There's a lot of talk about the present financial / liquidity crisis fulfilling Bible prophecy and heralding the soon return of the Lord Jesus Christ. But searching website after website, I couldn't find anyone quoting any actual Bible prophecies that indicate any kind of financial crisis before the Lord's return. Of course the Lord Jesus predicted that one sign of His return would be that people would "hear" all sorts of things that will make their "hearts fail them for fear in apprehension of those things which are coming on the earth" (Lk. 21:9,26). Now that we do see fulfilled, thanks to the unprecedented media explosion and updates on things like global warming, financial problems etc. being beamed onto our screens 24/7. If one only heard the news once a week or even once a month, our hearts would 'fail us' far less. But those days are gone; for even if I don't look at the media, someone else does and in our global village, their reaction ends up affecting me.
So I turned to the Bible, to see whether the financial crisis is predicted; and what the Bible says about wealth in the last days. I found the very opposite to what's being peddled around by the doomsday boys and prophecy hacks. Passage after Bible passage makes it clear that there'll be a time of unprecedented wealth and prosperity just before the Lord's return. I may stand with my back to the world about this, but so what. If that's what Scripture says, let's hear it out and give God's words their true weight:
Mt. 24:37: "As the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the son of man be". And as Jesus points out, the period before the flood was characterized by prosperity and materialism. There was a sharp increase in population, in arts and technology (Gen. 4:21,22) and urbanization (Gen. 4:17). Job 22:15-18 comments on the people living just before the flood that they cast off all commitment to God and yet God "filled their houses with good things" -exactly the scene today. Note how Jesus observes that Noah's world were totally self-obsessed with their hedonism right up "until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all" (Lk. 17:27). The picture is of the Lord's coming abruptly interrupting a pleasure-drunk world.
The situation in Sodom just before its overthrow was likewise quoted by the Lord as a foretaste of how things would be before His return. "They (as well as our present world) did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded" (Lk.17:28). Their materialism had the same abrupt interruption as in Noah's time- "But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. Even thus shall it be in the day when the son of man is revealed" (Lk. 17:29,30). The suggestion seems to be that the people of Sodom were mindlessly doing their thing right up to the point of Divine intervention. Their obsession with daily activities without an awareness of God was as bad as their other sins; a point we would do well to be aware of. However, their eating and drinking must have been to gross excess- Ez.16:49 defines " the iniquity of Sodom" as being " fullness of bread" among other things. "They bought, they sold" suggests that Sodom was a major trading centre, rapidly increasing in wealth; " they planted, they builded" (Lk.17:28) implies a real boom town. Such success resulted in the people being proud, arrogant and of course sexually perverted (Ez.16:49,50). It is these aspects of Sodom which are so precisely matched by our self-centred, money mad world.
The descriptions of 'Babylon' in Revelation 18 are replete with reference to Sodom (1). This latter day world system is likewise characterized by fantastic wealth and opulence. Rev. 18:11-19 prophesies a heartfelt lament from the unbelievers at how such great prosperity and industry had been brought to nothing in a moment by Christ's return. Some Bible prophecies (e.g. Ez. 38:12) speak of how the wealth of the latter day world will be given over to God's people at Christ's return- the wealth is there in the world at the time of His coming!
James 5:3 warns the last generation of believers against the absurdity of heaping together treasure in "the last days". If Christ is about to return, why give your life to getting rich just before He comes? The suggestion seems to be that there will be the opportunity for believers to amass wealth immediately prior to the Lord's return.
Laodicea, the last church addressed by the Lord Jesus in His letters, has been seen as symbolic of the latter day church. And they were characterized by being "rich and increased with goods" (Rev. 3:17). "Increased" suggests an increase in wealth for them in the last days.
There are at least four predictions that in the final "day of the Lord", ultimately revealed when Christ returns, people will finally realize that their wealth has not been able to save them (Is. 2:20; 31:7; Ez. 7:19; Zeph. 1:18). They are pictured as throwing their silver and gold to the animals in the face of the awesome revelation of God's glory upon this earth. They obviously have that wealth prior to His coming to be able to do that with.
How Will It All Work Out?
If the Bible predicts a scenario of hedonism and general wealth before the Lord's return, that's it. Crystal ball gazing isn't necessary in terms of trying to work out how concretely it will come about. But there are a number of trends which encourage us that the Biblical scenario is developing fast. The amount of wealth in the world has soared upwards. Look back to your youth- the amount of ridiculous luxury goods available and evidently widely purchased today is far greater than what it was back then. Specifications of goods have increased by trillions of percent; every taste bud in the mouth can now be tickled. Whilst "the poor you will always [for whatever reason] have with you", the bird's eye historical picture is clear over the last half century. Wealth has increased. The woman who loses her savings and the man whose apartment is repossessed may take hard comfort from this, but... that wealth they have lost doesn't go into thin air. The funds are moved off elsewhere, but the wealth remains in the broader economy- it's "just" a question of it being redistributed over time. The basic wealth is 'there' and is growing. Now that wealth is no longer measured in gold or banknotes but rather in how many zeroes you have to your account number on a computer screen, wealth is becoming rather like matter- it can't easily be destroyed, it can just change form. If you lose it, someone else gets it; but wealth, unlike matter, can be created. The burgeoning middle classes of India and China are a huge phenomena on the global scale, although the West may yet have to perceive the true significance of it. And remember that the decisions on the highest levels of the financial system are made by remarkably few people. Hank Paulson, George W and the rest all have their personal self-interest; self-preservation is written into our genetic code from the first struggling breaths of babyhood. They don't want to see their personal wealth diminished. There's therefore a high level of motivation to 'get it right'.
Of course, any system progresses through a series of backward steps which are overtaken by larger forward steps. And individuals, of course, may not benefit from the overall growth in wealth. It could be through bad luck (humanly speaking), poor personal decision making, or (for believers) God's hand in giving them poverty as something they must work with to prepare them for His Kingdom. But there's a growing sense of Government control over society on every level- security cameras at every corner, no internet privacy on one hand, and on the other a (much needed) tighter control of individual capitalism so that stock market crashes don't happen and major banks don't fold. A few years ago my spam email was full of guys trying to sell me money (now it's only Viagra and Cialis). That sort of irresponsible lending is being curbed, Big Brother is getting more controlling; and as so often happens in history, a triumphant power (Capitalism) ends up reincarnating the essence of all it fought against- in this case, the state control of cold war Communism. I'm no fan of capitalism, don't get me wrong for a moment. But the simple reality is that personal wealth creation is humanly appealing, overpoweringly so, and in the bigger picture is rolling ahead successfully- to the extent that all creeds and ideologies and nice ideas crumple beneath it, be they the Judeo-Christian ethic or radical Islam or Stalin-style Communism.
But of course, the old Marxist criticisms of the Capitalist utopia still stand timelessly true. It can't go on for ever, the bubble in some form must burst, the need to find ever new markets and cheaper labour eventually meets its crisis when the global system has been fully exploited.. and perhaps unconsciously more than consciously, we all have that very human 'fear of endings' when it comes to this. About everyone with even a tiny amount of interest in financial matters senses- probably at levels well beneath the conscious and articulated- that we're living in a flimsy house of cards that must fall. And remember the accurate predictions of the Lord, that at this time of prosperity, men's hearts will also be failing for fear about the future. Which all makes for a "spend it while you've got it", "enjoy yourself while you can" mentality. So I don't see the bubble ultimately bursting until the return of Christ to earth. That's the pricking of the bubble- not Lehman Brothers collapsing. Jesus Christ personally on earth again is the pin that will pop the balloon- and only then (recall what we earlier observed about the prosperous times of Noah and Sodom continuing right up to the moment of Divine intervention). Christ's return and the day of His judgment is the ultimate crunch- not any temporary "credit crunch" on today's markets. Those sorts of things may be two steps backwards, but the three steps forward will come too, leading to a spirit of spending, hedonism and personal indulgence which are precisely the things the Lord so solemnly, earnestly warned us against. The secret fears of every unbeliever are death (Heb. 2:15) and loss of wealth. For those secured in Christ, our immediate concern should be quite the opposite- what if I get rich, or richer than I currently am.... given all the Bible says about how this will distract my focus from serving and waiting for the Lord from Heaven?
| || |
The Amazing Claims of Bible Prophecy: What You Need to Know in These Uncertain Times