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Nautical Bookends of Our Age

Sometimes the spirit of an entire age is captured in a single event. Even better, sometimes the spirit of an entire age is bookended by two separate events, one defining the “before,” the other the “after.” Whenever this happens, it is a fine thing. It saves a lot of work. You don’t have to read up on the entire age. Just get your head around the two bookend events and you’re home free. Like Morgan Freeman said to Miss Daisy, “We don’t have to worry about what’s in the middle?” No. We don’t.

We have exactly this situation today with regard to the Costa Concordia, that luxury cruise liner that capsized January [2012] off the Italian coast. It’s a nautical bookend. It’s complement, the Titanic, also capsized, almost exactly a century ago, in 1912. The age thus bookended is the “last days” that Jehovah’s Witnesses proclaim. Current view traces it to 1914, and it is near completion, since we are “right around the corner” from the end of this system of things—a most elusive corner indeed. One remembers that year was the year of World War I, and it marks the first time that the entire world went to war concurrently. It is seen as setting off with a bang the events described in Luke 21:10, events that have cascaded to our day.

 If ever there were contrasting events to illustrate the fulfillment of 2 Timothy 3:1-5, they are to be found in these behemoth boats. Those verses read: “But know this, that in the last days critical times hard to deal with will be here. For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, self-assuming, haughty, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, disloyal, having no natural affection, not open to any agreement, slanderers, without self-control, fierce, without love of goodness, betrayers, headstrong, puffed up [with pride], lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God, having a form of godly devotion but proving false to its power; and from these turn away.”

In other words, the verses point to a general deterioration of human character. People have “gotten worse” during the last days. As Pop, who is not a Witness and has little use for them, readily asserts: the world is going “to hell in a handbasket.” But this is not necessarily easy to prove to one who thinks otherwise. It is subjective. If you show the verses to someone who doesn’t agree that they apply more today than at other times, there is not much you can do about it. To some extent, it depends upon where you look. If you think in terms of technology, for instance, the notion of things worsening is patently untrue. One is reminded of that line from the 1968 book The Truth that Leads to Eternal Life: “True, there has been progress in a materialistic way. But is it really progress when men send rockets to the moon, and yet cannot live together in peace on earth?” Some people think it is.

Still, the best chance we have of illustrating 2 Timothy 3:1-5 lies in contrasting similar events occurring in different time frames—events such as ship sinkings. Consider: After the Titanic struck an iceberg back in 1912, the captain expedited rescue efforts, then went down with his ship. After the Costa Concordia struck a rock in modern 2012, the captain, seen beforehand fraternizing with women in the bar, was among the first to jump ship. Titanic’s crew, in 1912, urgently worked to shepherd passengers to lifeboats. Concordia’s crew, in 2012, told them to go back to their rooms...surely this crisis would pass. With the 1912 Titanic, it was “women and children first.” With the 2012 Concordia it was “every person for himself,” said one of the survivors.

In short, all that was noble and self-sacrificing is replaced today with all that is cowardly and self-serving. That is the relevance of 2 Timothy 3:1-5. Tell that to those fatheads who cannot see any change in people. Even the big liners themselves seem to fulfill 2 Timothy 3:1-5. Titanic, in 1912, went down majestically, gracefully, symmetrically. Concordia, in 2012, rolled over on its side like a huge fat pig and just lay there lolling in the sun, like our overstuffed cat does in hopes someone will scratch its belly. People of the last days can’t even sink a ship properly.

 

Okay, okay, so it doesn’t prove anything, comparing the two sunken ships. It is pure symbolism. I understand that. But as symbolism goes, it doesn’t get any better. I don’t issue many prophesies, being a modest guy, but I’m comfortable with this one: James Cameron will never make a film entitled Concordia. Nor will I quickly modify my answer to some smart-aleck who challenged me: “Why do you have to think that things are getting worse? What does that view do for you?”

It helps me to explain why the Doomsday Clock is set at four minutes to midnight and not 10:30 AM. (January 2012)

From the book TrueTom vs the Apostates!

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