Eco-crisis — the Real Significance!
Modern skeptics assert that the Bible is a collection of ancient myths, irrelevant to our modern world. Misguided religious teachers proclaim that we cannot understand Bible prophecy, or that Bible prophecies are mere allegories meant to reveal deeper spiritual lessons. Nothing could be further from the truth! Fulfilled Bible prophecy is one of the proofs that an all-powerful God is able to bring to pass what He inspired in His Word (Isaiah 46:9-10). Incredible as it may seem, major events that threaten the continued existence of life on earth were predicted thousands of years ago—for a reason!
As the 21st century dawns, the realization has heightened that human beings, the earth and its creatures face a perilous and uncertain future. After thousands of years of relative stability, four global "megatrends" have suddenly undergone dramatic and unprecedented increases—rising population, rising consumption, rising rates of extinction and rising concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. World population has doubled since 1970, thus "placing unprecedented pressure on land and water resources" (Worldwatch News Release, March 1, 2000). As a result of urban sprawl, the amount of cropland per person has been cut in half, and increased plowing and overgrazing of marginal lands (to produce food) have spread deserts in Africa and generated the largest dust storms ever recorded in China. Seventy percent of world fisheries are exploited at or beyond their sustainable limits. Water tables around the world are dropping dangerously. Forests of the world that recycle water and carbon dioxide and protect against flooding have been reduced by 50 percent since the introduction of agriculture. One half of the world's wetlands that filter and recharge ground water have been lost in this century (The Futurist, Jan-Feb 2001, pp. 12-13). In spite of growing concern about the environment "we have failed to reverse the trends that gave rise to Earth Day 30 years ago" (Worldwatch, March 1, 2000).
Global warming is a serious concern. In 1997, more than 1,500 scientists, including 104 of the 178 living Nobel Prize winners in the sciences, signed the World Scientists' Call for Action at the Kyoto Climate Summit. Their statement "urged all government leaders to: act immediately to prevent the potentially devastating consequences of human-induced global warming." When mankind burns fossil fuels, this releases greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, etc.) that trap heat from the sun. These gases have increased in our atmosphere more than 30 percent in the last 250 years. In the last century, the earth's temperature rose nearly 1 degree centigrade—the largest rise in the last thousand years. The 1990s saw six of the warmest years ever recorded. Scientists fear that this trend could accelerate faster than previously anticipated, leading to even greater weather disruptions, more violent storms and more intense droughts (The Ecologist, November 2001, pp. 3-11). The increasing severity of "natural disasters" is unnatural and is related to human-induced climate change, deforestation and settlement in flood plane areas (Worldwatch News Release, October 18, 2001).
A recent BBC special on the State of the Planet asserted that "we are in the midst of a global environmental crisis, and if we don't do something substantial about it, it is going to get a lot worse… human beings are destroying other species and their habitats at a speed and on a scale that is unprecedented" (The Ecologist, April 2001, p. 34). The chairman of two United Nations conferences on the environment has stated: "If we destroy the favorable conditions we now enjoy on earth… adverse environmental processes will accelerate out of control and destroy us" (The Futurist, p. 30, Sept-Oct 2001). Scientists recognize that what is at stake is nothing less than human survival, and that we have only about 30 to 50 years to reverse these ominous trends. They conclude that "we must act now to minimize those runaway impacts that could make our planet uninhabitable" (The Ecologist, November 2001, pp. 9-11). But just what does all this mean? What is the real significance of this emerging ecocrisis?
Two thousand years ago, Jesus was asked: "What will be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age?" (Matthew 24:3). He replied that just before His return, the world would be concerned about "wars and rumors of wars… famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places" (Matthew 24:6-7). The Apostle John records that three of the symbolic four horsemen of the Apocalypse who ride at the end of the age will have ecological consequences—war, famine, disease and disasters (Revelation 6:3-8). Scripture reveals that in the last days "there will be great tribulation , such as has not been since the beginning of the world… and unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened" (Matthew 24:21-22).
The Bible states that Jesus Christ will return not only to reward His servants and save mankind from the consequences of our own actions, but to "destroy those who destroy the earth" (Revelation 11:17-18). He is going to return in judgment. The prophet Hosea explains the reason. "Hear the word of the Lord, you children of Israel, for the Lord brings a charge against the inhabitants of the land; there is no truth or mercy or knowledge of God in the land… therefore the land will mourn; and everyone who dwells there will waste away with the beasts of the field and the birds of the air; even the fish of the sea will be taken away… My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge" (Hosea 4:1-6).
These verses reveal how God views human activities that destroy habitats and animals that God created for the enjoyment and service of human beings (see Psalm 104:14-18). The prophet Isaiah records a similar message: "the earth mourns and fades away… The earth is also defiled [polluted] 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 [held guilty]… and few men are left" (Isaiah 24:4-6).
The Bible indicates that human activities, polluting the earth, exploiting and depleting natural resources and violating ecological laws that God designed, will ultimately threaten the existence of life on this planet! Scripture explains that when we see these events occurring, we should realize that the end of this age and the return of Jesus Christ are near (Matthew 24:32-35). This is the real significance of the ecological crisis facing mankind today! Bible prophecies are recorded to warn us about the future so we can repent and believe what God has recorded in His Word (see Mark 1:14-15; Matthew 24:42-44). Ignoring God's warnings will be costly.
Though ecologists and forecasters are pessimistic and uncertain about the future, the Bible reveals that a Millennium of peace and prosperity is about to dawn. The immediate future is sobering, but the long-term future will involve a restoration of the earth that will surprise the most hardened skeptic, as explained in the article "How Will the Earth Be Restored?" on page 20 of this issue. For more information on this important topic, request our booklets The Real God and Who Controls the Weather—and keep reading Tomorrow's World magazine, where prophecy comes alive!
—Douglas S. Winnail