The Last Days—When?
“IN A little over a billion years, we expect Earth to become a baked, barren, powder-dry desert. It’s hard to imagine how multicellular life could survive,” says a recent issue of the magazine Sky & Telescope. Why? “A brightening Sun will boil the seas and bake the continents,” says Astronomy magazine, adding: “This apocalyptic scenario is more than an inconvenient truth—it’s our inevitable destiny.”
The Bible, however, states: “[God] has founded the earth upon its established places; it will not be made to totter to time indefinite, or forever.” (Psalm 104:5) Surely, the Creator of the earth can also maintain its existence. In fact, he “formed it . . . to be inhabited.” (Isaiah 45:18) But not by a wicked, dying race of humans. God set a time for the restoration of his rulership by means of the Kingdom spoken of at Daniel 2:44.
Jesus preached about the Kingdom of God. He spoke of a time for judging the nations and peoples. He warned of a tribulation that would be greater than any that had yet occurred. And he gave a composite sign to indicate when the end of the world as we know it would be at hand.—Matthew 9:35; Mark 13:19; Luke 21:7-11; John 12:31.
That such an important person as Jesus would tell of those things has stirred the imagination of many people. When would those events occur? By studying Bible prophecy and chronology, some have sought to determine just when the end might be. One who researched the subject was the 17th-century mathematician Sir Isaac Newton, the discoverer of the law of universal gravitation and the inventor of the calculus.
Jesus said to his disciples: “It does not belong to you to get knowledge of the times or seasons which the Father has placed in his own jurisdiction.” (Acts 1:7) And when giving “the sign of [his] presence and of the conclusion of the system of things,” Jesus noted: “Concerning that day and hour nobody knows, neither the angels of the heavens nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Matthew 24:3, 36) Then, after making a comparison between the destruction of the wicked world of mankind in Noah’s day and the destruction that would take place during “the presence of the Son of man,” Jesus stated: “Keep on the watch, therefore, because you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.”—Matthew 24:39, 42.
So while the exact time of the coming end of this “system of things” has not been revealed to us, “the sign” that Jesus gave would let us know when we are in the time period known as “the last days.” (2 Timothy 3:1) It would be a time to “keep awake” so that we “may succeed in escaping all these things that are destined to occur.”—Luke 21:36.
Before giving the actual sign, Jesus warned: “Look out that you are not misled; for many will come on the basis of my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The due time has approached.’ Do not go after them. Furthermore, when you hear of wars and disorders, do not be terrified. For these things must occur first, but the end does not occur immediately.”—Luke 21:8, 9.
What Is the Sign?
Telling us what will mark the last days, Jesus went on to say: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; and there will be great earthquakes, and in one place after another pestilences and food shortages; and there will be fearful sights and from heaven great signs.” (Luke 21:10, 11) Jesus also said: “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.”(Matthew 24:14) The events that Jesus mentioned—wars, earthquakes, pestilences, food shortages—would not be new in themselves. They have been happening since early in human history. The difference would be that they would all occur in one time period.
Ask yourself, ‘When have all the facets mentioned in the Gospels occurred in the same era?’ Since the year 1914, man has witnessed devastating world wars; great earthquakes with their tragic consequences, such as tsunamis; widespread deadly diseases such as malaria, flu, and AIDS; millions of people wasting away for lack of food; a global climate of fear because of threats from terrorism and weapons of mass destruction; and the preaching of the good news of God’s heavenly Kingdom worldwide by Jehovah’s Witnesses. These events have occurred just as Jesus foretold.
Keep in mind, too, what the apostle Paul wrote: “Know this, that in the last days critical times hard to deal with will be here. For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, self-assuming, haughty, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, disloyal, having no natural affection, not open to any agreement, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, without love of goodness, betrayers, headstrong, puffed up with pride, lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God, having a form of godly devotion but proving false to its power.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5) Yes, “critical times” marked by rampant lawlessness, godlessness, cruelty, and self-seeking aggressiveness would become evident throughout the earth. *
But could “the last days” that precede the end be yet some time in the future? Is there other evidence to indicate when they would start?
When Would “the Time of the End” Start?
After he received a preview of events that would occur far in the future, the prophet Daniel was told: “During that time [“the time of the end” mentioned at Daniel 11:40] Michael [Jesus Christ] will stand up, the great prince who is standing in behalf of the sons of your people.” (Daniel 12:1) What would Michael do?
The book of Revelation speaks of the time when Michael would be active as King. It states: “War broke out in heaven: Michael and his angels battled with the dragon, and the dragon and its angels battled but it did not prevail, neither was a place found for them any longer in heaven. So down the great dragon was hurled, the original serpent, the one called Devil and Satan, who is misleading the entire inhabited earth; he was hurled down to the earth, and his angels were hurled down with him. On this account be glad, you heavens and you who reside in them! Woe for the earth and for the sea, because the Devil has come down to you, having great anger, knowing he has a short period of time.”—Revelation 12:7-9, 12.
Bible chronology indicates that this battle, cleansing the heavens of Satan and his demons, would result in great woe for the earth because of the Devil’s anger at knowing that his time left for ruling the earth was short. His anger would increase during the last days until his total defeat at the war of Armageddon.—Revelation 16:14, 16; 19:11, 15; 20:1-3.
After mentioning the outcome of that heavenly battle, the apostle John declared: “I heard a loud voice in heaven say: ‘Now have come to pass the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ, because the accuser of our brothers has been hurled down, who accuses them day and night before our God!’” (Revelation 12:10) Did you note the announcement of the Kingdom’s establishment under Christ? Yes, that heavenly Kingdom was installed in 1914. * However, as Psalm 110:2 indicates, Jesus would be ruling “in the midst of [his] enemies” until the time when Kingdom rule would exercise dominion over the earth as it has done in heaven.—Matthew 6:10.
Interestingly, the angel who told the prophet Daniel of the events to come also stated: “As for you, O Daniel, make secret the words and seal up the book, until the time of the end. Many will rove about, and the true knowledge will become abundant.” (Daniel 12:4) This provides additional evidence that we are now in “the time of the end.” Knowledge of the meaning of these prophecies has already been made clear and is now being proclaimed worldwide. *
When Will “the Last Days” End?
Exactly how long the last days will be is not mentioned in the Bible. But in the last days, the earthly situation is bound to get worse as Satan’s time gets shorter. The apostle Paul forewarned that “wicked men and impostors will advance from bad to worse, misleading and being misled.” (2 Timothy 3:13) And in speaking of things yet to come, Jesus stated: “Those days will be days of a tribulation such as has not occurred from the beginning of the creation which God created until that time, and will not occur again. In fact, unless Jehovah had cut short the days, no flesh would be saved. But on account of the chosen ones whom he has chosen he has cut short the days.”—Mark 13:19, 20.
Some of the events yet to come are the “great tribulation,” including the war of Armageddon, and the restricting of Satan and his demons so that they cannot affect the earth. (Matthew 24:21) “God, who cannot lie,” has assured us that these things will take place. (Titus 1:2) Armageddon and the abyssing of Satan will be the result of divine intervention.
The apostle Paul was inspired to tell us just what would precede the coming destruction at God’s hands. In regard to “the times and the seasons,” he wrote: “Jehovah’s day is coming exactly as a thief in the night. Whenever it is that they are saying: ‘Peace and security!’ then sudden destruction is to be instantly upon them just as the pang of distress upon a pregnant woman; and they will by no means escape.” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-3) Just what causes that false cry of “peace and security” is not stated, and only time will tell; but it will not forestall the coming of Jehovah’s day of judgment. *
If we are convinced of the reality of these prophecies, knowledge of the facts should move us to act. In what way? Peter answers: “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, awaiting and keeping close in mind the presence of the day of Jehovah!” (2 Peter 3:11, 12) Yet, you may wonder, ‘Of what benefit is this to me?’ The next article will answer that question.
^ par. 12 For additional evidence of “the last days,” see Awake! of April 2007, pages 8-10, as well as The Watchtower of September 15, 2006, pages 4-7, and of October 1, 2005, pages 4-7, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
^ par. 18 For details concerning Bible chronology, see pages 215-18 of the book What Does the Bible Really Teach? published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
^ par. 19 See the book Pay Attention to Daniel’s Prophecy! and the 2008 Yearbook of Jehovah’s Witnesses, pages 31-9, published by Jehovah’s Witnesses.
^ par. 23 See the book Revelation—Its Grand Climax At Hand! (2006 printing), pages 250-1, paragraphs 13 and 14.
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Jesus said that only God knows “that day and hour”
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Sir Isaac Newton
© A. H. C./age fotostock
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The sign that Jesus gave has been in evidence since 1914
© Heidi Bradner/Panos Pictures
© Paul Smith/Panos Pictures