Entering the 2020s, the world continues to spiral out of control, and many wonder if we will ever see lasting peace. A lecture two decades ago from a Nobel Peace Prize winner and a conversation with him after pointed out some of what’s needed. We must all do our part—but human effort alone is not enough. Thankfully, rescue will come!
Since 2020 is the start of a new decade, it naturally draws curiosity about what the next 10 years might be like. Will things stay the same? Or will the fragile muddle of hostile world politics, unstable economies and kaleidoscopic religions break down? If so, where will this leave us as we ponder our own security and the direction of our own lives?
What can you expect to see happening in world news in the coming year and decade?
The mission of Beyond Today magazine is to show from the Bible where human civilization is headed and where it will end up. Beyond Today is “A Magazine of Understanding.” This understanding is not only in knowing what is going on, but recognizing why.
Bible prophecy is more than a revelation of what’s ahead. It provides counsel on what we need to be thinking and doing as coming events affect us.
The Bible explains the causes of the disturbing state of the world we live in. It shows us that things will sadly get far worse. And yet it gives hope that the world will indeed change, foretelling an ending that is joyously triumphant!
With this overview we are able to consider the significance of the major trends and conditions we observe in the world around us.
This is our 25th year of publication, and the biggest events in the history of the earth are just ahead. Stay with us.
Jesus Christ’s prophecy of the end time
One of the best-known end-time prophecies in the Bible is the “Olivet prophecy,” recorded in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21. Just days before His death, Jesus took His followers up to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem and told them about the coming destruction of the city, including the beloved temple: “And Jesus said to them, ‘Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down’” (Matthew 24:2). The Romans brought devastation about 40 years later in A.D. 70—as a forerunner of far worse things yet to come.
After leaving the Temple Mount, Jesus and His disciples walked up the nearby Mount of Olives where they asked Him: “What will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3). Christ then listed a series of dire trends and events that would have extended to long after the ancient destruction of the temple and Jerusalem—conditions that would grow in frequency and intensity as the end of the age approaches. This listing includes a number of things that have not yet happened.
Jesus spoke first about religious imposters who would deceive many. He then listed wars and rumors of wars. This we are all too aware of as we watch our daily news. The dream of world peace would seem ever more fleeting. Famine and disease then follow. There would be worsening sorrow, betrayal and more deception and then, near the very end, the worst time of anguish and distress ever—a horrible time unparalleled in all of human history (Matthew 24:21-22).
Yet the darkening period leading up to the end would also be a time when the gospel is proliferated to the world: “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14, emphasis added throughout).
In the same discourse, Christ poignantly compares people’s state of mind before the world is plunged into the final chaos to that of Noah’s time: “But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark” (verses 37-38).
As before, most people won’t realize the gravity of their situation until it’s too late.
A comparison to Noah’s day
Besides building the enormous ark, Noah was a preacher of righteousness (2 Peter 2:5), and throughout his highly visible 120-year construction project, his ministry was one of warning the world of its wickedness and destructive lifestyle. He pointed out that the ark and what it represented were for saving lives—not just the various animal kinds but people who would turn to God.
Yet after a century of this mission, there was no evidence of any change of heart or repentance—and, as a result, no human beings outside of Noah’s immediate family survived. Society’s reaction was callous indifference to Noah’s warnings and pleadings to take action.
Notice how that society is summarized: “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart. So the Lord said, ‘I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them’” (Genesis 6:5-7).
Society in that day lost its conscience and discernment of values, decency and any relationship to God who had been talking to them through Noah. They were not redeemable after more than a century of warning. As a society they could not go on with all the unsustainable perversion that weakens and ultimately destroys a civilization.
The same is becoming true now.
Has society sunk so deeply into deviant thinking that it cannot even recognize right and wrong? Are we losing the ability to relate to common decency and values governing, among other things, family, marriage and sex? Biblical truth is continually being deconstructed and ridiculed. We have trouble defining even something so simple as the difference between male and female. New deviant behaviors are being sanctioned. Our society prides itself by allowing and even admiring taboo corruptions of marriage and sexuality and calling this “progress.”
We live in what some have called the “post truth” age, with objective facts being less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief. We have so many choices and channels that it’s easy to hear what we want, cherry-picking data to suit whatever conclusion we desire. Therefore, what is looked on as truth is ever more relative, and can be customized to one’s personal conclusion and reality. Yet this is heavily driven by media influence. It’s no longer “we report, you decide.” It’s becoming more “we report and decide what you will think.”
It’s increasingly difficult to reach minds warped by this societal drift—those who struggle to process absolute truth and to whom timeless values are disregarded. A similar drift and abandonment of truth happened in Noah’s time. More and more we are becoming a post-Christian society where belief in the God of the Bible is increasingly irrelevant. People just do not want to be bothered with God.
We live in an amazing age of discovery. But no matter how many obvious proofs of God are highlighted through incredible discoveries in the world and universe around us, these are often just shrugged off. There are no exclamations of joy and praise to God in the media about the many wonders that are continually being revealed.
As society ignores the underlying reality of our existence and drifts farther from God and true values, is it any wonder that relations between people and nations continue to fray and worsen? Of Noah’s day we are told, “The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence” (Genesis 6:11). People failed to value their fellow human beings as precious creations made by God in His image.
Sadly, many prophecies foretell that we will see our own world plunged into such corruption and violence—on a scale never before seen. Facing such dark times to come, we must consider the challenges of world conditions and ask: Is there a pathway to peace?
Meeting with F.W. de Klerk
On the threshold of the new millennium starting in 2000, I heard 1993 Nobel Peace Prize winner and Time magazine “Man of the Year” F.W. de Klerk speak to the Indianapolis Economic Club, and I was able to talk with him afterwards.
I would like to share some insights from him about his assessment of the state of the world then.
De Klerk, who was president of South Africa, is best known for overseeing the 1990 release of Nelson Mandela from prison on Robin Island in Cape Town. Mandela and de Klerk then worked together to end the socioeconomic and political system of apartheid, meaning “apartness,” which institutionalized racial segregation and discrimination in favor of the white minority.
Along with Mandela, de Klerk was partially successful in stabilizing South Africa to where it could continue in relative peace and economic prosperity. He said in his address that in 1989 the world was poised for the worst from South Africa. It could have easily become another Zimbabwe, in which the new revolutionary rulers ran the country into the ground economically and politically.
What happened in South Africa, by contrast, was a seemingly miraculous transition of power that enabled its population—only 14 percent white and a complex mixture of black peoples—to get along more reasonably. The courageous vision and work of de Klerk and Mandela and the cooperation of other South African leaders helped shape the destiny of their nation.
De Klerk’s unselfishness was obvious as he passionately spoke about wanting to find a way to bring coexistence to many different people who called South Africa home. South Africa had only partially achieved such coexistence—or maybe more accurately a reprieve. But it was refreshing to see this positive example in the midst of so many abject failures in government.
After his presentation, I spoke to Mr. de Klerk privately about his insightful presentation. I told him I was a minister and was impressed by how the principles he expressed, if universally applied, would bring peace.
In his address de Klerk reviewed the recent history of South Africa as it moved from apartheid to integration. He emphatically stated that having leading countries as the “big boys” deciding the future of the world won’t work. Smaller nations must be part of the process. In determining what’s needed, you must involve those who are most in need.
While de Klerk took a secular view of geopolitics, we know that world tension will always be reality as long as human beings are in charge. It will take God’s intervention to change that (see Matthew 24:22).
Still there is much value in what de Klerk brought out. Here are other key observations from his speech.
Navigating change in an interconnected world
Human civilization’s unprecedented growth and change in little more than a century has eclipsed the progress of all of man’s previous history. The revolution we’re going through in the world today can be likened to the vast transformation brought about earlier by the Industrial Revolution.
Human flight was unknown until 1903. Now we’re used to traveling all over the earth and arriving at any destination we wish within a day or two. We’ve sent men to the moon and spacecraft to the farthest reaches of our solar system and beyond.
It was not until the early 20th century that the first mass-produced automobiles came off the assembly line. Now, worldwide, there are 1 billion automobiles on our roads. The first transcontinental telegraph was sent in 1861. But look at telecommunications now! The Internet is within the grasp of almost all people in the world, providing voice, text, photos and video. Facebook alone has nearly 2 billion accounts, and there are far more Internet users in China than anywhere else on earth. This has opened up new possibilities and forged new relationships and alliances. But are they all for the better?
Changes in world politics in our time have been monumental. Who would have thought that the Soviet Union would crumble as it did in 1991, only to rise again as a new Russia? Who would have believed that impoverished China would rise to become the second-largest economy in the world with a say in almost all affairs relating to our planet, from politics to environment?
Change is a reality to contend with as we consider making peace. Some changes have been beneficial, but others have not. De Klerk said it takes wise leadership to manage and lead that change. It requires overcoming natural resistance to change—letting go of clinging to what we’re used to.
Leaders must first face facts and ask what’s wrong. Constituents need a new vision presenting both the need to change and the existence of a way through which change can be achieved. Old dreams may fail to bring justice. De Klerk said that a leader must provide inspiration, an action plan and strategy. He couldn’t be more on target. That is what Jesus Christ is going to accomplish in full at His return!
De Klerk asserted that while the world of this new century has fewer borders, it has many more dangers. More communication does not mean better understanding or behavior. In fact, instant communication can produce impulsive, reckless, rash reactions and responses. Some technologies have led to sophisticated international crimes.
De Klerk also commented on how what happens in remote parts of the world affects us all, citing fluctuations in the Asian markets, financial instability in Russia and, at that time, then-President Clinton’s scandals as causing negative uncertainties that affected a stable banking system and markets in South Africa.
He mentioned how South Africa had increasingly become embroiled in other nations’ problems, noting the conflict between the United States and Islamic fundamentalism and consequent terrorist retaliations in Kenya and Tanzania leading to South Africa becoming a target of such retaliation when a Cape Town restaurant was bombed.
De Klerk spoke in detail of his vision to bring unity, common citizenship and “one man, one vote” to Africa and to eliminate apartheid. He and the other South African leaders had a choice of doing this gradually or as a quantum leap. They decided to take the leap and turned things around 180 degrees. The gradual route might have given the impression that they were changing only under pressure. He felt those outside of Africa at first thought they were bluffing, but credibility was built when words were turned into deeds.
Dramatic change came through moving forward with the release of Nelson Mandela and involvement of the broadest number of leaders who then felt part of the process and forging a vision and action plan.
Facing the problems of poverty and underdevelopment
Economic disparity is a big reason for conflict. This disparity was already severe when F.W. de Klerk spoke to us, but it has regrettably widened even further since then. The poor of the world are looking to the well-off to meet their needs. Impoverished nations look to the United States, the European Union and the G8 industrialized countries for help with growth, development and even peace. These nations have about 58 percent of the world’s total wealth at about $317 trillion. Over 46 percent of the world’s nominal GDP is represented in these nations.
I have done charity and ministry work in very poor countries in Africa such as Malawi and Zambia. On my last visit to Malawi in 2019, a banner newspaper headline shouted, “Malawi Ranked Fourth Poorest” in the world.
A large percentage of the people there have virtually no income and eke out a living as subsistence farmers. Those who have jobs may get paid $70 a month, which is considered good. A night watchman gets about $45. These are pathetically low wages. Since I started doing work in Malawi back in 1996, the population there has doubled to 18 million. In addition to being poor, the country is one of the most densely populated in Africa.
We will not see an end to this growing problem before Christ’s return. Until then, we can expect more conflict.
Continued religious and ethnic strife
De Klerk made another penetrating observation: “Ultimately the source of most conflict is religious, ethnic and cultural. We have to work with the ideal that there is room and space for all of us on this earth and need to be tolerant of one another.”
Yet we must go beyond what de Klerk said here.
While we need to be tolerant of one another, we also need to come to terms with who we as human beings are. This cannot be solved by acknowledging a variety of gods and opposing religious creeds. It is not logical in the grander scheme that we each have our own God as we imagine him. The paramount truth is that humanity came from the same Creator who has given particular instructions about how to relate to Him and each other, and that will have to be resolved.
The same God who created me created my South African, Japanese, Ukrainian and Eastern European friends, as well as all other fellow human beings. He has made us. We are not to remake Him as we please.
The apostle Paul challenged the Greeks in Athens in his famous address concerning “the Unknown God,” stating: “Therefore, since we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Divine Nature is like gold or silver or stone, something shaped by art and man’s devising. Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead” (Acts 17:29-31).
The time will come when one God and one divine law will be acknowledged.
The warning of the Doomsday Clock
Today’s world lives precariously under the figurative sword of Damocles. Hanging over our heads by the thinnest of threads, it could come crashing down in a moment.
World War II was brought to a grinding halt by the dropping of atomic bombs that wrought instant mass destruction on two Japanese cities. The newfound power to annihilate large populations set off a race for nuclear supremacy.
Today, nearly 14,000 nuclear warheads are in the arsenals of just nine nations—the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea. There is enough destructive capability in these weapons to extinguish civilization on the earth many times over.
Nuclear exchanges between, for example, the United States and Russia or India and Pakistan would bring apocalyptic consequences and deaths to multiple millions instantly. Tiny Israel holds a vast group of hostile nations in the Middle East at bay by its nuclear arsenal, while rogue nations like North Korea get publicity and play in the nuclear drama of our age.
Two years after the instant nuclear destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the “Doomsday Clock” representing the probability of a man-made global catastrophe was initiated. The Doomsday Clock is maintained by the members of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and symbolizes the threat to humanity from scientific and technical advances we cannot fully control. Factors influencing the clock’s setting are nuclear risk and the state of the environment.
The clock’s original setting in 1947 was seven minutes to midnight. It has been set backward and forward many times since then. The most recent officially announced setting—two minutes to midnight—was made in January 2018 and remained unchanged in 2019 due to ongoing threats to human survival.
As we face the years to come, the threat of global cataclysm remains very real. And indeed the Bible tells us that this is what the world is headed toward.
Divine intervention and a new world
The good news, and the truth of what will happen to this world, is that mankind will not be annihilated. Again, in Matthew 24, Jesus Christ spoke about what will occur just before the boiling-over point of man’s catastrophic misrule: “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened [cut short from running their course], no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake [the sake of God’s chosen people, His repentant followers] those days will be shortened” (verses 21-22).
Just as God promised Noah after the Flood to never again allow the wholesale destruction of humankind, He will intervene to save us from ourselves!
This intervention was also foretold by the vision in Daniel 2:34-44 of the wiping out of a statue representing a succession of major dominant empires over the course of history. At the end, the statue is suddenly smashed and blown into dust after being struck by a stone “cut out without hands” that becomes a great mountain that fills the earth and replaces this world’s governments. This is no human-led kingdom, but the Kingdom of God.
The biblical comparisons of national governments to mountains are numerous, but two that most display a different nature and priorities of future world government are beautifully portrayed in Isaiah:
“Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.’
“For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore” (Isaiah 2:2-4).
The second prophecy, found in Isaiah 25:7-9, adds to the wonderful hope presented in the first: “And He [the now-returned Messiah, Jesus Christ] will destroy on this mountain the surface of the covering cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all nations. He will swallow up death forever, and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces; the rebuke of His people He will take away from all the earth; for the Lord has spoken. And it will be said in that day: ‘Behold, this is our God; we have waited for Him, and He will save us. This is the Lord; we have waited for Him; we will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.’”
Nations will no longer prey on other nations for their people and resources as this world’s empires have done for millennia. Rather, everything will change.
And this change will not come through mere human ingenuity and effort. For enduring genuine change to take place, it will require outside help. All these realities will require the return of Jesus Christ as the stone “cut out without hands” to then become the great mountain filling the earth and replacing this world’s governments.
Yet people will have a part to play. All must experience a change of heart to start making right choices—as will happen when God begins teaching the world His ways and pouring out His Spirit on all mankind. This wonderful day will come, as foretold by Isaiah and other prophets.
“Surely I am coming quickly”
Yet we do not need to wait for world cataclysm and the righting of the world’s wrong’s at Christ’s return to have our lives turned around. We can heed the warnings of Scripture, repent of our sins and put our trust in God today, seeking His mercy and intervention in our lives now.
In His Olivet prophecy, Jesus gave personal action steps for those who will be spared the consequences of what will happen in the dangerous times before He returns, just as happened in the world of Noah leading up to the flood:
“But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly. For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:34-36).
While delivering a sobering and detailed list of coming events here, Jesus also gives us advice we need to be careful to heed: Stay alert. Don’t live in denial by dulling your senses with the cares of this life. Don’t be caught unaware.
Likewise Christ outlined for us in Matthew 5 how we must live out our lives in a troubled world, exhibiting qualities of meekness, mercy, purity of heart and becoming peacemakers. We ought to be found “so doing,” as Matthew 24:45-46 clearly states: “Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? [We are to be helping and serving others as part of God’s family.] Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes” (English Standard Version).
There’s no question we live in the most interesting of times. While dangerous, they are exciting because of what will soon take place. The ageless Bible tells us the whole story of mankind from long before creation, from “before the foundation of the world” (Ephesians 1:4), and points us to what lies yet ahead, the last verses of the Bible giving us all great hope: “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Surely I am coming quickly.’ Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20).
He’s coming soon. Are you ready?