Over the last several decades, scientists who monitor the state of the world's oceans have documented a number of disturbing trends that continue to worsen.
Long ago, the God of the Bible warned that human disregard for the natural laws that govern the earth's ecosystems would result in catastrophic damage on a global scale. Those ancient prophecies are now coming alive in scientific findings and news reports today! We need to be aware of what is happening in the oceans of the world, and of what ancient Bible prophecies have long foretold—and what the future holds.
Over the last several decades, scientists who monitor the state of the world's oceans have documented a number of disturbing trends that continue to worsen. Coral reefs that ring the islands and border the continents of the world, providing a home for one-fourth of all marine fish species, are increasingly showing signs of widespread damage. Studies reveal that 20 percent of the world's coral reefs have been destroyed, that another 25 percent are facing imminent collapse, and that 70 percent could be destroyed by 2050 if present trends continue. The most seriously threatened reefs are found along the shores of nations bordering the Red Sea, the Indian Ocean and in the Australasian region of the world. Factors such as pollutants, sediments from erosion, algal blooms, overfishing, rising water temperatures and carbon dioxide-induced acidification of the oceans—all related to expanding coastal populations—are destroying coral reefs around the world!
Marine biologists have also compiled disturbing data about the extent of overfishing and its destructive effects on fish populations. Overfishing is simply harvesting more fish from the oceans than are being replaced by natural means, and it is seen as what the environmental organization Greenpeace has called, "the single biggest threat to marine ecosystems today." Studies indicate that 70 percent of the world's fish stocks are now overexploited or declining. Scientists estimate that 90 percent of large food fish have been depleted, and are no longer commercially available to fishermen. Numerous fishing industries—cod fishing in Newfoundland, sole fisheries in the Irish Sea, anchovy fishing off Peru and grouper fishing in the Caribbean—have collapsed or are seriously threatened because of unregulated overfishing. Not only are important species of fish lost as a food source, thousands of jobs also disappear! Industrialized fishing methods, which harvest huge numbers of fish, have in recent decades decimated many fishing grounds. Concerned biologists have warned that current practices cannot continue, and unless real changes are made, we could see "the collapse of all world fisheries by 2048" (Scientific American, November 2, 2006). This would eliminate the major source of animal protein for about a billion people!
Now comes another report—of a "food chain crisis in the world's oceans" (Spiegel Online, July 29, 2010). Canadian scientists have found that "stocks of phytoplankton have decreased 40 percent since 1950"—on a global scale. One marine scientist stated, "A retreat of 40 percent in 60 years, that is so serious that it is almost unbelievable" (ibid.). Phytoplankton are tiny microscopic organisms that are the first link in the oceanic food chain. If the ocean's total productivity declines, the numbers of fish will also decline! The oceans' rising surface temperatures appear to be a factor in killing off these essential organisms. Phytoplankton also contribute about one-half of all the oxygen generated by plants, and they absorb atmospheric carbon dioxide that can trap heat. So, the decrease in phytoplankton could not only lead to a reduction in the number of fish the ocean can produce, it may increase global temperatures (Nature, July 29, 2010).
But just what do these disturbing changes in the world's oceans have to do with Bible prophecy? Long ago, the God of the Bible revealed a fundamental concept: obedience to His laws will bring blessings, but ignoring or violating those laws will bring curses (Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 28). Marine ecosystems operate on fundamental principles that must be understood and respected if they are to be maintained in good condition. However, today, the over-exploitation of marine resources—combined with the damaging effects of human-generated pollutants (as was seen earlier this year in the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico)—works to disrupt and destroy the natural function of ocean ecosystems, with serious implications for human populations!
The prophet Isaiah foresaw the global consequences of this human selfishness. "The earth mourns… The earth is also defiled under its inhabitants, because they have transgressed the laws… Therefore the curse has devoured the earth" (Isaiah 24:4–6). The prophet Hosea foretold of a similar situation in which "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" (Hosea 4:1–3). What is the cause? "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge… because you have forgotten the law of your God" (Hosea 4:6). The Apostle John reveals that God does not look lightly on the exploitation and destruction of His creation. When Jesus Christ returns to this earth, one of His first acts will be to "destroy those who destroy the earth" (Revelation 11:15–18).
But why does the Bible insist on such strong punishments for exploiting and polluting the earth and its resources? Scripture reveals that God gave human beings dominion over the earth's living creatures, including "the fish of the sea" (Genesis 1:28). Human beings were instructed to "tend and keep" the earth, and its creatures, as wise stewards of God's creation (Genesis 2:15). Sadly, by exploiting the earth and its creatures for commercial gain and defiling the planet and its ecosystems with human-generated pollutants, mankind instead is systematically destroying the environment and resources that God created to support human life—in direct defiance of our God-given responsibility to care for the earth.
The all-wise God of the Bible designed the earth and its ecosystems to function according to natural laws (Proverbs 3:19–20). When those laws are violated, there will be consequences. Scripture reveals that God will allow these increasingly global consequences to teach human beings important lessons. God inspired Hosea to warn, "I will punish them for their ways, and reward them for their deeds" (Hosea 4:9). Jeremiah recorded similar prophetic warnings: "Have you not brought this on yourself, in that you have forsaken the Lord your God… Your own wickedness will correct you, and your backslidings will rebuke you" (Jeremiah 2:17–19).
Although God will let human beings reap the results of their unbridled exploitation and pollution of the oceans, He also has a plan for the restoration of the earth and its resources (Acts 3:19–21). Bible prophecies reveal that when Jesus Christ returns to the earth to establish the Kingdom of God, the deserts of the world will "blossom as the rose" (Isaiah 35), the troubled waters of oceans will be healed (Ezekiel 47:8) and "the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you" (Isaiah 60:5). Some of these restorative changes will come about through God's supernatural intervention, while others will come about as human beings in the Millennium learn to manage the earth according to the laws of God that were designed to allow ecosystems to support life on this planet (Isaiah 2:2–4). To learn more about how the earth will be restored, request our free booklet, The World Ahead: What Will It Be Like?