It’s popular to say that if you put a frog in a pan of water and slowly turn up the heat, you can boil him before he knows to jump out of the pan. Not having tried this myself, I cannot confirm the truth of this common claim, but I suspect it is no more than “an old wives’ tale.” Why we blame old wives for every fictitious tale, I do not know. But, laying that aside, let’s get back to the frog.
The point of the tale is not how to boil a frog, but to explain that when change comes slowly we can remain comfortable and lose all sense of disaster occurring around us. That seems to be the mindset of most people today. Change is taking place—that much we know. But many are adjusting to change with feelings of lazy, comfortable warmth.
In The Jungle Grows Back, historian Robert Kagan reminds us of a passage in Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, in which hard-drinking veteran Bill Gorton asks temperamental drunkard Mike Campbell how he went bankrupt. Campbell famously responds, “Gradually, then suddenly” (Kagan, p. 143)—reminding us of the frog who recognizes too late the change in his pan.
Kagan proposes that the last 75 years have been an anomaly of history: “The story of human progress is a myth, however. If the last century has taught us anything, it is that scientific and technological progress and the expansion of knowledge, while capable of improving our lives materially, have brought no lasting improvement in human behavior” (p. 5). While technology progressed to the Moon and beyond, human behavior “progressed” to Stalin, Hitler, and Pol Pot.
Noting that there has been no complete peace, Kagan attributes the relative peace the world has known since World War II to the unusual circumstance of the United States acting as a relatively benevolent “world policeman.” For all its obvious faults, Kagan believes that the U.S. has kept the great powers of Europe and Asia in check, and he credits the nation’s ability to exert such influence to its unique geographic, political, and economic circumstances.
Kagan shows great insight, yet he fails to see that there are also spirit influences at work in our world—both for good and for bad. While Kagan recognizes mankind’s evil tendencies, he does not acknowledge that God in heaven raised the U.S. to its superpower status—not because of any sort of national “righteousness,” but for His overriding purpose. You can find a more complete explanation of this in our resource The United States and Great Britain in Prophecy. You can request a free printed copy online or from the Regional Office nearest you (listed on page 4 of this magazine), or you can read it online at TomorrowsWorld.org.
As early as 1943, while World War II was still raging, former U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt saw that if America returned to its 1930s isolationism, history would repeat itself: “[If] the United States did not ‘pull the fangs of the predatory animals of this world,’ they would ‘multiply and grow in strength’ and would ‘be at our throats again once more in a short generation’” (Kagan, p. 29).
History is an excellent instructor. Roosevelt foresaw what neglect could bring, and historian Kagan recognizes this neglect occurring right before our eyes. And this phenomenon was explained in advance by another source. The Bible foretold the rise of nations that exhibit the nature of wild animals rather than tame lambs (Daniel 2 and 7; Revelation 13 and 17). Roosevelt anticipated the danger of this, and Kagan sees that we are, at any given time, only a short step away from another Hitler. All it takes is for the opportunity to arise, as there is never a shortage of aspiring dictators in the world. Only circumstances prevent them from seizing power. When world conditions decay, one or more will wreak global havoc again.
The U.S. withdrew into isolationism in the years between the two world wars. Americans thought that what happened in another part of the world was not a threat to a nation surrounded by two oceans and two peaceful neighbors. “Let the crazies in Europe and Asia work out their own problems!” Of course, that all changed on a December morning in 1941. Before then, the handwriting was on the wall for those who were willing to read it, but many Americans were as comfortable as the proverbial frogs in warm water and failed to recognize the danger approaching—until the Japanese military attacked Pearl Harbor.
Today, America is once again turning inward. “America First” sounds good to many, given the problems America’s international involvements have caused at home. But in a world without a policeman, however flawed he may be, the jungle will grow back. So postulates Kagan, and he is not alone. A far more reliable source—the Bible—agrees. It describes a coming time of trouble, such as has never before been seen. It warns of the signs of that time—and we already see many surrounding us!
Daniel wrote that “the time of the end” will be marked by mass transportation and a knowledge explosion (Daniel 12:4). Jesus warned us of devastation so severe that without God’s intervention no flesh would survive (Matthew 24:21–22). Until the last half of the last century, mankind lacked the weapons of global mass destruction that make such terrible times possible (cf. Revelation 9). Zechariah describes that in the end time the Jews would be in Jerusalem and would be a troublesome stone to all their neighbors (Zechariah 12:2–3). This prophecy could only be fulfilled after the establishment of the Jewish state in 1948, and after the Jews gained control over the whole of Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War. Despite laudable efforts seeking peace and harmony, the Jewish people will be hated by their neighbors and Jerusalem will be a divided city (Zechariah 14:1–2). Regarding the moral state of our world, the Bible describes it as being like Sodom and Gomorrah—cities known for giving themselves over to abnormal and abusive sexual practices (Isaiah 1:10; Genesis 19).
The world order as we have known it for the last 75 years is breaking down. Consider the British exit from the European Union, a body already in crisis economically and politically. Right-wing groups are rising in Hungary, Poland, and Italy. The U.S. is pressuring Germany and Europe to increase their military spending—something that did not work out very well for the world the last two times it happened. The right-wing nationalist Alternative for Germany (AfD) is now the third-largest political party in Germany. Nations are turning inward, and this trend is no longer on the fringe, but is becoming mainstream. Where is it leading?
The Bible foretells of a resurrected “beast” power that will rise in Europe. (For more on this, read our booklet The Beast of Revelation: Myth, Metaphor, or Soon-Coming Reality?) The end of this age will come suddenly and (for most) unexpectedly, yet those who are watching will not be caught unaware (1 Thessalonians 5:1–4). Our world is going morally and financially bankrupt “gradually”—the “suddenly” will soon follow. How many of us will recall the experience of the 1930s generation? Historian Kagan observed (as I quoted in the previous issue of this magazine), “They learned, and we have now forgotten, that when things start to go wrong, they can go very wrong very quickly, that once a world order breaks down, the worst qualities of humanity emerge from under the rocks and run wild” (p. 24).
Jesus warned us to learn from the parable of the fig tree that the end will be near when we see certain events occurring (Luke 21:29–36). The Apostle Paul warns us all: “And do this, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep; for now our salvation is nearer than when we first believed” (Romans 13:11). Are you awake and ready?