The Coming Economic Armageddon: What Bible Prophecy Warns about the New Global Economyby David Jeremiah
Never before have we read such jarring headlines, distressing news analyses, or dire predictions concerning the world's financial future. The American housing market or, more sentimentally, the American dream began to collapse in 2006, taking with it large chunks of the global financial system. Millions of jobs worldwide have vanished forever. Did… See more details below
Never before have we read such jarring headlines, distressing news analyses, or dire predictions concerning the world's financial future. The American housing market or, more sentimentally, the American dream began to collapse in 2006, taking with it large chunks of the global financial system. Millions of jobs worldwide have vanished forever. Did Bible prophecy predict this catastrophe? Are there biblical clues to how soon, if ever, a viable, long-term recovery can be sustained? Is the financial collapse just one of several signs that we are living in the final days of Earth's history In THE COMING ECONOMIC ARMAGEDDON, David Jeremiah says we can know the meaning behind what we see in the daily news and understand and prepare for living in the New Global Economy.
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The Coming Economic ArmageddonWhat Bible Prophecy Warns about the New Global Economy
By Jeremiah, David
FaithWordsCopyright © 2010 Jeremiah, David
All right reserved.
The Fall of the American Economy
Bernard Madoff will go down in history as Wall Street’s most notorious criminal. He systematically cheated investors out of $65 billion, far eclipsing the 1980s insider-trading scandals involving junk-bond financiers Michael Milken and Ivan Boesky. Among the thousands of Madoff’s victims were a number of Hollywood celebrities such as Kevin Bacon and Kyra Sedgwick. Zsa Zsa Gabor and her ninth husband lost almost $10 million. Director Steven Spielberg and DreamWorks executive Jeffrey Katzenberg lost money they had invested for their Wunderkind Foundation.
Other celebrities who fell victim to Madoff included CNN’s Larry King, former baseball great Sandy Koufax, Jane Fonda, and John Robbins of the Baskin-Robbins ice cream family. Also affected were prominent New York financial figures, some of the country’s leading Jewish charities, Jewish patriot Elie Wiesel, thousands of elderly retirees who lost their life savings and, oh yes, Madoff’s own sister, whom he scammed out of $3 million.
Madoff took money from investors and then used their money to pay out profits to earlier investors. As long as the new money kept coming into the system, it worked like a charm. His investors prospered, and he promised to continue the bountiful flow with a steady stream of 12 to 20 percent returns. Impossible? Of course! But Madoff delivered on his promises. When asked how he did it, he would answer with some gobbledygook about his “split strike conversion strategy.” If pressed too hard he would get angry and refuse to answer. His clients should be grateful for his wizardry and quit looking for the levers behind the curtain.
Some of his investors assumed he was cheating, but they did not press for details for fear of killing the goose that was delivering golden eggs. As investment advisor Suzanne Murphy said, “It was a great con. The best cons are when you keep the pigeons happy, right? And the pigeons were happy because they were getting good returns.”
“Madoff did not have to put ads in the Wall Street Journal,” wrote financial analysts William Bonner and Addison Wiggin. “Customers were banging on his door begging him to let them in. His oldest friends would come up to him and practically beg him to take their trust funds…. Madoff’s charm was that he out-foxed the foxes and out-scammed the scammers…. In the history of high-stakes gambling, he out-did them all. Like a Robin Hood with Alzheimer’s, he stole from the rich. If only he’d remembered to give to the poor, he’d be a hero to everyone!”
Bernie Madoff was arrested, pleaded guilty to eleven federal offenses, and in June of 2009 was sentenced to 150 years in prison. “Once worth… millions, Madoff now lives austerely at a North Carolina federal prison. According to court papers, he eats pizza cooked by a child molester, sleeps in the lower bunk in a cell he shares with a 21-year-old druggie, and spends his time with a former Colombo crime boss and a spy for Israel.”
The Origin of the “Ponzi Scheme”
Eight decades before Bernie Madoff’s crimes, Charles Ponzi (March 3, 1882–January 18, 1949) held the record as the greatest swindler in American history. The term Ponzi scheme is a widely known description of any scam that pays early investors with ill-gotten funds from later investors. Ponzi’s scheme began shortly after the end of the First World War at the start of the Roaring Twenties. He promised his clients a 50 percent profit within forty-five days or a 100 percent profit within ninety days. In the end, Ponzi was charged with more than eighty counts of mail fraud. He spent three and a half years in a federal prison before he was deported and moved to Rio de Janeiro, where he died in a charity hospital in 1949.
One would think Bernie Madoff wins hands down as the number one Ponzi perpetrator of all time. But if you compare his scheme to what is going on today in America’s system of finance, Bernie Madoff is an amateur! Financing and administering massive entitlement programs, wars, and runaway big government have sunk our nation into a quagmire of deficits, debts, and inflation. And our government seems to see no way out except to continue the policies that created the problem—to spend and borrow at an ever-increasing pace until the entire system falls on its face, exhausted from trying to outrun itself.
This national Ponzi scheme was predicted twenty centuries ago in the New Testament letter of James and figures prominently as a sign of the coming economic Armageddon. In this chapter we will look at the causes, effects, and meaning of how Madoff-like greed and fiscal irresponsibility are contributing to the coming fall of the American economy.
The Ponzi Scheme of Social Security
One of the earliest triggers of financial instability in America was the inception of Social Security. In 1935, during the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt, the Social Security Act was passed into law. According to its architects, Social Security would rid our nation of all the evils associated with “old age” and make it possible for every American who lived to age sixty-five to have some kind of retirement income.
Within four years of passing the Social Security Act, Congress amended the program to include survivor’s insurance. In 1965 Medicare benefits were added. By 2008 Social Security and Medicare had swollen to a massive entitlement consuming more than $1 trillion—one-third of the federal budget.
Today Social Security functions as an unfunded entitlement program. While it is true that the government has raked in more in Social Security payroll taxes than it has paid out in benefits, that money is not protected in a trust fund, as many are led to believe. The government uses the Social Security funds to pay for other programs. There is no Social Security Trust Fund.
Social Security operates exactly like the schemes of Charles Ponzi and Bernard Madoff. New contributors to the program fund the promises made to the older contributors. American workers who have faithfully paid their Social Security tax each year are relying on an empty federal purse to fulfill its promise to them. And today, according to most economists, we are about to enter the perfect storm.
As New York Times economics reporter Edmund Andrews writes:
The nation’s oldest baby boomers are approaching 65, setting off what experts have warned for years will be a fiscal nightmare for the government. “What a good country or a good squirrel should be doing is stashing away nuts for the winter,” said William H. Gross, managing director of the Pimco Group, the giant bond-management firm. “The United States is not only not saving nuts, it’s eating the ones left over from the last winter.”
In a recent USA Today article, Richard Wolf detailed some of the other problems facing Social Security:
Payroll Social Security taxes “flattened out in 2009 because of rising unemployment and expected pay raises that largely disappeared.”
“The number of retired workers who began taking benefits increased by 20 percent; those taking disability jumped by 10 percent.”
“Monthly benefits were raised 5.8 percent because of a spike in energy prices the year before.”
Social Security has become one of our most ominous unsustainable programs leading to unending deficits. Richard Lamm, former governor of Colorado, summed it up like this: “Christmas is a time when kids tell Santa what they want and adults pay for it. Deficits are when adults tell the government what they want and their kids pay for it.” The next generation is paying for this generation’s Social Security. How long before the system collapses under its own ever-increasing weight?
War and National Defense
In 2008, 41.5 percent of all the military expenditures in the entire world belonged to the United States. We spent more on national defense than China, Japan, Russia, Europe, and several other nations combined. In 2009 our defense budget was $642 billion, second only to Social Security at $677 billion. Our defense costs were 36 percent of the total income from taxes in fiscal year 2009.
Economist Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate, and his coauthor, Linda Bilmes, wrote a book about the costs of our current war, including its hidden costs. The book’s title, The Three Trillion Dollar War, summarizes its conclusion. Many who praised the book said its only failure was underestimating the cost by at least another trillion.
Joel Belz, executive director of WORLD magazine, put these astronomical figures into focus: “Wherever you stand on increasing our forces in Afghanistan, you’ll have to concede that war is expensive. In round numbers, by some estimates, it costs us a million dollars per soldier per year to send someone to Iraq or Afghanistan.”
Clearly, the cost of war and national defense is another drain on our national economy and a contributing factor to our growing deficit.
The Growth of Big Government
The size of the United States government began to balloon during the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt as his New Deal attempted to address the misery of the Great Depression. According to a recent State Department report,
The rise of the United States as the world’s major military power during and after World War II also fueled government growth…. Greater educational expectations led to significant government investment in schools and colleges. An enormous national push for scientific and technological advances spawned new agencies and substantial public investment in fields ranging from space exploration to health care.
And it’s not just the federal government that continues to grow. According to the same report, between 1960 and 1990, “the number of state and local government employees increased from 6.4 million to 15.2 million.”
Today the United States government is our nation’s largest employer. The December 2009 total payroll for federal government employees rang up at $15,471,672,417! In 1900 only one in twenty-four Americans worked for the government. By 1948 government employment rose almost 500 percent to one in eight. In 2009 there were nearly two million federal employees, and that number is projected to rise by 15.6 percent in fiscal year 2010. It’s no wonder that more than a third of Americans polled by Gallup would prefer the “perceived ‘safeness’ and typically generous benefits” of a federal job.
A USA Today analysis on December 11, 2009, showed that at least one sector of the job market had been thriving during the previous eighteen months—the one your tax dollars pay for. The paper analyzed the two million federal workers tracked by the database of the Office of Personnel Management, which excludes the White House, Congress, the postal service, intelligence agencies, and uniformed military personnel. Its findings: 19 percent of federal workers make more than $100,000 per year (before overtime and bonuses), compared to 14 percent when the recession began. The average federal worker’s pay is now $71,206, much higher than the average private sector worker’s pay of $40,331. “There’s no way to justify this to the American people,” Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) told the paper. “It’s ridiculous.”
More than ridiculous, the uncontrolled growth of big government is also a major contributor to our rapidly escalating deficit.
National and Private Debt
In 2009, the New York Times reported, “With the national debt now topping $12 trillion, the White House estimates that the government’s tab for servicing the debt will exceed $700 billion a year in 2019, up from $202 billion this year…. Just one of the wrenching challenges facing the United States after decades of living beyond its means.”
I wish I could tell you that $12 trillion is the whole story, but it is not; it is only the “visible debt,” the tip of the iceberg. In his book The Dollar Meltdown, Charles Goyette paints the larger picture in vivid detail:
The debt is not really just $12 trillion! By any commonsensical definition of the term “debt,” something owed, the real debt is larger. If you have paid into Social Security for a lifetime and you believe your promised benefits are a debt of the government; if you believe the government should make good on promises of veteran’s health care; if your bank has been paying insurance premiums to the FDIC and you expect that in the event of a run on the banks, loss coverage is a debt of the government; if you have been paying the government for medical coverage which you will expect to be there when the need arises; if you believe that government “guarantees,” tossed around like confetti lately, are real promises upon which institutions and individuals should rely; then you will agree the government’s debt is much larger than the $12 trillion on the books. All of these expectations represent unfunded liabilities; promises the government has made, but for which no provision to pay has been made. The bulk of the iceberg is below the waterline, the visible “national debt” is just a fraction of our government’s liabilities.
Fiscal economists use a term that designates the cause and magnitude of our debt: infinite horizon discounted value. While this term represents a highly complicated formula that determines the value of all promised benefits—current and future—in terms of our present-day dollars going forward into the infinite future, its simple meaning is: the gap between promised Social Security and Medicare benefits accruing to every American with a registered Social Security number and the actual income from taxes in a given year. It is an approximation based on life expectancy in actuarials. For Social Security alone that gap is $17.5 trillion!
Unfortunately, Social Security is not our greatest problem. Medicare is many times worse. Our current Medicare program has three separate centers of coverage and funding. Medicare Part A covers hospital stays. Medicare Part B covers doctor visits. The most recent addition to the Medicare programs, Part D, which covers prescriptions, took effect in 2006.
The current unfunded liability for Medicare Part A is $36.7 trillion; for Part B it is $37 trillion; and for Part D it is $15.6 trillion. The total liability of all three unfunded Medicare programs is $89.3 trillion. This is five times as much as the unfunded Social Security bill.
Add the unfunded liability of all three parts of Medicare to the unfunded liability of Social Security and you come up with a figure of $106.8 trillion. Now add to that our national debt of $12 trillion, and the bottom line totals $118.8 trillion. That amounts to a debt load of $383,000 per person, or $1,532,000 per family of four.
Charles Goyette summarized the problem with this enormous debt load:
America’s debts at any level—$12 trillion… won’t be paid. They will simply be rolled over again and again until America’s creditors are unwilling to loan any longer. The nation is in the same position as someone who has taken a cash advance from his Visa card to meet his mortgage payment, and then has taken out a new MasterCard credit line to pay his Visa bill. Credit card debt juggling may appear to work in the short run, but it is a road to financial ruin. And just as compound interest is said to be the investor’s best friend, it is the debtor’s worst nightmare, as debt growth becomes exponential.
Incidentally, as of June 1, 2010, the national debt had grown to $13 trillion—a disconcerting new record.
So far we have been addressing only the debt itself. But what about the interest on all that debt? If you have a mortgage on your home, you have probably experienced a reaction similar to mine when you received your year-end interest statement. Isn’t it discouraging to see the disparity between the amount consumed by interest compared to how little is applied against the principal? If you think you have reason to be discouraged, consider the U.S. government’s fiscal year-end interest statement. According to the White House Office of Management and Budget, $904 billion came into the Treasury through our tax payments at the end of the fiscal year on September 30, 2009. The interest on our national debt was $383 billion. This means that the cost of interest on the debt represented more than 40 cents of every dollar that came in from individual income taxes.
Another disconcerting problem with our enormous debt burden is the parties to whom we owe it. In 1952 we owed most of our national debt to ourselves—to individual investors and American financial institutions. In fact, less than 5 percent of U.S. Treasury bonds were in foreign hands. According to the Department of the Treasury, at the end of the 2009 financial year, nearly 50 percent of our nation’s public debt was owned by foreign governments and financial institutions. The rate of foreign ownership of American debt securities is increasing at an alarming pace; it is now triple what it was in 2001. Here is a partial list of the nations that hold our debt and the amount they owned as of the end of 2009:
This money has been borrowed by issuing IOUs, which are called bonds or Treasury notes. We use that borrowed money to pay our government’s current bills. Until our debt is repaid (which it likely never will be), we pay interest on those IOUs. According to the Congressional Budget Office’s forecast for this decade, the government expects to incur $9 trillion in new debt. More than half of that amount ($4.8 trillion) will be applied to interest payments.
One financial professional has determined that the interest on the national debt accrues at the rate of $41 million an hour. That’s $690,000 a minute, and $11,500 per second! Remember, that’s just the interest. These payments do not touch the principal.
Even a small increase in the interest rate has a big impact. As Edmund Andrews explains, “An increase of one percentage point in the Treasury’s average cost of borrowing would cost American taxpayers an extra $80 billion this year—about equal to the combined budgets of the Department of Energy and the Department of Education.”
When you move past the nation’s debt to the private debt of its citizens, the picture does not get any prettier. Bonner and Wiggin tell us, “Household debt rose from $7.8 trillion in 2002 to nearly $14 trillion in 2008.” That debt cannot possibly be paid off in one generation, so it is passed on, in some cases to people who have yet to be born.
Here we are, supposedly the wealthiest nation in the world, and we are over our heads in debt. Shouldn’t a nation with our wealth be known for lending instead of borrowing? That seems to have been God’s perspective when He said to the nation of Israel: “For the LORD your God will bless you just as He promised you; you shall lend to many nations, but you shall not borrow; you shall reign over many nations, but they shall not reign over you” (Deuteronomy 15:6; also see 28:12). Solomon reinforces this principle in Proverbs 22:7: “The borrower is servant to the lender.”
Wise King Solomon hit the nail squarely on the head. The lender always holds power over the borrower. This principle does not bode well for the future of America. With our out-of-control borrowing, we have placed our financial well-being in the hands of foreign countries that have no love for us.
The Cancer of Inflation
Since 1934 people have been playing Monopoly. The world’s best-selling board game, it is now played in 103 countries and in thirty-seven languages. Unfortunately, many world governments, including our own, are currently playing Monopoly as well. To see what I mean, look at this section of the rules for the game: “The Bank collects all taxes, fines, loans, and interest, and the price of all Monopoly properties which it sells and auctions. The Bank never ‘goes broke.’ If the Bank runs out of Monopoly money, it may issue as much more as may be needed by merely writing on any ordinary paper” (emphasis added). These are exactly the rules our government plays by in managing the U.S. monetary supply. In his 2009 book, The New Economic Disorder, economist Larry Bates writes:
Today in America, we are living in a fool’s paradise. We seem to believe we’ve found the secret that eluded the ancient alchemists: we believe we can slap ink on paper and somehow it will turn to gold. The money manipulators have successfully created the illusion of prosperity through the most massive creation of debt and paper money that has ever occurred in history. That debt bubble is about to burst again; [and] when it does, all those… investments your friends, and maybe even you, think are safe—CDs, and bonds, and mutual funds—will be in deep, deep trouble. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg about to ram us.
When the dollar loses its status, the U.S. will have to begin offering IOUs with increasingly higher interest rates to attract lenders, which means interest payments will take an even larger share of the U.S. budget. Those higher rates will cause consumer interest rates to rise in proportion. This means the cost of borrowing for homes and cars will get more expensive, partly as a result of the high rates themselves, and partly because rising interest rates will trigger inflation as the economy needs more dollars to meet the rising cost of borrowing.
Many economists foresee a period of massive inflation ahead as the economy begins absorbing the billions of dollars of stimulus money the Fed has printed. If you insert more printed dollars into the economy, the value of existing dollars is decreased, meaning the price of everything goes up.
Larry Bates removes any ambiguity from the meaning of inflation:
Despite what politicians and money manipulators would like you to believe, inflation is not rising prices. That is only a symptom of inflation, just as sniffles are the symptom of a cold. Knowledgeable people are well aware that inflation is an increase in the supply of money—period. Nothing more and nothing less. The more money the Federal Reserve prints and pumps into our economy, the higher prices will be driven up.
Hyperinflation robs money of its value. During the inflationary period of the 1920s in postwar Germany, the government printed so many marks that they were being used to light fires. Erwin Lutzer tells a story of a woman who filled her wheelbarrow with German marks and left them outside a grocery store as she shopped—confident that no one would steal the worthless currency. She returned to find a pile of marks but no wheelbarrow.
We can learn much about the impact of inflation from history. Economist Constantino Bresciani-Turroni, writing of the summer of 1923 when Germany’s financial crisis was heating up, said, “The state’s need of money increased rapidly. Private banks, besieged by their clients, found it impossible to meet the demand for money.” In an attempt to stabilize the economy, German economists were urging the government to print less money. But their cries were in vain because, as Bonner and Wiggin explain in their review of Bresciani-Turroni’s work, “officials were in roughly the same situation as Ben Bernanke and Barack Obama today, ‘More,’ said they. They feared the economy might fall into trouble unless they made more cash and credit available.” So they printed more money, just as we have done and are doing. But according to Bresciani-Turroni, printing more money simply forestalled Germany’s problem and increased its severity:
At first inflation stimulated production… but later… it annihilated thrift; it made reform of the national budget impossible for years… it destroyed incalculable moral and intellectual values. It provoked a serious revolution in social classes, a few people accumulating wealth and forming a class of usurpers of national property; whilst millions of individuals were thrown into poverty. It was a distressing preoccupation and constant torment of innumerable families; it poisoned the German people by spreading among all classes the spirit of speculation and by diverting them from proper and regular work, and it was the cause of incessant political and moral disturbance. It is indeed easy enough to understand why the record of the sad years 1919–1923 always weighs like a nightmare on the German people.
Inflation also played a part in the fall of the Roman Empire, as Bonner and Wiggin explain:
Rome wasn’t built in a day, nor was its money destroyed overnight. In AD 64, in Nero’s reign, the aureus was reduced by 10 percent of its weight. Thereafter, whenever Romans needed more money to finance their wars, their public improvements, their social welfare services and circuses, and their trade deficits, they reduced the metal content of the coins [called “clipping coins”]. By the time Odoacer deposed the last emperor in 476, the silver denarius contained only 0.02 percent silver.
From then until now, “every central banker in the world has taken the devil’s bait, creating money, out of thin air, as if no one were looking. As if it had not been tried before. As if they could get away with it and people really could get something for nothing!”
Deficits, debts, and inflation all add up to economic chaos because shortsighted leaders tend to address the problem by creating more deficits, debts, and inflation. As a result, for the first time in my lifetime, the word trillion is being tossed around like a common denominator. Just how much is a trillion? It’s a million million; a thousand billion. It’s a one followed by twelve zeroes. An illustration might help us grasp this incomprehensible number. I’ll start with a hundred-dollar bill because the U.S. Treasury hasn’t issued bills larger than that since July 14, 1969.
The Federal Reserve issues new one-hundred-dollar bills to your bank in banded packages of one hundred bills each. Each package equals $10,000. One hundred such stacks equal one million dollars. A measly one million dollars doesn’t look very impressive; you could easily stuff it into a shopping bag. A hundred million looks a little more respectable. It stacks into a neat cube shape that fills a standard industrial pallet. One billion dollars fills ten pallets of hundred-dollar bills. A trillion dollars would fill ten thousand pallets of hundred-dollar bills—enough to fill the floor of a fair-sized warehouse.
If you’re still having trouble getting your mind around a trillion, here’s an analogy from WORLD magazine that might help: “To get an idea of how massive this amount is, think of it in seconds. Going back in time 1 million seconds would take you back 12 days. One billion seconds would take you back 30 years and one trillion seconds would take you back 32,000 years.”
The fact that our government, economists, and the media are beginning to think in terms of trillions instead of billions is not a good sign. It tells us that the economy is being filled with Monopoly money, and the government’s giant Ponzi scheme is ballooning ever more rapidly in order to keep from collapsing.
The Specter of Bankruptcy
What will happen when the government’s giant Ponzi scheme catches up with itself? According to a 2009 article in the Wall Street Journal, “If the government were ever to default on its promise to pay periodic interest payments or to repay the debt at maturity, the United States economy would plunge into a level of chaos that would make the Lehman bankruptcy look like a nonevent.”
I agree with those who say it seems very unlikely that our nation will ever be able to pay off her debts. Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and any new health benefit program require more funding than our current tax structure can support. Even if the tax rates are increased—as we have been assured will happen—there simply is not enough money to buy our way out of debt. If these assumptions are accurate, our nation is headed toward bankruptcy.
If the United States were to go bankrupt, it would morally default on everything it owes by simply saying, “We no longer acknowledge our debts.” The government would simply reset the value of our currency by declaring the worth of a dollar with no real value to back it up. Taxes could go as high as 70 percent of one’s income. If history repeated itself, revolution would follow!
While we may not live to see our nation in bankruptcy, most economists believe that the government’s monetary policies have taken us beyond the possibility of our economy ever being as stable as it once was. In a recent USA Today editorial titled “There Is No Normal Anymore,” James P. Gannon expressed what many of us feel about America’s current economic instability:
That statement [There is no normal anymore]… goes a long way toward explaining why so many Americans are angry, confused and worried today. Polls show that 58 percent of Americans think the country is on the wrong track, suffering an economy that’s sick…. They want things to get back to normal but increasingly feel that there is no normal any more…. Only Americans who lived through the Great Depression of the 1930s can remember a time of greater stress. In the midst of a so-called recovery, the economy is still shedding tens of thousands of jobs monthly, with the national unemployment rate already at 10 percent. In the past, a 4–6 percent unemployment rate was considered normal, but that now seems like a distant dream because it takes job growth of about 100,000 a month just to keep the unemployment rate from rising further—given the expected growth of the labor force. So normal unemployment could be years off.
There is nothing normal about an economy in which the federal government takes over giant automakers, bails out too-big-to-fail banks, buys up nearly all mortgages, keeps short-term interest rates at zero and prints over a trillion new dollars. As the national debt passes $12 trillion and the White House projects $9 trillion more in deficits over the next 10 years, the value of the dollar sinks and the price of gold—America’s best fear gauge—rises past $1,100 an ounce.
We long for a return to normalcy, but it seems impossible to get there from where we are. The future is beginning to be clear; barring some dramatic reversal, our nation is facing certain bankruptcy or some equivalent financial meltdown.
Today’s Economic Meltdown in Biblical Prophecy
You may be surprised to learn that the Bible predicted the future that is our present reality. James, the half brother of our Lord, the son of Mary and Joseph (see Galatians 1:19), wrote a startling description of the economic conditions of “the last days.”
Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you! Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days. Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth. You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; you have fattened your hearts as in a day of slaughter. You have condemned, you have murdered the just. (James 5:1–6)
Although James wrote his letter to the Christian church, these first six verses of chapter 5 are addressed to wealthy nonbelievers. In doing this, James “employs a rhetorical device known as apostrophe, a turning away from his real audience to address some other group.”
James was not indicting these people simply for having wealth. The Bible makes it clear that it is not wrong to have wealth: “The blessing of the LORD makes one rich, and He adds no sorrow with it” (Proverbs 10:22). The Bible contains many notable examples of godly, wealthy people, such as Job, Abraham, David, Solomon, Nicodemus, Mary, Martha, Lazarus, Joseph of Arimathea, Barnabas, and Philemon.
James gives us two distinct reasons for his condemnation. First, he considers the sins of wicked wealthy people to be especially grievous because they are being committed “in the last days.” Why would this make a difference? In his commentary on the book of James, Homer Kent explains: “The ‘last days’ was a designation for messianic times, which began with Christ’s first coming (Acts 2:16–17; 1 Timothy 4:1–2; 2 Peter 3:3; 1 John 2:18). These rich men were oblivious to the momentous days in which they were living. They did not understand that the ‘last days’ had already begun and that Christ’s second coming could be at any moment.”
Pastor and teacher John MacArthur doesn’t pull any punches in addressing the foolish audacity of amassing wealth in the end times:
James sharply rebuked them for hoarding their wealth without regard for God’s timetable, the flow of redemptive history, or the reality of eternity. How utterly unthinkable to amass and hoard wealth as the day of judgment draws near. Those who do so “are storing up wrath for themselves in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who will render to each person according to his deeds.”
As James said in verse 5, these indulgent rich people were merely fattening themselves for slaughter—a vivid metaphor for the judgment they were bringing on their heads.
The second reason for James’s indictment of the wicked wealthy was their utterly self-centered use of their wealth. These people were so consumed with providing comfort and security for their own lives that they even withheld rightful wages from their workers and condemned just people. Nothing mattered but themselves. Someone has said that God will not condemn a man for being wealthy, but He will ask him two questions: first, “How did you gain your wealth?” and second, “How did you use your wealth?”
While God does not condemn having money, He does speak out against those who “trust in riches.” “He who trusts in his riches will fall” (Proverbs 11:28). As Jesus Himself said, “How hard it is for those who trust in riches to enter the kingdom of God!” (Mark 10:24).
Global economist Wilfred J. Hahn shows us that the actions and attitudes toward wealth that James condemns are certain signs of the last days:
The entire prophecy found in James 5:1–6 lists at least six financial or economic signs of the last days. I have counted almost 50 such general signs following years of Bible study. They include hoarding, accumulation of wealth, wage inequities, different classes of workers, luxuries and indulgence (consumerism at its peak!), conditions of economic brutality…. Most significantly the edifice of wealth is then turned into a curse as it is corroded and proven illusory.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see that these signs of corrupted wealth are rampant in modern America. There’s no question about it; we are living in the end times. And we can be sure that James’s prediction of riches disintegrating into corrosion and misery is every bit as certain as his accurate prediction of today’s economic abuses. In fact, it has already begun to happen.
When we think of wealth, we think of stocks and bonds, bank accounts, and real estate holdings. But James writes of wealth in terms that would have been understood in his own culture. He speaks of corrupting riches, moth-eaten garments, and corroded gold and silver (see James 5:2–3). James points out to the wealthy that they are storing up wealth that is not enduring but eroding.
Nothing describes the current plight of our nation like the term eroding wealth. The December 7, 2009, issue of Time magazine carried the cover story, “The Decade from Hell.” Fortune magazine editor Andy Serwer wrote the lead article and framed the first decade of the new millennium with these words: “Book-ended by 9/11 at the start and a financial wipe-out at the end, the first 10 years of this century will very likely go down as the most dispiriting and disillusioning decade Americans have lived through in the post–World War II era.” As the following facts show, it was actually the last three years of that decade that sent our nation spinning out of control.
In 2008, U.S. households lost an estimated 18 percent of their net worth. This $11.2 trillion loss was the biggest since the Federal Reserve began tracking household wealth after World War II.
From the end of 2006 through March 2009, the total value of household real estate tumbled from $21.9 trillion to $17.9 trillion.
From August 2007 to October 2008, an estimated 20 percent, or about $2 trillion, vanished from Americans’ retirement plans.
Unemployment reached a record 10.2 percent, and here in California, where I live, it has risen past 12 percent. The number of Americans living below the poverty level rose to 13.2 percent compared to 11.3 percent at the start of the decade. The number of Americans without health insurance rose to 15.4 percent compared to 13.7 percent in 2000. National defense spending increased from $294 billion in 2000 to $642 billion in 2009. The price of oil tripled. The price of gold quadrupled. The U.S. Federal budget deficit gap tripled to a record $1.8 trillion. U.S. public debt grew 31 percent to account for 53 percent of our gross domestic product (GDP) and reached a record high $1.4 trillion.
As of May 2010, the U.S. government had run a budget deficit for nineteen consecutive months. In fact, 2009 was the first year in twenty-nine years of record keeping in which the U.S. government ran a deficit every month.
The biggest single-day point loss ever in the Dow occurred on September 29, 2008, when the Dow slumped 777.68 points, or approximately $1.2 trillion in market value.
Some of our biggest and most “secure” institutions either failed or were bailed out by the government. The names are familiar: Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, Washington Mutual, Wachovia, and AIG.
Even Bill Gates and Warren Buffett felt the effects of the decade’s wealth erosion. It is estimated that the two of them lost a collective $43 billion in 2008. But don’t feel too sorry for them. They still managed to enter 2009 with a combined estimated worth of $77 billion. According to Forbes magazine, Gates and Buffett were not the only billionaires to have a rough year. The number of billionaires dropped from 1,125 in 2008 to 793 in 2009.
The enormous erosion of wealth in the century’s first decade shows clearly that the gleam from the American dream has dimmed. We feel alarm not only because of the extent to which these events are affecting us, but also because of their rapid acceleration. Many are beginning to wonder if there is any force strong enough to reverse our headlong slide into national chaos.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warned of the illusory nature of earthly treasures and pointed the way to real wealth: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19–21).
The wealthy people James addresses were guilty not only of the hoarding of wealth, but also of the sinful acquisition of it. By deliberately withholding pay from their hired laborers, they were getting rich at the expense of “the little guy.” Many Old Testament passages condemn this wicked practice: “Woe to him who builds his house by unrighteousness and his chambers by injustice, who uses his neighbor’s service without wages and gives him nothing for his work” (Jeremiah 22:13; see also Deuteronomy 24:14–15 and Leviticus 19:13).
This is exactly what we see happening today as many who pursue wealth disdain honest labor or service in favor of manipulation and ruthless power. We’ve all heard of businessmen justifying a deal that ruins a mom-and-pop company with the cold-blooded phrase, “It’s just good business.” That kind of economic nastiness has become common practice in our time.
As Andy Serwer points out, the living symbol of our present economic sordidness is “prisoner No. 61727-054, a.k.a. Bernie Madoff, [who] rots away in a Butner, N.C., jail cell, doing 150 years for orchestrating the biggest Ponzi scheme in the history of humanity.”
At his sentencing hearing, Madoff spoke honestly for perhaps the first time in a long time:
I cannot offer you an excuse for my behavior. How do you excuse betraying thousands of investors who entrusted me with their life savings? How do you excuse deceiving two hundred employees who spent most of their working life with me? How do you excuse lying to a brother and two sons who spent their lives helping to build a successful business? How do you excuse lying to a wife who stood by you for fifty years?
The list of offenses in Madoff’s confession shows him to be the archetypal symbol for the wicked wealthy James predicted would characterize the end times. Madoff’s sole interest was himself. He ruthlessly exploited the little guy. He put his trust in his riches—riches he had gained by depriving others of their rightful money. His riches eroded and left him in misery.
Bernie Madoff is also a fitting symbol for what our own government is doing to America. As I will explain in the next two chapters, the eroding wealth and erupting wickedness of our nation are marching us headlong toward a new world order and its global economy.
America’s Puzzling Absence in Biblical Prophecy
In an earlier book, What in the World Is Going On?, I devoted an entire chapter to the question, “Does America have a role in Bible prophecy?” The simple answer is no.
Indeed, no specific mention of the United States or any other country in North or South America can be found in the Bible. One reason may be that in the grand scheme of history, the United States is a new kid on the block. As a nation, it is less than 250 years old—much younger than the nations of Bible times that are featured in biblical prophecy.
In that chapter I set forth three other possible reasons for America’s absence in biblical prophecy. Some believe our nation will be incorporated into the European coalition of nations. Others suggest that by the time the Tribulation period arrives, America will have been invaded by outside forces and will no longer be a superpower. Perhaps the decay that is so rapidly eating away at our moral foundations will have destroyed us from within.
Up until the writing of this book, I considered the Rapture of the church to be the most plausible explanation for the Bible’s silence about America’s future. My reasoning went something like this:
If the Rapture were to happen today and all true believers in Jesus Christ disappeared… America as we know it could be obliterated…. Not only would our country lose 25 percent of her population, but she would also lose the very best, the “salt and light” of the nation…. It would be like a reverse surgical operation—one in which all the healthy cells are removed and only the cancerous ones are left to consume one another.
What if none of the reasons I have listed explain why America is a nonplayer in the final events of history? What if there is another explanation so obvious that students of prophecy have failed to notice it? What if this once-great nation, because of its inability to repay its trillions of dollars of indebtedness, is so weakened as to be absorbed into the new world order and its global economy, thus losing its sovereignty and separate identity?
What Should We Do?
I know that many readers will be disturbed by this chapter’s dire assessment of our nation’s economic future. Warnings by nature are not pleasant. When the town siren screams, we know a tornado has been sighted, and that’s not good news. But while warnings are not pleasant, they are helpful. They enable us to understand what’s in the wind and to prepare for the storm.
So, how do we prepare for the coming collapse of the American economy?
The writer of Hebrews gives us both the answer and the assurance of our own well-being. “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’ ” (13:5). In other words, if you are living the life of a Christian, you need not be anxious about the future. Just keep on doing what you’re doing and trust God’s promise to hold you secure in His hands.
Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, made these wise observations about our Christian conduct in the present economic crisis:
Christians should look at the economy as a test of our values. The Bible values honest labor and dedicated workers, and so should we. The Bible warns against dishonest business practices, and we must be watchful. False valuations are, in effect, lies. Dishonest accounting practices are just sophisticated forms of lying. Insider information is a form of theft. The Bible honors investment and thrift, and Christians must be wary of the impulse for short-term gains and pressure for instant profit.
The important thing is not to be drawn into the thinking of the general culture and become a part of the problem. Don’t get caught up in the cultural clamor for wealth and security; trust your future to God and take care to live out the gospel, reaching your loved ones, your neighbors, and your friends with the only message of real hope to a world at risk of entering eternity without Christ.
The New World Order
Even if you were not alive on Halloween in 1938—and I was not—you probably have heard of the terror that spread across the country that night over the airwaves of the CBS radio network. Orson Welles directed and narrated the Mercury Theatre on the Air adaptation of H. G. Wells’s novel The War of the Worlds.
The program began by presenting its usual fare, then suddenly a strident voice broke in, saying, “Ladies and gentlemen, we interrupt our program… to bring you a special bulletin from the Intercontinental Radio News.” The rest of the program reported in realistic news bulletin format the supposed advance of aliens from Mars who had just landed near New York City.
Of course there wasn’t any alien invasion. But because no radio drama had ever before been presented as if it were a special news bulletin, gullible listeners thought it was actually happening, and mass hysteria spread across the nation. It took weeks to settle it down and months for many to finally accept that the program was simply dramatic fiction.
The War of the Worlds was not H. G. Wells’s only book about life-changing events on the earth. In 1940 he published a nonfiction work titled The New World Order, which, at the time of its writing, seemed almost as bizarre as The War of the Worlds. In The New World Order, Wells wrote of “The United States of the World” and of the need to “work out a clear conception of the world order… to dissolve or compromise upon our differences so that we may set our faces with assurance toward an attainable world peace…. Human life cannot go on with the capitals of most of the civilized countries of the world within an hour’s bombing range of their frontier.” Nothing came of Wells’s urging at the time, but in recent years the call for a new world order has intensified.
The Growing Call for a New World Order
Now let’s jump ahead some thirty-seven years after H. G. Wells to 1977 when space vehicles Voyager I and II were launched. A gold record was placed aboard these spaceships containing information meant for any intelligent life they might encounter. The following words of President Jimmy Carter were included on that record:
This Voyager spacecraft was constructed by the United States of America… a community of 240 million human beings among the more than four billion who inhabit planet Earth… still divided into nation states… but rapidly becoming a single global civilization. We cast this message into the cosmos… a present from a small distant world. We hope someday, having solved the problems we face, to join a community of Galactic Civilizations.
Obviously, our thirty-ninth president believed in the new world order, and he would not be our last president to do so. Fast-forward to September 11, 1990, when the forty-first president, George Herbert Walker Bush, addressed a joint session of Congress, which had been called to deal with the Persian Gulf crisis and the federal budget deficit. In this address he repeatedly referred to a new world order:
A new partnership of nations has begun. And we stand today at a unique and extraordinary moment…. A hundred generations have searched for this elusive path to peace while a thousand wars raged across the span of human endeavor. And today, that new world is struggling to be born. A world quite different from the one we’ve known, a world where the rule of law supplants the rule of the jungle, a world in which nations recognize the shared responsibility for freedom and justice.
Four months after this speech, President Bush gave another address in which he again talked about the new world order: “What is at stake is… a big idea—a new world order, where diverse nations are drawn together in common cause to achieve the universal aspirations of mankind: peace and security, freedom, and the rule of law. Such is a world worthy of our struggle and worthy of our children’s future!”
Two months after that speech, President Bush addressed Congress yet again, this time commemorating a successful conclusion to the Gulf War. And again he spoke of a new world order: “Until now, the world we’ve known has been a world divided—a world of barbed wire and concrete block, conflict and cold war. Now, we can see a new world coming into view. A world in which there is the very real prospect of a new world order…. A world in which freedom and respect for human rights find a home among all nations.”
Throughout his presidency, George Herbert Walker Bush was a vociferous advocate of the new world order. Now, move forward to the more recent past. In November of 2008 Henry Kissinger, Nobel Peace Prize winner, former secretary of state, and assistant to the president for national security, wrote this: “Now that the clay feet of the economic system have been exposed…, this requires a new dialogue between America and the rest of the world…. If progress is made on these enterprises, 2009 will mark the beginning of a new world order.”
Just a few days before the inauguration of President Barack Obama, Kissinger said this in a television interview:
The president-elect is coming into office at a moment where there are upheavals in many parts of the world simultaneously. You have India, Pakistan; you have… the jihadist movement. So, he can’t really say there is one problem, that it’s the most important one. But he can give a new impetus to American foreign policy partly because the reception of him is so extraordinary around the world. I think his task will be to develop an overall strategy for America in this period when, really, a new world order can be created. It’s a great opportunity. It isn’t just a crisis.
One week after this interview, Kissinger wrote an editorial for the New York Times in which he warned that “the alternative to a new international order is chaos.” He again pointed to Barack Obama as the key player: “The extraordinary impact of the president-elect on the imagination of humanity is an important element in shaping a new world order.”
In Kissinger’s mind, Barack Obama is mankind’s greatest hope for accomplishing the new world order. And President Obama seems determined to fulfill Kissinger’s hope. As he went about Europe in April of 2009, especially at the G20 Summit in London, Mr. Obama seemed to go out of his way to paint a new picture of America’s role in the international community. Sometimes it appeared to the global media as if he were running for president of the world.
Heralding Obama’s election, the Arabic newspaper in Tunisia said, “Today America elects ‘The President of the World,’ ” and the Jordan Times called him “the American leader we need.” Australian foreign policy expert Michael Fullilove entitled his February 2009 Brookings Institution article, “Barack Obama: President of the World.” Apparently the whole world has great expectations for our president and his vision for a new world order in which “the American consensus is over.”
Gordon Brown, then prime minister of the United Kingdom, laid out the purpose of a new world order on a visit to Delhi in January 2008. He said, “I do not envisage a new world founded on the narrow and conventional idea of isolated states pursuing their own selfish interests. Instead, I see a world that harnesses for the common good the growing interdependence of nations, cultures, and peoples that makes a truly global society.”
Not only have politicians and presidents lobbied for a new world order, even Pope Benedict XVI, in his encyclical letter of July 2009, voiced his support for an international paradigm shift: “In the force of the unrelenting growth of global interdependence, there is a strongly felt need even in the midst of a global recession… of a true world political authority.” He went on to say, “Furthermore, such an authority would need to be universally recognized and to be vested with the effective power to ensure security for all.”
What is there about a new world order that unifies the minds of scientists, presidents, politicians, and religious leaders? For many it is surely the fear of a world-ending global war. Others see the need for a new order through the lens of hunger, disease, and other social issues they believe could be addressed more effectively through centralized political power. More recently, what are termed “earth” issues, such as the possibility of global warming, overpopulation, worldwide drought, toxic pollution, and life-threatening weather crises, have been considered potential triggers for a world government. On October 27, 2009, the Washington Times ran an editorial entitled, “Green World Government.” The editorial said:
Environmental alarmism is being exploited to chip away at national sovereignty. The latest threat to American liberties may be found in the innocuous sounding Copenhagen Climate Treaty, which will be discussed at the United Nations climate-change conference in mid-December…. The governing authority envisioned by the document reads like a bad George Orwell knockoff.
Although no legally binding pact was signed, the U.N.-driven Copenhagen treaty, which would have set universal standards for emissions reductions, opened the door for an increasingly powerful global government agency to act with unprecedented authority over sovereign nations.
Today the move toward a new world order has intensified as powerful movers and shakers such as George Soros are putting their money where their mouth is. Soros is like a character in a mystery thriller. Born in Hungary in 1930, and having escaped the Holocaust with his Jewish family, he went on to become an American currency speculator, stock investor, and political activist. At last count, this multibillionaire was one of the thirty richest people on earth—and one of the most powerful and most mysterious. A shadowy figure, he exerts enormous influence behind the scenes, moving people about like a puppeteer and manipulating the global economy from highly fortified hideaways.
George Soros became known to Americans in 2003 when he declared that removing President George W. Bush from office “is the central focus of my life.” During the first decade of this century, he funded many liberal political movements and Web sites, donating vast portions of his fortune to advance his agenda and defeat conservative American politicians.
More recently George Soros has been in the news predicting that the global recovery is running out of steam, that the world economy will experience a devastating double-dip recession or a “Super-Bubble,” and that following the collapse of the global economy a new world order will emerge. This prediction has launched Soros into the final cause of his life; he is devoting millions of dollars to fund a postcrisis think tank that will reinvent a new global order following the coming economic collapse.
A recent report by the Reuters news organization was headlined, “George Soros Unveils New Blueprint for World Financial System.” Speaking via video link with students at leading universities across three continents, Soros said, “International cooperation on regulatory reform is almost impossible to achieve on a piecemeal basis, but it may be attainable in a grand bargain where the entire financial order is rearranged.” Soros has also stated in interviews and lectures that China should step up to the plate as the leader of a new global order, and the United States should not resist the establishment of a global currency.
Whether or not you agree with Soros, there is no doubt that the attention men of his influence are giving to the world’s financial future has driven that topic to the top of almost everyone’s list of concerns. I was not surprised when I recently read that the Wall Street Journal, the nation’s premier financial publication selling more than two million copies per day, claims to have surpassed USA Today as the most read daily newspaper in the country.
In these uncertain financial times, the new economy has our attention, and almost everyone is weighing in on it—how it is affecting us and how we are to survive in it. Before we continue, let me be honest with you: I don’t have any secret insider information, at least about the immediate outcome of the current global financial crisis. But what I do offer, in each chapter of this book, is information about the world’s economic future from the most reliable source available—God’s Word.
The Ancient Appearance of a New World Order
In spite of all the talk about the new world order, it is important to note that it is neither new nor orderly. It is built on a foundation of chaos and confusion as old as history itself. In fact, a new world order first appears in Genesis, the first book of the Bible. The civilization that arose in the world after Noah’s flood possessed a unity of language and a natural nomadic tendency that caused groups of people to journey from place to place. At last, they found a plain in the land of Shinar, and they dwelt there (see Genesis 11:2).
Shinar, which was in the region now known as Iraq, was the historic location of the infamous Babylon. The Bible indicates that the mighty leader Nimrod decided to draw all peoples together to form a powerful society in this rich farmland. They decided to declare and secure their unified might by constructing a massive tower “whose top will reach into heaven” (Genesis 11:4 NASB). It would stand as a proud symbol proclaiming mankind’s power and self-sufficiency and draw people into their new world order.
Craig Parshall imagines the political spin Nimrod and his advisors might have used to launch this new enterprise: “Why risk tribal warfare among differing groups? With a single unified kingdom, we can achieve universal peace! Why create differing religious viewpoints? With one unified kingdom, we will eradicate the possibility of religious disputes! With a single language, we can create a global economy and prosperity for all.”
This all sounds so reasonable, one might wonder just what the problem was with their plan. The answer is that it was an act of rebellion against God. The centralization of humanity violated God’s purpose concerning the nations. As the apostle Paul tells us, “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live” (Acts 17:26 NIV).
God’s intent for the nations was for peoples to spread across the earth, not to congregate in one place. In the beginning He had told mankind to “be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth” (Genesis 9:1; see Genesis 1:28). He wanted the whole earth populated with His image-bearers (see Genesis 1:26–27). This command was a foreshadowing of the Great Commission in which Jesus commanded His disciples to repopulate the earth with a “new” race of spiritual people, born again in “the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29; see also Matthew 28:16–20).
As Paul explained, God scattered men and set “the exact places where they should live” so they would seek after God. Mankind, settling in smaller communities throughout the world, would not be tempted toward the self-importance and sense of power that massive centralization would foster. Centralization would tempt them to rely on their own collective wisdom and strength instead of trusting in the Lord.
Nimrod’s new world order was an act of rebellion against God because it was motivated by pride. The presumption of self-sufficiency forced God out of the people’s hearts and deposed Him as the rightful King of their lives and replaced Him with self. In Genesis 11:4 we discover that the two idols of the tower builders’ hearts were security and significance—the security to control their circumstances and the significance of creating a city and a tower that would magnify their name.
Bible expositor C. H. Mackintosh puts his finger on the motivation that drove them and often drives us: “The human heart ever seeks a name, a portion, and a center in the earth. It knows nothing of aspirations after heaven, heaven’s God, or heaven’s glory. Left to itself, it will ever find its objects in this lower world; it will ever build beneath the skies.”
It is significant that in two verses (Genesis 11:3–4 KJV) the tower builders used the word us five times and the name of the Lord not once. Clearly this original new world order was driven by pride, self-sufficiency, fear, and rebellion. It was a resounding echo of Satan’s unholy ambition: “I will ascend into heaven,” said Satan. “I will exalt my throne above the stars of God;… I will be like the Most High” (Isaiah 14:13–14).
Like Satan, the men and women of this original new world order became heady with megalomanic pride and defied God. Violating His decreed separation of the nations, they came together, built their own world, and with their tower attempted to ascend to heaven and become their own gods.
God knew this first human attempt to build a new world order could succeed beyond the wildest dreams of its founders. Neither their plan nor their tower was a threat to Him—any more than a backyard fire ant mound is a threat to you. But He knew that they could infect all creation with their madness and, as in the days before the Flood, wipe the knowledge of God from the minds of men. Therefore, God determined to shut down the tower project before it could be completed.
Eugene Peterson describes what happened next in his paraphrase of Genesis chapter 11:
GOD came down to look over the city and the tower those people had built. GOD took one look and said, “One people, one language; why, this is only a first step. No telling what they’ll come up with next—they’ll stop at nothing! Come, we’ll go down and garble their speech so they won’t understand each other.” Then GOD scattered them from there all over the world. And they had to quit building the city. That’s how it came to be called Babel, because there GOD turned their language into “babble.” From there GOD scattered them all over the world.
In spite of Babel’s failure, the allure of uniting nations for strength and security has persisted to the present time. But it is still a fatal mistake and an affront to God. Prophecy theologian David Breese has written,
I think we need to understand that political internationalism is not the will of God. Nationalism is God’s will. God has ordained individual nations and not a complex of nations…. When men try in their own unregenerate power to put together a complex of nations and make them cohere without God, then you have built into the complex the seeds of its own destruction. And that’s exactly what will happen to the future world order that men are working on now.
Individual nations are also part of God’s long-term plan to preserve cultural diversity and identity. Individual nations will still exist during the Millennium and beyond: “And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it” (Revelation 21:24; emphasis added).
The Modern Attempt at a New World Order
As it was so aptly observed by C. T. Schwarze, “Wars usually have an end. But the ends of wars on earth appear to be getting more and more unsatisfactory. Each succeeding peace treaty seems to be but the [justification] for the next war.” To that end, the League of Nations, established in 1919 after World War I, was the first of modern man’s attempts to establish world peace. It was disbanded in 1946 after World War II. But the shock of nuclear weapons and the possibility of global annihilation so frightened political leaders that once again steps were taken to move the world toward a unified global government.
In the immediate postwar world, Congressman Lyndon B. Johnson was deeply impressed by the speeches of Dr. Robert Montgomery of the University of Texas, who warned that another war in an atomic age would mean the end of humanity. Montgomery declared, “We’ve got to have peace. We probably have to have one world government. A United States of the world.” At that time Johnson owned KTBC, the first television station in central Texas, and his news director, Paul Bolton, reported the speech, adding, “He is preaching salvation, yours and mine.” Johnson had Bolton’s report added to the Congressional Record. It was this kind of fear that led to the development of the United Nations in 1945 and to the first cries for a politically unified globe under a single controlling authority.
The United Nations, headquartered in New York City on an eighteen-acre campus, both symbolizes and fosters the modern attempt at creating a new world order. The U.N. campus is actually international territory—the sovereign territory of the world—not the property of New York City, New York State, or the United States of America. It exists as an island in the city of New York.
One who visits the U.N. campus is confronted throughout by the many works of art and gifts from nations emphasizing the theme of peace. Many of these works contain biblical allusions, though Bible passages are often misquoted and certainly misapplied by their use in support of globalism. For example, a gift from Russia is titled, “Let Us Beat Swords into Plowshares.” Within the Security Council chamber is a large stained glass “Peace Window,” the creation of Jewish artist Marc Chagall. The window depicts the tree of the Garden of Eden, the serpent, and the cross of Christ. There is even a mosaic called “The Dove of Peace” given by the Vatican. My personal favorite is a bronze sculpture of a .45-caliber revolver with the barrel twisted into a knot, a gift from Luxembourg. Everywhere you look there are works of art portraying the world’s desire for peace.
“A Room of Quiet,” the Meditation Room of the U.N., was designed and superintended by former Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld to be a “spiritual” retreat within the compound. Its V-shape is intended to enable people to “withdraw into themselves,” regardless of their faith, creed, or religion. In the center of the room a lone spotlight casts a beam onto the polished surface of a 6.5-ton iron ore block, which Hammarskjöld designed as an altar to “the god whom men worship under many names and in many forms.” The tiny room, which contains nothing else but some benches and an abstract mural, was envisioned as a place where visitors could “fill the void with what they find in their center of stillness.” In reality, the room is a temple for the worship of the human self.
For all its noble declarations, the United Nations has been an example of bureaucracy run amok. It is overrun with fraud, pointless debates, international mismanagement, and ludicrous behavior. For example, in 2005 then Secretary-General Kofi Annan charged the United Nations with the task of investigating human rights abuses by member nations. The Human Rights Commission members were: Sudan, Zimbabwe, China, Russia, and Saudi Arabia. Every one of these countries has itself been accused of major human rights violations. It was a classic case of sending the fox to guard the hen house.
In Rwanda U.N. peacekeepers did nothing to prevent 800,000 Tutsi deaths. In Bosnia U.N. peacekeepers failed to protect approximately 8,000 Serbs. In Darfur, some of the worst human rights abuses of recent times continue despite a U.N. peacekeeper presence.
If we look at the conflicts in the world since 1945, it is clear that the U.N. has failed to keep world peace. More than 350 international and intranational armed conflicts have occurred since the U.N.’s founding in 1945—at least five of which are major conflicts ongoing as I write (wars in Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Yemen/Saudi Arabia). The United Nations has been powerless to prevent these past and ongoing conflicts.
But perhaps the greatest failure of the United Nations is her unfaithfulness to member nations. In 2005 Secretary-General Kofi Annan went on record with a pledge of support for Israel, saying, “A United Nations that fails to be at the forefront of the fight against anti-Semitism… denies its history and undermines its future. That obligation links us to the Jewish people and to the state of Israel, which rose, like the United Nations itself, from the ashes of the Holocaust.”
But Annan’s words were empty; Israel continues to be forgotten by the United Nations. A case in point: the U.N. has held an International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people on November 29 every year since 1977. But shamefully, the U.N. took almost another three decades to finally hold its first commemoration of the Holocaust. Without question, the Holocaust is the worst human tragedy in the history of the world, and the U.N. recognizes it only reluctantly.
When tyrants such as Hugo Chavez, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, and Muammar al-Gaddafi are invited to speak in the General Assembly, as they did in September 2009, one can hardly consider the U.N. to be a serious forum for world peace. In Ahmadinejad’s famous speech before that exalted assembly one year earlier, he declared, “The American Empire in the world is reaching the end of its road.” He went on to identify the U.S. as a “bullying power” that is exerting “political and economic pressures against Iran” in her pursuit of “peaceful nuclear activities.” Hiding nuclear plants is hardly indicative of peaceful purposes!
I am not a fan of the United Nations. It is ineffective because of the widely varying aims and interests of its members; its consensus is often blocked by special interests; its directives to rogue states are consistently ignored; its peacekeeping efforts are resounding failures; and its human rights commission borders on irrelevancy. The U.N. can no more accomplish world peace than the Tower of Babel could accomplish a new world order.
But even if the U.N. were effective in all the above areas, I still would not be a fan. In fact, its effectiveness would make its presence in the world even more alarming as an ominous portent of a coming world government in violation of God’s ordained intent for mankind.
The Future Arrival of a New World Order
As Babel, the League of Nations, and the United Nations demonstrate, from antiquity to modernity mankind’s attempts at world peace have failed. And they will continue to fail because as long as fallen man rules the earth, Christ told His disciples, “you will hear of wars and rumors of wars…. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom” (Matthew 24:6–7). That does not mean, however, that we must despair of world peace ever coming to our planet. In fact, the Bible promises that it will come. God’s Word anticipates a future time when Jesus Christ will reign in perfect righteousness.
Pastor Brian Orchard writes, “After humans have exhausted every way to create peace and to govern themselves apart from God, after they have tried everything, from the Tower of Babel to the United Nations, Jesus Christ will come to this earth and set up His government over all nations and peoples. And, at last, the world will live in peace.”
This biblical new world order of the future is commonly referred to as the Millennium. Let me put the Millennium into its proper prophetic context. As I understand God’s Word, the next event on the prophetic calendar is the Rapture, when Christ comes for His saints. Following the Rapture there will be seven years of unspeakable tribulation on the earth. At the end of that seven-year period, Christ will come back with His saints to rule and reign on this earth for one thousand years.
I have written an entire chapter in this book on the subject of the Millennium, but let me just whet your appetite. Many passages in the Old Testament describe this time as a period of peace, which will extend even to the animal kingdom. According to the prophet Isaiah, lambs will live in peace with wolves and goats with leopards. Calves will lie down with lions, and cows and bears will be friends. Little children will be able to play near poisonous snakes and not be in danger (see Isaiah 11:6–8).
This millennial reign of Jesus Christ is the finally arriving new world order that will bring an end to all war. Isaiah 2:4 says, “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”
The Bible tells us that the Millennium will be a time of justice and prosperity. Psalm 72, speaking of the reign of Christ, says, “He will judge Your people with righteousness, and Your poor with justice” (v. 2). “He will bring justice to the poor of the people; He will save the children of the needy” (v. 4). “In his days the righteous will flourish; prosperity will abound till the moon is no more” (v. 7, NIV).
We are told that during the Millennium King David will be resurrected from the dead (see Ezekiel 34:23–24; Jeremiah 30:9; Hosea 3:5). He will reign alongside Jesus Christ during the Millennium. Not until that time will there be a new world order with any chance to create world peace. We should put no hope or trust in any other efforts prior to the Millennium because all are doomed to failure.
This biblically affirmed futility of man-made peace is an issue that creates tension for some Christians. Does the Bible not say that we are to be people of peace? Romans 12:18 urges us to do all we reasonably can to “live peaceably with all men.” So why shouldn’t Christians support global efforts to secure peace among the nations?
We must remember that passages in the Bible that apply to us individually may not always apply to governments. Governments are ordained to perform certain functions that individuals must not. For example, when we as individuals are unlawfully wronged, we are forbidden to take the law into our own hands, execute judgment, and avenge ourselves (see Romans 12:19). The government, on the other hand, is charged to do that very thing (see Romans 13:1–6). The same principle applies in reverse when it comes to seeking peace. We as individuals are urged to seek peace in our relationships with other individuals. Our government, on the other hand, has a duty to protect and defend all of its citizens, which means maintaining military capacity and constant vigilance against potential international enemies. In a world plagued with sinfulness and craving for power, peace among nations can be achieved only by means of defensive strength.
Rome’s Pax Romana is a good example of peace through strength. For about two hundred years (27 BC to AD 180), Rome ruled England, all of Europe, Asia Minor, the Middle East, and the northern coast of Africa. During this period there were rebellions and battles fought in the outlying parts of the empire, but it was Rome’s strength that ensured her victory and two centuries of relative peace.
The Fallout from Inadequate Human Efforts
Christians should refrain from supporting political efforts that call for the uniting of nations to achieve world peace—not only because the consolidation of nations opposes God’s intent for mankind, but also because all attempts at man-made global peace are futile. Just as every one of man’s attempts to supplant God’s plan has failed, so too will man’s attempt to achieve peace by producing a new world order. Let’s explore four potential outcomes of any such man-made plan.
A New World Order Promises Peace It Cannot Produce
After all the attempts at peace throughout the centuries, we still find nations constantly at war somewhere on the globe. In his book Shadow Government, prophecy scholar Grant Jeffrey writes: “Since 1945 the number of wars has increased tremendously. As dozens of new nations demanded independence and many old empires disintegrated, more than 350 wars have been fought between World War II and the current time.” Jeffrey goes on to expand on this sad fact and show where the world is inevitably headed with the advent of national alliances and modern technology:
The War Atlas, a military study, concluded that the world has not known a single day since World War II without some nation waging war or engaging in a form of armed conflict. Despite thousands of negotiations and peace treaties, the twentieth century was truly the century of war. As a result of the obvious dangers to national security, most nations have joined alliances to protect themselves. Far more sobering than the increasing frequency of war and terrorist acts is the fact that modern weapons research and enormous military budgets have combined to produce devastating weapons of mass destruction. In the next major war, it is virtually certain that millions of people will be destroyed.
In the face of such dire predictions, national governments around the world are coming to realize that world peace is vital but will continue to elude us unless new and drastic measures are taken. That is why today we are hearing unprecedented talk about a new world order. Worldwide unity among the nations is seen as the only deterrent to the destruction of the planet we now seem capable of bringing about.
But the unity they aspire to cannot produce world peace because the heart of man remains unregenerate. Unifying under a power strong enough to enforce peace will result in a corrupted authority that will instead produce unprecedented tyranny.
A New World Order Presumes a Unity That Is Impossible
We are being led to believe that the economic and military instability in today’s volatile world has brought the nations to the point where they must unite in the common cause of survival. But any such global accord would be a surface unity only. The differences in cultures, religions, goals, and economics among the nations are far too vast to be melded into a true unity. It would be a unity of mere appearance—a false unity. The difference between false unity and true unity is the difference between surface appearance and inner reality. Permanent and genuine unity must come from within. There must be a oneness of spirit and heart among peoples that serves as the basis for true unity. False unity can be imposed by external force, suppressing people’s true beliefs, convictions, and aspirations, but it lacks the power to bind together their hearts. Therefore it always comes unraveled.
In 1971, megastar John Lennon wrote a song called “Imagine” that quickly achieved massive worldwide popularity. Former President Carter once remarked, “In many countries of the world… you hear John Lennon’s song ‘Imagine’ used almost equally with national anthems.” Many of us probably sang the song without realizing what we were singing.
The song asked listeners to imagine a time when there was no heaven, no hell, no countries, nothing to kill or die for, no religion, no possessions, no need for greed or hunger… a time of living for today, living life in peace… a time when the world will live as one.
This song captured the attention of an entire generation and expressed the utopian dream of a world unified and at peace. But like all utopian dreams, the song has no basis in reality. Contrary to what the lyrics wish for, there is such a thing as religion; there is a heaven and a hell. There are ideals worth dying for. Wishful thinking, no matter how lofty, will not produce a wizard’s wand to sweep these realities out of existence and give us a world where differences in religion, ethics, ideals, economics, and culture don’t matter.
Furthermore, people will never find true unity because the sinful nature of man will prevent our coming to a consensus on truth. The prophet Jeremiah puts it this way, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Humanity may unite with good intentions, but as long as hearts remain wicked, nothing good will be produced. As C. S. Lewis is credited with saying, “No clever arrangement of rotten eggs will make a good omelet.”
A New World Order Paves the Way for a One-World Ruler
In the late 1970s, theologian and apologist Francis Schaeffer looked into the future and described the world in which we are now living:
History indicates that at a certain point of economic breakdown people cease being concerned with individual liberties and are ready to accept regimentation. The danger is obviously even greater when the two main values so many people have are personal peace and affluence…. In this mix the threat of war… would cause those who have only the values of personal peace and prosperity to be ready for almost any kind of authoritarian government which would be able to remove the threat of war, particularly if… it was brought in while seemingly keeping the outward forms of constitutionality.
We can already see the truth of this prediction coming to pass. It seems apparent that the dominant values in today’s culture are personal peace and prosperity. These values are beginning to be threatened by our nation’s shaky economics and weakening defense capabilities. As those threats intensify, you can be sure that the rest of Schaeffer’s prediction will also become reality. People will be willing to sell their souls to an authoritative government that will promise continuing peace and prosperity.
In fact, the Bible tells us in Daniel 7 and Revelation 13 that such an authoritative government will emerge under the control of a powerful world leader. The nations will open their arms to welcome this leader’s promise of peace. But it will be a false promise extended in deception in order to manipulate humanity. In reality, this charismatic leader will be the Antichrist, and his deceptive promise of peace will lull the nations to sleep while he sets up his reign of terror and destruction. Daniel tells us, “By peace [he] shall destroy many” (Daniel 8:25 KJV).
That false peace will be in its early stages when Jesus Christ comes back for the church. It will be in full bloom at the beginning of the Tribulation period when people will believe prosperity and security are here to stay. But “when they say, ‘Peace and safety!’ then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape” (1 Thessalonians 5:3).
We will have more about the Antichrist later in this book where an entire chapter is devoted to this end-time personality. For now, suffice it to say that Christians should not support or place hope in a new world order because such a global union will give the Antichrist the political framework he needs to inflict his horrors on an unsuspecting world.
A New World Order Provides the Rationale for a Global Economy
“All we need is the right major crisis,” said financier David Rockefeller in a 1994 speech at the United Nations, “and the nations will accept the New World Order.” Many believe that the 2008 financial meltdown was that crisis. Shortly after that meltdown, Yale marketing expert Bruce Judson warned:
The potential for a severe economic shock to undermine the stability of a long-standing national government has been demonstrated throughout history: the French Revolution of 1789 began when the national government effectively declared that it was bankrupt; the Soviet Union fell in large part because oil revenues, which supported the bulk of the economy, declined dramatically, leading, in part, to severe inflation; the hyperinflation that accompanied the Weimar Republic opened the door to the Nazi victory and dissolution of the newly established German democracy. The extent to which an economic shock can lead to political instability depends on three things: the extent of the suffering of the people, the trust of the people in the existing government, and the degree to which the tragedy had been anticipated or expected….
In the more than 200 years since the American Revolution, we have faced existential crises three times: the Civil War, the Great Depression, and now. The preconditions are almost all in place. We face historic levels of economic inequality. We have suffered an economic shock whose full consequences are not yet known. Finally, our vitally important middle class is perilously weak. What would happen if a trigger were set off?
Much of the current talk about a new world order is in recognition of the fact that when the U.S. economy fails, it will pull the world’s economy down with it. With America’s economy now teetering on the brink, people are groping for a new system that will end the concentration of wealth and power in one nation and spread it around the globe so that one sinking nation will no longer carry inordinate weight that pulls the others under.
The bottom line is that the new world order is all about the consolidation of power in the coming together of nations. That concentration of power will enable the Antichrist to rule the world during the latter part of the Tribulation. This new world order will demand a new global economy, which will be the topic of the next chapter.
What we are seeing today is almost an exact repetition of the central events depicted in the Genesis account of the Tower of Babel. It may be hard for many of us modern sophisticates to see ourselves in this ancient story, but I believe the masterful prose of Max Lucado can help us make the connection. I close this chapter by excerpting from his book Fearless his vivid account of the Tower of Babel.
The nations that spread out after Noah’s flood decided to circle their wagons, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top is in the heavens, let us make a name for ourselves lest we be scattered abroad over the face of the whole earth” (Genesis 11:4).
Do you detect fear in those words? The people feared being scattered and separated. Yet rather than turn to God, they turned to stuff. They accumulated and they stacked. They collected and they built. News of their efforts would reach the heavens and keep their enemies at a distance. The city motto of Babel was this: “The more you hoard, the safer you are.” So, they hoarded. They heaped stones and mortar and bricks and mutual funds and IRAs and savings accounts. They stockpiled pensions, possessions, and property. Their tower of stuff grew so tall they got neck aches looking at it.
“We are safe,” they announced at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.
“No, you aren’t,” God said. And the Babel-builders began to babble. The city of one language became the glossolalia of the United Nations minus the interpreters. Doesn’t God invoke identical correction today? We engineer stock and investment levies, we take cover behind the hedge of hedge funds. We trust annuities and pensions to the point that balance statements determine our mood levels. But then come the Katrina-level recessions and the downturns, and the confusion begins all over again.
Some things never change! Given man’s persistence in repeating his sordid history, the immediate future of our world does not look good. But Christians can take hope in the fact that God has given us prophetic warnings enabling us to resist the scramble for a man-made solution to today’s economic and political folly. We can rest assured that His plan includes our protection until He Himself returns to set the earth right with a true new world order of peace and prosperity.
Excerpted from The Coming Economic Armageddon by Jeremiah, David Copyright © 2010 by Jeremiah, David. Excerpted by permission.
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