Will Global Economic Turmoil Precede Jesus Christ's Return?

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Will Global Economic Turmoil Precede Jesus Christ's Return?

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Changes in the world's economy, now shaken by a major downturn, significantly threaten your personal lifestyle. As Time magazine expressed it, the recent events are “the most dangerous shock in mature financial markets since the 1930s” (Oct. 20, 2008). Faced with a problem of this magnitude, we should seriously consider these economic trends in the light of biblical prophecy!

Revelation, the last book of the Bible, is devoted to prophecy. John says that it's literally “the revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly [or quickly] take place”—especially in the last days (Revelation 1:1 Revelation 1:1The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave to him, to show to his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel to his servant John:
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).

The book's 18th chapter describes a dominant system of international trade supported by corrupt political and religious allies whose combined sins “have reached to heaven” (verse 5). The Bible also shows that the return of Jesus Christ will bring about the collapse and destruction of that global system.

Before that happens, though, it will exercise for a short time immense control over the lives of the earth's inhabitants so that “no one may buy or sell” without its permission (Revelation 13:17 Revelation 13:17And 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.
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). It will stringently regulate all international commerce.

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

An earlier time of economic turmoil

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

Today those 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. At one point in the 1930s, unemployment reached more than 25 percent in America.

The stock markets went crazy, and corporate shares fell in value overnight. As wages fell, debt repayment became more and more difficult.

Mortgage defaults skyrocketed. Business earnings dropped. Large corporations went bankrupt. People became aimless and idle. Hunger and fear became their constant companions. It was a downward spiral into economic oblivion. Little wonder that our parents and grandparents referred to the financial disaster they experienced as the Great Depression.

Could history repeat?

Today few people in the industrialized world have any concept of what happens when severe deflation— an economically crippling drop in prices and wages—sets in. The possibility of out-of-control deflation is already a threat as a direct result of the current economic crisis.

A recent leading headline, “Deflation Threat Grows Worldwide,” in the International Herald Tribune (Nov. 2, 2008) bears this out. The article, by national economic writer Peter Goodman, went on to say: “As dozens of countries slip deeper into financial distress in alarming unison, a new threat may be gathering force: the prospect that goods will pile up without buyers and prices will steadily fall, suffocating fresh investment and worsening joblessness for many months or even years.

“The word for this syndrome is deflation, or falling prices, a term that generates chills among professional economists. Deflation accompanied the Great Depression of the 1930s. Persistently falling prices were at the heart of Japan's so-called lost decade following the catastrophic collapse of its real estate bubble at the end of the 1980s, a period in which some experts now find parallels to the U.S. predicament” (emphasis added throughout).

Only a few short months ago inflation —rising prices—was the dominant economic problem as skyrocketing costs of oil and food battered the world economy. But, as the article notes, “that now seems like another era. As the U.S. economy has weakened, and as much of the globe has followed, demand for oil, iron ore, grains and other commodities has swiftly diminished, bringing prices down sharply.

“The new worry is that the end of inflation may be the beginning of something more malevolent: a long, broad retrenchment in which consumers and businesses worldwide lose their ability to buy and prices for many goods fall.

“That would prompt businesses to slow production and accelerate layoffs, taking more paychecks out of the economy and further weakening demand for many products and services.”

Worldwide recession on the horizon?

In contrast to inflation, Goodman notes, deflation is a far more difficult economic malady to cure. “Policy makers can generally choke off inflation by raising interest rates and dampening economic activity and reducing demand for goods.

“But as Japan discovered in the 1990s, an economy might remain ensnared by deflation for many years, even when interest rates are dropped to zero. Falling prices reduce opportunities for profit, making companies reluctant to invest even when they can borrow money for free.”

This is what happened in Japan in the 1990s, with devastating results. Property prices fell, along with the prices of many goods. Businesses had no incentive to invest, so they laid off employees. For lack of buyers, goods piled up—sending prices even lower in a downward spiral.

Do we see similar dangers today? “Some fear the U.S. economy could be sinking toward a similar experience as consumers lose their wherewithal to purchase just as much of Europe, Asia and Latin America succumb to a slowdown,” Goodman cautions.

The recent economic crises show that such a problem likely would not be limited to just the United States.

“Not since the Great Depression have so many countries been required to tackle so many interlocking afflictions at once,” Goodman notes. “A financial crisis born in the United States has gone global, like a virus mutating in the face of every experimental cure. From South Korea to Pakistan to the Baltics to Turkey to Brazil, the pandemic has spread, bringing with it a tightening of credit that has starved even relatively healthy companies of the ability to finance operations, prompting job losses and diminishing demand for goods.”

Goodman quotes former International Monetary Fund economist Kenneth Rogoff as saying: “We're entering a really fierce global recession. A significant financial crisis has been allowed to morph into a full-fledged global panic. It's a very dangerous situation.”

Will history be repeated?

During times of such economic deprivation, history has shown that people respond favorably to strong leaders who show promise of quickly bringing order out of chaos.

But drastic problems can lead to drastic solutions. People want immediate action, not principles and platitudes. The leaders most likely to act decisively are those who have no objection to trampling on the rights of others to accomplish their agendas. They get things done, but at a high cost to the freedom and rights of others.

In the end they reward 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 assumed dictatorial powers and plunged the world into a global conflagration.

Bible prophecy indicates that a similar scenario will unfold just before Jesus Christ returns. It reveals that 10 “kings”—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 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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). The political entity this leader will create is likewise characterized as a beast—a cunning and dominant animal that preys on the very ones it purports to protect.

The Bible indicates that managing the global economy—by controlling what can be bought or sold, and by whom—may be a major reason for this system's initial appeal. For this to happen the international community may have to enter an economic crisis so enormous, so threatening, that nations will find themselves 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 socio-economic and political system may well be presented as only temporary. But the Bible shows that what ultimately follows will become so appalling that only the return of Jesus Christ can stop it.

Let's now consider an unseen power destined to bring about this global change.

Ancient origins of an end-time system

In committing to writing the revelation that Jesus Christ gave him concerning this coming political 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 behind the scenes. 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 Revelation 12:9And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceives the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.
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; see also 1 John 5:19 1 John 5:19And we know that we are of God, and the whole world lies in wickedness.
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). This enraged adversary of God and His people has committed himself to make war against those who “keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (verse 17). He and his army of unseen demonic spirits are the unrealized driving force behind these events. (To understand further, request or download our free booklet Is There Really a Devil? )

The apostle John next refers to the physical and cultural origins of this ungodly 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 Revelation 13:1-2 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.
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).

These are the exact characteristics the book of 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 socio-political system that Jesus Christ will destroy at His coming.

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 symbolically became 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 this new power that will emerge.

The important religious connection

At present the nations of Europe appear to be growing more and more secular. But this era will end. The new system described above will embody much more than socio-political aspects. It will also have enormous religious support. To convey this point the apostle 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 a great religious deceiver who is referred to as “the false prophet” in Revelation 19:20 Revelation 19:20And the beast was taken, and with him the false prophet that worked miracles before him, with which he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image. These both were cast alive into a lake of fire burning with brimstone.
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. His miracles will abruptly bring the present secular era to an end.

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 Revelation 13:16-17 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.
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). 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 socioeconomic and political schemes of the first beast, this false prophet will play a leading role in persuading humanity to accept and support the coming transformation of the world's economic and political structures. All who consent will unwittingly enslave themselves to the state.

The masters of commerce

In the end it will be the merchants and traders who will make this Babylon-like system function (Revelation 17:5 Revelation 17:5And on her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.
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). Their global 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 [transport vehicles—cars in our day], and [even] bodies and souls of men” (Revelation 18:12-13 Revelation 18:12-13 12 The merchandise of gold, and silver, and precious stones, and of pearls, and fine linen, and purple, and silk, and scarlet, and all thyine wood, and all manner vessels of ivory, and all manner vessels of most precious wood, and of brass, and iron, and marble, 13 And cinnamon, and odors, and ointments, and frankincense, and wine, and oil, and fine flour, and wheat, and beasts, and sheep, and horses, and chariots, and slaves, and souls of men.
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).

Today, as we experience a major credit crisis in the world's financial system, it is appropriate that we reflect on how greed and the manipulation of human needs will dramatically affect the future of mankind. We can't know exactly when it will happen, but based on Bible prophecies it seems a likely scenario that at some point a general breakdown of the world's economy will trigger a massive rethinking of man's social, political and economic assumptions.

The chaos of that time will set the stage for the next event. The Bible reveals that a powerful, appealing political “beast” will emerge with vast military and economic powers. For a short time his economic policies will lead some to revel in their regained prosperity, wealth and power. But his system will succeed only because all opposition will be smashed. Those who refuse to submit to his economic system will be excluded or killed (Revelation 13:15-18 Revelation 13:15-18 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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).

Dawn of a new era

The book of Revelation also reveals that God the Father will finally send Jesus Christ back to the earth to end and replace all ungodly governing systems: “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 Revelation 19:1-2 1 And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honor, and power, to the Lord our God: 2 For true and righteous are his judgments: for he has judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and has avenged the blood of his servants at her hand.
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).

At the return of Christ the oppressive political and economic system springing from ancient Babylon 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 Revelation 18:15-17 15 The merchants of these things, which were made rich by her, shall stand afar off for the fear of her torment, weeping and wailing, 16 And saying, Alas, alas that great city, that was clothed in fine linen, and purple, and scarlet, and decked with gold, and precious stones, and pearls! 17 For in one hour so great riches is come to nothing. And every shipmaster, and all the company in ships, and sailors, and as many as trade by sea, stood afar off,
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).

Also “the kings of the earth”—the world's leaders and power brokers—“who committed fornication [here symbolizing illicit political relations] 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).

Then the world's final experiment with the political, religious and economic systems patterned after the dictatorial Babylonian model will end, and Jesus Christ's righteous rule on earth will begin! GN

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