Where were you on Sept. 11, 2001, when America was attacked by al-Qaeda terrorists? What ran through your mind as you watched the unfolding tragedy?
That Tuesday morning in September, the United States suffered the worst loss of life on its soil since the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. What have Americans learned since that day? What is the state of the country and the world? Do we understand the most important lessons from this event?
Every generation has its defining moments. For the World War II generation, it was the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. For another it was the assassination of President John F. Kennedy in 1963. In our present time it was the 9/11 attacks on New York and Washington that plunged the nation into a global war on terror.
An event that defined the last decade
The 9/11 attacks have defined more than a decade of American experience. Every year on its anniversary, memorials are conducted, the dead are remembered and the country takes note of what that event has meant.
I well remember the day. Like millions of others I watched the television screen in disbelief. The collapse of the twin towers of the World Trade Center. The gaping hole left in the walls of the Pentagon in Washington. And the remains of United Flight 93 in the Pennsylvania field where it crashed—a moving testimony to the brave passengers who prevented the terrorists from killing more innocent people.
It was a surreal day that defied belief even as the world watched it unfold.
In the aftermath, most of the world came together for one brief shining moment. World leaders pledged their support to track down and find the leaders of the attack. Russia's President, Vladimir Putin, was among the first to call President George Bush.
Americans from across the nation rallied to New York with support ranging from condolences and prayers to technical support to comb the wreckage of the Trade Center looking for any survivors. New York has not often been a target of sympathy—but on that day its citizens were embraced by all Americans.
On the steps of the Capitol Building in Washington, senators and congressmen stood together that night and sang "God Bless America." On that day partisan politics took a back seat to the anguish of the nation.
Listening for words that didn't come
A few days after the attack a prayer service was held in the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. The nation's leadership, both political and military, prayed and sang in remembrance. You could see on the faces of the soldiers the plans for the attacks that would come on the enemy. Prayers were offered by every major denomination—including Islam.
I watched the service on television. I listened carefully. I was looking for something very important, what I knew would be the real key to the whole national drama we were experiencing.
I listened to hear a call to repentance—a clear call for the nation to admit its shortcomings, its moral, ethical and spiritual sins. I listened for a defining call to turn, to use this national calamity as a wakeup call and to cry out to God for forgiveness.
I listened, but it did not come. There were words of comfort, but no clear call for repentance. Only one religious leader used the word and called for a changing of our ways. But it was only a passing reference—nothing more.
Here was a moment in history—an opportunity for a people to fall on their knees before the God of heaven and seek His divine guidance and deliverance. But it did not happen. Oh, there was a brief resurgence of religious observance. Church attendance went up in the weeks following 9/11. But it just as quickly went back to the same historically low levels as before the event—and has continued about the same to this day.
We did not learn the lesson God wants us to learn from this event. The singular lesson is repentance.
A lesson from 2,000 years ago
In the New Testament, Jesus Christ mentioned two major tragedies of His day that shocked everyone.
Notice the lesson He drew from these: "There were present at that season some who told Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices [that is, the Roman governor Pontius Pilate ordered them massacred when they came to offer sacrifices, likely to put down some resistance].
"And Jesus answered and said to them, 'Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish'" (Luke 13:1-5).
Those workers at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were in the right place, but at the wrong time. Time and chance in an evil world caught them in a final moment. The firefighters and police workers were brave men and women responding to an emergency and trying to save lives. They too were caught in a snare set by evil men bent on killing as many Americans as possible.
Christ's words are directed to everyone: "Unless you repent you will all likewise perish." His words are more important today than ever before.
We face a time of mounting crisis everywhere we look in the world. Some are starting to openly talk about the end of an age—a time of transition in world events. There is talk of a new order that will bring something completely different than what we have always known. It is a time of uncertainty.
Living at a "hinge of history"
The truth is, we are watching a momentous period in history develop before our eyes. We are living at what historians sometimes call a "hinge of history," when events happen that can change the course of the world.
Today we are seeing among nations a time of massive change impacting our everyday life. We see it happening, yet we don't understand why it's happening.
Let's look at what we've seen since 9/11.
America since 9/11 has been mired in four wars with no conclusive results. In Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen (which was secret until recently) and now Libya, American incursions have cost billions while sapping much of the strength and vitality of the nation in areas where its results are questionable. Its military has been stretched abroad to near the breaking point. It is on the verge of withdrawal from Iraq, and will do so in the coming months in a manner that does not ensure that any gains of the last 10 years will hold.
Since 9/11 the West, and America in particular, has suffered the worst recession in more than 60 years. It was centered on Wall Street and involved the near collapse of the mortgage market. On a September weekend in 2008, the entire American financial system came close to gridlock and collapse. World markets rallied to keep the system propped up.
Along with this has come a prolonged decline in the value of the U.S. dollar against other world currencies , accompanied recently by an unprecedented downgrade of the nation's credit rating. There are increasing demands for the world to abandon the dollar as the reserve, or primary, currency in world financial markets. For many reasons this has not yet happened. But when, not if, it happens, Americans will face a great reduction in their standard of living.
America's debt is bringing the nation to the brink of serfdom. It could become an economic captive of its creditors. Debt is strangling the future vitality and security of several nations. Nations are like individuals in certain respects of becoming financially overextended. They go broke slowly over a long period of time by living beyond their income. Then suddenly it's all over, and bankruptcy occurs. America is at that point.
Presently, the world's nations are demanding corrective action on a scale that's beyond the capacities of national leaders.
What is the true source of blessings?
Now let me tell you something. The Good News is rooted in the Bible as its source of authority and guidance. We don't make economic or political predictions. But this we state with confidence: America and the major English-speaking nations will not collapse or lose all their power until God allows it to happen. That our nations have endured all that they have in recent years and still dominate in the way they do is by the grace of God.
It is not by national power or might or wisdom or exceptional abilities. God is the power behind these peoples. He has blessed these countries beyond any other people, nation or tribe in world history. They enjoy the good life they do because the God of heaven honored His promise to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—the biblical patriarchs and their descendants. It is one of the most important and fascinating stories in history, one you need to know more about.
America, Great Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand are great because of God's blessing. They have walked the high places of the world during the past two centuries because God placed them in that position. God made them great. He gave them their vast wealth, power and prestige. It is ironic that our forefathers acknowledged this while today's leaders have forgotten. But God is patient and merciful.
America will not fade from its world position until God allows it to happen. But could it be that He is offering one more opportunity to repent—to admit we have forgotten our roots and amend our ways before it is too late?
At a turning point?
Are America and the world at a turning point in history? Are we watching a pivotal moment when biblical prophecy and world events coincide?
The Bible shows us that such times occur. God determines the times and the boundaries of nations, their appointed times of power and prominence. He ultimately decides what kings, presidents and rulers are in authority, and He alone sets the course of history (Daniel 2:21; 4:17; Psalm 75:6-7; Isaiah 46:9-11; Acts 17:26).
When God begins to move His plan to the next phase, He lets His servants understand what is happening (see Amos 3:7).
In Habbakuk 1:5 we read: "Look among the nations and watch—Be utterly astounded! For I will work a work in your days which you would not believe, though it were told you."
God tells us to watch among the nations—to understand what and why the wars and shifting of powers and influence among nations. Are we seeing such a time as this now, in our day?
Look at our world today.
Across the Middle East, from Tunisia to Iraq, a wave of change has rolled. Long-standing governments have been toppled. Others may yet fall. Egypt saw the removal of President Hosni Mubarak after nearly 30 years in power. Yemen, Bahrain, Jordan and Syria have experienced riots against leadership. The unrest and instability across the region could redraw the geopolitical map. Such change has not been seen since the end of World War I when statesmen gathered at the Palace of Versailles and created the countries of the modern Middle East.
Add to this mix the threat of a nuclear Iran and the potential to destabilize the flow of oil from that region to the world. The festering, unsolvable Palestinian refugee crisis is another unstable mix of people and events.
Bible prophecy centers on key events in the Middle East that bring the nations to a crisis in the days prior to the coming of Jesus Christ. We are seeing massive shifts impact the region, setting the stage for the next phase of prophecy.
China is a growing power and influence in the world. Various predictions are made about China overtaking America as the world's foremost economic power. Such predictions miss a larger truth: The United States will lose its position unless fundamental spiritual changes are made. One point is certain: China and other nations hold large amounts of American debt. They will require a reckoning at some point. It is inevitable.
And then there is Europe. We have written many times about the changing role of Europe in world affairs. Bible prophecy has a great deal to tell us about the rise of a European-dominated power at the time of the end.
Europe is going through a financial crisis like America. Yet the Bible foretells that they will survive this period. They may reinvent themselves and suddenly become the "indispensable" power that keeps the world from descending into another "dark age." Political and religious leadership will appear on the stage that will bring some kind of order to a time of disruption.
There are repeated calls for a United States of Europe to solve the monetary problems of nations like Italy, Greece, Portugal, Spain and Ireland. For Europe to exist as a unified state, one national power would have to rise and dominate the continent as a financial and political leader. This will happen.
Europe will not dissolve and crumble—even if there is some fragmentation or even partial collapse in the short term. Rather, Europe will eventually become a larger world power than we see today. We have been saying this for years.
Do not rely totally on what you hear about the future of Europe in most current media analysis. Commentators do not apply biblical understanding to world news reporting. All they have is a secular, often anti-biblical, view of history that does not account for the spiritual dimension.
The Good News provides that missing dimension. We strive to keep our analysis rooted in sound biblical teaching and understanding.
America is caught in the midst of these changes in the worst possible condition. The nation faces an economic crisis of historic proportions. It is a debtor to other nations who, frankly, hold its future in their hands.
What lies ahead for America and other English-speaking nations?
Different voices are speaking to America today. Some are very anxious, worried for the future of the country. Others see the best days of America in the future. Which view is correct?
Now, 10 years after 9/11, which voice should the United States, and all the English-speaking peoples, heed?
Through the prophet Jeremiah, God gave a warning message to the people of ancient Judah that resonates down to our day. Jeremiah's message speaks to us today. He described unrepentant human nature. He described people and conditions that are the same as ours today.
Notice what he said and judge whether it fits today: "For My people are foolish, they have not known Me. They are silly children, and they have no understanding. They are wise to do evil, but to do good they have no knowledge" (Jeremiah 4:22).
Does this not describe popular culture and political leadership today?
The prophet was further inspired to write: "But this people has a defiant and rebellious heart; they have revolted and departed. They do not say in their heart, 'Let us now fear the Lord our God, who gives rain . . . in its season. He reserves for us the appointed weeks of the harvest.' Your iniquities have turned these things away, and your sins have withheld good from you" (Jeremiah 5:23-25).
Why aren't the answers to our big problems easily found? Jeremiah's answer is that it is because of sin. Because a people, the Americans and others of British descent, do not obey and put first the law of God and the knowledge of His way.
Jeremiah delivered his message at a time of great upheaval in the world of his day. It was a message intended for a people who had been blessed as a nation by God. God honored His promise to the descendants of Abraham, the tribes of Israel, and made a great nation of them. But they did not obey as their father Abraham had obeyed. They abandoned God and the true faith for a false set of gods and idols. It led to their ruin. The end result was national decline and captivity.
America and the other English-speaking nations have been blessed in our modern day by the same God for the same reason. God gave to our peoples in modern times the greatest blessing ever given to any group of people. The story of the last 250 years has been that of Great Britain, the United States and their brother nations. There is no other way to legitimately explain the great national wealth and power of these nations.
But like ancient Israel, these nations have abandoned the true God and His laws and are now approaching the twilight of their day. Unless they come to a deep change of heart, their fate will be that of others—decline and defeat.
It's not too late for a course correction
But Jeremiah was an optimist—and so was Jesus Christ. Remember the scripture we read where Christ warned people that unless they repented they would perish as others did? He is saying that it's not too late for people, even nations, to change, receive forgiveness and be set back on the track to true righteousness.
Does God care for America? You bet He does.
Does He care for all nations? Absolutely!
The God of heaven sees and knows what is happening to this nation today, and it affects Him deeply. God does not wish that any should perish or suffer. But our sins have created our national problems and cut us off from Him (Isaiah 59:2-14), and only a deep heartfelt repentance can turn around the present distress.
Notice God's answer to the prayer of Solomon about the nation of Israel: "When I shut up heaven and there is no rain, or command the locusts to devour the land, or send pestilence among My people, if My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land" (2 Chronicles 7:13-14).
It is the same for every nation. As God says in Jeremiah 18:7-8, "The instant I speak concerning a nation and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, to pull down, and to destroy it, if that nation against whom I have spoken turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I thought to bring upon it."
It is not too late to turn around this great nation and its people. The same is true for Britain and other English-speaking countries—and, in fact, for all nations. What would it take for you to hear God's call to change, repent and seek Him as never before? To admit you have not known Him, loved Him, obeyed Him? Oh, it would be a big change in your life, no doubt. But the result would be a new and transformed life, different beyond your imagination.
To experience God at this level would be a memorable and wondrous experience. Why not pray for God to grant this repentance to you? Why not pray for this to come upon the nation at this hinge point in history—before it is too late?
We are living in a period of change and transition. God is doing something hard to believe. We—and you—need a spiritual renewal before it is too late!