ON December 26, 2004, a 9.1-magnitude earthquake jolted Simeulue, an island off the northwest coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. All eyes on the shore looked out to sea. The tide was receding beyond normal. Instantly, everyone started running for the hills, shouting, “Smong! Smong!” the local word for tsunami. Within 30 minutes, powerful waves came crashing onto the coast, destroying most of the homes and villages.
Simeulue Island was the first location to be hit by that devastating tsunami. Yet, of the 78,000 residents, only 7 died. Why comparatively so few? * A saying among the islanders is: ‘If a strong tremor occurs and the sea withdraws, run to the hills, for the sea will soon rush ashore.’ From past experience, the people of Simeulue had learned to recognize an approaching tsunami by the change in the sea. Heeding the advance warning saved their lives.
The Bible speaks of an approaching disaster, a “great tribulation such as has not occurred since the world’s beginning until now, no, nor will occur again.” (Matthew 24:21) But this is not the end of planet Earth by irresponsible human activities or some catastrophic natural event—for it is God’s purpose that the earth remain forever. (Ecclesiastes 1:4) Rather, the coming tribulation is an act of God to “bring to ruin those ruining the earth.” It will be the end of all wickedness and suffering. (Revelation 11:18; Proverbs 2:22) What a blessing that will be!
Furthermore, unlike tsunamis, earthquakes, or volcanic eruptions, the coming destruction will not result in the death of innocent people. “God is love,” says the Bible, and God, whose name is Jehovah, promises that “the righteous will possess the earth, and they will live forever on it.” (1 John 4:8; Psalm 37:29) How, though, can you survive the great tribulation and enjoy the promised blessings? The key is: Heed the advance warning!
BE ALERT TO THE CHANGING TIDE
We cannot determine the specific date of the end of all wickedness and suffering, for Jesus said: “Concerning that day and hour nobody knows, neither the angels of the heavens nor the Son, but only the Father.” Nonetheless, Jesus encouraged us to “keep on the watch.” (Matthew 24:36; 25:13) For what? The Bible gives us a description of world conditions that would exist before God brings the end. Just as the sudden shifting of the tide alerted the residents of Simeulue to an approaching tsunami, the dramatic shifting of the tide of world events would signal to us that the end is near. The accompanying box highlights some of the dramatic changes the Bible speaks of.
Granted, taken individually, some of the events or conditions listed in the box have occurred in the past to some extent. But Jesus said that upon seeing “all these things,” we would know that the end is close at hand. (Matthew 24:33) Ask yourself, ‘When in history have all the things described (1) taken place on a global scale, (2) occurred at the same time, and (3) progressed to an unprecedented extent?’ Clearly, we are living in such a time.
AN EXPRESSION OF GOD’S LOVE
“Early warning systems . . . do save lives,” said one former U.S. president. Following the 2004 tsunami, a warning system was installed in the affected region in an effort to prevent similar loss of life from occurring in the future. Similarly, God has made provision for advance warning to be given before the end comes. The Bible foretold: “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.
Last year alone, Jehovah’s Witnesses spent well over 1.9 billion hours preaching the good news in 240 lands and in more than 700 languages. This modern-day development offers strong proof that the end is near. Moved by love for their neighbor, Jehovah’s Witnesses spare no effort as they warn others of God’s day of judgment that is fast approaching. (Matthew 22:39) The fact that you can benefit from this information is evidence of Jehovah’s love for you. Remember, “[God] does not desire anyone to be destroyed but desires all to attain to repentance.” (2 Peter 3:9) Will you respond to God’s love and heed the advance warning?
FLEE TO SAFETY!
Recall that the residents of Simeulue’s coastal villages fled to higher ground for safety the moment they saw the tide receding; they did not wait until it returned. Their decisive action meant their survival. To survive the coming tribulation, you too need to flee to higher ground, so to speak, before it is too late. How? The prophet Isaiah was inspired to write about a stirring invitation that is being extended during “the final part of the days,” the time in which we now live. It says: “Come, let us go up to the mountain of Jehovah . . . He will instruct us about his ways, and we will walk in his paths.”—Isaiah 2:2, 3.
Going to the top of a mountain affords you an elevated view and a place of safety. In a similar way, getting to know God’s ways through the pages of the Bible is helping millions of people worldwide today to make beneficial changes in their lives. (2 Timothy 3:16, 17) By so doing, they begin to “walk in [God’s] paths” and enjoy his favor and protective care.
Will you respond to that invitation and avail yourself of God’s loving protection in these critical days? We urge you to examine carefully the Scriptural evidence of the “last days” presented in the box accompanying this article. Jehovah’s Witnesses in your area would be happy to provide any assistance you may need to get a clear understanding of the scriptures provided as well as how to apply them. Or you may find answers to your questions by visiting our website, www.jw.org. Look under BIBLE TEACHINGS > BIBLE QUESTIONS ANSWERED.
^ par. 3 This 2004 tsunami claimed the lives of over 220,000 people—one of the most destructive tsunamis in recorded history.