Chapter 4: Are You Ready for the End of the World?
In the last 100 years, life in the First World has gotten a whole lot easier. We’ve built an impressive infrastructure to mass-produce and distribute food, water, electricity and anything else we can dream up.
In the process, we have become extraordinarily dependent on “the grid.” Every aspect of modern life hinges on the smooth-flowing, uninterrupted operation of a number of intricate and interrelated systems.
This labyrinthine complexity makes our high-tech civilization extremely vulnerable to disruption.
A multitude of unfavorable factors is hurting global food production. In the global grain industry, land devoted to wheat and barley cultivation has been declining for a generation. Demand is rapidly overtaking supply in the grain markets. Adverse weather conditions have destroyed farms; outbreaks of foot-and-mouth disease and bluetongue virus have hit prime breeding stock in the meat and dairy industries.
To add to the emerging global agricultural crisis, food aid to less-developed nations is being curtailed. It’s not only donor fatigue that has reduced the world food aid effort; it’s the failure of donor nations that have given the most aid in the past to maintain their production levels.
Right now, most of our planet’s arable land is already under cultivation, and 35 percent of this land is seriously degraded because of the intensive, chemically based farming practices in widespread use since World War ii. Add to this the increasing dependence of the agriculture industry on hybrid varieties that do not have the capacity to replenish themselves (thanks to the rapacious designs of corporate entities like Monsanto Chemicals), plus the continuing escalation of energy prices, and we have a recipe for agricultural disaster.
And now, as a result of ignorance and greed practiced by the agriculture industry over the past two or three generations, crops are failing, reserve stocks are shrinking, and prices are rising worldwide. Add to this the increasing flight from the dollar, with China potentially cashing in U.S. bonds; oil contracts, traditionally priced in dollars, now increasingly written in euros, rubles, yuan and yen—and the inescapable reality becomes clear. The world’s systems of agriculture and trade stand on the brink of disaster.
What would you eat if the grocery stores and restaurants were empty? Today, less than 2 percent of the First World population is feeding the other 98 percent. Most of us get our food from hundreds or thousands of miles away, and have only about a week’s worth of groceries in the pantry.
What would you do if your town lost power? In most places, drinking water would soon dry up; plumbing would stop. Sanitation would quickly deteriorate, particularly within cities. Communications would fail; phone systems would shut down within a week.
Considering the number and variety of possible events that could create such conditions, it would be irrational to ignore their likelihood. And the probability of several of them happening is high and growing. Weather disasters, earthquakes or other natural phenomena destroying infrastructure or wiping out food production. A deepening economic depression. A collapse in the value of money, through deflation, hyperinflation or monetary manipulation. A disease pandemic. An energy embargo. Terrorist strikes or an attack by another country. The unleashing of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons.
Most of us simply don’t seriously consider such scenarios. We enjoy them for summer popcorn movie fare—then continue to depend on the grid as if it will keep clicking in well-oiled perfection forever. But is that realistic? Not even a little bit.
Brace Yourself for TEOTWAWKI
A growing number of people are concerned. A swelling minority are proactively bracing for the worst. They recognize the signs, and believe their best defense is physical preparedness.
Popular survivalist expert James Wesley Rawles, a former U.S. Army Intelligence officer, advocates creating a survival retreat at least 300 miles from the nearest city. In his books and on his website, he gives detailed information on increasing your self-sufficiency in matters such as water retrieval and purification, food production and storage, security and self-defense and so on—in anticipation of what he calls teotwawki: the end of the world as we know it.
To give a colorful single example, in assembling “first-aid/minor surgery” supplies for your retreat, Rawles advises, “[C]onsider your neighborhood going for many months without power, extensive use of open flames, and sentries standing picket shifts exposed to the elements. Then consider axes, chain saws and tractors being wielded by newbies, and a greater likelihood of gunshot wounds. With all of this, add the possibility of no access to doctors or high-tech medical diagnostic equipment” (How to Survive the End of the World As We Know It).
Survivalist thinking is often associated with paramilitary activities, racism and religious extremism. But as global stability deteriorates and threats to civilization increase, it is becoming more mainstream. For his part, Rawles is avowedly anti-racist, and apparently moderate in his religion. He emphasizes preparing in a way that enables a person to fulfill the “moral imperative” of charity, giving to the needy in times of crisis.
There is something to be admired in the clear-eyed pragmatism of those taking steps to face calamity. Unlike the far more common head-in-the-sand approach, it acknowledges the seriousness of the times, and recognizes the need to do something—to work while it is day, since the night is coming.
‘Take Heed to Yourselves’
For the greater part of the 20th century, Herbert W. Armstrong warned of the very state that the world—in particular the English-speaking nations—has now entered. Sixty years ago, he declared: “I repeat—it’s later than you think!
“Yes, time is running out on us, fast, and we’re too sound asleep in deception to realize it!
“Our peoples will continue only a few more years in comparative economic prosperity. This very prosperity is our fatal curse!—because our people are setting their hearts on it, seeking ease and leisure, becoming soft and decadent and weak!
“We’re going the way of ancient Rome—to a greater fall, because we’re bigger and more prosperous, and have farther to fall!
“Then, suddenly, before we realize it, we’ll find ourselves in the throes of famine, and uncontrollable epidemics of disease. Already we’re in the beginning of a terrible famine and we don’t know it—a famine of needed minerals and vitamins in our foods. Our peoples have ignored God’s agricultural laws. Not all the land has been permitted to rest every seventh year. The land has been overworked. Today, the soil is worn out. And food factories, in the interest of larger profits, are removing much of what minerals and vitamins remain—while a new profit-making vitamin industry deludes the people into believing they can obtain these precious elements from pills and capsules purchased in drug stores and ‘health food’ stores!”
Watching global conditions, the Bible’s detailed descriptions of “great tribulation” to befall the world just before the Second Coming of Jesus Christ are unmistakably increasing in relevance and urgency. In fact, the disasters for which some few are bracing themselves aren’t just likely scenarios based on current trends—they were specifically prophesied in Scripture millennia ago to claim the lives of an unimaginable number of people in the developed world and beyond.
We need to prepare our minds for catastrophes, because they are coming.
Curses and Captivity
We can learn what is ahead for the modern descendants of Israel by looking at what happened to our ancestors. Solomon and many Israelites did turn away from God to a significant degree, but the Bible indicates Solomon repented. After Solomon died, the sin and wickedness continued, the kingdom split, and the two sides, Israel and Judah, nearly went to war. They both continued to sin against God, although Judah had a few righteous kings who did lead the people to righteousness—and healing and blessings. But the people continued to turn back to sin, and they were cursed. They suffered numerous wars and even went to war against each other at times. Finally, Israel was conquered by the Assyrian Empire, and its sinning people were plucked out of their land. Later, Judah was conquered by the Babylonian Empire, and its sinning people were also plucked out of their land.
“And them that had escaped from the sword carried he away to Babylon; where they were servants to him and his sons until the reign of the kingdom of Persia” (2 Chronicles 36:20). National sin leads to national curses, which lead to national captivity—both historically and presently!
Verse 21 points out that this catastrophic national tragedy for Judah “[fulfilled] the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah.” God had sent a prophet to warn the people of Judah that their sins were leading to captivity. Jeremiah told them how God would heal their land, but they would not listen. Their leaders convinced them that God would save them, but the people did not turn from their wicked ways—so God did not heal their land.
But notice this: The book of Jeremiah is specifically addressed to Israel (Jeremiah 2:4; 3:12; 4:1; 5:15, etc). This is significant, because Jeremiah lived in Judah, and actually witnessed Judah’s destruction at the hand of Babylon. Yet his book was not primarily for Judah. It was for Israel, and ancient Israel had been destroyed and taken captive in 721 b.c.—several decades before Jeremiah was even born! Jeremiah never delivered his message to ancient Israel because it no longer existed as a nation.
This shows that Jeremiah’s prophecy is for our nations today, the descendants of ancient Israel: America and Britain! These are warnings that God wants us to “consider”—which means understand thoroughly—“in the latter days,” the end time! (Jeremiah 30:24).
We must take these warnings seriously! We need God to hear us and to answer our prayers! Continuing in our ways and twisting His Word to fit our preferences is not the way to ask Him to save us!
Often, meteorologists will issue early-warning calls for action in anticipation of major disasters like hurricanes. In severe cases, people are instructed to evacuate the area in order to protect themselves from the death and destruction hurtling toward them.
And in every case, some people will dismiss or defy the warnings and refuse to budge.
Perhaps there are many reasons for that seemingly illogical behavior. But the fact is, there is a strong tendency in human nature—common to all of us—that makes us want to pretend that if we just keep doing what we are doing, everything will turn out just fine in the end.
All humans have the proclivity to ignore terror!
It is because of this human tendency that Jesus Christ warned, “[T]ake heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day”—that is, the period of destruction just ahead of us—“come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth” (Luke 21:34-35).
Heeding this warning will ensure that day won’t come up on us unawares. Christ definitely advocated preparedness.
Does that mean we should stock a survivalist bunker in the wilds, in hopes of riding out an “end of the world” scenario?
Is that why Jesus gave us this prophecy? Is that why He warned in advance of the terrifying and tumultuous events that are beginning to unfold in this modern age? So we could invest our time, treasure, energy and hearts into stockpiling food and ammunition within physical fortresses?
The Right Kind of Preparation
“Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal,” Christ instructed. “But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matthew 6:19-21).
In this and several other passages, the preparedness Christ urged was spiritual.
God’s challenge with each one of us is to teach us to put our trust and confidence in Him rather than in ourselves or any other human being (e.g. Psalm 118:8; Jeremiah 17:5-7). He supernaturally fed the Israelites for 40 years in the wilderness to teach them faith—that man doesn’t live by bread alone, but by every word of God (Deuteronomy 8:3).
Jesus supported this principle. He taught that we should pray each day for “our daily bread,” and warned against faithless anxiety and fretting over tomorrow’s problems (Matthew 6:11, 25, 31-34). He was not an advocate of hoarding food. “For whosoever will save his life [or seek to maintain his physical life at all costs] shall lose it: but whosoever will lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it,” He said (Luke 9:24).
God actually wants us to recognize and overcome our tendency to trust ourselves. He is measuring the coming destruction of America and other nations because of our sin, our faithlessness, our self-reliance, our ignorance of Him and our belittling of His power. And if you understand the Bible’s prophecies about the severity of that destruction, you realize that no private bunker will be safe for long. No one is going to escape the coming Tribulation—descending on America and other nations because of God’s wrath—through survivalist moxie.
Those who plan to weather the coming storms through their own foresight and ingenuity are underestimating the savageness of the time ahead. More importantly, they are misplacing their faith.
In a 1966 article titled “Don’t Store Up Large Quantities of Food,” Herbert W. Armstrong wrote, “Do not spend extra money on foodstuffs above your normal supplies and perhaps some few ‘staples’ which could carry you through a temporary food shortage on a vastly curtailed and reduced diet, in a severe and temporary emergency, for only a few weeks! … If you ever store more food than the normal laying up in summer for winter—you’re hoarding, and God Almighty may well withdraw His protection from you!”
The fact is, until man gets himself right with his Maker, the troubles impacting humanity more and more week by week will only accelerate into untold disaster of global proportions. Biblical prophecy guarantees that! And God’s Word is much more sure than the word of any human “expert” or commentator!
Very soon, we will desperately need God’s protection! Can you guarantee that you will have it?
How to Be Protected
There was a very sinful metropolis in the ancient world that did find a way to protect itself from God’s wrath. Note this remarkable example.
When Jonah came with God’s warning, Nineveh was just 40 days away from total destruction (Jonah 3:4). Just this one time in biblical history, an entire city’s inhabitants, under the direction of their leader, humbled themselves in sackcloth and ashes, fasted before God, and truly repented. The city was spared the horrible fate it had been warned about. This was—and remains to this day—the only time in history that a Gentile city repented before God.
What an example of hope it has left for our time today. What beautiful results the warning God sent had on Nineveh. (This episode is described in more detail in our free booklet about Jonah.)
The nations of the world today are in the same situation that the city of Nineveh was in nearly 2,800 years ago—filled with sin and on the brink of destruction. The warning is being delivered. But the world has, unhappily, become so immoral that it has gone beyond the possibility of turning away from its present course of destruction!
But what about you?
While the Bible gives only one example like that of Nineveh, it is filled with examples of individual repentance and individual protection. If we repent, God can protect us just as surely as He protected Daniel from the jaws of the lions. Not one hair was singed when Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were cast into the fiery furnace. The ancient prophets survived multiple disasters and intense persecution. God’s true Church received divine protection throughout the centuries, when His people remained faithful to Him. God can bless us and be a shield in our individual lives just as He was for Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and so many others.
The Apostle Peter wrote that “the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from trial, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment until the day of judgment” (2 Peter 2:9; rsv). This lesson permeates the Bible: God protects righteous, obedient people who seek His protection!
Finding a safe place to escape to today may seem impossible. But this is a matter of faith in God’s Word—faith in the sure promises of God. Remember His promise in Psalm 91:9-11: “Because thou hast made the Lord, which is my refuge, even the most High, thy habitation; There shall no evil befall thee, neither shall any plague come nigh thy dwelling. For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways.”
Consider again the previous worldwide cataclysm—the largest flood in history. Surely with floodwaters covering even the tallest mountains on the planet, nobody would be safe! But God gave Noah advance warning, as well as explicit instructions on how to be protected: by building an ark. Noah believed God—he had faith in God’s word. There was no physical evidence that what God warned of would come to pass; Noah simply had to believe. And then he had to act on that faith, obediently and precisely following God’s instructions.
“By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith” (Hebrews 11:7).
The same holds true today. God has given us explicit warnings of the coming destruction. And He has also given us promises that we can be protected from it—and instructions on how to be protected!
Will you believe God?
Seek God While He May Be Found
God is trumpeting His end-time warning message to this world through this Work, literally fulfilling His prophecy in Isaiah 58:1: “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.”
God is going to bring us to repentance through words, or through mind-numbing disasters! This is a warning of hope! If you heed God’s words and turn to God now, you will receive relief from His curses. He will forgive upon repentance and show you how to fill your life with blessings! Why let pride keep you from responding?
When trouble comes, some will finally cry out to God for His intervention in their lives. But physically, they may be too late! We must seek God “while he may be found” (Isaiah 55:6). We must heed God’s warning before time runs out! At some point—a time when the world is saying “peace and safety”—sudden destruction will come (1 Thessalonians 5:3). We need to take action while the warning is still going out, not when calamity is already here! God promises to protect each person who repents. Why wait until the Great Tribulation to respond?
Our continuing prayer will be for Almighty God to have mercy on those who cry out for understanding of the reasons for the devastation that is increasingly afflicting our nations.
Amid every disaster, you hear stories of people who are spared, sometimes in very unusual ways. Undoubtedly many of these occur according to simple time and chance. But you can know you will be spared in the terrible times ahead! God has promised protection for those who hear His warning and turn to Him in repentance. Then, we can claim God’s absolute promise in Psalm 91:7 that “[a] thousand shall fall at thy side, and ten thousand at thy right hand; but it shall not come nigh thee.”
Are you ready for the end of the world? You need to start preparing by repenting before God. Above all, God seeks repentance. And to those who turn to Him with supple hearts, He offers individual protection—escape—from the worst of the coming storms (e.g. Luke 21:36). That is the only sure place to invest our faith. Request a free copy of our booklet Repentance Toward God to help you in this life-saving process. If ever there was a need for you to seek and find refuge in God, surely it is now.