As a battered world emerges from a tough decade of debt and disaster, what do the years to come have in store for the earth's inhabitants? The horrors of the Haitian earthquake sternly remind us that disaster and death are not likely to abate during the next decade. How do we stay sane in this world of increasing uncertainty and insecurity?
By nature humans seek at least a semblance of order in their daily lives. We do not normally relish unwelcome, unpleasant surprises.
Men and women usually organize the activities of their workdays and even their leisure time. We gradually teach and guide our young children to build order into their lives.
One British author tells us: "Man organizes his world. Even to speak of 'world' is to imply some kind of unity. A world is not a chaos. The Greeks called the world kosmos, 'order.' Man orders phenomena into a world" (Dr. John Macquarrie, Existentialism, 1973, p. 57). Yet humankind is not the ultimate source of order.
Order comes from God
The first chapter of the first book of the Bible shows that sometime after the heavens and the earth were originally created, God brought order out of chaos (see Genesis 1:2 and our free booklet Creation or Evolution: Does It Really Matter What You Believe? pages 60-70 for a detailed explanation). God restored order to the earth in six days capped by His resting on the seventh day (the Sabbath day)—setting an example for humankind.
In the New Testament the apostle Paul clearly states that "God is not the author of confusion" (1 Corinthians 14:33). From this basic truth the following apostolic instruction naturally emerges: "Let all things be done decently and in order" (verse 40).
Genesis 1:26-27 reveals that men and women were created in the image of God. So in general terms, we reflect our Maker's nature when we first plan and then execute those plans in stages.
But how did the disruption we now see in the world originally enter God's creation? Only the Bible has the true explanation.
Ages ago, God created a super angelic being called Lucifer. We should understand that our Creator gave both His angelic and human realm the gift of free choice. This high-ranking being was made to be a light-bringer. But he became Satan.
Two chapters in the Old Testament record the devil's choice of rebellion against God and his resulting fall (Isaiah 14:12-15; Ezekiel 28:11-17), causing chaos in the physical, material world. Jesus Christ said, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven" (Luke 10:18), an event that apparently occurred before God created humankind. (For a detailed account, read our free booklet Is There Really a Devil?)
Later when man was created, God allowed Satan (in the form of a serpent) to tempt our first parents. They succumbed to his deceptive influence, and their world of prosperity, peace and plenty suddenly became one of disruption and survival by the sweat of the brow. Instead of keeping the paradise of the Garden of Eden, they were cast out into an unfriendly environment that demanded their struggle for survival.
Adam and Eve had transgressed God's governing spiritual law (1 John 3:4), designed to bring order and joy into their lives. The vast majority of humankind has followed their general pattern ever since (see Romans 5:12). In a nutshell, this tells us why our world remains the way it is today—order combined with disrupting threads of disorder. This is the fruit of human disobedience, the ongoing punishment for partaking of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Yet, as we shall see in the conclusion of this article, God has not and will not abandon His human creation. Instead He will ultimately come to our rescue through the second coming of His beloved Son. God's generous gift of Christ's sacrifice for the sins of the world represents His guarantee of global deliverance in the age to come (see John 3:16-17; Titus 2:13-14).
Intelligent observers see global problems in perspective
Clear-sighted observers of the world scene are not blind to the stubborn and intractable problems that now afflict mankind with ever-increasing intensity. Paul Kennedy is but one of them. He writes: "Things are happening across our planet that should cause all sensible observers to be troubled... There are the many indicators of disruptive tendencies, of environmental catastrophes, financial instabilities,...quarrels over contested historic lands and borders, human-rights abuses, and displays of angry, egoistic nationalism. It is not a pretty sight" ("The Voyage Onwards," International Herald Tribune magazine, Dec. 17, 2009, p. 38, emphasis added throughout).
A few seem to understand the basic, cause-and-effect connection between our problems and our disruptive moral behavior. Daniel Johnson, the insightful editor of Standpoint magazine, writes: "Looking ahead to 2020, there appear to be two possible outcomes. If by then the West has stood firmly by its unique combination of freedom, democracy and the rule of law, then it will be able to withstand anything—including new attempts to import jihad into Europe and America."
Then he states the alternative: "If the West were to give up the struggle, however, the outcome would be very different. We are getting used to the idea of a nuclear-armed Iran, but this means a nuclear-armed Middle East. If the Obama administration and the European Union acquiesce in this alarming prospect, the chances are that the situation will go from bad to worse. The creation of a new Caliphate with ambitions for hegemony over the Islamic world is the long-term goal, not only of al-Qaeda, but of the Muslim Brotherhood and millions of other Islamists too. It is one which may be realised sooner than we expect—if we allow it to happen" ("Ten Years After," Standpoint, January/February 2010, p. 7).
Daniel Johnson concludes the lead editorial with this sentence: "That Judaeo-Christian fusion of faith and reason we call Western civilisation, much of which has its origins in Europe, will outlive us all—but only if we are prepared to defend it."
Our free booklet The Middle East in Bible Prophecy explores the prophetic consequences of these Islamic ambitions in detail. It also explains the historical background of this pivotal region of the earth. Read your copy today.
A global structural and leadership problem
Adrian Hamilton observes in The Independent: "Not since the 1930s have we entered a decade in which it is quite so difficult to predict just what kind of regimes will be in power in many of the main countries. The last decade has seen the cruel demolition of the idea of a liberal 'end to history.' We really don't know what will replace it in the clash of resurgent nationalism and battered globalisation that marks the new decade.
"Add to this the tinder box of the Middle East issue, the pressures of climate change and the strain on resources and you have a recipe for almost continual conflict... The political problem is the lack of structures and leadership to contain the instability that so marks the present time" ("The Competition of Nations Need Not Be a Zero-Sum Game," Jan. 1, 2010, p. 29).
Daniel Johnson adds this crucial observation: "Chaos and civilisation are never far apart. For this reason, we need to confront the forces of chaos wherever and in whatever form they may appear" ("The Passing of Greatness," Standpoint, November 2009, p. 3). But how do we accomplish this with our presently flawed institutional structures and world bodies? Are they really up to the task?
Paul Kennedy reminds us of our continued reliance on these flawed national and international institutions of authority: "But there are also many storms, tides and rocks ahead, which is why, again and again, we will turn to our national governments and international organizations, however flawed, however human, to keep the global ship of state afloat—and capable of sailing onwards."
His concluding words are: "Still, no one should assume that it will be an easy voyage" ("The Voyage Onward," International Herald Tribune magazine, Dec. 17, 2009, p. 39).
Order imposed by empires—past and yet future
The Hebrew prophet Daniel spoke of four great successive empires that ruled over much of the known civilized world of their day: Babylonian, Persian, Greek and Roman (see Daniel 2:27-43). There have been other notable empires throughout history, including the British, Spanish and Ottoman Empires. Each one imposed a certain order on an often chaotic world.
Left to ourselves, human beings will do what is right in our own eyes. This is the basic lesson of the Judges era in ancient Israel's history (see Judges 17:6; 21:25). "That is the way I see it," we often hear from others. But our own way, apart from God's help and guidance, ultimately results in misery, suffering and death (see Proverbs 14:12; 16:25; Jeremiah 10:23-24). Naturally, we don't know the way to either personal or global peace (Romans 3:17). Yet order and authority are essential elements to human survival.
The choices and options that confront our nations today remind one of trying to choose the lesser of two or more evils. Noted Financial Times columnist Philip Stephens sums up a fundamental choice now on the geopolitical chessboard. "The choice now is between a world in which powerful states are held in check by co-operative multilateralism; or one that is riven by the clash of narrow nationalisms. During the present decade everything changed. The next will be described by whether the great powers—old and rising—prove themselves masters or victims of a new global order" ("A Global Order Swept Away in the Rapids of History," Dec. 18, 2009, p. 13).
This could very well constitute a serious dilemma. What if an instrument of multilateralism becomes so powerful in itself that in effect it becomes yet another world empire—dictatorially ruling the nations and states within its sphere of influence? Sooner or later, potentially powerful world bodies like the European Union could well become undemocratic instruments of oppression in which national sovereignties are cruelly trampled underfoot. To some extent this is already an ongoing, ostensibly irreversible process. Just ask the British.
So what real hope are we left with?
A benevolent world-ruling empire in waiting
In Britain the political party not in power, but instead in parliamentary opposition, always has a shadow administration. Counterpart individuals matching the cabinet posts of the authorities currently in government are already named, and those selected busily study their possible future responsibilities. This shadow administration remains in constant readiness to assume office if and when the loyal opposition wins a national election. Until then they are standing in the wings.
The above human analogy to the Kingdom of God is far from perfect, but it may help us to grasp what God has planned for Jesus Christ's future millennial reign on this earth. The Bible reveals that a divine ruling structure has been in preparation since creation. Some future leaders have already been chosen.
King David and the 12 apostles have already been named (and qualified) to hold specific positions in the administration of this divine government to come (Ezekiel 34:23-24; 37:24-25, Matthew 19:28; Luke 22:30; Revelation 21:14). Faithful Christians since Christ's ascension (those called and chosen who will be glorified at the first resurrection) will also be an integral part of Christ's ruling administration (Revelation 2:26; 3:21).
The good news is that you, too, can participate in this divinely appointed new world order. It is the only real and workable solution to the stubborn problems that confront mankind today. Only the future government of God can and will bring peace, prosperity, righteousness and salvation to humankind. God speed that day. WNP