Jesus Christ! In prayer to God, Jesus said: “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.” (John 17:3) It is, then, the course of wisdom on your part to learn more about Jehovah God and his requirements. Jehovah’s Witnesses in your community will be happy to assist you in understanding what the Bible teaches. You have our warm invitation to contact them or to write to the publishers of this magazine.
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FEATURES OF THE LAST DAYS
▪ Wars.—Matthew 24:6, 7.
▪ Food shortages.—Matthew 24:7.
▪ Earthquakes.—Matthew 24:7.
▪ Pestilences.—Luke 21:11.
▪ Increasing lawlessness.—Matthew 24:12.
▪ Ruining of the earth.—Revelation 11:18.
▪ Lovers of themselves.—2 Timothy 3:2.
▪ Lovers of money.—2 Timothy 3:2.
▪ Haughty.—2 Timothy 3:2.
▪ Disobedient to parents.—2 Timothy 3:2.
▪ Unthankful.—2 Timothy 3:2.
▪ Disloyal.—2 Timothy 3:2.
▪ Lacking natural affection.—2 Timothy 3:3.
▪ Without self-control.—2 Timothy 3:3.
▪ Fierce.—2 Timothy 3:3.
▪ Lovers of pleasures.—2 Timothy 3:4.
▪ Religious hypocrites.—2 Timothy 3:5.
▪ Possess abundant knowledge.—Daniel 12:4.
▪ Preach the good news worldwide.—Matthew 24:14.
UNITED NATIONS/Photo by F. GRIFFING