Nobody likes bad news. By nature most of us tend to be optimistic. After all, we've got good reason to be. We've heard the "wolf, wolf" and "the-sky-is-falling" refrains too many times in the past. Every generation has its prophets of doom, its own local donnybrooks, and from time to time a catastrophe or two. Famine, war, pestilential plagues and environmental destruction have always dogged the heels of humanity. Empires come and go, nations rise and fall, and somehow through it all the human race has usually managed to land on its feet. So who is to say this generation is any different? The British people have maintained for decades "there will always be an England." and so far they have been right. Do we have any reason not to be just as optimistic about the particular age of history in which we are living? Can All Things Continue? While this attitude is sometimes not without its merits, in today's world it leaves something to be desired. For instance, take the perennial problem of war. In the past nations fought wars that were limited in both scope and intensity. This ensured that the survivors could live again to fight another day. But beginning with the twentieth century, the concept of total global warfare, involving entire civilian populations and fought simultaneously on several different continents, became a reality. Add to this the nightmare of nuclear destruction, ballistic missiles that can traverse continents in seconds, instant communications with virtually any point on the globe and you have all the ingredients necessary for the ultimate doomsday holocaust — never before present in human history. The same is true when it comes to famine and overpopulation. Traditionally, food shortages were caused by cyclical fluctuations in weather patterns or prolonged bouts of warfare. But because of an unprecedented population explosion in the last few decades, the potential for famine is now built into the structure of world society. Cyclical variations only serve to aggravate a steadily growing problem. The potential for worldwide energy and resource shortages is also something new to this age. In the past, civilizations could always utilize a new frontier over the horizon waiting for exploitation. Now most of the new virgin lands and easy sources of energy and minerals are rapidly being exhausted. In addition, the traditional military and political alliances that have been responsible for some semblance of order in the new world are now in a state of disarray. Poorer developing nations that for centuries lived under the umbrella of Western colonial powers are now beginning to flex their newly found political and economic muscles. Headstrong dictators and power-hungry potentates are now making threatening claims concerning their "fair share" of the world's wealth which they feel has been unjustly denied them for too long. Existing political and religious institutions erected to solve many of these problems either find themselves essentially impotent or in some cases (such as the United Nations) only serve to aggravate the situation. Looking Forward in Time. With this in mind, it becomes easier to appreciate the relative significance of a few of the biblical prophecies that deal with the period commonly called "the time of the end." The famous Olivet discourse is a good case in point. Here Christ not only foretold the destruction of Jerusalem, but He spoke of a series of global calamities that would herald a pivotal turning point in human history. In verses 5 through 10 of Matthew 24, He outlined the usual scenario of wars, famines and persecutions that seem to accompany the disintegration of civilizations. These events could be applied to the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. but in verse 21 Christ went on to expand the scope of His prophecy: "For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be." As bad as the destruction and sack of Jerusalem was in the first century, it can't compare with some of the modern-day mass butcheries that have been perpetrated under the names of Nazism, Communism, and Fascism. Nor have the nations of the world experienced the visible return of Jesus Christ "with power and great glory" (verse 30). So Christ was obviously speaking of a tumultuous time yet in the future that would culminate in His return to establish the Kingdom of God on this earth. The prophet Daniel called this period "a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time" (Dan. 12:1). Isaiah stated that "It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be established... and all the nations shall flow to it" (Isa. 2:2). Some twenty years after the fall of Jerusalem, the apostle John's apocalyptic vision in the book of Revelation also painted a rather grisly scenario of future global events. Many of John's statements concerning the four horsemen (again the old formula of war, famine, pestilence) and subsequent plagues tend to corroborate the troubles Christ described in the Olivet prophecy. (For more information on the book of Revelation, read our series of booklets on the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse: The Red Horse: War; The White Horse: False Religion; The Pale Horse: Disease Epidemics; The Black Horse: Famine.) Cause for Every Effect. In principle, these prophecies are describing the end result of a cause-and-effect relationship that has been at work for most of man's known history and as such serve as a futuristic outline of what will happen to humanity if it continues to follow a certain course of action. The blessings and cursings listed in Deuteronomy 28 and Leviticus 26 are an example. Obedience to God's way of life brings blessings. Disobedience brings disaster. And you don't have to have a crystal ball to extrapolate future trends of population growth, nuclear proliferation, environmental pollution, economic growth, greed, political gerrymanderings, and the like to see that the course the human race is on at the present time has a future curse written all over it. Nor should we make the mistake of ascribing these future penalties to some form of direct, divine judgment. It's what we are doing to ourselves that really hurts. But there is one key catalyst in this equation for future disaster that often gets overlooked — none other than Satan the devil. In Revelation 12:7-12, the apostle John spoke of a time in the future when this great, but perverted, angelic being would focus all his diabolical attention on the destruction of the human race. Just as an iron-fisted dictator who feels his seat of power threatened, Satan will wreak all-out havoc trying to defend his claim of world dominion (see Matt. 4:9). During this period, conditions will become so intolerable that Christ Himself stated that if the times were not cut short by His active intervention in world affairs all humanity would ultimately perish (see Matt. 24:22). Way of Collective Escape. And yet if men and nations were willing to turn from the self-destructive activities that have led them down the primrose path toward war, overpopulation, political upheaval and resource depletion, much of this future agony could be avoided. That is the central theme behind the message of the good news of the Kingdom of God. That was Christ's hope for His fellow countrymen when He tirelessly went from city to city in first-century Palestine. His attitude was expressed in Matthew 23:37-38, when He lamented over the unrepentant state of Jerusalem: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! Behold, your house is forsaken and desolate." Had that nation collectively repented they could have avoided the disaster which occurred in A.D. 70. This kind of revolutionary about-face is neither outside the realm of possibility nor without historical precedent. The ancient city of Sodom could have escaped an untimely end had there been as few as ten righteous men within its gates (Gen. 18:32-33). Nineveh radically altered its ways after the prophet Jonah brought a message concerning its imminent overthrow. In this case the head of the government issued a proclamation declaring: "... Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence which is in his hands" (Jonah 3:8). Today the same basic set of options confronts the human race. Either we collectively change our ways or prepare ourselves for a rather grim scenario. For the Western world it would mean an unprecedented abandonment of our headlong pursuit of superaffiuence. It would entail our lending a helping hand to our less fortunate neighbors whether they live in city slums or the sub-Sahara. It means dropping the barriers of racial and sexual prejudice that still permeate much of our society. Big business would have to abandon its idolization of ever-growing profits. Labor unions would need to start thinking more in terms of providing a service rather than continually increasing fringe benefits. Governmental officials and legislators would require radical reversal of their shopworn philosophies. But most of all, it would take the acknowledgement of men, nations, and their leaders that their only hope of salvation lies not in governmental institutions, economic systems, or stockpiles of weaponry, but in the Creator God of the universe and His Son Jesus Christ. It would take the same degree of responsiveness the men of Judea demonstrated when the apostle Peter preached to them on the day of Pentecost. As the book of Acts records it: "When they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, 'Brethren, what shall we do?' And Peter said to them, 'Repent, and be Baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit....' And he testified with many other words and exhorted them, saying, 'Save yourselves from this crooked generation'" (Acts 2:37- 38,40). That is the only viable solution for the troubled times in which we live.