“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

THROUGHOUT the long, countless ages when Jehovah God was creating the Planet Earth and arranging its myriad physical features with infinite care, he never for a single moment lost sight of his ultimate purpose in undertaking this great project—that it should be a beautiful, peaceful, everlasting home for a wonderful new being whose form and destiny he had already designed in his mind but who was yet to be created.

“In the beginning” God made the heaven above the earth and the earth itself. But all was darkness. How cheerless, how empty it was! So God said, “Let there be light: and there was light.” And how wonderful was the light! Even God himself was moved by the beauty of his own creation! “And God saw the light, that it was good.” And then “God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day.”

The great Creator then arranged the atmosphere in its place, separating the waters that were above from the waters below, and caused dry land to appear. “And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good.”

The earth was now sufficiently prepared to nourish and support self-propagating plant and tree life for the sustenance of its future inhabitants. “And God said, Let the earth bring forth [tender] grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so. … And God saw that it was good.”

The Lord God next caused the light of the heavenly bodies to shine upon the earth. “And God … [appointed] two great lights; the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night; he made the stars also. And God set them in the firmament of the heaven to give light upon the earth, and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness: and God saw that it was good.” What an awesome sight it must have been when the sun first shone down on those broad expanses!

Jehovah then ordained that the waters should teem with marvelous living creatures, great and small, and that the air above the earth should be filled with lovely flying birds. “And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven. And God created great whales, and every living creature that moveth, which the waters brought forth abundantly after their kind, and every winged fowl after his kind; and God saw that it was good.”

Then the Creator filled the dry land with a multitude of living creatures, each of which would reproduce after its own kind. “And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind; and it was so. And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind; and God saw that it was good.”

Now, at last, over long ages every provision had been carefully and lovingly made for the complete and enduring happiness of the future lord of that remarkable earthly realm. Now came the time when the mighty, wise, and loving Master Craftsman of the whole universe would fashion the most wonderful part of all his earthly creation—a human being! An earthly image, with earthly limitations, of the great Lord God himself; an intelligent being with whom the Creator could commune; a being who could bless and worship and lift his voice in praise to his Creator; one who could think, remember, devise, and who would, within the framework and bounds of his Creator’s commandments, possess complete freedom to enjoy for all time all the marvelous blessings so abundantly placed at his disposal!

“And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.

“And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and … [fill] the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth.

“And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to every thing that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so.

‘”And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.”—Gen. 1:1-31

After God had formed man of the dust of the earth and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life so that man became a living soul, he prepared a very special place for the enjoyment of this new and wonderful being and supplied it with everything needful for his continued, happy existence. “And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food: the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil “

But God imposed a condition upon man’s continued enjoyment of that earthly paradise. “And the Lord took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof, dying thou shalt die.”—Gen. 2:15-17, margin

Some three thousand years later, meditating on the heights and depths of the love and care of the great God of the universe for his human creation as manifested in this sublime arrangement, the psalmist lifted his voice in a song of wondering praise to his great Creator:

“O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens. … When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honor. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet. All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; the fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas. O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!”—Psalm 8

Adam, and the entire human race which was yet in his loins, could have lived forever as the happy lords of that bounteous and beautiful earth, never knowing the pangs of either sickness or death. What more could a wise and gracious Creator have done for his much loved, newly made human likeness! How the appreciation of Jehovah God’s beneficence should have elicited from father Adam, not only everlasting praise and blessing and adoration for his Creator, but also unqualified obedience to his instructions!

The Heavenly Father could, indeed, have so constituted Adam that he would have rendered involuntary praise and worship to his Creator and automatic compliance with his every command. But this would have been but hollow praise and mindless obedience, in which the Lord God could have no pleasure. Our Creator desires the genuine love and obedience and blessing that flow willingly, joyously, and understandingly from the depths of a grateful, loving heart. By his very nature God desires—nay, requires—that those who love and worship and obey him shall do so in spirit and in truth and in deed.—John 4:24; I John 3:18

Thus it is that we find the all-wise, all-loving Jehovah God bestowing upon his new and wonderful handiwork that crowning, kingly quality of free moral agency! The father of the human race was endowed with the ability to choose to do, or not to do, as he should will.

But father Adam misused that blessing and disobeyed Jehovah God’s instructions. He ate of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and was justly condemned to death. Of his own free will he permitted himself to be misled by the deception of Satan, who first invented and introduced into that hitherto unspoiled realm the lie that has deceived countless millions since man was first placed upon this earth—“Ye shall not surely die.”—Gen. 3:4

Our great Creator is a sublime Being. He is a God of love, of wisdom, and of power. He is also a God of justice. Indeed, so important and indispensable a place does this quality of justice occupy in God’s wholeness, or entirety, that the psalmist proclaimed, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of thy throne.” (Ps. 89:14, RSV) In his love and his wisdom and his power he had prepared a wonderful, bountiful, everlasting habitation for father Adam and all his offspring. But in looking to the ultimate good and happiness and well-being of his entire creation—earthly and spiritual, past, present, and future—he could not, in justice, condone the willful disobedience by his human creation of his plainly stated, just, and beneficent commandment.

“And unto Adam … [God] said, Because thou hast … eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life. … In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.”—Gen. 3:17-19

Thus, that glorious earthly realm floating so magnificently in endless space, whose creation with all its myriad marvelous details the very angels of heaven must long have watched with wonder, was now beclouded by the advent of sin and death. Some four thousand years later the great Apostle Paul wrote of this intrusion of disobedience into that sinless world and of death, its terrible consequence. “It was through one man [Adam] that sin entered the world, and through sin death, and thus death pervaded the whole human race, inasmuch as all men have sinned.”—Rom. 5:12, NEB

Adam lived for many years before he returned to the dust from which he had been made. But finally, and inescapably, the penalty was paid. “All the days that Adam lived were nine hundred and thirty years; and he died.”—Gen. 5:5

But the seeds of sin were now abroad in the earth and spread rapidly, with death claiming as its victim every child of Adam. Before the advent of the Law, man’s own conscience revealed his sinfulness and his worthiness of death. (Rom. 2:15) Of this period of time Paul wrote, “Death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression.” (Rom. 5:14) But with the coming of God’s Law through Moses, man’s propensity for sin and his worthiness of death were laid bare. And evil of every form and description, and death, the wages of sin (Rom. 6:23), have prevailed throughout the world to this very day.

But though the apostle tells us that “the wages of sin is death,” he adds that comforting, inspiring truth, “but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Rom. 6:23) He also tells us that although “by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one many shall be made righteous.” (Rom. 5:19) In the same letter to the church at Rome he wrote that “Christ died for the ungodly,” and that “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”—Rom. 5:6,8

Indeed, we are told throughout the New Testament that Jesus is our Redeemer, our Savior, our ransom. But Jesus hung on the cross almost two thousand years ago! Why, then, do sin and death continue?

The Scriptures show that in God’s providences there is a due time and a proper order for the merit of Christ’s redemptive sacrifice to be made effective. Paul wrote, “As in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ’s at his coming (Greek parousia, presence).”—I Cor. 15:22,23

The “firstfruits” class to whom the merit of Christ’s sacrifice is to be applied first is the church, the footstep followers of Jesus during this Gospel Age, who—having heard the call to forsake all, take up their cross, and follow him—have given themselves to the Lord in full consecration. It is of these that Paul says: “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. … It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” (Rom. 8:33,34; Heb. 9:24) It is to these that the merit of Christ’s sacrifice is presently applied. It is this phase of God’s great plan of the ages that is presently in process. These, if faithful unto death, shall be raised to immortality, to live and reign with Christ ft. the heavenly phase of his kingdom for a thousand years.—I Cor. 15:53,54; II Pet. 1:4; Rom. 2:7; Rev. 20:6

The “afterward” class, who by God’s great love and boundless mercy shall also be made alive, consists of all the remainder of mankind, living and dead. These shall be given an opportunity to obey the righteous laws of Christ’s kingdom then operating and to live forever on a restored and perfect earth.

Thus we see the meaning of the apostle’s statement that ALL shall be made alive, but in their proper order: first the faithful church class, who will live and reign with Christ in the heavenly phase of the kingdom; afterward all the remainder of mankind, all who have ever lived on this earth. Similarly, we understand the Apostle John’s statement that Jesus “is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.” (I John 2:2) What boundless love and mercy does the Heavenly Father manifest!

But sin still reigns over all the earth! Although the righteous Lord of the universe truly hates iniquity, its present permission for a small slice of time out of all eternity serves a double purpose. During this Gospel Age it operates to test the love of Jesus’ followers for their Lord, for their brethren, for righteousness, and even for their enemies. And during Christ’s kingdom reign, the resurrected world of mankind will have an opportunity, for the first time, to compare the joys of justice, righteousness, and life that shall abound in that kingdom, with the sorrow, suffering, and death that have so long afflicted mankind during “this present evil world” (Gal. 1:4) as a result of disobedience to God’s righteous laws. And thus they may choose righteousness and live forever.

We believe the long, dismal reign of sin and death is now approaching its end. Long ago God promised that iniquity and iniquitous institutions would be destroyed in a great time of trouble that would engulf the earth. Through the Prophet Isaiah he said: “I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogance of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible. … Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth shall remove out of her place, in the wrath of the Lord of hosts, and in the day of his fierce anger.”—Isa. 13:11-13

Through the Prophet Joel the Lord said: “Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe: come, get you down; for the press is full, the fats overflow; for their wickedness is great. Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the Lord is near in the valley of decision.”—Joel 3:13,14

The Prophet Zephaniah wrote of this same period of time at the close of the Gospel Age, just prior to the establishment of Christ’s kingdom in the earth: “The great day of the Lord [Jehovah] is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the Lord: the mighty man shall cry there bitterly. That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of the trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities, and against the high towers. And I will bring distress upon men, that they shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the Lord.”—Zeph. 1:14-17

When Jesus was asked by his disciples for signs of the end of the Gospel Age, he replied that it would be marked by a great time of trouble. “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.” (Matt. 24:3,21) We believe we are now seeing the beginnings of this time of trouble, even as foretold by the prophets and by our Lord Jesus. The troubles now afflicting the nations of earth are truly of a character and magnitude “such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time.”

Among other conditions that would then prevail in the earth, our Lord said, “Iniquity shall abound.” (Matt. 24:12) Other translators add meaning to this passage: “because of the multiplied lawlessness and iniquity,” “because of the spread of wickedness,” “because vice will abound,” “because of lawlessness being brought to the full.” Few would deny that this specific sign of the approaching end of the age is now being abundantly fulfilled, as the news media daily give details of the crime, corruption, dishonesty, cheating, stealing, vice, and general immorality that presently pervade and defile every aspect and every level of our so-called civilization.

Luke also speaks of this same time of trouble and shows that it shortly precedes the establishment in the earth of Christ’s kingdom: “When ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand.”—Luke 21:31

How earnestly not only the prophets but also the brethren of the Early Church must have prayed and longed for that wonderful day to arrive! The Apostle Paul was touched as deeply as was David himself by the psalmist’s description of that glorious earthly paradise that God had prepared for Adam and which he promised by all his holy prophets would be restored for the blessing of all mankind in the times of restitution. (Acts 3:19-21) Quoting from David’s beautiful song of praise to the great Creator, while seeming to savor every marvelous detail and aspect of this unsurpassed arrangement for man’s blessing, Paul wrote:

“But one in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that Thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that Thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; Thou crownedst him with glory and honor, and didst set him over the works of Thy hands: Thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that He put all in subjection under him, he left nothing … not put under him.”

At this point Paul ceased quoting David’s words. That early paradise had been lost to father Adam and his progeny. But Paul knew God’s promises; he knew that “in due time” it would be restored as man’s beautiful, everlasting home. He also knew that Jesus must first die as man’s Redeemer, Savior, and Restorer. And he declared that that essential step in God’s arrangements for man’s redemption and restoration had taken place on time. So he wrote: “But now we see not yet all things put under him [man]. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man.”—Heb. 2:6-9

And now, so long after Jesus died as man’s Redeemer, one can almost hear the pleading voices of the once sleeping saints saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?”—Rev. 6:10

It would appear that the righteous Lord God of heaven is preparing shortly to answer this cry. Of this time when lawlessness, corruption, and immorality are being “brought to the full,” Jehovah has said that he would intervene. “The Lord [Jehovah] shall go forth as a mighty man, he shall stir up jealousy like a man of war: he shall cry, yea, roar; he shall prevail against his enemies. I have long time holden my peace; I have been still, and refrained myself: now will I cry like a travailing woman; I will destroy and devour at once.”—Isa. 42:13,14; I Thess. 5:2,3

The Apostle Peter confirms to us that the destruction of “this present evil world” will be followed by the coming of that glorious new world “wherein dwelleth righteousness.”—II Pet. 3:10,13

We believe that day is near and that the time is short. We believe that soon, at long last, will be poured out the matchless blessings so lovingly, so patiently, so wisely, and so long ago designed by the Heavenly Father for the everlasting peace and happiness of his worshipful and obedient human creatures in that glorious paradise of earth restored.

Then God’s ultimate purpose, known and planned from the beginning of that first creative day so long ago, will have been accomplished. Then, too, all earth’s resurrected, happy millions will pour, from grateful hearts and of their own free will, sweet songs of praise and blessing to their wonderful Creator. Then they will rejoice in his abounding love, his unfathomable wisdom, his unlimited power—and be glad for his unfailing justice.

O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!

Soon shall restitution glory
    Bring to earth a blessed rest;
And the poor and faint and weary
    Shall be lifted up and blest.

Just beyond the coming trouble
    See the reigning Prince of Peace!
Lo! God’s kingdom now is coming,
    And oppression soon must cease.

He’s now gath’ring out his jewels,
    Those who with him soon shall reign;
And earth’s weeping and sad farewells
    Soon shall change to joyous strain.

Sing! O sing! ye heirs of glory,
    Shout the tidings as you go!
Publish wide redemption’s story—
    All its healing balm should know.

Tell how Eden’s bloom and beauty
    Once again shall be restored,
Making all man’s wide dominion
    As the garden of the Lord.

O yes, sing, ye heirs of glory,
    Shout your triumph far and near,
Let the notes of praise and singing
    Sweetly fall on sorrow’s ear.

—Hymns of Dawn #270

Dawn Bible Students Association
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