Current Events & Trends: January/February 2019

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January/February 2019

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MP3 Audio (20.74 MB)


Current Events & Trends: January/February 2019

MP3 Audio (20.74 MB)

Trouble ahead? America’s diminishing military strength

A recent report from the National Defense Strategy Commission describes the recent decline in America’s relative military strength throughout the world (Providing for the Common Defense: The Assessment and Recommendations of the National Defense Strategy Commission, Nov. 14, 2018). The report identifies several causes, including the development of specific countermeasures by other major powers, the field-leveling effect of new technologies such as artificial intelligence and cyber warfare, and America’s focus in recent decades on smaller conflicts with specific needs that has diverted resources away from the type of military development needed for all-out conflict with another major power.

On this last point Eric Edelman, co-chair of the commission, said in an interview with CBS News that America’s enemies have “learned from what we’ve done . . . And while we’ve been off doing a different kind of warfare, they’ve been prepared for a kind of warfare at the high end that we really haven’t engaged in for a very long time.”

As a result, the report suggests that the United States “might struggle to win, or perhaps lose, a war against China or Russia.” The report concludes on an even more somber note: “U.S. military superiority is no longer assured and the implications for American interests and American security are severe.”

While past reports have warned of the possibility that American military dominance would begin to ebb if strengthening action is not taken, this is the first such report to speak of it as a current reality. In other words, this is where America already is—not where it’s headed—in the opinion of the authors.

It remains a fact that the United States allocates more money to defense spending than the next seven countries combined. Only time will tell whether the recent report from the National Defense Strategy Commission is indeed an accurate analysis of our diminished might or a mere fundraising tool intended to rake in even more defense spending from Congress.

However, as students of the Bible, we must give consideration to the fact that America does not feature as a great superpower nation in the final events before Christ’s return described in Bible prophecy. Instead, such prophetic books as Daniel and Revelation focus on a government system known as “the beast,” which will hold undisputed military and economic dominance over the entire world (Revelation 13:7-8, 16-17). A careful study of prophecy and history reveals that this end-time regime will be a resurrection of the Roman Empire, most likely fulfilled by an as-yet-unformed coalition of European countries.

We at Beyond Today believe the absence of America as a world power from the final days of the end-time prophetic picture means that the United States will decline and fall before the return of Jesus Christ. This must happen for the beast power to ascend to the level of control and influence found in prophecy. The decline of America for that purpose appears to have already begun. (Sources: U.S. Naval Institute News, CBS News.)



Worst wildfires in California history cut path of death and destruction

In early November, two horrific wildfires ripped across California, causing unprecedented levels of devastation. The Camp Fire, in Northern California’s Butte County, killed 88 people, destroyed nearly 19,000 structures and scorched around 400 square miles. It became the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in the history of California.

Hundreds of people were missing for weeks, and the intensity of the fires left some victims’ remains completely unidentifiable.

“‘What we’re looking at here is potentially remains, or cremains—it’s kind of a cremated remains state,’ said Brian Ferreira, rescue squad officer for California Task Force 4” (Amir Vera, Holly Yan, “With Rain on the Way, California Fire Evacuees Brace for Relief and Danger,” CNN, Nov. 20, 2018).

The town of Paradise, Calif., was hit especially hard: “The Camp Fire ignited Nov. 8 near Pulga, a tiny community in Butte County nestled in the Plumas National Forest. The blaze exploded as strong winds fanned the flames southwest, enveloping the town of Paradise, a bucolic community of 27,000 people in the Sierra Nevada foothills. The fire has virtually decimated the entire town.”

“Melissa Schuster, a Paradise town council member, said her house was among those leveled by the Camp Fire. ‘Our entire five-member council is homeless,’ Schuster said . . . ‘All of our houses have been destroyed’” (Morgan Winsor, “Relentless California Wildfires Leave 82 Dead, Nearly 700 Unaccounted For,” ABC News, Nov. 20, 2018).

The second fire, the Woolsey Fire, also started Nov. 8, moving south from Ventura County to Los Angeles County. It eventually burned about 97,000 acres.

“The wind-driven flames jumped the 101 Freeway before sweeping through the celebrity enclaves of Malibu and Calabasas. The entire city of Malibu and a sprawling naval base near the seaside city of Oxnard were among the areas under mandatory evacuation orders . . .”

The air quality throughout California was dramatically affected by the vast amount of smoke from the large fires. Air pollution grew so bad that a non-profit that tracks air quality, Berkeley Earth, declared San Francisco, Stockton and Sacramento to be the “three most polluted cities” in the world.

“Even Californians who never saw the flames could be affected by the wildfires’ health hazards. Smoke from the Camp Fire hangs heavy in parts of the state, forcing schools to close and shutting down some public transportation” (Amir Vera, Holly Yan, “With Rain on the Way, California Fire Evacuees Brace for Relief and Danger,” CNN, Nov. 20, 2018).

Californians were warned to cut down on the amount of time spent outside due to air pollution. By mid-November, the smoke from these two wildfires could be seen on America’s East Coast.

Is there a big-picture reason America is seeing such severe and deadly weather events? Unprecedented wildfires appear to be just one element pointing to a time Jesus described in His prophecy given on the Mount of Olives recorded in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21—a time of never-before-seen global problems that would precede and eventually culminate in Jesus’ triumphant return. (Sources: ABC News, CNN.)



Astronomer predicts “bumpy ride” for man in 21st century

Will humanity survive the 21st century? This is the question being asked by Sir Martin Rees, a prominent British astronomer who recently published a book exploring the fatal mix of problems that could potentially wipe out mankind in this century. For example, the world’s population is predicted to grow to 9 billion by the middle of this century. Can the earth’s limited resources sustain that large of a population?

“Humanity is under threat. At least according to Sir Martin Rees, one of Britain’s most esteemed astronomers. In his new book, ‘On the Future,’ Rees turns his focus closer to home, examining the existential threats that face humanity over the next century. From cyberattacks to advances in biotechnology to artificial intelligence to climate change, Rees, Britain’s astronomer royal, says we are living at a critical juncture—one that could define how the human species fares” (Denise Chow, “Will Humanity Survive This Century? Sir Martin Rees Predicts ‘a Bumpy Ride’ Ahead,” NBC News, Nov. 8, 2018).

Rees told NBC in an interview, “This century is crucial because, if you are very pessimistic, you can imagine that we will misuse powerful technology and snuff ourselves out.” Finally, he emphasized the importance and necessity of fixing problems on our planet as opposed to attempting to colonize other planets, like Mars.

“There is the idea that we should despair and evacuate this planet and go somewhere else. That’s a dangerous delusion. I know it’s been promoted by Elon Musk and also by my late colleague Stephen Hawking, but I think there’s no Planet B. The world’s problems can’t be solved by escaping from the world. They’ve got to be tackled here” (ibid.).

Mankind’s problems are worsening, but will it “snuff itself out”? What does the future hold for humanity in the decades and centuries to come? Nearly 2,000 years ago, Jesus spoke of horrible conditions that would occur just before His return. But He also foretold that God would not allow mankind to completely destroy itself: “Unless those days were shortened [that is, cut short of running their course], no flesh would be saved [alive]; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened” (Matthew 24:22).

The Bible shows there is hope for mankind, but only through God’s direct intervention. (Source: NBC News.)



France and Germany seeking to bypass Iran sanctions

France and Germany still want to trade with Iran regardless of the economic sanctions the United States has imposed on the Middle Eastern nation in response to its nuclear program. Their plan appears to be to funnel money privately through a corporation to circumvent the sanctions.

“France or Germany will host the corporation that would handle the payments channel, the diplomats said. If France hosts it, a German official will head the corporation and vice versa. Both countries will help fund the corporation” (Laurence Norman, “France and Germany Step In to Circumvent Iran Sanctions,” The Wall Street Journal, Nov. 26, 2018).

“The payments channel, known as a special purpose vehicle, or SPV, would use a system of credits to facilitate compensation for goods traded between Iran and Europe—allowing some trade to proceed without the need for European commercial banks to make or receive payments to Iran.”

These sanctions were placed on Iran to pressure it into renegotiation of the nuclear deal made in 2015. The U.S. recently pulled out of that deal seeking to establish stricter enforcement on Iran’s nuclear and missile development, which Iran is attempting to avoid.

This is an interesting development, knowing that Europe and the Middle East are key regions in end-time events. European nations extending a friendly hand to a Middle Eastern nation seeking to go nuclear could prove dangerous for them. To learn more, download or request our free study guide The Middle East in Bible Prophecy. (Source: The Wall Street Journal.)



Women’s most dangerous place—their homes?

A new study has just come out reporting that half of the world’s female homicide victims are killed by a family member. “Research published by the U.N.’s Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) found that of the approximately 87,000 women and girls intentionally killed in 2017, about 58 percent died at the hands of someone who was either an ‘intimate partner’ or a relative,” as reported by USA Today (Kim Hjelmgaard, “The Most Dangerous Place for a Woman? Her Home, UN Study Shows,” Nov. 26, 2018).

The report continues: “Africa and the Americas were the regions where women are most at risk of being killed by intimate partners or family members, the study found. In Africa, the rate was around 3.1 victims per 100,000 female population. In the Americas, it was 1.6 victims. The lowest rate was found in Europe, with 0.7 victims per 100,000 female population.”

This is a sad reality. In contrast, the vast majority of men are killed by strangers, according to the report.

As more women have been emboldened to share personal stories of sexual abuse, a light is being shone on the deep-seated devaluation of women prevalent in cultures all over the world. The ultimate culmination of that evil attitude is domestic abuse and murder. This is not just a sad state of affairs for a certain country or culture, but for the whole world.

When God made the first man Adam, He stated, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him” (Genesis 2:18).

In no way did God value Eve less than Adam. God created her and loved her. He created her to be with Adam because Adam was not complete without her. Somewhere through time and with the influence of sin, a mindset has emerged that has disparaged the value of half of humankind. As we draw close to the end of this age of human misrule, we must remember that God’s plan, those for whom Jesus Christ died, and eventual membership in the family of God include those He created female as well as those He created male. (Source: USA Today.)

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