United Church of God

The Global Economy and Jesus Christ's Return

You are here

The Global Economy and Jesus Christ's Return

Login or Create an Account

With a UCG.org account you will be able to save items to read and study later!

Sign In | Sign Up


Revelation, the last book of the Bible, is the only New Testament book specifically devoted to prophecy. It is literally "the revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants-things which must shortly take place" (Revelation 1:1).

The 18th chapter describes a dominant system of international trade supported by corrupt political and religious hegemonies whose "sins have reached to heaven" (verse 5). But the Bible shows that the return of Jesus Christ will signal this system's collapse and destruction.

This system will exercise, for a short time, such control over the lives of the earth's inhabitants that "no one may buy or sell" without its permission (Revelation 13:17). This economic system will stringently regulate commerce.

In our society, which greatly values individual freedom, it seems almost absurd to predict such a drastic global change in economic outlook and practice. What could possibly induce the citizens of civilized nations to accept such intrusive controls over their right to buy and sell as they please?

Earlier time of economic turmoil

On a regional level this scenario has already been played out once in our century. The collapse of the world's free economies, trade wars and economic turmoil of the Great Depression of the 1930s helped catapult Adolf Hitler to power. Hitler's solutions restored Germany to power and made him a hero among most of his own people until his military defeat in 1945.

People who were adults during the Great Depression are rapidly passing from the scene. Their accounts of plummeting wages, loss of homes and jobs and pervasive hunger seem long ago and far away. Today few people in the industrialized world have any concept of what happens when deflation-a drop in prices and wages-sets in.

The destructive effects of prolonged deflation are almost unimaginable to most. Consider the consequences. As wages drop, debt retirement becomes more and more difficult. Mortgage defaults skyrocket. Business earnings drop, and corporations go bankrupt. Employment dries up. People become aimless and idle, with hunger and fear their constant companions. It is a downward spiral into economic oblivion. Little wonder our parents and grandparents referred to the human disaster they experienced as the Great Depression.

During times of such economic deprivation, people sometimes respond favorably to exceptionally strong and decisive leaders who show promise of quickly bringing order out of chaos. Drastic problems can lead to drastic solutions.

People want immediate action, not principles and platitudes. The leaders most likely to spur their followers to action are those who have no objection to trampling on the rights of others to accomplish their own agendas. They get things done, but at an appalling cost to freedom and dignity.

In the end they reward only those who provide the support they need to keep themselves in power. They call themselves benefactors and statesmen. History sees them as despots and tyrants.

This is what happened in Central Europe between 1929 and 1945 as rulers gained dictatorial powers and plunged the planet into a conflagration.

Will history be repeated?

Bible prophecy indicates that a similar scenario will unfold just before Christ returns. It reveals that 10 heads of state will throw their power, authority and support behind a superleader whom the Bible compares to a clever and powerful animal, a "beast" (Revelation 17:12-13). The political entity this leader will create is likewise characterized as a beast-a cunning animal that preys on the very ones it purports to protect.

The Bible indicates that managing the global economy-successfully controlling what can be bought or sold-may be a major reason that this system will be adopted. For this to happen, the international community may have to enter an economic crisis so enormous and threatening that the nations will be desperate for a solution.

If history repeats itself, a bold and daring new plan may be presented and adopted. And, as before, the loss of individual rights and freedoms built into this new sociopolitical system may well be presented as only temporary. But the Bible shows that what follows will become so appalling that only the return of Christ can stop it.

Let's look back nearly two millennia to see how the Bible describes that time.

Ancient origins

In committing to writing the revelation that Jesus Christ gave to him concerning this political, religious and commercial system, the apostle John first connects us with this evil system's spiritual roots. According to the Bible, an unseen spirit being, a fallen angel called Satan the devil, rules the earth. This malevolent spirit is increasingly angry as he sees the approaching end of his influence.

John speaks of that "great dragon, ... that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world" (Revelation 12:9). That "enraged" adversary has committed himself to "make war" against those who "keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ" (verse 17). He is the driving force behind the scenes.

Next John refers to the physical and cultural origins of this beastly system that is yet to arise from deep in the reservoir of ancient human tradition. "I saw a beast rising up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads a blasphemous name. Now the beast which I saw was like a leopard, his feet were like the feet of a bear, and his mouth like the mouth of a lion ..." (Revelation 13:1-2, emphasis added throughout).

These are the exact characteristics the prophet Daniel ascribed to the ancient kingdoms of Greece, Persia and Babylon. John is telling us that there is a direct link between some of the dominant characteristics of those kingdoms and the sociopolitical system that Christ will destroy. Ancient Babylon, in particular, destroyed the temple of God in Jerusalem, conquered the kingdom of Judah and took its people into captivity. As such, it has symbolically become the ultimate adversary of God's people.

Notice who will manipulate the world's final superdictator from behind the scenes: "The dragon gave him his power, his throne, and great authority" (verse 2). Satan is never far from the action. It is his agenda that will really shape the policies of what will emerge.

The religious connection

But this system embodies much more than its sociopolitical aspects. It also has strong religious support. John introduces "another beast" that, in some ways, resembles a lamb but speaks "like a dragon" (verse 11). This beast performs miracles and "deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast ..." (verses 13-14).

These verses describe that great religious deceiver who is referred to as "the false prophet" in Revelation 19:20. His influence will be enormous. "He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name" (Revelation 13:16-17). Also, he "causes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast ..." (verse 12).

By throwing the full force of his deceptive religious power behind the sociopolitical schemes of the first beast, this false prophet will be the one primarily responsible for persuading humanity to accept and support this major development in the world's economic and political structure. Those who acquiesce will be enslaving themselves to the state.

The masters of commerce

In the end the merchants will make this system, symbolically named Babylon the Great (Revelation 17:5), function. Their trade will include "merchandise of gold and silver, precious stones and pearls, fine linen and purple, silk and scarlet,... every kind of object of most precious wood, bronze, iron, and marble... fine flour and wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, and bodies and souls of men" (Revelation 18:12-13).

Today, as some of the economies of Asia totter on the brink of collapse, it is appropriate that we reflect on how greed will dramatically affect the future of mankind. We have no way of knowing the precise time when it will happen, but the Bible reveals that at some point a general breakdown of the world's economy will trigger a massive rethinking of social, political and economic assumptions.

Out of the chaos of that time a clever and powerful political "beast" will emerge with vast military and economic powers. For a short time his economic policies will lead some to revel in their wealth and power.

But this system will succeed only because opposition will be smashed. Those who will not submit to this economic system will be excluded or killed (Revelation 13:15-18).

Dawn of a new era

The book of Revelation shows that God will send Jesus Christ back to earth to bring man's systems to an end. "After these things I heard a loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, saying, 'Alleluia! Salvation and glory and honor and power belong to the Lord our God! For true and righteous are His judgments, because He has judged the great harlot who corrupted the earth with her fornication; and He has avenged on her the blood of His servants shed by her'" (Revelation 19:1-2).

At the return of Christ the political and economic culture that was perfected by ancient Babylon, embodying enslavement of its people, will be permanently destroyed.

At that time "the merchants of these things, who became rich by her, will stand at a distance for fear of her torment, weeping and wailing, and saying, 'Alas, alas, that great city that was clothed in fine linen, purple, and scarlet, and adorned with gold and precious stones and pearls! For in one hour such great riches came to nothing' " (Revelation 18:15-17).

Also, "the kings of the earth who committed fornication and lived luxuriously with her will weep and lament for her, when they see the smoke of her burning, standing at a distance for fear of her torment, saying, 'Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city! For in one hour your judgment has come' " (verses 9-10).

One of the first things Jesus Christ will do when He returns will be to permanently terminate this world's last great experiment with this Babylonian type of political, religious and economic culture. Then the sufferings of "this present evil world" will come to an end and Christ's joyous millennial rule will begin. GN