Impending Disasters

Often we have read in Scripture those passages which speak of disasters—especially the “disasters” near the end of time. At times we read such sections a bit fearfully. These things which occur appear to affect the whole earth—will we not also then be affected as well? After hearing of some of these things, young children of the church have been known to have nightmares. Children of God, of course, ought not to read and study these things in such a way that generates fear. Our God, according to His promise, will provide for His people for Jesus’ sake. But we must know of those things which must take place, that we may properly watch. 

The prophecy of Scripture 

I have in earlier articles called attention to passages of Scripture which speak of the signs of the end. Concerning disasters which fall upon the earth, we read in Matthew 24:7, “For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes in divers places.” 

There are several passages in the book of Revelation which speak in a similar vein. One example is Revelation 8, which presents the first four of the seven trumpets. These trumpets came out of the seventh seal and present a destruction of one-third of the earth (in distinction from the one-fourth destruction of the seals—that average or normal destruction that we see about us at any one time). Rev. 8:7-12 states:

The first angel sounded, and there followed hail and fire mingled with blood, and they were cast upon the earth: and the third part of trees was burnt up, and all green grass was burnt up. 

And the second angel sounded, and as it were a great mountain burning with fire was cast into the sea: and the third part of the sea became blood; and the third part of the creatures which were in the sea, and had life, died; and the third part of the ships were destroyed.

And the third angel sounded, and there fell a great star from heaven, burning as it were a lamp, and it fell upon the third part of the rivers, and upon the fountains of waters; and the name of the star is called Wormwood; and the third part of the waters became wormwood; and many men died of the waters, because they were made bitter. 

And the fourth angel sounded, and the third part of the sun was smitten, and the third part of the moon, and the third part of the stars; so as the third part of them was darkened, and the day shone not for a third part of it, and the night likewise.

Now we have often read these passages. We confess that these shall be fulfilled. But we do often seek to convince ourselves that these do not occur within our lifetimes—that perhaps they shall happen many, many years from now. We too have been affected by that thinking which implies that man has creation rather well under control. We see how that man, in his inventiveness, provides increasingly the means for ease and pleasure on the earth. Man promises that, should some sources of energy and raw materials be depleted, he shall find others to replace them. In past years, there appears to be continual improvement and progress. Man increases his material goods. He speaks of his rising standard of living. He speaks of the future when he will have vacation Fames, private planes, four or three-day work-weeks, etc. The time for the fulfillment of the Scriptural prophecies concerning disasters seems far removed from our own age. 

But, is it?

Confirming evidence 

The testimony of Scripture is sufficient. We need nothing more than this for our faith. Yet when even worldly scientists point to the inevitability of this same thing, one sits back and takes note. 

An article appeared recently in Time, January 24, 1972, entitled, “The Worst is Yet to Be?” It stated:

“The furnaces of Pittsburgh are cold; the assembly lines of Detroit are still. In Los Angeles, a few gaunt survivors. of a plague desperately till freeway center strips, backyards and outlying fields, hoping to raise a subsistence crop. London’s offices are dark, its docks deserted. In the farm lands of the Ukraine, abandoned tractors litter the fields: there is no fuel for them. The waters of the Rhine, Nile, and Yellow rivers reek with pollutants.” 

Fantastic? No, only grim inevitability if society continues its present dedication. to growth and “progress.” At least that is the vision conjured by an elaborate study entitled The Limits to Growth. Its sponsors are no latter-day Jeremiahs, but the 70 eminently respectable members of the prestigious Club of Rome. . . .

This particular report points out why it comes with its foreboding conclusions. It insists that man’s present progress can only lead to disaster. It explains it as follows:

. . . As industrialization grows, it voraciously consumes enormous amounts of resources. Resources become scarcer, forcing more and more capital to be spent on procuring raw materials, which leaves, less and less money for investment in new plants and facilities. At this stage, which might be about 2020, the computer’s curves begin to converge and cross. Population outstrips food and industrial supplies. Investment in new equipment falls behind the rate of obsolescence, and the industrial base begins to collapse, carrying along with it the service and agricultural activities that have become dependent on industrial products (like medical equipment and fertilizers). Because of the lack of health services and food, the world’s population dwindles rapidly. 

In an attempt to find a way out of this basic dilemma, Meadows postulated other scenarios. He assumed that there are still huge, undiscovered reserves of natural resources, say, under the oceans. Testing that possibility, Meadows’ computer shows that industrialization will accelerate—and the resulting runaway pollution will overwhelm the biosphere. Might not new technological devices control pollution? Sure, says the computer, but then population would sour and outstrip the ability of land to produce food. Every advance in technology consumes scarce natural resources, throws off more pollutants and often has unwanted social side effects, like creating huge and unmanageable unemployment. What if pollution, was abated, the birthrate halved and food production doubled? The readouts are no less glum. There would still be some pollution from every farm and factory, and cumulatively it would still trigger catastrophe. After running thousands of such hypotheses through the computer, Meadows sums up his conclusion tersely: “All growth projections end in collapse.”

The report continues by emphasizing that the only way, to prevent this catastrophe is to maintain a zero-growth rate: in population, in industrialization, in use of material things. To avoid catastrophe, there can be no more “rise in the living standards.” Time points out that there is one glaring weakness in this report. “It lacks a description of how a society dedicated to upward and onward growth can change its ways.” 

Significance for the saints 

Perhaps we shrug off this study as another foolish endeavor of man to analyze his future and come up with solutions which resolve his problems and establish his desired Utopia. And it is true that man seeks to study many different problems, especially concerning the future, and arrives at all manner of conclusions. Often, his conclusions are contradictory. However, the point of interest is that man is becoming increasingly aware of the probability of disasters in the near future. No longer does he insist that such disasters are unthinkable in our civilized and scientific society. He is, rather, deeply concerned and is seeking to convey that concern to the “man on the street.” 

I am in no position to verify the conclusions of the computer quoted above. I would not conclude that the disasters prophesied by this computerare the disasters foretold in Rev. 8, though there are obvious similarities. I would suggest that through studies as these, man is already providing for himself answers to possible future disasters—”scientific” answers which will refuse to recognize the fact that Scripture has told of these very things as signs of the end of time. Be not deceived by that. 

When the child of God reads reports as the above, he must be struck by the fact that the fulfillment of passages such as Rev. 8 is at hand. Let us not, then, live as though the end is far off. Know rather that “the Lord is at hand” (Phil. 4:5).