Famine Is on the Verge of a Major Comeback
“When I started working on this, I thought I could write a history of famine, and say actually this is a problem we have resolved and confined to history.” That is what humanitarian crisis expert Alex de Waal told a Tufts University audience earlier this year regarding his new book, Mass Starvation: The History and Future of Famine.
When de Waal began researching and writing the book in early 2015, he had an optimistic view of mankind’s progress in the war against famine. The scourge had been largely eradicated, and the risk of people dying in mass starvation events had dwindled to perhaps the lowest levels since civilization began.
But as de Waal continued his research, a shift began setting in that forced him to question the book’s premise and purpose. “Unfortunately, during the writing,” he said, “famine made something of a comeback.”
In December 2016, the Famine Early Warning Systems Network announced that a famine was underway in some remote regions of Nigeria. By January 2017, threats of famine had also been identified in Yemen, Somalia and South Sudan. Soon after, a famine alarm was sounded for Syria. A United Nations report showed that in 2017, 11 percent of the global population was chronically malnourished—an increase of 40 million over the year before.
“The past year has been unquestionably terrible,” de Waal said in a January 2018 interview with National Public Radio, “with famine or near-famine conditions putting millions of people at risk of severe malnutrition and even death across Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Nigeria and Yemen.”
Just yesterday, United Nations Humanitarian Chief Mark Lowcock warned the UN Security Council that, “there is a clear and present danger of an imminent and great big famine engulfing Yemen.” Lowcock said the conflict there, which has claimed more than 10,000 lives so far, could trigger a mass starvation event “much bigger than anything any professional in this field has seen during their working lives.” He said half of Yemen’s population (14 million people) could soon face famine.
We are used to famine being a rarity, but the main reason we have had so few famines over the last 30 years has been the fact that we have had so few dictators like Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot and Jaafar Nimeiri.
But today authoritarian leadership is returning to many countries—Iran, Russia, China, Turkey—and we have leadership vacuums in Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Nigeria and beyond. This shows that severe famines could soon become prevalent once again. De Waal wrote, “[I]nsofar as we see a resurgence of ideologies and practices that reduce people to instruments or impediments to other political ends, or exclude them from our political communities, we need to be deeply worried that mass starvation will return.”
Recognition that famine is now in the early phases of a comeback prompted Kimberly Flowers, director of the Global Food Security Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, to write a landmark article last year: “The Four Famines: The Alarm Bells Are Ringing, but Who Is Listening?”
This is a pressing question. Who is listening to the warnings?
Who is watching the gains start to reverse? Who is aware of how suddenly global stability could be shattered?
When these “alarm bells” are placed alongside the world’s most authoritative forecasting source—the certain word of Bible prophecy—the imminent return of mass famine becomes a certainty.
The biblical Book of Revelation is about “things which shall be hereafter,” or occurrences that will take place after the era of the Apostle John (Revelation 1:19). Revelation 6 describes four symbolic horsemen that will ride in the end time, the third of whom represents famine (verses 5-6). John discusses “the seven seals” that lead up to the return of Jesus Christ. The first four, discussed in verses 1 though 8, are often called the “four horsemen of the apocalypse,” representing religious deception, war, famine and pestilence.
Regarding the third horse and its rider, John writes: “And when he had opened the third seal, I heard the third beast say, Come and see. And I beheld, and lo a black horse; and he that sat on him had a pair of balances in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts say, A measure of wheat for a penny, and three measures of barley for a penny; and see thou hurt not the oil and the wine” (verses 5-6).
This is a personification of mass famine, cruel and unyielding. The passage points to a time when staple grains are so scarce, they are carefully weighed and prohibitively expensive.
Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry and coauthor Wayne Turgeon write about the impending return of famine in their booklet The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, stressing that these prophecies are for the present age. “We are not discussing some dusty old prophecies,” they write. “These are dramatic, dire prophecies that lie directly in front of us!”
They continue: “[T]his third horseman of famine will have a specific fulfillment. It is ready to gallop into our immediate future with an impact far beyond the historic and present-day occurrences of localized famines. … This great famine will eventually spread to every corner of the Earth before mankind repents in unconditional surrender to God.”
Mr. Flurry and Mr. Turgeon explain that even though this points to a dark future, the Bible shows that God will provide a way of escape for those who will turn to Him.
“The future appears very bleak,” they write, “but there is a way of escape (Revelation 12:13-17). God will hear and forgive anyone who will repent. The only ones promised divine protection are those few who have yielded to God and His way of life.”
These scriptures are deeply sobering: They reveal that the gains made against famine in recent years will soon wither away, and that the worst of famine is still ahead. But these passages are also profoundly inspiring! The same scriptures go on to reveal that this suffering constitutes a major punishment that God uses to turn people away from sin and to Him. This is one way God will reach mankind and break through human stubbornness and hardheartedness!
As Mr. Flurry and Mr. Turgeon write, “Our loving Father must allow man to go through such terrible conditions in order for us to finally learn obedience. It’s not as if God brought it about. Mankind has caused its own misery by choosing not to obey God. For the sake of His rebellious children, God allows man to learn that sin does not bring happiness. It only brings much pain and suffering—ultimately death.”
Famines are on the horizon. But God will use them to reach people, and teach them to live lives of abundance! And the Scriptures make plain that this will happen just before Jesus Christ returns to usher in an age of unprecedented prosperity and plenty.
They continue: “When humanity finally realizes that only God’s give way really does work, God can bless them more abundantly than ever (Micah 4:4; Isaiah 32:15; Amos 9:13-14). Then, righteous men, women and children will mock the thought of famine (Job 5:22).”
The booklet concludes by discussing the organization behind the Trumpet and describing what each individual can do with this knowledge:
The Philadelphia Church of God is continually providing hope for those willing to yield their naturally stubborn natures to the will of God. Doomsayers only tell how bad things will get, but without the hope of how much better it will soon be. Jesus Christ is soon returning to this Earth to bring it all the joy and happiness man has continually sought after!
God will mercifully end the deadly sweep of the four horsemen just before they eradicate mankind from off the Earth. Finally, man will have the sweet, childlike attitude that God can work with in the wonderful World Tomorrow (Matthew 18:1-6). Are we each working out our own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12) so we can be a part of God’s great master plan for humanity?
For more about these “dire prophecies that lie directly in front of us” and the way of escape from this bleak future that is available to those who turn to God, please order your free copy of The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. We have also devoted the entirety of today’s Trumpet Hour episode to my discussion of this topic. And please watch for a feature article I’ve put together on this subject in the upcoming issue of the Philadelphia Trumpet, which you can subscribe to free here.