Doesn’t it seem as if most people have no interest in learning the truth of God—of hearing His teachings and heeding His warnings made plain in Holy Scripture? If you’ve ever thought this way, you’re not alone.
Jesus Christ gave His disciples a critical mission to perform. Having declared that “this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14), He told them to “preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15, New International Version). Furthermore, He called on them to “go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).
Jesus’ early disciples and others who followed them carried out those duties diligently. But it’s always been an uphill task. Now in the 21st century, God’s Church carries out that identical mission amid increasing resistance. Over recent decades sinfulness and irreverence toward God have steadily grown worse. Will His words continue to go unheeded?
About 2,600 years ago, God’s prophet Habakkuk had comparable thoughts and expressed them in a prayer to His Creator by means of a question. Although God answered, Habakkuk didn’t really like what he heard. It left him perplexed. So he boldly asked God another question, and in due course he began to understand.
Habakkuk wrote his prophetic book in Judah probably just after the reign of righteous King Josiah, when his wicked son Jehoiakim was made ruler. The nation had experienced a period of relative material prosperity and was now turning away from God. Although Josiah instituted various spiritual reforms, crime and violence were now on the rise. Moreover, the wicked prospered, widows and orphans were forsaken and lawlessness was becoming pervasive.
As a result, God raised up Habakkuk and other prophets to call the people’s attention to these escalating sins. He warned the country’s leaders and citizens that God simply wouldn’t tolerate such behavior and that, unless change occurred, He would have to punish the nation.
Habakkuk’s urgent prayer to God
What was the result of Habakkuk’s many years of preaching and warning? Sadly, little if anything since most people refused to heed his God-given words. After experiencing this condition Habakkuk became disheartened and sought to know why God didn’t take immediate action to deal with Judah’s sins.
In prayer he pleaded: “O Lord, how long shall I cry, and You will not hear? Even cry out to You ‘Violence!’ and you will not save. Why do You show me iniquity, and cause me to see trouble? For plundering and violence are before me. There is strife, and contention arises. Therefore the law is powerless, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; therefore perverse judgment proceeds” (Habakkuk 1:2-4).
With everything he witnessed and nothing happening to stop it, Habakkuk was distressed. Can we identify with his painful dilemma as we see rapidly increasing violence, perversion and lawlessness in our society? (See Ezekiel 9:4.)
In response to Habakkuk’s prayer, God explained that He was fully aware of Judah’s iniquities and would chasten the nation unless the people repented. If they didn’t, the country would be invaded and conquered, its people removed from the land, by an exceedingly cruel and violent nation—the Chaldeans, also known as the Babylonians (Habakkuk 1:6-9).
After hearing this, Habakkuk was utterly stunned! Just the thought of his people being vanquished by such a despotic, depraved nation completely horrified him! With this knowledge, Habakkuk’s dilemma grew even greater! While at first he wondered if God would even punish Judah at all, it seems he now became distressed that his nation might be entirely wiped out! (compare verse 12, New Living Translation).
Although deeply troubled, this faithful prophet waited patiently for God to provide him with more information (Habakkuk 2:1). Soon God did just that, and He told Habakkuk to write down what he heard so that others could also understand (verse 2).
The prophecy is also for a future time
Continuing in chapter 2, God then told Habakkuk that He certainly knew the Chaldeans were arrogant, idolatrous and ruthless. But He further revealed that in due time, they, too, would be sorely punished and their kingdom entirely demolished. This happened in 539 B.C. when the Chaldeans’ capital city of Babylon was overthrown by forces of the Medo-Persian Empire.
But there’s more to the story since Bible prophecies are often dual in nature. God told Habakkuk: “This vision is for a future time. It describes the end, and it will be fulfilled. If it seems slow in coming, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed” (verse 3, NLT).
This statement was a vital key to solving Habakkuk’s dilemma. God showed him that what he was doing in warning Judah was not for his time alone. As other biblical prophecies explain, it was also for a future period—“the time of the end” (Daniel 12:4), the period leading up to and including the 3½ years of horrendous world trouble culminating in Jesus Christ’s second coming. But Habakkuk didn’t understand this at first. God had to help him see beyond the limited focus of his own day and time.
Yet can we perhaps understand how Habakkuk felt? He simply wanted his world to be made right and his people brought to repentance then and there! Honestly, isn’t that how we feel at times? Don’t we sometimes wish that our society would not have to undergo the violence and suffering Bible prophecy reveals are coming?
Like Habakkuk, there is no way we would ever really want our nations to be overrun and defeated—with cities, towns and rural areas in flames and with starving, suffering and dying people everywhere. Even though God will indeed protect many of His faithful followers from various aspects of this horrible disaster, it will conceivably affect our own family members, relatives, friends and neighbors.
But sadly, unless repentance occurs, those dreadful punishments will continue speeding toward our nations. As prophecy reveals, near the end of the age God will permit human leaders, influenced by Satan the devil, to form the most tyrannical and cruel empire to ever rule on earth (2 Thessalonians 2:9; Revelation 13:1-4). Bible prophecy discloses that shortly before Christ’s second coming, this powerful Babylonian-type world governing system will arise in Europe (Revelation 18:3).
Described as a terrible beast (Daniel 7:7; Revelation 13), this great superpower will inflict terrible punishment on the nations of modern-day Israel—meaning the United States, Britain, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and others—due to their flagrant and continual disobedience of God’s commandments (compare Leviticus 26:18, 24, 28; and see our free study guide The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy).
This devastating period is referred to in Scripture as “Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:5-8). Judah’s prophesied ancient fall was a forerunner of what is to come—which Christ said will be the worst time in all of human history (Matthew 24:21). And later, like its ancient Chaldean predecessor, this end-time bestial global power will itself be destroyed (Revelation 18:9-11).
What should we do?
So God’s words to Habakkuk about “the end” apply to the time just ahead of us! What, then, should we do? Besides staying personally close to God, we need to strongly support the Church’s work of preaching the gospel to all nations.
Plus, we can pray that many more people can be reached with God’s message of witness, warning and repentance (Matthew 24:14; Isaiah 58:1). And just as importantly, we can personally emulate Jesus Christ as living examples of the gospel message by our godly behavior—so others may also give glory to God (Matthew 5:14-16).
Finally, through God’s great help, Habakkuk’s dilemma was resolved. Afterward he continued preaching repentance, living justly by faith and giving honor to his Eternal Creator (Habakkuk 2:4; 3:19). He did so knowing God was in complete control and would handle everything in His good time. Therefore, let’s follow Habakkuk’s trusting example by growing spiritually strong, preparing diligently for Jesus Christ’s return and supporting God’s great work throughout the world!