Recently Newsweek magazine wrote of “a pileup of disasters, crises and wars.” The world appears to be entering a meltdown mode. Astute observers are now asking questions like “What on earth is happening to us?” Does the Bible tell us how to cope with this uncertain world?
A tug boat is among debris in Ofunato, Japan, following a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and subsequent tsunami.
Source: United States Navy
Is the American age drawing to a close? Although he doesn't share this belief himself, George Friedman, founder of the global intelligence company Stratfor (Strategic Forecasting), acknowledged: "There is a deep-seated belief in America that the United States is approaching the eve of its destruction. Read letters to the editor, peruse the Web, and listen to public discourse. Disastrous wars, uncontrolled deficits, high gasoline prices, shootings at universities, corruption in business and government, and an endless litany of other shortcomings—all of them quite real—create a sense that the American dream has been shattered and that America is past its prime" ( The Next 100 Years, 2009, p. 15).
In recent years, I have written a number of times on the failure of the United States as a whole to meet God's moral standards as laid out in the Bible. Indeed our free booklet The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy shows the importance of the United States in God's plan and purpose for mankind.
Yet it's not all about America. God has a serious quarrel with the behavior and conduct of all the nations of the earth.
Japan only a beginning
Even at this writing Japan re-mains in dire straits in the wake of its momentous earthquake and the devastating tsunami that immediately followed. Nancy Gibbs of Time magazine described their effects: "The 9.0 quake that hit Japan on March 11 was powerful enough to shift the earth on its axis and make it spin a little faster . . . It shoved the island nation one parking space to the east . . . The sturdy buildings that survived the quake were ravaged by the wave that followed. The three-story wall of water dissolved coastal towns, dry-docked boats on the roofs of buildings and shuffled houses like playing cards" (March 28, 2011).
Does the Bible allude to such occurrences—even beyond Jesus Christ's statement in His prophetic discourse on the Mount of Olives about "earthquakes in various places"? He specifically includes this natural disaster with some other disturbing signs of the times (Matthew 24:7).
The Hebrew prophet Isaiah clearly stated: "The earth is violently broken, the earth is split open, the earth is shaken exceedingly. The earth shall reel to and fro like a drunkard, and shall totter like a hut; its transgression shall be heavy upon it" (Isaiah 24:19-20, emphasis added throughout). Only metaphorically is the earth the guilty party. Many other biblical passages show that its wicked inhabitants transgress God's law as the guilty ones.
"For behold, the Lord comes out of His place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity [lawlessness, or sin]" (Isaiah 26:21). Also: "I will punish the world for its evil, and the wicked for their iniquity" (Isaiah 13:11). Yet it must be stressed that this does not mean a particular nation that experiences calamitous natural disaster, such as Japan recently, is the focus of God's anger. In principle Christ makes this point crystal clear—and He issues a warning to all who are unrepentant (see Luke 13:1-5).
In due time, God is going to deal severely with this whole world. Some nations may suffer much more initially, but others will surely follow. The Bible clearly indicates that our Creator will even use some countries to bring punishment on others, but they themselves will not escape God's corrective attention (see Isaiah 10:6-7, 12).
The Middle East in chaos
Geography, historical events, world and regional politics, key energy resources, and centuries of ethnic and religious strife have all conspired to turn the Middle East into the cauldron of conflicts we see today. A London Times article observed that "it is one of the world's most unstable regions, where conflicts over land, ideology and religion have raged for centuries" (Richard Beeston, Nov. 4, 2006).
An editorial in The Economist said of the current conflict in Libya: "The spectacle of American, British and French missiles pulverising an Arab and Muslim country at the dead of night arouses a sense of foreboding. Such ventures have too often begun with good intentions and naive overconfidence, as oil-rich despots see their armour crumple and burn beneath superior Western technology. Within weeks, though, vainglory turns into a costly and bloody quagmire" ("The Challenge of Libya: Where Will It End?" March 26, 2011).
In principle what the Bible ob-serves specifically about Jerusalem can be applied in a general sense to the Middle East as a whole. "And it shall happen in that day," God says, "that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces" (Zechariah 12:3). Clearly the Middle East continues to be a dangerous region of the earth in which to become involved in wars, whether international or civil.
The Economist editorial continued: "Moreover, what happens in Libya, for good or ill, will affect its more hopeful neighbours, Egypt and Tunisia. Farther afield, even Syria is beginning to stir and its government may be tempted to be as ruthless as Libya's. If violence prevails in Libya, the momentum for peaceful change across the Middle East may drain away, as both autocrats and protesters elsewhere in the Arab world conclude that violence is after all an essential tool for getting their way."
Noted author Niall Ferguson recently warned in Newsweek magazine: "A peaceful transition to Western-style democracy in the Arab world is, of all the scenarios, the least probable. The more likely outcomes are (a) 1848-style restorations of the old regimes; (b) a descent into protracted civil wars; (c) Islamist takeovers; (d) a regionwide Sunni-Shiite conflict. By the way, (b), (c), and (d) are not necessarily mutually exclusive. They may be a sequence of events" ("The Big Dither," March 20, 2011).
Overall, the world finds itself in a sea of troubles—natural and manmade. An insightful article in a recent newspaper forcefully reminded me of the current plight of this planet. Former leader of the British Liberal Party, Paddy Ashdown, summed it all up yet again. As The Times reported: "He says that there is a ‘perfect storm' of climate change, population rise, economic crisis, food shortages, increased seismic activity and political upheaval that is making the world more dangerous than ever. ‘The number of natural disasters is going up . . . We are living in extremely turbulent times. We are also seeing massive shifts in power. Events are gathering pace'" ("Britian Needs a New Response to a Disastrous World," March 26, 2011).
Is divine punishment possible?
God says that He continues to be the unseen Witness to world troubles. It is He who has a controversy with the nations. Our Creator plainly tells us: "Remember the former things of old, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will do all My pleasure' . . . Indeed I have spoken it; I will also bring it to pass. I have purposed it; I will also do it" (Isaiah 46:9-11; compare Isaiah 48:5).
As always God remains on His throne and fully in control of world events. Unless the earth's peoples really repent and alter their conduct, our overall future looks very bleak indeed. Read what the prophet Isaiah spoke: "The earth mourns and fades away, the world languishes and fades away; the haughty people of the earth languish. The earth is also defiled under its inhabitants, because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore the curse has devoured the earth, and those who dwell in it are desolate. Therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, and few men are left" (Isaiah 24:4-6).
Do we imagine that God is unable to correct us? Do we think that our Creator will allow us to trample upon His holy laws forever? That He has no power to deal with those "who drink iniquity like water"? Isaiah also stated: "This is the purpose that is purposed against the whole earth, and this is the hand that is stretched out over all the nations. For the Lord of hosts has purposed, and who will annul it? His hand is stretched out, and who will turn it back?" (Isaiah 14:26-27).
The positive side of the story
Yet all of the foregoing amounts to only one side to the whole story. The other side strongly encompasses God's merciful thoughts and feelings toward those who do heed His warning messages, believe He truly exists and fervently wish to follow His righteous ways.
God wants an intimate, meaningful personal relationship with each person He calls to salvation during this age of human misrule. He wants to help people cope with and successfully endure the trials and tragedies prophesied in His Word to afflict this earth.
Chris Patten, who managed the transition of Hong Kong from Britain to China, observed in his latest book, "There is no simple formula for survival, no global plan waiting to be set in place, no institution that will provide compass and captain for the world" ( What's Next?, 2009, p. 7). Humanly speaking, in a sense he's right.
But there exists a "strong hand from somewhere," of whom Winston Churchill once spoke, who has a ready-made plan and purpose for humankind. He patiently waits for the right time to actively intervene in this world's affairs and bring it to its senses. That's where God's earthly followers come into their own. Jesus Christ has given them the important mission of both warning the world and making disciples for His coming Kingdom (Matthew 24:14; 28:18-20).
They herald a new age to come, accomplishing their godly mission in a hostile world, with some areas filled with and motivated by false religious concepts and others consumed by ungodly secularism. But God manifests His deep concern for their well-being, knowing full well that the path to eternal glory can be very difficult at times (see Matthew 7:13-14).
We often advertise our free booklets about prophecy in this particular publication. But we also have booklets that focus on helping Christians to cope with this world of uncertainty, assisting them in the process of transforming their lives for their future role in the Kingdom of God. You may wish to request or download our booklets You Can Have Living Faith, Making Life Work and Transforming Your Life: The Process of Conversion.
The Church Jesus built constitutes the last train for sanity in this world. Getting on board will help you attain God's purpose for you of an ever-interesting and abundant life.