True and Faithful Words

“And He that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And He said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.” —Revelation 21:1-5

AS WE approach the opening days of a new year, it is perhaps inevitable that our minds should revert to some of the happenings of the old year now closing. It was truly an eventful period. To many in the world it was a time of sorrow, suffering, and despair. To those whose eyes have been blessed with an understanding of God’s loving plans and purposes for mankind the same occurrences reveal more clearly than ever before the need for Christ’s kingdom, and they confirm their hope and faith in the early establishment in the earth of that righteous government.

Probably the most dramatic occurrence of the year was President Carter’s revival of efforts to arrange peace between Israel and Egypt. Those efforts, which had begun with such high promise when President Sadat of Egypt met with Premier Begin in Jerusalem at the end of 1977, had run into seemingly insurmountable difficulties and were at a stand-still. Aware of the danger to the peace of the entire world in letting this grave problem go unresolved, President Carter invited the two leaders to Camp David, where discussions between the opposing nations were reopened.

From time to time it was announced that considerable progress toward arranging peace between the parties had been made, but at this writing they had not reached final agreement. The main point of difference at the moment is the same old one that has existed from the very beginning of these difficult negotiations—what shall be done about the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, the Golan Heights, and East Jerusalem, with particular reference to the Palestinian Arabs who dwell in these areas. Many in Israel vehemently hold that these are Israeli lands, having been given ages ago to their Father Abraham by Jehovah. The Palestinian Arabs who dwell in these areas declare with equal fervor that they are Arab lands and that their forebears dwelt in these lands before the Jews did. This knotty problem would probably persist even if Israel and Egypt should come to agreement on the Sinai Peninsula.

This conflict has implications reaching far beyond the destiny of two relatively small nations. The United States and much of Western Europe depend heavily on Arab oil to keep their economies functioning. The Arab states, of course, are thoroughly aware of this dependence; indeed, they deliberately take occasion from time to time to make known to the Western powers their awareness of this vital fact. The nagging question arises, will the Arab nations at some point of exasperation with Israel insist that the United States make a choice between getting needed Arab oil or forcing her ally Israel to bow to the demands of the Arab nations?

But while Arab oil is important to the United States, having Israel as a militarily powerful ally in the vicinity of those vast and vital oil resources is also important. For not only do the Arab oil nations know the indispensability of oil to the Western nations—Russia also knows it. Russia knows that if she could somehow control the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf to the Western nations she could shortly bring the entire West to its knees, and much of the rest of the world would also be her prize. But paradoxically, tiny well-armed Israel blocks the road from Russia to Arab oil. Thus, one wonders just what the United States would decide to do if forced to make a clear choice between supporting Israel or receiving oil. An early peace treaty between these opponents, if it could be arranged, would happily defer the need for making such a hard decision, should it be required.

An interesting facet of this problem, perhaps constituting a time signal in God’s great plan of the ages, is brought to our attention in Jeremiah 30:12-14, where the prophet says that all Israel’s lovers (allies, Moffett, Amplified) eventually abandon her. The setting of this statement is revealing. In the 3rd verse of this prophecy the prophet shows that the Jews would have returned to the land of Palestine and would be in possession of it, as they now are. Then he foretells a great time of trouble to come upon Israel, also described as Jacob’s trouble. (Jer. 30:7) It is in this setting that the prophet states that Israel will be facing her enemies alone. (Jer. 30:13,14) Where will her ally, the United States, then be?

Ezekiel, in the 38th and 39th chapters of his prophecy, also speaks of this same time of trouble coming on Israel. He says that Israel will be attacked by a powerful force from the north, accompanied by many allies. But just as Jeremiah states that Israel will be saved out of the trouble (Jer. 30:7), so also Ezekiel declares that Israel’s attackers will be destroyed by Jehovah God, in order that his love for Israel may be manifested, his name vindicated, and his glory and power revealed to all nations.—Ezek. 38:23; 39:6,7,21

But at the time of that last, powerful attack upon Israel, Jeremiah has said she shall be standing alone. What, then, will have happened to her patron ally, the United States? The prophecy seems to suggest that as long as the United States and Israel are allies the foretold attack upon the little nation of Israel by the powerful forces from the north will not occur.

Other developments in the year now ending that closely rival the Middle East situation in notability have been the decline of the U.S. dollar in relation to other world currencies and the difficulty of controlling the inflationary spiral in the United States. Not only is this whole situation worrisome to this nation, but, unless abated, it could have serious financial repercussions in other nations of the world.

The decline of the dollar is related mainly to the huge trade deficits incurred by the United States in latter years. In 1977 alone the deficit ran about 28 billion dollars, and it will probably prove to have been even higher in 1978. It is largely caused by the need of this country to import an increasingly large amount of high-priced oil, so essential to our economy, from abroad—principally from the Arab nations.

Another aspect of the trouble is the renewal in the U.S. of the inflationary trend, due largely to the heavy federal fiscal deficits in recent years. As the inflation of the money supply continues, the purchasing power of the dollar decreases, as every housewife knows. In the last ten years alone the buying power of the U.S. dollar in this country has been cut in half.

Among the factors responsible for the recurring federal deficits are the numerous social programs, the cost of which snowballs in each succeeding year and which are politically embarrassing to control. Thus, Mr. Carter’s choices are limited and difficult. To let matters continue as they are going could seriously damage the value of the U.S. dollar both at home and abroad, with possible disastrous results. To try to change their direction abruptly and decisively incurs the risk of a general depression, along with increased unemployment, deprivation, and unrest among many people in lower income brackets. Either result is not pleasant to contemplate.

Recognizing the seriousness of the problem, President Carter recently took steps to bring it under control. Since it was rather obvious to foreign observers from the start that his rather toothless edicts would not prove effective, the dollar continued to fall in world markets. One weekly news magazine reported that Mr. Carter’s “anti-inflation program was [failing], the dollar was in a tailspin, and world markets were verging on panic.” The President then quickly devised another and more austere and comprehensive plan to deal with the problem, which inspired somewhat more hope. But since high-cost, imported oil is a large factor in the trade deficit and since this particular matter has not yet been dealt with in firm fashion, it is too soon to know, and almost too much to hope, that these latest measures will be effective.

Banking officials, as a rule, are not given to making disturbing statements. But some today are voicing restrained alarm. Said one banker recently: “The year 1979 could prove to be a time of trial and testing for the Federal Reserve System, for the U.S. economy, and ultimately for our political and social system. … We are running out of opportunities to bring inflation under control before it does truly serious damage to our society.”

One cannot help but be reminded of scriptural statements that the time will come when men will cast their silver and gold into the streets.

The year 1978 also saw three different popes sitting on the papal throne in the Vatican—at different times, of course. Following the death of the popular Pope Paul VI during the summer, John Paul I was chosen to succeed him. After only 34 days in office, Pope John Paul I, 65, died on September 28. On October 22 Roman Catholicism’s 264th pope, John Paul II, was elected.

John Paul II is the church’s first non-Italian pope in 455 years, and its first Polish pope. Although the new pontiff has indicated he will support the reforms introduced by his immediate predecessors, it is unlikely he will stray very far from the conservative leanings of the curia, which exercises much power in the policies and doctrines of the church.

Meantime, conditions around the world have been far from settled. It is generally agreed that continuance of the scattered, checkerboard type of peace that exists in the world today depends very largely on the maintenance of reasonably good relations between the two great superpowers. But it is the condition of these very relations and the question of the Soviet Union’s ultimate world intentions that cause universal concern. Few are deceived by the facade of congeniality that invariably adorns meetings between the opposing U.S. and Soviet members of the SALT (Strategic Arms Limitations Treaty) teams, for the mutual distrust and hostility that exists between the two nations cannot be hidden by smiles and handshakes.

For many years after the end of World War II the United States held a clear edge in military power in relation to the Soviet Union. In latter years, however, Russia has devoted a considerable part of her national income to modernizing and expanding her military strength, so that, today, there are many both in and out of the United States’ military establishment who argue that Russian military power already exceeds that of the United States and that the lead is growing. In addition to having built up its armed might, the Soviet Union (significantly) has also concentrated on civil defense, to the point where it is believed that the great bulk of her population would now be immune from nuclear attack.

U.S. News & World Report (October 30, 1978) heads up a special report on this dark situation, “New Alarm over Russian Threat.” The subheading to the article asks a disturbing question, “What will the Soviet Union do with the immense military power that it’s amassing?” Paradoxically, if the United States leadership should conclude that the situation is intolerable and should undertake to redress it with its own vast military outlays, it could indeed precipitate the very conflict which such action sought to avoid. For there are those who, looking ahead a few years, believe that Russia will in fact have gained a temporary military advantage over the United States. This gives rise to deep concern that Russia, fearing loss of its hard-gained number one military position (if indeed, it does possess it) might be tempted to exercise that superior power while it is still ahead.

Supporting this reasoning is the belief that Russia has gained this position at the expense of economic hardships and social discontent at home, while at the same time China becomes a growing challenge and the Eastern European satellite nations become restive. Says U.S. News & World Report (October 30, 1978): “In this situation, strategic analysts warn, the Soviets will be tempted to exploit their military advantage before the U.S. can reverse the balance and before the Kremlin feels the full effect of economic and political pressures. … A National Security Council study stresses this conclusion: The danger will escalate as the U.S. and its NATO Allies in Europe take steps to challenge the Russian bid for clear-cut strategic superiority.”

If the experts are right, we can look for a continued troubled world in the years ahead. And where do these experts expect Russia to exert her military-backed power? “Toward the Persian Gulf and the Arabian Peninsula, where the European and Japanese sources of oil are located: … Iran … Saudi Arabia … Yugoslavia … Southern Africa … China.” In fact, it is believed that Russia herself will be dependent on foreign oil by the middle 1980’s.

Of course, the experts can be wrong about the how, when, where, and if of such a conflict. But it seems to be a well-documented historical fact that when massive military power comes into being, it will eventually be exercised.

Another area of discontent that has just recently burst into flames is the strategically important nation of Iran. Early in November strikes, violence, and turmoil tore the nation’s capital apart, spreading to other parts of the nation, until martial law was imposed and a measure of order restored. The importance to the world that is accorded by statesmen to the need for stability in this nation can be judged by the following news item: “For the United States, overthrow of the pro-American Shah [Iran’s ruler] would be a blow economically, politically and strategically. Washington relies on Iran to provide stability to a region that an American expert once called ‘the real center of the world.’”—U.S. News & World Report (November 13, 1978)

Iran is important to the U.S. and the entire Western world, not only because it supplies needed oil to these areas, but because it serves as a vital buffer against Soviet power plays in the Middle East, Asia, and southern Europe. An unstable or divided Iran would open the doors to Soviet designs in an area of great importance to the entire Western world. It is therefore no surprise that anxious eyes in capitals throughout the world are watching the course of events in that deeply troubled nation.

On the African continent, release of its people from the shackles of colonialism has brought little peace and much bloodshed. Rhodesia is caught up in a long and bitter struggle between its whites and blacks. Uganda and Tanzania are at war. Southwest Africa is in turmoil. South Africa has not yet come to terms with its huge black majority. In the Far East, Cambodia, supported by China, is battling with Vietnam, supported by Russia. Nicaragua’s bloody civil war could flare up again at any time. “Almost everywhere around the world, border wars and civil conflict are stirring new and perilous international crises,” says U.S. News & World Report (November 13, 1978).

In this brief review of events of the year 1978 it has been possible to touch on but some of the highlights. It is evident, nonetheless (and hopefully so), that forces beyond imperfect man’s ability to direct or hold back are irresistibly at work shaping the future for the ultimate joy and blessing of all mankind. The Lord’s people take no joy simply in pointing to the trouble and anguish that besets this poor, suffering world or in laying bare the frailty and selfishness of man that is at the root of so much of the distress. But they have no end of joy in telling of God’s wonderful promises to bring an end to sin, selfishness, and death, and to shower the blessings of life, peace, and happiness upon the whole world of mankind, both living and dead, through Christ, after the trouble has done its work. They especially rejoice to tell this glorious story at the present time because they believe the turbulent conditions so general throughout the world are signs that Christ’s kingdom will soon be established in the earth for the blessing of all mankind.

But before that glorious time for man can come to pass, this present evil world (Gal. 1:4) must be destroyed. The Apostle Peter brings this fact to our attention in his second epistle. Speaking of the passing away of the existing imperfect social structure, he says: “The day of the Lord [Jehovah] will come as a thief in the night [only the watchers will be aware of what is happening]; in the which the heavens [ruling ecclesiastical powers] shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein [the imperfect social structure that makes up the present world civilization] shall be burned up.”—II Pet. 3:10

Through the Prophet Isaiah, the Lord God of heaven declares that it is he himself who brings about the destruction of this present world, or social arrangement, because it is contrary to his righteous principles. Isaiah writes: “Howl, for the Day of the Lord [Jehovah] is at hand; it comes, a mighty blow from Almighty God. Thereat shall every hand hang limp, every man’s courage shall melt away, his stomach hollow with fear; anguish shall grip them, like a woman in labour. One man shall look aghast at another, and their faces shall burn with shame. The Day of the Lord [Jehovah] is coming indeed, that cruel day of wrath and fury, to make the land a desolation and exterminate its wicked people. … I will bring disaster upon the world and their due punishment upon the wicked. I will check the pride of the haughty and bring low the arrogance of ruthless men.”—Isa. 13:6-11, NEB

Following on the heels of the destruction of this present iniquitous world, or social order, Peter joyfully tells us of the coming of a glorious new era in the annals of humankind. He writes, “Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” (vs. 13) Peter is telling us that as surely as we see this present evil world being destroyed, even as foretold, just as surely shall the wonderful new world wherein dwelleth righteousness be established, “according to His promise.” This new heavens and new earth will be Christ’s glorious millennial kingdom, in fulfillment of the promise made so long ago to Abraham that in his seed should “all the nations of the earth be blessed.” (Gen. 22:18) The Apostle Paul assures us that the seed of blessing is Christ. He writes, “Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.” (Gal. 3:16) Paul further states that the footstep followers of Jesus are included as part of that seed of blessing: “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. … And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”—Gal. 3:27,29

In harmony with this, the Scriptures indicate that the faithful overcomers of this present Gospel Age will be associated with Jesus in his kingdom for the blessing of all humanity. “Blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection: on such the second death hath no power, but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years.” (Rev. 20:4,6) They are pictured with Jesus as holding out to resurrected mankind the blessings of life everlasting. “And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely.”—Rev. 22:17

And what a glorious new world it will be! The whole earth will be a place of plenty, of peace, and of beauty (Isa. 35:1-10); Satan will be bound, and there will be no more sin (Rev. 20:1-3; II Pet. 3:13), no more sickness, and no more death (Isa. 33:24; Rev. 21:4; I Cor. 15:26); wars shall cease to the ends of the earth (Ps. 46:9); all mankind shall love and be loved of the great Lord God (Isa. 66:23; Jer. 31:33; Rev. 21:3); and every man will love his neighbor as himself (Matt. 22:39).

How beautifully the Revelator describes the blessings of that coming new world of peace, joy, and everlasting life:

“And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the [former] heaven and the [former] earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.

“And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

“And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.

“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

“And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write: for these words are true and faithful.”—Rev. 21:1-5

Who could not, with his whole heart and mind and being, pray for such a time and such a kingdom! And may the new year be a blessed one to you all in the Lord.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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