“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.
CELESTIAL PHENOMENA “IMMEDIATELY AFTER”
65. To what “tribulation of those days” was Jesus there referring, and did the things he foretold happen “immediately after” or without a break after such “tribulation”?
65 By his expression “immediately after the tribulation of those days” Jesus was evidently referring to the days of the “great tribulation” that came upon Middle Eastern Jerusalem at the hands of the Romans in 70 C.E. However, search the historical records as much as we may, we do not find such things as Jesus described occurred “immediately after” in the sense of instantly after, without a break after, following in unbroken sequence like a chain of events. Instantly after the “great tribulation” that ended in Jerusalem’s destruction, the “sign of the Son of man” did not “appear in heaven” and the Roman besiegers and the other “tribes of the earth” did not “beat themselves in lamentation” at a visible sight of the Son of man coming in clouds and with “power and great glory.” Authentic history records that, after the Roman legions destroyed the holy city of Jerusalem, they laid siege to the last Jewish stronghold, the fortress atop Mount Masada on the west bank of the Dead Sea, and captured it in the year 73 C.E., thereby completing their subjugation of all the province of Judea. Well, then, was Jesus wrong at this point?
66. So, was Jesus here a false prophet, or what evidently is wrong at this point as respects the word “immediately”?
66 No, Jesus was not here a false prophet. Under inspiration of God’s holy spirit he could not be wrong. What, then, is wrong here? It is evidently the common understanding of the expression “immediately after.” Evidently here the meaning of “immediately” is like that in John 6:21 (Authorized Version) where, after Jesus walks over the waters of the Sea of Galilee and gets aboard the ship in which his disciples were, it says: “And immediately the ship was at the land whither they went.” Certainly more than an instant of time elapsed before they landed. It is similar to the word “shortly” in Revelation 1:1, where we read: “A revelation by Jesus Christ, which God gave him, to show his slaves the things that must shortly take place.” This word “shortly” widens out in time from when the apostle John got the Revelation about 96 C.E., to the fulfillments of the Revelation in our twentieth century. (Compare the length of time covered by “shortly” in Romans 16:20.)
67. How, then, are we to understand Jesus’ words, “immediately after”?
67 To harmonize Jesus’ prophecy of Matthew 24:29 with the available facts, we must understand Jesus’ expression “immediately after” to skip a span of centuries of time down to our twentieth century.* At this time, during the parousia of the Son of man since the year 1914 C.E., we do have things and events that do correspond with what Jesus foretold in that verse.
68, 69. (a) How has the world situation since 1914 been like the effects of what Jesus foretold concerning celestial bodies? (b) How, because of lack of self-help, have men been like those described in Isaiah 59:9, 10 and Zephaniah 1:17, 18?
68 Historians will agree that since 1914 C.E. mankind has entered into the blackest period of its existence. It is as if the sun had been “darkened” during the daytime, as if the moon did not “give its light” by night, and as if, during the same nighttime with no moonlight, the stars had fallen from heaven and disappeared into the blackness of the night. For the doomed system of things, including Christendom, there is no brightness to the future outlook during either the daytime or the nighttime. The inability of men, even in Christendom, to see their way out of the world’s situation by their own human means is well pictured in the ancient Bible prophecies, in these words:
69 “We keep hoping for light, but, look! darkness; for brightness, but in continuous gloom we kept walking. We keep groping for the wall just like blind men, and like those without eyes we keep groping. We have stumbled at high noon just as in evening darkness; among the stout ones we are just like dead people.” (Isaiah 59:9, 10) “And I [Jehovah] will cause distress to mankind, and they will certainly walk like blind men; because it is against Jehovah that they have sinned. And their blood will actually be poured out like dust, and their bowels like the dung. Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to deliver them in the day of Jehovah’s fury; but by the fire of his zeal the whole earth will be devoured, because he will make an extermination, indeed a terrible one, of all the inhabitants of the earth.”—Zephaniah 1:17, 18.
70. (a) In the light of scientific observations, how have the heavens lost their benign appearance? (b) In what way have the powers of the heavens been shaken?
70 The heavens seem to have lost their benign appearance. Modern science informs us of the great flares of atomic energy that shoot up thousands of miles into the sky and that appear like sunspots but that send out tremendous streams of particles that reach and affect our earth. Continually our earth is being bombarded by unseen rays of nuclear energy streaming toward us from unknown regions in outer space. Our radar telescopes pick up radar signals from stars that are unseen to the eye of the most powerful telescopes but that give evidence of their existence in space just the same. Landings have been made on the moon by astronauts six times, which moon some militarists would like to turn into a military base for directing warfare against enemies on the earth. And when we think of the supersonic warplanes and of the intercontinental missiles with warheads loaded with atomic and nuclear bombs of frightful destructiveness, we appreciate all the more the solemn meaning of Jesus’ words: “And the powers of the heavens will be shaken.” (Matthew 24:29) Men have invaded the skies and outer space and upset the normal balance of things.