A poet once wrote:

“We are living, we are dwelling,
   In a grand and awful time;
Age on ages telling
   To be living is sublime!”

As we focus our sights on the New Year, without God and the Bible the prospects seem dark and foreboding—so well expressed by the poet in the word “awful.” But if we view the days ahead in the light of Biblical prophecy, there appears a bright silver lining which reflects a glow of “sublimity” over the whole troubled scene.

How do we look at …

The Year Before Us

“Behold, their valiant ones [margin, ‘messengers’] shall cry without: the ambassadors of peace shall weep bitterly.” —Isaiah 33:7

THE world is no nearer to finding solutions for its many problems than it was twelve months ago. The festering trouble spots of war continuing to threaten local areas of the Near East, Africa, and Central America, are a constant reminder of the very uneasy peace of the world as a whole, Some of these trouble zones have become more critical of late, as, for example, the escalating open warfare between Iran and Iraq; the swelling crisis in the Persian Gulf which has now drawn in the navies of major world powers; the growing cry of the revolutionary forces in South Africa; and, closer to home, the stubborn dilemma of a bloody war in Central America.

Economic disorders continue to plague the world. The highly unstable conditions of world finance, as reflected in 1987’s unique, near “melt-downs” of major stock markets, are a serious worry for governments as well as people in general. Pollution continues to rear its ugly head, as a threat to human life and health. New viruses which cannot now be eliminated, menace innocent as well as not so innocent victims. And, as always, as a dark cloud of foreboding, there hangs over the world the possibility of nuclear war. Despite all the continuing talk of disarmament, never is there any inkling that all of the weapons of earth shall be destroyed, and so the cloud becomes ever thicker, blacker, and more threatening.

Despite their best efforts and continuing advancement in scientific and medical technology, the continued deterioration in establishing a world society based upon justice, and governed by the principles of righteousness, although disheartening to the world in general, is not disappointing to truth-enlightened Christians. These know that the only solution to the basic problem of human selfishness, which is the underlying cause of all the world’s ills, is the establishment of the kingdom of Christ. Besides, through information derived from the “sure Word of prophecy” (II Pet. 1:10), they know that all the imperfect institutions of men will crumble and fall during this time of trouble before the coming of God’s new world in which universal and lasting peace will be guaranteed, not through fear of nuclear destruction, but by the righteous authority of God implemented through the agencies of the messianic kingdom.

What to Expect

The Scriptures do not furnish us with exact details of just how the old world will come to its final and complete end. For example, many of the world’s trouble spots are not specifically mentioned in the prophecies. They are, however, part of a general worldwide “time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation.”—Dan. 12:1

The variety of upheavals in the religious world which have thrust themselves on the world scene during 1987, have indeed been indicated in the Bible, which prophetically reveals that there would be strenuous efforts made in the ecclesiastical heavens to assure the survival of religious institutions in a crumbling world. The trips of the present Pope to many countries in the world to reestablish control and to reaffirm and uphold the ancient doctrines, have met with very little success, and in fact in every city to which he traveled he found that, within the religious institution itself, there comes the demand for reform and change, to come down to the level of the people and to satisfy their wishes.

To attempt to forecast in detail what might happen in any particular place or situation in the world during 1988, or beyond, would be to assume the role of prophet instead of being prophetic students. No student of prophecy could have forecast in the beginning of 1987 that the long war between Iraq and Iran would involve world powers to the point of bombing ships, oil drilling platforms, and even port cities along the Persian Gulf; nor could we foresee the long drawn-out investigation by the U.S. Senate into the “Arms Deal” with Iran to release hostages, nor how it would affect other trouble spots in the world, such as Central America. Nor can we now further foresee specific details of other events in advance of their occurrence. It is for the Lord’s people to remain alert to what is taking place, and to realize that in these events, and in developments as a whole, a certain prophetic pattern can be discerned which, when recognized, causes us to look up, and lift up our heads, knowing that our deliverance draweth nigh!—Luke 21:28

Increase of Knowledge

One of the things which is very evident in the fulfillment of prophecies in the “time of the end,” is the great increase of knowledge. (Dan. 12:4) While Daniel’s prophecy forecasts this development in literal language, it is symbolically mentioned in other prophecies. Jesus, for example, foretold that his second presence would be as the ‘lightning’, or bright-shining, which would shine from the east even unto the west. (Matt. 24:27; Ps. 77:18) Here we have a symbolic description of a general increase of knowledge throughout the earth.

We are not to suppose, however, that this increase of knowledge is to be limited to increasing information in the field of science and other aspects of human learning. Eventually it will, under the directions of Messiah’s kingdom, include the knowledge of the Lord. This will be a bright shining of the “Sun of righteousness” (Mal. 4:2), a prophecy which we have just quoted, which will shine from the east to the west, for the promise is that the knowledge of the Lord will fill the earth as the waters cover the sea.—Isa. 11:9

Meanwhile, however, we can expect to see the increase of knowledge continue through the divinely overruled efforts of man. The general education of the masses will continue and increase, especially in the third world countries of the earth. Science and invention will continue to make progress. One of the results of this is the tremendous increase of “running to and fro” in the earth. (Dan. 12:4) Along this line, speed and comfort of travel continue to increase. When we see these advancements we should rejoice to realize the accuracy with which the prophecies of the Bible are being fulfilled in this, our day.

Knowledge Contributes to Trouble

One would naturally think that the increase of knowledge and the convenience and speed of travel resulting from it, would mean only blessings for the human race. And this would be the case if it were not for human greed. But with selfishness the motivating influence in so much of human endeavor and accomplishment, the great advantages of knowledge are all too frequently utilized to gain the advantage over others. This led to trouble and, in the worldwide picture, to the foretold time of trouble such as never was since there was a nation.

Another prophecy outlines this sequence of events. We quote: ‘The Lord reigneth; let the earth rejoice; let the multitude of isles be glad thereof. Clouds and darkness are round about him: righteousness and judgment are the habitation of his throne. A fire goeth before him, and burneth up his enemies about. His lightnings enlightened the world: the earth saw, and trembled. The hills melted like wax at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth.”—Ps. 97:1-5

This is a symbolic description of the foretold time of trouble which would be associated with the overthrow of Satan’s world, and the establishment of Christ’s kingdom. It is summed up by the statement that his lightnings enlightened the world: the earth saw, and trembled, just quoted. Remember that Jesus said his presence would be as the lightning, or bright-shining, and in the prophetic psalm quoted above, this lightning is shown to be the enlightenment, or, the increase of knowledge, understanding. But, as the psalmist reminds us, the first result of this is to cause the earth to ‘tremble’.

Trembling is an evidence of fear, and today we are living in a fear-filled world, the cause of which has been the increase of knowledge leading to a situation where man in his foolishness and selfishness is in danger of bringing destruction upon the entire race. We know that this will not occur, for we believe the assurance given to us by Jesus, that this time of “great tribulation” will be brought to a close before all flesh is destroyed. (Matt. 24:21,22) And how glad we are for this assurance!

Trouble to Increase

Because of fear, mankind will continue to attempt the accomplishment of that which can be brought about only by love. ‘Messengers’ and ‘ambassadors of peace’ will continue to negotiate. They will fly ‘hither and yon’, around and across the world. They will announce that progress is being made. They may even cry, “Peace, peace, when there is no peace.” They may claim that security has been established through parity, yet eventually destruction shall come upon them “as travail upon a woman with child.”—I Thess. 5:2-4; Jer. 6:14; 8:11

We are to expect the world governments to continue their noble, but futile, human efforts to try to establish peace and to prevent Armageddon—which has become a household word in our day. They are not only foretold in the Bible, but are the natural result of man’s inherent desire to preserve himself. So 1987 has been characterized by strong efforts to set up a date for negotiations at the summit level between Russia and the United States regarding a degree of nuclear disarmament. This finally materialized in December. We envision that 1988 will also be marked by conferences on various issues and problems which only the kingdom of Christ and the spirit of love can actually settle. We are to look forward to these efforts continuing, nevertheless. We do not know how much longer these hair-trigger situations will last throughout the world before they erupt into Armageddon. This will be the event—and particularly God’s intervention which saves the world from certain destruction—which will give the people of all nations an opportunity to realize the futility of their own efforts leading to their unquestionable annihilation unless Jehovah had called a halt. Thus, and only thus, will they be ready to accept the authority of Christ’s kingdom, which will be established immediately following.

The Religious World

In this arena we are to expect Catholicism and Protestantism to continue their efforts for adjusting to the changed situations which confront religion in this chaotic world. There will continue to be ecumenical efforts, and some of these will, on the surface, be successful. Many of the dogmas of the Catholic Church are receiving more scrutiny and pressure from the priests as well as the layity, to see what can be done to make their doctrines more palatable to the world as a whole. Issues include such considerations as allowing priests to marry; permitting abortion; and giving women the right to become priests. Back of this lies the hope that if sufficient changes can be made, perhaps members of the Protestant churches will look more favorably upon their ‘brethren’ of the Catholic Church. These issues are causing upset and divisions in the Catholic Church: there are those who demand further reform; there are those who think reform has gone far enough and the status quo is advisable; and there are those who wish to return to the past, firm dogmas of Catholicism. The present pope is numbered among the last category.

Protestantism itself has been dealt a hard blow in 1987. The revelation and admission of corruption and immorality among TV evangelists in America has not helped to establish the credibility of religion in today’s world. The threat that he would be taken away from the earth by God unless a certain financial goal was met by a particular date, has made people think about another TV evangelist, and wonder if his methods for raising support for his ministry are sound. As a result, the power and influence of Protestantism has been shaken, and many TV evangelists and churches find themselves in dire financial straits and have lost the respect of many God-fearing people. The United States Government has made plans to make more thorough check of the financial status of nonprofit organizations, due to their recent shenanigans.

All these symptoms of trouble in the ecclesiastical world, also, we may continue to expect in 1988, and, as we see them we should realize they are part of the prophetic pattern of this Day of the Lord’s Vengeance upon all institutions of earth which do not measure up to his standards of truth and righteousness.

With the forces of atheism rampant throughout the earth, and with the increase of knowledge exposing the superstitions of the Dark Ages as mere myths, having no foundation in fact, the churches of all denominations are realizing their vulnerability to attack, and so are scurrying to get together for mutual protection. What the results of these efforts may be, the Bible does not reveal in detail, but we know that ultimately, all elements of this present evil world, including false religious elements, will be destroyed, and the authority of Christ’s kingdom established throughout the whole earth.

Israel Fulfilling Prophecy

The prophecies of the Bible clearly reveal that in these “last days” (James 5:4) there would be a regathering of the natural descendants of Abraham, and their establishment in the ancient Land of Promise. We have watched for the fulfillment of these prophecies, lo, these many years, even before any tangible signs were evident. After the regathering was well under way following the First World War, the doors of Palestine were closed to the Jews. But this did not disturb the faith of those who had confidence in the promises of God. They knew that the doors would again be opened, and so they were. After the Second World War, hundreds of thousands of Jews settled in Palestine, and now the State of Israel is forty years old!

But still there is much in the prophecies concerning Israel which has not yet been fulfilled. For example, only a portion of the Promised Land is now possessed by the Jews. The prophecies seem to indicate that they were to have it all. The little nation of Israel is ringed by the hostile Arab nations who continually let their feelings be known by attack and harassment. They would like nothing better than to see the Israelites dispossessed of the portion of the land which they do now occupy. But this does not disturb those who have complete confidence in the promises of God.

The prophecies indicate, and therefore it seems evident, that much trouble still lies ahead for the Jews. Students of prophecy speak of this in the scriptural term, “Jacob’s trouble.” But ‘Jacob’, that is, the people of Israel, “shall be saved out of it.” (Jer. 30:7) This we know to be a fact, because God has promised it! Just how the details will shape up to bring about this salvation, the Bible does not clearly reveal.

There is a prophecy which shows that before Israel receives the blessings of Messiah’s kingdom, an aggressive attack will be mounted against this historic people from the “north” (Ezek. 38:1-9) But, as the prophecy reveals, this will fail because the Lord will turn back the enemy, and destroy them. As a result of this, the eyes of Israel, and of all other nations, will be opened to behold the glory of the Lord! We know that this prophecy will be fulfilled, but how the details will shape up we do not know; but we do know that 1988 will include additional events which will bring us closer and closer to that prophetic point in time. Evidently the Lord wants us to exercise faith in his promises and prophecies without understanding too many of the details. But as the steps in the fulfillment of prophecies occur, we are expected to recognize, to note and to appreciate them, because they were given specifically for our understanding and encouragement as they take place.

So in 1988 we will continue to keep our eyes on the Promised Land, and upon God’s ancient people gathered there. There is a segment of Jews still behind the Iron Curtain who wish earnestly to immigrate to Israel. Their prospects are now somewhat better for the accomplishing of their dream. But not many Jews in America at the present time are interested in settling there, and many who went to Israel in hope of a better life, are even returning to the countries they left behind. We will need to watch the events as they develop from day to day to see how the Lord will solve these apparent difficulties standing in the way of the fulfillment of his prophecies.

Meanwhile we have many reasons to maintain our faith in the ultimate, complete fulfillment of all God’s promises as they relate to his typical people. One of these reads: “When I have brought them again from the people, and have gathered them out of their enemies’ lands; then shall they know that I am the Lord their God, which caused them to be led into captivity among the heathen: but I have gathered them into their own land, and have left none of them any more there. Neither will I hide my face any more from them: for I have poured out my Spirit upon the house of Israel, saith the Lord God.”—Ezek. 39:27-29

Another ‘final’ fulfillment of these prophecies, reads: “The inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, Let us go speedily to pray before the Lord, and to seek the Lord of Hosts: I will go also. Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of Hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the Lord. Thus saith the Lord of Hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you.”—Zech 8:21-23

The fulfillment of this prophecy will begin to take place after “Jacob’s trouble” (Jer. 30:7), and the Israelites, regathered in their land, have accepted Jesus as their Messiah, their Redeemer, and their king, and are obeying the laws of his kingdom. The New Covenant will be made with them, and rich will be their blessings of peace, security, health, and life, as through its terms they are brought into harmony with their God. These blessings will be so manifest and outstanding that the people of all nations will want to follow the same course Israel followed, in order to obtain them also. “We will go with you,” they will say, “for we have heard that God is with you!”

In reality, God is even now overruling in the affairs of Israel, and when the right time comes, he will fight for them as he did in the days of old. But Israel does not recognize this, and certainly the rest of the world does not realize it. How favored are we, that through the sure Word of prophecy we can understand the meaning of this particular aspect of the world situation today, and can watch the developments pertaining to it, and be encouraged by what we see.

But even in this area we do not know just what escalations of events will occur in 1988. We know the final outcome will be glorious! We know the final outcome of this, and all other troublesome situations in the world, will be the establishment of Christ’s kingdom—that kingdom in which Christ and his faithful church will be the spiritual rulers, represented by those “princes in all the earth”—the Ancient Worthies.—Ps. 45:16; Heb. 11

In that kingdom, as the Prophet Ezekiel foretold, the Lord will pour out his Spirit upon his ancient people there in the Promised Land. Eventually, the prophecies show, his Spirit will be poured out on all flesh. (Ezek. 39:29; Joel 2:28) It will be the influence of this Spirit that will engender love and understanding in the hearts of the people. Thus will lasting peace and goodwill be established and enjoyed forever by the redeemed and restored world of mankind. It is the assurance of this final outcome of the divine plan that enables the Lord’s people to view with patience the lofty, but futile, efforts of the world to work out its own salvation.

And speaking of the final outcome, that will include the awakening of the dead, and the giving to all an opportunity to enjoy the blessings of Messiah’s kingdom; on the conditions, of course, of belief and obedience. Without the promises of God to restore the dead to life, how incomplete and unsatisfactory the outlook would be. Thinking of the Jewish situation alone, millions of these suffering people were murdered during the holocaust, within the span of many of our lifetimes. How thankful we are that God has blessings for these—that he will awaken them from the sleep of death in order that they, together with all other Israelites, might receive and enjoy the blessings of the kingdom.

In the even larger picture, there are all the countless millions—even billions—who have suffered and died since sin entered the world. These will not fail to have a favorable chance to enjoy the blessings of Christ’s kingdom, for they are among the “all” in their graves who will be called forth, enlightened, and given an opportunity to live forever upon the perfected earth. How all-inclusive, indeed, is the plan of God! And how thankful we should be that the Lord, in his goodness, has opened the eyes of our understanding to know these mysteries of the kingdom of heaven.—John 5:28,29; Matt. 13:11

Because the Lord has taken us into his confidence, and assured us of the ultimate, glorious triumph of righteousness throughout the earth, we can face the new year, 1988, with confidence—even with rejoicing! And our rejoicing should overflow in the telling out of the blessed Gospel of the kingdom, that perhaps others may share our confidence and joy. There is nothing we can do to change the shape of the world in which we live, but it is our privilege to testify to those who will hear concerning the changes which the Lord will bring about through the establishment of his long-promised kingdom under Christ.

We are the ambassadors of the new government so soon to take control in the affairs of men. May the year 1988 see us alert to use faithfully every opportunity which presents itself to represent the new king of earth, and to explain the glories of his kingdom. The world around us is dark. The storm clouds become more threatening every day. But we are the children of the light, and may we continue to let our light shine in order that those to whom the Lord gives ears to hear may be reached and blessed.

If we enter the new year resolved that we will be faithful ambassadors of Christ, we can expect that the Lord will guide and bless us, and that our own hearts will rejoice the more as we endeavor to share our blessings with others. We can expect, of course, that the world in general will be indifferent, perhaps even scornful at times. But in this we will be able to rejoice also, knowing that thus we are sharing in a small way some of the difficult experiences of our Lord Jesus.

But, compensating for the cold indifference and antagonism of the world, will be the warmth of our Heavenly Father’s love, and the smile of his countenance. So, for us the prospect is indeed bright and glorious as we continue on to know and serve the Lord; and as we look forward eventually to obtaining an abundant entrance into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.—II Pet. 1:10:11

Dawn Bible Students Association
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