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Monday, January 5, 2009

Will This World Survive?

No other generation has heard so much talk about the end of the world. Many fear that the world will end in a nuclear holocaust. Others think that pollution may destroy the world. Still others worry that economic chaos will set masses of humanity against one another.

Could this world really end? If it did, what would it mean? Has a world ever ended before?

A World Ends—Another Replaces It

Yes, a world did end. Consider the world that became very wicked in the days of Noah. The Bible explains: “The world of that time suffered destruction when it was deluged with water.” The Bible also says: “[God] did not hold back from punishing an ancient world, but kept Noah, a preacher of righteousness, safe with seven others when he brought a deluge upon a world of ungodly people.”—2 Peter 2:5; 3:6.

Note what the end of that world meant and what it did not mean. It did not mean the end of humankind. Noah and his family survived the global Flood. So did the planet Earth and the beautiful starry heavens. It was “a world of ungodly people” that perished, a wicked system of things.

Eventually, as Noah’s offspring increased, another world developed. That second world, or system of things, has existed down to our day. Its history has been filled with war, crime, and violence. What will happen to this world? Will it survive?

The Future of This World

After saying the world in Noah’s day suffered destruction, the Bible account continues: “By the same word the heavens and the earth that are now are stored up for fire.” (2 Peter 3:7) Indeed, as another Bible writer explains: “The world [the one existing today] is passing away.”—1 John 2:17.

The Bible does not mean that the literal earth or the starry heavens will pass away, even as these did not pass away in Noah’s day. (Psalm 104:5) Rather, this world, with its “heavens,” or governmental rulers under the influence of Satan, and its “earth,” or human society, will be destroyed as if by fire. (John 14:30; 2 Corinthians 4:4) This world, or system of things, will perish just as surely as did the world before the Flood. Even Jesus Christ spoke about the situation in “the days of Noah” as an example of what would happen just prior to the end of this world.—Matthew 24:37-39.

Significantly, when Jesus spoke of the days of Noah, it was in answer to his apostles’ question: “What shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” (Matthew 24:3, King James Version) Jesus’ followers knew that this world would end. Did this prospect frighten them?

On the contrary, when Jesus described events that would occur prior to the world’s end, he encouraged them to rejoice ‘because their deliverance was getting near.’ (Luke 21:28) Yes, deliverance from Satan and his wicked system of things into a peaceful new world!—2 Peter 3:13.

But when will this world end? What “sign” did Jesus give of his “coming, and of the end of the world”?

“The Sign”

The Greek word here translated “coming” is pa‧rou‧si′a, and it means “presence,” that is, actually being on hand. So when “the sign” is seen, it would not mean Christ was soon to come but that he had already returned and was present. It would mean that he had begun ruling invisibly as a heavenly king and that he would soon bring an end to his enemies.—Revelation 12:7-12; Psalm 110:1, 2.

Jesus did not give just one event as “the sign.” He described many world events and situations. All of these would take place during the time that Bible writers called “the last days.” (2 Timothy 3:1-5; 2 Peter 3:3, 4) Consider some of the things that Jesus foretold would mark “the last days.”

“Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom.” (Matthew 24:7) War in modern times has been of greater magnitude than ever before. One historian noted: “The First World War [beginning in 1914] was the first ‘total’ war.” Yet, the second world war was much more destructive. And war continues to ravage the earth. Yes, Jesus’ words have undergone fulfillment in a dramatic way!

“There will be food shortages.” (Matthew 24:7) Following World War I came perhaps the greatest famine in all history. Terrible famine also followed World War II. A scourge of malnutrition affects up to one fifth of earth’s population, killing some 14 million children every year. Truly, there have been “food shortages”!

“There will be great earthquakes.” (Luke 21:11) On the average, about ten times as many have died each year from earthquakes since 1914 as in previous centuries. Consider only a few major ones: 1920, China, 200,000 killed; 1923, Japan, some 140,000 died or disappeared; 1939, Turkey, 32,700 fatalities; 1970, Peru, 66,800 killed; and 1976, China, about 240,000 (or, according to some sources, 800,000) casualties. Surely, “great earthquakes”!

“In one place after another pestilences.” (Luke 21:11) Right after World War I, some 21 million people died of the Spanish flu. Science Digest reported: “In all history there had been no sterner, swifter visitation of death.” Since then, heart disease, cancer, AIDS, and many other plagues have killed hundreds of millions.

“Increasing of lawlessness.” (Matthew 24:12) Our world since 1914 has become known as one of crime and violence. In many places no one feels safe on the streets even during the daytime. At night people stay in their homes behind locked and barricaded doors, afraid to go outside.

Many other things were foretold to occur during the last days, and all of these also are being fulfilled. This means the end of the world is near. But, happily, there will be survivors. After saying “the world is passing away,” the Bible promises: “He that does the will of God remains forever.”—1 John 2:17.

So we need to learn God’s will and do it. Then we can survive this world’s end to enjoy eternally the blessings of God’s new world. The Bible promises that at that time: “God . . . will wipe out every tear from [people’s] eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore.”—Revelation 21:3, 4.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Bible quotations are from the New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures.

- Reasoning From the Scriptures, WTB&TS