Has This Generation Seen ‘Signs From Heaven’?
SOME oldsters of this generation can recall the early years of aviation following Orville Wright’s successful flight in 1903. Back then the airplane was viewed as a big toy. It provided adventure for pilots and entertainment for crowds of onlookers.
But in 1911 Italy began using airplanes to drop grenades on Turkish troops. Then came 1914. “The circus-and-carnival era of man flight ended abruptly with the outbreak of World War I in 1914,” states the Encyclopædia Britannica. “The millions that belligerent governments were willing to pay aircraft designers suddenly made aviation big business.”
Air Warfare Begins
From the very start of the war, European nations used airplanes to spy on one another. But on August 26, 1914, a Russian aircraft was purposely rammed into an invading Austrian plane. Both pilots were killed. That same day, three British aircraft surrounded a German reconnaissance plane and forced it to land. Clearly, the nations had begun to make war in the air. On October 5, 1914, a French pilot took off with a hand-held machine gun with which he shot down a German plane. Soon airplanes were fitted with machine guns, resulting in frightening air fights. By the end of the war, well over 10,000 men had lost their lives in these encounters.
Still more terrifying was the sight of bombs falling from aircraft. On October 8, 1914, two British planes bombed strategic targets in Cologne and Düsseldorf. Then, in December 1914, Germany commenced air raids on Britain. “Bombing raids became more fearsome as the war progressed,” writes Susanne Everett in the book World War I—An Illustrated History.
In his book Flyers and Flying, Aidan Chambers sums up the significance of the airplane in World War I: “The aeroplane had come of age in an orgy of destruction. Over the battlefields of France lay the tortured wreckage of many an aerial combat; London and other cities, towns and villages had been bombed; ships had been attacked from the sky. War . . . was changed completely by the arrival of the flying men in their incredible machines.”
Many saw in these and other war developments a fulfillment of the Bible prophecy: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; . . . and there will be fearful sights and from heaven great signs.” (Luke 21:10, 11) A parallel account of this prophecy adds the words: “All these things are a beginning of pangs of distress.”—Matthew 24:7, 8.
“The Beginning of the Birthpangs”?
Did World War I with its ‘fearful sights and great signs from heaven’ prove to be “only the beginning of the birthpangs,” as The Jerusalem Bible expresses it? History answers yes. Well over a million tons of bombs were dropped from earth’s immediate heavens during World War II. Among these were blockbusters and other six-ton devices that could penetrate about 16 feet (5 m) of solid concrete.
Imagine the terror that struck the hearts of Hamburg’s residents on the night in July 1943 when a swarm of some 700 heavy aircraft bombed their city. This was repeated two nights later, causing a firestorm that claimed over 40,000 victims. “A stream of haggard, terrified refugees flowed into the neighbouring provinces,” wrote Adolf Galland. “The Terror of Hamburg spread rapidly to the remotest villages of the Reich.”
Warsaw, London, Coventry, Berlin, Dresden, Tokyo, and many other cities, suffered from intense bombing. One Tokyo air raid caused a firestorm that proved even more destructive than the one in Hamburg. It claimed over 80,000 lives. After repeated air raids millions fled the city. “Tokyo’s population went from five million to two and a third million,” records historian Jablonski. A Japanese woman says: “Whenever I hear the siren of a fire truck or see logs crackling in a fireplace, my heart pounds and I relive those days of childhood terror.”
World War II introduced terrifying new weaponry. In the last year of the war, Germany began firing V-2 rockets loaded with one-ton warheads. Traveling 3,500 miles per hour (5,600 km/hr) at impact, these reached British soil only about five minutes after being launched. Then the United States dropped two atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing over a hundred thousand people outright. “Allied to the atomic bomb,” explains the Encyclopædia Britannica, “the V-2 foreshadowed the intercontinental ballistic missiles [ICBMs] of the postwar era.”
After the war, the nations developed even more destructive nuclear weapons. There was a feverish testing of these before the signing of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1963. Nuclear bombs were even exploded in space. Regarding one such experiment, Dr. Mitton writes in his book Daytime Star—The Story of Our Sun: “The Starfish explosion of July 1962 produced a radiation belt that persisted for several years. The folly of this exercise was brought home forcefully when it was realized that several expensive satellites had thereby been effectively wrecked.”
The 1963 treaty limited the testing of nuclear weapons, but it did not prevent the superpowers from making more of these bombs. Neither did it prevent them from improving methods of delivering them. Commenting on this, Dr. Jastrow wrote in Science Digest: “When the Germans were raining V-2s on Britain 40 years ago, they thought they were doing well if a rocket came within 10 miles [16 km] of its target. . . . The warheads on Soviet and American ICBMs in operational use today land within about 300 yards [270 m] of their targets after flights of many thousands of miles.”
Dr. Jastrow went on to describe new warheads having radar eyes and electronic brains. Called “smart warheads,” these are said to “land within 25 yards [23 m] of their targets on the average.” It is believed that “smart warheads” could be fitted onto intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Would you not agree that what started back in 1914 was “only the beginning of the birthpangs”? Man’s use of “heaven” has become increasingly deadly.
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Nuclear bombs were tested in space before the signing of the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty
‘Signs From Heaven’—A Cause for Gloom?
“Terribly effective weaponry could well be deployed in space by the year 2000, weaponry that can attack both satellites and space stations as well as targets here on Earth.”
THE above statement was made last year by the president of the International Academy of Astronautics. Space weaponry is not just talk. Already one of the superpowers has successfully tested an antisatellite weapon.
In a speech given on March 23, 1983, the president of the United States proposed the use of space-based weapons as a means of defense. This would require that a number of satellites be placed in orbit—satellites with the ability to detect enemy missiles and the means to destroy them. Officially called the Strategic Defense Initiative, the plan has been nicknamed Star Wars.
One scientific journal describes it as “a great hope for the future,” one that would “lessen the awesome threat of nuclear weapons.” Another, the journal Nature, said: “The development of a star wars system makes the chances of reducing the number of nuclear weapons increasingly remote; if your enemy has a shield you need more arrows.” Similarly, an article in Scientific American described the “precipitous drop in global security” brought on by the nuclear age and suggested that if “an unrestrained contest in space weaponry” should follow, it would further reduce the “level of security.”
Gloomy Expectations Foretold
The insecurity experienced by our generation was foretold in the Bible when it said that men would “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 21:26) Many things cause people to “become faint out of fear” for earth’s future.
For example, a team of five scientists recently wrote on the subject “The Climatic Effects of Nuclear War” and said: “Recent findings by our group, confirmed by workers in Europe, the U.S. and the U.S.S.R., suggest that the long-term climatic effects of a major nuclear war are likely to be much severer and farther-reaching than had been supposed. In the aftermath of such a war vast areas of the earth could be subjected to prolonged darkness, abnormally low temperatures, violent windstorms, toxic smog and persistent radioactive fallout . . . Even in regions far from the conflict the survivors would be imperiled by starvation . . . and other dire consequences.”—Scientific American, August 1984.
This global aftereffect of nuclear war is commonly called the nuclear winter. Not surprisingly, even people in the southern hemisphere feel alarm although they are far from the territory of the superpowers. In an editorial entitled “Armageddon,” the South African Medical Journal said: “The all-too-real possibility of global thermo-nuclear war makes all other risks to human health pale into insignificance. . . . In anything more extensive than a limited exchange of nuclear weapons, medical services as we know them would cease to exist. . . . At the present time, there is probably more general awareness of the dangers of a nuclear catastrophe than ever before.”
Gloomy expectations of mass destruction are not limited to the threat of nuclear war. Natural cosmic disasters, of one form or another, are a frequent topic in books and magazines. The prospect of a gigantic body striking the earth was the theme of a recent suspense film, Meteor. Even more recently, an African newspaper posed the question: “How safe is human life from destruction by stray asteroids or comets?” And the destruction of earth by the explosion of a large star, blasting a heavy dose of radiation toward our earth, has also been given as a possibility.
Need such speculations cause you gloom? And what about the real threat of nuclear war and its aftermath? Is there basis for believing that the earth and human life will keep surviving?
Reasons for Optimism
Predictions of mass extinction are often based on the belief that even if there is a Creator, he is not capable of maintaining his universe. But is such reasoning sound? Respecting Almighty God’s ability, the Bible psalmist was inspired to write: “Praise him, you sun and moon. Praise him, all you stars of light. Praise him, you heavens of the heavens . . . For he himself commanded, and they were created. And he keeps them standing forever, to time indefinite. A regulation he has given, and it will not pass away.”—Psalm 148:3-6.
But, you may wonder, ‘What assurance does the Bible give that the earth, too, will stand forever?’ Note: “He [God] has founded the earth upon its established places; it will not be made to totter to time indefinite, or forever.” (Psalm 104:5) Thus the divine promise is: “The meek ones themselves will possess the earth, and they will indeed find their exquisite delight in the abundance of peace. The righteous themselves will possess the earth, and they will reside forever upon it.” (Psalm 37:11, 29) Jesus Christ, in fact, quoted from Psalm 37, thereby showing that he firmly believed in an everlasting future for man on earth.—Matthew 5:5.
Jesus even foretold the generation that would begin to see the fulfillment of God’s promises. Along with foretelling the present-day ‘great signs from heaven,’ he said that food shortages, pestilences, earthquakes, lawlessness, and other calamities would be features of the last days of this system of things. (Luke 21:10, 11; Matthew 24:6-12) Surely cause for gloom, one might conclude. But listen to Jesus: “As these things start to occur,” he said, “raise yourselves erect and lift your heads up, because your deliverance is getting near. . . . When you see these things occurring, know that the kingdom of God is near.”—Luke 21:28-31.
Why this optimism? Because Jesus knew that it would not be necessary for his true followers to share the general “fear and expectation of the things coming upon the inhabited earth.” (Luke 21:26) Rather, they could confidently lift up their heads because deliverance from all threats of calamity would be near. Such deliverance could never come through man-made political governments. But it will come by intervention of “the kingdom of God.” That is why Jesus taught his followers to pray: “Our Father in the heavens, let your name be sanctified. Let your kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also upon earth.”—Matthew 6:9, 10.
But you may wonder: ‘When will this promised deliverance come?’ Respecting the generation that would start experiencing ‘great signs from heaven,’ Jesus said: “Truly I say to you, This generation will by no means pass away until all things occur.” Therefore, some of the 1914 generation who began to witness those “signs” will still be alive when God’s Kingdom takes full control of earth’s affairs.—Luke 21:32.
Will You Be Among the Survivors?
You can survive this era of fear because Jesus said: “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 21:36) Yes, you can “succeed in escaping.” But how?
First, it is necessary that you gain knowledge of God’s will and purpose. This requires serious reading and study of the Bible. Marvelous blessings result, as Jesus said: “Happy are those conscious of their spiritual need.” When you think about it, what greater cause for happiness is there than the assured hope of everlasting life? Jesus said in prayer to God: “This means everlasting life, their taking in knowledge of you, the only true God, and of the one whom you sent forth, Jesus Christ.”—Matthew 5:3; John 17:3.
But Bible knowledge in itself is not sufficient for a person to become a survivor of this epoch of fear. Jesus said: “Happy are those hearing the word of God and keeping it!” Yes, it is necessary to keep, or live in harmony with, God’s Word. In other words, we must keep doing the will of God. The Bible promises: “He that does the will of God remains forever.”—Luke 11:28; 1 John 2:17.
The distributors of this magazine will be glad to assist you. They will be happy to demonstrate how you can study the Bible in your own home. The life-giving knowledge obtained can result in your gaining everlasting life in Paradise on earth. (Psalm 37:29) To be sure, there is a basis for viewing the future with optimism.
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What is your future—A charred earth? Or a paradise?
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Jesus taught that ‘the meek shall inherit the earth’