ANSWER: That is a question that Jehovah’s Witnesses have been asking for many, many years, going back to Charles Russell and the original Bible Students. But it is really the wrong question. It is the wrong question because Jehovah’s Witnesses are disoriented by their focus on 1914 as the beginning of the prophetically delineated period variously called “the time of the end,” the “conclusion of the system of things” and “the final part of the days.”
My research has led me to the realization that the time of the end has not begun yet. I have presented the facts before Jehovah’s Witnesses in various articles. Here are links to a few: When Is the Final Part of the Days? And The Gentile Times and A Closer Look At 1914.
The Watchtower has made us aware of the fact that there are two Greek words with subtly different meanings. Synteleia is the word the NWT translates as “conclusion of the system.” The other Greek word is telos. (Other translations like the NIV, variously render synteleia as “end of the age”, or the “close of the age” or a Catholic translation says “consummation of the world.” The King James, even the 21st Century edition, widely misses the mark by rendering synteleia as “the end of the world.”)
Competent translators recognize that syntelia is a period of time, whereas the Greek word telos means the absolute end, and is translated as such by the New World Translation. But a person does not even need to know anything about the Greek provided they have common sense.
Obviously, the events that Jesus foretold would occur during the syntelia would transpire over a period of time. Jesus indicated as much when he made comments such as: “These things must take place, but the end (telos) is not yet” and “But he that has endured to the end is the one that will be saved. And this good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations; and then the end will come.”
Jehovah’s Witnesses, of course, understand that the conclusion is a period of time preceding the end, during which all the things Jesus foretold occur. However, consider, for example, what Jesus said about ‘he that has endured to the end’ receiving salvation. If the conclusion of the system actually began in 1914 Jesus’ words are rendered meaningless, since no one from the 1914 generation is alive now in order to be on hand to be saved when the end comes!
The more relevant and profound question is this: How close are we to the beginning of the conclusion of the system of things?
In truth, the time of the end or the conclusion is not a decades-long interval and certainly not a century. It is the period of time in prophecy revealed as “time, times and half a time,” which is 42 months or 1,260 days in duration. In other words the concluding period is three and a half years long, which is, not coincidentally, the same period of time Jesus engaged in his earthly ministry. And it has not begun yet.
How will we know when it begins? What did Jesus say? “Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom…”
In the context of his prophecy Jesus warned his disciples to stay on the watch because he was coming at an hour they did not think likely. That being so, what are Christians to watch for? Well, would it not be the beginning of the things he foretold? But how can Jehovah’s Witnesses remain on the watch for nations and kingdoms going to war if they believe it has already happened? Not only that, but the Watchtower has assured Jehovah’s Witnesses that the sign of the conclusion cannot present itself more convincingly in the future and that there cannot be another world war. But is that true?
With the question now more sharply drawn into focus: How close are we to the beginning of the end? The answer is evident in the day-to-day developments that are leading the nations to global war. It can literally commence at any moment. It will come as suddenly as the meteor that blazed through the Russian sky the other day, exploding into fragments.
There is also a mitigating factor that makes world war inevitable. Since Alexander’s empire broke up, and particularly since the rise of the Roman Empire, imperial power has been centered in Europe – primarily in order to dominate what has passed for Christianity. Since the era of colonialism that power has been extended globally. For the past two and a half centuries London has been the seat of the empire. In recent decades that power has been exerted over the nations in the form of a parasitical financial system.
Now, though, the monetary and financial system is in a terminal state. There are physical limitations that make the collapse of the global financial system inevitable. (When the host is sucked dry the parasite dies too.) That inevitable crash has been forestalled these past 5 years through extraordinary means. But the end is nigh. The Empire knows the end game is now in play. Hence, global war is the only way they may retain their power over the nations.