What do the next 12 months hold in store for this world? You see them on the newsstands every January. That's when certain publications prominently feature astrologers' predictions about what will happen during the coming year. "So-and-so will be voted out of office." "This movie star will be married for the fifth time." "That investment ty coon will lose a fortune." "Hundreds will perish in a skyscraper fire." "A cure for the flu will be discovered." Prophetic utterances like these make exciting reading for many. But if, at the end of a given year, you would try to verify such fore casts, you would see how seldom they come to pass. Still, it's human to want to know the future. Animals are aware of the present. And they retain certain impressions from the past. But they don't think in terms of tomorrow or next month or next year. Humans, on the other hand, have been given minds that can conceive of the future. We can conceive of it, but we can't, of ourselves, know what it will be.
God reveals the future "No man knows what is to be," the Bible tells us (Ecclesiastes 10:14). No, "You do not know. what will happen tomorrow" (James 4:14). But there is a God in heaven for whom the future is no mystery! He alone has the ability to accurately know it all ahead of time. it "For I am God," He pro claims, "and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done" (Isaiah 46:9-10). That doesn't mean we humans are left in ignorance about the future, though. To the contrary, God has revealed to certain human beings of His choosing — His prophets — much vital information about future event's. "Surely the Lord God does nothing, unless He reveals His secret to His servants the prophets" (Amos 3:7). Many of His prophets, in turn, recorded in written form the prophecies they were given by God. We have them in the Bible. One whole third of the Bible is prophecy. And most of it is about events that are yet to happen. The purpose of these prophecies is to reveal — not to keep secret — the future. The key prophetical book of the Bible is even called the book of Revelation, that is to say, the book of revealing. Notice how it begins: "The Revelation of [from, be longing to] Jesus Christ, which God [who alone knows all things about the future — see Matthew 24:36, Acts 1:7] gave Him" — for what purpose? — "to show His servants [those who obey God, who serve Him] — things which must shortly take place [in other words, future events]" (Revelation 1:1). "Shortly" take place? What is meant by "shortly"? some have wondered. This brings us to a favorite argument of scoffers. They ridicule the validity of Bible prophecy by saying all those prophecies were supposed to take place at the time of the original apostles. And they never did. Therefore, the scoffers erroneously conclude, the prophecies have failed. It is interesting that in scoffing, the scoffers are themselves fulfilling biblical prophecy (II Peter 3:3-4)! They have over looked the very thing God said not to overlook: that it was God who inspired the use of the word shortly. And to God, a few hundred years, even a few thousand years, in the working out of His plan, are but brief periods.
Waiting and watching God allowed the early apostles and Jesus' followers through succeeding ages to live in expectation that Jesus' return was near, even though that expectation at times caused them to be the object of ridicule. Jesus could have said: "I shall return after (a certain number of centuries). Preach the gospel in the meanwhile. " And then His Church would have known. But no, the time of His intervention in world affairs was yet distant, and was not clearly revealed.
James, the brother of Jesus, referred to the "last days" as though his readers were then living in them (James 5:3). So did the apostle Paul (Hebrews 10:25, Romans 13:11-12). Paul left no doubt in two of his letters that he hoped to be alive at Jesus' return (I Corinthians 15:51-52, I Thessalonians 4:15-17). The apostle Peter wrote of "these last times" (I Peter 1:20, 4:7). John and Jude used similar expressions (I John 2:18, Jude 18). It was toward the end of their lives that these men realized they would die before Christ came — and they began to refer to the "last days " as being yet future (II Timothy 3:1, 4:6-8, II Peter 1:15, 3:3-4). Nor were they alone in history. For centuries there have been those who expected in their generation the end of the age and the coming of the Messiah to rule on earth. They publicly proclaimed it. They intensely wanted to see it happen. But in spite of the depth of their feelings, what they looked for did not come to pass — then. The very place Jesus' feet shall touch when he comes back is clearly designated (Zechariah 14:4). Not so for the time of his arrival. Did you ever notice that? Even Jesus' final words in the last prophetic book of the Bible, "Surely I am coming quickly" (Revelation 22:20), have had the effect of keeping His Church alert and watching. This is for a purpose. Can you imagine how the morale of Jesus' followers would have been affected had they been aware that the "time of the end" was centuries, yes, almost two millennia off into the future? The human tendency to let down, to become complacent, lethargic, would have become overwhelming. Jesus specifically wanted His people in all ages to be anticipating His return and the establishment of the Kingdom of God. The reason is that attaining the Kingdom of God is the central purpose for human existence. Jesus said to seek that kingdom first — above anything else in life (Matthew 6:33). "Thy kingdom come," He told His followers to pray. Could they all, living in the midst of societies gone amok, have put their hearts into such a prayer as easily if they knew the outcome was thousands of years away? Allowing His Church through the centuries to live in expectation of the imminent establishment of His Kingdom has been a prod and an encouragement from God that has given strength to withstand trials, persecution, even martyrdom. And consider this: God's Kingdom, for all practical purposes, did arrive for each of God's people down through history, at the time of their deaths. The next thing they will be conscious of is God's Kingdom, when they are raised in the resurrection. The Kingdom was that close to them — it is that close to each of us today! But how do we today know we are really living in the "time of the end"? We have the answer in Jesus' own words.
The time of the end Jesus unmistakably pinpointed our time in a lengthy prophecy recorded in Matthew 24. His disciples had asked Him, "What will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?" (verse 3). What was Jesus' reply? The end of the age will come, Jesus explained, when the good news of the Kingdom has been preached "in all the world as a witness to all the nations" (verse 14). The Gospel or good news that Jesus was speaking of is the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, which has been hidden from the world as a whole for most of 19 centuries. (If you would like to learn what Jesus' Gospel is, re quest our free booklet What Is the True Gospel?) Jesus also identified the time of the end as our time when He declared (verses 21-22) that world troubles would increase un til human life wou.1d be in danger of extinction. That is the time we are in now!
What will happen in 1986? Which specific events or occurrences fulfilling biblical prophecies will take place this coming year we cannot say, be cause God has not revealed this information. We do know, how ever, that we will see a continuation of the prophetic trends leading to the end of this age. Watch for wars and rumors of wars, famines, disease epidemics and also earthquakes (Matthew 24:6-7). Look for more tension in the Middle East, and further movement to ward a union of 10 nations in Europe with the blessing of a great religious leader. (Be sure to request and study our free booklet The Book of Revelation Unveiled at Last.)
Curses for transgressions of God's spiritual, civil, financial and health laws (the curses are enumerated in Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28) will continue to take their toll in the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and other Israelitish nations. (If you have not yet read The United States and Britain in Prophecy, be sure to request a free copy.) Are you sick and tired of all the nonsense and corruption in the world? Prepare yourself to see yet more, for the Scriptures warn us to expect "that in the last days perilous times will come: for men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power" (II Timothy 3:1-5). We can expect to see such conditions intensify, for "evil men and imposters will grow worse and worse" (verse 13). At times some of the prophetical trends may appear to go into "remission." Do not be deceived by appearance, however, for the trends fulfilling the sure word of prophecy always reappear more vigorous and intense than ever! In the meanwhile, God's Work — the Work putting out the very publication you are reading at this moment — will continue to grow in effectiveness and strength until the good news of the coming Kingdom of God has been preached in all the world as a witness to all nations (Matthew 24:14). The very existence of this Work is a sure sign that we are very close to the end of this age! 1986 is now upon us. We don't know exactly how many years re main, either for this age of hu man mismanagement and bungling or for any of us as individuals. But this all converted Christians can say for sure: By if one whole year, "Now our salvation is nearer than when we first! believed" (Romans 13:11).