“I Will Magnify Myself”

“Thus will I magnify Myself, and sanctify Myself; and I will be known in the eyes of many nations, and they shall know that I am the Lord.” —Ezekiel 38:23

TOWARD the close of our Lord Jesus’ brief ministry here on earth, he indicated in various statements to his disciples that he would be taken from them but would assuredly return. “If I go and prepare a place for you,” he said at one time, “I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also. … I will not leave you comfortless; I will come to you. … Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father.”—John 14:3,18,28

These statements were troubling to his puzzled followers, and they finally asked him pointedly when he would return. The form of their question and the manner of Jesus’ reply are revealing to the Lord’s people of the present day, because they provide a clear indication as to where the world is on the stream of time and just how far along God’s great plan for the promised salvation of mankind from sin and death has progressed. They asked the Master, “What shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?”—Matt. 24:3

The world that is here spoken of as coming to an end is not the planet Earth. The Bible does not teach that this planet Earth is to come to an end. Rather, we are told that “the earth abideth forever.” (Eccles. 1:4) “Thus saith the Lord that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he hath established it, he created it not in vain, he formed it to be inhabited.” (Isa. 45:18) The “world” referred to in the disciples’ question as coming to an end is the present evil social order that prevails throughout this planet Earth. A more meaningful translation of this passage is given to us by the Greek scholar Professor Benjamin Wilson in his Emphatic Diaglott, which reads, “What will be the sign of thy presence, and of the consummation of the age?”

The key to understanding the question put to Jesus by his disciples is the word sign—“What will be the sign of thy presence?” At his first advent Jesus was revealed as the Messiah of promise by the signs of his messiahship, which were the miracles he performed, even as prophesied. He opened blind eyes, made the lame to walk, and raised the dead. His presence at his second advent is likewise revealed to his watching disciples by the signs of his presence, which are also signs of the approaching end of this present evil world, preparatory to the establishment in the earth of Christ’s long-promised kingdom of righteousness, for the blessing of all the families of the earth.—Rev. 20:6; 21:1-4

Since his resurrection from the grave by his Heavenly Father, Jesus is a powerful, divine being. He will henceforth be seen by no human eye. He is now in the image of his great Creator, who is described by the Apostle Paul as “the King eternal, immortal, invisible.” (I Tim. 1:17) Jesus’ presence at his second advent can therefore be manifested to the watching ones only by the signs of his presence.

Thus, when the disciples asked Jesus for signs of his return, his acceptance of the wording of their question indicated they were on the right track—that his second presence would, indeed, be revealed by signs—and only by signs. Furthermore, he proceeded to outline for them specific signs for which his followers should look and which would indicate his presence and the end of the age.

The Scriptures supply many signs that prove that our Lord Jesus is indeed now present. The Prophet Daniel pointed out one very important sign of the Lord’s second advent, which he said would be a “time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time.” He also said that at that time “many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.”—Dan. 12:1,2,4

In Jesus’ reply to the question put to him, he confirmed the accuracy of Daniel’s prophecy concerning the events occurring in the world that would bear witness to his second advent in almost identical language. He said, “Then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.” One translator graphically describes this time of trouble as one “the like of which has not occurred from the beginning of the world down to the present time.”—Matt. 24:21, TCNT

Jesus also said of that time: “Ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars. … For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.”—Matt. 24:6-8

The word “sorrows” here used by Jesus is from the Greek odin, meaning “a pang of childbirth,” or “travail.” It is so translated in I Thessalonians 5:2,3, where the Apostle Paul says, “The day of the Lord [Jehovah] cometh … as ‘travail’ [Greek, odin] upon a woman with child.”

The day of the Lord (Jehovah) is shown in the Scriptures as being that period of time—following Jesus’ return at his second advent—during which, as the Arm of Jehovah God, he brings about the destruction of the evil institutions and evil arrangements of this present evil world, preparatory to setting up his thousand-year kingdom on the earth. The Prophet Isaiah describes the fear that shall fill all hearts, as they see these things coming to pass. He wrote:

“Howl ye; for the day of the Lord [Jehovah] is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty. Therefore shall all hands be faint, and every man’s heart shall melt: and they shall be afraid; pangs and sorrows shall take hold of them; they shall be in pain as a woman that travaileth: they shall be amazed one at another; their faces shall be as flames. Behold, the day of the Lord cometh, cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate: and he shall destroy the sinners thereof out of it. … And I will punish the world for their evil, and the wicked for their iniquity; and I will cause the arrogancy of the proud to cease, and will lay low the haughtiness of the terrible.”—Isa. 13:6-11

Thus Jesus pointed out that this period of time would be characterized by recurring waves of trouble and distress, as travail comes upon a woman in the pangs of childbirth. “All these are the beginning of sorrows,” or travail. But they are, indeed, even as he stated, signs of his being present, directing the affairs of earth.

Luke wrote concerning this time of trouble, which manifests the presence of our Lord, that “there shall be … upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth.” (Luke 21:25,26) The word here translated “perplexity” is derived from the Greek word aporeo, meaning “no way out.”

When Daniel indicated the time of trouble would be a sign of our Lord’s second presence, he also foretold (as shown earlier) that an additional sign of Jesus’ presence would be an increase of knowledge. Indeed, it may easily be shown that there is a direct connection between many of the troubles afflicting the world today and the astonishing increase in knowledge that has come about in the last one hundred years, vitally affecting the lives and well-being of people in virtually every corner of the globe.

In many ways this increase of knowledge along all lines has improved, or seemed to improve, the health, comfort, and happiness of millions. At the same time, however, this same increase of knowledge, unwittingly, has brought with it serious problems never before faced by humankind, problems which defy the best efforts of the wise of this world to solve.

One of the problems challenging man’s greatest ingenuity has come to be known as the population explosion. The number of humans living on this earth is increasing in a sharply rising curve that has demographers raising their voices in alarm. Whereas it took almost six thousand years for world population to reach the one billion mark, astonishingly it required only about one hundred years (1830 to 1930) to bring the total to about two billions; and it took a mere thirty additional years to add another billion by 1960. Now it is calculated that in the twenty years from 1960 to 1980 yet another billion people have been added, making a total of about four billions of human beings living on this planet Earth at the present time. And it is being projected that this figure will reach approximately six billions by the year 2000.

This remarkable increase in population is largely due, of course, to the recent rapid growth in medical and hygienic science and facilities, as a result of which infant mortality in particular has been greatly reduced, while longevity has substantially increased. This process is especially marked in the poorer areas of the world, such as Asia, Africa, Central and South America. Many who study these matters express deep concern as to the ability of the world to produce and distribute the increasing amounts of food required to feed these growing numbers of people. Indeed, it has been stated that even at today’s population levels hundreds of millions of our fellow human beings regularly go to bed hungry, great numbers of whom have never during their entire lives known what it is like not to feel the gnawing pangs of hunger.

In efforts to meet the growing needs of the world for food, the use of commercial and chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and sprays has become general. The resulting run-off of fertilizer residue from farms into streams and rivers, and the careless disposal of hazardous industrial wastes—all products of the new scientific age—are raising serious health and environmental problems in many areas of the world.

Among other signs of his presence and of the end of the age, Jesus foretold that there would be wars between nations. “Ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars. … For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.”—Matt. 24:7

War is never anything less than horrifying, and there have always been wars. But with man’s newly discovered ability to reduce entire cities thousands of miles away instantaneously to rubble with a single, precisely aimed nuclear bomb, a new and fearful destructive capacity has come into the possession of imperfect men. Yes, it is true that there have always been wars. But a major war between major powers today would surely be one “the like of which” had never been since there was a nation! And this new, awful power to destroy and maim is another result of the increase of knowledge that the Prophet Daniel said would be a sign of our Lord’s second presence.

And how truly real is the possibility of a nuclear holocaust! Each of the superpowers now possesses the ability virtually to destroy the other, along with much of the rest of the so-called civilized world. Each is also aware of the apocalyptic impact a nuclear war would have on world civilization. Thus, for a time there was hope that moderation would prevail and an accommodation be reached through consultation. Now, however, fears and suspicions have arisen again, agreement on the SALT II arrangements is in limbo, and all pretense of detente has been abandoned by both sides.

As foretold by Jesus, wars and rumors of wars exist in much of the world at this very moment. There are wars and rumors of wars between China and Vietnam; between Vietnam and its Indo-China neighbors; between China and Russia; revolutions and military coups in Latin America; concern about the future stability of Iran, Bulgaria, Yugoslavia, Turkey, Pakistan, Iraq, and the newly emerging nations in Africa. There is the still unresolved state of affairs between Israel and her Arab neighbors and with the Palestinians within her occupied areas. But by far the greatest worry today of all right-minded people is the ever present fear of war between the United States and Russia, the implications of which are awful beyond the comprehension of the human mind.

But while the situation all over the world today is truly critical, it is in the Middle East, which is the source of much of the Western world’s vital energy needs, that all the ingredients are present to produce a major, universal disaster. It is in the Middle East that the economic, political, and ideological interests of the two opposing military and industrial giants of the earth come abrasively into contact.

For a score of years since the Second World War, the United States had felt militarily secure against Russian aims. Now, that has changed. The American chief of the NATO forces recently stated without reservation that the Russian military machine is superior to that of the United States in every category. Highly placed officials of the U.S. Department of Defense and members of the Congress have lately been saying much the same thing.

Evidently, the Russian high command now feels the same way. For the first time since World War II,” says Hedrick Smith in the New York Times Magazine (January 27, 1980), “the Kremlin has thrust its own armies into a new strategic arena, outside the established Soviet sphere of influence in Eastern Europe. It has … awakened the fear that Moscow … may now be prepared to employ a much bolder strategy of force in the Middle East.”

In response, President Carter immediately proposed to increase arms expenditures by the United States, and this will no doubt be approved by Congress, in its present mood; and the arms race begins anew, as the potential horrors multiply. “As detente falters, U.S. Military seeks chemical warfare capability,” reads a headline in the New York Times (February 24, 1980). “Intelligence officials say that the Soviet Union has absolute superiority over the rest of the world in its ability to use poison gases and to defend itself against them. Unconfirmed reports by refugees that the Soviet Union has used gas attacks in its invasion of Afghanistan lent urgency to Pentagon concerns that ever since World War II Moscow has been increasing its lead over the West in all forms of chemical warfare.” And the mental picture of a nuclear Armageddon coming down upon the world looms larger in the minds and hearts of all people. Truly, we are living in the time when men’s hearts are failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth!—Luke 21:26

Where will it all end? What will be the outcome of this ominous confrontation between two mighty but seemingly irreconcilable opponents? Will reason ultimately prevail and some sort of accommodation be achieved by the admittedly imperfect nations of earth so that men will be permitted to live at peace with one another? Or will the unthinkable come to pass and civilization as we know it today be destroyed?

We do not know all the details of the fruits of the human selfishness that prevail in the world today. But the Bible does tell us that “this present evil world,” or social order, will be utterly destroyed in a great time of trouble, the purpose of which is to eradicate forever all forms of evil and evil institutions from the face of the earth.

It is interesting to note that the Bible indicates the show-down between the forces of evil and the forces of righteousness will come to a head in the Middle East. And it is the Middle East of Bible prophecy that is at this very moment the scene of deep-seated and ominous economic, religious, and ideological conflict. These opposing forces, the Revelator tells us, are brought at the end of the age “into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.”—Rev. 16:16

The Revelator’s identification of Armageddon as the scene of this great, final conflict between the forces of good and evil is significant. The name “Armageddon” refers to the hill of Megiddo in the ancient land of Palestine. It was in the nearby valley that Jehovah God gave his chosen people a remarkable victory over their enemies, the Midianites. Gideon, with but three hundred faithful followers, defeated the mighty army of the Midianites, who were so numerous that they lay “like grasshoppers for multitude; and their camels were without number, as the sand by the seaside for multitude.” (Judg. 7:12) But it was not Gideon and his small band of three hundred who defeated the multitude of the Midianites it was the invincible power and might of Jehovah God.—Judg. 7:2,7,14,15

And now the little nation of Israel, regathered by the providences of the Lord to their homeland, even as prophesied, lies at the very heart of mixed, contending forces. To her Arab neighbors, proponents of Islam, she is a veritable religious thorn in the side; to the Soviets she is a roadblock to economic and ideological expansion; to the Western powers she is a friend, who may be useful in helping to guard the flow of oil. This tiny, newly reestablished nation of a few thousand square miles was destined to find herself at the crossroads of a closing age and a passing world.

More than twenty-five hundred years ago the Prophet Ezekiel foretold that Israel, regathered at the end of the age from the countries to which she had long centuries before been scattered, would be attacked by a mighty army from the north under the leadership of “the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal.” Bible scholars have long believed the prophet is here identifying Russia and her allies as the attacking force. But Jehovah God intervenes to deliver his people from seemingly inevitable defeat. “And it shall come to pass at the same time when Gog shall come against the land of Israel, saith the Lord God, that my fury shall come up in my face. … And I will plead against him [punish the attacker] with pestilence and with blood; and I will rain upon him, and upon his bands, and upon the many people that are with him an overflowing rain, and great hailstones, fire, and brimstone. Thus will I magnify myself, and sanctify [vindicate] myself; and I will be known in the eyes of many nations, and they shall know that I am the Lord.”—Ezek. 38:1-23

The Prophet Zechariah also foretold this attack to come upon Israel in the closing days of the great time of trouble. “Behold, the day of the Lord [Jehovah] cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee. For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city.” Although Israel does not escape unscathed, Jehovah God intervenes on behalf of his people. “Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle”—as he had long before delivered Israel on different occasions from the hosts of the Midianites, from the Amalekites, and from the Philistines.—Zech. 14:1-3

The Prophet Jeremiah also speaks of this great trial to come upon regathered Israel in the last days of the time of trouble. Since the trouble will be especially severe in Israel, the prophet refers to it as “Jacob’s trouble.”

“For, lo, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will bring again the captivity of [regather] my people Israel and Judah, saith the Lord: and I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it. And these are the words that the Lord spake concerning Israel and concerning Judah. For thus saith the Lord; We have heard a voice of trembling, of fear, and not of peace. Ask ye now, and see whether a man doth travail with child? wherefore do I see every man with his hands on his loins, as a woman in travail, and all faces are turned into paleness? Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it; it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble; but he shall be saved out of it. … For I am with thee, saith the Lord, to save thee: though I make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee, yet will I not make a full end of thee; but I will correct thee in measure, and will not leave thee altogether unpunished.”—Jer. 30:2-11

But how will the little nation of Israel withstand attack by this “mighty army” that will come “from thy place out of the north parts, thou, and many people [many allies] with thee … as a cloud to cover the land?” (Ezek. 38:14-16) It will be by the power and intervention of Jehovah God on their behalf, just as it was in the days of Gideon and his little band of three hundred against the hosts of the Midianites! And it will be so arranged by God in order that the whole world, including Israel, may surely know the victory is the Lord’s, and his alone!

This great trouble to come to Israel, and Jehovah God’s intervention on her behalf, are also foretold by the Prophet Joel. “For in those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, then I will gather all nations and bring them down into the Judgment Valley, where I shall assign them their doom for the treatment of my people and of Israel my heritage, because they scattered my people among pagans and divided up my land.”—Joel 3:1-2, Moffatt

“Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision; for the day of the Lord [Jehovah] is near in the valley of decision. … The Lord also shall roar out of Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem; and the heavens and the earth shall shake; but the Lord will be the hope [refuge, RSV] of his people, and the strength of the children of Israel. So shall ye know that I am the Lord your God dwelling in Zion, my holy mountain; then shall Jerusalem be holy, and there shall no strangers pass through her any more.”—Joel 3:14-17

The Apostle Peter also speaks of this terrible time when “the heavens and the earth shall shake” and associates it with the destruction by Jehovah God of this present evil world order. He says, “The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.

But Peter follows up this prophecy of the passing of this selfish world order, or social arrangement, with the glorious promise that it shall be succeeded by the establishment in the earth of Christ’s long-awaited, righteous, and everlasting kingdom. He says, “Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.”—II Pet. 3:10-13

The Prophet Isaiah wrote of this happy time for the resurrected world of mankind, soon to come to pass. He said, “It shall come to pass in the last days, that the mountain [kingdom] of the Lord’s house shall be established in the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow unto it. And many people shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths; for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem.”—Isa. 2:2,3

This would seem to suggest that Jerusalem will be the central place of earthly kingdom authority, with the risen ancient worthies directing earth’s affairs under the guidance of Christ and the glorified church. The promised New Covenant that was guaranteed by the sacrifice of Jesus at Calvary will be made with Israel and the blessings of the kingdom first poured out upon that nation. But “all nations shall flow unto it.”

For long centuries, because of forsaking Jehovah God and disobeying his commandments, Israel was a nation cursed. But in the kingdom, the world will see Israel as a nation restored and greatly blessed by the Lord. “You, house of Judah and house of Israel, have been the very symbol of a curse [down through the ages] to all the nations; and now I will save you, and you shall become the symbol of a blessing.”—Zech. 8:13, NEB

Thus, seeing how Israel is blessed by the Lord by obedience to the righteous laws of the newly established kingdom, the whole world will desire to be similarly blessed. “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. 8:23

In that day, war will be abolished. “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”—Isa. 2:4

In that glorious day all men shall live together in peace and love. For “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.”—Rev. 21:3,4

Truly, we are living in a time of trouble such as was not since there was a nation. But this very trouble that causes men’s hearts to fail them as they consider the things presently coming to pass in the earth is a positive, indisputable sign of our Lord’s presence as the Arm of Jehovah, intervening in earth’s affairs. And this very same trouble affords heartwarming assurance to the Lord’s faithful watchers that the establishment of Christ’s kingdom on earth is near! “When these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh,” Luke wrote. “When ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand.”—Luke 21:25-31

Will these promises of God truly come to pass, or is this all “too good to be true”? Let us remember that the birth of the Messiah was foretold long centuries before it occurred, but it came right on time! Let us remember that the return of the widely scattered and persecuted Jews to their own land was prophesied long centuries ago and has taken place in our day even as foretold, and against all odds. Let us remember that a time of trouble, the like of which had never before perplexed the human race, has come to pass in these last days, even as foretold by the Prophets Daniel, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Joel, Zephaniah, Zechariah, and David, and by our Lord Jesus.

And let us remember the words of the great Jehovah God, our Heavenly Father himself, given, through Jesus Christ, to John the Revelator: “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. 1:1,2; 21:5

Dawn Bible Students Association
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