As the world enters 2009 and a new President takes office in the United States, slogans of "Change" and "Hope" have crashed into worsening economic and geo-political realities. The harbinger of economic catastrophe unprecedented since the worldwide Great Depression of the 1930s haunts world leaders and citizens alike.
The U.S. continues to reel from the mortgage crisis, has seen more than $7 trillion in shareholder value wiped out, and has experienced the collapse of many once-venerable financial institutions. Meanwhile, the entire Eurozone has followed the U.S. into what forecasters predict will be "a global slide towards a deep recession" (Financial Times, December 2, 2008).
America's incoming President has inherited big problems. Financial institutions are hemorrhaging from massive losses nearing one trillion dollars ("Financial groups' losses approach $1,000bn", Financial Times, November 13, 2008). Additionally, the U.S. automotive manufacturing sector is on its knees, urgently begging the government to release billions of dollars in auto-industry loans, though some in Congress argue that even with a massive bailout "there's no guarantee these guys will make it," and advocate letting them fail ("Automaker's debt may be obstacle to federal loans," Washington Post, December 1, 2008).
Entering 2009, U.S. property foreclosures are up 25 percent, unemployment is at a 16-year high and climbing, and the specter of deflation is rising. Charitable donations and food aid are plummeting. The United Nations recently cut food rations to more than 4 million Zimbabweans because Western nations gave no response at all to urgent appeals for emergency donations ("Zimbabwe Remains at an Impasse," The Wall Street Journal, November 11, 2008).
Though the news is sobering, perhaps we do not realize the disturbing similarity between our current situation and events surrounding the 1929 stock market crash that kicked off the Great Depression. The parallels are alarming.
Consider Merrill Lynch chairman John Thain's sobering warning that, "[the] US crisis will wreak world havoc," and that "the global economy is entering a slowdown of epic proportions comparable with the period after the 1929 crash" ("It's like 1929, says Merrill chief", Financial Times, November 12, 2008).
During the Great Depression, Gross Domestic Product fell by 29 percent from 1929 to 1933—and the U.S. stock market lost 89.5 percent of its value. Notwithstanding massive government intervention, world economic output declined until 1932, when it hit bottom at 50 percent of its 1929 level. Unemployment in the U.S. peaked at 24.9 percent in 1933, and remained above 20 percent for two more years. Unemployment declined to 14.3 percent by 1937, but then jumped back to 19 percent before resuming a gradual decline.
Deflation struck, businesses failed, unemployment skyrocketed and wages collapsed. Social programs were quickly overwhelmed. By 1931 and 1932, many peoples' savings were completely gone. Through the mid-1930s, human misery compounded. Many had no other option than to subsist off the land… but at least they had the means to do so, as the U.S. was then still a largely agrarian society.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt used radio addresses to explain the complex financial crisis and his plans to a frightened nation. Listening to these old recordings, one is struck by the eerie similarity between his topics and the problems we face today. Roosevelt blasted previous administrations for ignoring banking and financial system problems, and said he would fight for "low interest rates, better banking, for the regulation of security issues… and against the costs added by monopoly and speculation." Consequently, the government launched massive assistance programs.
Recognizing similar peril, the Obama administration appears to be on a similar course. "US President-elect Barack Obama intends to push a comprehensive program of social and economic reform beyond an immediate emergency stimulus package, Rahm Emanuel, the next White House chief of staff, indicated… He said Mr. Obama saw the financial meltdown as an historic opportunity to deliver the large-scale investments that Democrats had promised for years" ("Obama set to push 'big bang' reform package", Financial Times, November 9, 2008). Days later, in a CBS 60 Minutes interview, Obama said his administration would do "whatever it takes" to revive the economy.
Historians point to the economic misery of the Great Depression as a major factor in the rise of nationalist regimes in Germany, Italy, and Japan—which ultimately provoked the Second World War.
America and Britain today are seen as weakened powers, and as the cause of much of the present disaster. German Finance Minister Peer Steinbrueck blames "investment bankers and politicians in New York, Washington and London" whom he states were motivated by an "Anglo-Saxon drive" for excessive gain (Irish Times, September 25, 2008). And Manuel Barrosa, European Commission president, observed, "It is not Europe that is following the American model. It is America that is considering, let us say, a more European model" (Financial Times, November 17, 2008).
As your Bible foretells, Germany is becoming the real power behind the \European model\—in opposition to both U.S. and U.K. strategy. Recently, Poland became another country that openly decided to follow Germany's economic leadership "rather than the US and the UK" (Financial Times, December 1, 2008). On October 30, 2008, the Financial Times ran a story, revealingly titled, "Poll reveals Germans would support a return to nationalization."
Only God knows the exact timing of end-time events (Mark 13:32), but Bible prophecy reveals the order and many details (Amos 3:7). Furthermore, God's faithful Church does understand "the seasons" in which we live (Matthew 24:32–33), and has been accurately warning about large-scale geo-political movements far in advance for years.
Those of you who have subscribed to Tomorrow's World for several years may remember our January-February 2007 issue, with its cover story, "Lessons of History." Author Richard Ames pointed out that God's Church has long understood that Scripture reveals the prophesied decline of the U.S. and British-speaking nations, the resurgence of a German-led Europe, and a coming Great Tribulation if people do not wholeheartedly return to God. Even amid the Cold War hysteria of the 1950s, this Work was able to understand from Scripture that the Soviet Union would fall, that East and West Germany would reunify, and that a resurgent German-led Europe would set the stage for the final prophetic events before the return of Jesus Christ!
The days are coming when, "Suddenly, your debtors will rise up in anger. They will turn on you and take all you have, while you stand trembling and helpless" (Habakkuk 2:7, NLT).
Thankfully, Christ will intervene and bring a permanent, wonderful "new world order" where individuals will again confidently own property (Micah 4:4), where trade and commerce will be conducted righteously (Zechariah 14:20), where cities will be rich and farmland will be fertile (Ezekiel 36:33–35), and where all nations will keep God's Laws, Sabbaths and Feasts (Zechariah 14:16).
The world is at a precipice. But whether we are able to avoid economic ruin for a little while longer, or whether disaster comes swiftly, we must not "love the things of this world" (1 John 2:15–17). Instead, we must work to grow to spiritual perfection (Philippians 3:14–15), and become fully committed to preaching the Gospel of the Kingdom of God (Mark 1:14–15) so others can also share in this hope. God's Kingdom is the real new world order and is the "hope" and the "promise" Christians claim (Hebrews 6:11–20).