News reports from around the world proclaim that record heat waves, major droughts, floods and on-going violence have seriously reduced harvests in normally productive regions of the United States, Australia, South Africa and Russia. As a result, millions are facing dangerous food shortages, and countless thousands dependent on these crops have died of starvation and malnutrition-related conditions. Yet, in our increasingly secular world, few realize that Bible prophecies have long foretold that these very conditions would dominate the news just before the return of Jesus Christ to this earth. These ancient prophecies are coming alive today—right before our eyes!
Jesus was asked by His disciples, “What will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” He listed a number of specific events that would become obvious on the world scene, including “wars and rumors of wars… famines, pestilences [disease epidemics], and earthquakes in various places” (Matthew 24:3–7; see also Mark 13:8). The Apostle John recorded in his famous prophecy about the Four Horsemen that the times just before Christ’s return would be marked by wars (a red horse) and widespread food shortages (a black horse), in addition to violence, hunger and disease that will claim the lives of one quarter of the world’s population (Revelation 6:1–8). Jesus referred to these increasingly severe global catastrophes as “the beginning of sorrows” that will precede even greater calamities that will strike sinful and rebellious nations of the earth (Matthew 24:8). The Bible reveals the sobering prophetic significance of dramatic, weather-related events that will announce the return of Jesus Christ is near.
The United Nations recently warned of a “looming worldwide food crisis in 2012,” stating that “the global food supply system could collapse” because world food reserves have dropped to the lowest levels in decades, and the world’s population is consuming more food than is produced each year (The Observer, October 13, 2012). Record droughts and floods, combined with depleted food reserves, leave “no room for unexpected events” in the years ahead. Agronomists realize that another major drought in food-producing regions of the U.S. will cause serious food shortages, and that a major worldwide drought will trigger widespread starvation because long-relied-upon surpluses are now gone. Put simply, we may be one bad harvest away from a major catastrophe!
However, chronic hunger is already a fact of life in many areas of the world. A recent report by the Stockholm International Water Institute stated that, “Nine hundred million people already go hungry and 2 billion are malnourished” (“Food shortages could force world into vegetarianism, warn scientists,” The Guardian UK, August 26, 2012)—primarily in developing countries in Africa, the Middle East, Asia and the Pacific, the Caribbean and Latin America. Each year, hunger kills more people than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined—including about 5 million children. Malnutrition interferes with brain development in children and seriously reduces the ability of the immune system to protect individuals from infectious diseases.
But why is the world moving towards serious food shortages and widespread famine? How could Bible prophecies foretell that these specific calamitous events would occur at the end of the age?—because the God of the Bible understands the physical laws of Creation and human nature. Famines arise from natural, man-made and supernatural causes. The relentless pressure of population growth, dwindling amounts of arable land and the physical limits of food production were foreseeable. Severe weather events can be due to natural factors, but may also be caused by God’s direct intervention (see Exodus 9:18–26; Joshua 10:8–11; Judges 4:15; 5:21). Mankind’s tendency of violence toward other human beings is also a factor as warring factions within nations disrupt and destroy crop harvests, causing dislocation and starvation for hundreds of thousands living in war-torn areas of the world.
Poor planning—lack of vision and bad government—can also lead to serious food shortages and famines that affect millions of people (see Proverbs 29:18). Forcing developing countries to accept surplus food from developed countries has put many local farmers out of business. Countries dependent on food imports face serious budgetary issues when the cost of imported food increases. While most Americans spend less than 10 percent of their income on food, people in developing countries may spend 50 to 60 percent of their incomes on food. When food prices increase, the poor are hit the hardest and are most prone to go hungry.
Food production systems built on profit-seeking motives and greed can lead to serious inequities in food availability. Government-legislated biofuels programs—that use corn to produce ethanol to power automobiles and soybeans and palm oil to produce biodiesel fuel—can also contribute to food shortages. The United States currently uses about 40 percent of its corn crop for ethanol production—which has increased the price of corn more than 20 percent. Yet corn is a major food source for much of the world. As the demand for corn and the price of corn increases—driven by the demand for ethanol—corn importing countries are hit hard.
Scientists have identified numerous human and physical factors that threaten the world with widespread famines, but only the Bible provides a vital perspective that is totally missing from secular news analysis. Scripture reveals that a time of judgment is coming on the earth—especially upon nations that have turned their backs on God. The Bible explains that serious consequences occur when physical and spiritual laws designed by the Creator are violated (see 1 John 3:4; Leviticus 26; Deuteronomy 28). The God of the Bible condemns greed and the exploitation of the poor (1 Timothy 6:10; Ephesians 4:17–19; Amos 2:6–7; Zechariah 7:7–11)—factors that are causing millions to go hungry today. The Bible condemns fornication, adultery and homosexuality (1 Corinthians 6:18; Exodus 20:14, 17; Leviticus 18:22), yet the so-called “Christian” nations of the West that were so abundantly blessed by God are now actively promoting these evil behaviors. Scripture plainly states that God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16), yet these same nations lead the world today in divorce and conceiving children out of wedlock.
Tragically, millions have been deceived into believing there is no God and that the laws of God are a “strange thing”—antiquated, done away and no longer relevant (Hosea 8:11–14). However, God will dramatically intervene in human affairs to straighten out the terrible conditions that have caused so much human suffering. He will bring extreme weather conditions on sinful nations that despise His laws and oppress the poor. He warns, “if you do not obey Me… if you despise My statutes… I will make your heavens like iron and your earth like bronze… your land shall not yield its produce… I will lay your cities waste… I will bring the land to desolation” (Leviticus 26:14–33). The prophet Joel foretold that, just before Christ’s return, food supplies will be cut off and storehouses will be in shambles due to extreme weather conditions and other catastrophes (Joel 1:8–20).
When God begins to intervene in world affairs and judge the nations (Isaiah 24:1–6), human beings will come to know that the God of the Bible is real, His Way is true and that He cares for the welfare of His children (2 Peter 3:9; Hebrews 12:6).