How many years begin with lofty hopes for world peace, prosperity and cooperation among nations? Yet it was historians Will and Ariel Durant who famously pointed out that in 3,400 years of recorded human history, only 268 found the civilized world entirely without conflicts between nations, kingdoms and governments. For 92 percent of human history, some part of the world has been at war. In the 20th century alone, more than 100 million people died as a direct result of war, and estimates of war deaths throughout human history rise as high as 1 billion.
Clearly, human beings have been unable to find the way to lasting peace. Will 2016 bring any unprecedented breakthrough? What do you think? Looking back for a moment, let us consider: how did human society fare in 2015? It was a year of escalating conflict and terrorism. The tragic and horrific terrorist attacks in Paris that have galvanized Europeans to greater military, security and defense awareness will—as many long-time readers of this magazine recognize—play a part in the eventual rise of a unified and powerful European super-state, a final revival of the old "Holy Roman Empire."
That state will believe itself so powerful that it will even promote a false religion that calls itself a form of "Christianity." Yet that false religion will in fact not only oppose the actual teachings of Jesus Christ; it will support the world's armies rising up in rebellion against Christ when He returns to planet Earth to establish the Kingdom of God, putting an end to 6,000 years of humanity's attempts at ruling itself.
Yes, Jesus Christ needs to return to become the King of planet Earth! One little-recognized truth found in your Bible is that mankind, today, is living under the rule of the "god of this age"—Satan the devil (2 Corinthians 4:4). Yet there is a better way. God is calling a very few in this present age to a life of overcoming—of experiencing right now a foretaste of the peace and fulfillment that the whole world will know in the soon-coming Millennium.
Today's genuine Christians look to this hope, even in times of trouble, as they strive to persevere (Matthew 24:14). They know that, as they persevere, they will be coming ever closer to the day when all the earth will know the Way and will submit to the loving government of their benevolent King, Jesus Christ.
Yet this Way is unknown to the vast majority of people today, who seem to have almost unbounded creativity to accomplish anything they seek to do—except to obey God.
Millions each year begin their January by making "New Year's resolutions." Leaving aside the plain truth that God's year begins in the spring, not in the middle of winter (this year, the biblical New Year's Day, Nisan 1, actually begins at sunset on April 8), we know this is a time when many resolve to do better. That is something worth doing at any time of the year.
Yet, with every new year, we quickly see that even the simplest "New Year's resolutions" fall by the wayside. Health clubs enroll thousands of new members each January, but how many of those new subscriptions are still being used in March? How many millions of new diets begin each January? How many well-intentioned plans are made, only to come crashing down on the shores of reality?
When human beings often cannot even govern themselves individually, is it any surprise that when they come together as states and nations the problems of government remain? For several thousand years, mankind has failed again and again in its efforts to experiment with new forms of government, new social structures—and, recently, even new definitions of "family" and "marriage." Read the stirring page 5 article, "Play God or Obey God?" by our Editor in Chief, Dr. Roderick C. Meredith. Rebellious human beings almost seem to take it for granted that if the God of the Bible commanded it, they want no part of it! Long-time readers of this magazine know that God has a plan for human beings—they are put here on planet Earth to develop within themselves the holy and righteous character of God Himself. What they cannot do by their own efforts becomes possible through the indwelling of the very power of God, the Holy Spirit.
Please do not misunderstand. Christians do not become perfect overnight. God does not build His righteous character within us by "fiat"—unilaterally, without our cooperation. Rather, as we learn to yield our will to His, and to practice righteousness rather than sin, Christians have more of the "mind of God" and learn to think and act as their Savior would in any given situation (Philippians 2:5).
What is the destiny of those who learn to live God's way? As you will see in my article on page 10 of this issue, "The New Jerusalem," a time is coming when today's Christians will rule under Jesus Christ in the prophesied "Millennium"—a time when the whole world will learn the ways of God. At the end of that time, after the Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20) has passed, a New Jerusalem—the very abode of God the Father—will come to the restored planet Earth. Yes, "Heaven" will come to the earth!
Until then, what can Christians do to prepare? We know that our world is fraught with dangers. Some of you reading this magazine may have been alive before the widespread use of penicillin to treat bacterial infections in the early 1940s. You remember what a wonderful breakthrough it seemed to be, that suddenly there was a simple way for most people to overcome infections that previously would have meant certain death. Sadly, as with so many wonderful new developments, mankind has blundered. Because of over-prescription and careless use of antibiotics, new types of drug-resistant bacteria are becoming more and more commonplace. Read more about this in Mr. John Meakin's powerful article, "Superbugs!," on page 18 of this issue.
Your Bible warns that a time is coming, right at the end of this age, when disease epidemics will ravage our planet. Today, many take comfort in the idea that they can take a pill and make an infection go away. Yet a time is coming—sooner than some realize—when the only sure source of healing will come not from medicine, but from God Himself. Some today forget that when Jesus Christ sent His disciples out to preach, He sent them "to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick" (Luke 9:2).
A time is coming when only those who know and serve the God of the Bible will be able to withstand the terrible diseases unleashed upon mankind. So be sure to stay close to God. Read your Bible every day. Pray to your Creator several times a day. It is even helpful to get down on your knees to pray at least once a day, if not more, though I know some of us with "old bones" may not be able to do so very easily, if at all. But the main thing is to call out to God, then listen for His answer. And you know His answer can be found in the pages of your Bible, which reveals His way to His servants: true Christians.
May God bless all of you readers as you turn to Him with even greater fervency, going against the tide of so many in our world who think they can get along without Him. Do your part to build God's holy and righteous character with His guidance. Persevere in your faithful service and obedience to your Creator. And be sure to seek first the Kingdom of God, and God's righteousness, in all you do (Matthew 6:33)!