World leaders know that our planet is in a heap of trouble. For years, analysts, thought leaders, and strategists have been warning, with increasing stridency, about a perfect storm of challenges that threaten our global economy, our global society, and our relative peace. These analysts and thought leaders are looking at hundreds of studies across an array of disciplines showing that the key systems that underpin the functioning of the earth—our ocean system, global food production system, climate system, and others—are in steep decline, with staggering implications for human society.
That analysts, strategists, and thought leaders would be paying keen attention to the situation is not surprising. After all, the many books, articles, papers, and briefings on the subject are the academic equivalent of shouting and waving one’s arms in alarm. What is surprising, however, is that more people aren’t evaluating the situation and asking what it is that we don’t know, or what it is that we don’t know that we know, because an answer to those questions would reveal the true magnitude of the situation.
In this context, it’s fascinating to look at what’s coming on the earth in the light of biblical prophecy, for if there is indeed an alignment between the two, the implications are profound. The prophecy we will use was spoken by Christ Himself in Matthew 24:6, 7. Let’s start by looking at our oceanic system.
If you love the ocean, visit it soon and imprint the visit on your memory, because its life webs are collapsing. And when that happens, the seas will never again be the same. Scientists have a name for the condition they expect the oceans to be in within two generations: The Myxocene, or “The Age of Slime.” They coined this term because, at the current rate of degradation, soon only “slime” (fungus and algae) will truly flourish. Fish are already faring very poorly. As a result of a multitude of pressures, commercial fish species the world over are collapsing. Some 40 percent have already collapsed, and virtually all species are expected to collapse by 2045. At the same time, we have polluted our oceans so much that the hundreds of “dead zones” around the world double in size each decade.
And that’s not all. Unprecedented sea temperature increases and other pressures are killing coral reefs (the “nurseries of the sea”), while the accelerating acidification of the oceans has resulted in a sea that is increasingly hostile to almost everything that lives in it. This hostile and dying ocean has risen more than 20 centimeters in the past 130 years, and its continued rise will progressively threaten coastal towns and cities the world over, forcing massive relocations.
The impact of our dying oceans cannot be overstated. For starters, approximately one billion people who rely on the oceans for their food will be forced to compete for land-based food. Mass migration will likely increase significantly as people move away from dying and increasingly hostile seas. Such migration is always politically destabilizing, and, where it crosses state borders, can spark international conflict. The collapse of our seas will cause hunger, displacement, suffering, and conflict on a large scale.
The progressive loss of ocean protein puts far more pressure on land-based food supplies—at the same time that food production systems face their own array of threats. Globally, our agricultural systems are using topsoil far faster than it is naturally generated—up to 40 times faster. There’s a word for what’s left after topsoil is gone: sand. At the same time, losses to weeds and pests over the past 50 years have risen despite a tenfold increase in the use of pesticides and a one hundredfold increase in the use of herbicides. Fertilizer and pesticide use also kills off beneficial micro-organisms in the soil, dramatically hastening soil degradation and erosion. Finally, changes in weather patterns are suppressing production through increased soil erosion, flooding, droughts, heat waves, and a creeping of “new” pestilence and plant disease to higher latitudes.
On a global basis, it seems that our ability to produce food has peaked while our population keeps growing. When demand for food exceeds supply, prices rise—something that the 3.5 billion people on the planet who make $2.50 per day or less will not suffer quietly. When food prices increase, the result is political instability. Many of the uprisings during the recent “Arab Spring” movement can be traced back to increases in the price of food, and these in turn can be traced back to adverse changes in weather patterns. The results of decreased food production can be readily predicted: famines will surge, people will migrate, malnutrition and disease will increase significantly, and there will be conflicts within and between nations.
Human suffering has already increased measurably through the accelerating instability in our climate system, which is very well documented. And, as most Signs readers know, not only is the news almost uniformly bad, but projected impacts are increasing dramatically. Climate change is expected to result in more and greater storms throughout the world, increased drought, and increased pestilence and disease. In short, climate change destabilizes human societies.
What the Bible says
That our societies are becoming measurably less stable and are facing unprecedented and converging threats is a bracing thought. But then, the fact that human societies would one day come to an end was one of the key messages of Jesus. In Matthew 24:6, 7, He described what the earth would be like in the days preceding His return: “And 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.”
There’s a great deal packed into those four sentences. Let’s break down what Jesus said and compare it with impacts we can expect from the decline of earth’s systems.
“And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. . . . Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.”
The combined effects of the decline in earth’s natural systems are acting to push nations to war. Shortages of food and other materials destabilize governments and put them in either an offensive position (to quickly gain needed resources) or a defensive position (to protect what resources they have).
“And there will be famines.”
The combined effects of the peaking of global food production capacity, the collapse of the ocean’s harvests, and the suppression on yields that’s brought about by climate change, will dramatically reduce the amount of food available.
One expected impact of climate change is the resurgence of pestilence, and the world is ill-prepared for such a resurgence, especially since many crop pests have built up a significant resistance to the current generation of pesticides.
“And earthquakes in various places.”
There’s no doubt that earthquakes are increasing, especially in the 3.0 and above scale. And the blame for this increase is laid, at least in part, on the oil and gas industries.
On the whole, the alignment between what Christ said was coming in the final days of earth’s history and what science expects to come about in the very near future is unmistakable. And the conclusion that prophecy is being fulfilled in our age is a logical one.
It’s interesting that many thought leaders and analysts who deal with global problems and crises come from “Christian” societies that acknowledge that Jesus exists and will return at some appointed hour. Culturally, these analysts and thought leaders “know” about Christ and the prophecies regarding His return. And yet, there seems to be little or no serious discussion relating the current array of converging crises with the conditions that precede Christ’s return. In other words, thought leaders and analysts don’t understand what they know and have tragically failed to connect the dots that point to a failing world and the coming of Christ.
The first time Christ came to the earth, He fulfilled prophecies that, in retrospect, were quite clear. And yet, even though the prophecies were well known to thought leaders at the time, almost no one expected Christ to come when, where, and how He did. The Bible tells us that Christ’s second coming will also be a surprise (Revelation 3:3), at least for those who are not looking for the signs of His coming. This is why the Bible also tells us to watch vigilantly (Mark 13:35–37). Looking at what’s happening in today’s world and at what’s coming on the world, it can only be concluded that now, more than ever, is the time to watch vigilantly. It’s also the time to form a personal relationship with Christ, because, when it comes to getting into heaven, it isn’t what you know, it’s who you know.