Here we are again with another new year. Festivity. Resolutions. Predictions. Income tax around the comer. What will happen — let's say over the next ten years? Nobody knows the future for sure, but there are some good guesses that can be made putting together present trends and biblical prophecy.
There are a bevy of New Year's Days every year. Nearly every culture has its own. The Western world calls this 1978 A.D. (for "the year of our Lord," going back to an arbitrary year picked by a monk centuries ago to begin counting years anew from the birth of Christ). The Hebrew calendar shows a different year (5738 from creation) which began last September Band with typical flair, the Jews will also have a second New Year in the spring which begins their religious year. (Have you ever wondered why the last four months of our Roman calendar have names that mean "seventh," "eighth," "ninth" and "tenth month" when we label them 9, 10, 11 and 12?) The Moslems are working somewhere in the thirteen hundreds according to their calendar, and the Chinese will probably be ready to launch a new "Tet Offensive" when their New Year rolls around this spring!
Most New Years find their origin in some religion. Since mankind has been an observer and worshiper of sun, moon and stars from time immemorial, and since those celestial objects are the keys to our calendar and to time, it is only natural that priests of one sort or another would be involved in setting up New Years. The most popular time of year chosen by myriad pagans from ancient days has been the winter solstice. Worshiping the sun as their main deity, they naturally regarded the lengthening days of late December (which means "tenth month") as a sure sign that their sun-god had been born anew and therefore a New Year had begun. The reckoning captured the imagination of the Christian world and we have happily followed this pagan practice — as we do so many others — without question. So, for us, when the month named after the pagan god Janus begins, it's "Happy New Year!" I wonder what the real God of creation thinks about all this confusion?
Good News — Bad News
With every New Year comes the anticipation of what the future holds. I'm sure you've heard dozens of "good-news-bad-news" jokes (which tend to lean to the bad), but let me tell you one anyway: It seems that this Indian chief was addressing his small band just before a hard winter set in. He told them he had good news and bad news. The bad news was that all they had stored up to eat during the winter months was smoked skunk. The good news was that they had plenty of it! When you cast a wary eye to the future of our poor old world, that joke seems to set the tone: Even the good news doesn't look too good! Thankfully the God of your Bible does have genuine good news just over the horizon, but between now and then there seems to be a lot of bad news. Let's take an educated guess as to what the immediate future holds over the next decade, and compare it with the God — promised good news of His Kingdom on earth. Let's be practical and look at the everyday items that make up our lives, and then get the whole overview.
Everybody has to eat. Yet about two-thirds of mankind goes to bed hungry every night! All this next year about twenty thousand people will die of starvation every day! And the number will undoubtedly rise in the years ahead. But you are not one of those — yet. However, food eats up an increasing portion of your entire budget and will continue to do so with no apparent end in sight. "A loaf of bread for $20, or three pounds of barley flour, but there is no olive oil or wine," predicts the Bible in Revelation 6:6 (The Living Bible). In other words, basic foods will be super-costly, and luxuries will not even be available. When we will come to that point I don't know, but $1.00 — a loaf bread is already on your grocer's shelves! As if the world didn't have enough genuine crises — we live in an age of a crisis of crises — artificial crises are now being added to our burden. Powers who control the source of basic commodities have decided to follow in the footsteps of the diamond merchants of long ago. Supply and demand usually dictate cost. Therefore, corner the supply, create an artificial scarcity, and up the price! Back to bread as an example. Remember last year when the price of wheat was so high — with dire prospects of a meager harvest — that the bakers were forced to increase the cost of a loaf of bread substantially? Yes, of course you do. But now that the price of wheat has dropped so low it has our farmers in revolt, has the price of bread gone down? No. How about sugar? Coffee? Oil? Cocoa? Milk? Butter? (For that matter, the low-priced spread now costs much more than the high-priced spread did just five years ago.) What about eggs? And, perish the thought, meat? Of course we could purchase that cheaper, high-fiber bread that has fewer calories and more fiber — cellulose, they call it (you and I call it sawdust!). Contrast this to the way it will be in God's Kingdom: "Say there! Is
The God of your Bible does have genuine good news just over the horizon, but between now and then there seems to be a lot of bad news.
anyone thirsty? Come and drink — even if you have no money! Come, take your choice of wine and milk — it's all free! Why spend your money on foodstuffs that don't give you strength? Why pay for groceries that don't do you any good? [Does that sound like sawdust — bread and the swarm of artificial-junk-nonfood-stuffs in our marketplace?] Listen and I'll tell you where to get good food that fattens up the soul!" (Isa. 55:1-2, The Living Bible.) Go ahead, read the rest of the chapter for yourself; it's a good one. In fact, read the whole Book! But, what to do? Well, more people than ever are planting their own gardens; natural foods are all the rage; "go to the ant, thou sluggard" and all that. Beware if you live off the supermarket shelves, because the farmers are fed up with their slice of the price of food. The largest single industry in America, and probably the world, is tired of being maligned, looked down on and cheated. They are threatening to just quit growing anything for us (they'll put in a garden for themselves, of course) and see how we like to fast! Can you imagine the food riots that would erupt; the farms looted and pillaged by starving city citizens? Can't happen? Better not bet on it! The farmers are organizing, and they mean business!
The spiraling cost of real estate makes home owners feel good and prospective buyers feel bad. The average cost of a new house, now running quickly from $40,000 to $50,000, is forcing people to live like sardines in high-rise apartment house complexes, condominiums and townhouses. Tensions rise with the rents. The market price is determined by the buyer-seller ratio. Cost of materials and labor is outpacing the rest of the economy, and even do-it-yourselfers are glum. What if the bubble bursts, and there are no buyers? Sources I have indicate agricultural land is the best investment. Anything that will grow food will be increasingly valuable. The contrast of God's Kingdom and its economy is amazing: Abundant harvests with the planter following in the footsteps of the reaper (Amos 9:13). Every man with his own land (under his own fig tree). No heavy taxation for defense because "nations will not learn war anymore" and we will "beat our swords into plowshares" (Isa. 2:1-4). That's the motto of the "United(?) Nations," by the way — but no way the UN will ever bring it about.
High unemployment is a nagging headache for most Western economies. Of course you could move to China — I understand there is no unemployment there! Candidate Carter promised surcease of the unemployed. President Carter will find a frustratingly high unemployment percentage fits into the paradox of jobs going begging in these next years. Did you hear about the 61-year-old man who applied for 24 jobs out of the local paper — and got hired for 20 of them in one week's time? Many people don't want jobs — they just want paychecks. And if they can get them from the government (whatever that is), then why should they work for a living? Mark it down in your little red (for deficit) book: higher unemployment, more jobs going begging, higher taxes for those who do work to pay for those who don't — and won't. Contrast God's unemployment plan which is too simple to be considered in today's complex world. Paul spelled it out in the New Testament: "This should be your ambition: to live a quiet life, minding your own business and doing your own work, just as we told you before. As a result, people who are not Christians will trust and respect you, and you will not need to depend on others for enough money to pay your bills.... Stay away from any Christian who spends his days in laziness and does not follow the ideal of hard work we set up for you. For you well know that you ought to follow our example: you never saw us loafing; we never accepted food from anyone without buying it; we worked hard day and night for the money we needed to live on, in order that we would not be a burden to any of you. It wasn't that we didn't have the right to ask you to feed us, but we wanted to show you, firsthand, how you should work for your living. Even while we were still there with you we gave you this rule: 'He who does not work shall not eat'" (I Thess. 4:11-12; II Thess. 3:7-10, The Living Bible). The other side of the coin is that a servant is worthy of his hire, and for those who work doubly hard, they get double pay! And, of course, there is ample biblical legislation to care for the genuine needy! God says He wishes above all things that we should prosper and be in good health — that He wants His people to live off the fatness of the land. And, after all, He is the one who put all the riches in the earth! The only thing God demands is that we don't make the pursuit of physical things uppermost in our minds. "So don't worry at all [a better translation might be "don't be overly concerned"] about having enough food and clothing. Why be like the heathen? [Now that's a thought to apply even to the calendar!] For they take pride in all these things and are deeply concerned about them. But your heavenly Father already knows perfectly well that you need them, and he will give them to you if you give him first place in your life and live as he wants you to. So don't be anxious about tomorrow. God will take care of your tomorrow too. Live one day at a time [or, "sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof"]" (Matt. 6:31-34, The Living Bible). Beyond that, God promises us a share in His eternal life and possession of the universe — and that is a lot to possess.
"He is governed best who is governed least," a wise man once said. God's plan for mankind is to bring us into His Kingdom as His own sons, living, acting, thinking as He does. Totally self-governing — as He is! But what about today's human governments? More bad news. Government begets government. In England one out of every four is working for the government. Here in the United States we are a little behind, with only one out of five — but give us time — it won't take us much longer to catch up! Candidate Carter promised us government reform. President Carter established the first new government department in 11 years, and it is going to cost you and me twenty billion dollars the first year! If you thought the cost of government was high before, you will soon realize that it was only "peanuts" compared with what's coming! You had better rememorize Psalm 23, because we are headed through the "valley of the shadow of death." The giant of the West is curling up into a ball of isolationism, shrinking in fear from the mice that roar! Way back in Genesis God promised us "the gates of our enemies," and together with the British Empire we possessed most of them in the last century. But we've been busy giving them away! (Read our free booklet The United States and British Commonwealth in Prophecy.) God promises to take back all the good things He gave us: "I will no longer give her rich harvests of grain in its season, or wine at the time of the grape harvest. Now I will expose her nakedness in public for all her lovers [biblical language for "allies"] to see, and no one will be able to rescue her from my hand" (Hosea 2:9-10, The Living Bible). God uses even stronger language in Ezekiel 16 (and you'll have to admit it does seem to fit!): "Prostitutes charge for their services — men pay with many gifts. But not you, you give them gifts, bribing them to come to you! So you are different from other prostitutes. But you had to pay them, for no one wanted you" (verses 33,34, The Living Bible).
Our Founding Fathers would turn over in their graves if they could see the mess we are in today. Our "rights" have disappeared under the banner of maintaining them. The apostle John in the book of Revelation and writer George Orwell in his book 1984 both foresaw the problem: buying and selling, having and not having a job totally controlled by government. You may end up under another government with another number — and as I bring it up let me say ahead of time that I am NOT saying that the "number in their right hands and in their foreheads" is the Social Security number — But, let's just see what now is, and what is possible in John's and Orwell's vision of our next few years! "Social Security" — what a wonderful sound! And when it was inaugurated we were all promised our number would never be used for anything but Social Security! Do you know your number? What do you use it for? The computer is an invention of the rank of writing and the wheel: It has completely revolutionized our society. Don't misunderstand me. Computers are not bad, but they have been put to. Some uncomfortable uses. Names are okay, but computers prefer numbers. The one number you have which is unique to you is your Social Security number. Once you have that unique number it is convenient for government and business to keep track of as many things about you as possible with reference to that one number. So the promise of its single use goes by the wayside, as so many other promises, and you and I become increasingly naked and have our privacy invaded to the last jot and tittle — or should I say bit and bite! For the fun of it, why not figure out how many uses your number is now being put to? You might start by counting the credit cards you carry — each company asked for your number before issuing you their little plastic rectangle. Credit rating? Driver's license? Bank account? Gun registration? Crop allotments? Timber harvest? The amount of water in your well? The checks you write? The life-style you lead; the things you buy? Did you know, by the way, that every check you have ever written is microfilmed and on file — and available to. government and business alike? Need cash? What for? Paper money is only redeemable in more paper money! Besides, it's what money can buy: that is important, not the money itself. Checking accounts help create more money. Credit cards do too. But they can be doctored, stolen, misused. Wouldn't it be nice if they offered to just tatoo your unique number on the back of your hand — invisibly, of course — and all you had to do was pass it under a small machine to buy and sell, to pay and get paid? No one could steal it; nobody else could use your number! Can't happen? Don't bet on it!
Thy Kingdom Come!
There will be no privacy in God's Kingdom either. He knows not only all the facts about us, but even our every thought. He knows our heart and our very intent. That's fine! As long as GOD is governing I won't mind that invasion of privacy — but with human beings in control to such an extent, I get uneasy. How about you? With corruption rampant, terrorism spreading worldwide, nuclear holocaust around the corner, society in a moral sinkhole, the family disintegrating, famine, pollution and pestilence staring the human race in the face, I can only pray: "Thy Kingdom come!" That will be the really good news! Happy New Year!
RECOMMENDED READING What is the kingdom of God? Is it the church? Is it something "set up in the hearts of men"? Is it "the good within you"? Is it "the millennium"? Each of these is widely taught — yet none is right! The shocking truth is made plain in the booklet Just What Do You Mean... Kingdom of God? Be sure to read your free copy today.