The tragedies afflicting this war-torn world multiply with every passing year. As I write, one headline in The Times of London is "The Hidden Massacre," noting that "20,000 civilians were killed in Sri Lanka's final assault on [the] Tamil Tigers" (May 29, 2009). The article goes on to state that actual casualties are triple the official figure, the deaths caused by indiscriminate shelling of a heavily populated refugee area.
The Times' front-page cover article and two pages of text and photos reveal the horrendous facts unearthed by investigative journalists. The article went on to say that "Sri Lanka was cleared of any wrongdoing by the UN Human Rights Control Council." An accompanying article explained that "support for this deeply flawed resolution came from the usual suspects—China, Russia, India, Pakistan and a clutch of Asian and Islamic nations determined to prevent the council ever investigating human rights violations in their own or any country."
Such horrors should make us think: Where is this world headed? Where are we in the biblical time frame of prophetic events? Just what's going on?
Our world on the precipice
Today's secular prophets—knowledgeable, right-thinking authors and journalists —are sounding the alarm.
Author and educator James Martin, founder of the Institute for Science and Civilization at the University of Oxford, soberly warns us: "At the start of the 21st century, humankind finds itself on a non-sustainable course—a course that unless it is changed will lead to catastrophes of awesome consequences. This could be humanity's last century, or could be the century in which civilization sets sail towards a far more spectacular future" (The Meaning of the 21st Century, 2007, preface).
The choices and options of humanity are narrowing sharply. Intelligent observers of the world scene recognize that we must alter our ways soon or face eking out a bare existence in a shattered and disordered world. Either we are fast running out of time or we may have already passed the dreaded point of no return.
Current affairs author and historian Robert Harvey previously articulated his own stark warning: "Unless action is taken as the warm glow of sunset on the twentieth century is replaced by the pale light of dawn on the twenty-first, we will gaze towards the same horizon of global horrors as our great-grandfathers, this time through a nuclear haze. The world is a much more dangerous place than it has been for nearly half a century" (Global Disorder, 2003, p. xxxii).
Czech patriot and former President Vaclav Havel has stated that "cultural conflicts are increasing and are more dangerous today than at any time in history" (quoted by Samuel Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order, 1997, p. 28).
Hopeful euphoria proves to be only illusion
Following the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the subsequent breakup of the Soviet Union and the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, world leaders like American President George H.W. Bush (1988-1992) spoke hopefully of a "new world order." The accompanying euphoria in the media closely resembled a similar atmosphere that followed in the wake of World War I (1914-1918)—supposedly "the war to end all wars."
The noted philosopher and author Frances Fukuyama labeled the previous bad history of humankind "the end of history"—with humanity presumably poised to transition into a liberal utopia. The United Nations, many thought, would finally assume its rightful place in the world, with its peacekeeping and peacemaking dominating a new age of harmony among nations.
But all this euphoria soon proved to be based on a deceptive illusion! If indeed this period was a brief window of opportunity during which humankind could have installed a new world order, it soon passed into history without any observable positive actions in that direction. Instead, what the world would soon see were horrendous terrorist tragedies like 9/11, the severe weakening of governmental authority, and a growing intensity of religious, tribal and ethnic conflict—exacerbated by radical Islamic ambitions.
The late Harvard professor and political analyst Samuel Huntington (1927-2008) summed up some of our ever-increasing problems rather well just over a decade ago in his book The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order:
"The West's victory in the Cold War has produced not triumph, but exhaustion. The West is increasingly concerned with its internal problems and needs, as it confronts slow economic progress [now a severe world recession], stagnating populations [disturbingly low birth rates among Caucasians], unemployment, huge governmental deficits, a declining work ethic, low savings rates, and in many countries including the United States social disintegration, drugs, and crime" (p. 82).
How accurately prophetic this brief summary turned out to be. And how much worse the world has become since these sobering words were written!
But as the popular saying goes, "You ain't seen nothing yet." After describing chaotic world conditions to occur in the time of the end—which sound disturbingly like those we are beginning to see all around us—Jesus Christ said, "All these are the beginning of sorrows" (Matthew 24:8, emphasis added throughout).
The news we wish would go away
The comments above reflect only an overall summary. The specifics are stark and scary.
Consider the current recession. The previously exalted symbol of U.S. capitalism, the giant automaker General Motors (GM)—at its peak responsible for a 10th of the national economy—promises nine weeks of total manufacturing shutdown this summer with a number of plants probably never reopening. Its humbling bankruptcy move, which involves shedding some 21,000 jobs and 2,600 auto dealerships, has cast shadows over the American economy.
The federal government is to take a 60-percent ownership stake in the company. As some have noted tongue-in-cheek, now GM stands for "Government Motors"! Is the United States fast becoming a socialist country?
Chrysler, America's third-largest carmaker, had earlier suffered the indignity of having to declare itself bankrupt. Almost 800 dealerships face closure. Ford perilously hangs on, largely because it's in a better cash position than the other two. Detroit is quickly becoming an economic wasteland.
Ruinous government deficits plague both the U.S. federal government and many of the individual states. California alone struggles with a massive $21.3 billion deficit gap between revenues and spending. The gold rush appears to be over in the Golden State.
At the federal level, President Obama's budget deficit levels reach into the $2 trillion range—four times as great as the largest deficits under the George W. Bush administration. Huge inflation and/or unwanted tax increases wait ominously on the horizon. We have forgotten the biblical proverb telling us that "the borrower is servant to the lender" (Proverbs 22:7). At some point the day of reckoning must come.
Troubling news from overseas
What about the news from abroad? The Times stated on May 28, 2009, that "North Korea announced yesterday that it was abandoning the armistice that ended the Korean War 56 years ago [in 1953], and threatened war if there were any attempts to search its ships for weapons of mass destruction."
The recent underground test of a Hiroshima-sized nuclear weapon, the restarting of a reactor to produce nuclear material, the test-firing of new missile designs, threats of a thousand-fold military retaliation if provoked—what's next for this rogue state? Obviously North Korea has been raising the stakes, explicitly so by its threatening war with South Korea. The North's army stands at 950,000 compared with the South's 420,000. Whether in men or armaments, South Korea's inferior numbers cut across all categories.
No wonder the famous American World War II hero General Douglas MacArthur wanted, during the Korean War, to deal with North Korea once and for all—being willing for his nation to pay the inevitable price in negative world opinion. Men of lesser stature settled for a stalemate—the division of the country into the two Koreas along the 38th parallel. Now, after a half-century of tensions, we could be back at square one.
Longtime British journalist and author Max Hastings is known for telling it as he sees it. His headline in the May 28 Daily Mail reads: "North Korea's ruler may be mad. But his threats expose the impotence of America and the amorality of the Chinese."
This veteran journalist goes on to highlight the sad truths that most of North Korea's 23 million people "live on the brink of starvation" and "almost half its pitful national income is squandered on the armed forces and nuclear programme." The People's Republic of China remains in a much better position to restrain North Korea but doesn't. China has its own ends in mind.
The North's national leader, Kim Jong Il, rivals Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe as a ruthless dictator who cares little about the welfare of his own people, willing to let them starve so he can maintain power. "Like a roaring lion and a charging bear is a wicked ruler over poor people," Proverbs 28:15 tells us.
Hastings continued with his most telling point: "The very fact that he [Kim Jong Il] feels able to rattle his sabre at all speaks volumes about the shifting global order and in particular about the shrunken authority of the U.S. and her allies."
What's behind the West's general decline?
Back in the mid-1960s, political theorist James Burnham wrote a book titled Suicide of the West. He began by noting that between the years 1900 and 1960 the West lost considerable ground both in territory and population in comparison to the rest of the world. Burnham sought to understand why.
His conclusions are no surprise for those who truly understand the Bible: "The contraction of the West cannot be explained by any lack of economic resources or of military and political power ... We must therefore conclude that the primary causes of the contraction of the West [which continues in the 21st century] ... have been internal and non-quantitative: involving either structural changes or intellectual, moral and spiritual factors ... in one way or another ... 'the will to survive'" (1964, pp. 22-24).
With these comments we are getting somewhere. "Moral and spiritual factors" imply belief in God and a set of standards such as the Ten Commandments. Loss of belief in a divine Creator combined with situation ethics has played a big role in the declining influence and authority of the United States, Britain and other nations in the Western world.
Our free booklet Is There Really a Devil? shows how far these root causes reach back into the past: "Starting several centuries ago, and prompted by the theories of men such as Charles Darwin—who fabricated a way to explain creation without the Creator—many people began directly challenging the authority and inspiration of the Bible. They began to ridicule, as a mere myth and superstition, the existence of a spirit world, long accepted without question by those who believed the Bible.
"In the world's leading universities skeptics challenged the validity and accuracy of the Bible, and scientific reasoning ... became the order of the day. Generations of leaders were taught to discard anything that could not be measured by scientific methods" (2001, p. 10).
Having cast away the revelation found in God's Word, people cast away the knowledge that sheds so much light on the current tragic state of our world.
The Bible reveals the existence of a spirit world wherein hundreds of millions of righteous angels honor and serve God the Father and His Son Jesus Christ (Revelation 5:11). However, not all of the angels God created remained righteous. God's Word indicates that a third of them chose to follow the archdeceiver Satan the devil in a rebellion against their Creator (Revelation 12:4). Our free booklet Is There Really a Devil? explains the story of the angelic world.
The zeitgeist afflicting mankind
The book of Revelation, written by the apostle John, contains one of the most pivotal passages in the Bible. Revelation 12:9 tells us, "That serpent of old, called the devil and Satan, ... deceives the whole world."
Stop a moment and think about this one single verse. It tells us that the vast majority of the inhabitants of this world are out of step with God. Most people believe things that are simply not true. They are taken in by false and lying philosophies of all kinds.
Another biblical passage also penned by John expresses this same basic spiritual deception: "We know that we [true Christians] are of God, and the whole world lies under the sway of the wicked one" (1 John 5:19).
Many blame other human beings for their problems. Nations tend to blame other nations. But true Christians know that "we are not fighting against people made of flesh and blood, but against the evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against those mighty powers of darkness who rule this world, and against wicked spirits . . ." (Ephesians 6:12, New Living Translation).
It was stated at the beginning of this article that the human race as a whole has no real comprehension of the spiritual forces arrayed against it. That was speaking principally of the invisible demonic realm that has power to influence the minds of human beings to first contemplate and then commit acts of supreme folly.
A word sometimes used to describe the intellectual, moral and cultural climate of an era is zeitgeist, which literally means "the spirit of the time." Most fail to realize that the real source behind the spirit of the time of almost all of human history, the basic attitude of the age, remains the unseen demonic realm headed by Satan the devil, "the god of this age" (2 Corinthians 4:4).
Zeitgeist is a German term, and Central Europe will be at the heart of one of the greatest deceptions ever to afflict humankind. A new superpower will emerge there from the geographic area where part of the old Roman Empire was located.
Both the Old Testament book of Daniel and the New Testament book of Revelation describe a final revival of the Roman Empire (the fourth great geopolitical power described by Daniel) headed by two charismatic individuals whom the Bible calls "the Beast" (its political leader) and "the False Prophet" (its religious leader).
Speaking of people at the time of the end of this age, God's Word tells us that "they worshiped the dragon [Satan] who gave authority to the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying, 'Who is like the beast? Who is able to make war with him?'" (Revelation 13:4).
Such is the amazing extent of this deception that the world's inhabitants will actually worship the devil and his chief human instrument, who blasphemes God (verse 6). But so complete is this satanic deception, backed up by misleading signs and wonders (verses 13-14), that the vast majority will have no inkling of what's really happening to their world.
Even today most people are simply not interested in God's warnings from the pages of the Bible. When awesome events demand urgent action, when frightening world conditions require the soberest contemplation and the deepest introspection, the many millions doze.
Take a quick look at a magazine newsstand sometime. Most periodicals are either trashy or simply a waste of valuable time. You often search in vain for something worthwhile to read. Today's massive obsession with the lives of celebrities, people who often drift from one meaningless experience into another, defies sound reasoning.
Human beings cannot rescue themselves
This article has quoted a number of secular sources from books and newspapers. Most were written by individuals who've studied world trends for many years, and their contributions to human understanding should be deeply appreciated. Yet most of them think that if they could just get world leaders to follow their particular recommendations, things would turn out all right in the end.
Wisdom from a deeply respected American founding father will tell us otherwise. After their presidential terms ended, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson carried on a lengthy correspondence until both died on the same day, July 4, 1826, the 50th anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence by the Continental Congress. In a letter dated July 9, 1813, Adams told Jefferson:
"While all other sciences have advanced, that of government is at a stand[still]; little better understood; little better practiced now, than three or four thousand years ago. What is the reason? I say, parties and factions will not suffer, or permit[,] improvements to be made.
"As soon as one man hints at an improvement, his rival opposes it. No sooner has one party discovered or invented an amelioration of the condition of man, or the order of society, than the opposite party belies it, misconstrues it, misrepresents it, ridicules it, insults it, and persecutes it" (quoted by Norman Cousins, In God We Trust, 1958, p. 231).
This is the Achilles' heel of democratic government—rife with party spirit and strife. Adversarial opposition parties focus mainly on attaining high office rather than helping those in power rule wisely.
Imperfect human governments (including multistate organizations like the United Nations and the European Union) are not going to get a handle on this disordered world's megaproblems. A new president will not change the direction the United States is headed. A change of administration will not halt the nation's seemingly irreversible decline in morals and character.
Only the coming of a divine government, God's government, can overcome human imperfections and misjudgments. The Bible tells us this will bring "the times of restoration of all things" (Acts 3:21). Then, and only then, shall we have the good government that humanity has always longed for. No other solution will work.
Only God can rescue humankind by sending Jesus Christ back to earth to save us from the chaos we have created. He will restore right government. Revelation 11:15 proclaims a wonderful announcement that will be declared throughout the earth at that time: "The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!" GN