We know that the problems of this world cannot be solved by man. We know that human nature has to be overcome before universal peace and prosperity will prevail all over the earth. This can only happen when the human race is converted.
We also know that now is not the time when God is trying to convert the world. God has allotted six thousand years for mankind to write the lesson in human suffering that man's ways apart from God do not bring peace and happiness. The time for the world to be converted will begin AFTER Christ returns. Then as spirit beings ruling with Christ we can at last begin to really convert the world and solve the problems that plague the human race.
Until then we must wait for this age to end before we can begin the process that will lead to the conversion of the whole world.
There is something special about the time near the end of the six thousand years that has not been true before. There is something special about this generation we are living in, something that was not true in the first century or in any previous century.
We are living in the last generation of Israel in this age.
What is the relationship between the last generation of this age and the first generation of the millennium? THEY ARE THE SAME GENERATION. The last generation of this age, those who survive the great tribulation and the Day of the Lord, will be the first generation in the millennium. Those who will begin the millennium are alive today, most of them.
And the Church of God through the preaching of the gospel is already teaching and warning that generation. We are preparing them. And the lessons they will learn, beginning with our warning now and ending with the suffering of the tribulation, will carry over into the millennium. They will remember that God was fair to give them a warning. They will remember during the tribulation that the Church of God warned them. They will remember that they did not believe our message. They will remember that they scoffed, became angry or laughed at the message, and then went back to their TV, movies, video games, sports, music, vacations, and all the pleasures and diversions this world offers, but never took the time to check up on what God says in the Bible. And they will abhor themselves for not taking our message seriously, and for their sins.
Then will this prophecy begin to be fulfilled: "Then those of you who escape will remember Me among the nations where they are carried captive, because I was crushed by their adulterous heart which has departed from Me, and by their eyes which play the harlot after their idols; they will loathe themselves for the evils which they committed in all their abominations. And they shall know that I am the Lord; I have not said in vain that I would bring this calamity upon them" (Ezekiel 6:9-10).
When the people of the United States, Britain, Canada, and many other nations of the tribes of Israel begin to go through the tribulation, they will remember our warning message which they disregarded. Then they will know that they should have listened and changed their ways. That realization will help them accept responsibility for what they have done, and that will be the first step towards their repentance.
God will use Israel as a model nation to set an example for the rest of the world in the beginning of the millennium, but to do that requires that the first generation of the millennium be repentant. God cannot use an unrepentant people to set an example for the rest of the world.
But the suffering of the tribulation alone will not, by itself, bring repentance. The punishment has to be preceded by teaching so the nations know what they are being punished for!
Do you imagine that the people of Israel will accept responsibility for their sins in the tribulation if they do not hear a warning from the Church of God BEFORE they go through it?
There may be some who would do that, those who know they are sinners. Atheists, murderers, burglars and drug dealers, etc. may know they are at fault for living unrighteously and excluding God from their lives. But they are not necessarily the majority in this country. What about religious people? What about church-going people who go to church every Sunday, repeat their memorized prayers every morning and evening, keep Christmas and Easter as religious observances, perhaps pray before images to help them visualize what they think God looks like, but who think that the Sabbath was done away or changed to Sunday, who think the holy days were done away, and who believe the traditions of their church rather than the Bible and "interpret" the Bible to mean what their traditions say it means? What about the millions of those kinds of people? THEY DO NOT KNOW THEY ARE DOING WRONG!
How hard it will be for them to accept responsibility if they do not hear a warning while there is time for them to escape! How HARD it will be for them to repent! They will say, "It's not my fault! NO ONE TOLD ME I was doing anything wrong! I never had a chance! Why should I be punished?"
Now imagine the millennium has started, you are a king or a priest in the Kingdom of God, and you are preaching a sermon to these people on the Sabbath a few weeks or months after Christ returned. The millennium has just started. You preach a sermon on why God allowed them to go through so much suffering as punishment for their sins. And after the sermon, they go to you and say, "But I didn't know. Why didn't God warn me? Why did God punish me so severely for doing something wrong and I thought I was doing the right thing? If only God sent someone to warn me, I never would have done those things. Why didn't God give me a chance to repent before it was too late? I would have listened!"
What would you say to those people?
Would you say, "No you would not have repented even if you heard a warning"? Would that be convincing?
Or would you say, "Well, when I was in the Church of God at that time, I thought the preaching of gospel was over, so I didn't really sacrifice much to get the warning message out. Sorry about that."
One of the chapters in my book Preaching the Gospel is devoted to proving from the history of the Holocaust that suffering without a warning or instruction in the truth does NOT by itself bring repentance or acceptance of responsibility for sins. The Jews who went through the Holocaust, in many cases, lost what faith they had in God and were farther from God when they came out of the concentration camps than when they went in! The state of Israel today in Palestine has been described as one of the most secular, irreligious societies of the nations on earth today. Those who are religious in that country can be very zealous, but they are a minority. And much of the population that first settled in Israel came out of the concentration camps. For them, that was their "tribulation" at the time, but it didn't bring them closer to God.
The two witnesses begin their special work at the beginning of the tribulation, but we in the Church of God need to get a warning out to everyone in Israel BEFORE the tribulation begins so those who hear our message, though they reject it now, will remember that they heard the warning and had a chance to take it seriously before it was too late, but threw that chance away. They will not be able to kid themselves by saying, it wasn't my fault, I would have changed if I heard a warning. Instead, they will say, "I should have listened, but I was stupid", and that realization will be an important first step towards acceptance of responsibility and personal repentance, which is so necessary for the setting up of Israel as an example for other nations to follow in the millennium.
Most of the first generation in the millennium is alive now, and when the Church of God gives the warning message over TV or radio, over the Internet, and in magazines and booklets, we are helping to prepare that generation for what is to come whether they heed the warning now or not. Our message NOW is a vital step in the conversion of the world that will occur in a few years.
That is one reason why our holy day offerings are important. What we contribute now to the work of preaching the gospel and the Ezekiel warning will make a difference in the beginning of the millennium. The more we warn the people now, the more they will understand God's fairness, the easier it will be for them to repent, and the more teachable they will be when we work with them in the millennium. That first generation is the starting point for everything that follows.
Here are links to related sections in Preaching the Gospel:
CHAPTER 4 - WHY PREACH THE GOSPEL? - A LESSON FROM THE HOLOCAUST
CHAPTER 3 - THE EZEKIEL WARNING
The Feast of Tabernacles - the Millennial Rule of Christ, Chapter 2