Studies in the Scriptures
Zion's Watch Tower
DISTRESS OF NATIONS WITH PERPLEXITY
[October 4, 1914]
"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 that are coming
on the earth."
Never was there such a war as there is at the present time. Peculiar conditions have arisen, more so than has ever been known before in the history of the world.
With the utter destruction of civilization impending, present conditions seem to take on a peculiar force as we think of what relationship God has to all these matters.
On every hand prayers for peace are ascending to God. Some are praying for the success of the allied armies—which means the slaughter of the Germans, Austrians and Hungarians; others are praying for just the reverse; still others are praying that the war shall not go on. All this shows great confusion of thought. How could all these prayers be heard? The Master has told us that we are to pray in accord with the Word of God.
Therefore, before praying on the subject, it would be well to determine what are God’s purposes in regard to this war, in order to pray in harmony with His arrangements.
Instead of telling the Almighty what to do, we should all hearken to His Word, and take note of what He says about this war and the terrible Armageddon which will follow it—the "Time of Trouble such as was not since there was a nation."—
As I read my Bible with clearer eyes than once I read it, I see so many things different from what once I thought that I have great sympathy with people who are confused on this matter. As I read the Bible, God has foretold this very war and has indicated just what is happening today. Through the Prophet Joel He has said
to all nations, "Let the weak say, I am strong....
Let the nations be wakened, and come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat"—to the Battle of the great Day of God Almighty. If God prophesied this war of nations, then we need not pray that He stop a war which He has foretold would take place.—
Surely, so far as the present war has gone, it has brought a greater number to the grave than has any previous war. Many, doubtless, will be shocked at the declaration that this war and the still greater calamity to follow are of Divine arrangement. Nevertheless, the gathering of the nations to the present struggle is referred to in the Prophet’s words, where the weak nations are called upon to assert their strength and to go down, all of them, to the Valley of Jehoshaphat—otherwise the Valley of Graves.—
SEEN IN GOD’S PLAN
In harmony with this prophecy, the nations have for years been "beating their plowshares into swords, and their pruning-hooks into spears," in the sense that money has been spent for military purposes which should properly have been spent in agricultural implements and developments.
Apparently all the nations of the world will yet be involved. Happy would it be if our own land should escape! We are very glad to note that our President and our Secretary of State are men of peace, and will surely do all in their power to avoid complications and war itself. Nevertheless, it is reasonable to expect that the great nations of Europe, realizing how much they will be weakened by the war, will do all in their power to ensnare these United States, lest at the conclusion of the war we should tower too much above the other nations in financial strength and in every other way.
But to the majority it is very confusing to think that God would bring about any great war. There is surely something wrong or there would not be such perplexity; for the Lord tells His people that they will not be in darkness.
Speaking about this Time of Trouble, St. Paul says, "But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that Day should overtake you as a thief. Ye are all the children of the light, and the children of the Day." (
.) God’s people should have general information regarding His plans, purposes and arrangements.
Only as we look at the Divine Plan as a whole can we understand God’s relationship with this bloody war—and with all war. Many have seen only small portions of the Divine Plan, and so have failed to grasp the great lengths, breadths, heights and depths of God’s great Purpose.
But whoever has an understanding of the great Plan of God will ever after be able rightly to appreciate and to locate not only the events of today, but also everything that is coming; for the Bible outlines the history of man.
The Scriptures clearly teach that our earth is the only rebellious province in all God’s fair creation. In this little planet God has permitted sin to take its course—to bud, to blossom, to bring forth its fruitage—that both men and angels may see the dire results of opposition to the Divine Government. The Bible tells us how this world became rebellious. It tells us that God did not create mankind imperfect, as we are today. Man was created perfect, an earthly being—in the image of his Heavenly Creator, in the sense of having a moral character, but limited to earthly conditions. This perfect man was placed in a perfect home, in every way adapted to his needs. This Eden was especially prepared for him, and he was to enjoy it. But he was the king of the whole earth; and therefore his Creator instructed him that, as his family increased, he was to subdue the earth and develop it. Had mankind remained in harmony with God, the whole world would have become as Eden.
God foreknew just what would occur, however. He foreknew Adam’s sin and fall, as well as the mental, moral and physical degeneracy which would result from the disobedience of our first parents. He foreknew our
weakness and imperfection, our attempts at moral, religious and mental reform and at mental and physical health. Yet He permitted all this to come to pass.
Sin entered the world, and has continued to rest upon the human family for six thousand years. This curse of sin and death is upon mankind. God’s penalty for sin is death; and whether it comes through pestilence, famine, war or by slower processes, matters little. There is no one so stupid but that he can see that the whole course of human history has been a reign of Sin and Death.
WHY GOD PERMITTED SIN AND DEATH
The Bible tells us that God has permitted this condition to continue for the past six thousand years as a great lesson on the exceeding sinfulness of sin and on the utter hopelessness of any other help than that which He Himself has provided. For six great Days of a thousand years each—from Adam’s time until now—Sin and Death have reigned over the race. These are man’s Work-Week, in which he has been permitted to try everything he could imagine for his own relief from sin and its penalty—death.—
And now, after the Week has drawn to a close, what do we find? Mankind are still dying—mentally, morally, physically. So far from gaining life for our race, all our efforts through doctors, scientists, etc., have accomplished practically nothing. Yea, our most learned physicians and specialists tell us that the world is on the verge of a collapse. They say that at the present rate of increase there would not be, in a hundred and sixty years from now, enough sane people in the world to care for the insane. They tell us that various diseases are increasing so rapidly as to endanger the existence of the race in a very short time; and this in face of the fact that sanitary conditions are made a necessity, even to the extent of providing individual drinking cups.
Our only hope is in God; and He has arranged that His blessing shall come through Messiah’s Kingdom when
our race shall have reached its limit. Man’s extremity will be God’s opportunity. In the great Seventh Day of man’s Work-Week, the antitypical Sabbath, Messiah will, in association with His Church of this Gospel Age, set up the Divine Kingdom amongst men—a spiritual Kingdom, not an earthly one, ruling, blessing and uplifting mankind. For a thousand years this work of uplift will progress, until all the willing and obedient will have attained again the lost likeness of their Creator and all the unwilling and disobedient will have been cut off from life in the Second Death.
"THE TIMES OF THE GENTILES"
Another great lesson which God has been teaching mankind during the reign of Sin and Death is the fact that they are incapable of establishing such a government as is necessary for real blessing and uplift of the race. For a time He appointed the nation of Israel to be His typical kingdom, selecting King David and his posterity to constitute the royal family. The last king of David’s line was Zedekiah, of whom we read: "And thou, profane wicked prince of Israel, whose time has come that iniquity shall have an end. Thus saith the Lord God, Remove the diadem, take off the crown; I will overturn, overturn, overturn it until He comes whose right it is; and I will give it unto Him." (
.) The One whose right it is, is Messiah—Jesus the Head, and the Church His Body—on the spirit plane.
Certain Scriptures indicate that the time during which God’s Kingdom would be removed would be seven prophetic Times, each of which is 360 years in length. Seven Times would therefore equal 2,520 years. That period, reckoned from the time of King Zedekiah’s overthrow, ends with this year; for, according to the Scriptures the crown was taken away from King Zedekiah in 606 B.C.
If so, with the close of the present year, Messiah should take to Himself His great power and begin the long-promised Millennial Reign of Glory, the opening or beginning
of which, according to the Bible, will be a very dark hour—"a Time of Trouble such as was not since there was a nation," "nor ever shall be"—the like again.
When God took away His typical kingdom, 606 B.C., He gave the Gentiles authority or permission to do their best to rule and govern the world and to bring in righteousness.
That we might know all this, He gave a dream to Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, and sent the interpretation of the dream through Daniel, the Prophet. The dream showed a great image, whose head was of gold, representing Babylon; the breast and arms of silver, representing the succeeding government of Medo-Persia; the belly of brass, representing the Grecian Empire, which succeeded the Medes and Persians; and its legs of iron represented Rome, the government of the Caesars.
Each of these governments has had universal sway, each has shown the best it was able to do for humanity, and each has failed.—
The feet of the image were of iron, showing that they represented part of the Roman Empire; but they were smeared with clay and thus made to represent stone feet.
These feet represented the Holy Roman Empire, whose divisions, or toes, are now at war with each other. The dream and its interpretation showed that the stone which struck the image in the feet, ground them to powder and utterly destroyed the entire image, represented God’s Kingdom. According to the prophecy, this Kingdom will ultimately fill the whole earth.
The clay smeared on the feet, making them look like the stone, represents the fact that the present Roman governments of Europe claim to be Christ’s Kingdom.
On their coins, and otherwise, they claim to be representatives of God. They have deceived themselves into thinking of themselves as Christendom, which signifies Christ’s Kingdom. In reality, however, they are Gentile kingdoms, the last representatives of Gentile power—the feet and the toes of the image which Nebuchadnezzar saw.
These powers are what the Bible calls "the kingdoms of this world." But they are part of the Gentile power which has been permitted to rule the world up to the time when God will be ready to set up His Kingdom, which was also represented in Nebuchadnezzar’s dream—the stone cut out without hands. The Word of God transforming the hearts of His people will gradually make them His Kingdom, and in the spiritual Kingdom these will be Messiah’s joint-heirs. When the image of Gentile supremacy falls, these will be put into power and place.
Then all will have opportunity to return to Divine favor.
THE JUDGMENT OF THE NATIONS
We have read in history, and daily we are reading in the newspapers, how these nations are attempting to blow one another off the sea and the land. "The nations were angry," says the Revelator. There is no nation so small but that it desires to go to war. As the Prophet Joel says to the nations, "Come up to the Valley of Jehoshaphat."
Outside of the walls of Jerusalem is the cemetery of Jehoshaphat, known as the Valley of Graves. In figurative language the Prophet is saying to the nations, "Come up to the Valley of Graves!" And this is just where they are going.
When we think of the appalling loss of life amongst these angry nations, it is grand to know that all these bitter experiences are not lost, and that the poor creatures who have suffered are not, when they die, hurled into eternal torment—that these poor creatures, not knowing what the war really is about, but demonstrating to the best of their ability their patriotism, are not thrown to the Devil to be forever roasted. Ah, no! According to the Scriptures, they are falling asleep in death. Their sorrows and woes are all over for the present. They will know nothing more until He who has redeemed them will call them forth from the dominion of Death.
The present war will weaken the nations, not only of their life-blood, but also of their wealth; and it will demonstrate
the inefficiency of all Gentile kingdoms to bring to the world peace, righteousness, satisfactory government.
But Messiah’s Kingdom, which will then be inaugurated, will be "the desire of all nations." This war and the anarchy of Armageddon, which will follow it, will prove conclusively the great need of Divine interposition in human affairs.—
Doubtless earth’s great rulers have done the best they knew how to do for their peoples. Some of our very best laws came from Julius Caesar, in combination with the Mosaic code. Some of the world’s rulers today are also doing their best; but they are confused. Having a false idea of what constitutes Christ’s Kingdom, they seem to think it their mission to conquer the world. They also believe that they foresee a general uprising of Socialism, and their hearts are failing them, fearing the things coming upon the earth.
While they knew that this would be the worst war ever known, yet they preferred it to that which they were striving to ward off and which they have succeeded in keeping off for the present. But they have lost their best blood, their best energy, their money, commerce, etc.; and when the war is ended, these nations, sorrowful and famine-stricken, will be greatly angered at their rulers.
Then will come the determination for something like Socialism. This the governments will endeavor to put down, and to some extent they will succeed. Then will come the great explosion—the Armageddon of the Scriptures.
Then will be the Time of Trouble, immediately preceding the Messianic Kingdom.
Let all the Gentile kingdoms be Subjected, mighty Lord, to Thee!
And over land and stream and main, Now wave the sceptre of Thy reign.