Many Bible prophecies describe specific events that will arise on the world scene as we approach the end of the age—the period of time just before Jesus Christ returns to this earth to establish the Kingdom of God. Jesus told His disciples to watch for these events, so that they would recognize when His return was near (Matthew 24:32–44). Though many are reluctant to believe it, ancient Bible prophecies are coming alive today—right before our eyes!
The Apostle Paul lists specific signs that will mark the end of the age. He wrote: "In the last days perilous times will come: for men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud… unloving… lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God" (2 Timothy 3:1–5). The Apostle Peter warned that "there will be false teachers among you… they have a heart trained in covetous practices, and are accursed children. They have forsaken the right way and gone astray" (2 Peter 2:1, 14–15).
The Ten Commandments condemn covetousness (Exodus 20:17). Solomon warned that wicked people are "greedy for gain" (Proverbs 1:10–19). Jesus rebuked religious leaders for hypocrisy, extortion and unbridled greed (Matthew 23:25). The prophets railed against selfish material acquisition: "Woe to those who devise iniquity… they covet fields and take them by violence, also houses, and seize them… Behold, against this family I am devising disaster" (Micah 2:1–3). The prophet Amos warned the Israelites, in a prophecy that applies both then and now, that because of their rampant greed, godless materialism and exploitation of the less fortunate, "I will destroy the winter house along with the summer house; the houses of ivory shall perish, and the great houses shall have an end" (Amos 2:6–7; 3:1, 14–15). Amos warned Israelite leaders, who lived in opulent splendor while many others existed on much less: "Behold, the days shall come upon you when He [God] will take you away with fishhooks… and Israel shall surely be led away captive" (Amos 4:1–3; 5:27; 6:7; 7:11, 17). The Bible reveals that God has dealt severely with the godless and greedy in the past, and will do so again in the future!
In the light of these prophecies, it is sobering to contemplate social trends today in America, Britain and other nations whose inhabitants are descended from ancient Israel. Studies indicate that 70 to 90 percent of Americans consider their society "too materialistic" and feel that this is a "serious social problem\ (Christian Century, March 3, 1993, p. 238). Talk show host Jim Bohannon describes Americans as \self-absorbed… preoccupied with individualism and moral permissiveness" and caught up in a "national obsession with materialism and the acquisition of money" (America in Crisis, Bohannon, pp. 45–48). He writes: "No evaluation of what's amiss in America today would be complete without taking a look at selfishness… today's society seems to have raised selfishness to an art form while giving it a seal of approval" and that in the "Greedy 80s" we learned that "greed is good" (ibid., pp. 45, 61). Bohannon sees unbridled consumerism, the shop-till-you-drop syndrome, the "worship of the marketplace… and worshipping the Almighty Dollar" as major problems in America today (ibid., pp. 24, 150).
American culture has spread around the globe. American music, films and television incessantly promote consumer products and the philosophy that endless consumption brings happiness—and have spawned "a money minded youth culture that demands instant gratification and thrives on audio-visual bombardment" (Why Do People Hate America? Sadar & Davies, p. 125). According to some, this "global projection of American influence… The McDonaldization of society… seems like a virus, a particularly pathological one… replicating itself in the rest of the world… infecting the cultural body of other nations" (ibid., pp. 117–118). The globalization of greedy, self-centered consumption emanating from America and other affluent countries is generating much global animosity as it undermines and destroys traditional values and cultures.
Cultural historian Morris Berman describes another worrisome trend: increasing inequality through which the rich continue to grow richer while the poor become poorer. Berman notes that in recent decades we have seen "an unprecedented redistribution of income toward the rich. In terms of wealth disparity, the United States leads all other major industrial nations" (The Twilight of American Culture, p. 21). Some executive salaries are now more than 400 times the wage of their companies' workers. Once-respectable financial institutions now aggressively pursue leveraged buyouts and hostile takeovers of companies, pocketing substantial fees as executives walk away with millions of dollars—while thousands of workers lose their jobs and their incomes (House of Morgan, Chernow, pp. 690–709). Many monarchs, dictators and political leaders in developing countries wallow in luxury while their countrymen struggle in poverty. Astute observers realize that the grotesque accumulation of wealth in fewer hands is a global phenomenon, and that "this kind of inequality could eventually destroy the entire social structure" (Berman, pp. 25–28). Berman sees a major "structural crunch" coming "sometime in the twenty-first century" (ibid., p. 32)—the time in which we are living!
Many historians point out that these same social and economic trends appeared during the decline of the Roman Empire, and in the waning years of other powerful states. Ancient writers record that "greed and self-indulgence… preoccupation with luxury" accompanied by moral decay contributed to the demise of the once-mighty Roman Empire (Black, p. 160). Historians Will and Ariel Durant saw a repeating pattern in the accumulation and redistribution of wealth. Wealth becomes concentrated in the hands of a few, then when the masses of poor people can no longer abide the situation, wealth is redistributed either by peaceful means—legislation or decree—or by violent revolution. The Durants noted that "the gap between the wealthiest and the poorest is now greater than at any time since Imperial plutocratic Rome" and sensed that a correction would soon come (The Lessons of History, Durant, p. 55). A more disturbing assessment comes from French economist Jacques Attali. He sees in the coming years a growing, bitter and volatile divide between an increasingly rich core and an increasingly impoverished periphery, with the impoverished periphery eventually rising up against the rich core "in a war unlike any seen in modern times" (Millennium, Attali, pp. 14–15).
Economists like to trust in the "invisible hand" postulated by 18th century economist Adam Smith. They assume human reason will regulate world markets. Historians see the lopsided accumulation of wealth, and hope for a peaceful redistribution when social forces bring about a change. The Bible, however, reveals that current trends will build toward a very different outcome. Bible prophecy reveals that God will allow our selfish, consumer-obsessed, materialistic societies to reap the regrettable consequences of what we have sown (Jeremiah 2:17–19). Then Jesus Christ will return and intervene with a "strong hand" (Psalm 136:12; Revelation 11:17) to restore economic justice and put an end to selfishness and greed. When we see the modern globalization of greed, we can know that Bible prophecy is coming alive!