On July 4 this year North Korea launched an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of carrying a nuclear weapon as far as Alaska. Some experts said the missile had the capability of reaching as far as the U.S. mainland and the city of San Francisco.
The timing of the launch was not by coincidence. July 4 is the annual celebration of America’s birth. The day is a symbol of the gift of freedom gained through the struggle for independence and the founders setting up the nation’s government, all by God’s blessings. It also focuses on American national strength, which has served not just the country but the world at large. North Korea was giving notice it was setting sights on America.
Jesus Christ spoke of a time of world turmoil and upheaval that will create war, tension and trouble beyond any seen in any previous period of history.
In fact, North Korean leaders “warmly congratulated the national defence science soldiers on striking the US imperialists on the face,” according to the North Korean news agency KCNA. They also stated that if “US imperialists commit even the slightest military provocation,” the North Korean military would “show to the world how the territory of the US will be reduced to ashes” (Agence France-Presse, “Explosions in Sky as Pyongyang Celebrates ICBM Launch,” July 6, 2017).
This news brings obvious concerns. A nuclear-armed North Korea is without question a menace. But I’m not scared, and neither should you be. I know there’s a God who has a purpose and plan for this world. Bible prophecy tells me that though there will be devastating wars, probably even nuclear wars, human life will not be annihilated.
Bible prophecy explains why our world is dangerous. It also provides hope, which removes fear. Let’s look at what’s happening, and let’s understand why.
Steps toward the worst time ever
North Korea picked the day it did to show America it had within its reach the ability to inflict great destruction on the American people. This grave danger posed by a regime that has proven its disregard for human life—starving and repressing its own citizens in building its nuclear program—comes at a time when America is being torn apart with political debate over the presidential election process and health care reform.
The ability of the president to effectively govern is challenged by media-hyped allegations of collusion with Russia in the 2016 election process. The cloud of doubt cast over government threatens to paralyze and distract the nation’s leaders from focusing on the real peril posed by nations that wish to remove American power and end its long-established world role.
The threat is real. The consequences are far-reaching.
In His last major prophecy before His crucifixion and resurrection, Jesus Christ spoke of a time of world turmoil and upheaval that will create war, tension and trouble beyond any seen in any previous period of history. It will be a time of “great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matthew 24:21). This will create conditions that, if not cut short, would cause the extinction of all life (verse 22).
These verses describe a time made possible by the creation of deadly nuclear weapons at the end and in the aftermath of World War II. Since then the world has been under the threat of massive destruction unlike any period of world history.
Treaties, arms agreements and goodwill have not deterred the spread of nuclear weapons to countries that would use them to advance their national and religious interests. North Korea threatens to use its nuclear weapon against America. Iran is pursuing nuclear weapons and threatens to launch them against the state of Israel. Should Saudi Arabia obtain a weapon, an already unstable Middle East would be at dagger points. The world is at the point of massive destabilization on the issue of nuclear weapons alone.
There is one common thread to this scenario—the desire of certain nations to remove America’s historic role as a world superpower. Let’s look closer at what is happening.
The Asian calculus
The United States has hoped that China would be a broker in persuading North Korea to stand down from its nuclear ambitions. This is a false hope. China has propped up the Kim regime since the time of the Korean War. It is in China’s interests to keep Korea divided and South Korea without nuclear weapons.
The last thing China wants is a united Korea on the Korean peninsula, armed with nuclear weapons and aligned with America. Such a situation is a threat to Chinese desires to control all of Asia. Nor is a nuclear-armed Japan something China wants. More nuclear nations in Asia would create a level of instability likely to drag other nations like Russia and America into regional conflicts. China’s leaders supporting a rogue nuclear-armed North Korea fits their long-range plan.
China is pursuing a steady course to become the dominant power in Asia, replacing America. It’s building a naval power capable of controlling the vital sea lanes of the region. It will soon be capable of threatening the U.S. Navy, which has guaranteed open sea lanes and the movement of ship-borne cargoes. Freedom of the seas is vital to a stable global economy.
China has also been pushing claims to small islands in the South China Sea. These islands, some of which are claimed by Japan, would give China further ability to control the seas. Against rulings by the World Court, China has continued to pursue its territorial goals. Its desire to cut down American influence in the Pacific Rim remains. Whatever happens with North Korea, America cannot expect Chinese support that would undermine China’s long-term strategic interest—the removal of American influence in Asia.
America relying on China is like the book of Hosea’s description of ancient Israel flitting like a “silly dove, without sense,” to foreign nations in seeking alliances (Hosea 7:11).
At that time neither Assyrian nor Egyptian national interests were aligned with Israel’s. Israel’s sins and internal problems were draining its strength and national character. Because of spiritual sin the leaders and people could not see that they were weakened. They did not seek God in their lives and had pushed Him to the margins (Hosea 7:8-12). Decline was inevitable, and their fall soon came. Is America today in the same situation?
Russia and the Middle East
Much was made of the more than two-hour meeting of President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the annual G20 Summit in Hamburg, Germany, in July. President Trump’s 2016 campaign is under scrutiny for alleged collusion with Russia to influence election results. The question of Russian meddling in American politics continues to undermine confidence in the Trump administration, hinder passing legislation, and puts America in a weakened and compromised position internationally.
All of this works to Russian advantage. Russia has supported the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian civil war. Russia has built an air base in Syria and is working to plant its influence in the region as a counter to the United States. For America to rely on Russia to support its interests in the region is a folly. Russia wants influence in the Middle East. Destabilizing the current scene works to its advantage.
Another major part of the Middle East puzzle is Iran. It is building a Shiite arc of influence from Iran through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Using its own forces, the disruptive effect of ISIS, and its proxy Hezbollah in Lebanon, it is extending its power and influencing events.
The Iranian Revolution continues. Its aim is the defeat and removal of the Great Satan, America. Iran has also vowed to wipe the state of Israel from the map as part of its desire to create a Shiite caliphate in the region. America stands in its way and therefore must be removed by any means possible.
A deeply divided America
In the same passage from Hosea 7 quoted above, Israel is described as having its strength devoured and gray hairs on its head ( Hosea 7:9). Yet the nation could not perceive that its weakness was so deep and severe that collapse was near. It’s time to consider the gray hairs, devoured strength and decline of the United States.
The current political and social divide in the nation is deep, serious and dangerous. It has been developing for several years. The current phase can be traced back to the presidential election of 2000. The election that year between George W. Bush and Al Gore was so close, hinging on vote counts in several Florida counties, that it had to be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. The court ruled in favor of Mr. Bush. Cries of “foul!” rose from those who supported the defeated Mr. Gore, and a great national debate ensued. President Bush began his term under a cloud.
Then came Sept. 11, 2001, the attack on America that began the war on terror. The next month America and its allies invaded Afghanistan and quickly overthrew the Taliban. In 2003 America invaded Iraq and overthrew Saddam Hussein. Soon the protracted wars became deeply unpopular. While winning the wars, America couldn’t win the peace.
The end result of the Iraq War was a destabilized region, which led to the rise of ISIS. The uprisings in other Middle East nations in the so-called “Arab Spring” of 2010 led to further instability and is at the heart of the current Syrian civil war. The financial crisis of 2008 had further undermined American confidence.
Eight years of President Barack Obama further deepened the social turmoil in America. A national health care law was passed without bipartisan support from Congress. The hostility generated by that act contributed to the erosion of the national debate and is still defining current political relations. Mr. Obama, the nation’s first black president, came into office amid great hope and expectation. He left with many former supporters disappointed and the nation much further in debt and in decline in the international arena.
The election of Donald Trump came at a time of failed leadership at many levels. Mr. Trump defeated 15 others who sought the presidency. The bitter campaigning deepened the national divide with each week. On election night a great many pundits and people around the world were stunned by the results.
Sadly, America lacks visionary leadership. The current scene has grown to open hostility, some calling it class warfare. There is always hope for improvement, but the long-term prospects don’t look promising. Meanwhile the international situation is growing more troublesome almost by the day.
America is crippled domestically at one of the gravest moments in history. The historic alignment of the powerful nations is changing. From Asia to the Middle East and Europe, we are seeing a shaking and overturning of nations and their relations to one another. Always in history this has been a signal of major shifts in world affairs. And those who are wise will seek to understand the times in the light of the Bible and its prophecies of where events are headed.
The only way to understand what’s taking place
Long ago, in the world of the ancient Middle East, God told His prophet Habakkuk that He was shaking the nations according to His plan: “Look around at the nations; look and be amazed! For I am doing something in your own day, something you wouldn’t believe even if someone told you about it” (Habakkuk 1:5-6, New Living Translation).
God did overturn the nations of Habakkuk’s time. Those events changed that world, and the effect is still with us today. God is in ultimate control of history. History moves at the speed of the plan of God!
We are in another such time of world upheaval. The only way to understand this is through the keys of Bible prophecy. That God is the God of history is a key that helps calm the waters of fear and uncertainty. It’s why I noted earlier that I am not frightened by current world events, disturbing and startling though they are, and neither should you be.
But to be clear, we are in time of serious and increasing trouble. Now is the time for a wise person to turn to God seeking a relationship that comforts and encourages. The best advice you could hear right now is to turn down your connection to the news and turn up your connection to God!
After Habakkuk surveyed the events of his day and understood the judgment of God that would soon turn the world upside down, he was able to take comfort in his relationship with God, saying: “I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! The Sovereign Lord is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights” (Habakkuk 3:18-19).
You too can have that kind of faithful assurance from God—but it must start by turning to Him with all of your heart and being!