Here’s some raw data that ought to blow your mind, make you want to cry, and arouse your suspicions all at once:
“According to the UN Environment Program, the earth is in the midst of a mass extinction of life. Scientists estimate that 150-200 species of plant, insect, bird and mammal become extinct every 24 hours.”1
“If current levels [of destruction] go on we will reach a tipping point very soon. The future of the planet now depends on governments taking action in the next few years,”1 says Ahmed Djoghlaf, secretary-general of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.
As many as 200 species will go extinct today, and the next, and the next! The count for every week exceeds 1000. For the month, 4000.
The Threshold of Lethality
In his thought-provoking book, Hurtling Toward Oblivion, Dr. Richard Swenson sounds an alarm:
“The world is spinning out of control and approaching the threshold of lethality—a point where life as we know it can no longer continue… irreversible trends, principles, and forces currently at work in the world system (that is, the global environment where everything is connected to everything else) are inevitably propelling us toward a cataclysmic outcome.”
About 2000 years ago the apostle John was shown that just prior to the second coming of Christ humanity will have employed its power to “destroy the earth” (Revelation 11:18). This is an ecological prophecy that offers us a rarely-considered sign of the nearness of Christ’s return. It indicates that God will intervene at a point in history when the human race has done irreparable damage to the earth and is teetering on the edge of utter destruction.
Broken Laws, Broken World, the End
Peering into the horror of humanity’s self-annihilating tendency, Isaiah foretold that the breakdown of the earth’s environmental systems will signal the end:
“The earth mourns and fades away, the world languishes and fades away; the haughty people of the earth languish. The earth is also defiled under its inhabitants, because they have transgressed the laws, changed the ordinance, broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore the curse has devoured the earth, and those who dwell in it are desolate.… When it shall be thus in the midst of the land among the people, it shall be like the shaking of an olive tree, like the gleaning of grapes when the vintage is done” (Isaiah 24:4-6, 13).
What an astounding prophetic insight, and given so far in advance!
Isaiah foretold that the earth would become “defiled under” the influence, the weight, the effect of human violations of God’s “laws.” Those laws include the agricultural and stewardship laws outlined in the writings of Moses, laws that simply harmonize with the way God has made the world to operate. The prophet here indicates that toward the end of time humanity will be living in wanton violation of these laws, yielding mass destruction of the earth’s life-systems.
Everything we touch turns to gold and then to dust.
The “everlasting covenant” of which Isaiah speaks is none other than the principle of selfless love applied to all aspects of life, including the manner in which the land is to be cared for. Notice the cause-and-effect relationship the prophet brings to view: because of humanity’s breaking of the everlasting covenant, “therefore the curse has devoured the earth.” Much current ecological data suggest that what Isaiah foresaw is unfolding right before our eyes. And, don’t miss it, Isaiah says that “when it shall be thus” (emphasis mine) in the land, the earth will become “like the shaking of an olive tree, like the gleaning of grapes when the vintage is done,” which is prophet speak for the end of the world.
Satan is identified in Scripture as the destroyer (Revelation 9:11; John 10:10). That’s his MO. Self-indulgence is his bottom-line rule of action: taking without giving, consuming without replenishing, using without preserving. Those who are actuated by his character recklessly rape the earth of its resources and exploit its wealth for personal gain with little or no regard for the dire outcomes. The prevailing cultural-economic system seems to exist for the singular purpose of arousing and feeding the human desire for consumption (we call it “advertising”) in order to create products and fuel markets, with the end-goal being to fatten up cash flow and to consolidate wealth in the hands of a relatively few deliriously greedy men. (Yes, I said that, and you may want to read it again.)
Paul foretold that selfishness would escalate out of control and become the ruling motive in the end-time:
“Know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: for men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money… without self-control… lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Timothy 3:1-5).
All anti-love actions are intrinsically anti-creational (Romans 8:2, 6; James 1:15). Said another way, all sin is anti-life. Destruction is inherent in its essential nature, because sin, really, is the pursuit of taking whatever one can take with no regard for the wellbeing of others. Sin is self-gratification, self-exaltation, and self-preservation, until there is nothing left to exploit. This has generally been the course of fallen humanity, but what makes our time in history so much more dangerous is this: our advances in science and industry have made it possible for us to work our world’s ruin with troubling speed and efficiency. As our knowledge increases, we tend to use it to extract creation’s resources in a manner that is contrary to its laws.
Everything we touch turns to gold and then to dust.
The Satanic Way
Everything in the world operates by principles of cause and effect. Self-giving love is the core principle of God’s character and therefore the pattern after which He made the world and all its systems to function. Selfishness, on the other hand, is Satan’s core principle, which, when put into practice in social and economic structures, manifests itself in the form of environmental exploitation and greedy capitalism. The earth with its rich store of resources is used, used, and used up with the single goal being to generate wealth and feed the human appetite for more, more and yet more of anything and everything we can suck into our carnal souls.
God’s way—the way of love—is sustainable. It generates life.
The Satanic way—the way of selfishness—is unsustainable. It is inherently destructive.
Looking down the corridors of time, Isaiah saw that the human race will finally “gaze” upon Satan and realize that it was he, by his principles, “who made the world as a wilderness and destroyed its cities” (Isaiah 14:16-17), with our buy-in and hedonistic participation, of course. When it is forever too late, humanity will realize that Satan’s system of self-serving has worked the complete ruin of our world.
By contrast, the economy established by God with Israel was one of stewardship, not of radical capitalism, nor of radical socialism. The basic rule was to give back whatever was taken, so that all things would either remain constant or increase. For most of our world’s inhabitants, the stewardship model of living is a foreign concept. We unthinkingly live to consume and consume to live, and as a result we are killing the earth’s very life-systems one by one.
Some scientists tell us we may have already reached the point of no return. They claim we have already so badly damaged the earth that there is likely no course of action we could take to reverse our journey to extinction as a race. While some would argue that these assessments are extreme, and while we know as Bible students that the human race will not end in extinction, it seems evident that our self-serving practices are, in fact, ravaging the planet and that God will have to intervene very soon before we do utterly destroy ourselves.
And that’s the point of John’s prophecy regarding “those who destroy the earth.” Environmental ruin, he indicates, is a sign that Jesus is coming soon. It would seem we are there.
So, so there.
The world is basically over and we are living on borrowed time by the sheer mercy of God.