“When Ye See These Things”

“When ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand.” —Luke 21:31

SOME six thousand years ago, Jehovah God formed man of the dust of the earth and placed him in the Garden of Eden where he was supplied with everything needful for everlasting life. God also gave Adam a lovely helpmate, and instructed them to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth, and subdue it. They were also appointed to have dominion over every living thing on the earth. Indeed, so perfect and complete were the arrangements he made for man’s everlasting well-being and happiness that the Lord, reviewing the situation, “saw everything that he had made, and, behold it was very good.”—Gen. 1:26-31

Man and all his offspring could thus have lived forever on this beautiful planet Earth in perfect happiness. The only requirement the Lord imposed was that of obedience. He said to Adam, “Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (Gen. 2:17) Misled by the serpent, Eve ate of the tree, and so did Adam, and the curse of death fell upon man and all his offspring. It was there in that beautiful garden, the inspired Apostle Paul explains, that “by one man, sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned.”—Rom. 5:12

That single, tragic act of disobedience in the Garden of Eden, jealously contrived and planted in man’s heart by his wily adversary, the Devil, in due course brought forth its inevitable, unholy harvest of sorrow. Some sixteen hundred years after the fall, mankind had become so debauched the Scriptures record that “God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth. And God said unto Noah, The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.”—Gen. 6:11-13

The Lord God then sent a great Flood upon the earth “to destroy all flesh, wherein is the breath of life, from under heaven; and everything that is in the earth shall die.” (Gen. 6:17) But Jehovah spared righteous Noah and his wife, and Noah’s three sons and their wives. The Apostle Peter briefly describes that cataclysmic event in his second epistle, where he writes: “The heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water; whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished.” (II Pet. 3:5,6) But the planet Earth, itself, was not destroyed. The apostle tells us it was that first “world,” or social order on earth, which was destroyed by God, because it had become intolerably corrupt.

Peter then calls our attention to a second heavens and earth, or world, which followed upon the destruction of that first world in the Flood. This second world, or social order, continues to this day. But although the Flood temporarily cleansed the planet Earth of the corruption that had so defiled it, Noah’s progeny were still imperfect; and it was not long before sin, suffering, disease and death resumed their former sway.

During the long, dark ages which drearily followed, Jehovah God did not leave his human creation without hope. Through the words of the prophets and in illuminating types and shadows he repeatedly described a coming glorious time of everlasting joy and blessing for all his human creation. He foretold the forgiveness of sin through the provision of a Redeemer, the healing of disease, the destruction of death, with righteousness and justice to be enjoyed by all. Greed and selfishness would be forever banished from the earth, for God’s righteous law would be written in every heart, and all would love their neighbors as themselves.

Best of all, these promised blessings would not be restricted to the few who are presently regarded as relatively righteous, but would be available to all who had ever lived on this planet Earth. To this end God would arrange for the resurrection of all who had ever gone down to the grave since the world began.—Ps. 103:1-6; Jer. 31:31-34; Gen. 22:18; Hos. 13:14; Isa. 9:6,7

Finally, to guarantee the fulfillment of all these precious promises, Jehovah God would send a loving, wise, and powerful King to reign on earth. This one would be a Wonderful Counselor, a Mighty God, an Everlasting Father, and a Prince of Peace. And his kingdom and justice and reign would be from henceforth even forever!—Isa. 9:6,7

Precious promises, indeed! No wonder the inspired psalmist, sensing something of the perfect happiness in store for suffering mankind, was moved to exclaim, “Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits: who forgiveth all thine iniquities; who healeth all thy diseases; who redeemeth thy life from destruction; who crowneth thee with loving kindness and tender mercies; who satisfied thy mouth with good things; so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s.” What a joyous prospect was thus proclaimed to a sin-sick, dying world!

In accordance with the Word of the Lord, and precisely in the Lord’s due time, the long-promised Savior and Redeemer finally came. The Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world; the Anointed One; the one who would give his life for the many; who would redeem us all from the curse of death; who would obediently lay down his perfect life that all the world might have life; the Prince of Peace—he finally came! Almost two thousand years ago our dear Lord Jesus left the glory that he had with the Father and suffered death on the cross, so that sin and death might forever be banished from the face of the earth, to be replaced by the everlasting peace and joy of an Eden restored. The Savior came almost two thousand years ago!

But today, as we observe the world about us, we see little of the promised peace. We see, rather, a world that is well-nigh overwhelmed with a multitude of virtually unsolvable problems. A single day’s issue of the morning paper reports worldwide fears of nuclear devastation, of widespread runaway inflation, of wars and threats of wars and revolutions in a dozen parts of the world simultaneously. Not a week passes without accounts of corruption in high places, or world-spreading pollution of air and water, of the decline In morality and decency, of terrorism, robberies and murders. The obituary section is brimful with its ill tidings. A bombing atrocity claims the lives of hundreds of young soldiers. An invading force of soldiers lands on a tiny island in the Caribbean in order to protect lives—at the cost of life.

These and countless other sorry conditions do not continue in the world for want of sincere human efforts to correct them. The plain fact is that human wisdom and human benevolence are simply not capable of coping with these problems. A good example of this difficulty is to be seen in the ongoing stalemate in the all-important arms limitations discussions between the superpowers. Sincere men on one side believe the solution lies in reducing nuclear weapons. Other equally sincere statesmen fear that circumvention of any agreement reached would leave their own nation subject to political blackmail and slavery.

The thorny situation in Lebanon where the United States is carrying out a so-called peacekeeping role is similar. Commenting on this, one magazine writes: “To withdraw … would be a humiliation and a blow to America’s credibility. To stay, on the other hand, risks deeper entanglement in a seemingly interminable civil war. … With the bullets flying and the language growing stronger, the U.S. found itself mired in a difficult situation from which there clearly was no easy way out.” (U.S. News & World Report, 9/26/83) On this same Middle East predicament, The New York Times reported (9/18/83), “For the Reagan Administration, the Lebanese crisis now seems virtually insoluble.” No way out!

Almost wherever one turns in this present world of trouble one finds problems human wisdom cannot solve. Consider China, with its teeming millions. Time magazine (9/26/83) comments on what it describes as “China’s overwhelming, perhaps insoluble, problem, which is simply: What do you do when you have too many people? … The government recognizes … that China holds too many people; the figures are grim, inexorable, inescapable. No one knows what can be done about it.” Again, No way out!

The same predicament arises in connection with the production of the food and the mass of manufactured goods that are required to feed, clothe and supply the swelling world population with the necessities of life. Present-day farming methods use fertilizers and herbicides that contaminate the world’s water supplies. Some industrial processes result in contamination of the air, earth and rivers of the world, and additionally may be largely responsible for the acid rain that destroys forests and life in lakes and streams. But the world needs food! And the world needs manufactured goods! And so again we have the same, seemingly insoluble situation—which way to turn?

This inability of human efforts to solve world problems, no matter how well-conceived and well-intentioned, is well illustrated in the collapse of the so-called League of Nations established by international treaties at the end of World War I. Its excellent purpose was the promotion of world peace and security. But it failed to prevent the occurrence of World War II, a casualty of ages-long, selfish national interests.

That noble, failed effort was later followed by the creation of The United Nations at the close of World War II. But this organization is even now approaching the same sad fate as its predecessor. In an article headed, “The Broken Promise of the United Nations” (Readers’ Digest, 10/83), we read, “When President Harry S. Truman eagerly welcomed the U.N. into existence in June 1945, he called it a ‘great instrument for peace and security and human progress’. Since then, 140 wars around the globe have claimed close to ten million lives. … Noting that the U.N. had ‘strayed far from the Charter in recent years’, [Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar] warned that ‘we are perilously near to a new international anarchy’.”

Thus we find that this latest and doubtless the most ambitious international attempt ever undertaken by man to bring peace, harmony, and cooperation between the nations of the world now lies, like the League of Nations before it, in a virtual state of impotence insofar as its ability to achieve its original, stated purpose is concerned.

But what about all those wonderful promises by God’s holy prophets of a better world that was to come—a world of peace, of health and happiness, of justice and righteousness, of love for one’s neighbor, of everlasting life? Has man’s inability to solve the world’s problems rendered those glorious promises null and void?

Not by any means! Never for a moment has God closed his eyes or shut his ears to events taking place on this planet Earth! Never for an instant has he forgotten his often-stated purpose to bless all the families of the earth! Never at any time since the world began was it God’s plan or purpose that imperfect man would or could be the means of bringing those precious promises to pass!

It is Jehovah God himself who will bring them to fruition! It is the Lord himself who said through the prophet, “I will ransom them from the power of the grave; I will redeem them from death: O death, I will be thy plagues; O grave, I will be thy destruction.” (Hos. 13:14) It is God himself who said, “I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh.” (Joel 2:28) “I will write my law in man’s heart. I will make all things plain, so that all may call upon me.” It is God who so loved the world that he sent his only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in him shall not perish. It is the Lord God who will wipe away all tears. And it was the Lord God himself who promised that all these things would surely come to pass.—Rev. 21:5

But why the seeming delay? The Scriptures reveal that the continuance of the reign of sin and death during this Gospel Age since our Savior died on the cross has been wisely permitted by Jehovah God in order to accomplish other important parts of his grand design. It will conclusively prove to imperfect man that, even if allowed additional, untold millennia, he would never be able to solve the world’s problems by his own efforts.

Mankind will also learn the all-important, lasting lesson of the destructive nature of sin. In speaking of the divine purpose of the Law, the Apostle Paul explains that “sin [was thereby] shown clearly to be sin, that the extreme malignity and immeasurable sinfulness of sin might plainly appear.” (Rom. 7:13, NEB) Furthermore, it is during the specially trying times of this evil world since Jesus died that the Lord God of heaven is choosing out of the world and perfecting those who shall live and reign with their Lord Jesus in the kingdom for the blessing of the people.

Ah, but when? When will this all come to pass? True, the Lord seems not to have given us any precise time. But, as we have discussed in previous issues of this publication, he has graciously given us unquestionable signs of the near approach of the kingdom. And one of these hope-inspiring, clearly indicated signs of the nearness of the kingdom is revealed to the Lord’s watching people in the very perplexity and futility of man to solve the problems presently afflicting the world in which he lives!

As recorded in the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus’ disciples—eager, even as the Lord’s people are today, to know when he would return to establish his kingdom on earth—asked him, “What shall be the sign of thy coming [presence], and of the end of the world [age]?” Among other signs that would manifest his return Jesus said, “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.”

Mark and Luke also wrote of this same time, but in Luke’s account we are given additional, significant information concerning it. He said that at that time there would be “upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth.”—Luke 21:25,26

The English word, perplexity, used in this passage is a translation of the Greek word aporia, meaning ‘a state of quandary’. But it is even more revealing to note that this word is itself derived from the Greek aporeo, which according to Professor Strong literally means ‘to have no way out’.

It is reasonable to suppose that the inspired writer would choose the word that would most fittingly describe mankind’s confusion and helplessness in that future time of which he was writing, “A state of quandary! No way out! No solution!” This is the very language we hear repeated almost every day in connection with so many of the great problems facing mankind!

Could there possibly be a more precise description than here given by Luke of the confusion, futility, and fear that are filling the hearts of the people today, as they consider the possible awful consequences of human error or human selfishness? It is almost as if the Lord had permitted the Gospel writer to look down the long corridors of time to the present, and to catch a glimpse of the universal helplessness gripping the hearts of the world’s great leaders, and to record his vision of what he saw for the instruction and comfort of the Lord’s people who are alive and watching in these last days of the Gospel Age! And what Luke reveals to us clearly shows that the world is, indeed, in the foretold Time of Trouble which Jesus said would mark his presence and the end of the Gospel Age.

But that is not all! In the same prophecy of the Time of Trouble, Luke gives us additional important information that is not contained in the other Gospel accounts. After reciting a number of events that would identify the Time of Trouble, and which clearly would require the passage of some time for their accomplishment, he says, “And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh. … So likewise, when ye see these things coming to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand.”—Luke 21:28-31

Thus Luke is used of the Lord to give to the footstep followers of Jesus living down here in the end of age some wonderful, hope-inspiring information not found in the other Gospel accounts of this period of time. For one thing, the language here used by Luke clearly shows that the Time of Trouble is not a single, sudden cataclysmic event occurring in the very closing moments of the Gospel Age. It is a time of trouble having some duration, as suggested by the writer in his use of the words, “When ye see these things begin to come to pass … your redemption draweth nigh.” Other translations are even more explicit. One puts it, “When you see these things taking place,” and another states it, “When you see all this happening,” you know the kingdom of God is near.—RSV and NEB

These encouraging words, of course, are written for the benefit of the remaining members of the church, the Lord’s followers who will live and reign with him in the kingdom. For them to see all these things happening they must still be present on the earth in these closing days of the age. The Scriptures abundantly assure the little flock that before the final climax of the Time of Trouble comes they will have been gathered safely home.—Rev. 19:7-15

Thus, among the other clear signs that the world has truly entered the foretold Time of Trouble we may also include the obvious universal confusion and helplessness—the perplexity—that is present in the world today as additional confirmation

But most of all, we who are so fortunate as to be living in these closing days of the Gospel Age and privileged to observe the dramatic, unfolding events of this Time of Trouble, are most grateful to our Heavenly Father for the abundant assurance he has given to us through his faithful servant, Luke, that just beyond these troubled days will come the kingdom for which we have all prayed so long!

So, dear brethren, we close with those precious, comforting words of Luke, “When these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh. … When ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand.”—Luke 21:28,31

Dawn Bible Students Association
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