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BILLIONS of people have read or heard what the Bible says about the beginning of the universe. The 3,500-year-old account starts with the well-known statement: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

Many people, however, are unaware of the fact that Christendom’s leaders, including so-called creationists and fundamentalists, have spun the Bible account of creation into numerous tales that deviate from what the Bible really says. These interpretations fly in the face of scientific fact. Even though those tales are not found in the Bible, they have caused some people to dismiss the Bible account as mythical allegory.

The real Bible story of creation has gone largely unnoticed. This is a shame, for the Bible actually presents a very logical and credible explanation of the beginning of the universe. What is more, that explanation harmonizes with scientific discovery. Yes, you might be pleasantly surprised by the Bible’s untold story of creation!

THE UNCREATED CREATOR

Infinity

The Bible account of creation hinges on the fact that there is a Supreme Being, Almighty God, who created all things. Who is he, and what is his nature? The Bible reveals that he is quite different from the deities found in popular culture and mainstream religion. He is the Creator of all things, but most people know very little about him.

  • God is a person, an individual. He is not a vague force devoid of personality, floating aimlessly throughout the universe. He has thoughts, feelings, and goals.

  • God has infinite power and wisdom. This explains the complex design found everywhere in creation, especially in living things.

  • God created all physical matter. Hence, he cannot be made of physical elements that he himself has created. Rather, he is of a spiritual, or nonphysical, nature.

  • God’s existence is not limited by time. He has always existed and will always exist. Hence, no one created him.

  • God has a personal name, which is used thousands of times in the Bible. That name is Jehovah.

  • Jehovah God loves and cares for humans.

 HOW LONG DID GOD TAKE TO CREATE THE UNIVERSE?

Face of a clock

The Bible states that God created “the heavens and the earth.” This broad statement, however, makes no reference to the length of time involved in creating the universe or to the methods he used to shape it. What about the widespread creationist belief that God created the universe in six literal 24-hour days? This concept, widely rejected by scientists, is based on a gross misunderstanding of the Bible account. Consider what the Bible really says.

The Bible does not support fundamentalists and creationists who claim that the creative days were literal 24-hour days

  • The Bible does not support fundamentalists and creationists who claim that the creative days were literal 24-hour days.

  • The Bible frequently uses the term “day” to designate various periods of time. In some cases these periods are of an unspecified length. The account of creation found in the Bible book of Genesis is one example of this.

  • In the Bible account, each of the six creative days could have lasted for thousands of years.

  • God had already created the universe, including a lifeless planet Earth, by the time the first creative day began.

  • Evidently the six creative days were long periods during which Jehovah God prepared the earth for human habitation.

  • The Bible account of creation does not conflict with scientific conclusions about the age of the universe.

DID GOD USE EVOLUTION?

Theoretical process of evolution

Many who do not believe in the Bible embrace the theory that living things emerged from lifeless chemicals through unknown and mindless processes. Supposedly, at some point a bacteria-like, self-replicating organism arose, gradually branching out into all the species that exist today. This would imply that ultimately the mind-bogglingly complex human actually evolved from bacteria.

The theory of evolution is also embraced by many who claim to accept the Bible as the word of God. They believe that God produced the first burst of life on earth but then simply monitored, and perhaps steered, the process of evolution. That, however, is not what the Bible says.

The Bible account of creation does not conflict with the scientific observation that variations occur within a kind

  • According to the Bible, Jehovah God created all the basic kinds of plant and animal life, as well as a perfect man and woman who were capable of self-awareness, love, wisdom, and justice.

  • The kinds of animals and plants created by God have obviously undergone changes and have produced variations within the kinds. In many cases, the resulting life-forms are remarkably different from one another.

  • The Bible account of creation does not conflict with the scientific observation that variations occur within a kind.

 A CREATOR PERCEIVED IN CREATION

In the mid-1800’s, British biologist Alfred Russel Wallace agreed with Charles Darwin on the theory of evolution by natural selection. But even this renowned evolutionist is said to have stated: “For those who have eyes to see and minds accustomed to reflect, in the minutest cells, in the blood, in the whole earth, and throughout the stellar universe . . . , there is intelligent and conscious direction; in a word, there is Mind.”

Almost two thousand years before Wallace, the Bible had already observed: “For [God’s] invisible qualities are clearly seen from the world’s creation onward, because they are perceived by the things made, even his eternal power and Godship.” (Romans 1:20) From time to time, you might want to take a moment to reflect on the marvelous complexities found in nature—from a single blade of grass to the countless heavenly bodies. By examining creation you can perceive the Creator.

‘But if there is a loving God who created all things,’ you may ask, ‘why would he permit suffering? Has he abandoned his earthly creation? What does the future hold?’ The Bible contains many other untold stories—truths that have been buried under human ideas and religious agendas and, therefore, hidden from most people. The publishers of this magazine, Jehovah’s Witnesses, would be happy to help you examine unadulterated Bible truth and learn more about the Creator and the future of his human creation.

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We all think about the future. We wonder what life will be like for ourselves and our loved ones. We ask such questions as these: ‘Will my children live in a better world? Will the earth be destroyed in a disaster? Is there something I can change now to make my future better?’ This curiosity is part of who we are; we naturally yearn for reassurance, certainty, order, and stability. If you could be more certain about the future, you could prepare for it, both physically and emotionally.

So, what is in your future? Can anyone know? Professionals who try to predict the future have met with some successes but also many failures. Yet, it is said that God can accurately foretell upcoming events. His Word says: “From the beginning I foretell the outcome, and from long ago the things that have not yet been done.” (Isaiah 46:10) How successful has he been?

GOD’S SUCCESS RATE

Why should you be interested in the success rate of God’s ancient prophecies? Well, if you found a weather forecaster to be accurate every day for a long time, you would be impressed. Likely you would pay attention to what he said about the weather tomorrow. In a similar way, if you were to learn that God has foretold events with a perfect rate of success, you would surely be interested in what he foretells about your future.

A rebuilt wall in Nineveh, a city formerly desolated
A rebuilt wall in the ruins of ancient Nineveh 

THE DESTRUCTION OF A GREAT CITY:

For example, it would really be a remarkable feat to predict accurately that a great city, powerful for many centuries, would soon collapse. Through one of his spokesmen, God foretold just such a thing—the desolation of Nineveh. (Zephaniah 2:13-15) What have secular historians recorded? In the  seventh century B.C.E., evidently some 15 years after God made his prediction, the Babylonians and the Medes attacked and overthrew Nineveh. Additionally, God specified in advance that Nineveh would be made “desolate, as dry as a desert.” Did this advance notice prove to be accurate? Yes. Although the city and its suburbs may have covered some 200 square miles (518 sq km), the conquerors did not preserve and make use of the city, as might be expected. Instead, they destroyed it. Could any political analyst have predicted those events with such accuracy?

HUMAN BONES WILL BURN:

Who would be so daring as to announce—300 years in advance—the exact name and specific ancestry of a man who would burn human bones on an altar, as well as the name of the town where the altar would be located? If such an unusual prediction came true, it would surely make the forecaster famous. God’s spokesman announced: “A son named Josiah will be born to the house of David . . . , and he will burn human bones” on an altar in the town of Bethel. (1 Kings 13:1, 2) About three centuries later, a king named Josiah—not a common Biblical name—came from the family lineage of David. Exactly as foretold, Josiah had “bones taken from the graves and burned them on the altar” located in Bethel. (2 Kings 23:14-16) How could anyone foretell such specific details unless guided by a superhuman source?

Cyrus’ army entering Babylon through open gates as the prophet Isaiah foretold
Bible prophets foretold the fall of Babylon with amazing accuracy 

THE END OF AN EMPIRE:

It would be amazing if a person could successfully predict the name of a man—long before his birth—who would organize the overthrow of a major world power, even indicating the unusual strategy that he would employ. God announced that a man named Cyrus would launch the conquest of a nation. This Cyrus would also free Jewish captives and support the reconstruction of their holy temple. Additionally, God foretold that Cyrus’ battle strategy would include the drying up of rivers and indicated that gates would be left open, facilitating the  conquest. (Isaiah 44:27–45:2) Were the many details of God’s prophecy fulfilled accurately? Historians agree that this conquest by Cyrus actually occurred. Cyrus’ army employed the tremendous engineering feat of diverting one of Babylon’s waterways—in effect, drying up rivers. What is more, the army entered the city through gates that had been left open. Cyrus thereafter freed the Jewish people and declared that they could rebuild their temple in Jerusalem. That was unusual, for Cyrus did not worship the God of the Jews. (Ezra 1:1-3) Who but God could have predicted the details of those historical events?

We have mentioned three examples showing how God successfully foretold future events. These are not isolated incidents. The Jewish leader Joshua stated a fact that was well-known to his large audience: “You well know with all your heart and with all your soul that not one word out of all the good promises that Jehovah your God has spoken to you has failed. They have all come true for you. Not one word of them has failed.” (Joshua 23:1, 2, 14) Joshua’s people could not deny the success rate of God’s promises and prophecies. But how does God do it? There are major differences between God’s ways and man’s. This is important for you to know, for God has made some epic announcements about the near future that will definitely affect you.

GOD’S PROPHECIES VERSUS HUMAN PREDICTIONS

Human predictions are often based on such factors as scientific research, analysis of available facts and trends, or even bogus spiritual insight. After making their forecasts, humans typically sit back passively and wait to see what will happen.—Proverbs 27:1.

In contrast to humans, God knows all the facts. He thoroughly understands the nature and inclination of humans; therefore, when he chooses to do so, God can foresee exactly how individuals and entire nations will act. But God can do more than that. He can even control and change factors and trends to ensure the outcome. He says: “My word that goes out of my mouth . . . will not return to me without results, . . . and it will have sure success.” (Isaiah 55:11) In a way, then, some of God’s predictions are more like announcements or declarations. He actively guarantees a perfect record of success.

YOUR FUTURE

Is there a reliable forecast involving your future and that of your loved ones? If you have advance knowledge of an approaching hurricane, you can take lifesaving action. You can respond similarly to Bible prophecy. God has announced that huge worldwide changes will come soon. (See the box “ What God Has Revealed About the Future.”) This future is quite different from what many so-called experts forecast.

You might think of it this way: The story of this world has an overall plot. It has already been written, and you can preview the finale. God declares: “From the beginning I foretell the outcome, . . . I say, ‘My decision will stand, and I will do whatever I please.’” (Isaiah 46:10) You and your family can have a wonderful future. Ask Jehovah’s Witnesses about what the Bible says regarding upcoming events. The Witnesses are not psychics; nor do they claim to hear spirit voices or to have any special powers of prediction. They are students of the Bible who can show you the good things that God is actively arranging for your future.


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“Does religion unite or divide us?” That question was posed to the readers ofThe Sydney Morning Herald. Of those who responded, the vast majority—some 89 percent—felt that religion divides us.

SUPPORTERS of interfaith, however, view the matter quite differently. “Show me a religion that doesn’t care about compassion . . . , that doesn’t care about stewardship of the environment . . . , that doesn’t care about hospitality,” asked Eboo Patel, founder of the Interfaith Youth Core.

Indeed, Buddhists, Catholics, Protestants, Hindus, Muslims, and many others have on occasion joined forces to fight poverty, campaign for human rights, work to ban land mines, or draw attention to environmental issues. Multi-faith dialogue circles have participated in efforts to seek mutual understanding and inspiration. They celebrate their diversity with candle-lighting ceremonies, festivals, music, prayers, and so on.

Is the mingling of religions the way to heal the conflict among faiths? Is interfaith God’s way of bringing about a better world?

UNITY—AT WHAT PRICE?

One of the largest of the interfaith organizations boasts that it has members representing over 200 different faiths and that it is active in 76 countries. Its declared objective is “to promote enduring, daily interfaith cooperation.” That, however, has proved to be easier said than done. For example, according to the organizers, their charter had to be carefully worded so as not to offend the many faiths and indigenous groups that signed the document. Why? One factor was that there was disagreement on whether God should be included in the charter. Subsequently, any reference to or mention of God was avoided.

If God is left out of the picture, what role does faith play? Furthermore, how does such an interfaith movement differ from any secular charitable or philanthropic organization? For good reason, the aforementioned interfaith body describes itself, not as a religious entity, but as “a bridge-building organization.”

IS PROMOTING GOOD—GOOD ENOUGH?

“All major religious traditions carry basically the same message: that is love, compassion and forgiveness,” says the Dalai Lama, a prominent interfaith proponent. He adds: “The important thing is that they should be part of our daily lives.”

Granted, the value of such virtues as love, compassion, and forgiveness cannot be overemphasized.  In what has been called the Golden Rule, Jesus said: “All things, therefore, that you want men to do to you, you also must do to them.” (Matthew 7:12) But is true faith just a matter of promoting what is good?

About many who claimed to serve God in his day, the apostle Paul said: “I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to accurate knowledge.” What was the problem? “Because of not knowing the righteousness of God,” Paul said, they were “seeking to establish their own.” (Romans 10:2, 3) Lacking accurate knowledge of what God wanted them to do, their zeal—and faith—were really in vain.—Matthew 7:21-23.

THE BIBLE’S VIEW OF INTERFAITH

“Happy are the peacemakers,” Jesus said. (Matthew 5:9) Jesus practiced what he preached by promoting nonviolence and taking a message of peace to people of diverse religious backgrounds. (Matthew 26:52) Those who responded were drawn into an unbreakable bond of love. (Colossians 3:14) But was Jesus’ objective merely to build bridges among people of various backgrounds so that they could get along in peace? Did he join with others in their religious practices?

The religious leaders of the sects of the Pharisees and the Sadducees viciously opposed Jesus—even sought to kill him. How did he react? Jesus instructed his disciples: “Let them be. Blind guides is what they are.” (Matthew 15:14) Jesus refused to acknowledge spiritual brotherhood with such individuals.

Some time later, a Christian congregation was formed in Corinth, Greece—a city renowned for its pluralistic, multireligious culture. How were the Christians there to act in that environment? The apostle Paul wrote them: “Do not become unevenly yoked with unbelievers.” Why not? Paul reasoned: “What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer share in common with an unbeliever?” Then he gave this counsel: “Therefore, get out from among them, and separate yourselves.”—2 Corinthians 6:14, 15, 17.

Clearly, the Bible speaks against the practice of interfaith. But you might wonder, ‘How, then, can true unity be achieved?’

BUILDING TRUE UNITY

The International Space Station—a technological wonder orbiting the earth—is the result of the united efforts of some 15 nations. Could you imagine this project being accomplished if the participating nations did not agree on what blueprint to use?

That, essentially, is the situation with the modern-day interfaith movement. Although cooperation and respect are touted, there is no agreed-upon blueprint for building faith. As a result, moral and doctrinal issues remain as divisive as ever.

The Bible contains God’s standards, which are like a blueprint. We can build our lives on what the Bible says. Those who have embraced it have overcome racial and religious prejudices and have learned to work together in peace and unity. Foretelling this, God said: “I will change the language of the peoples to a pure language, so that all of them may call on the name of Jehovah, to serve him shoulder to shoulder.” Unity results from the “pure language,” God’s standard of worship.—Zephaniah 3:9; Isaiah 2:2-4.

Jehovah’s Witnesses cordially invite you to visit a Kingdom Hall near you to see for yourself the remarkable peace and unity that exist among them.—Psalm 133:1.


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INTERVIEW | HANS KRISTIAN KOTLAR

A Biotechnologist Explains His Faith

 

Dr. Hans Kristian Kotlar

In 1978, Dr. Hans Kristian Kotlar’s first job in scientific research was at the Norwegian Radium Hospital, where he studied cancer and the human immune system. At that time, he also became interested in the origin of life. Awake!asked him about his research and his religious faith.

What stirred your interest in the origin and meaning of life?

My father was Catholic and my mother was Protestant. That said, they did not view religion as important. As for me, during my teens, I wondered about the meaning of life, and I read books about Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam. I even asked God to reveal the truth to me.

By the 1970’s, the field of molecular biology had made some amazing advances, and I wondered if it might reveal how life began. The mechanisms within living cells intrigued me, so I chose to study biotechnology. I might add that most of my professors said that life evolved by natural processes, and I believed them.

Why did you take an interest in the Bible?

Two of Jehovah’s Witnesses visited our home. Although they were pleasant, I reacted rudely and told them I was not interested. My wife overheard me. “That was not kind, Hans Kristian,” she said. “You have always been interested in the meaning of life.” She was right, and I felt ashamed. So I ran after the Witnesses. During our conversation, I told them that I wanted to know if the Bible is in harmony with science.

How did they respond to that?

They showed me what the Bible says about the Source of the energy manifest in the universe. The scripture they read states: “Lift up your eyes to heaven and see. Who has created these things? . . . Because of his vast dynamic energy and his awe-inspiring power, not one of them is missing.” * This statement  intrigued me. It also seemed reasonable that only an intelligent Source of energy could account for the order in the universe.

Did your view of evolution change?

I gradually realized that the various theories of evolution lacked rigorous scientific proof. In fact, they are basically stories invented to explain how the remarkable designs found within living things, such as the immune system, could originate in a mindless manner. The more I studied the immune system, the more I realized just how complex and effective it is. Thus, my research led me to conclude that life is a product of an intelligent Creator.

My research led me to conclude that life is a product of an intelligent Creator

Can you give us some evidence of design?

The immune system is actually an astonishing array of structures and mechanisms designed to defend us from a wide variety of agents, including bacteria and viruses. The mechanisms, in turn, can be grouped into two complementary systems. The first mobilizes an attack on invading microbes within hours. The second takes several days to respond but targets the invaders like a well-aimed arrow. This second system also has a good memory, so that if a specific invader returns years later, this enemy will be met with a rapid response. The whole system works so well that often you do not even realize that you have been infected and effectively defended. Also amazing is the way the immune system distinguishes between foreign substances and the hundreds of cell types that make up our body.

Tell us, what happens when a microbe enters our body?

Microbes sneak in through our breath, our food, our urogenital tract, or breaks in our skin. When the immune system detects intruders, it sets in motion a cascade of reactions involving dozens of precisely designed proteins. Each component in this cascade activates the next to amplify the counterattack. The process is mind-boggling!

Could we say, then, that your knowledge of science has strengthened your faith in God?

Absolutely! The power and sophistication of our immune system points to a wise and loving Creator. I might add that science has also strengthened my faith in the Bible. For example,Proverbs 17:22 tells us that “a joyful heart is good medicine.” Researchers have discovered that our state of mind can influence our immune system. Stress, for instance, can weaken our immune response.

Many of your peers don’t believe in God. Why is that?

The reasons vary. Some, as was true of me, simply accept what they were taught. Perhaps they assume that evolution is backed up by good science. Others give little thought to how life began. That’s a pity. I think they should ask more questions.

Why did you become one of Jehovah Witnesses?

I was attracted by their hospitality and their faith in the Creator’s promise of a better future. *And that faith rests on research and sound reasoning, not myths or speculation.

 

 

 


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THE BIBLE CHANGES LIVES

The Promise of a Paradise Earth Changed My Life!

As told by Ivars Vigulis

  • YEAR BORN: 1974
  • COUNTRY OF ORIGIN: LATVIA
  • HISTORY: RISK-TAKING MOTORBIKE RACER
Ivars Vigulis as a motorcycle racer

MY PAST:

I was born in Riga, the capital of Latvia. My sister and I were raised by our mother. Although Mother is a Catholic, we only went to church on the religious holidays. I have always believed in a higher power, but as a youth, I was distracted by many other interests.

As I grew up, my mother noticed that I had a flair for taking things apart and putting them back together again. With so many things in the house that could be taken apart, she was always worried about leaving me home alone. So she gave me a metal construction kit, which I loved to put together and then tear apart. That interest went hand in hand with another passion of mine—motorbiking. My mother enrolled me in a motorbike race called Zelta Mopēds (The Golden Moped). I started racing with mopeds and, later, with motorcycles.

I was a quick learner and soon became very successful in this fast and dangerous sport. Three times I won the Latvian championship for several motorcycle-racing classes, and twice I won the Baltic States Championship.

HOW THE BIBLE CHANGED MY LIFE:

At the peak of my career, my girlfriend Evija (who later became my wife) came in contact with Jehovah’s Witnesses. She had found some of their literature, which contained a coupon for requesting a Bible study. She filled out the coupon and mailed it in. Soon, two Witnesses visited her, and she began to study the Bible with them. That was fine with me, but at the time, I didn’t have any great interest in spiritual things.

Later on, the Witnesses invited me to sit in on Evija’s Bible study and listen. I accepted the offer, and I liked what I heard. One thing that especially touched my heart was the Bible’s promise of a paradise earth. For example, I  was shown the passage at Psalm 37:10, 11, which says: “Just a little while longer, and the wicked will be no more; you will look at where they were, and they will not be there. But the meek will possess the earth, and they will find exquisite delight in the abundance of peace.” That promise really appealed to me.

My spiritual interest continued to grow. I began to realize how many religious lies there are. In contrast, Bible teachings struck me as being refreshingly logical and clear.

As I continued to study the Bible, I learned how highly Jehovah values life and how precious it is to him. (Psalm 36:9) That had an impact on my racing—I no longer wanted to risk my life. Instead, I wanted to use my life to give glory to Jehovah. Therefore, the fame, the glory, and the thrill of motorcycle racing were no longer important to me.

I came to understand that I have a responsibility to the Giver of life

In 1996, I attended an international convention of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Tallinn, Estonia, not far away from the motor stadium where I had raced often. At the convention, I saw people from many different countries meeting together in harmony and peace. For example, when one of the Witnesses lost her purse, I assumed that she would never see it again. Before long, though, a Witness found the purse and returned it with nothing missing. I was in a state of shock! I now understood that the Witnesses really live by the high standards of the Bible. Evija and I continued to progress in our studies, and in 1997 we were baptized as Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Ivars Vigulis helps repair cars at the branch office

HOW I HAVE BENEFITED:

Some of my friends have died because of their wild, fast lives on motorcycles. From studying the Bible, I came to understand that I have a responsibility to the Giver of life, Jehovah. That understanding has probably saved my life.

For four years, Evija and I had the privilege of serving as full-time ministers at the branch office of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Riga. Now we find joy in raising our daughter, Alise, and helping her grow to love Jehovah. I also have the privilege of spending a day each week at the translation office, repairing cars and other things that are broken. It makes me really happy to put the skills that I learned as a child to good use! Yes, I am still tearing things apart and then putting them back together again.

I highly value the privilege of witnessing about the only true God together with my family, all thanks to what I learned from the Bible. Indeed, the promise of a paradise earth changed my life!


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COVER SUBJECT | THE WAR THAT CHANGED THE WORLD

The True Culprit Behind War and Suffering

On November 11, 1918, World War I came to an end. Businesses shut down, and people danced in the streets. But the dancing did not last long. Another menace—even more lethal than the machine gun—followed hot on the heels of the world war.

A deadly plague known as the Spanish flu had invaded the battlefields of France in June 1918. The virus soon proved how deadly it could be. For example, within a few months, it killed more American soldiers in France than did enemy fire. And the flu quickly spread worldwide as it accompanied the troops who returned to their homelands when the war ended.

The postwar years were also marked by hunger and economic misery. Much of Europe was starving when the hostilities ended in 1918. By 1923, German currency was practically worthless. Six years later, the whole world economy collapsed. And finally, in 1939, the second world war began—in some ways a continuation of the first global conflict. What was behind this unique string of catastrophes?

THE SIGN OF THE LAST DAYS

Bible prophecy enables us to see what lies behind certain historical events, and this is especially true of World War I. Jesus Christ foretold a time when ‘nation would rise against nation’ and food shortages and pestilences would sweep through the earth. (Matthew 24:3, 7; Luke 21:10, 11) He  told his disciples that such calamities would form a sign of the last days. More details are provided in the book of Revelation, which links woes on the earth to a war in heaven.—See the box  “War on Earth and War in Heaven.”

This same Bible book describes four horsemen, sometimes called the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. Three of these horsemen depict the same disasters that Jesus had earlier foretold—war, famine, and pestilence. (See the box  “Are the Four Horsemen Really on the Move?”) Clearly, the first world war triggered a time of affliction that has not abated. And the Bible reveals that Satan was the one who, in a sense, pulled the trigger. (1 John 5:19) Will his power ever be checked?

The book of Revelation also reassures us that Satan has only “a short period of time.” (Revelation 12:12) That is why he is full of rage and instigates untold woe here on earth. By the same token, though, the troubles we see prove that Satan’s time is running out.

 BREAKING UP THE WORKS OF THE DEVIL

World War I was indeed a turning point in history. It brought about an age of total war, sparking revolutions and mistrust of human leaders. It also provides vivid proof of Satan’s ouster from heaven. (Revelation 12:9) And this unseen ruler of the world reacted like a vicious dictator who knows that his days are numbered. When those days come to an end, the time of troubles sparked by World War I will finally end.

In the light of Bible prophecy, you have reason to trust that Jesus Christ, our heavenly King, will soon “break up the works of the Devil.” (1 John 3:8) Many millions already pray for God’s Kingdom to come. Do you? Thanks to that Kingdom, faithful people will finally see God’s will—not Satan’s—being done on earth. (Matthew 6:9, 10) Under God’s Kingdom, there will never again be a world war—or any wars at all! (Psalm 46:9) Learn about that Kingdom, and live to see the time when peace will fill the earth!—Isaiah 9:6, 7.


 

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COVER SUBJECT

The War That Changed the World

A century ago, millions of young men left the security of their homes and went off to war. They went eagerly, swept along by a wave of patriotism. “I am happy and full of excitement over the wonderful days ahead,” wrote an American volunteer in 1914.

Soon, though, their enthusiasm turned to bitterness. No one foresaw the way those huge armies would get bogged down for years in the mud of Belgium and France. At the time, people termed it the “Great War.” Today, we know it as the first world war.

The first world war was decidedly great in terms of casualties. By some estimates, it left about 10 million dead and 20 million mutilated. It was also the result of great blunders. European statesmen were unable to stop international tensions from escalating into a global conflict. More important, perhaps, is the fact that the “Great War” left great scars. It changed the world in ways that still affect us today.

 MISTAKES THAT DESTROYED TRUST

The first world war broke out because of miscalculations. European leaders acted like a “generation of sleepwalkers that stumbled unawares over the ledge of doom during that halcyon summer of 1914,” explains the work The Fall of the Dynasties—The Collapse of the Old Order 1905-1922.

Within weeks, the assassination of an Austrian archduke plunged all the major European powers into a war that they did not want. “How did it all happen?” the German chancellor was asked a few days after hostilities began. “Ah, if only one knew,” he sadly replied.

The leaders who made the fateful decisions that led up to the war had no inkling of the consequences. But reality soon dawned on the soldiers in the trenches. They discovered that their statesmen had failed them, their clergy had deceived them, and their generals had betrayed them. How so?

A statesman, a clergyman, a general, and a globe

Their statesmen had failed them, their clergy had deceived them, and their generals had betrayed them

The statesmen promised that the war would open the way to a new and better world. The German chancellor proclaimed: “We are fighting for the fruits of our peaceful industry, for the inheritance of a great past, and for our future.” American President Woodrow Wilson helped to coin a reassuring popular slogan that the war would “make the world safe for democracy.” And in Britain, people thought it would be “a war to end war.” They were all mistaken.

The clergy supported the war enthusiastically. “The guardians of God’s word led the martial chorus. Total war came to mean total hatred,” states The Columbia History of the World. And clerics fanned rather than quenched the flames of hatred. “Clergymen were unable, and for the most part unwilling, to place Christian faith before nationality,” observes A History of Christianity. “Most took the easy way out and equated Christianity with patriotism. Christian soldiers of all denominations were exhorted to kill each other in the name of their Saviour.”

The generals promised a quick and easy victory, but it was not to be. Before long, the opposing armies came to a grueling stalemate. Thereafter, millions of soldiers faced what one historian described as “perhaps the cruelest large-scale ordeal that the flesh and spirit of man have endured.” Despite appalling losses, generals kept throwing their men against barricades of barbed wire and barrages of machine-gun fire. Not surprisingly, widespread mutinies broke out.

How did the first world war affect society? One historical work quotes a veteran as saying: “The war . . . scorched the minds and character of a generation.” Indeed, in the wake of that war, entire empires disappeared. That tragic conflict proved to be the prelude to the bloodiest century mankind has ever known. Revolutions and strikes came to seem almost commonplace.

Why did the war turn the world upside down? Was it really just a colossal accident? Do the answers reveal anything about our future?