What does the future hold—for you? When you imagine the future, what are the first things that come to mind? Perhaps cutting-edge inventions and science-fiction-inspired gadgets? Science and technology promise continuing advancements almost beyond belief. With human knowledge doubling every 10 years and computing power doubling every 18 months, it’s no wonder many futurists see a world of spectacular human achievements ahead. Scientific saviors? After interviewing more than 150 other scientists, Michio Kaku, professor of theoretical physics at the City College of New York and cofounder of the string field theory, focused on three key developments that are radically changing our world. He highlighted the computer revolution, the biomolecular revolution, which “will ultimately give us the nearly godlike ability to manipulate life almost at will,” and the quantum revolution, “which will give us control over matter itself” (Visions: How Science Will Revolutionize the 21st Century, 1997, pp. ix, x, 4, 9). Ultimately, Dr. Kaku says, these advancements “will make it possible to fulfill our destiny and take our place among the stars. The harnessing of these scientific revolutions is the first step toward making the universe truly our backyard” (p. 355). One view of technological progress forecasts that by 2025 we’ll be using clean hydrogen engines for transportation, domestic robots to take care of household chores and cybernetic health enhancements to make ourselves better than we naturally would be. By 2040 innovation and scientific advancement would lead to the virtual elimination of hunger and poverty, free quality education, longer life and a marked increase in personal wealth available to all (James Canton, The Extreme Future, 2006, pp. 51, 53). Another futurist and science fiction writer takes us on a tour of the home of tomorrow: “You don’t have a ‘shower stall.’ You have a standard, everyday body-imaging system that gives you complete interior and exterior health scans every morning as it washes you. Your toothbrush scans the contents of your mouth and catalogs its microorganisms… “In your kitchen, the mops have more processing power than twentieth-century national bureaucracies” (Bruce Sterling, Tomorrow Now: Envisioning the Next Fifty Years, 2002, pp. 8-9). Science will not only change our environment, but futurists foresee it changing humanity itself. “We might become ageless, or geniuses, or prosthetically enhanced, or cyberneticized, or any combination of those. We might be severely transformed by an unknown technology that we can’t yet imagine” (Sterling, p. 296). Some focus on the promise of specific technologies. At the World Nano-Economic Congress in 2003, U.S. Undersecretary of Commerce for Technology Phillip Bond described the potential of nanotechnology as “truly miraculous: enabling the blind to see, the lame to walk, and the deaf to hear; curing AIDS, cancer, diabetes and other afflictions; ending hunger; and even supplementing the power of our minds… “Nanotechnology will deliver higher standards of living and allow us to live longer, healthier, more productive lives. Nano also holds extraordinary potential for the global environment through waste-free, energy-efficient production processes that cause no harm to the environment or human health” (State of the World 2006, Worldwatch Institute, 2006, p. 78). But not all forecasts are as rosy. Doomsday visions Other voices draw different conclusions looking at some of the same scientific revolutions and technologies. They fear the godlike powers described above will be used for destructive purposes—as every previous scientific advance has been. In 2007 the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ Doomsday Clock was moved up to five minutes to midnight, signaling their view of how close humanity is to catastrophic destruction. In the jubilation after the end of the Cold War and deep cuts in nuclear stockpiles, the clock had moved as far as 17 minutes to midnight in 1991. But now “the world stands at the brink of a second nuclear age. The United States and Russia remain ready to stage a nuclear attack within minutes, North Korea conducts a nuclear test, and many in the international community worry that Iran plans to acquire the Bomb. “Climate change also presents a dire challenge to humanity. Damage to ecosystems is already taking place; flooding, destructive storms, increased drought, and polar ice melt are causing loss of life and property” (www.thebulletin.org). This group also foresees dangers in emerging technologies—some of the same ones seen as so promising to the futurists mentioned earlier. “Advances in genetics and biology over the last five decades have inspired a host of new possibilities—both positive and troubling. With greater understanding of genetic material and of how physiological systems interact, biologists can fight disease better and improve overall human health. But this knowledge may also afford opportunities to program organisms to do our bidding for malign purposes by manipulating brain functions, compromising bioregulation, and even by altering our reproductive capabilities. “Complicating matters further, more groups and more individuals possess these high-consequence technologies than in the past—and more and more people will acquire them in the future. “The emergence of nanotechnology—manufacturing at the molecular or atomic level—presents similar concerns, especially if coupled with chemical and biological weapons, explosives, or missiles. Such combinations could result in highly destructive missiles the size of an insect and microscopic delivery systems for dangerous pathogens” (www.thebulletin.org). Realistically, which human advances throughout history have not been turned to selfish and destructive uses? In addition, technological advances can have unexpected side effects. “For example, the effects of manufactured nanoscale particles on human health and the environment are unknown and unpredictable, though hundreds of products containing nanoparticles are already on the market” (State of the World 2006, p. 79). Looking at recent history and today’s headlines is not reassuring. The 20th century was by far the bloodiest on record. In spite of amazing advances in agriculture and medicine, millions are malnourished and millions more are dying of contagious diseases. Well-meaning governments and the United Nations have proven ineffective in stopping genocide and the spread of weapons of mass destruction. Peacekeepers are powerless to bring peace to many of the world’s hot spots. Fraud and scandals in business affect millions of investors, as well as undermining the trust on which the world’s predominant economic system, capitalism, is built. Consider these comments by the longtime editor-in-chief of that bastion of capitalism, The Economist: “Capitalism is unpopular for its greed and ruthlessness. It can be frighteningly unstable. It brings about inequalities in incomes that have the ability to cause political backlashes. It causes resentment” (Bill Emmott, 20:21 Vision: Twentieth-Century Lessons for the Twenty-First Century, 2003, p. 321). In a world of globalization and freer markets, the poor have gotten poorer, and the rich have gotten richer, increasing the tensions caused by inequality and injustice. Greed, violence, selfishness and evil have always lurked in the hearts of men. Pessimists—and realists—ask, what has fundamentally changed that would make the future a better place? Human nature hasn’t changed. Only the tools of destruction have changed—becoming much more deadly! Even acclaimed Cambridge professor Stephen Hawking believes that man’s days on earth are numbered. “I don’t think the human race will survive the next thousand years unless we spread into space. There are too many accidents that can befall life on a single planet” (Lawrence E. Joseph, Apocalypse 2012, 2007, p. 3). Who is right? Will the future bring the glittering world of the optimists? Or the doomsday world of the pessimists? Is there a way to know? If the pessimists are right, do we even want to know? There is a source that claims the authority—and the power—to predict and actually bring about its vision of the future. It’s not a source from the scientific world—or the governmental, commercial or educational worlds. It’s a source that claims extraterrestrial origins. Consider this statement: “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” (Isaiah 46:9-10). Who better to predict the future than the all-powerful Creator who can control the outcomes! And the best part is, God promises real hope for a real world of peace and happiness beyond humanity’s wildest dreams. It’s not dependent on the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde world of scientific advances. And the sinister side of human nature can’t thwart it. God promises to not only save this world from itself, but to make it possible for each human being to achieve his or her incredible potential. But of course, our modern world conditions us to reject that possibility. Even many of those who believe in a God don’t see evidence of His working in the world today. It seems preposterous that He would intervene tomorrow. This has led to the world the apostle Peter described: “Scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming?’” (2 Peter 3:3-4). It is easy to wonder, If God is in charge and wants to turn things around, why hasn’t He done it yet? Peter answers in verse 9: “The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (New International Version). God has a plan for every person who has ever lived, and He reveals that plan in the Holy Bible, and especially in the prophetic books like Revelation. That book, the last one in the Bible, starts by identifying the true source of understanding the future: “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place” (Revelation 1:1). What are those things that must shortly take place? How can we understand the mysterious symbols and other elements of prophecy and get a clear framework for the future? A good place to start is with an inspiring and informative free booklet, You Can Understand Bible Prophecy. Look for further articles in this series in upcoming issues.