Everywhere we look, we see the storm clouds of global peril. Disasters of all shapes and sizes are increasingly transforming how we live.
Skyrocketing oil prices and a housing/debt crisis shake the economy. A worldwide economic slowdown seems imminent.
Floods and drought contribute to food shortages, riots, hunger and starvation. Even diseases once considered conquered are making a comeback.
Devastating earthquakes and coastal flooding take tens of thousands of lives, leaving hundreds of thousands more homeless. Populated areas are devastated by cyclones and hurricanes.
Terrorism is global. Gang violence plagues our cities. Militant nations support terrorist activity; some, like Iran and North Korea, pursue nuclear arms. Islamic extremists openly declare their intent to overthrow Western civilization. And the Middle East threatens to explode at any moment. It's not a pretty picture!
Has our world gone haywire?
Writing for the Associated Press, Alan Fram and Eileen Putman summarize the fears they've recently encountered across America : "Is everything spinning out of control? Midwestern levees are bursting. Polar bears are adrift. Gas prices are skyrocketing. Home values are abysmal. Air fares, college tuition and health care border on unaffordable. Wars without end rage in Iraq, Afghanistan and against terrorism . . . Americans need do no more than check the weather, look in their wallets or turn on the news for their daily reality check on a world gone haywire" (June 21, 2008).
The current disasters are just the tip of the iceberg. That is to say, present problems clearly in view sit atop a vast body of accumulated evidence beyond immediate observation.
More than a decade ago The Good News magazine began noting the expanding intensity of weather-related and other types of natural disasters. The trend is truly disturbing.
As an example, the January-February 2000 issue of The Good News reported: "A representative of the reinsurance company Munich Re, which has monitored the frequency and scope of natural disasters for a quarter century and advises the insurance industry, stated: 'Comparing the figures for the 1960s and the past ten years, we have established that the number of natural disasters was three times larger [in 1998]. The cost to the world's economies, after adjusting for inflation, is nine times higher and for the insurance industry three times as much'".
Since then the severity of natural disasters has steadily intensified. All indications are that this trend will continue. As time goes on, we will see even more unbelievable calamities and eventually a global storm of catastrophic troubles such as the world has never before experienced!
Distinguishing symptoms from causes
Strange as it may seem, all these trends are merely symptoms of a much greater problem—the way average people the world over think and behave!
This, of course, would make no sense whatsoever if there were no God, no one to hold us accountable. But there is a God who has a sincere concern for His creation. Therefore, it is vital that we know His response to our attitudes and actions!
And that's exactly what the Bible explains. It tells us how God responds to our actions, thoughts and behavior. It even explains when, why and how He will do it. No other book is like it!
The author of no other book declares, "Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, 'My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure'" (Isaiah 46:9-10, New American Standard Bible). It is only by the Author behind these words that the real cause for the grief in our world is correctly explained.
And He intends not only to get the attention of the whole world, but also to change it dramatically!
Long ago God announced the methods He will use to end human misconduct. But before we go to that aspect of His purpose, let's first consider His sincere concern for us.
His interest in our ultimate welfare is expressed clearly in John 3:17: "For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved" (emphasis added throughout).
But what is meant by the stated purpose here? From what do we need to be saved?
We need salvation from death and destruction and the wrong way of life that leads to this end. Speaking bluntly, that means we need to be saved from the way we treat each other! We need to be saved from our lack of self-control and from the sheer selfishness that plagues our relationships.
Mankind desperately needs a change of heart. Concerning this, the famous American military hero Gen. Douglas MacArthur spoke plainly to the U.S. Congress on April 19, 1951, saying: "If we will not devise some greater and more equitable system [than dealing with our problems through warfare], Armageddon will be at the door. The problem basically is theological . . . It must be of the spirit if we are to save the flesh" (Reminiscences, 1964, p. 404).
In essence he was expressing a core aspect of the message of the Bible!
How God plans to correct our imperfections
To fully understand God's reasons for creating us the way we are, we must return to the beginning of human existence. God's great purpose for mankind has always been to make us capable of supervising and managing everything else that He created in a responsible and caring manner.
That is why, as He was preparing to give life to the first two human beings, He explained that His purpose was to "let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth. So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him" (Genesis 1:26-27).
He gave us, in a limited way, some of the same intellectual and creative characteristics that He possesses. We are able to think, learn, imagine, plan and invent exceedingly beyond the capability of all other physical creatures.
But He also gave us freedom of choice, which, by its very nature, requires that our character development also must be by choice. And herein lies our vulnerability to what God calls wickedness or sin.
To have not given us free choice would have required God to make all choices for us, leaving us preprogrammed robots without any possibility of ever developing the decision-making capability He wants us to possess. So to help us build right character voluntarily, God chose to give us freedom of choice—and then, after we've had our fill of bad choices and bad results, to put us through a rigorous retraining program.
Almost none of the earth's population today knows anything about that retraining plan. But it is clearly revealed in God's written Word, the Bible.
He instructed one of His prophets, "Say to them: 'As I live,' says the Lord God, 'I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from his way and live'" (Ezekiel 33:11).
Rescuing us from our own foolishness and its destructive effects is His objective. And He fully intends to succeed.
Regarding His determination to change human misbehavior, He says: "Listen to Me, you stubborn-minded, who are far from righteousness. I bring near My righteousness, it is not far off; and My salvation will not delay" (Isaiah 46:12-13, NASB).
Those willing to respond positively and sincerely to His corrective teachings will receive forgiveness, eternal life and responsibility beyond all they have ever imagined. All who stubbornly and persistently refuse to change will ultimately be denied any hope of life beyond their temporary physical existence.
Even in this retraining phase, free choice is still very much in play. But now the stakes are much higher—a clear choice between the enthusiastic development of righteous character with the promise of eternal life, or oblivion. No other option will be available.
The coming storm
This brings us to where we started, the reason for one crisis after another threatening our very existence. Before God's retraining program can get underway, mankind's option to choose evil over good behavior—with little concern about divine retribution—will be brought to a screeching halt.
Shortly before God's full-scale intervention in world affairs—in the years leading to Jesus Christ's return—both manmade and natural disasters will start shattering the confidence of all nations. Jesus personally explained to His disciples what world conditions would be like as that time draws near:
"You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains [occurring with increasing frequency and intensity like the contractions of a woman in labor].
"Then you [the truly obedient and fully committed servants of God] will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved" (Matthew 24:6-13, New International Version).
International conflicts and natural disasters will cause famines that will destabilize life on earth. As social stability fragments, resentment toward sincere believers in the Bible will increase dramatically.
The Bible refers to this period as "the time of the end." It is not the end of all human activity, only the end of mankind's "do as you wish" option. And when it ends, it will end with a bang!
But before the world's present corrupt system completely falls apart, one more divinely appointed activity must be completed: "And 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).
The suppressed message of God's Kingdom
The crux of Jesus Christ's message, His gospel, is that He will return as the King of all nations and will rule here on the earth! That message has been distorted or rejected by most who claim to preach His gospel today.
Notice this prophecy of the absolute reality of His earthly rule at the time of His second coming: "But in the last days Mount Zion [in Jerusalem] will be the most renowned of all the mountains of the world, praised by all nations; people from all over the world will make pilgrimages there. 'Come,' they will say to one another, 'let us visit the mountain of the Lord, and see the Temple of the God of Israel; he will tell us what to do, and we will do it.'
"For in those days the whole world will be ruled by the Lord from Jerusalem! He will issue his laws and announce his decrees from there. He will arbitrate among the nations and dictate to strong nations far away. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning-hooks; nations shall no longer fight each other, for all war will end. There will be universal peace, and all the military academies and training camps will be closed down.
"Everyone will live quietly in his own home in peace and prosperity, for there will be nothing to fear. The Lord himself has promised this . . . In that coming day, the Lord says that he will bring back his punished people [formerly unfaithful Israelites] —sick and lame and dispossessed—and make them strong again in their own land, a mighty nation, and the Lord himself shall be their King from Mount Zion forever" (Micah 4:1-7, The Living Bible).
This is a major part of the message Jesus has instructed His true servants to proclaim to all nations today.
Why is this message so important? It is the foundation for God's plan to retrain the masses of mankind, to teach them the ways of true righteousness so they can repent and be offered eternal life!
It is also a message about how all the world's deceivers will finally be silenced. Because of this, it is a message that the devil, the greatest adversary of the coming Kingdom of God, hates with a passion.
The devil's fifth-column movement
The Scriptures describe the world's archdeceiver as "that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world"(Revelation 12:9). And the religious world is as much his playground as the rest of human society! He popularizes many of his greatest deceptions through supposedly Christian organizations and teachers.
The apostle Paul describes them: "For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve" (2 Corinthians 11:13-15, NIV).
Since Paul's day, many groups and organizations considering themselves Christians have been deceived into accepting doctrines and beliefs contrary to biblical teachings. These deceptions have a common aim—to distract us from Christ's main message about the Kingdom of God, the core of His gospel.
There is no way humanity can be brought to repentance and successfully retrained in the way of righteousness without direct contact with Jesus Christ as both their Savior and King. So this is the very thing that Satan, the great deceiver, wants to thwart from happening.
As Christ's return draws near, Bible prophecy shows that Satan will greatly increase his efforts to destroy all hope for the success of God's retraining program. He will use every influence possible to oppose the establishment of a real Kingdom of God on the earth!
Satan's goal is to convince mankind that the biblical promise that Jesus will be the literal King of all mankind is merely a myth. He would like to poison even your mind, to convince you to reject the returning Christ as your King. The devil's self-serving influence will affect every aspect of human activity.
The necessity of Christ's earthly rule
"But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God—having a form of godliness but denying its power . . . always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth" (2 Timothy 3:1-7, NIV).
Jesus once explained: "At that time, many will lose their faith, and they will turn against each other and hate each other. Many false prophets will come and cause many people to believe lies. There will be more and more evil in the world, so most people will stop showing their love for each other. But those people who keep their faith until the end will be saved. The Good News about God's kingdom will be preached in all the world, to every nation. Then the end [of human society under Satan's influence] will come" (Matthew 24:10-14, New Century Version).
Here is how God promises to end that terrible time: "I will gather all the nations to Jerusalem to fight against it . . . Then the Lord [Jesus Christ] will go out and fight against those nations, as he fights in the day of battle. On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem . . . The Lord will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one Lord " (Zechariah 14:2-4, 9, NIV).
What a remarkable change that event will bring!
The retraining of mankind begins
Once Christ assumes full control, the time we read about in Micah 4 will be here. Nations will come to learn God's laws and ways and will no longer learn the way of war.
This will be the peace that is to follow the disasters prophesied to humble humanity to the point that Jesus Christ's teachings will be welcomed with enthusiasm by all nations.
God promises that under His administration, "They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain, for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea" (Isaiah 11:9).
For the next 1,000 years the earth will be transformed into a paradise. Once Christ's rule is secured, biblical teachings will be the way of life that the entire world will be required to learn.
Representatives from every nation on earth will journey to Jerusalem to attend the annual festivals commanded in the Bible (compare Leviticus 23; Zechariah 14:16-19).
"'Come,' everyone will say, 'let us go up the mountain of the Lord, to the Temple of the God of Israel; there he will teach us his laws, and we will obey them.'For in those days the world will be ruled from Jerusalem. The Lord will settle international disputes; all the nations will convert their weapons of war into implements of peace. Then at the last all wars will stop and all military training will end" (Isaiah 2:3-4, TLB).
These festivals will provide one of the primary structures for implementing God's retraining program. The people of every nation will have to participate.
By the end of that millennial period vast numbers of people will understand God's teachings. And they will be superbly trained in the ways of righteousness—right here on this earth.
Hope for the "rest of the dead"
The apostle Paul said, "For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive" (1 Corinthians 15:22). And Peter says plainly, "The Lord is . . . not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance"(2 Peter 3:9).
These two statements, along with other passages, indicate that the billions of people who have died with no opportunity to be taught by Jesus Christ will still be given that opportunity.
Other scriptures show that not everyone will repent. But the fact that God is unwilling to allow them to perish without receiving that opportunity is important.
In Revelation 20 the apostle John gives us the time when their opportunity for repentance will be made available: "But the rest of the dead did not live again until the thousand years were finished" (verse 5). (For additional details concerning what will be required of "the rest of the dead" and how Christ will deal with them, please request our free booklet What Happens After Death?)
Once the "rest of the dead" are resurrected and given sufficient time to decide whether or not they will sincerely repent, Jesus Christ's retraining program for mankind will be complete.
One principle stands out in regard to the understanding God gives to any human being. He holds each person accountable for what he or she knows of His ways. "Anyone, then, who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, commits sin" (James 4:17, New Revised Standard Version).
Jesus also spoke plainly, "Whoever comes to Me, and hears My sayings and does them, I will show you whom he is like: He is like a man building a house, who dug deep and laid the foundation on the rock. And when the flood arose, the stream beat vehemently against that house, and could not shake it, for it was founded on the rock.
"But he who heard and did nothing is like a man who built a house on the earth without a foundation, against which the stream beat vehemently; and immediately it fell. And the ruin of that house was great" (Luke 6:47-49).
With knowledge comes responsibility (Luke 12:47-48). God's teachings are a way of life. When that way of life is revealed to us, God watches to see how we respond. He warns us not to ignore what we learn, not to harden our hearts through neglect or indifference.
"Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, 'Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion [of the ancient Israelites], as on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your ancestors put me to the test, though they had seen my works for forty years. Therefore I was angry with that generation, and I said, "They always go astray in their hearts, and they have not known my ways."' . . . Take care, brothers and sisters, that none of you may have an evil, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God" (Hebrews 3:7-12, NRSV).
The Bible's prophecies tell us what's coming. Before the peace of the Kingdom of God arrives, a chain of disasters is destined to strike the whole world. God intends to get mankind's full attention.
Does He have your attention? Are you responding to His commands humbly and willingly? Or will those coming calamities strike when you are least prepared?
If you need personal counsel, please contact us. We have a trained ministry that can assist you. Please feel free to seek personal guidance if and when you need it. Jesus Christ is pulling for your success. And so are we! GN