It has been more than a year since the world, and especially the United States, received the rude awakening that we now simply call “9/11.” While there were political, military and economic tensions before the events of that day, the collapse of the World Trade Center towers and the attack on the Pentagon provoked a new level of unrest, changing passive confrontation between Western nations and supporters of terrorism into active conflict.
As we watch world affairs (Matthew 16:1-3 Matthew 16:1-3 1 The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would show them a sign from heaven.
2 He answered and said to them, When it is evening, you say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red.
3 And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowering. O you hypocrites, you can discern the face of the sky; but can you not discern the signs of the times?
American King James Version×) and maintain a sober vigilance of our spiritual condition (Mark 13:32-37 Mark 13:32-37 32 But of that day and that hour knows no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father. 33 Take you heed, watch and pray: for you know not when the time is. 34 For the Son of Man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch. 35 Watch you therefore: for you know not when the master of the house comes, at even, or at midnight, or at the cock-crowing, or in the morning: 36 Lest coming suddenly he find you sleeping. 37 And what I say to you I say to all, Watch.
American King James Version×; Luke 12:35-40 Luke 12:35-40 35 Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; 36 And you yourselves like to men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he comes and knocks, they may open to him immediately. 37 Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he comes shall find watching: truly I say to you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them. 38 And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants. 39 And this know, that if the manager of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched, and not have suffered his house to be broken through. 40 Be you therefore ready also: for the Son of man comes at an hour when you think not.
American King James Version×), it is important that we realize the impact of such events and what they could mean for the future, in light of biblical prophecy.
The price for the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, has been high—and it continues to rise. Here are some of the costs of this one event:
•The estimated losses for New York City in 2002 will be $1.6 billion.
•The estimated losses for the state of New York in 2002 will also be $1.6 billion.
•Combined estimated losses for the city and state in 2003 will be approximately $5.8 billion.
•Airlines have absorbed billions of dollars in losses during the past 14 months.
•A newly released report estimates that the cost to the U.S. national economy of these terrorist attacks will reach $639.3 billion, with a loss of two million jobs. Financial damage will be at least twice that of Hurricane Andrew in 1992, the previous most costly U.S. disaster.
All of this from the precisely targeted terrorist attacks of 9/11! What would be the results if several more coordinated attacks occurred at key military and financial locations?
The Bible warns us that times will certainly become worse before we see a turnaround with the return of Christ. Jesus stated in Matthew 24:6-8 Matthew 24:6-8 6 And you shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that you be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.
7 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.
8 All these are the beginning of sorrows.
American King James Version×, “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.” Paul wrote Timothy that “perilous” or stressful times would come (2 Timothy 3:1 2 Timothy 3:1This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.
American King James Version×).
The sniper attacks in the Washington, D.C., area also had their negative effects in creating an environment of fear and panic in that area. Again, what would happen if there were coordinated sniper attacks in many big cities, airports, schools and public buildings? Air traffic would shut down. Schools would close. People would be afraid to go about their daily business. The possible economic effects would be staggering.
Daniel foretold a time of trouble “such as never was since there was a nation” (Daniel 12:1 Daniel 12:1And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which stands for the children of your people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time your people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.
American King James Version×). In Jeremiah 30:4-7 Jeremiah 30:4-7 4 And these are the words that the LORD spoke concerning Israel and concerning Judah. 5 For thus said the LORD; We have heard a voice of trembling, of fear, and not of peace. 6 Ask you now, and see whether a man does travail with child? why do I see every man with his hands on his loins, as a woman in travail, and all faces are turned into paleness? 7 Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble, but he shall be saved out of it.
American King James Version×we read of Jacob’s trouble, that there will never be a time like it. Modern-day Israel—primarily the United States and Britain but also all the descendants of the scattered tribes—are heading to a time of increasing calamity. Perhaps in the events of recent months we are beginning to get a clearer picture of how that might take place. We may be seeing the beginning of Jacob’s trouble.
Leviticus 26 remains an important chapter of the Bible to consider as we observe world events. In this chapter, God lists the blessings that Israel would receive for obeying Him—and the curses if it did not. The blessings are generous, and we in the United States and other Western countries have been the recipients of the promises to Abraham.
Verses 3-4, 6 and 8 read as follows: “If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments, and perform them, then I will give you rain in its season, the land shall yield its produce, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit… I will give peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and none will make you afraid…Five of you shall chase a hundred, and a hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight; your enemies shall fall by the sword before you.”
Prosperity comes when a nation follows God. We will reap what we have sown.
In the United States, we recently celebrated the national holiday of Thanksgiving. The early settlers realized that the bounty and blessings they were able to enjoy were because of God’s hand. This observance is an annual reminder that every good thing comes from God. Of course, we as Christians know we need to thank God on a regular basis, remembering His mercy and gifts to us. As our ways please Him, those blessings will continue—individually and nationally. An important part of us remembering God is to thank Him for what He has given us personally and collectively as a nation.
We also have much to be grateful for spiritually. Certainly the promise of the Kingdom gives us reassurance and a confident outlook, despite the troubling times in which we live. The Kingdom of God will eventually replace all kings and national governments (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×; 7:13-18, 22, 26-27) and we will be directly involved in that Kingdom! In the meantime, we have the privilege (Mark 16:15-16 Mark 16:15-16 15 And he said to them, Go you into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. 16 He that believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believes not shall be damned.
American King James Version×) of bringing hope to others that—despite the current traumas—a better time is coming, and will last for eternity.
Continuing in Leviticus 26, we read that curses follow disobedience. We read the following later in the chapter: “But if you do not obey Me, and do not observe all these commandments…I will even appoint terror over you, wasting disease and fever which shall consume the eyes and cause sorrow of heart. And you shall sow your seed in vain, for your enemies shall eat it. I will set My face against you, and you shall be defeated by your enemies. Those who hate you shall reign over you, and you shall flee when no one pursues you…
“I will break the pride of your power; I will make your heavens like iron and your earth like bronze. And your strength shall be spent in vain; for your land shall not yield its produce, nor shall the trees of the land yield their fruit” (Leviticus 26:14 Leviticus 26:14But if you will not listen to me, and will not do all these commandments;
American King James Version×, 16-17, 19-20).
In areas of health, economics, weather and military strength, people will suffer if not obedient to God. As we have seen with the events of Sept. 11, 2001, a catastrophe in one area can produce domino effects in other areas.
Let us consider for a moment the phrase, “You shall flee when no one pursues you.” We may have asked ourselves in the past how this could happen—especially in the United States with the strongest military in the world. The terrorist and sniper attacks in the past months have given us a possible answer. Even though no army was threatening America’s borders, people in America’s capital were afraid to do their normal travel for a period of time. Again—what would happen with multiple attacks in sensitive areas?
There are a couple of other aspects that we as Christians need to be aware of from such events. One is the fragility of our society. For all of the economic might of the Western world, it is also fragile. Just a few events could send our economy into a tailspin. It would not take much for the world to experience a full-blown economic and military crisis.
Another is how quickly major changes can come. “For when they say, ‘Peace and safety!’ then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape” (1 Thessalonians 5:3 1 Thessalonians 5:3For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction comes on them, as travail on a woman with child; and they shall not escape.
American King James Version×). Literally within minutes on Sept. 11, the world became a different place. It behooves us to always be watchful and ready (verses 4-8).
Other headlines underline the fact that we are living in times of stress, and that any number of events could trigger a major crisis on the world scene. Some recent ones are:
•”FBI Warns of Risk of al-Qaida Attack.”
•”U.S. Braces for Execution Reprisals.”
•”Europeans Warn of Terror Attacks.”
•”Russia Says Nuclear Material Missing.”
Another trend to be aware of in these events is religious tension. Fanatical fervor in the name of Islam has been behind most of the terrorist activity. These include the events of Sept. 11, the later attempt to blow up a U.S. airliner, the shootings at the Los Angeles airport, the hostage crisis in a Moscow theater, the bombing of a French tanker and the bombing of a nightclub in Bali.
Obviously these were extremists, performing radical acts. However, conflicts between Jews, Christians and Muslims have a long history that has been more or less active in the 20th century. With the Middle East, especially Jerusalem, home to some of the most sacred sites of all three beliefs, we can expect to continue to see strife and violence in the name of religion.
In our lifetime, most religious armed conflict in the Middle East has not directly involved Christianity. Is that trend in the process of changing? On Oct. 18, 2002, the Charisma News Service reported that a leading Muslim cleric from Iran had called for the death of Jerry Falwell, Franklin Graham and Pat Robertson.
The Catholic World News reported on Nov. 11, 2002: “Vatican officials point out, however, that there were credible threats of an assassination against the [pope] in 1995, when he visited the Philippines for World Youth Day.
Officials acknowledge that U.S. intelligence agents warned of an al-Qaida plan directed by Osama bin Laden, prompting tight security precautions.” How would Europe, South America and other heavily Catholic countries react if such an attempt were ever successful?
Speaking of Europe, the terrorist events of the last several months have widened the philosophical gap between America and its (for now) European allies. Europe, especially Germany, is nervous about America’s desire to remove Saddam Hussein with force. In fact, in recent German national elections, Chancellor Schröder made it his election platform that Germany would not support an invasion of Iraq.
In the November 2002 World News and Prophecy, Melvin Rhodes wrote an insightful article titled “The Coming Clash Between Europe and America.” Mr. Rhodes highlighted key facts in current U.S.-European relations, including Europe’s distrust of America’s foreign policy, trade disputes and Europe’s criticism of America’s environmental practices. Many Europeans chafe over the military and economic might of the United States, realizing that there is not much they can do about it.
All of these are just initial indicators of stress between these two powers. We read in Revelation 17:12-14 Revelation 17:12-14 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.
14 These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.
American King James Version×about a coming beast-power, and nations giving their power to the beast. We don’t know when that will occur in its final form, but clearly, the foundation is taking shape.
What does all of this mean for you and me? The Scriptures give us direction as we head into these unsettling times (emphasis added throughout).
•Revelation 3:10-11 Revelation 3:10-11 10 Because you have kept the word of my patience, I also will keep you from the hour of temptation, which shall come on all the world, to try them that dwell on the earth.
11 Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which you have, that no man take your crown.
American King James Version×: “Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth. Behold, I am coming quickly!> Hold fast what you have, that no one may take your crown.”
•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×: “But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly . For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man.”
•Matthew 24:32-33 Matthew 24:32-33 32 Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near: 33 So likewise you, when you shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.
American King James Version×, 44, 46: “Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near, at the doors! …Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect…Blessed is that servant whom his master, when he comes, will find so doing.”
Above all, we need to be close to our Heavenly Father in prayer. We need to pray that His Kingdom will come soon (Matthew 6:10 Matthew 6:10Your kingdom come, Your will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
American King James Version×). We need to pray that we will be able to do the work of the Church in peace, for as long as He wills (1 Timothy 2:1-4 1 Timothy 2:1-4 1 I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; 2 For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. 3 For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; 4 Who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
American King James Version×). We need to pray for the strength and perseverance to endure the times that are coming upon this world. God has promised us protection, and we will receive that deliverance by remaining dedicated to Him and seeking first His Kingdom.
The great news, of course, that we always emphasize is that after these terrible events, Jesus Christ will return to rule the earth! That is the only real hope for mankind, and that is our confidence and joy as we observe world events. May God speed the day of Christ’s coming and the establishment of His government on earth. WNP