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).
(Continued in the next issue of Activated. Excerpted from the booklet The Future Foretold. 3rd ed. Aurora Production AG, 2008.)