The cover of the January-February 2020 issue of this magazine asked, “The 2020s Are Here: Are You Ready?” We thought this would be a troubling year, but we had no idea how troubling it would be. It now seems that rather than a new year, we started a new age—an age of chaos.
It started with news of devastating locust plagues, where swarms of billions of locusts dozens of miles across swept into large areas across India and Pakistan, the Middle East and into Africa—areas that could ill afford huge losses of cropland and other vegetation.
That plague had barely made the headlines (it’s now in its second, even more destructive wave) before a plague of a different sort—Covid-19—came to dominate the news for several months. This virus-caused disease has taken several hundred thousand lives and thrown the entire world economy into a tailspin.
As if the thousands of pandemic deaths and hospitalizations weren’t enough, governments and political leaders claimed sweeping new powers over virtually every aspect of citizens’ lives, trampling on many rights enshrined in national constitutions—and in the process bringing what is proving to be even more deaths and economic destruction that could’ve been avoided.
And now another plague is dominating the headlines. Unlike the natural plagues of locusts and coronavirus, this one is entirely human-caused—a plague of social unrest and breakdown of law and order such as hasn’t been seen in decades.
Yes, this certainly looks like an age of chaos!
The subtitle of Beyond Today is “A Magazine of Understanding.” Some may view that claim as presumptuous. We view it as a statement of humility. Why? Because of the source of our understanding. And that source is the Bible, God’s Word, the revelation of our Creator. So it’s not our understanding, it’s God’s understanding. And that’s what we share with our readers—God’s perspective on the trends affecting our world.
Have we been surprised by these plagues? Not really, because they’ve been foretold in the pages of the Bible for thousands of years. Have we been surprised by the timing of these events? Admittedly yes, because we expected other things first and in a different way. And we still expect those things. It just appears that God is giving us a taste—a wakeup call—to get our attention and warn us of what lies ahead.
Asked about the prophetic indicators of His coming, Jesus Christ responded that “there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places” (Matthew 24:7, emphasis added throughout). Locusts, with their ability to eat their own body weight in plant matter every day and multiply more than tenfold from one generation to the next, have long been a harbinger of famine. Huge swarms can strip bare huge fields of crops in just minutes, leaving nothing but shredded stalks and twigs.
Widespread pestilences—disease epidemics—have until recently been largely thought of as troubles from the past. But a worldwide pandemic like Covid-19 has shown how fragile our assumptions can be. So far, ironically, the advanced Western nations have been among those hardest hit. And although it’s largely been pushed out of the headlines, this pandemic continues its march across the globe.
And what about this latest plague hitting the headlines, the wave of social unrest and breakdown of order that in just a few days spread like wildfire across the United States and then to much of the rest of the world?
In Matthew 24:7, before mentioning famines and pestilences, Jesus foretold something else: “For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom . . .”
“Nation” here is the Greek word ethnos, from which we get the English words ethnic and ethnicity, referring to racial or cultural subgroups of people. “Kingdom” is the Greek word basileia, the equivalent of a political national entity today.
So Jesus warned that in the time leading up to His return, we would see “wars and rumors of wars” (verse 6)—shown here including not just conflict and wars between nations, but also unrest and conflict between different cultural and ethnic groups. Many peoples will be set against one another. These trends “are the beginning of sorrows,” Jesus said (verse 8).
He also foretold that “lawlessness will abound” (verse 12). While this specifically refers to God’s holy law as summarized in the Ten Commandments, it also refers in a general sense to humanity’s growing rebelliousness and violence similar to Noah’s day (verses 37-39), when mankind’s corruption had reached the point that God cleansed the earth of the entire human race with the exception of Noah’s family.
This should not be surprising, considering the way God describes our human condition in Isaiah 59:8: “The way of peace they do not know, and there is no justice in their paths” (English Standard Version).
A time of judgment and justice is coming on us. And to be clear, we are not saying we are now experiencing the fulfillment of these prophecies. But we are saying this could well be a foretaste, a wakeup call, of far worse things to come.
We go into this in greater detail in several articles in this issue. In the meantime, why not do what God tells us to do? He offers us astounding hope in times of chaos such as this. Listen and pay attention—you have much to gain. And those who don’t heed have much to lose!