“When you see all these things, know that he is near at the doors.”—MATT. 24:33.
1, 2. (a) What may influence what we actually see? (b) Of what can we be sure as to God’s Kingdom?
AS YOU may have noted, eyewitnesses of an event often remember the details quite differently. Similarly, a person may find it hard to remember exactly what the doctor said after he gave a diagnosis. Or someone may have trouble finding his keys or eyeglasses, though they are near at hand. All these situations may have to do with what researchers say is a type of blindness—not noticing something, or forgetting something, because of being otherwise engaged. This is said to be part of how our brain works.
2 Many people today experience a similar form of blindness when it comes to world events. They may admit that the world has changed greatly since 1914, but they do not see the real significance of these events. As Bible students, we know that in one sense God’s Kingdom came in 1914 when Jesus was installed as King in heaven. But we know that more is involved in response to the prayer “Let your Kingdom come. Let your will take place, as in heaven, also on earth.” (Matt. 6:10) Clearly, that includes the end of the present wicked system. Only when that occurs can God’s will be done on earth as it is being done in heaven.
3. What advantage do we have from studying God’s Word?
3 Because we regularly study God’s Word, we can see that prophecy is being fulfilled right now. What a contrast with people in general! They are so involved in their lives and pursuits that they overlook the clear evidence that Christ has been ruling since 1914 and will soon bring God’s judgment. However, consider a personal question: If you have been serving God for decades, are you as conscious of and concerned about the significance of our times as you were years ago? Even if you have become a Witness more recently, on what is your attention focused? Whatever our response, let us review three important reasons why we can be confident that God’s anointed King will soon take additional steps toward having the divine will done fully on earth.
THE HORSEMEN HAVE MADE THEIR APPEARANCE
4, 5. (a) What has Jesus been doing since 1914? (See opening image.) (b) What do the rides of three horsemen symbolize, and how have things worked out?
4 In 1914, Jesus Christ—pictured as riding a white horse—was given his heavenly crown. He immediately went forth to complete the conquest of Satan’s wicked system. (Read Revelation 6:1, 2.) The descriptive prophecy in Revelation chapter 6 gave reason to expect that after God’s Kingdom was established, there would be a rapid deterioration of world conditions—war, food shortage, pestilence, and other causes of death. These developments are depicted by the ride of three horsemen closely following Jesus Christ.—Rev. 6:3-8.
5 As foretold, peace was ‘taken away from the earth,’ despite human promises of international cooperation and diplomacy. World War I can be viewed as just the beginning of significant wars, as is proved by recent world developments. And despite many economic and scientific advances since 1914, food shortages continue to threaten world security. Furthermore, who can deny that all kinds of pestilences, natural disasters, and other ‘deadly plagues’ continue to cut down millions of victims each year? The scope, frequency, and severity of these events are unprecedented in human history. Do you take to heart the meaning of that?
6. Who had taken note of the fulfillment of Bible prophecy, and what did this lead them to do?
6 Many people were distracted by the outbreak of World War I and the Spanish influenza. Yet, anointed Christians had keenly been anticipating 1914 as the end of the Gentile Times, or “appointed times of the nations.” (Luke 21:24) They were not completely sure about what would happen. Still, they knew that 1914 would mark a turning point regarding divine rulership. As soon as they discerned the fulfillment of Bible prophecy, they boldly declared to others that God’s rule had begun. Their efforts to proclaim the Kingdom resulted in intense persecution. That such occurred in many nations was itself a further fulfillment of prophecy. In the decades to follow, the enemies of the Kingdom resorted to “framing trouble in the name of the law.” They also resorted to physical violence, imprisonments, and even executions by hanging, shooting, or beheading our brothers.—Ps. 94:20; Rev. 12:15.
7. Why have the majority of people not discerned the true meaning behind world events?
7 With so much evidence that God’s Kingdom is already established in heaven, why do the majority of people not accept what this means? Why are they not able to connect the dots, so to speak, between the state of the world and specific Bible prophecies that God’s people have long been publicizing? Could it be that most people are focusing attention on just what they can see with their eyes? (2 Cor. 5:7) Does their preoccupation with human affairs blind them to what God is doing? (Matt. 24:37-39) Are some of them distracted by the noise of satanic propaganda? (2 Cor. 4:4) It takes faith and spiritual perception to see what is happening in the spirit realm. How glad we can be that we are not blind to what is really going on!
WICKEDNESS IS ADVANCING FROM BAD TO WORSE
8-10. (a) How has 2 Timothy 3:1-5 been fulfilled? (b) Why can we say that wickedness is advancing from bad to worse?
8 There is a second reason why we know that it will not be long before God’s Kingdom takes active control of earth’s affairs: Wickedness in human society is going from bad to worse. For nearly a century, the conditions foretold at 2 Timothy 3:1-5 have been in evidence. If anything, they too have steadily increased in scope, duration, and frequency. Can you not recognize that the fulfillment of this prophecy has intensified? Let us consider some examples that well illustrate this.—Read 2 Timothy 3:1, 13.
9 Think about the contrast between what was found shocking in the 1940’s or 1950’s and what is taking place today in the workplace, in the field of entertainment, in sports, and in fashion. Extreme violence and immorality are now commonplace. People compete to be seen as more fierce, lewd, or ruthless than anyone else. What was considered edgy television in the 1950’s is now rated as suitable for families. And many recognize that homosexuals have a loud voice in the fields of entertainment and fashion, promoting their lifestyle in the public realm. How thankful we can be that we know God’s view!—Read Jude 14, 15.
10 Or a Christian might reflect on what was considered rebellious behavior on the part of young people in the 1950’s in contrast with what is taking place today. Parents used to worry—and rightly so—about whether their children were smoking tobacco, drinking alcohol, or dancing suggestively. Today, shocking reports have become all too familiar: A 15-year-old student opens fire on his classmates, killing 2 and injuring 13. A group of intoxicated teens brutally murder a nine-year-old girl and beat up her father and cousin. Youths in one Asian land are said to be responsible for half of the crimes committed in the preceding ten-year period. Can anyone reasonably deny that things have got much worse?
11. Why do many people not realize that things are getting worse?
11 The apostle Peter accurately pointed out: “In the last days ridiculers will come with their ridicule, proceeding according to their own desires and saying: ‘Where is this promised presence of his? Why, from the day our forefathers fell asleep in death, all things are continuing exactly as they were from creation’s beginning.’” (2 Pet. 3:3, 4) What might explain why some people react this way? It seems that the more familiar a situation is, the less people are inclined to pay attention to it. A steady decline in the morality of society in general may seem less shocking than a sudden, unexpected change in the behavior of a close acquaintance. Nevertheless, this gradual decay of morality is dangerous.
12, 13. (a) Why do we not need to be discouraged by world developments? (b) Our realizing what will help us to cope with conditions “hard to deal with”?
12 The apostle Paul warned us that “in the last days,” conditions would be “hard to deal with.” (2 Tim. 3:1) But they are not impossible to deal with, so we do not need to hide from reality. With the help of Jehovah, his spirit, and the Christian congregation, we can successfully overcome whatever disappointments or fears come our way. We can stay faithful. “The power beyond what is normal” is God’s, not our own.—2 Cor. 4:7-10.
13 It is good to note that Paul introduced the prophecy about the last days with the expression “know this.” Those words guarantee that what follows is certain to occur. There is no doubt that ungodly society will continue to advance from bad to worse until Jehovah steps in to end it. Historians have documented that here or there some society or nation experienced a steep moral decline and then collapsed. Never before in history, though, has the overall morality of the entire world deteriorated to the extent that it has now. Many people may ignore the implications, but this unique development since 1914 should clearly demonstrate to us that we can trust that God’s Kingdom will soon take decisive action.
THIS GENERATION WILL NOT PASS AWAY
14-16. What is a third reason for believing that God’s Kingdom will “come” soon?
14 There is yet a third reason for confidence. What has developed among God’s people points to the nearness of the end. For example, prior to the establishment of God’s Kingdom in heaven, a group of faithful anointed ones were actively serving God. When some of their expectations about what would happen in 1914 did not come about, what did they do? Most of them proved their integrity under trials and persecution and kept right on serving Jehovah. Over the years, most—if not all—of those anointed ones have faithfully completed their earthly course.
15 In his detailed prophecy about the conclusion of this system of things, Jesus said: “This generation will by no means pass away until all these things happen.” (Read Matthew 24:33-35.) We understand that in mentioning “this generation,” Jesus was referring to two groups of anointed Christians. The first group was on hand in 1914, and they readily discerned the sign of Christ’s presence in that year. Those who made up this group were not merely alive in 1914, but they were spirit-anointed as sons of God in or before that year.—Rom. 8:14-17.
16 The second group included in “this generation” are anointed contemporaries of the first group. They were not simply alive during the lifetime of those in the first group, but they were anointed with holy spirit during the time that those of the first group were still on earth. Thus, not every anointed person today is included in “this generation” of whom Jesus spoke. Today, those in this second group are themselves advancing in years. Yet, Jesus’ words at Matthew 24:34 give us confidence that at least some of “this generation will by no means pass away” before seeing the start of the great tribulation. This should add to our conviction that little time remains before the King of God’s Kingdom acts to destroy the wicked and usher in a righteous new world.—2 Pet. 3:13.
CHRIST WILL SOON COMPLETE HIS CONQUEST
17. What conclusion do we draw from the three lines of evidence that we have considered?
17 What conclusion can we draw from the three lines of evidence that we have considered? Jesus cautioned that we would not—and we do not—know the exact day or hour. (Matt. 24:36; 25:13) But we can and do know “the season,” as Paul mentioned. (Read Romans 13:11.) We are living in that season, the last days. If we give our full attention to Bible prophecy and to what Jehovah God and Jesus Christ are doing, we cannot fail to see compelling evidence that we are indeed living close to the end of this system of things.
18. What awaits those who refuse to recognize God’s Kingdom?
18 Those who refuse to recognize the awesome authority that has been given to Jesus Christ, the victorious Rider of the white horse, will soon be forced to admit their error. They will not see a way out. At that time, many will cry out in terror: “Who is able to stand?” (Rev. 6:15-17) Yet, the very next chapter of Revelation provides an answer. The anointed ones and those with an earthly hope will indeed “stand” in that day with God’s approval. Then “a great crowd” of those other sheep will survive the great tribulation.—Rev. 7:9, 13-15.
19. As one who recognizes, accepts, and responds to the clear evidence that the last days will soon end, what are you looking forward to?
19 By our consciously focusing attention now on the unfolding fulfillment of Bible prophecy in these exciting times, we will not be distracted by the noise from Satan’s world; nor will we be blind to the real meaning of world events. Christ will soon complete his conquest of this ungodly society by waging the final war in righteousness. (Rev. 19:11, 19-21) Think of what the Bible assures us can then be our happy lot!—Rev. 20:1-3, 6; 21:3, 4.