Are We on the Threshold of a New Age?

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Are We on the Threshold of a New Age?

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The much-anticipated year 2000 has arrived. As 1999 drew to a close, Time magazine (Nov. 8) presented a spate of articles directing our attention to the exuberant optimism of the next century: "Can I Live to Be 125?," "Will Robots Make House Calls?," "Can I Grow a New Brain?" and "Can I Replace My Body?," to mention a few.

Media hype to the contrary, how do seasoned observers, journalists, economists and politicians expect the future to turn out? Based on their opinions, are we on the path of greater peace and prosperity, or should we expect something different?

Two scenarios

Let's begin with advice from two respected sources. William Strauss and Neil Howe, authors of The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy (1997), think the United States in particular is headed for social upheaval. Their theory is that sometime after the year 2000 America will enter a fourth-generational cycle, which they define as a great crisis.

Conversely, some experts suggest our lives will be more comfortable in the third millennium.

The Futurist (June-July 1998) provides samplings of anticipated lifestyle changes beyond 2000. It predicts community assistants who will drop by to offer their services for hire to communities and neighborhoods, charging fees for yard work and pool maintenance, picking up dry cleaning, and performing or overseeing routine home repairs. These services will provide what busier families will have less time to do.

Intelligent wallpaper, they say, will turn flat walls into an art gallery or television screen. Intelligent refrigerators will record the inventories of butter, juices and other staples, allowing a homemaker to print out a grocery list for her next trip to the supermarket.

Virtual aquariums or scenic vistas will add variety, beauty and tranquillity to a family room. Our consumer-oriented society is envisioned to give us ever greater ease and comfort.

For families on the go, in-home videoconferencing will keep next of kin in touch with each other in a world of wider family separation.

This potentially utopian future sounds exciting, except for one potential problem: It offers no advice on how mankind can solve the historical dilemmas that have plagued it for millennia. Our bloodstained, violent history proves that this problem can be a crucial factor in whatever kind of world lies ahead. Based on the record, the portent is ominous.

Great advances are expected in our ever-more-sophisticated technology, but few forecast improvement in human behavior.

Again, are we really on the threshold of a more humane and comfortable age, or are we stumbling headlong toward an abyss? Does Bible prophecy offer any answers?

Considering the historical record, what does biblical prophecy show will take place within the next millennium? You can know. The Bible specifically foretells the future of humanity. Amazingly, God guarantees humanity a utopian success even beyond its wildest dreams. But before that new age dawns, storm clouds lie ahead.

A coming superpower

Amazingly, the Bible speaks of a coming superpower in Europe that will be established under the leadership of a great emperor. A great church and confederation of nations will combine their resources to establish the most powerful union this world has ever known (Daniel 2:31-45 Daniel 2:31-45 [31] You, O king, saw, and behold a great image. This great image, whose brightness was excellent, stood before you; and the form thereof was terrible. [32] This image's head was of fine gold, his breast and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, [33] His legs of iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay. [34] You saw till that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image on his feet that were of iron and clay, and broke them to pieces. [35] Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing floors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth. [36] This is the dream; and we will tell the interpretation thereof before the king. [37] You, O king, are a king of kings: for the God of heaven has given you a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory. [38] And wherever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heaven has he given into your hand, and has made you ruler over them all. You are this head of gold. [39] And after you shall arise another kingdom inferior to you, and another third kingdom of brass, which shall bear rule over all the earth. [40] And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron: for as much as iron breaks in pieces and subdues all things: and as iron that breaks all these, shall it break in pieces and bruise. [41] And whereas you saw the feet and toes, part of potters' clay, and part of iron, the kingdom shall be divided; but there shall be in it of the strength of the iron, for as much as you saw the iron mixed with miry clay. [42] And as the toes of the feet were part of iron, and part of clay, so the kingdom shall be partly strong, and partly broken. [43] And whereas you saw iron mixed with miry clay, they shall mingle themselves with the seed of men: but they shall not join one to another, even as iron is not mixed with clay. [44] And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever. [45] For as much as you saw that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God has made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure.
American King James Version×
; 7:1-28; Revelation 13:1-18 Revelation 13:1-18 [1] And I stood on the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and on his horns ten crowns, and on his heads the name of blasphemy. [2] And the beast which I saw was like to a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him his power, and his seat, and great authority. [3] And I saw one of his heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed: and all the world wondered after the beast. [4] And they worshipped the dragon which gave power to the beast: and they worshipped the beast, saying, Who is like to the beast? who is able to make war with him? [5] And there was given to him a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies; and power was given to him to continue forty and two months. [6] And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. [7] And it was given to him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations. [8] And all that dwell on the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. [9] If any man have an ear, let him hear. [10] He that leads into captivity shall go into captivity: he that kills with the sword must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of the saints. [11] And I beheld another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb, and he spoke as a dragon. [12] And he excercises all the power of the first beast before him, and causes the earth and them which dwell therein to worship the first beast, whose deadly wound was healed. [13] And he does great wonders, so that he makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men, [14] And deceives them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live. [15] And he had power to give life to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed. [16] And he causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: [17] And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. [18] Here is wisdom. Let him that has understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is Six hundred three score and six.
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; 17:3-18).

In his visit to Spain a few years ago, Pope John Paul II encouraged Europeans to "return to their roots." What might those roots be? In November the Roman Catholic Church extended the olive leaf to German Lutherans, hoping to heal the 500-year-old rift between Lutherans and Catholics. Together they signed the "Joint Declaration on Justification by Faith," an open appeal to Lutherans to come home. Could this remarkable act be a part of the roots to which Pope John Paul II was referring? History records that European emperors have declared their reigns to be revivals of the Holy Roman Empire, guided by the great church.

Originally, the ancient Roman Empire included both Eastern and Western Europe. With the lifting of the iron curtain earlier this decade, we can, for the first time in more than 1,500 years, see the way clear for Eastern and Western Europe to come together again. Could a final revival of the ancient Roman Empire end as it began, encompassing East and West?

The Bible describes a coming ruler in Europe who will dominate an economic, religious and military confederation of nations in the latter days. His initial intent to join forces will no doubt be for outwardly peaceful, logical reasons. But prophecy shows that perspective will change—and suddenly.

Two world governments

The prophet Daniel, referring to the end of the age of man, speaks of two coming new world orders. The first will be sculpted and led by human beings and will last for only a few years. The second is predestined and is guaranteed by Almighty God to last forever (Daniel 2:44 Daniel 2:44And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.
American King James Version×
).

In the sixth century B.C. Daniel interpreted a dream for the Babylonian emperor Nebuchadnezzar. In his dream the ruler had seen a giant image of a man, with four sections of its body composed of four kinds of metals. With God's inspiration and help, Daniel interpreted the image to represent a sequence of four powers that would dominate the civilized world. History shows they were, in order, the Babylonian Empire, the Medo-Persian Empire, the Greco-Macedonian Empire of Alexander the Great, and the Roman Empire.

The great Roman Empire was to be "the fourth kingdom," a kingdom "strong as iron" that would "break in pieces and crush others" (Daniel 2:40 Daniel 2:40And the fourth kingdom shall be strong as iron: for as much as iron breaks in pieces and subdues all things: and as iron that breaks all these, shall it break in pieces and bruise.
American King James Version×
). History proves that great empire did just that, crushing and absorbing many smaller peoples and kingdoms before it fell in its own turn.

But Daniel pointed out some peculiarities about this fourth kingdom. Its two legs were of iron and its "feet and toes, partly of potter's clay and partly of iron" (verses 33, 41). This kingdom would be divided, "partly strong and partly fragile" (verses 41-42), and the people composing it "will not adhere to one another, just as iron does not mix with clay" (verse 43).

Daniel then adds: ". . . In the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever" (verse 44).

The final kingdom of which Daniel spoke—a kingdom that "the God of heaven will set up" and "which shall never be destroyed"—is none other than the Kingdom of God, the primary message of Jesus Christ (Mark 1:14-15 Mark 1:14-15 [14] Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, [15] And saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent you, and believe the gospel.
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).

A puzzling prophecy

But how is that possible? Such a kingdom was never established during the days of the long-ago Roman Empire. Daniel makes it clear that the Kingdom of God is a literal kingdom, "an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away . . ." It "shall not be destroyed." In that Kingdom "all peoples, nations, and languages" will serve Jesus Christ (Daniel 7:14 Daniel 7:14And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.
American King James Version×
).

This prophecy obviously hasn't been fulfilled. So how could the Kingdom of God replace the Roman Empire?

The key is to understand that the Roman Empire will rise again. As past European rulers have looked to the might and glory of Rome as a model for their power, another dictator will emerge to lead a modern-day revival of the Roman Empire.

Daniel's puzzling prophecy then becomes much clearer. The mixture of iron and clay indicates that nations in the end-time alliance will be a mixture of strong and weak. Because of cultural and ethnic differences, they will not adhere to each other, just as iron and clay do not mix. As the image had 10 toes like a man, this alliance will apparently be comprised of 10 "kings" who are rulers of nations or groups of nations (Daniel 2:44 Daniel 2:44And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever.
American King James Version×
). Daniel prophesied that "in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed" (same verse).

Revelation 17 describes the scenario with similar imagery. It shows 10 kings who "receive authority for one hour"—in prophetic terminology, a brief time—from a dominant ruler. The 10 kings "give their power and authority" to this ruler (Revelation 17:12-13 Revelation 17:12-13 [12] And the ten horns which you saw are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast. [13] These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength to the beast.
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). They also "make war with the Lamb"—the returning Jesus Christ, who will defeat them and establish the Kingdom of God on earth (Revelation 11:15 Revelation 11:15And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever.
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; 19:11-21).

Your Bible describes a future great confederation of nations that will dominate the world scene economically, militarily and religiously. Jesus Christ instructs us to be aware of world conditions and Bible prophecy that we might be spiritually alert not be caught unprepared when these things come to pass (Luke 21:34-36 Luke 21:34-36 [34] And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come on you unawares. [35] For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. [36] Watch you therefore, and pray always, that you may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.
American King James Version×
).

Major changes to come

We may, in the immediate future, see dramatic technological advancements that make life more comfortable. We will likely witness a short time of relative world peace. At first it may seem that that peace may be the peace promised mankind by God (Luke 2:14 Luke 2:14Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
American King James Version×
). Don't be deceived. It won't be God's peace, and it will be short-lived (Jeremiah 6:14 Jeremiah 6:14They have healed also the hurt of the daughter of my people slightly, saying, Peace, peace; when there is no peace.
American King James Version×
; 8:11). Although overwhelming by human standards, this final humanly designed government will be replaced by Jesus Christ and His government (Revelation 19).

Only at Jesus Christ's return will the earth see unprecedented peace and unparalleled prosperity. It will remain thus for at least 1,000 years (Revelation 20:4 Revelation 20:4And I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was given to them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark on their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years.
American King James Version×
). During that millennium—yet ahead of us—the human spirit will be changed; God will change it.

Then everyone will know the true God (Ezekiel 36:26-27 Ezekiel 36:26-27 [26] A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. [27] And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you shall keep my judgments, and do them.
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; Hebrews 8:11 Hebrews 8:11And they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.
American King James Version×
). Because man's heart and spirit will be changed, wars will cease—happiness, productivity and peace will prevail. No academies will teach young men how to wage war (Micah 4:1-5 Micah 4:1-5 [1] But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow to it. [2] And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. [3] And he shall judge among many people, and rebuke strong nations afar off; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up a sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more. [4] But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken it. [5] For all people will walk every one in the name of his god, and we will walk in the name of the LORD our God for ever and ever.
American King James Version×
). The "waste places"—cities destroyed in warfare leading up to Christ's return—will be rebuilt (Isaiah 58:12 Isaiah 58:12And they that shall be of you shall build the old waste places: you shall raise up the foundations of many generations; and you shall be called, The repairer of the breach, The restorer of paths to dwell in.
American King James Version×
).

Rain will fall in due season. The plowman will overtake the reaper; the treader of grapes [will overtake] him who sows seed (Amos 9:13 Amos 9:13Behold, the days come, said the LORD, that the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that sows seed; and the mountains shall drop sweet wine, and all the hills shall melt.
American King James Version×
). Even formerly wild animals will be made peaceful (Isaiah 11:6-9 Isaiah 11:6-9 [6] The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatted calf together; and a little child shall lead them. [7] And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. [8] And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cockatrice' den. [9] 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.
American King James Version×
).

From the standpoint of biblical prophecy, we may be on the threshold of an age different from any era mankind has ever experienced. You can prepare yourself for it. But know that dark storm clouds will grace the horizon before the brightness of a new age shines forth, that a great tribulation will darken man's future before we experience a promised paradise.

For now, we can pray for that new age that will bring the peace and prosperity God has guaranteed mankind from time immemorial (Isaiah 11). As Jesus Christ instructs, let us pray to God for that new and exciting time yet: "Thy kingdom come." GN