Is There Hope for Human Survival?

Lesson 5, Introduction

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Introduction

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Many threats to human survival play prominent roles in prophecies in the Bible.

The world changed forever in 1945. That year, with the detonations of atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, man for the first time demonstrated the frightening potential to destroy all human life. Since then our weapons have grown far more powerful and threatening. As we will see in this lesson, many of these threats to human survival play prominent roles in prophecies in the Bible.

“Today’s prophets…are often not religious leaders but a small group of academics who, breaking free of disciplinary specialization, have surveyed our age from the broadest of perspectives and brought back a report of imminent danger.”
Jonathan Sacks, chief rabbi, Britain

Weather has long fascinated people. By observing the sky—the shifting shades, colors and shapes of the clouds—we can often predict changes in the weather.

Nearly 2,000 years ago Jesus Christ commented on this same fascination: “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ And in the morning, ‘There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times?” (Matthew 16:2-3), New American Standard Bible, emphasis added throughout).

Jesus’ point was that our innate fascination with observing and analyzing weather conditions should tell us something: that we should also observe and analyze the signs of our times.

But anyone who watches the weather knows that conditions can rapidly change. Destructive storms can suddenly materialize, wreak havoc, then dissipate as quickly as they started. Often the weather can seem menacing, and skies will turn dark and threatening, but no storm develops. The potential danger passes.

So it is when we consider Bible prophecy. Well-intentioned people have correlated prophecies with geopolitical events and trends and concluded that prophecy is being fulfilled before their eyes. But then unseen factors come into play, events alter course, and trends change. The predicted storm dissipates.

Such false alarms have happened before. They will occur again. But one day the storm will hit with full fury. Startling and frightening biblical prophecies will be fulfilled. Will you be ready?

Threats to Physical Survival

As we will see in this lesson, many of these threats to human survival play prominent roles in prophecies in the Bible.

“. . . We have reached a point of historic crisis. The forces generated by the techno-scientific economy are now great enough to destroy the environment, that is to say, the material foundations of human life.” 

Eric Hobsbawm

The world changed forever in 1945. That year, with the detonations of atomic bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, man for the first time demonstrated the frightening potential to destroy all human life.

Since then our weapons have grown far more powerful and threatening. Those first wartime atomic bombs, though devastating, were only 12½ kilotons—equivalent to about 12,500 tons of conventional explosives. The largest bomb successfully tested since the war, by the former Soviet Union, has been estimated at 60 megatons, or almost 5,000 times the power of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki blasts and the equivalent of 60 million tons of TNT.

Even though nuclear-weapons inventories were scaled back as a result of treaties between the United States and the Soviet Union, enough nuclear warheads remain to destroy human life many times over. The destruction unleashed in the Hiroshima bomb is estimated at only a millionth of the destructive power of the world’s nuclear arsenal.

Besides America and Russia, at least five other nations have nuclear weapons: Britain, France, China, India and Pakistan. Experts assume that other countries also possess nuclear warheads and delivery systems and that still other nations are actively pursuing the development of nuclear arms.

The nuclear menace remains the most obvious threat to human survival. But by no means is it the only one. Authorities cite several ways in which human actions or natural disasters could eliminate most—if not all—human life. Among them:

Chemical weapons. Many countries own stockpiles of nerve gas and other nightmarish concoctions so deadly that a single droplet inhaled or absorbed through exposed skin would kill a person within minutes.

Biological weapons. Many of the same nations that have developed chemical weapons have also produced biological weapons. The resulting horrifying man-made epidemics could spread like wildfire through defenseless populations.

Conventional weapons. Man continues to develop ever-more-destructive conventional bombs, bullets and rockets even as he constructs nightmarish laser weapons, particle-beam generators and neutron bombs.

Environmental destruction. Although some nations have made remarkable strides in slowing environmental degradation, conditions are rapidly worsening in poor countries. Growing air, soil and water pollution are major threats to human health—and even life—in many areas.

Disease epidemics. AIDS is estimated to have taken more lives than any of the world’s previous great epidemics, including the black plague of the Middle Ages and the worldwide flu epidemic of 1918-19. Other mysterious killer diseases, such as Ebola, Lassa fever, Marburg virus, Machupo virus and dengue fever, have emerged in recent years.

Famine. Advances in agriculture have kept food production slightly ahead of population growth. But increasing soil depletion, water shortages, drought and social unrest raise the specter of devastating famines that could return at any time.

Natural disasters. Earthquakes, hurricanes, typhoons, floods and tornadoes take thousands of lives every year. Scientists acknowledge that asteroids and meteors have struck earth repeatedly in the past-and could in the future, with devastating impact on all of earth’s inhabitants.

As we will see in this lesson, many of these threats to human survival play prominent roles in prophecies in the Bible.

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Growing air, soil and water pollution are major threats to human health—and even life— in many areas.

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Many countries own stockpiles of nerve gas and other nightmarish concoctions so deadly that a single droplet can kill a person within minutes.

First the Good News

Many people assume that Bible prophecy is all bad news. But the Bible is also clear that both bad news and good news lie ahead.

Many people assume that Bible prophecy is all bad news. Many events prophesied to happen are unbelievably frightening and traumatic. The Bible is clear about this—and the reasons these events will take place.

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Man continues to develop evermore-destructive conventional bombs, bullets and rockets even as he constructs nightmarish laser weapons, particle-beam generators and neutron bombs.

But the Bible is also clear that both bad news and good news lie ahead. Although the world before long will see its darkest days, these storm clouds are the prelude to a wonderful world such as we have never witnessed and can barely imagine. Jesus Christ described these awesome events as “the beginning of birth pangs” (Matthew 24:8), NASB).

Paul likened end-time events to the travail of a woman giving birth. But her pain is quickly overtaken by joy; she forgets her agony as soon as new life comes into the world (Romans 8:18-23).

Although the lesson you are reading focuses on certain traumatic events that will take place, later we will discuss the wonderful world tomorrow—the time that lies beyond this age of human suffering and sorrow. Bear in mind as we read through the pertinent prophecies that, as discussed in the previous lesson, God is always in control and does everything for a purpose, even if that purpose isn’t always clear to us.

So it will be with end-time events. God knows our nature; He understands the way we think and act. He has seen from almost 6,000 years of human experience that we regularly and frequently bring enormous suffering on ourselves through our own choices and misdeeds. As the Bible aptly and repeatedly points out, we reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7-8); (Job 4:8); (Hosea 8:7).

Keep this in mind as we examine what lies ahead for our world. Prophecy reveals that man will bring himself to the brink of extinction. But it also reveals how we will survive!

Before we begin examining the Scriptures, we strongly urge you to look up every cited verse in your own Bible. This lesson will discuss specific verses that often are part of long and detailed prophetic passages. Many books in the Bible are devoted to prophecy, and much of that prophecy concerns end-time events. This lesson, because of limited space, is only the barest outline. We encourage you to read the verses and their contexts—including, in many cases, the surrounding chapters-to gain a deeper understanding of end-time events.

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