A hundred years ago, the famous ocean liner Titanic hit an iceberg and sank to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. What lessons can it teach us today?
As the 100th anniversary of the Titanic disaster nears, what does the future hold for the English-speaking nations? Is there smooth sailing ahead, or looming disaster? You need to know!
When the RMS Titanic was built, it was a marvel of engineering. Its massive hull was, during its construction, reported to be the largest movable man-made structure in the world. Because of its state-of-the-art design, Shipbuilder magazine heralded it as “practically unsinkable.” And yet, on April 15, 1912, the mighty Titanic struck an iceberg and sank two miles to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, only five days into its maiden voyage, killing more than 1,500 of its passengers. Instead of being forever praised for its mastery of the waves, the name Titanic became synonymous with complete and utter disaster.
A hundred years later, the United States, Great Britain, and other Western nations are at a dangerous juncture in their collective voyage. Some observers have compared our mounting economic and social ills to the gash the Titanic sustained on that horrible night in 1912. Is this comparison valid? Will the U.S. regain its prosperity and its international stature? Will millions of unemployed Americans and Britons find new jobs despite failing economies? Or, will the massive pressure from our national sins finally overwhelm and sink our nations?
What about you? How are you preparing your family for tough times ahead? When the Titanic headed for New York a century ago from Southampton, England, it was considered the largest and most luxurious ship in the world. It appeared safe and secure. However, though it complied fully with maritime regulations of its day, there were serious problems. For example, the Titanic did not have enough lifeboats on board to carry all passengers at once. Its 16 boats and four “collapsibles” could accommodate only 1,178 people—while the ship could carry more than 3,300. And its crew members were not trained to take seriously the new Marconi wireless radio onboard. Though the crew of the Titanic received warnings from other ships in the darkness of that April night, they failed to take seriously what they were hearing. When the crew finally sighted the iceberg and took evasive action, it was too late.
Are we taking seriously the warnings we are hearing? Whose warnings should we be heeding? To what degree are you willing to risk your future, based on the words of today’s so-called economic and financial “experts”? How much can you depend on your job or employer to be around when the times grow tough? What about your nation’s government—can you count on it to provide your needs as a safety net, when many nations themselves are going broke? Where can you turn in the coming tough times?
The problems our nations face today are legion—and are accelerating every day. Our political systems are dysfunctional and full of hypocrisy. The U.S. exports degrading entertainment around the world, which brings shame to those who profess to believe in God. Traditional marriage and family are collapsing. Millions have debilitating moral problems. Pornography is epidemic. Our cities are dangerous. Many children are growing up with no direction or guidance, and feel hopeless and helpless. Practices once outlawed as perversion are now protected by law and even encouraged. Our society accepts and even praises unbridled greed and focus on the self. Global military commitments sap national strength. When will it all end? Where is our ship headed?
Many are shocked to hear experts predict the collapse of the once-mighty United States. Warning of the danger of a double-dip recession, economist Mortimer Zuckerman wrote: “The prognosis for America is especially discouraging. We have relied too heavily on surplus savings from abroad on top of running massive current account deficits. Until recent times, we ran deficits of this order only when we were engaged in a titanic war… But now we are running annual deficits of $1.4 trillion, about 10 percent of the total economy… American exceptionalism endures. But we must confront our dysfunctional and profligate government. America was founded on the principle of creating a better life for our children and grandchildren. We can do it. We aren’t doing it” (“The Danger of a Global Double-Dip Recession Is Real,” USNews.com, November 29, 2010). The warnings are serious, and the danger is real. But is anyone listening? Is anyone steering us away from the iceberg?
Niall Ferguson, professor of history at Harvard, recently warned that a financial downturn can turn catastrophic once it erodes faith in the financial system. “The numbers… cannot erode U.S. strength on their own, but they can work to weaken a long-assumed faith in the United States’ ability to weather any crisis. For now, the world still expects the United States to muddle through… But one day, a seemingly random piece of bad news—perhaps a negative report by a rating agency—will make the headlines… Suddenly, it will be not just a few policy wonks who worry about the sustainability of U.S. fiscal policy but also the public at large, not to mention investors abroad. It is this shift that is crucial: a complex adaptive system is in big trouble when its component parts lose faith in its viability” (“Complexity and Collapse: Empires on the Edge of Chaos,” Foreign Affairs, March-April 2010).
What these experts are saying is that, while the good-ship luxury liner America appears to be upright and sea-worthy, it is actually sinking. And capsizing can come suddenly, seemingly without warning. Speaking of the nation of Israel, the prophet Isaiah warned: “Therefore this iniquity shall be to you like a breach ready to fall, a bulge in a high wall, whose breaking comes suddenly, in an instant” (Isaiah 30:13). Relative calm can deceive us of the real danger—which can appear suddenly. Now is no time to be lax at the helm.
In 2000, Igor Panarin, a former KGB analyst and dean of the Russian Foreign Ministry’s Academy for diplomats, predicted the U.S. would collapse within ten years. For most of the last decade, he was scoffed at and dismissed. But once the financial chaos of 2008 occurred, people started taking notice. Panarin suggested that by June 2010, mass immigration, economic decline, and moral degradation would trigger a civil war and the collapse of the dollar. He predicted that the U.S. would break into six separate pieces.
Of course, the U.S. is still together. Panarin was at least wrong about the timing. Does that mean that his prediction of decline is wrong? Or is it that his timing is off, but the conditions are still ripe for a collapse like the one he predicted?
The wise King Solomon recorded, “A prudent man foresees evil and hides himself, but the simple pass on and are punished” (Proverbs 22:3). God wants us to be warned of the icebergs ahead and to prepare ourselves against calamity! Jesus Christ reiterated this principle when He said, “But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly” (Luke 21:34). Our Savior counsels us not to be entangled with sin, destructive habits, and worthless pursuits. He challenges us to be ready for big events just ahead of us. He explains as we read further: “For it will come as a snare on all those who dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:35–36).
Few today realize that the Bible explains the meteoric rise of the United States and Great Britain in the last 200 years—and foretells a calamitous fall unless there is national repentance. The key to this understanding is that the U.S. and Great Britain—as well as the other British-descended nations—are modern-day descendants of the ancient tribe of Joseph, son of Jacob/Israel.
What did God foretell would happen to Joseph’s progeny in the last days? “Joseph is a fruitful bough, a fruitful bough by a well; his branches run over the wall” (Genesis 49:22). Great Britain and the U.S. were to be blessed with enormous economic prosperity, which would be so abundant that its fruitful blessings would spill over to other nations around the world.
And that is exactly what has happened, with God as the Source of those blessings: By “the God of your father who will help you, and by the Almighty who will bless you with blessings of heaven above, blessings of the deep that lies beneath, blessings of the breasts and of the womb. The blessings of your father have excelled the blessings of my ancestors, up to the utmost bound of the everlasting hills. They shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him who was separate from his brothers” (vv. 25–26). Furthermore, these nations would have military superiority (Genesis 49:23–24) and possess the gates of their enemies (Genesis 24:60).
So, were these blessings predicted to last forever? No! Our great “luxury liner” of wealth and prosperity is heading for disaster. Because of national sins, the modern descendants of Joseph will become the main sufferers of the prophesied time of tribulation. “But it shall come to pass, if you do not obey the voice of the Lord your God, to observe carefully all His commandments and His statutes which I command you today, that all these curses will come upon you and overtake you: cursed shall you be in the city, and cursed shall you be in the country. Cursed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl” (Deuteronomy 28:15–17).
God prophesied that the modern descendants of ancient Israel will face intractable problems in every corner—in the city, in the countryside, everywhere! Crops will fail. Rain will become erratic. Diseases will become more and more rampant. Drought and fires will be followed by too much rain and flooding (v. 22).
Climatologists in the United States reported that 2011 was the worst year on record for extreme weather, with a dozen weather “events” costing at least $1 billion each in the U.S. alone (“Will 2012 top 2011 for record weather disasters?,” Reuters, December 27, 2011). But how long will it be before Americans and Britons admit that God is trying to get our attention? Even now, with extreme weather, we are the most richly blessed people on earth. Today we measure our calamities in dollars and property damage—not yet in the tens of thousands of people killed, as in other countries where disasters have struck. How long will it be before God lets us sink as a result of mounting national and personal sins?
As our ship begins to “take on water,” what are many people doing? Millions of Americans, Britons, Australians, Canadians, New Zealanders, and South Africans are locked in ongoing self-focused addictions, such as to pornography. The U.S. produces by far the largest share of the world’s Internet pornography—estimates go as high as 89 percent. What a shameful statistic for a so-called “Christian” country! How long before the Almighty God stops the rot by letting the ship capsize?
How many modern Israelites, despite hard economic straits, are lost in a headlong rush to consumerism? As water figuratively rushes into our listing vessel, are we wasting our time and life obsessed with things and the getting of them? Are we spending ever more time absorbed by an endless string of electronic media? Christ warned against thinking this way, saying: “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Luke 12:15). The wealthiest passenger on the Titanic—amidst many wealthy and influential figures—was John Jacob Astor IV. But he and others among the rich and prominent perished aboard the ill-fated ship. Their riches did not save them. And neither will our possessions save us!
God warns that these curses “shall be upon you for a sign and a wonder, and on your descendants forever. Because you did not serve the Lord your God with joy and gladness of heart, for the abundance of everything” (Deuteronomy 28:46–47). It is time to wake up! The ship is going down! And our ship is sinking because, in spite of our blessings, we have refused to give God the credit for our life, our breath, and our material success.
Things are going to grow even worse before they become better. God said, through Moses, that because His people were unwilling to serve Him with gladness and joy, in plenty and blessings, “Therefore you shall serve your enemies, whom the Lord will send against you, in hunger, in thirst, in nakedness, and in need of everything; and He will put a yoke of iron on your neck until He has destroyed you” (v. 48). Stern warning!
As shocking as this may sound, a time of national calamity, overthrow, and utter defeat is coming upon our modern Israelite nations. God predicts it. But He also gives hope and comfort amid the warnings. He foretells that, after modern Israel goes into national slavery, “From there you will seek the Lord your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul. When you are in distress, and all these things come upon you in the latter days, when you turn to the Lord your God and obey His voice (for the Lord your God is a merciful God), He will not forsake you nor destroy you, nor forget the covenant of your fathers which He swore to them” (Deuteronomy 4:29–31). In the latter days, God will hear those who cry out with genuine repentance!
But why wait? Why not seek Him now? For our sake, and for our families’ sake, why not begin to really pray to God, and find out what we have been doing wrong (Revelation 21:8)? Why not humble ourselves and repent of our sins now?
Jesus predicted wars, famines, religious deception and persecution in the end-time, and the tribulation. But He also emphasized: “But he who endures to the end shall be saved. And this gospel [“good news”] of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:13–14).
Scripture gives us the encouraging news that there is a better world coming soon. After the dark days immediately ahead of us, a brighter day will dawn, when Christ will personally come to rule planet Earth. He will end all rebellion and disobedience, and reign in righteousness and equity (Isaiah 2:4) for the benefit of all humanity.
Many people scoffed and joked on the Titanic when the crew first gave the order to deploy the lifeboats. The ship still appeared to be seaworthy even after it had been dealt a death-blow—a 300-foot gash below the water line. In fact, the Titanic did not sink until several hours later. At first, clambering into a tiny lifeboat and being lowered into the vast darkness of the ocean looked like a poor alternative to staying on the relative security of the ship. But in the end, it was a far safer choice.
Do not be fooled by the deceptive calm—the message that everything will continue as it always has (2 Peter 3:3–4). The truth is, there is a day of reckoning coming (Matthew 24:21–22)! Unless the modern descendants of ancient Israel turn with deep repentance to the God who created us, our ship is headed for oblivion.
But you do not need to be taken by surprise! Obey God’s commands. Build a relationship with Him, pray to Him and walk with Him daily. Stay close to God and focus on His words to lead you in every aspect of your life. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths” (Proverbs 3:5–6). Let Jesus Christ be the “captain” of your salvation (Hebrews 2:10) and the master of your life. And remember: no ship is unsinkable; no nation is too big to fail.