This present world crisis is identified as the biblical "time of the end." Here is the proof.
WHY shouldn't we have world peace? Why not beat weapons in to plowshares and pruning hooks? Why not live in a world of justice and universal prosperity? Such a world is described repeatedly by prophets in the Hebrew scriptures in Isaiah 2:2-4 and Micah 4:1-4, for example. They point to the end of one age and the beginning of a magnificent new age. Two thousand years ago, those prophecies were on the minds of many in the land of Judea at the time of the birth of Jesus. Events taking place during the course of Jesus' life caused a heightening of expectation. Would the Messiah set up his kingdom then? Many believed so. The Bible records at least one occasion when Jesus had to flee because a crowd was preparing to take him by force and make him king (John 6:14-15). Even Jesus' own group of disciples, who listened to all his teachings, didn't understand. The Bible records that "they thought the kingdom of God would appear immediately" (Luke 19:11, RAV throughout). So Jesus gave his followers a parable. He showed that before God's government could be established on earth he would have to go away and then, after a long duration, return. Meanwhile, he told them, they should busy themselves, fulfilling certain responsibilities if they wanted to have a part in that government (verses 12-27). Later yet, after Jesus' crucifixion, burial and resurrection, his disciples still didn't understand. They thought surely the time had finally arrived for his kingdom to be established. "Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" they asked. Jesus replied that it was not given to them to know exactly when that hoped — for event would take place, but that they should go and preach the good news of that future kingdom to all nations (Acts 1:6-8). This the disciples began to do, starting in Jerusalem. Even as they spread the message, however, they continued to believe they were living in the "last days."
The "Time of the End"
"Time is running out!" "The great, final crisis at the close of this age." "These last days." "These last times." "It is the last hour." "The end of all things is at hand." Whose words are these? If you think they may belong to 20th century observers anticipating the end of the age in the foreseeable future, you are only partly right. The first two phrases are indeed from recent editions of the Plain Truth magazine. The other excerpts are from the writings of Jesus' apostles more than 19 centuries ago. James, the brother of Jesus, referred to the "last days" as though they were then extant (Jas. 5:3). So did the apostle Paul (Heb. 10:25; Rom. 13:11-12). He left no doubt in two of his letters that he hoped, to be alive at Jesus' return (I Cor. 15:51-52; I Thess. 4:15-17). The apostle Peter wrote of " these last times" (I Pet. 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 Tim. 3:1; 4:6-8; II Pet. 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.
Waiting and Watching
Jesus allowed the early apostles and his 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 (II Pet. 3:3-4; Jude 18). Jesus could have said, "I shall return after (a certain number of centuries). Preach the gospel in the meanwhile." Then his Church would have known. But no, the time of his intervention in world affairs was yet distant, and not clearly revealed. The very place Jesus' feet shall touch when he comes back is clearly designated (Zech. 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" (Rev. 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 (Matt. 6:33). "Thy kingdom come," he told his followers to pray. Could they all, living in the midst of societies gone amok, really put their hearts into such a prayer if they knew the outcome was thousands of years away? Allowing his Church through the centuries to live in expectation of the establishment of God's kingdom has been a prod and an encouragement that has given strength to withstand trials, persecution, even martyrdom.
When Is the "End"?
So how are we today any different? How do we know we are really living in the "time of the end"? When the Plain Truth magazine and the World Tomorrow radio and television program under the direction of Herbert W. Armstrong proclaim that this generation will witness the return of Jesus Christ, readers ask, "How do you know you are not another in a long line of voices anticipating an event that is well into the future?" We have the answer in Jesus' own words. He 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). That is the pertinent question. 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). His Church was to preach the gospel — good news — of the coming kingdom to all nations, not to convert, but to be a witness. That commission has not yet been fulfilled. But now, after nearly 2,000 years, for the first time in history, thanks to modern means of communication, the moment is approaching when the true gospel will have been preached in all the world. The implications of this fact are enormous. Because then — as soon as that true gospel has been preached in all the world as a witness — not a hundred or a thousand years later — "the end will come." So said Jesus (same verse)! By the way, do not confuse the gospel Jesus is speaking of with traditional Christianity's message. There is no connection between the two. Traditional Christianity long ago got its message about a Jesus to "all nations" and the end of the age did not occur! 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 18 centuries. (If you would like to learn what Jesus' gospel is, read our 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 until it would be possible for human beings to destroy all life. Jesus wasn't talking about the latest refinements in Roman catapults or battering rams. He didn't have in mind the Gatling gun or the bazooka. He looked down the stream of history to our era, when available weaponry would make it possible for mankind to blast all life off this planet — unless God intervenes. That is the time we are in now! Much of Bible prophecy was written in such a way that it wouldn't be understood until "the time of the end." Certain parts of prophecy were sealed up until the crisis at the close of this age (Dan. 12:9). A person doesn't know how many days are left in a week until he first knows what day it is. So it is with Bible prophecy. The prophecies portray a sequence of governments that would rule in the area of the Roman Empire through the centuries. A person studying the prophecies 1,500 years ago could not pinpoint where he was in the flow of time because an adequate number of those governments had not come and gone. Neither was it possible 500 years ago. But of the "seven kings" or revivals of the Roman Empire referred to in Revelation 17:10, the moment it was possible to identify five as having passed (up to and including the days of Napoleon in 1815), and a sixth one as existing (in the days of Mussolini and Hitler), it was possible to predict that there was one final revival yet to come at the end of the age. It was in the early 1940s, as the tide of war was turning against the Axis powers — the "sixth" revival of the Roman Empire — that it was finally clear where we in this age were and are in Bible prophecy. Prophecy has been unsealed, as it was predicted to be, in the time of the end. There remains one final "king" or revival of the Roman Empire. It will last "a short time" (same verse). Preparations for that revival are under way in Europe now! (Request a copy of the free booklet Revelation Unveiled at Last. It will open your eyes!) The Bible leaves no doubt. Neither do world events. This is the "time of the end." The righteous and peaceful kingdom foretold thousands of years ago is now just over the horizon.