The Earth Devoured

THE WORLD is now well on its way into another year. The horn-blowing, bell-ringing, and joyous festivities with which 1989 was ushered in are now forgotten, and throughout the globe people are more aware than ever that they are faced with the same, similar, or still more serious problems than those which so gravely perplexed them during 1988.

Many trouble spots continue to exist in the world at the close of this year—any one of which could erupt into full-fledged war at a moment’s notice. The Middle East continues to be daily in the spotlight of world attention, with its delicately balanced and precarious state of semi-peace barely being maintained in the Gulf of Aqaba. The easing of tensions between Iraq and Iran, and Russia withdrawing its armies from Afghanistan and easing off its military aid to Iran are viewed as hopeful signs, but all of the basic problems still exist.

The skirmishes which continue in Israel and on its borders are a continual threat to life and peace which could escalate at any time to implicate larger, more powerful, far-away countries. Terrorist activities, with kidnappings, hijackings and bombings have caused heartache, pain and suffering, and, yes, death. South Africa is another hotbed of unrest and rebellion due to the inhumanity of man to man, his lack of conscience and denial of basic human needs. Situations continue to flare up in South and Central America which are unsettling to the citizens of those areas, taking the lives of young soldiers in ambushings and guerrilla warfare between antagonistic political parties, and involving the United States and Russia as they take sides, for and against, the hostile parties.

Ireland, although fairly calm at the moment, has not solved its problems between north and south which have existed there for so many decades. And the Philippines, despite their new improved regime, are still in a state of flux, and more trouble could erupt in those islands in a dramatic manner at any time.

Economic problems continue to haunt the globe. Glasnost and Peristroika are new words we are becoming accustomed to, describing the change in attitude toward social economics with which the Soviet Socialist Republic must experiment. Their old ideologies have been proven a failure, and new methods are being tried, or, as the present men in control of government now realize, they will vanish from the global economic scene. The entire world financial status is another very precarious situation, and competition between countries is fierce and extremely complicated.

The explosion of inventions is inconceivable to the average human being! A computer which was ‘state of the art’ one year is obsolete the next! Labor-saving machinery once thought to be a threat to the working man, is now run by computerized, electronic robots! These scientific achievements, soon to be a real boon to mankind in the Millennial Age because of their ability to provide needed commodities such as food, clothing, shelter, communication, and transportation quickly, are making problems at the present time to the average working man. It is necessary to learn new, more complicated skills in order to reduce unemployment and to keep a healthy economy. Instead of a society of services and manufacturing, we have become a society of electronic, electrical and mechanical technologists, embracing also other science-oriented fields. This requires change and improvement in educational institutions and goals, which are sadly falling behind the needs.

AIDS, cancer, drug abuse, pollution and poverty, continue to haunt mankind, raising question marks with no answers. And so, as we approach the last decade of the twentieth century, with its enlightenment along all lines of human endeavor, we realize more and more clearly that enlightenment is not by any means the solution to our multiplying problems. In fact it seems in a large measure to complicate them.

The acute problems of the world are due, basically, to human selfishness. The enlightenment of the people in this time of the end has led them to clamor for their rights, and the selfish interests of all groups blind them to a consideration of the rights of others. Thus there is trouble, serious trouble. Even in the labor world, equitable solutions could be found if those concerned were governed by an unselfish interest in the welfare of all mankind.

The Scriptures reveal that God takes the responsibility of bringing about this foretold increase of knowledge. We are told that his lightnings would enlighten the world, and that when the people saw, they would tremble. (Ps. 97:4) The prophecies reveal that this trembling of the people would ultimately result in the destruction of man’s social order. God foretold this, saying that he would devour the whole earth with the fire of his jealousy, or zeal.—Zeph. 3:8

It would seem that this fire is already kindled. Jesus said, in a prophecy of destruction upon the Jewish polity of his day, “I am come to send fire on the earth; and what will I, if it be already kindled?” (Luke 12:49) What Jesus meant was that the conditions and situations which would lead to the great time of trouble upon Israel in A.D. 70-73 were already manifesting themselves. This is an interesting statement, for it reveals that the fire of the prophecies is not literal, but symbolic of a conflagration of human passions which destroys man’s world or earth of today.

And what a vivid illustration Jesus suggests! Applying it today, we can think of all the various trouble spots of the earth as so many places where the devouring fire of Jehovah’s zeal is already beginning to burn. Indeed, worldly writers refer to them as brush fires, which is what they are; but, eventually these will become joined in a worldwide blaze which will destroy man’s selfish, social order, and make way for the establishment of the kingdom of Christ.

In Zephaniah 3:8, where we read that the Lord will devour the whole earth with the fire of his jealousy, the Hebrew word translated jealousy is the same one which is translated zeal in Isaiah 9, where, forecasting the birth of Jesus, and the establishment of his kingdom, we are informed that “the zeal of the Lord of Hosts will perform this.” The zeal of the Lord of Hosts in the setting up of Jesus as the new world ruler is manifested in many ways.

This zeal of the Lord for the establishment of righteousness in the earth is reflected in the outworking of every aspect of his plan for the reconciliation and salvation of the human race now estranged from him through wicked works. Nothing has been permitted to interfere with the divine plan. When the enemies of Jesus, the new king of earth, put him to death, God raised him from the dead and exalted him to his own right hand of power.

The divine plan for the Gospel Age has been the selection of a little flock from among mankind to share the rulership of the kingdom with Jesus. (Luke 12:32) This work has gone grandly on and, at the end of the age, these joint-heirs are, like Jesus, raised from the dead to live and reign with him. The zeal of Jehovah of Hosts is seen in the carrying out of these great features of his plan.

Before the kingdom of Christ can function for the promised blessing of all the families of the earth, the selfish and sinful rulership of man must be set aside; and here again the zeal of the Lord for the accomplishment of his purposes is manifested. He declares that his determination is to gather the nations and to assemble the kingdoms, that he might pour upon them his indignation, even all his fierce anger, and as a result of this the whole symbolic earth will be destroyed. The psalmist wrote concerning this that the “heathen raged, the kingdoms were moved: He uttered His voice, the earth melted.”—Ps. 46:6

God does not destroy man’s social order through lack of love for the people, but rather because he does love them, and is preparing for their ultimate and eternal blessing. This is reflected in the further prophecy of the psalmist: “Come, behold the works of the Lord, what desolations he hath made in the earth. He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; he breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; he burneth the chariot in the fire.” (Ps. 46:8,9) Note that the desolations made in the earth by the Lord is simply the fact that he makes an end of war, and the munitions of war!

This has been one of the heartfelt desires of the people of all ages, but because of human selfishness it has been impossible of accomplishment. And even today, as we have noted, for the nations to disarm and be satisfied to settle their differences in ways other than by war, would create serious problems. But the Creator knows how to solve these problems, and indeed will solve them, to his own glory and to the eternal blessing of his human creatures.

Jehovah tells us that after he has devoured the symbolic earth with the fire of his zeal, he will turn to the people a pure language, or message, that they might all call upon him and serve him with one consent. (Zeph. 3:9) Yes, while the symbolic earth will be destroyed, the literal earth will remain as man’s home, and the people will be enlightened to know the true God, for then a true knowledge of him will fill the earth as the waters cover the sea.—Isa. 11:9

This knowledge will be in both the minds and hearts of the people, inducing them willingly to seek their Heavenly Father’s will and ways and be guided thereby. It is described by the Prophet Jeremiah as the law of God being written in the inward parts of the people. (Jer. 31:31-34) This means that divine love will replace selfishness as a motivating power in human behavior. This in itself will solve the problems created by human selfishness.

We have noted how the use of robots in factories has increased production and quality of workmanship in many factories, but has also taken away many less-skilled jobs, and made it necessary for people to have more education. The designing and production of the robots has opened up some highly-skilled positions requiring knowledge of electronics, electrical engineering, and mechanical engineering. Think of the hundreds of millions of people who are in need of a sufficient supply of food, clothing, housing, and transportation! There is still only a minority of the earth’s population which enjoys the high standard of living with which the people of America are blessed. There is a great need waiting to be filled in most countries, and with the law of love operating under the guidance of messianic kingdom agencies, these needs will be supplied.

Labor-saving machinery has appeared as a result of the foretold increase of knowledge. (Dan. 12:1) The Lord knew that at the beginning it would create problems for the nations, and help to bring about the downfall of Satan’s empire. But the Lord also knew that eventually this increased potential of production would be needed to provide food, clothing, and homes for the billions who, throughout the kingdom age, would be restored from the sleep of death. “Her merchandise and her hire [economic enterprise] shall be holiness to the Lord: it shall not be treasured nor laid up [by the rich]; for her merchandise shall be for them that dwell before the Lord [all mankind in the Millennial Age], to eat sufficiently, and for durable clothing.”—Isa. 23:18

Just from the standpoint of divinely directed human abilities, think of the work that awaits the human race! First, there will be the raising of the standard of living for the people of the third world countries. The Lord will not be satisfied with the pitiful conditions under which they are barely surviving today. God will not allow any to go hungry; now many thousands are starving to death. All will share equally in the bounties of the earth!

And then, as noted, will be the need to feed, clothe, and house those who are being raised from the dead. What a happy project that will be! True, all will be giving a hand in it, and we can imagine that there will not be more work for anyone than can and will be thoroughly enjoyed. With love as the motive, and righteousness the guiding principle of life, all otherwise idle time will be profitably spent to enrich the minds and hearts of mankind, increasing their appreciation of the Lord, and their desire to serve and please him.

We cannot expect that this glorious kingdom program will become operative during 1989! But we do now see that the fire which will devour the old and selfish social order of man is already kindled—yes, kindled in many places. In Jehovah’s due time they will be joined in the final phase of the greatest “time of trouble” the world has ever seen—the “Armageddon” of the Scriptures. (Dan. 12:1; Matt. 24:21; Rev. 16:16; 19:11-15) But, unlike the world, we do not fear as we look ahead to these things coming upon the earth.

We do not fear because we know the outcome, an outcome that will be glorious, not only for the Master’s followers, who can expect soon to be delivered from this present evil world to live and reign with him, but glorious also for all mankind; for after the fire has devoured the earth, the “desire of all nations shall come.” (Hag. 2:7) Instead of fear, we look up and rejoice, and seize every opportunity that comes to us to make known the glad tidings of the kingdom, and thereby to comfort those who mourn.

May our Heavenly Father help us to continue rejoicing, and to remain faithful as his ambassadors, while we wait his due time for the establishment of his kingdom!

Dawn Bible Students Association
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