Editor's Note: Pastor Roger Barrier's "Ask Roger" column regularly appears at Preach It, Teach It. Every week at Crosswalk, Dr. Barrier puts nearly 40 years of experience in the pastorate to work answering questions of doctrine or practice for laypeople, or giving advice on church leadership issues. Email him your questions at .[email protected].
It seems like the world is falling apart. I’m scared. My friends and I talk about what is happening to the global economy and I just get more scared. My house is worth less now than when I bought it. I feel stuck. I couldn’t sell it now even if I wanted to. The fallout in Japan, the upheaval of governments in the Middle East, No-Fly zones in Libya... What do you think is going to happen? Is this the end? Is the Book of Revelation being fulfilled now? Will things ever return to normal? Will the earthquakes, revolutions and genocide increase?
I know I am asking a lot of questions and you don’t have to answer them all but I would appreciate it if you’d share some thoughts on the current crises.
A concerned Christian
Dear Concerned Christian,
Before I give you my thoughts, I am going to post a short few paragraphs from Paul Benware, from his book, Understanding End Times Prophecy:
Matthew 24:5-8 gives us some important clues so we can discern the approach of the end times, “For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.” An increase in false messiahs, an increase in warfare, and increases in famines, plagues, and natural disasters—these are signs of the end times. In this passage, though, we are given a warning: we are not to be deceived, because these events are only the beginning of birth pains; the end is still to come.
Some interpreters point to every earthquake, every political upheaval, and every attack on Israel as a sure sign that the end times are rapidly approaching. While the events may signal the approach of the last days, they are not necessarily indicators that the end times have arrived. The apostle Paul warned that the last days would bring a marked increase in false teaching. “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons” (1 Timothy 4:1). The last days are described as “perilous times” because of the increasingly evil character of man and people who actively “resist the truth” (2 Timothy 3:1-9; see also 2 Thessalonians 2:3).
Other possible signs would include a rebuilding of a Jewish temple in Jerusalem, increased hostility towards Israel, and advances toward a one-world government. The most prominent sign of the end times, however, is the nation of Israel. In 1948, Israel was recognized as a sovereign state, essentially for the first time since A.D. 70. God promised Abraham that his posterity would have Canaan as “an everlasting possession” (Genesis 17:8), and Ezekiel prophesied a physical and spiritual resuscitation of Israel (Ezekiel chapter 37). Having Israel as a nation in its own land is important in light of end times prophecy because of Israel’s prominence in eschatology (Daniel 10:14; 11:41; Revelation 11:8).
With these signs in mind, we can be wise and discerning in regard to the expectation of the end times. We should not, however, interpret any of these singular events as a clear indication of the soon arrival of the end times. God has given us enough information that we can be prepared, and that is what we are called to be.
Now for my own thoughts as well:
As I sit in my office typing this answer I am not feeling hopeful that things will ever return to "normal." Of course, I tend to be more of a pessimist than an optimist so take my thoughts with a grain of salt. I am praying that they will; but, the world economic crisis has been mounting for a long time and there may not be enough that anyone can do to stop it this time. I hesitate to begin guessing what the outcome of all this might be. I am no expert—there are thousands of economists, politicians, presidents, world leaders, and media pundits who can answer your questions better than I—maybe. Frankly, all of them have such different ideas that I don’t trust any of them. We will just have to wait and see.
No society or culture lasts forever. All eventually collapse—the United States will not be the exception.
Collapse by Jared Diamond (Penguin Books; New York, New York; 2006) details five factors which lead to the collapse of societies. Only one factor is needed to destroy any particular society. Our United States—and many other nations—are currently experiencing all five. Let me share his five factors to give us a little perspective on the current crises. Diamond’s studies of collapsed cultures include: Easter and Henderson Islands; the Anasazis of Arizona; the Mayans of Central America, the Vikings of Iceland; and the Norse of Greenland. Modern-day collapses include: Montana; Rwanda; Dominican Republic; Haiti; and Australia.
The first collapse factor is environmental damage. These are damages that people inadvertently inflict on their environment. The people of Easter Island eventually cut down all of the trees on the island. When the trees were gone the people were gone—most died of exposure and hunger. The lack of trees meant rampant erosion which carried away all the topsoil and agriculture was dramatically diminished. In our world today, insecticides, manufacturing waste products, overfishing, deforesting, the reduction in wet lands—just to mention a few—are beginning to have catastrophic results ranging from food crises in some areas to an increasing number of birth defects in others.
The second collapse factor is climate change. The earth’s climate is not static. Present-day Iran and Iraq once flowed with milk and honey. Crops, gardens and game proliferated in the days when that climate received much more rainfall than it does today. After all, that area was once called the “Fertile Crescent”. But, the climate changed and those areas are now bare deserts. The sun gets hotter and cooler over time. The wobbling of the earth’s axis results in Ice Ages like the one 14,000 years ago that carved out the Great Lakes and covered Europe all the way to Spain. Ice Ages occur on the average every 11,000 years. We are due for another. Today, refrigerator fluorocarbons and fossil fuels are bringing with them colossal environmental damage. For example, the resulting global greenhouse is increasing temperatures which cannot be reversed. I see a day, far in the future, when our greenhouse will rival Venus’ greenhouse which has a surface temperature of 850 degrees Fahrenheit.
The third collapse factor is hostile neighbors. Many societies can hold off the enemy for only so long. As collapse factors come into play a society is often weakened to the point that they fall to the enemy. The Roman Empire lasted for centuries; eventually it succumbed to continued attacks by the barbarian hordes. Today, many hostile enemies of the USA are in the Middle East. Dictators, crazed terrorists and Islamic extremists are dedicated to our destruction. At times they hold us hostage with their oil. They determine our Middle Eastern policies. We feel it is our responsibility to being peace and democracy to the region so we spend billions of dollars on our military to fight and police in the Middle East. Military expenditures are sucking our economy dry. By the way, the approaching anarchy in Mexico may soon resort in what may be a hostile neighbor on our southern border.
The fourth collapse factor is decreased support by friendly neighbors. Every society has friends with whom they trade for the products they need. In return, they trade their own surpluses to furnish the products that their friend nations need. Sometimes enemies are friends—like the oil we trade for with our cash to the oil-rich Middle East. By the way, Middle Eastern oil reserves are projected to last only until 2020 at which point the Middle Eastern nations may well become irrelevant on the world political scene. Of course, their oil demise will have adverse affects for us. Another example of decreased support is our “friend” China who is sucking us dry economically. Our trade deficit with them is enormous. We buy lots of their stuff; they buy very little of ours.
The fifth collapse factor is how a society responds to the other four factors. Most societies respond poorly leading to the dreaded collapse. However, some, like the Icelanders who denuded their forests, eroded away their farmlands and overgrazed their animals have turned their impending collapse around. By mutual planning and cooperation they are recovering their lost natural resources. As I listen to our leaders trying to find solutions to our present crisis, when I hear our last president giving away governmental gifts of $1,000 and then begging people to spend it (instead of saving), I am left feeling that no one knows what to do, much less how to fix it. For example, in one area, we are now in a vicious circle that to fix our economy we need people to spend lavishly when they are trying to hoard ever cent—thus leading us further down the road to collapse.
What does this mean for America? I don’t know. Of course, no one knows, except our Creator. I am sure He is grieving for His world today just as He grieved in Genesis six over the sinfulness of mankind then. I can think of many possible scenarios. Let me mention just a few.
- First, deep economic misery will be our future until the country slowly returns to normalcy. This will probably take 10 to 15 years.
- Second, runaway inflation may well make our money increasingly worthless. We have several tools to help control inflation.
- Third, on the other hand, runaway deflation might occur resulting in our assets become increasingly worthless. Deflation will have unbelievable negative consequences. We have no tools to control deflation.
Watch which nations handle the various collapse factors well over the next several years. China is becoming the world power most predicted—but too much purchasing of our debt and too many political problems are stymieing a unified response to their problems (although in its favor, China has made South America its own for the taking with its multiple trade agreements there).
India has surprised us all. From my perspective they may well be preparing best for the future world. They are responding to the current leveling of all nations as second- and third-world nations move up the scale and first-world nations move down the scale of influence and stability. India, for example, has a goal of educating all of its people while the US is becoming less and less literate every day. This places them in an enviable position for the future.
My favorite scenario is for the Second Coming of Christ. I am ready for the Rapture!
What are some of the spiritual implications for today? I can think of several.
First of all, practice good Biblical economics. God has not left us in the dark about the Biblical principles that He recommends. First, we give our tithes and offerings of 10%+ to the Kingdom (usually through our local church). Second, we pay taxes to the government. Third, we make more money than we spend. Fourth, we stay out of debt for depreciating items. Finally, we lay aside about 10% to 20% of our income for future needs (like for a refrigerator or car or college for the children or retirement).
Second, pray for mercy for our nation and world. In 2 Chronicles 7:13-14 God revealed that He is behind the disasters overcoming the nation of Israel. He also revealed His plan for overcoming the disasters: "When I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or command locusts to devour the land or send a plague among my people, if my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.”
Third, watch the signs unveiled in the Book of Revelation and pray for the return of Jesus to establish His kingdom on earth. These signs include—among many others—an increasing global temperature; the destruction of seafood in the oceans; an attempt at a world-wide government to deal with the crises of the end times; a double invasion of “Rosh from the North” (Russia?) and a horde of “200 million red army soldiers” from the East into the Middle East, Palestine, Israel and Lebanon; and finally, a nuclear holocaust in Israel. By the way, God has promised a crown for all of us who “love and look forward to the second coming of Christ.”
Finally, make a difference in the world. People are more ready to look to Christ and the gospel than ever. The internet has covered the world so that all can hear the Gospel. Even in the most primitive areas, we are seeing miracles and revival. During a conference in the Middle East recently, a Campus Crusade national director in one African nation told us how Christian women are trained to carry projectors, generators, fuel and the “Jesus Films” as they walk all over their country in order to evangelize. Last year Campus Crusade recorded over 3 million decisions to follow Christ in that "collapsed" country as a result of their work. Times of crises like the Japanese tsunami and nuclear fallout mean times of opportunity to advance the Kingdom.
Well, Concerned Christian, I didn’t intend to go into so much detail. Nevertheless, everyone is wondering about this subject so I am glad you asked it. Ask me another sometime.
Dr. Roger Barrier currently serves as senior teaching pastor at Casas Church in Tucson, Arizona. In addition to being an author and sought-after conference speaker, Roger has mentored or taught thousands of pastors, missionaries, and Christian leaders worldwide. Casas Church, where Roger has served throughout his thirty-five-year career, is a megachurch known for a well-integrated, multi-generational ministry. The value of including new generations is deeply ingrained throughout Casas to help the church move strongly right through the twenty-first century and beyond. Dr. Barrier holds degrees from Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Golden Gate Seminary in Greek, religion, theology, and pastoral care. His popular book, Listening to the Voice of God, published by Bethany House, is in its second printing and is available in Thai and Portuguese. His current book, The Prayer God Always Answers, is currently being translated into Russian. Dr. Barrier is currently completing a spiritual growth book that is intended to help Christians move into greater spiritual intimacy with God the Father.
This article originally appeared at Preach It, Teach It, a site for pastors, teachers, and Bible students. Used with permission.
Publication date: March 23, 2011