“The end of all things has drawn close. . . . Be vigilant with a view to prayers.”—1 PET. 4:7.
1. What was the theme of Jesus’ teaching?
WHEN Jesus Christ was on earth, the theme of his teaching was God’s Kingdom. By means of that Kingdom, Jehovah will vindicate his universal sovereignty and sanctify his name. Thus, Jesus taught his disciples to pray to God: “Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.” (Matt. 4:17; 6:9, 10) That Kingdom government is very shortly going to bring an end to Satan’s world and then supervise the doing of God’s will throughout the earth. As Daniel foretold, God’s Kingdom “will crush and put an end to all these [present-day] kingdoms, and it itself will stand to times indefinite.”—Dan. 2:44.
2. (a) How would the followers of Jesus know that he was present in Kingdom power? (b) What else would the sign indicate?
2 Because the coming of God’s Kingdom was of great importance to Jesus’ followers, they asked him: “What will be the sign of your presence and of the conclusion of the system of things?” (Matt. 24:3) A visible sign would be provided in view of the fact that Christ’s presence in Kingdom power would be invisible to those on earth. That sign would be composed of various features foretold in the Scriptures. Accordingly, Jesus’ followers alive at that time could discern that he had begun ruling in heaven. It would also mark the beginning of the period of time known in the Bible as “the last days” of the wicked system of things that now dominates the earth.—2 Tim. 3:1-5, 13; Matt. 24:7-14.
Be Vigilant in the Last Days
3. Why would Christians need to be vigilant?
3 The apostle Peter wrote: “The end of all things has drawn close. Be sound in mind, therefore, and be vigilant with a view to prayers.” (1 Pet. 4:7) Jesus’ followers would need to be vigilant, watchful of world events indicating that he was present in Kingdom power. And their vigilance would take on greater urgency as the end of the present wicked system of things approached. Jesus told his disciples: “Keep on the watch, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming [to execute judgment on Satan’s world].”—Mark 13:35, 36.
4. Contrast the attitude of people who are part of Satan’s world with that of Jehovah’s servants. (Include box.)
4 People in general are under Satan’s domination, and they have not been watchful as to the meaning of world events. They do not discern Christ’s presence in Kingdom power. But Christ’s true followers have been vigilant and have discerned the real meaning of what has happened in the past century. Since 1925, Jehovah’s Witnesses have recognized that World War I and the events that followed amount to sure evidence that Christ’s presence in heavenly Kingdom power began in 1914. Thus, the last days of this wicked system of things under Satan had started. Many observant people, though not knowing the meaning, recognize the dramatic difference between the period before World War I and the period since.—See the box “The Age of Turbulence Began.”
5. Why is it vital that we continue to be vigilant?
5 For nearly a century now, horrendous events taking place around the world testify that we are living in the last days. There is very little time left before Jehovah gives Christ the command to lead powerful angelic forces against Satan’s world. (Rev. 19:11-21) True Christians are told to keep on the watch. Hence, it is urgent to continue to do that as we anticipate this system’s end. (Matt. 24:42) We must remain watchful, and under Christ’s direction, we must accomplish a specific work throughout the entire earth.
An Earth-Wide Work
6, 7. How has the Kingdom-preaching work progressed during the last days?
6 The work that Jehovah’s servants are to do was foretold as part of the composite sign indicating that we are in the last days of this present wicked system of things. Jesus described this global work when he enumerated various things that would happen in the time of the end. Included in his prophecy was this meaningful statement: “This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.”—Matt. 24:14.
7 Think of some facts related to that detail of Jesus’ prophecy. The number of people proclaiming the good news was very small when the last days began in 1914. By now that number has grown to huge proportions. There are more than 7,000,000 Witnesses of Jehovah preaching throughout the earth, organized into more than 100,000 congregations. An additional 10,000,000 people gathered with Jehovah’s Witnesses in 2008 on the occasion of the Memorial of Christ’s death. That was a significant increase in attendance over the preceding year.
8. Why has opposition not prevented our preaching from being successful?
8 What a mighty witness about God’s Kingdom is being given in all nations before this system’s end comes! That is despite the fact that Satan is “the god of this system of things.” (2 Cor. 4:4) All political, religious, and commercial elements of this world as well as its propaganda channels are being influenced by him. What, then, accounts for the amazing success of the witness work? It has to be Jehovah’s backing. Thus, the Kingdom-preaching work proceeds marvelously despite Satan’s attempts to stop it.
9. Why can our spiritual prosperity be called a miracle?
9 The success of the Kingdom-preaching work and the growth and spiritual prosperity of Jehovah’s people can be described as a miracle. Without God’s support, which includes his guidance and protection of his people, the preaching work would not be possible. (Read Matthew 19:26.) We can be sure that with God’s holy spirit working on the hearts of vigilant people who are willing to serve, this preaching work will be carried on to a successful conclusion, “and then the end will come.” That time is rapidly approaching.
“The Great Tribulation”
10. How did Jesus describe the coming great tribulation?
10 The end of this wicked system will come in what is called “the great tribulation.” (Rev. 7:14) The Bible does not tell us how long that will last, but Jesus said: “Then there will be great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning until now, no, nor will occur again.” (Matt. 24:21) When we consider the tribulation that this world has already experienced, such as in World War II when an estimated 50 to 60 million lives were lost, the coming great tribulation will be very severe indeed. It will reach its climax in the battle of Armageddon. That is when Jehovah will unleash his executional forces to destroy every vestige of Satan’s earthly system.—Rev. 16:14, 16.
11, 12. What event signals the start of the great tribulation?
11 Bible prophecy does not give a date for the first phase of the great tribulation to begin, though it does tell us what extraordinary event will signal its start. That event is the destruction of all false religion by the political powers. In Bible prophecies found in Revelation chapters 17 and 18, false religion is likened to a harlot who has had immoral intercourse with the political systems of the earth. Revelation 17:16 shows that the time will soon come when these political elements “will hate the harlot and will make her devastated and naked, and will eat up her fleshy parts and will completely burn her with fire.”
12 When the time comes for that to happen, God will “put it into their [the political rulers’] hearts to carry out his thought” to destroy all false religion. (Rev. 17:17) So this destruction can be said to come from God. It is his judgment against hypocritical religion that for so long has taught doctrines contrary to God’s will and that has persecuted his servants. The world in general does not anticipate this coming destruction of false religion. But Jehovah’s faithful servants do. And throughout these last days, they have been telling people about it.
13. What indicates that the end of false religion will take place swiftly?
13 It will be a great shock for people to see false religion destroyed. Bible prophecy shows that even some of “the kings of the earth” are going to declare regarding that destruction: “Too bad, too bad, . . . because in one hour your judgment has arrived!” (Rev. 18:9, 10, 16, 19) The Bible’s use of the words “one hour” shows that this event will take place relatively swiftly.
14. When the enemies of Jehovah finally turn on his servants, how will God respond?
14 We understand that some time after false religion has been destroyed, there will be an attack on Jehovah’s servants, who have been proclaiming his judgment messages. (Ezek. 38:14-16) When that attack begins, the attackers will have to confront Jehovah, who promises to protect his faithful people. Jehovah declares: “In my ardor, in the fire of my fury, I shall have to speak. . . . And they will have to know that I am Jehovah.” (Read Ezekiel 38:18-23.) God states in his Word: “He that is touching you [his faithful servants] is touching my eyeball.” (Zech. 2:8) So when his enemies begin their global assault on his servants, Jehovah will respond. He will move into action, which will lead to the final phase of the great tribulation—its Armageddon climax. Under Christ’s command, powerful angelic forces will execute Jehovah’s judgments against Satan’s world.
How We Should Be Affected
15. How should we be affected by knowing that this system’s end is near?
15 How should knowing that the end of this wicked system is rapidly approaching affect us? The apostle Peter wrote: “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 Pet. 3:11) Those words emphasize the need to keep close watch to make sure that our conduct is in harmony with God’s requirements and that our life includes works of godly devotion, reflecting our love for Jehovah. Such deeds include doing our utmost in preaching the good news of the Kingdom before the end comes. Peter also wrote: “The end of all things has drawn close. . . . Be vigilant with a view to prayers.” (1 Pet. 4:7) We draw close to Jehovah and show our love for him by constantly going to him in prayer, asking him to give us guidance by means of his holy spirit and his worldwide congregation.
16. Why do we need to adhere closely to God’s counsel?
16 In these perilous times, we need to adhere closely to the counsel of God’s Word: “Keep strict watch that how you walk is not as unwise but as wise persons, buying out the opportune time for yourselves, because the days are wicked.” (Eph. 5:15, 16) Wickedness is now more abundant than in any other time in history. Satan has devised many things to prevent people from doing Jehovah’s will or simply to distract them. As God’s servants, we know this, and we do not want to allow anything to undermine our loyalty to God. We also know what is shortly going to take place, and we put our confidence in Jehovah and his purposes.—Read 1 John 2:15-17.
17. Describe how Armageddon survivors will react when the resurrection takes place.
17 There will come to pass the marvelous promise that God has made to restore the dead to life, for “there is going to be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Acts 24:15) Notice how emphatic that promise is: “There is going to be a resurrection”! There is no doubt about it, for Jehovah has given his word! Isaiah 26:19 promises: “Your dead ones will live. . . . Awake and cry out joyfully, you residents in the dust! . . . The earth itself will let even those impotent in death drop in birth.” Those words had an initial fulfillment with the restoration of God’s ancient people to their homeland, giving us confidence in the coming literal fulfillment in the new world. What great joy there will be as resurrected ones are reunited with their loved ones! Yes, the end of Satan’s world is near, and a new world of God’s making is at hand. How vital it is that we remain vigilant!
Do You Recall?
• What was the theme of Jesus’ teaching?
• How widespread is the Kingdom-preaching work now?
• Why is it vital to be vigilant?
• What do you find encouraging about the promise at Acts 24:15?
[Box/Picture on page 16, 17]
THE AGE OF TURBULENCE BEGAN
The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World is the title of a 2007 book by Alan Greenspan. For almost 20 years, he was chairman of the United States Federal Reserve Board, which oversees that nation’s entire central banking system. Greenspan highlights the marked contrast between the world situation before 1914 and what followed:
“By all contemporaneous accounts, the world prior to 1914 seemed to be moving irreversibly toward higher levels of civility and civilization; human society seemed perfectible. The nineteenth century had brought an end to the wretched slave trade. Dehumanizing violence seemed on the decline. . . . The pace of global invention had advanced throughout the nineteenth century, bringing railroads, the telephone, the electric light, cinema, the motor car, and household conveniences too numerous to mention. Medical science, improved nutrition, and the mass distribution of potable water had elevated life expectancy . . . The sense of the irreversibility of such progress was universal.”
But . . . “World War I was more devastating to civility and civilization than the physically far more destructive World War II: the earlier conflict destroyed an idea. I cannot erase the thought of those pre-World War I years, when the future of mankind appeared unencumbered and without limit. Today our outlook is starkly different from a century ago but perhaps a bit more consonant with reality. Will terror, global warming, or resurgent populism do to the current era of life-advancing globalization what World War I did to the previous one? No one can be confident of the answer.”
Greenspan recalled from his student days a statement by Economics Professor Benjamin M. Anderson (1886-1949): “Those who have an adult’s recollection and an adult’s understanding of the world which preceded World War I look back upon it with a great nostalgia. There was a sense of security then which has never since existed.”—Economics and the Public Welfare.
A similar conclusion is reached in the volume A World Undone, by G. J. Meyer, published in 2006. We read: “Historic events are often said to have ‘changed everything.’ In the case of the Great War [1914-1918] this is, for once, true. The war really did change everything: not just borders, not just governments and the fate of nations, but the way people have seen the world and themselves ever since. It became a kind of hole in time, leaving the postwar world permanently disconnected from everything that had come before.”
[Picture on page 18]
At Armageddon, Jehovah will unleash powerful angelic forces