What Is This World Coming To?
Many Bible prophecies predicted the conditions and events of our day as signs of the end of the world-today's headlines written nearly 2,000 years ago. A consideration of these prophecies establishes: (1) that the Bible is indeed the inspired Word of God; (2) that we are living in unprecedented times prophesied in Scripture as the "end of the world"; and (3) that man stands at the threshold of lasting peace and economic security in a pollution-free earth.
Daniel 12:1 and 4 give four signs that mark the "time of the end," or end of the world:
Unprecedented Trouble-Daniel 12:1
That the first sign, unprecedented trouble, is the hallmark of our time is confirmed by historians. True, the world has always had trouble, but never before has it been in such staggering proportions.
Wars: In the 20th Century 100 million lives have been lost (TIME, Mar. 9, 1970). Thirty-four wars were being waged in 1988. The population explosion and industrialization of Third World nations will accentuate the oil crunch. The Iraq War is a harbinger of the future. As the oil crunch increases, nations will go to war for oil.
Many Third World nations have the poorman's bomb- chemical warfare, and are working on actual nuclear warheads. Such volatile weaponry in the hands of these regimes spells trouble. The economic and political instability of the Soviet Union could result in a military coup.
Population Explosion: Before 1650 A.D. the population doubled every 1,000 years; it doubled in 1850 (200 years later); doubled again in 1930 (only 80 years later); and doubled again in 1965 (only 35 years later). In 1990 the world population was 5.5 billion. By 2,000 A.D. it will increase by one billion. Up to 15 million people die of starvation annually. There are 30 million refugees and 100 million homeless. Each day 40,000 babies die of starvation in Third World countries while Americans spend over $900 million yearly feeding dogs and cats.
Pollution: The U.S. has 5 % of the world's population, but annually disposes of 290 million tons of toxic waste, uses 26% of the world's oil, releases 26% of the world's nitrogen oxides, produces 22 % of the world's carbon dioxide emissions .
Solid wastes, radio active and toxic chemical wastes are contaminating our rivers, lakes and oceans. Air pollutants from car exhaust and industry spawn disease. Deaths from respiratory disease doubles every five years. Skin cancer caused by the depleted ozone layer is rapidly increasing. Acid rain is destroying our forests, which in turn will produce ''global warming.'' This "greenhouse effect" could melt polar ice caps causing oceans to rise and wipe out hundreds of thousands of miles of densely populated coastal lands (affecting 2 billion people). Also, it would dramatically increase temperature variations. This would trigger life-threatening droughts and heat waves turning "breadbasket farmland" (like our Midwest) into barren desert. Severe food shortages would result. Time is running out, according to Lester R. Brown, president of the highly respected WORLDWATCH INSTITUTE. "Preceding generations have always been concerned about the future, but ours is the first to be faced with decisions that will determine whether the earth our children inherit will be inhabitable." Scientists are now concerned that the population explosion could hasten and increase the effects of Global warming. (N. TIMES, Jan. 18, 1990). Drastic climate changes resulting in economic disaster in many nations could trigger wars for survival.
Crime and Violence continue to spiral. Automatic weapons are readily available to the "kid" on the street. In large cities, students are scanned for weapons upon entering school and the halls are patrolled by armed police. There is an upsurge in the most violent types of crime by teens of all races, classes and life-styles. Once muggers robbed a person and ran off. Now they beat, violate or murder them. There were over 2200 homicides in New York City during 1990. Also. every 2½ weeks a child was murdered in New York by a parent. Over 3 million wives are battered each year in the U.S.
Drugs: We are losing the drug war because the huge profits are too corrupting. In 1989 the major U.S. chemical companies sold 18.5 million pounds of chemicals to "front companies" in South America who in turn sold these chemicals to drug cartels. There are 2.2 million hard-core drug users in the United States. While I out of 40 persons in New York City is hard-core, nationally I out of 100 are hard-core users. The number of casual users is substantially higher. Is it any wonder the crime rate is spiraling? Seventy percent of New York City's drug users are affluent. One thousand drug addicted babies are born every day.
Economic chaos: The U.S. entered the 1990s with a staggering debt of $663.7 billion and a perilous foreign trade imbalance; the S & L Associations on the verge of complete collapse; the commercial banks in serious trouble; insurance companies failing; 1300 companies claiming bankruptcy per week; plus a recession that accentuated of these problems. The nineties is the ''decade of uncertainty.''
In 1983, the U.S. was the world's largest creditor nation. By 1990 it became the biggest debtor nation (C. Fred Bergsten, head of the INSTITUTE FOR INTERNATIONAL ECONOMICS 1990). The Commerce Department reported (July 2, 1990) that the U.S. debt swelled to $663.7 billion. Many economists predict it will top $1 trillion within a few years. Already we have fallen to number three in economic power, behind Germany and Japan.
Out of 2500 Savings and Loan Associations, over 1,000 need to be bailed out. It is more than a fiasco of high risk loans and mismanagement. S & L heads have swindled astronomical sums. Government regulators are accused of hiding facts to avert election issues.
Indeed, our generation is experiencing a "Time of Trouble such as never was since there was a nation."
Increased Travel-Daniel 12:1
The second sign is increased travel. Transportation has increased rapidly because of the automobile. Selden made the first automobile in 1877. Today there are over 500,000,000 cars. Through increased and numerous modes of transportation millions are crossing and recrossing each other's paths around the world. In the past 100 years, man has increased his travel from 30 mph to 25,000 mph off the planet to the moon. Sophistication in communications, additionally, allows man to see and hear almost anywhere in the world instantly.
Knowledge Increased-Daniel 12:1
The third sign is increased knowledge. The statistics of our day are impressive. If the increase of knowledge from the dawn of history to the 1880's is given a value of one, then knowledge has doubled 16 times within the last 10 years. One hundred years ago, 90 of the world's population could neither read nor write. Today, 40% of the world's population can read and write and in the Western world literacy has reached nearly 90%. Ninety percent of all scientists who have ever lived are alive today. Fifty percent of the world's inventions have been created in the last decade.
The noted historian, Barbara Tuchman has observed,
Unprecedented travel and increase of knowledge marks us at the "time of the end."
Israel Becomes a Nation-Daniel 12:1
The fourth sign which marks us at the "time of the end" is that the Lord will stand up for Daniel's "people," the Jewish nation. If we are living in this "time of the end," we should expect a dramatic evidence of God's favor on behalf of the Jewish people.
Against this background, Matthew 24 becomes meaningful . "What shall be the sign of your coming [Greek, parousia], and of the end of the world [age]?" Matthew 24:3
Matthew 24:32-34 gives the deliverance of Israel as one of these signs. "Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is nigh: So likewise you, when you shall see all these things, know that it is even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled."
It is generally recognized by students of prophecy from many denominations that the fig tree is pictorial of the nation of Israel. (See Jeremiah, Chapter 24). In Matthew 21:19, Jesus cursed a fig tree because he found no fruit on it and as a result of his cursing it withered away. Several days later Jesus applied the lesson of the withered fig tree. He proclaimed judgment on the nation of Israel, "Behold, your house is left unto you desolate" (Matthew 23:38) because it had not borne fruitage to God. Israel was subsequently scattered and persecuted. Israel's restoration is an outstanding sign of the end of the age. The fig tree coming back to life and putting forth leaves represents Israel coming to life as a nation, and receiving God's increasing favor. Historians agree that Israel's rebirth is a miracle of history. Never before has a nation been destroyed, its people dispersed to the ends of the earth and then-nearly 2,000 years later-its descendants regathered to their homeland and re-established as a nation.
Compare Luke 21:29-32 with Matthew 24:32-34. The restoration of Israel means the kingdom is at hand.
The generation that witnesses Israel restored as a nation will also witness the complete end of the world or age, and the full establishment of the Kingdom of God.
The Scriptures are charged with signs that have become the headlines of our day: Jerusalem is no longer trodden down of the Gentiles (Luke 21:24); many new nations have gained independence (Luke 21:29,30); evil is exposed as never before (I Cor. 4:5); most people, even the professedly religious, have little faith (Luke 18:8); men love themselves, have no respect for parents, and have no natural affection (2 Tim. 3:1-5); turmoil grows between labor and capital (James 5:1-4); wars and war preparations intensify (Joel 3:9-11); all the while men proclaim "peace" (I Thess. 5:2,3); men's hearts fail for fear (Luke 21:36).
One more sign bears consideration.
United Nations-No Way Out
" ... And there shall be signs upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring " Luke 21:25.
The Greek word sunoche, translated "distress," means "a holding fast together, union or crowding." What better description could we have of the United Nations organization and all the other alliances and pacts such as NATO, SEATO, and the European Common Market? Today the nations are uniting "with perplexity."
But a further thought is contained in this sign that marks it peculiar to our time. The Greek word aporia translated "perplexity" means "no way out, be at a loss." Our day is characterized by uniting all the nations of earth into the United Nations and other alliances in a desperate attempt for survival, but there is literally no way out. This hopeless situation is graphically reflected in a statement by former U.N. Secretary General U Thant, on May 15,1969:
Luke 21:25 tells us that this desperate uniting of nations for survival in a no-way-out situation is one of the "signs" of the end of the world (age).
All of these prophecies mark us in the time when the present evil world is being destroyed.-God is now revealing Himself as never before in history, a revelation which will climax with the establishment of the Kingdom of Christ on earth. Take heart-even though things must get worse before they get better. It is the unprecedented severity of world problems (Matthew 24:21) and the paralysis of hopelessness (Luke 21:25) that mark us at the threshold of the great Kingdom blessings which God has in store for man.
Just as urban renewal requires the demolition of the old, so the full establishment of Christ's Kingdom requires the removal of our corrupt civilization (Hebrews 12:28). This present generation will see the Kingdom in all its glory (Luke 21:21-32).