By Michael Roy and Scott MacGregor
As events unfold in the third millennium, many of us can’t help but wonder what the future holds for us and our planet. Are we on the threshold of a brave New World Order, with “peace and plenty for all”? Or are we tottering on the brink of unprecedented chaos and disaster?
Biblical prophets foretold many specifics about today’s world. Their predictions, now two to three thousand years old, accurately depict conditions and events that have either already taken place or will soon—quite possibly during our lifetime.
Among those prophecies are descriptions of modern rapid transportation systems, today’s unprecedented increase in world travel, the present explosion in knowledge of all kinds, technological advances such as electronic banking, a soon-to-be-implemented global financial and identification system, the effects of global warming, and outbreaks of lethal epidemics.
Awareness of these predictions will give you a new perspective on the radical transformation the world is currently undergoing, as well as prepare you for the cataclysmic changes to come.
The big question
Throughout the ages a number of seers have received special insight into the future. A discourse that is regarded by many as the most profound and comprehensive of its kind was given 2,000 years ago on a hillside outside the ancient city of Jerusalem. There a small band of truth-seekers gathered around their teacher—a carpenter-turned-preacher, known as Jesus of Nazareth. The question they asked Him prompted a response that reaches across the centuries to the days in which we are now living.
As He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3)
What His followers were asking Him about is often referred to as “the Second Coming,” the dramatic return of Christ prior to His taking over the world and establishing the kingdom of God on earth. Jesus answered their question by revealing not one sign of “the end,” but many. Outstanding predictions by a number of other biblical writers both before and after Jesus help fill in the picture.
The even bigger answers
“You will hear of wars and rumors of wars. … 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.” (Matthew 24:6–8)
The Greek word that is translated as “sorrows” here is sometimes also translated “birth pangs,” the painful muscle contractions that women experience during childbirth.
Wars, famines, plagues, and earthquakes were nothing new in Jesus’ time, of course. The apostle Paul wrote, “We know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.” (Romans 8:22)
Labor pains become more frequent and intensify right up to the moment of birth, but eventually the ordeal comes to an end. The birth of the baby, which in this case symbolizes Jesus’ return at the end of this age, is not going to wait forever. You may be surprised to learn just how far this “childbirth” has progressed in recent years.
A world at war
“You will hear of wars and rumors of wars. … Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.”
War has been a scourge of mankind since time immemorial, but no period in history has witnessed a greater number of wars or greater destruction brought about by them than has the last hundred years.
Prior to 1914, war had never been universal, but in both World War I and World War II global war was waged. In the latter, all but 12 small nations of the world were militarily or technically involved, and 93 million people served in the armed forces of both sides. Of these, 25 million died. Civilian casualties were unprecedented: In the Soviet Union alone, over 20 million civilians died as a result of the war.
The Washington Post noted: “20th-century wars have been ‘total wars’ against combatants and civilians alike. … The barbarian wars of centuries past were alley fights in comparison.” (Richard Harwood, “Death in the 20th Century,” Washington Post, 27 Apr 1995)
Ethnic cleansing and tribal terror
The Greek word for “nation” originally used in this prophecy—“nation shall rise against nation”—is ethnos, which is more accurately translated “a race” or “a tribe.” In other words, Jesus was saying that ethnic groups would rise against each other. This has been tragically fulfilled in recent times. Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Arthur Schlesinger (1917–2007) warned:
The 20th century [was] a century of the warfare of ideologies: democracy vs. fascism, democracy vs. communism. But the end of the Cold War has released long-buried national, racial, ethnic, and linguistic antagonisms around the world. … The 21st century promises to be a century of the warfare of ethnicities. (“Unity, Multiculturalism and the American Creed,” Cultural Survival Quarterly, Issue 18.2, 31 Oct 1994)
Citing Stalin’s purges, Mao’s Cultural Revolution, Pol Pot’s killing fields, the so-called ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, the horrors of Rwanda, etc., the Associated Press (AP) reports that during the 20th century the murders perpetrated by nations against their own people exceeded the deaths caused by wars with rivals outside their borders—170 million lives, by one estimate. That was the century that coined the term “genocide.” (Arlene Levinson, “20th Century Awash in Blood,” AP, 16 Sep 1995)
Although the outlook may appear bleak, the day is soon coming when God Himself will intervene in this violent world, and war shall be forever abolished (Isaiah 2:4).
“Mommy, I’m Hungry!”
“And there will be famines…” (Matthew 24:7)
Extreme poverty remains a daily reality for more than 1 billion people who subsist on less than US$1 a day. Hunger and malnutrition are almost equally pervasive: More than 800 million people have too little to eat to meet their daily energy needs. (The Millennium Development Goals 2005 Report FAO.)
All of this is compounded by a profound climate change that is affecting every part of the world, or soon will. Sir John Houghton, a British climate expert and co-chair of the Scientific Assessment Working Group of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, warns: “Forests will die, diseases like malaria will spread, and starving refugees will wander across borders as weather becomes more extreme. (Maggie Fox, “Global Warming Means Third-World Hardship,” Reuters, 15 Feb 1996.) The impacts of global warming are such that I have no hesitation in describing it as a ‘weapon of mass destruction.’’ (John Houghton, “Global warming is now a weapon of mass destruction” The Guardian, 28 Jul 2003.)
World population has more than doubled in the last 50 years and is expected to reach 8.5 billion by the year 2030. As the number of people increases, per capita availability of water and arable land decreases. The control of water resources is predicted to become a major cause of armed conflict in the future. (“Water Wars: Climate change may spark conflict,” The Independent, 9 Apr 2007.)
A Plagued Planet
“And there will be pestilences…”
The severity and frequency with which “pestilences” (epidemics of highly infectious diseases) now strike is also alarming.
A 1983 medical textbook declared infectious diseases “more easily prevented and more easily cured” than any other major group of disorders, (“The Infection Comeback,” U.S. News & World Report, 29 Jan 1996.) but doctors now warn that the current emergence of drug-resistant bacteria strains could prove to be more deadly than AIDS.
Viral killers like AIDS and Ebola are also occurring more frequently than ever, and the threat from influenza might be the most dangerous of all. The influenza virus has developed the ability to circumvent the human body’s main defense against the disease, raising the prospect of a deadly new global outbreak, scientists have discovered.
The biggest threat comes from strains created when one form of the virus jumps from an animal species to a human already infected with a more common type of flu. Inside the human host, the two viruses combine to create a brand-new strain to which no one on the planet has any prior immunity. Scientists now think this is what happened during the “Spanish flu” pandemic of 1918 and 1919, which killed an estimated 50 million people worldwide.
Pandemics come in cycles and we’re overdue for one. (“Medical Pros Fear Flu Pandemic,” Daily News, 3 Oct 2004.) “New diseases are emerging at the historically unprecedented rate of one per year,” the WHO’s director-general, Dr. Margaret Chan, said in an introduction to the 2007 World Health Report. “It would be extremely naïve and complacent to assume that there will not be another disease like AIDS, another Ebola, or another SARS, sooner or later,” the report said.
Considering today’s high volume of high-speed international travel, an outbreak of a deadly disease in any part of the world is only a few hours away from becoming a dire threat elsewhere. (“Diseases spreading faster with travel,” AP, 23 Aug 2007.)
The Big Shake-up
“And there will be earthquakes, in various places…”
A 1995 top-level meeting of geologists and seismologists warned that the rise of big cities along seismic fault lines will cause unprecedented catastrophes in the near future. “It’s virtually certain there will be catastrophes in the coming decades, the likes of which we have never seen,” Roger Bilham told an International Union of Geodesy and Geophysics meeting. “Fatality counts exceeding one million are not an unreasonable projection given that 50 percent of an urban population can be lost in a single earthquake.” (“Deaths in quakes expected to rise as cities grow,” Reuters, Boulder, Colorado, 3 Jul 1995.)
The energy released in the 2004 Asian tsunami was equivalent to the explosion of 475,000 kilotons of TNT, or 23,000 Hiroshima-sized atomic bombs. At least 226,000 were killed and over 500,000 were injured. (“Facts and Figures: Asian Tsunami Disaster,” New Scientist, 20 Jan 2005.)
The Bible’s book of Revelation mentions five times that massive quakes will occur in the Last Days.
Our Violent World
“As the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.” (Matthew 24:37)
Another condition that Jesus indicated would be evident immediately prior to His return would be pervasive violence.
How were things in “the days of Noah?” The book of Genesis tells us “the earth was corrupt before God, and was filled with violence.” (Genesis 6:11)
Political violence is the term currently being used to describe the violence perpetrated by governments on their own or conquered people, or violence committed by political and ideological groups. In the 20th century it is estimated that around 110 million people died as a result of wars, whereas over 170 million were killed in political violence during the same period. (R. J. Rummel, Death by Government (New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 1994.)
The “me generation”
“Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall grow cold.” (Matthew 24:12 KJV)
This is how Jesus described the callous condition of people’s hearts in the days before His return. In a related passage, the apostle Paul writes, “But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.” (2 Timothy 3:1–4)
Selfishness and cold-heartedness seem to be prevalent almost everywhere we look.
The good news goes global
“And this Gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14)
Unlike wars, famine, plagues, and earthquakes, which Jesus called “the beginning of sorrows,” He said that this particular sign—the Gospel being preached in all the world—was a specific sign that would indicate when the actual end of the age would be upon the world.
According to The Almanac of the Christian World, Christians and Christian churches now exist in every country of the world. (The Almanac of the Christian World (Wheaton, Illinois: Tyndale House Publishers, 1990)) Missiologists estimate that between 75 and 85 percent of the world’s population have heard the Gospel at least once. Over 50 million Bibles are distributed every year, as well as nearly 80 million New Testaments. Four billion gospel tracts are also printed each year.
According to the United Bible Societies, the entire Bible or parts thereof are now available to about 98 percent of the world’s population, having been translated partially or entirely into some 2,303 languages and dialects.
Other Christian books are also proliferating. Books primarily about Jesus in today’s libraries number 175,000 titles in 500 languages, increasing by four newly published books every day. The Gospel is also preached in 38,000 Christian magazines and on 4,050 radio and television stations. Ninety-nine percent of the world’s population have the Gospel available to them via Christian radio stations.
Meanwhile an innumerable number of Christian websites, cyber churches, gospel webcasts and podcasts, and other Christian ministries evangelize, inform, and pastor via the Internet.
The story of Christ’s sacrifice reached millions worldwide with Mel Gibson’s retelling of The Passion of Christ (2004), but its viewing audience is dwarfed by the Jesus (1979) film. Shot on location in the Middle East, Jesus is a retelling of Luke’s gospel. Starring a white British Jesus and with a mostly Jewish Yemenite cast, it is an unlikely candidate for the most watched or most translated film, but it is both. (Giles Wilson, “The most watched film in history,” BBC News Online, 21 Jul 2003) It has been translated into over 1,000 languages with over 200 more translations in progress (with over 58 million products, including film, video, and audio distributed), and it has had an estimated combined viewing and listening audience of over 6 billion.
Never in the course of history has the Gospel been preached in all the world to all nations as it is right now by every means possible.
Globetrotters and jetsetters
“Many shall run to and fro…” (Daniel 12:4)
In 534 bc, the prophet Daniel received an outstanding revelation, after which God told him that even though the prophecy was given through him, he wouldn’t understand it because it didn’t pertain to him.
Amongst many other things, Daniel was told: “Seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.” (Daniel 12:4)
Many running to and fro literally means “speeding about, here and there,” or as The Living Bible renders this verse, “travel shall be vastly increased.”
Until about 100 years ago, people’s means of transportation—horse and buggy, wagons, camels, boats, etc.—had not changed substantially for thousands of years.
“Knowledge shall increase.” (Daniel 12:4)
It is with good cause that the term “information overload” was coined in recent years. If the amount of information that is available is any indication of the knowledge available, knowledge has increased within our generation almost beyond imagination!
Global information increases about 30% per year, according to figures developed by the University of California at Berkeley.
Each year around a million books are printed (that’s titles, not copies), 25,276 newspapers are published (that’s publications, not issues), 40,000 scholarly journals, 80,000 mass-market periodicals, and 40,000 newsletters. (UNESCO 1996, ISSN 2001, Ulrich’s 2000, Oxbridge Directory 1997)
“Now the [Holy] Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons.” (1 Timothy 4:1)
Not only are many people unknowingly falling for Satan’s deceptions, increasing numbers are following rank Satanism. The Bible tells us that if people willfully reject God’s truth, they will be given “strong delusion, that they should believe a lie.” (2 Thessalonians 2:10–11) When we refuse the truth, there is nothing left to believe but a lie. This is why much of the world today is wide open for deceivers and false prophets.
Two fields in which paganism and Satanism have made tremendous inroads are the popular music business and the computer gaming industry. The most shameless acts of blasphemy and desecration are now socially acceptable in the name of audiovisual and multimedia entertainment and “freedom of expression.”
“The Antichrist is coming.” (1 John 2:18)
The most outstanding and ominous sign of the end of the world as we know it—a sign that the Bible devotes several key chapters to—will be the rise of a Devil-possessed tyrant known as the Antichrist, or “the Beast,” who will set up a world government “over every tribe, tongue, and nation.” (Revelation 13:7)
There are already signs that the world is heading toward the global government that this verse seems to imply. Many present international and supranational bodies, treaties, and protocols have at their core the promotion of regional or global cooperation and integration. The European Union now encompasses 27 nations, with more seeking admittance. The African Union, which was formed in 2001, includes 53 African nations. In 2004, the nations of South America signed the Cuzco Declaration announcing the foundation of the South American Community modeled after the European Union, including goals of a common currency, parliament, and passport. The declared aim of the Asian Cooperation Dialogue, which includes the megastates of Russia, China, and India, as well as 27 other Asian countries, is to transform the continent into an Asian Community.
The United Nations, with its 192 member states, is the hub for many organizations that affect and regulate our lives, such as the World Health Organization, the International Atomic Energy Commission, the International Labor Organization, UNESCO, the International Court of Justice (the World Court), the International Criminal Court, and the World Bank.
Globalization of the economy is a reality. Numerous trade bodies and treaties are already in place, such as the World Trade Organization, ASEAN, NAFTA, and Mercosur.
The Jerusalem peace accord
It appears that the Antichrist will rise to power on a political platform of peace, security, and economic stability. Like Satan himself, who can appear as an angel of light, this man will deceive most of the world into thinking that he is a great man of peace, a hero. The prophet Daniel wrote that “he shall come in peaceably, and seize the kingdom by intrigue.” (Daniel 11:21) He confirms with many other leaders an international protocol that Daniel called “the Holy Covenant.” (Daniel 9:27; 11:22-32)
Whether this world government that the Antichrist heads is already in power or it comes to power when this document is signed, we don’t yet know. The Scriptures clearly state, however, that this covenant will have a planned duration of seven years, and that it will be pivotal to the Antichrist’s claim to world leadership. This pact will also accomplish the seemingly impossible task of resolving the Middle East crisis, at least temporarily.
It seems the compromise between the Israelis and the Palestinians will include Jerusalem and its holy sites. A central issue will be Mount Moriah in Jerusalem, which is sacred to Jews (their Temple stood there before being destroyed by the Romans in 70 ad), and to Muslims (the Dome of the Rock, part of the Al-Haram al-Qudsi al-Sharif complex, the third most revered holy place in Islam, stands there today). Scripture indicates that the Antichrist’s covenant will enable the Jews to rebuild their national temple, where they will revive their ancient rituals of animal sacrifice. (Daniel 8:23-25; 9:27; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4)
Much of the religious paraphernalia and building materials for this temple have already been fabricated and stored, and the priests and temple attendants are already trained.
The biblical prophet Ezekiel (circa 623–571 bc) calls the Antichrist “Gog, of the land of Magog, the prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal.” (Ezekiel 38:2) Scholars agree that the ancient land referred to as Magog appears to be a powerful country or region to the north of Israel, which leads some to believe that the Antichrist will rise out of Russia.
Visions recorded in chapters 2 and 7 of the book of Daniel indicate that the Antichrist will be associated with ten “kings” of nations that were once part of the Roman Empire, which included much of Western and Southern Europe. The book of Revelation says these ten will “give their power and authority unto the beast.” (Revelations 17:13)
There are also indications in Scripture that the Antichrist could have something to do with Egypt. (Daniel 8: 22-26)
The Great Tribulation
Although most of the world will initially hail the Antichrist as a political savior, three and a half years after the enactment of the seven-year covenant, he will revoke the peace pact and manifest his satanic nature. At this time he apparently will invade Israel and establish himself in Jerusalem, making that city his world capital. (Daniel 11:45)
His government will then outlaw all religions except the worship of the Antichrist and an image of himself that will somehow be empowered to speak and “cause as many as would not worship [it] to be killed.” (Revelations 13:14-15) Jesus said that when you see this image, the “abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place [temple] … then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world.” (Matthew 24:15;21) Thus the name given to this period is the “Great Tribulation.” It will be a time when the Antichrist and his regime will institute a ruthless repression and persecution of believers in God. (Daniel 7:21,25; 8:23-24; 11:31-35; 12:7,10; Revelation 13:5-7)
It is also at this time that the Antichrist government tries to impose the infamous “666” financial system globally.
The coming cashless society
“He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on [in] their right hand or on [in] their foreheads, 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. Here is wisdom. Let him who has understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a man: His number is 666.” (Revelation 13:16–18)
This prophecy is remarkable. Think about it: Nearly 2,000 years ago the apostle John, who prior to meeting Jesus had been a fisherman by trade and had been called an “uneducated and untrained” man, (Acts 4:13) predicted that a global economic system will one day be instituted in which everyone will be forced to receive a number, without which no one will be able to buy or sell. Only in this era of computers and electronic commerce could this prophecy be fulfilled.
There are currently a number of methods commonly used for purchasing items. You can use cash, you can write a check, you can use a credit card, or you can use a debit card that instantly deducts the amount from your bank account and deposits it into the account of the merchant.
Smart cards take this several steps further. They look like an ordinary credit card, but there’s a big difference: They have a tiny computer chip embedded in their plastic. These electronic marvels not only give you instant access to your bank account, but they can also contain (or access) your passport information, your medical record, driver’s license, photographs, biometrics, credit history, and other data. Hundreds of millions of smart cards are in use across Europe in the form of health cards, SIM (Subscriber Identity Module) cards, which turn your phone into a smart card, and ePurse cards. Smart cards are at the heart of the eEurope initiative. Germany ran full trials of their electronic health card in 2006. Other European states and regions already have an equivalent card program in operation.
We are well on the way to eliminating cash. Advocates of a cashless society have many compelling reasons for it. A primary one is that cash is the mother’s milk of drug smugglers and is used to fund international terrorism. With no cash, the sale of illegal drugs and other kinds of criminal activity would be greatly hampered.
Your own personal microchip implant
A cheap and workable solution would be to take a chip similar to those used in smart cards and place it under the skin of each man, woman, and child. It wouldn’t even have to store all your personal data, but just a unique identifier. All your data could be stored in networked databases that your identification code would access. Once the chip is implanted, it could be read by an inexpensive scanner, similar in function to the ones that read bar codes in your local grocery store. You would then become your own smart card!
A global cashless society is in the making. Fiber optics, satellites, and computer databases have the potential to control the world in a way that boggles the imagination. Many governments and private corporations worldwide are pursuing policies to eliminate cash and checks, while many other countries are testing various methods of doing business without physical currency. For the first time, the hi-tech means of fulfilling the chilling vision the apostle John received nearly 2,000 years ago is here.
The power behind the throne
The Antichrist, the coming world leader who will demand the world’s worship, will be empowered or possessed by Satan himself. “The dragon [Satan] gave him his power, his throne, and great authority.” (Revelation 13:2)
Satan has always wanted to be God. This is why he fell in the first place. The prophet Isaiah wrote, “How you are fallen from Heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! … For you said to yourself, ‘I will ascend to Heaven and rule the angels. I will take the highest throne. … I will climb to the highest heavens and be like the Most High.’ But instead, you will be brought down to the pit of Hell, down to its lowest depths.” (Isaiah 14:12–15 TLB)
Watch out for 666!
What Satan is really after when he causes the Antichrist government to set up the coming global financial system is to gain control over the people of the world and to get them to bow down and worship him. The book of Revelation states six times that worshiping the Beast and receiving his mark leads to damnation. There is a definite link between the two, though at this point in time it is not clear exactly what that will be. At first glance, it would seem the Mark is simply an economic and identification system, but from what the Scriptures indicate, it can lead to much more. Beware!
So when you see a world government arise and its leader demands your allegiance and even your worship, don’t fall for it. Regardless of the economic incentives offered or the retribution that threatens those who refuse his mark and number, give your love and worship to the true God, your Creator, who loves and cares for you and has promised to see you through the days ahead if you put your trust in Him. The Bible says, “The people who know their God will be strong.” (Daniel 11:32)
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