How Important Is Music?

How Important Is Music?

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What the ayatollah, Darwin and Freud were missing out on
From the February 2011 Trumpet Print Edition

“It’s better that our dear youth spend their valuable time in learning science and essential and useful skills.” Those were the words of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei last August when he denounced all forms of music as “not compatible with the highest values of the sacred regime of the Islamic Republic.”

It’s not unusual for dictators to forbid harmless or even worthwhile endeavors that they find threatening to their authority. But did the ayatollah have a point? Are science and other skills more “useful” to our children than music? Many people apparently think so, just judging by the impoverished music programs of the average public school.

How important is music to our existence? Our underfunded music curricula aren’t able to answer that respectably. Even some recent efforts to validate music have backfired. Consider the famous “Mozart effect” study. Using faulty science, the study endeavored to show music’s usefulness—by proving that it improved students’ performances in “more important” subjects! “Think how absurd this would sound if we turned it inside out,” Daniel Levitin pointed out in his book This Is Your Brain on Music. “If I claimed that studying mathematics helped musical ability, would policy makers start pumping money into math for that reason? Music has often been the poor stepchild of public schools, the first program to get cut when there are funding problems, and people frequently try to justify it in terms of its collateral benefits, rather than letting music exist for its own rewards.”

What are music’s intrinsic rewards? How vital is it to life? Is it a frivolous hobby for the specialized few, or an extracurricular entertainment for the “undertalented” masses?

Lost Wisdom

Centuries ago, such questions would have sounded absurd. Music and science were not considered at odds with each other. A scientist examining the ayatollah’s comment about “learning science and essential and useful skills” would have been flabbergasted that the ayatollah was excluding music from that grouping.

“It is a recent notion that music is a divertissement to be enjoyed in comfortable surroundings at the end of the day, far removed from the hurly-burly of life’s business,” writes Jamie James in The Music of the Spheres. “[T]hroughout most of the history of our culture, music was itself an essential part of life’s business. … [I]t was taken for granted throughout the whole history of the West that music was a defining human activity, and therefore every educated person was trained in the rudiments of music.”

James points out that music “remained an important constituent of mathematics in European education until the 19th century.” The concept of music existing merely to give pleasure would have been considered as ludicrous as the idea of believing that sex only existed to give pleasure. Thinkers before the 19th century believed music has a pure and enlightening purpose in human existence—that it links us with the eternal and the spiritual.

“Musical training was considered one of the high marks of refinement in the Middle Ages,” write Patricia Shehan Campbell and Carol Scott-Kassner in Music in Childhood. By the time of the Enlightenment, “Music instruction was more than ‘window dressing’ in European schools. It was viewed as ‘basic’ to the education of all children.”

Men of science long believed that music was not only sound that emanated from a minstrel’s lyre, but the way both the heavenly bodies and even the human body were ordered. It was no coincidence to them that the ratios dictating the measurements of the solar system were the same as the ratios in the frequencies that created the harmonies we found most pleasing, and that by understanding music, we could better understand the universe. Ancient scientists also believed our bodies and minds are a musical instrument. We find certain harmonies pleasing, in fact, because they agree with our own internal rhythms. Our bodies are soothed or stirred by music because they, like a taut string, vibrate sympathetically to sounds produced around them. Considering the healing properties of music, and new discoveries on how the brain reacts to music, we know they were on to something.

The Brain Loves Music

New brain-scanning technology is showing us some remarkable things about the impact of music on health and brain function. People who cannot talk have sung. People who cannot walk have danced! Medicine is further acknowledging something it should have known all along: the health-influencing properties of music. The healing properties of music (expounded in our July 2010 article “Well-Toned: A Whole New Meaning”) should be enough to make the case for music’s intrinsic worth in our lives.

The brain has no single music “center.” Listening to or performing music engages “every area of the brain that we have so far identified, and involve[s] nearly every neural subsystem” (Levitin, op. cit.). You could call it the best mental workout around. Physical education experts laud swimming for using all the body’s major muscle groups. Music, you could say, is the swimming of mental activities.

No wonder the corpus callosum (the area connecting the brain’s two hemispheres) is enlarged in professional musicians. No wonder studies have found that musicians distinguish and remember sound better than non-musicians.

But music’s impact on the brain is true for musicians and non-musicians alike. Brain imaging has shown that the brain “gives a little start of surprise when a passage of music takes an unexpected turn” even in someone without musical training (U.S.News and World Report, Aug. 5, 2001).

It is a mistake, in fact, as Music in Childhood points out, to buy into the “myth that few children are musically endowed”—one that “threatens the right of all to a musical education, and may even endanger a musical culture.”

Music aids our minds in that it can be a powerful mnemonic device. How many children learn the alphabet by having it attached to a Mozartian tune? How many remember the books of the Bible with the aid of a song? At the very least, we can all think of popular products sung to the tune of a commercial jingle.

Music is like a reliable secretary for your mind. Our brain is full of filing cabinets and papers, but of all forms of organization meant to put those papers in the right drawers, music is most effective.

Music was how the great Irish minstrel-bards were capable of retaining and recalling so much information in their advisement to the Irish kings: They knew, as Dr. Oliver Sacks writes in Musicophilia, that “music … has played a huge role in relation to the oral traditions of poetry, storytelling, liturgy and prayer. Entire books can be held in memory.”

Music benefits our mental, physical and emotional health. It aids our thinking and our moods. It also aids our children through their earliest development—even while still in the womb.

Study after study is emerging showing that when our children have musical training, they tend to excel in their development and may even enjoy a boost in IQ. (The studies cite the neurological benefits, though we can’t count out the behavioral habits that regular disciplined practicing instills.) Some educators are taking note, and Kindermusik and other music programs are receiving more funding.

Research also suggests that the brain is prewired for music from infancy and can learn music as quickly as it can learn speech. Because of parents’ tendencies to speak to babies in singsong, Sandra Trehub of the University of Toronto speculates that “we are born with a musical brain because music provides a special communication channel between parent and child” (U.S. News, op. cit.).

Music in Childhood states, “Children are stimulated intellectually, physically, and even spiritually in their recognition of music for its own sake as well as its integration with their knowledge of the humanities, the sciences, and the social studies.”

Music Haters

As off base as the ayatollah’s comments may seem, he is in famous company—particularly among two thinkers who shaped the musically handicapped modern education system as we know it today: Sigmund Freud and Charles Darwin.

Not only was music simply not important to them, there appeared to be some great chasm between them and this illustrious element of humanity. In all his writings, Freud mentioned his personal connection to music only once: “I am almost incapable of obtaining any pleasure [from music]. Some rationalistic, or perhaps analytic, turn of mind in me rebels against being moved by a thing without knowing why I am thus affected and what it is that affects me.”

Darwin was similarly unmoved by it. “Formerly … music [gave me] very intense delight. But now … I have almost lost my taste for … music,” he wrote. “My mind seems to have become a sort of machine for grinding general laws out of large collections of fact. … The loss of these tastes is a loss of happiness, and may possibly be injurious to the intellect, and more probably to the moral character by enfeebling the emotional part of our nature.”

Perhaps this inability and even blatant refusal to enjoy music by the fathers of modern psychoanalysis and modern evolutionary thought is evidence of their—ahem—mental instability.

“Music is part of being human,” Dr. Sacks writes, “and there is no human culture in which it is not highly developed and esteemed. Its very ubiquity may cause it to be trivialized in daily life: We switch on a radio, switch it off, hum a tune, tap our feet, find the words of an old song going through our minds, and think nothing of it.”

How important is music? So important, in fact, that it ironically becomes trivialized by its very saturation of our lives. May we never let that familiarity breed such contempt that we forget its impact on our existence, how intrinsic it is to the world created around us, and how vital it is to the instruction, development and maturation of our children.

Why Your Dollars Buy Less and Less

And how the greenback’s falling value will have some scary consequences
From the January 2011 Trumpet Print Edition

Ever feel like your money doesn’t stretch like it used to? There’s a reason for that. And it’s more serious than you probably think.

The dollar’s value is plummeting. It has been slipping for years, but the trajectory is getting steeper. Against the world’s major currencies, the dollar has lost more than 14 percent of its value over just the past five years—and a shocking 32 percent in the last decade. In October alone, the dollar plummeted 6.5 percent. For the first time in history, the Australian and Canadian dollars both traded at parity with the U.S. dollar.

But the dollar rout is actually even worse than these numbers show. As the dollar has devalued, so have the currencies the dollar is compared to. When measured against hard commodities, the dollar crash is much more vivid. A decade ago, you could have purchased an ounce of gold for $275. An ounce of silver cost $4.80. Today you will pay around $1,400 and $28 respectively. But the dollar isn’t just plunging against precious metals; it’s crashing against virtually all commodities.

What’s going on here? Well, American politicians have spent the nation to the verge of bankruptcy. Total government debt (local, state, federal) now stands in excess of $14.7 trillion. However, this is only beginning to scratch the surface of America’s debt problem—despite the fact that it is already over 100 percent of America’s gross domestic product. Total debt in America was a gargantuan $57 trillion as of last April, according to the Grandfather Economic Report. If you include liabilities such as Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare and other pension plans, the government is on the hook for another $59 trillion or so in promises.

There is only one way America can pay its debt—and it is not an honest way. Central bankers know it, the world’s top financiers know it, and foreign nations are beginning to realize it too. The Federal Reserve calls it “quantitative easing.” The world calls it counterfeiting.

The only way America will be able to pay its debt is to simply print the money to pay the bills. But as the laws of supply and demand dictate, with every dollar created out of thin air, each existing dollar becomes worth less. Since we are talking tens of trillions, then over the long term the dollar is virtually doomed to depreciate in value.

Americans can feel the pinch. But it also puts the rest of the world in a mighty big pickle.

“U.S. Policy Is Clueless”

On November 12 and 13, the richest and most powerful nations descended on South Korea. It was the biggest G-20 summit of all time, attended by nearly 10,000 of the world’s most influential politicians, ceos of international organizations and corporate business barons. There was a good reason for that. Global currency exchange rates are in chaos. The world is locked near stall speed.

At the heart of the problem is America, the world’s biggest economy, executing a “beggar thy neighbor” policy to poach trade and boost economic growth. In response, other nations have adopted the strategy as well.

Tempers are flaring. The world is up in arms over what to do about the dollar!

The problem is enormous: America’s trade partners can either knuckle under, letting their currencies appreciate and risking severe recession—or they can stage a dollar revolt. This would upend the global economic system.

It’s in this precarious climate that the Federal Reserve, just prior to the G-20 meeting, raised the stakes. It announced that it would unleash a second round of “quantitative easing” to “stimulate” the economy—a move that is guaranteed to sink the dollar even more. The Fed’s hope is that by creating an additional $600 billion—out of thin air—to purchase U.S. government bonds, interest rates will fall and consumers will begin spending.

The world, however, took a more cynical view.

Some nations, like Germany, saw it as a blatant attempt to devalue the dollar and thus steal trade. Others, like China, worried that it was an attempt to stealthily repay America’s debt with fraudulent dollars.

But even if the $600 billion money-creation plan was solely implemented to stimulate the economy, the plan is doomed to fail. JP Morgan analysts estimate that $2 trillion might buy America 0.3 percent additional growth in 2011 and 0.4 percent in 2012. To get America on track, some analysts say upward of $6 trillion might be needed. One Goldman Sachs guru says that, considering the debt deleveraging and the wealth destruction the economy is still facing, it might take $30 trillion to do the job.

But for America, money has never been an obstacle. From the world’s perspective, though, that’s precisely the problem.

“They have already pumped endless amounts of money into the economy with extremely high budget deficits, and with a monetary policy which has already pumped in lots of money,” German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble said. “The results have been hopeless. With all due respect, U.S. policy is clueless.”

That about sums up how the rest of the world feels about America too.

Politicians try to distract attention from America’s debt problem by pinning the blame on China. But it is the politicians who are the most culpable.

Yes, China is purposefully undervaluing the yuan to promote Chinese manufacturing at the expense of American jobs, but it has been doing so for decades and American politicians and academics have said and done virtually nothing.

Speaking from Beijing, Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus recently railed at China for not allowing the dollar to fall against the yuan. He said that if China allowed the yuan to appreciate to its true value, the result would be the creation of up to 500,000 new American jobs. Baucus might be right, but the bigger point is that 500,000 jobs is not even close to what America needs. Over 8 million jobs have been lost during this recession. And America needs to create around 150,000 jobs per month just to keep up with population growth.

America’s biggest economic problem is by far its debt problem—and now it is the world’s problem.

What Happens in a Dollar Revolt?

China, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Brazil, South Korea, Germany, India and other nations collectively hold more than $4.2 trillion in U.S. government debt. That does not count state or corporate debt, or the $6 trillion owed by U.S. mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

These countries have invested their money and their faith in America. But now they see the U.S. embarking on “quantitative easing” monetary policies that will pay them back with devalued dollars.

Dissatisfaction with the dollar is escalating. And America’s trade partners may be getting to the point where they actually do something about it.

A dollar revolt is brewing. And though the signs are increasingly obvious, America’s leaders act like they don’t see it coming.

If the world decided to abandon the dollar as a global reserve currency, living in America would change overnight. America would be engulfed in a dollar flood.

Dollars flooding back into America might sound like a good thing, but in reality it is the equivalent of the repo man coming to take away not only your F-150, but the leather couch, and all the copper pipes and wiring in your house too.

That may sound extreme, but ask yourself what a dollar bill really is. That piece of paper is nothing but a fancy iou. It is a debt instrument—a promise to pay. And America has issued them to the point that they have—literally—gone out of style.

What does this mean for Americans? It means that inflation is virtually guaranteed. It means that not only will the supply of dollars surge due to the government printing presses, but trillions more dollars that until now have been locked away in government vaults in China, Saudi Arabia, and elsewhere will also be released into the economy.

It means that foreign sovereigns are about to go on a shopping spree in Americans’ backyards.

Spend It While You’ve Got It

Foreign nations understand that the best way to preserve their wealth is to spend their U.S. dollar hoards—to buy something, anything—before it is too late and the dollar is worthless. And as this happens, the velocity of dollars zooming through the U.S. economy will suddenly accelerate too, causing imbalances, supply shortages, and drastic plunges in the purchasing power of the dollar.

The dollars are already heading home.

Across the country, indebted cities and states are auctioning off their best income-producing assets—at fire-sale prices—to plug budget holes.

In October, the state of California announced that it had sold floor space that was the equivalent of two Empire State Buildings to plug budget shortfalls. The state will receive $2.3 billion from a group called California First llc. Over $1 billion will go to repay a tiny portion of the state’s debt. The rest will be spent for general administration. The state will now rent back the buildings from the investors for the next 20 years! During that time, the state will pay $5.2 billion in rent, according to the Associated Press.

Just guess where all those billions in future rent will go? Not to Californians. California First llc sounds pretty American, but it doesn’t take much digging to find that it is just a front to make the deal more palatable to voters. One of the biggest investors is Antarctica Capital Real Estate—an opaque international hedge fund. Saudi Arabia? Russia? Who knows where that money will end up.

The liquidation sale is becoming commonplace in America. And the prices are dirt cheap because the country is broke and there is so much for sale.

The Parable of the Parking Meters

Consider the desperation of Chicago. To plug its spending holes, it sold the rights to all its parking meters—for 75 years!

Originally, the 36,000 meters were sold to a group of investors led by Morgan Stanley. This consortium, which goes by the innocuous-sounding name of Chicago Parking Meters llc, happily forked over $1.15 billion for the opportunity to extort parking meter fees from Chicago residents. Later, investigative journalist Matt Taibbi revealed that investors stood to gross about $5 billion over the life of the contract—for a cool $3.85 billion profit.

As Taibbi shows in his new book Griftopia, that is just the good part of the deal. Now, the new owners have changed the hours on the meters: Instead of allowing free parking before 9 a.m. and after 6 p.m., they collect between the hours of 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. One alderman wanted to keep the old hours for 270 of his meters and was told it would cost $608,000 over three years. So if the city wanted to pay for the privilege of keeping the parking hours the same as they were before the deal for just those 270 meters, over the next 75 years the city would be forced to pay the investors $2.12 billion—far more than the investors originally paid for all the meters in the first place.

If the city wants to close the streets for a festival, roadwork or any other reason, it has to pay out even more compensation. The meter rates have gone up too—from 25 cents per hour to over $1.25 in some areas. Take a guess at what meter rates will be in 70 years or so.

Chicago residents might also be surprised to find out who the new parking meter owners really are. When the deal first went through, Morgan Stanley’s investors were pretty benign-looking—either Americans or investors from nations with uncomplicated relationships with America, from places like Australia. Only 6 percent of the investors were from Abu Dhabi, for example.

But then, just two months after the deal was done, guess what happened: The ownership structure completely changed. Morgan Stanley sold its stake, and several other investors bailed to make way for new investors from Abu Dhabi, who now own 30 percent of the meters. Investors in another fund called Redoma sarl now also own 50.1 percent. And no one knows much of anything about Redoma except that it has an address in Luxembourg—a notorious tax shelter and flow-through for Middle Eastern investors.

To say the deal heavily favors the investors is an understatement. And if the dollar keeps falling in value, they can keep raising the meter rates.

For the next 74 years, Chicago meter revenue will flow to enrich wealthy oil sheiks and who knows who else. Chicago’s budget problems, however, will remain.

How will Chicago plug its budget gap next year? Sell some more city property. There will be plenty of dollar dumpers.

Revenge of the Creditors

Not that it is any consolation, but Chicago is far from alone. Parking meters have been sold in Miami, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, and other cities. Toll roads in Indiana. The Chicago Skyway. A port complex in Virginia. A whole slew of infrastructure projects in California. Airports are also being considered. The Pennsylvania Turnpike was almost sold.

It is liquidation on a national scale.

Each day, more of America’s collective wealth is transferred to the bank accounts of foreign governments—because America is so corrupt and morally bankrupt that it cannot control its spending. Consequently, America’s income-producing assets are being auctioned off at an alarming rate. And increasingly to foreigners who no longer want so many dollars.

America is broke. It has run up a massive trade deficit and its economy is in travail. Foreigners hold trillions of dollars’ worth of U.S. debt, and now that money is coming flooding back into America to purchase strategic infrastructure. Instead of biting the bullet and cutting back its big-spending ways, America has decided to cheat and print money to pay for its spending.

And it is all leading to the destruction of the dollar.

In Habakkuk 2:6-8 God warns America of this exact predicament: “Will not all of these take up a taunt-song against him, even mockery and insinuations against him and say, ‘Woe to him who increases what is not his—for how long—and makes himself rich with loans?’ Will not your creditors rise up suddenly, and those who collect from you awaken? Indeed, you will become plunder for them. Because you have looted many nations, all the remainder of the peoples will loot you …” (New American Standard Bible).

A dollar revolt is brewing. Next comes the looting.

How to Concentrate

From the January 2011 Trumpet Print Edition

We have all done it: read the same paragraph over again, having daydreamed through it in a haze the first time, gaining nothing. Frustrated, we command ourselves to concentrate and try again.

Surely you’ve also experienced another common annoyance: being introduced to someone, only to forget his name before your conversation ends. How embarrassing when your new acquaintance greets you by name merely hours later, and your only response is, “Hi … you.”

Why can it be so difficult to concentrate? Why do we forget some things so quickly?

Interestingly enough, both of those conditions—difficulty in concentrating and forgetting things as soon as you hear them—are symptoms of the same problem. Fortunately, both are curable.

The Key to Memory

We think of memory as our ability to recall information: the name of a colleague or the answer to a question. But before a memory can be recalled, it must first be stored.

When you first encounter new information, be it a person’s name or an anecdote from a book, your brain collects the details into your working memory. From there, the information travels into your longer-term memory.

The trouble is, your working memory is extremely small. Nicholas Carr, in his book The Shallows, likens the size of your working memory to a thimble. “Imagine filling a bathtub with a thimble,” he says. “That’s the challenge in transferring information from working memory into long-term memory.”

Meanwhile, you are constantly bombarded with firehose-streams of information. Your thimble can transfer a preciously tiny amount of that information back to the bathtub for permanent storage.

So if you want to remember something, you must concentrate: set your thimble under a single dripping faucet, ignoring the other streams of information. It turns out concentration is a real, tangible state of mind: Studies by biologists have proven that the act of concentrating releases hormones that set off a chain reaction of signals through various memory-forming areas of the brain, enhancing the brain’s immediate ability to store memories.

Lack of concentration, on the other hand, is the reason you forget someone’s name the moment you hear it. Instead of focusing on the name, you were thinking about what you were going to say, how the handshake felt or how the individual looked. You can’t recall the name later because it never made it from the thimble to the bathtub.

Overloading Your Brain

It takes no extra time to concentrate, but it does take significant effort.

There are more impediments to concentrating today than ever before. In our world of technological conveniences, information is instantly accessible in torrents—as is constant distraction.

Does a tiny distraction like an incoming text message affect your memory? Recall how small your working memory is. Every time a distraction pours in, the contents of your memory thimble overflow, and the old information is displaced by the new. The phenomenon is called “cognitive overload.”

The very design of the Internet leads us to cognitive overload. Unlike books, which are linear and focused, the Web is a hurricane of distraction. Using it, our brains, in addition to reading, must make constant decisions about clicking hyperlinks, flashing banners, pop-up windows and more. Information pours into our working memory at a dizzying rate. Our brains cannot store everything. Concentration—and thus memory—suffers.

How, then, can we concentrate?

Pondering Makes Perfect

Eliminate distractions. When reading or studying, turn off your music. Silence your cell phone ringer. Quit your e-mail program. Go to a quiet place if possible. Turn off all the information faucets except one.

When listening, focus your eyes on the speaker and imagine you are a translator, having to capture the meaning of every word.

Admittedly, you can’t always turn off all distractions. You may have a job that depends on timely access to e-mail and phone calls. But consider: Can you set your e-mail to check less often? Can you disable audio notifications of new messages on your phone? If not all the time, consider setting aside certain distraction-free periods.

More good news about concentration: You can get better at it. Research by biologist Eric Kandel has demonstrated that the makeup of our brains changes according to what we do. Neurons form new connections as we repeat tasks. The more connections that relate to a given activity, the easier that task becomes. That is not surprising: It’s why we get better at things we practice.

Less known until recently is that mental activities are also improved by repetition. Research by psychologist Sheila Crowell indicates that the acts of concentrating and remembering actually modify the brain in such a way that it becomes easier to learn in the future. The more we concentrate, the easier it becomes.

So if you want to improve your concentration in a world of distractions, engage in activities that require it. One of the easiest is to read books. If you’re used to reading only snippets on the Internet, you might find it difficult to focus for prolonged periods at first. But stay with it. As you concentrate—away from your computer, with your cell phone in silent mode—your neurons will go to work, and your powers of concentration will grow.

Clouds Across the Rainbow

Following the euphoria surrounding the World Cup, it’s back to cold hard reality in South Africa.
From the January 2011 Trumpet Print Edition

A few weeks ago I was sitting in the lounge of the King George Hotel in beautiful George in South Africa’s Western Cape province. Memories of South Africa’s big moment of the year, the hosting of the soccer World Cup, were already fading. The country had returned to dealing—or rather not dealing, in many respects—with its ongoing challenges.

Looking out across the rugged Outeniqua Mountains, all appeared calm and peaceful, just as it did when I first took in this view back in 1994. But then, as now, the view belies the reality. South Africa is far from being “the rainbow nation at peace with itself,” as touted by Nelson Mandela shortly after he gained the nation’s presidency in 1995. This troubled society is jarringly at odds with the beauty of the handiwork of the Creator who carved out its breathtaking countryside.

After spending a few days in the picturesque tourist resort of George, we landed in Cape Town, its renowned Table Mountain dominating the hinterland, the waters of the famous harbor glistening in spring sunshine.

The first time I took in this view was also in 1994. I expected change, and that’s what I saw. The most obvious change is the prominence of African blacks in positions of service previously held by whites. This is the result of a deliberate policy of the African National Congress (anc)-dominated government to displace whites with blacks based on racial preference rather than job performance. The result has been an obvious reduction in the efficiency of the delivery of service.

Those whose minds have been perverted by the inane political correctness of the age will have trouble handling that statement of fact; nevertheless, it is the reality. There is no political correctness in today’s South Africa—just a blatant effort by the leaders of the majority ethnic population to take from those who brought them from rank tribalism to civilized society in barely a couple of centuries.

A Broken Promise

Any transition of power from a dominant, sophisticated culture to a less developed culture would ordinarily take a good deal of time and effort, and full cooperation between the parties involved. This has not been the case with South Africa. The old government simply wanted to divest itself of the largest problem in its “too hard” basket, for the right price. The new government came in with an agenda: Displace whites from their perch and take over the wealth of the land, distributing it to privileged blacks who had been the most vocal and active in resisting white rule.

In South Africa, the result has been much the same as in other ex-colonial African nations: The Big Men (and women) get the lion’s share of the wealth; the poor continue to rot in their festering ghettos.

A year after the handover of the country by President F.W. de Klerk to the anc-dominated government, I stood only a few yards away from Nelson Mandela in the press gallery on the lawns in front of the fine old colonial Union Building in Pretoria. The politicians who had helped give away a country that had been gifted by God to the modern descendants of the ancient nation of Israel sat behind him. Before Mandela, the adoring, clamoring crowd amassed on the lawn. The occasion was the first anniversary of the handover of the country, “Freedom Day” as it has come to be labeled.

As I looked into the eyes of Mandela, the former terrorist, one year into his presidency of the great country of South Africa, the words of my editor in chief rang loud in my ears. “South Africa,” he said to me as we discussed just what 1994 portended for the West, “is the first of the Anglo-Saxon nations to give away its God-given birthright.”

Returning to this once richly blessed country a decade and a half later, I see the results of that fatal decision. The shanty towns in Cape Town that were a new blight on the country in the mid-’90s are now entrenched in the urban scene. They are larger and continue to extend, month by month. Illegal immigrants pour across the nation’s ill-secured borders to the north. Their number adds to an already endemic social problem in South Africa: the rapidly swelling ranks of the unemployed. This in a country that already has a staggering 37 percent general unemployment and 60 percent youth unemployment. That latter figure is now leading to spontaneous youth riots in various communities.

Mandela’s electoral promise of a home for every black remains largely unfulfilled even as a significant class of black nouveau riche has arisen attached to the government, the bureaucracy and, to a certain extent, business and commerce. This is the result of deeply entrenched corruption, nepotism and a “jobs for the boys” mentality: Ill-qualified lackeys of the anc are granted fat-salaried “jobs” that often amount to nothing more than an official title with the trappings of office and a nice paycheck with little or no accountability. This situation has not been helped by a white commercial class that has toadied to the government for the favor it needs in order to continue reaping corporate profits.

Despite such rampant corruption, the South African government continues to window dress under the delusion that it can aspire to global power status.

A New Growth Path

In late October, South Africa’s president, Jacob Zuma, trotted out a list of platitudes designed to mask the reality of the systemic problems that have plagued the country for 17 years now.

The Economist reported on October 29, “President Jacob Zuma’s government announced a ‘new growth path’ this week, with the aim of creating 5 million jobs over the next 10 years. Since the official unemployment rate stands at over 25 percent—and at almost 37 percent if those too discouraged to go on looking for a job are included—this should indeed be a priority.

“Sadly, however, there is not much new in the government’s plan. It amounts to little more than a long list of worthy suggestions (less corruption, more efficiency, greater cooperation with unions and so on). If conditions were right this might do it. But they are not.”

On the foreign-policy front, the Zuma government seeks to align with the so-called bric emerging economies—Brazil, Russia, India and China. Zuma has visited each of these countries over the past year in efforts to raise inward investment in South Africa.

Last August, President Zuma visited Beijing and signed a comprehensive strategic partnership with China, the latest in a number of efforts to cozy up to other emerging economic powers and thus increase Pretoria’s global prestige. However, as Stratfor reported, “While such partnerships can help bring much-needed investment and technical expertise into the country, South Africa’s domestic challenges, such as unemployment, public sector strikes and widespread poverty, will need to be addressed before it can credibly rise as a regional power with global influence, and some of the potential partnerships with China could even exacerbate existing problems” (Aug. 24, 2010).

The Zuma government must recognize that any nation that invests in the development of South African resources will have only its own national interest at heart. Distracted by deeply entrenched social problems and having lost much of the strong military edge that South Africa once possessed before the anc/sacp took over in 1994, more dominant powers have little to fear in terms of retribution for pillaging the nation’s wealth. As Stratfor noted, a “potential influx of Chinese laborers displacing their South African counterparts, as has been the case elsewhere in Africa, would compound Pretoria’s existing employment problems” (ibid.).

A Difficult Choice

South Africa faces a difficult choice. To survive, it must market its much-desired natural resources. The risk is that it will be taken advantage of by stronger and more resilient economies such as China and the increasingly powerful European Union, especially its lead nation, Germany. These two giant competing yet interdependent markets are eying South Africa’s raw materials as they seek to feed their resource-hungry industries. These are the two great “marts” prophesied in Isaiah 23. Between them they hold the major portion of the bargaining chips for South Africa’s mineral wealth.

Any aspiration by South Africa to mix with the mighty as a global player will continue to be frustrated by the ineptness of its self-serving political class. Rather than advancing the lot of its native population, South Africa appears rather to be retrogressing in the delivery of much-needed social services. As in so many other African nations, it seems the cult of entitlement has subsumed any sense of public responsibility in South Africa’s post-apartheid rulers.

Storm clouds are gathering over the rainbow nation. The risk is that the tensions between the 4 percent of the population that pay taxes and the rest will become so great that South African society will erupt in internecine strife. In the meantime, those of the birthright people who remain, whose leaders sold their nation for a bowl of pottage, maintain a precarious foothold, mostly in the Western Cape province.

A Curse Fulfilled

Whether it is obvious or not to the casual observer, South Africa is a classic demonstration of what happens to a people who forget their God. He simply allows them, in their rebellion, to flush their God-given birthright down the drain!

In the great prophecy to the Israelites, the Eternal God declared, “[I]f thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes … all these curses shall come upon thee …. The stranger that is within thee shall get up above thee very high; and thou shalt come down very low. … [H]e shalt be the head, and thou shalt be the tail” (Deuteronomy 28:15, 43-44).

Deluged

Deluged

Win McNamee/Getty Images

The latest WikiLeaks downpour didn’t just hurt U.S. interests—it exposed just how weak America has become.
From the February 2011 Trumpet Print Edition

When Julian Assange released a deluge of confidential U.S. intelligence documents on the Internet last November, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton initially called it a major attack on the United States. The response was accurate, justified and suitably forceful.

It was also an anomaly. Sadly, soon after that refreshing display of force, the U.S. began backpedaling away from any talk of aggression or retaliation against the blatant act of espionage.

The day after Clinton made her remarks, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates downplayed the significance of the unauthorized release of more than 250,000 classified State Department documents. He said the overall impact of America’s secrets going public would be “fairly modest.”

Gates explained, “The fact is, governments deal with the United States because it’s in their interest, not because they like us, not because they trust us, and not because they believe we can keep secrets. … We are still essentially, as has been said before, the indispensable nation” (emphasis mine throughout).

White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs exuded this same air of superiority during an interview on December 1. We’re not afraid of one guy with a laptop, Gibbs exclaimed. “We’re the United States of America!”

America’s leaders weren’t the only ones claiming the leaks were no big deal. Former New York Times columnist Leslie Gelb actually said that WikiLeaks “accidentally helps” America. In his list of WikiLeaks winners, Foreign Policy’s David Rothkopf handed first place to “The United States of America,” and second place to “American diplomats.”

Such expressions of inflated self-worth, however, don’t fix the damage the leaks have caused. In fact, the lack of a firm response only reinforces an uncomfortable truth that the leaked cables themselves post on a billboard for all the world to see: that America’s will has been broken.

Broken Connections, Damaged Credibility

Consider the damage done to America’s information-gathering abilities. For example, one secret cable contained important testimony from a well-connected Iranian businessman who works in Baku, was educated in Britain and made famous in Iran as a sportsman. His name was omitted from the cable, but how long will it be before Iranian authorities figure out who it is? Next time he’s interviewed by American diplomats—assuming he is even alive—how forthright do you suppose he will be?

“We do know … that our adversaries are out there actively mining this information,” a Pentagon spokesman explained. We just don’t know how they are going to use it, he said.

Besides abetting the terrorist cause, consider the impact WikiLeaks will have on America’s diplomatic exchanges with allies. There have already been reports of foreign diplomats backing away from their dealings with American officials. According to the State Department, fewer diplomats are now attending meetings abroad. In one case, there was a request for notebooks to be left outside the meeting room.

Who can blame them? No one wants their off-the-record comments to go viral. Even America’s own diplomats must surely be thinking twice about offering candid remarks when reporting back to Washington. How can they be expected to provide the unvarnished truth if, in the backs of their minds, they are worried about someone else seeing that information later?

Remember the example of Theodore Roosevelt. For negotiating peace between Russia and Japan, he became the first U.S. president to win a Nobel Peace Prize. This feat would have been impossible if either side feared their communications could be made public. Both sides were afraid of losing face by being the one to ask for peace, yet both sides wanted peace. Tsar Nicolas only agreed to negotiate on the condition that his agreement would remain “absolutely secret” until Japan had also agreed to do so. Actually, Japan had been asking the U.S. the same thing for some time.

In this case, Japan and Russia put their trust in America firstly because it was in their interest, but also because they trusted America to keep their secrets. Thus Roosevelt was able to negotiate a treaty that stopped a war, helped American interests in the Far East, and increased America’s global prestige.

Now that trust is gone. “[T]aking away privacy makes diplomacy impossible,” wrote Stratfor’s George Friedman. “If what you really think of the guy on the other side of the table is made public, how can diplomacy work? … [W]hat [Assange] did in leaking these documents, if the leaking did anything at all, is make diplomacy more difficult. It is not that it will lead to war by any means; it is simply that one cannot advocate negotiations and then demand that negotiators be denied confidentiality in which to conduct their negotiations. No business could do that, nor could any other institution” (Dec. 14, 2010).

All in all, as former cia officer Robert Baer wrote in the Financial Times, American credibility and diplomacy have suffered “incalculable” damage. “[T]he credibility of the State Department as a reliable interlocutor has evaporated, and no doubt for a long time,” Baer concluded (Nov. 30, 2010).

No Consequences

The most disturbing development, as Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer noted, “is the helplessness of a superpower that not only cannot protect its own secrets but shows the world that if you violate its secrets—massively, wantonly and maliciously—there are no consequences” (Dec. 3, 2010).

A reporter asked Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell why the United States didn’t employ its recently developed Cyber Command in order to prevent the WikiLeaks fiasco. This was his stunning response: “We … clearly have offensive capabilities. But at the end of the day … the decision was made not to proceed with any sort of aggressive action of that sort in this case. It was just deemed not appropriate for us to consider such a thing.”

The Pentagon, in other words, might have stopped WikiLeaks before it even got started, but that wouldn’t have been appropriate. And besides, as Morrell went on to explain, at the end of the day, the document dump “does not … adversely impact America’s power or prestige.”

Don’t worry—we’re the United States of America! We’re invincible and indispensable!

The rest of the world, meanwhile, sees America as a former superpower in rapid decline. The pride of America’s power has already been broken, just as God said it would be (Leviticus 26:19). Nothing illustrates this quite like America’s passive response to the WikiLeaks sabotage—a blatant act of international espionage aimed directly at the United States.

It’s a far cry from the iron-handed approach to foreign affairs that presidents like Theodore Roosevelt once employed, when America was on the rise as a prestigious and dominant world power. “Speak softly and carry a big stick—[and] you will go far,” Roosevelt said. As Thomas Bailey wrote in his 1968 volume, The Art of Diplomacy, Roosevelt’s proverb means that for diplomatic courtesy to produce tangible results, it has to be backed by a show of real strength.

Now, America seems to be ditching the proverbial “big stick” altogether.

Yemen

Consider the now-blown cover of Yemen’s president (a covert U.S. ally). The cia lists the Yemeni branch of al Qaeda as the most urgent threat to U.S. security. One leaked cable shows that Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh gave U.S. Gen. David Petraeus permission to routinely bomb al Qaeda targets within Yemen, saying, “We’ll continue saying the bombs are ours, not yours.” The cable also indicts Yemen’s deputy prime minister for blatantly lying to parliament when he claimed Yemeni forces were dropping the bombs on the terrorist positions—implying that heathen American forces were not allowed in the country.

Another cable reveals President Saleh gave his approval to alcohol smuggling by government officials, even as he worked to boost his popularity by portraying himself as an Islamic leader in the full religious sense. The cable paints him as a blatant hypocrite. Greg Johnson, a Yemen expert at Princeton, said, “In some of the tribal areas where al Qaeda is really attempting to recruit people, having something like this where the president and his ministers are on the record talking about lying and deceiving parliament and the Yemeni public, I think it will have traction. Al Qaeda will be able to use it in the months to come.”

Now, not only is America’s ability to attack al Qaeda in Yemen in peril, but there is also the potential loss of an ally and the reinforcement of the terrorists that America will have to deal with.

Lebanon

WikiLeaks also gave Hezbollah terrorists a boost in Lebanon. The cables quote Lebanon’s Defense Minister Elias Murr, former Telecommunications Minister Marwan Hamade and other politicians giving sensitive information about Hezbollah to American officials. Murr offered advice for the U.S. to pass on to Israel to use against Hezbollah. The leaks show that Murr wanted Israel to weaken Hezbollah so the Lebanese Army could “take over.”

This is exactly the type of propaganda that Hezbollah, which paints itself as the true defender of Lebanon, loves. Hezbollah will no doubt use it to justify radical actions against the Lebanese government.

The Lebanese leaks will also affect the international tribunal investigating the murder of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. A Lebanese tribunal was expected to implicate Syria and accuse several Hezbollah members of being involved in the murder. However, leaked cables reveal that the tribunal had asked the U.S. for intelligence. Hezbollah is using this to claim that the tribunal is a setup. Again, the leaks hurt the politicians that chose to work with the U.S. against terrorist groups.

Zimbabwe

In Zimbabwe too, the position of America and its allies has been undermined. Leaked cables paint President Robert Mugabe’s chief opponent, Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, as an American stooge, and a crummy one at that. They relate Tsvangirai’s discussions with the U.S. on how to oust Mugabe. The leaks also reveal the name of a member of Mugabe’s own party who was informing the U.S. Now he could end up fired, in prison, or dead. Zimbabwean officials are accusing Tsvangirai of treason.

Liesl Louw-Vaudran of the Institute for Security Studies said the leaks could easily destabilize Zimbabwe: “We are sitting with a very tense situation, very delicate, where we’ve got a dictator now for the last 25 years here in Africa, absolutely insistent that any opposition to him is being instigated by the West. And now he has that on paper, and that is dangerous. … I do fear that the revelations [are] really going to give ammunition to President Robert Mugabe, especially while we are facing a new election in Zimbabwe [in 2011].”

The cables have made a mess of America’s efforts to undermine a despotic regime that disregards human rights and works closely with China.

Pakistan

America’s tenuous alliance with Pakistan also took a hit. U.S. critics in Islamabad, of which there are many, cannot be happy about the cable accusing Pakistan of “playing a double game.” Other leaks reveal America’s aggravation over the lax security surrounding Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal. As one Pakistani official recently noted, “The documents show what Washington really thinks about us.” Which is to say, not much.

Terrorist Targets

The leaks broadcast to the world the locations of America’s hard-to-defend soft spots. According to Agence France-Presse, one secret cable contains a list of important global infrastructure locations, including underwater pipelines, communication ports and mineral reserves. Said P.J. Crowley, spokesman at the State Department, it’s exactly the kind of classified information that can be used by terrorist groups as a target list.

Iran

The WikiLeaks reveal an America not only unwilling to use force against its most avowed enemy, but a nation going to extremes to cover up that nation’s hatred for the U.S.—even going so far as to hide from Americans the fact that Iran is at war with America and killing its soldiers.

Try to wrap your mind around that: Even as American soldiers are asked to sacrifice their lives in the war against terrorism, two U.S. presidents—representing both political parties—have been hard at work covering the tracks of the world’s number-one state sponsor of terror!

In October, when WikiLeaks released another batch of secret documents coming from the Iraqi battlefield, the New York Times said it revealed how Iran’s military had “intervened aggressively” to support combatants fighting American troops. Another Times piece noted that U.S. troops had discovered evidence of Iran’s role in training Iraqi militants and supplying militias with rockets, magnetic bombs and other weapons. “The reports make it clear that the lethal contest between Iranian-backed militias and American forces continued after President Obama sought to open a diplomatic dialogue with Iran’s leaders,” the Times wrote (Oct. 22, 2010).

Even as Iran continued its deadly assault on American troops, President Obama worked to erase the Iranian connection. Who can forget his Cairo speech, when he showered praise on the Iranian people and encouraged the mullahs to finish their nuclear power project?

For his part, President Bush repeatedly stressed toward the end of his second term that he had “no desire” to go to war against Iran.

Even as practically every major leader in the Middle East was pleading with the United States to do something about the primary source of state-sponsored terrorism, America backed down.

In November 2009, according to one diplomatic cable, King Hamad of Bahrain “argued forcefully” for the U.S. to use “whatever means necessary” to knock out Iran’s nuclear program. “The danger of letting it go on is greater than the danger of stopping it,” he said.

His plea was shared by numerous other Arab leaders. “Bomb Iran, or live with an Iranian bomb. Sanctions, carrots, incentives won’t matter,” said one senior representative from the Jordanian Senate.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak referred to Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as being irrational and accused Iran of continually “stirring trouble.” In another cable, America’s ambassador in Cairo described Mubarak as having “a visceral hatred for the Islamic Republic.”

Abu Dhabi’s crown prince said it was only a matter of time before Ahmadinejad plunged the Middle East into war. He said if American air strikes didn’t take out the nuclear program, then the U.S. should send in ground forces. He urged such action back in 2006.

Even before that Saudi Arabia’s powerful King Abdullah angrily expressed his disapproval of the Bush administration for disregarding his advice against the Iraqi invasion. Prior to the war in Iraq, Abdullah said, the U.S., Saddam Hussein and Saudi Arabia had collectively kept Iran in check. But by knocking out Saddam, the U.S. had unwittingly handed Iraq over to Iran as a “gift on a golden platter.”

As many of our readers know, we were talking about the likelihood of Iraq falling to Iran as early as 1994. Can you imagine the power Iran would have, Gerald Flurry asked in December of that year, if it gained control of Iraq? Then, soon after the war broke out in March 2003, we wrote, “It may seem shocking, given the U.S. presence in the region right now, but prophecy indicates that, in pursuit of its goal, Iran will probably take over Iraq” (June 2003).

According to one cable that turned up in the latest WikiLeaks dump, King Abdullah “frequently exhorted the U.S. to attack Iran and put an end to its nuclear weapons program.” The Saudi ambassador to Washington implored America “to cut off the head of the snake.”

Many of our readers will remember us using that same analogy when the war on terrorism began. “If the Taliban is just one tendril of the monster, where is the head?” we asked in November 2001. “The real head of the snake of terrorism is referred to in end-time prophecy as the king of the south.” And Iran, that article explained, was the one Mideast nation with enough strength, willpower and resources to be the king of the south.

Students of Bible prophecy are well aware of the coming clash between the kings of the north and south, spoken of in Daniel 11:40. This is referring to a German-led European combine, the king of the north, coming against the Iranian-led king of the south like a whirlwind.

The United States, meanwhile, isn’t even mentioned in the Daniel 11 prophecy. In fact, no Bible prophecy speaks expressly of a major clash between the United States and Iran.

What prophecy does reveal is that God has broken the pride of American power—that America’s military strength in these latter days will be spent in vain (Leviticus 26:19-20).

How Humanity Will Learn Its Lesson

How Humanity Will Learn Its Lesson

The Trumpet

The Philadelphia Trumpet, in conjunction with the Herbert W. Armstrong College Bible Correspondence Course, presents this brief excursion into the fascinating study of the Bible. Simply turn to and read in your Bible each verse given in answer to the questions. You will be amazed at the new understanding gained from this short study!
From the February 2011 Trumpet Print Edition

The state of our world was prophesied and written in advance. About 2,000 years ago, the greatest “newscaster” the world has ever known foretold today’s chaotic world conditions. He foresaw today’s scientific discoveries and technological advancements, and the radical changes they would effect on humanity. He foretold the wars, famines, disease epidemics and natural disasters now increasingly occurring before our very eyes.

This famous newscaster knew that men would produce the destructive forces that now threaten cosmocide! He warned: “For that will be a time of greater horror than anything the world has ever seen or will ever see again. In fact, unless that time of calamity is shortened, the entire human race will be destroyed” (Matthew 24:21-22; New Living Translation).

This great newscaster was Jesus Christ of Nazareth—the same Jesus who is coming again to intervene at the last moment to save humanity from extinction and establish world peace!

But before He intervenes, a number of catastrophic events that will impact all humanity must first occur.

These events are outlined in the book of Revelation. In the last two installments, we have learned that this last book of the Bible details “seven seals” that reveal events to occur in the years leading up the return of Christ (Revelation 5:9). The seventh seal contains seven symbolic trumpets (Revelation 8:1-6) that represent consecutive punishments from God on a rebellious mankind. And, as we saw last month, the fifth and sixth trumpets are also known as the first and second woes, signaling warfare between military powers in Europe and Asia.

Next in the sequence of events described in Revelation is the seventh trumpet.

1. What will happen when the seventh trumpet sounds and the third woe begins? Revelation 11:14-15. Who will then be given the kingdoms, or governments, of this world? Verse 15.

Comment: On the climactic day of Christ’s return, a myriad of events will take place at whirlwind speed. The very first event that occurs at this time is the coronation of Jesus Christ (Daniel 7:13-14), followed by the announcement at the trumpet blast that His government will finally replace those of Satan and man. Other events will take place at the moment of the seventh trumpet’s blast as well, as we will see later. But first, let’s notice what happens as Christ’s return to claim the Earth is noticed by the people of the world.

2. What will be the reaction of the nations of this world? Revelation 11:18.

Comment: Jesus Christ, the new world Ruler, will not be automatically accepted by the warring nations as the King of the Earth. The nations will actually gather their armies to challenge Christ. They will consider Him their common enemy, and will rage against Him for coming to take control of all earthly governments. They know that with Jesus Christ ruling, their human schemes can never be completed.

It is this climactic battle that will determine the outcome of World War iii, and who will rule the world!

Seven Final Punishments

1. Is this time of God’s intervention the time of His righteous wrath on rebellious mankind? Revelation 11:18. What more is revealed about this time of God’s wrath? Revelation 15:1.

Comment: Just as the seventh seal is divided into the seven last trumpets, so the seventh trumpet is divided into seven last plagues. These plagues will finally crush all rebellion.

2. Are the seven last plagues—likened to vials of God’s wrath—about to be poured out? Verse 7. How are the seven last plagues described? Read Revelation 16 for a summary of all seven plagues.

3. Because men refuse to repent, will God continue to send each plague in sequence? Revelation 16:9, 11.

Comment: Despite the plagues, the majority of mankind will not turn to God in repentance right away.

4. How long will it take for all seven plagues to be administered? Revelation 18:8.

Comment: All seven vials against the disobedient will begin in one 24-hour day—the day ushered in by the blowing of the last trumpet. Some of these vials of wrath will continue to be administered beyond this 24-hour period. The combined power of these plagues will devastate the disobedient.

5. With the sixth plague, will God prepare the way for the kings of the east and their armies to cross the Euphrates into the Holy Land? Revelation 16:12. Is this part of God’s plan to gather the armies of all nations that remain rebellious to His government into one place for the final battle of World War iii? Verses 13-14. See also Zephaniah 3:8 and Joel 3:9-14.

Comment: Recall that the fifth and sixth trumpets are also called the first woe and second woe. In the first two woes, the beast power will attack, then be devastated by a counterattack from the kings of the east. But on the day of the seventh trumpet, when Christ returns to Jerusalem, both armies will unite to fight Him!

6. Will Christ make war in righteousness against those nations that fight Him and His armies? Revelation 19:11; Isaiah 11:4-5. Is Christ going to smite the nations with His sharp sword, symbolic of His divine power, and rule them with a rod of iron? Revelation 19:15.

7. Who will be defeated in this climactic battle of World War iii? Verses 19-20.

8. After all organized military resistance to the Kingdom of God has been crushed, will Christ then punish the leaders of this world’s political and religious system that warred against Him? Verse 20.

Why God Sends Punishment

1. Are God’s angels who will pour out the seven last plagues upon Earth clothed in white linen, a symbol of righteous judgment? Revelation 15:6.

2. Does God have to punish mankind because their sins would eventually lead to the destruction of life on Earth? Zephaniah 1:17; Revelation 11:18.

Comment: God is love (1 John 4:16). God and Christ love all of humanity (John 3:16). But Christ will be angry at the sins of mankind when He returns. He is coming to punish—in love! Otherwise, man would destroy all life upon the planet! Power-mad politicians at the helm of human governments will have already destroyed much of the Earth, and unless God intervenes with force to stop warfare, no human would be left alive (Matthew 24:22).

3. Will the nations finally accept God and repent, and seek to learn His way? Isaiah 2:1-4.

Comment: The glorified Christ is coming in all the splendor, power and glory of God to stop escalating wars, nuclear mass destruction, human pain and suffering. He is coming to usher in a radically different, utterly transformed global order. God’s laws will be taught, embraced and enforced worldwide, which will result in peace, abundant prosperity, happiness and joy for all mankind.

Meanwhile, each of us can receive the blessings of God’s way of life and His protection now. But first we must come to see the catastrophic effects of sin as God does. Left unchecked, man’s sins would lead to the destruction of humanity. The events that occur at the seventh trumpet show how much God hates sin—and what He will do to finally eradicate it in the world. We must have this same attitude toward sin. That means coming to have a sincere willingness and earnest motivation to completely eliminate it from our own lives, just as Jesus Christ will utterly destroy the sin in the world at His return.

Those who turn to God and seek to do His will, instead of following the sinful ways of this world, will be given divine protection (Revelation 3:10; 12:14-16). You need not suffer any of the coming plagues!

This short study is a sample of the method employed in each lesson of the free Herbert W. Armstrong College Bible Correspondence Course. Over 50,000 people have enrolled in this exciting, dynamic course. Ordering information is on the back cover of this magazine.