Famines in Africa highlight where we now are in the sequence of prophesied events. Jesus highlighted — only a few days before He was crucified — the sequence of events ending this age and introducing the world tomorrow.
"Take heed that no man deceive you," He warned in Matthew 24:4-6. "For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars," He continued. "See that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet" (Authorized Version).
Not yet? Of course!
The world just now! Never before have so many different, confusing religious and political voices had an impact on the world as in this day of mass media.
And, beginning in 1917, the world also has faced an ongoing period of civil wars and revolutions one after another, not to mention two world wars.
"But the end is not yet," said Jesus. "For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom." That is, religious, political and economic conflicts will continue for humans are not solving their problems, which are spiritual in origin. But Jesus did not stop here.
"And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows" (verses 7-8).
What has been the consequence of false religious, social and political ideas? Civil wars and revolution, nation fighting nation!
And what is the result, now beginning on a major scale, of civil wars, revolution and terrorism? A solution to human problems? The creation of a better world? Not at all.
Instead, breakdowns of agricultural production have occurred in nations torn apart by civil strife, particularly in Africa and parts of Southeast Asia. Food often cannot be safely transported from where it is produced to where it is needed most. Or food may be seized from an already hungry countryside to feed urban populations to prevent yet more revolution. Changing weather patterns and droughts make matters even worse.
But this sequence of events Jesus described, and which Matthew, Mark and Luke record, has appeared before in history, beginning in the first century A.D. As with many Bible prophecies, the first fulfillment occurred slowly, over a period of many centuries, and climaxed in plagues and 1,260 years of religious persecutions in the Middle Ages (Revelation 12:6).
But in this closing period of modern civilization, these very same prophecies are being fulfilled again, in much more rapid succession, climaxing in three and one-half years of persecution and world suffering (verse 14), at which point God will personally intervene in human affairs to bring us peace.
So where are we now in this second and final fulfillment of Jesus' prophecy? We have entered the period of famines... in various places"! The situation is not reversible solely by human efforts.
Various writers of the 1960s thought the present situation would develop sooner. We did! So did the authors of the book Famine — 1975!
In this book, published in 1967, authors William and Paul Paddock "forecast a specific date, 1975, when the new crisis will be upon us in all its awesome importance." William Paddock had special training in agronomy, plant pathology and tropical agriculture. But neither he nor we fully foresaw the delay of a whole decade because of twin events: the Green Revolution in agriculture and the impact of abortion worldwide.
Students of world population, even United Nations experts, did not expect it would take to the year 1986 for the world's population to rise to five billion (or five thousand million, for our British readers). But notice, now, how quickly the population is multiplying, even with abortion.
In 1830 world population for the first time reached one billion. One hundred years later, in 1930, the figure was two billion. In 1960, only 30 years later, the figure was three billion. Fifteen years later, in 1975, four billion. Some time next year, in 1986, world population will reach five billion, and it is predicted that in nine years — by 1995 — it will be about six billion.
The Green Revolution in agriculture and the explosion in numbers of abortions have combined to sustain this geometric rate of population growth, but over a somewhat longer period of time. We are, however, at a critical period.
Revolutionary struggles are escalating, no new breakthrough in the Green Revolution is at hand, the poor nations that need food most cannot afford to buy it in sufficient quantities and the food-surplus nations in Europe and in the English-speaking nations worldwide are facing economic crises in agriculture as a result.
Hunger, famines and bankrupt farmers in the industrial world are now world-news headlines. There is no turning back this sequence of events unless there is complete repentance on an international scale and an end to selfishness and self-justification among nations.
What next? As always, there is a cause for every effect. And so with the spread of hunger and death there will inevitably be increases in disease epidemics, both in lands where famine and drought occur and in countries to which refugees flee.
Great strides have been made in medical efforts to prevent the spread of diseases. This, too, is a kind of revolution that can postpone the year when epidemics become a worldwide danger. But the costs of medical break — throughs are not cheap.
Who will pay for the growing medical needs of refugees? Are we going to face in medicine the same cost factor that farmers in the richer nations face? The people who need food and health care most — who need special educational instruction in sanitation and nutrition — can least afford it!
We are at a critical moment in the sequence of events Jesus enumerated. Famines are here. Pestilences next!