It's crazy time. Alarm and apathy shouldn't mix, nor "Christian gunmen," but they do. Today, when awesome world events demand urgent action, when frightening trends in conditions demand the soberest contemplation, when violence, kidnappings, assassinations, murders, civil wars, hijackings, and the toppling of governments should cause the deepest introspection, the millions doze. Famine with flatulence, emergency with ease, crisis without concern: none really mix. Yet they prevail. What about you? Would you go to a poker game in a burning house? Swim in a typhoon? Fly serenely into a thunderstorm? Walk lazily through a mine field? Liberally lace your scotch with arsenic? Lie down to sleep on a sinking ship? It's time you wondered about the paradox of apathy in a time demanding total commitment.
Few humans are truly aware. Oh, we become sensitized to the little things — things that affect our daily lives in some important way — like joblessness, low wages, high taxes, soaring insurance rates, or gun control. But very few seem capable of comparing potential Arab oil embargoes with the price of wheat in Canada; the transition of government in America to the potential for war in Korea or Yugoslavia; the incredible, yet underplayed, little noticed, unpublicized drought that has gripped Europe, Britain, Canada and the U.S. with international relations and the price of food. Nor are very many able, it seems, to grasp the relationship of any of the foregoing with Bible prophecy! Yet, according to the prophecies in your Bible, you are living in the last days of this present civilization. An age is about to end. A vast epic is taking place — the decay and final destruction of civilization as we know it — and a new and different age is soon to emerge which will be utterly different in every respect to this age. But millions upon millions are unaware of the relationship between present world conditions and Bible prophecy! For twenty long years on The World Tomorrow program, I have been referring repeatedly to Christ's prophecies found in Matthew 24. I have continually said that wars and rumors of wars would intensify on the world scene, along with famine, droughts, shortages, disease epidemics, record-shattering earthquakes, and all the prophesied events leading to the "great tribulation" (Matt. 24:21-22). Take a quick look at this world the way it really is.
A Sick, Sick World!
Growing civil anarchy — terrorism, violence and crime — continues to tear at the threads of Western civilization. Twenty thousand murders per year in the United States alone. These are the headlines that rock the world today. The grim events of Entebbe served to remind us that anti-Semitism is far from dead in this world's society. Blatant, unabashed, raw racism is a sleeping time bomb which threatens to erupt anew. Recently there have been veiled threats ("We will bring down the temple of humanity") by a smaller power to use the unthinkable weapon if pushed into a corner. As the United States continues to foster the proliferation of nuclear weaponry in the world (albeit through the beneficent spread of "peaceful" nuclear reactors), the number of nations actually possessing the bomb increases year by year — whether we have the courage to admit it or not. Meanwhile, Western arms policies continue to fuel the Middle East. America finds it necessary to supply both sides of the fence with super sophisticated weaponry. Take Iran for example. Reports The Middle East magazine: "It [Iran] now has 'on order' 80 F-14 Tomcats, along with 190 Phantoms and 179 F.5E interceptor aircraft. Tehran is also attempting to obtain in oil-for-arms barter deals another 300 of the latest available aircraft on the Western market, including F-16s and F-18s... Besides these, there are reportedly another 1,500 Chieftain tanks 'on order' from Britain" (October 1976, p. 19). If current orders are filled, combat aircraft levels in Iran will be doubled. West and East have been rushing arms into the Middle East at record rates. The spark is bound to be touched off sooner or later. Those weapons will no doubt be used.
The Energy Crunch
Militarily speaking, the West continues to sell advanced munitions to countries that have their hands on its throat. As Fortune warned: "Since the Yom Kippur War, our dependence on OPEC oil has increased from 17% to 22% of our [American] domestic production, and if present trends continue, we will be buying nearly half of our oil from OPEC countries by 1980" (January 1976, p. 102). Have Western nations been about the business of encouraging conservation of unrenewable energy resources by, say, cutting back on the use of "our toys"? Frankly, no! In the U.S., Detroit is back to building more big gas hogs than ever. The Fortune editorial continues: "It almost seems as if we have settled apathetically for living indefinitely at OPEC's mercy... If the Arabs were to unlimber their oil weapon against countries supporting Israel, we could be left with the option of either giving in or taking military action. Viewed against these ugly possibilities, the current dithering [inaction and lack of policy] looks like an abdication of the national interest." The panic period of the energy crisis (late 1973 and early 1974) will be paled into insignificance by the next one, especially in the United States. Can you imagine what it's going to be like with our crude oil faucet turned fully halfway off? Already there is a very real natural gas shortage in the United States. Notes Business Week: "Each year across the country, the shortage of natural gas worsens, concealed to some extent by the recent string of warm winters... but nonetheless real and ever more threatening. Indeed the gas shortage is in many ways the leading edge of the real `energy crisis.'... According to figures released last week by the Federal Power Commission, the nation this winter will suffer a 22% shortfall in supplies. Last year the figure was 18%. The year before 14%" (September 27, 1976, p. 66).
The Time of the End
As I've said so many times before, any way you want to slice it, this world is headed into a time of indescribable troubles on a global scale. We are now living in what the Bible calls "the time of the end." The end-time fulfillments of Matthew 24 are shaping up very fast. The time for procrastination in proclaiming an urgent warning and witness to the nations of this world is over. We must fulfill our awesome responsibility. Yet prophecy after prophecy in your Bible warns us that at the time when the second coming of Jesus Christ would be imminent, vast numbers of God's own people would drift into lethargy and apathy, sleepily going about their own day-to-day affairs as if trying to shove the unacceptable future into the back of their minds and pretend there is unlimited time left for their own personal pleasures. It makes no sense at all for people in a burning building to be telling jokes — or farmers given severe storm warnings to scatter their stock to summer pastures. Yet, as the Bible predicted, many today live their daily lives as if oblivious to the deadly potential of these times! Soon, a great depression that will make the crash of '29 look like a picnic by comparison will rock the world. From any given moment nation after nation in the affluent, industrialized world could plunge into poverty — with banks failing and closing, business and industry going bankrupt, and a barter system replacing present economic systems. Out of this will emerge growing anarchy, racial bloodbaths, urban wars, gang violence as armed groups pillage from their own countrymen in a frenzied effort to survive. The collapse of present systems could take place in any given 90-day period following a shocking failure of the economic system. Living, as we do, in the shadow of the bomb and on the verge of chaos — we still like to pretend these shocking events will not, no, cannot, occur. We somehow convince ourselves all will be well — there's no need for concern — we have always managed to tough it out before, and we can tough it out again. Jeremiah's warnings fell on deaf ears — but the enemy came. John the Baptist was a "voice crying in the wilderness" not only in fact, but in prophetic symbolism — a voice carrying a message of the coming of the Son of God then, and the need to repent, but carrying that message into a wilderness of religious confusion, doubt, apathy, lethargy and unconcern. Jesus said: "And in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, 'You will keep on hearing, but will not understand; and you will keep on seeing, but will not perceive; for the heart of this people has become dull, and with their ears they scarcely hear, and they have closed their eyes lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and turn again, and I should heal them — (Matt. 13:14-15, New American Standard Bible).
What Is Your Obligation?
Did you ever notice Jesus' prediction that a great Work of WITNESS and WARNING to this sleepy world would immediately precede His own interference in world events? "And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come" (Matt. 24:14). The ONLY prophesied event, then, which determines exactly WHEN the "end shall come," is the preaching of that witness and warning message to the world! That great Work, proclaiming the soon-coming of Christ, and making plain the true MEANING of today's frightening world conditions, was prophesied to take place just before a great tribulation! Somehow, YOU have come into contact with that great Work! Are you one who is so sleepily unconcerned about this present world that you just cannot seem to become alert to the tremendous meaning of the times in which you live? Paradoxically, Jesus prophesied that HIS OWN PEOPLE would be about half asleep at the most dangerous moments in history. Search the Scriptures concerning the condition of the Church of God just prior to the tribulation, and you find a sleepy church, lying down on the job, drowsily unconcerned (see Matt. 24:37-51; Matt. 25:1-13; Rev. 3:14-22). Knowledge carries obligations. Awareness of world conditions carries responsibility. If you were the first to discover a building on fire, surely you would report it. If you had advance warning of a flash flood, surely you would warn your neighbors to go to high ground. If you were aware of impending danger, surely you would feel a responsibility! Knowledge of this kind requires a commitment! It requires action instead of apathy. What is, then, the obligation required of one who KNOWS the scope of world conditions in the light of Bible prophecy — who clearly sees the fact that we are living in the prophesied time of the end? Obviously, it is to become INVOLVED in that great Work of God. It is to search the Scriptures, to watch world news and changing world conditions (Luke 21:36), to PRAY for the Work, and to support the Work. Paul said: "Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving; withal praying also for us, that God would open unto us a door of utterance, to speak the mystery of Christ, for which I am also in bonds: that I may make it manifest, as I ought to speak" (Col. 4:2-4). Paul said to keep on praying in a watchful attitude, fully sensitized and aware of the meaning of conditions. He said to pray specifically for the work being done of preaching a message of warning and witness to all nations — to make it your very fife — as it was to Paul, and to all those called into God's Work down through the ages. In this time of No involvement, of inaction, of lethargy, inattention, sleepy, turned-off, "don't-care" attitudes, are YOU one who can clearly see a calling of God and answer that call?