As the World Turns

WITH WHAT RAPIDITY the complexion of the world has changed in recent months and years. As short a time as five years ago, who would have then predicted the complete collapse of the totalitarian government in the Soviet Union? In Europe the integration of the economic and social structure of what was then a strongly divided Western and Eastern Europe, was only a theory that few men expected would ever become a reality. The possibility of the State of Israel and her enemy neighbors meeting around a conference table seemed quite remote at that time. And a mutual arms reduction between the two great nuclear powers was talked about, but agreement and implementation seemed very improbable.

All of these changes coming in rapid succession have seemed like giant steps taken toward a more peaceful world, and have given a temporary sense of relief from the ever-present, nagging fear of war and possible nuclear holocaust.

Is the world beginning to solve its problems? Many political and economic experts say, No—they are simply trading one set of problems for another. Some assert that the instability of the emerging new framework of the Eastern world governments, along with the growing impatience of their underfed and disgruntled populace is producing fertile ground for much revolutionary turmoil in the days ahead. The impact of these same events upon the Western world has created so much uncertainty and confusion in the financial and economic markets that growing recession has hit hard, unemployment is soaring, and pessimism has rapidly overtaken the optimistic outlook of only a few months ago. No one is happy. Lack of peace continues, and the world, as ever, awaits the future with apprehension and uncertainty, a victim of circumstances.

When countries are as they exist today; when the plight of the world is beyond the ability of man to control; when the wisdom of the wise men has perished; when the knowledge of the prudent men of the earth is ineffective; when the diplomats and statesmen of earth do not know what to do; when, as today, “men’s hearts [are] failing them for fear” of many things (Luke 21:26), some people instinctively turn to God to find the answer, to find the remedy for these conditions, and to learn how to solve their problems.

We know that something is terribly wrong. We want to know what will make it right. We know that the earth is capable of giving an abundance of blessings to all who live upon it, but we also know that millions of earth’s children are not receiving these blessings which the earth so lavishly supplies. Instinctively we know that it is not the earth which is at fault, but rather the people who live on the earth. Selfishness obstructs human accord. It prevents the peoples of earth from enjoying the good things of life.

We all agree that the world has many perplexing problems. The question is, will we be able to solve these problems? We have the problem of the nuclear bomb, of international finance, of foreign policy. We have many social and religious problems, including racial discrimination. But these are not merely the problems of one country. They are the problems of ‘civilization’.

Today we often hear the question asked, “Will civilization endure, or will it commit suicide with the uncontrolled fury of atomic warfare?” Some confuse current civilization with Christianity, and therefore accuse Christianity of failure. That accusation should be challenged. Christianity has not failed, for Christianity has not yet been tried on a national or international scale. Our present civilization with its many varieties of denominational faith, and our present social and political structures are on trial. In many respects they have already been weighed in the balances and found wanting. But these do not represent Christianity, and let us not confuse one with the other.

Human selfishness has long stood in the way, barring the human race from solving apparently simple problems. In spite of the fact that there is an abundance of food in certain parts of the earth, famine and starvation are stalking abroad on a tremendous scale, with millions having looked to the coming winter with fear and dread. All people should enjoy the blessings of industry, but they do not; mass unemployment seems to be a recurrent disease.

The planet has given forth tons of gold and silver, but we do not know what to do with it in the stabilizing of international currency. While one country needs what another country has, and one country produces what another needs, we have as yet been unable to organize a satisfactory and fair method of exchange. And, also, do not forget that while the majority of all peoples hate war and bloodshed, and desire to live in peace and security, we have never yet solved the problem of preventing increasingly destructive wars.

History has well recorded the rise and fall of mighty nations. Among these have been Assyria, Babylonia, Phoenicia, Persia, Grecia, and Rome. These nations were great in their day. Only a fool would say their intellect was inferior to our own. In some respects they were superior to us. But they are gone, as far as world power is concerned. Once flourishing nations, they have been destroyed. The blighting effect of war, hate, and selfishness entered their sinews and sapped their strength. And this is the same disease that is now eating at the vitals of what men call our civilization.

While history tells us of the rise and fall of nations, the Bible tells of the rise and the fall of ‘worlds’. It tells us of the “world that was,” which came to an end at the time of the Flood. It tells us of the “present evil world,” which is now being destroyed as if by fire, and it tells of the “world to come” and what we may expect in this prophetic new world. (Gal. 1:4; Luke 18:30) The apostle, in II Peter 3:6, declares, “The world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished.” Everyone knows that it was not the earth which was destroyed by water, for we know that we are still living on the same earth that existed before the Flood.

The ‘present evil world’ is being destroyed by symbolic fire, but before the discussion of this destruction by fire, let us notice the words of John the Baptist as recorded in Luke 3:16,17: “I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire: whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable.” Here is a prophecy that has been fulfilled. It is a prophecy concerning Israel, and as prophesied by John the Baptist, our Lord came and he did baptize with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. And he also baptized with ‘fire’.

Sometimes people pray for the baptism of fire. How little they know for what they pray. Those who were baptized with the Holy Spirit at Pentecost were few in number. They were ‘Israelites indeed’, who recognized in Jesus their Lord and Savior. The remainder of the Jewish nation knew not ‘the day of their visitation’. The Master, just prior to his triumphal entry into the city of Jerusalem, speaking prophetically of the whole nation of Israel said, “Your house is left unto you desolate,” and so it was indeed. (Matt. 23:38) They were burned as chaff in the time of fiery trouble which marked the end of the Jewish Age. That was their baptism of fire. It was a fire of destruction and of desolation.

Various steps were taken to hinder the complete desolation of the nation of Israel, but all efforts failed. Their house had been left unto them desolate. The baptism of fire that destroyed and desolated the nation of Israel is a prophecy which has already been fulfilled and therefore easy to comprehend as the key to the ‘fire’ of our day. It was not a literal fire then, but a symbolic one. It is not literal fire now.

The majority of Christian people have been taught to believe in the literal burning and destruction of the earth. This teaching is false, according to Ecclesiastes 1:4, where we find the simple statement, “The earth abideth forever.” This plain scriptural assurance is in harmony with the Word of God through the Prophet Isaiah (Isa. 45:18), when God said that he had created the earth, not in vain, but he had formed it “to be inhabited.” Some might find it difficult to believe that the earth itself is not to be destroyed because of the statement of the apostle in II Peter 3:7, “The heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same Word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the Day of Judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” While they believe that this earth will be destroyed by fire, they do not believe that God’s throne will be destroyed, and yet the Bible says that heaven is God’s throne. This text declares that the heavens as well as the earth will be dissolved with fervent heat.

There must be a more logical explanation of this prophecy than that which has been given us by ecclesiasticism. We believe that this is an account of the current time of trouble through which this present evil world is passing. As the Flood ended the old world, and as the ‘fire’ of trouble ended Jewish national existence, so, since 1914, our civilization has been receiving its ‘baptism of fire’. The fire is symbolic of trouble and destruction. The heavens represent the present religious world, and these powers of heaven are being shaken. The earth represents our social, political, and financial systems, and the elements referred to in this prophecy, symbolize the various factors that constitute capital and labor, the rich and the poor, the bureaucratic and industrial phases of our life. The works that shall be burned up are the hate and war, the graft and greed, the selfishness, and jealous ruthlessness which is manifest on every hand.

Zephaniah 1:14-18 declares, “The great Day of the Lord 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: and their blood shall be poured out as dust, and their flesh as the dung. Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the Day of the Lord’s wrath; but the whole land shall be devoured by the fire of his jealousy: for he shall make even a speedy riddance of all them that dwell in the land.”

As we see the troubles in the earth constantly gaining momentum, we realize the dread possibilities which are confronting the world; but as students of God’s Word we see a silver lining to this dark cloud of trouble. The Apostle Peter, after speaking of the destruction of those things which are out of harmony with God, gives us these words of encouragement, “Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.” (II Peter 3:13) Here we are directed to a promise which was given long years before by God through the Prophet Isaiah and recorded in Isaiah 65:17-25:

“Behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind. But be ye glad and rejoice forever in that which I create: for, behold, I create Jerusalem a rejoicing, and her people a joy. And I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and joy in my people: and the voice of weeping shall be no more heard in her, nor the voice of crying. There shall be no more thence an infant of days, nor an old man that hath not filled his days: for the child shall die an hundred years old; but the sinner being an hundred years old shall be accursed. And they shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them. They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands. They shall not labor in vain, nor bring forth for trouble; for they are the seed of the blessed of the Lord, and their offspring with them. And it shall come to pass, that before they call, I will answer; and while they are yet speaking I will hear. The wolf and the lamb shall feed together, and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock: and dust shall be the serpent’s meat. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain.”

This is the promise that Peter referred to. This is the prophecy that stirred his mind with regard to the blessings which would come to the earth with the establishment of the new order. We may also look forward in anticipation to the time when the human race will be able to enjoy the fruits of their labor in the midst of happy Edenic conditions, wherein righteousness will dwell. There are many prophecies in God’s Word which assure us that when this new order of righteousness is established in the earth, it will not be a temporary thing that will exist for a few years until another ‘flood’ or until another ‘baptism of fiery trouble’; but rather, as declared by the Prophet Micah: “We will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever.”—Mic. 4:5

Possibly one of the most easily understood prophecies concerning this present troublous period and the assurance that after this has completed its work, conditions of millennial peace will be established, is found in Zephaniah 3:8,9: “Wait ye upon me, saith the Lord, until the day that I rise up to the prey: for my determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them mine indignation, even all my fierce anger: for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy. For then [after that] will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one consent.”

It is difficult now to discern a ‘pure language’, a pure Gospel message, because of the different creeds and theories that men have created to their own confusion. Today there are many voices, many languages, all claiming to be the message of God. In this babble of conflicting philosophies it is difficult indeed to discern the voice of God, but after the fire of trouble has done its work, and after the present ecclesiastical heavens have lost their power, and after the present earth with its social, political, and financial elements has been brought to a condition of impotency, the mist and fog of prejudice and superstition will be lifted from the minds of men, and the pure message of truth concerning the glories of the coming kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will shine forth as a pure language to tell of the lengths and breadths, and the heights and depths of the love of God in the answer to our prayer that God’s will may be done as fully in earth as it is in heaven.

However, as we talk of this new day and the blessings it shall contain, particularly in the assurance that the reign of Christ will be able to solve every problem on the earth, the thought will present itself to many, “Why was this kingdom not established long ago, seeing that more than 1,900 years have passed into history since our Lord finished his earthly ministry? What has God been doing concerning this glorious kingdom from the time of Calvary until the present?”

There are many scriptures which assure us that God has not been inactive during this long interlude; but rather, beginning at Pentecost and continuing from then until the present time, the purpose of God has been to choose the “bride” of Christ. (Rev. 21:2,9; 22:17) All together these will be but a “little flock” as compared to the billions of Adam’s children, but they have been called “the salt of the earth.” (Luke 12:32; Matt. 5:13) They have been the ones who have heard and accepted the invitation of the Master when he declared, “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Matt. 16:24) These loyal, faithful Christians have endeavored to follow in the footsteps of their Master with the assurance that as children of the Lord, they are “heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together.” (Rom. 8:17) They are spoken of as walking in the straight and narrow way which leadeth unto life, and to them the promise applies which has encouraged saints throughout past centuries, “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life.”—Rev. 2:10

It is this ‘little flock’ who will live and reign with Christ a thousand years (Rev. 20:4), assisting in the establishment of the new world wherein righteousness will dwell. The world’s problems will be solved through the application of the principles upon which Christ’s kingdom will be built. There shall be none to hurt nor to offend in all that kingdom, because, “of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever.”—Isa. 9:7

Righteousness will at last be man’s heritage in a new world order under the rulership of Jesus Christ, “the Prince of Peace.” It is to establish his kingdom, that our Lord returns at his Second Advent. The first world ended with the destruction in the Flood of all those out of harmony with God. Noah and his house were protected and saved. The second world is ending with the destruction of those elements which are out of harmony with the principles of God. His church, through divine providence, is saved by being exalted to reign with him. The third world will see justice laid to the line and “righteousness to the plummet.” It will see the power of truth “sweep away the refuge of lies.”—Isa. 28:17

Those who are willfully disobedient to righteousness under those favorable conditions will also be swept to destruction. The human race, having learned well the exceeding sinfulness of sin through the experiences of six thousand years of the reign of sin, will rejoice in the opportunity to obey willingly the new rule of righteousness which will fulfill the prophecy of Revelation 21:15. We read, “I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first 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.”

Dawn Bible Students Association
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