When I was a kid, you never knew when the Russians were going to launch an air strike, maybe with nukes. So several times a semester grownups made us do air raid drills. We'd crouch under our desks with hands clasped behind our necks, a safeguard against flying glass. I envisioned sinister glass flying about at will, as if with wings, searching for young children to harm. In later years, when we were too big to fit under the desks, we'd file into the hallways and lean against our lockers.
Nuclear attack was a very real fear in the years following World War II. Nor was it only the United States who had to be wary of the Russians. Intoxicated with the decisive end to that great war brought by Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, General McArthur thought it well to pepper the Soviet Union with 50 of the new bombs - a pre-emptive strike that would have made Iraq look like a schoolyard brawl. President Truman, though, wouldnât let him.
During the 1960s, with both superpowers pointing God knows how many missiles at each other, nuclear annihilation - not just attack - fired the popular imagination. Remember how Ray Bradbury's character in the Martian Chronicles trains his telescope on earth just in time to see it's final mushroom cloud? And who can forget Charlton Heston in Planet of the Apes, encountering the half-buried Statue of Liberty and suddenly realizing just what planet he was on? ("They blew it up! Damn them! Damn them to hell!!") Not to mention the Twilight Zone in which that fellow goes into the bank vault to read, only to have the world end while he is so occupied. Far from being put out, he is delighted, since he can now read free from the eternal nagging of his boss and wife. Unfortunately, he breaks his glasses.
So when I became one of Jehovah's Witnesses in the 1970s and came across that scripture telling how God would "bring to ruin those ruining the earth," (Rev 11:18) I read it in terms of nuclear ruining. It was really the only means of ruining the earth that anyone could envision back then. Sure, they closed polluted Durand Beach in the early 60s, which only recently reopened, but nobody saw such things as a threat to the entire earth. These days an endless list leaps to mind, most some variant of man-made pollution. Taking first place has to be global warming, but through the years we've also learned to fret about global dimming, species destruction, air and water pollution, acid rain, deforestation, contamination of the food supply, and so forth. Wasn't there just some study detailing how pharmaceuticals have found their way into the water supply? In minute concentrations, of course, yet over time, and given the fact that such chemicals are designed to interact with living tissue, isn't it another "ruining the earth" scenario?
So there are several new avenues through which humans threaten to ruin the earth, and would surely do so, without the intervention of God's Kingdom. Not to mention that the first, the nuclear threat, has hardly gone away. Some think that threat greater than ever since there are more nuclear powers than before, and they are nuttier and more unstable.
The Bible uses the term "earth" in yet another way. It doesn't always refer to the physical planet. It can refer to the society living upon it. If we broaden our definition of earth in this way, we, as a consequence, add new social ways in which humans ruin the earth. In fact, when God gave his reason for bringing a flood in Noah's time, he declared that the earth was ruined, not by air pollution or global warming, but by human violence.
And the earth came to be ruined in the sight of the [true] God and the earth became filled with violence. So God saw the earth and, look! it was ruined, because all flesh had ruined its way on the earth. Gen 6:11-12
Surely violence "ruins" the earth today. Imagine hatred so intense that people delight to die if only they can take a dozen or so with them! Violence considered unspeakable even in the 70s, enhanced with torture, becomes more and more routine. Television positively wallows in it. Even Moristotle, a gentle soul who will nonetheless disagree with most aspects of this post, will not disagree on the mushrooming of violence. Deep in the comment section of this recent posthe refers to UNC-Chapel Hill (his employer, I think) Student Body President Eve Carson, whose "ATM card and car--and life--were stolen a couple of weeks ago by two young thugs." The reference has absolutely nothing to do with the rest of his comment, but is typical of how we respond to random violence....it crowds out everything else....we just half to highlight it. For this young woman, and loved ones, and the entire campus in proportion to how well they knew here, violence has "ruined the earth."
And can you not add economic concerns to matters that are ruining the earth? Costs of fuel and food have risen dramatically in recent months, incomes have not, and plenty of folk were stretched tight to begin with.
Of course, such things aren't really unexpected and are just partof the accumulating "sign" that human rulership is unfit and that God is fully justified in bringing its end, to be replaced with his own Kingdom rule. Only then will the earth really be free of injustices.
All the same, trialsome conditions are trialsome conditions. Jehovah's people may see light at the end of the tunnel, but it's a tunnel nonetheless. Sometimes people give up on the light and instead focus on the tunnel - some worrying about it, some trying to patch it up, some exploring it. It's easy to do. If Paul could speak of those who had experienced "shipwreck concerning their faith" (1 Tim 1:19) in his day, much more do his words apply in our day as the whole earth wobbles insanely and we all feel its effects. Doubtless that is why Jehovah's organization lays so much stress on "staples" such as meetings, service, prayer, and Bible study. These are the avenues...really, the only avenues...through which Christians can focus on the big picture of God's deliverance.
"A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. Some fell on rock, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown."
When he said this, he called out, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."
His disciples asked him what this parable meant. He said, "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that,
" 'though seeing, they may not see;
though hearing, they may not understand.' [Isa 6:9]
"This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life's worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.
Luke 8:5-15 NIV