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A Perfect Storm

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How the perfect storm arrived in 2020 and why we’re not ready for the one biblical prophecy says is yet to come!

Many of you have seen The Perfect Storm, a movie released in 2000 depicting the convergence of severe weather factors along the northeast coast of North America in 1991 that caused more than $200 million in damage. This storm drove waves to a record high of 30.7 meters (about 101 feet) off the coast of Nova Scotia. Today, the term “perfect storm” has entered mainstream vocabulary, used to describe a dynamic convergence of events that together bring consequences far greater than what would be caused by the individual events themselves.

Another term we hear these days is “black swan.” As Investopedia.com explains, the term is used to describe “an unpredictable event that is beyond what is normally expected of a situation and has potentially severe consequences. Black swan events are characterized by their extreme rarity, their severe impact, and the widespread insistence they were obvious in hindsight.”

The year 2020 has seen the convergence of multiple perfect storms and a rather remarkable black swan. Consider the following.

The European Union in Trouble

We here at Tomorrow’s World have long predicted—contrary to pundits and conventional wisdom—that the United Kingdom would eventually leave the European Union. Did we know this because we were smarter? Certainly not. We understood this based on Bible prophecy. For the same reason, we foresaw the collapse of the Iron Curtain—it had to happen for prophecy to be fulfilled. Like Brexit, it happened quite quickly—over a few months with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Each event shocked the world but did not shock those who understood the Bible.

The European Union did not foresee Brexit. It did not believe that the Brits would do it! Even many in the UK failed to see it coming. David Cameron fulfilled his campaign promise to call for a referendum on whether to leave or remain in the European Union. It was a gamble he thought he could win.

I was in Brussels on June 23, 2016, the day of the vote, and it looked as though his gamble would pay off. Two of the most prominent leaders of the “Leave” faction, the ever-outspoken Nigel Farage and the flamboyant Boris Johnson, conceded on television that evening that, though they had made a good run of it, they were going to come up short. But the next morning, to the surprise of everyone, we learned that the British had done what no one thought they would ever do: They had voted to leave.

Brexit has shaken the European Union to its core. Only those who understand Bible prophecy were not shocked. Surprised, yes, but not shocked—even when you expect something to happen, it can sometimes be a surprise when it actually does. Our booklets The United States and Great Britain in Prophecy and The Beast of Revelation: Myth, Metaphor or Soon-Coming Reality? give the basis for this expectation.

Now that the British have left, who else might leave—especially with so much dissatisfaction among the citizenry of country after country? Non-binding referendums and polls indicate the citizens of a growing number of EU countries would prefer to leave.

Enter the black swan. If Europeans did not see Brexit coming, they were even more oblivious to the coming of COVID-19, even though many voices—including our own here at Tomorrow’s World—have warned that a disruptive disease outbreak was not a matter of if but of when. And if Brexit was pulling the continent apart, this microscopic enemy all but shattered it, as panic set in and it became “every man for himself.”

The Financial Times quoted Emmanuel Macron as calling the situation in Europe “a moment of truth.” After an April 17, 2020 interview with the French President, the paper reported that “the EU will cease to exist as a political project if it fails to help countries devastated by the coronavirus. Mr. Macron also hit out at the hypocrisy of northern member states who reap the benefits of the bloc but fail to share its ‘burdens’…. the French president said there was ‘no choice’ but to set up a fund that ‘could issue common debt with a common guarantee’ to finance member states according to their needs rather than the size of their economies.” He then added this chilling warning: “If we can’t do this today, I tell you the populists will win—today, tomorrow, the day after, in Italy, in Spain, perhaps in France and elsewhere” (Mehreen Kahn, “Brussels scuffles with car industry over green targets,” The Financial Times, April 17, 2020).

How successful leaders will be in holding the EU together remains to be seen, but Bible prophecy indicates that ten “kings,” leaders, or nations will give their power over to a charismatic leader called “the beast” at the end of this age (Revelation 17:12–13). So, we can expect in the near future some kind of realignment in Europe, whether as a result of this crisis or another yet to come.

Devastation in Australia

Anyone paying attention to the news understands that Australia has had more than its share of bad news the last year or two. Australians are no strangers to droughts, fires, and floods, and are a hardy bunch. But recently they have suffered tragedy upon tragedy. First, there was the seven-year drought in northern Queensland. Then, when the rains finally came in late January 2019, they kept coming. Initial estimates indicated the February flooding killed half a million cattle, but later estimates raised the number to around 600,000. Wild animal populations were also devastated.

This was not a good start to 2019, but it would not be the only disaster for the year. In much of Australia, it was the hottest and driest year on record and one of their worst fire seasons. New South Wales and Queensland were hit especially hard, but no territory escaped the ravaging bush fires that covered an area the size of the U.S. state of Pennsylvania before dying out in February 2020. An estimated one billion wild animals perished in a devastating blow to kangaroo and koala populations, dealing serious damage to Australia’s diverse and unique collection of wildlife.

Then, when it appeared things could not get any worse, the COVID-19 black swan landed in “the land down under.” Leaders of any number of countries are praying at this time for God’s mercy, but Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison has done so openly. This is a start, but while we hope the best for his nation, if there is not a true turning to God and away from immoral behaviors in Australia and other nations, worse plagues will be our lot.

Locust Plague in Africa… and Beyond

Africa always seems to have a rough time of it, and 2019 was an especially difficult year, as many countries on the continent were suffering from both droughts and floods. Unusually wet weather in the Horn of Africa produced a bumper crop, but along with it came desert locusts. As the Globe and Mail reported in January, “Locusts of almost biblical proportions are the latest threat to impoverished farmers who have been pushed to the brink by recent climate-related disasters.” The report went on to say, “A single locust can travel 150 kilometres [93 miles] and eat its own weight in food each day, about two grams. A small swarm of 40 to 80 million locusts, covering a square kilometre, can consume as much food as 35,000 people in a day. The biggest swarm in northeastern Kenya covers an area of 60 kilometres by 40 kilometres—three times as big as Toronto—and could hold as many as 190 billion locusts, consuming as much food daily as 90 million people” (“Locust swarms in Kenya worst in 70 years and still growing,” TheGlobeAndMail.com, January 28, 2020).

That was in January. Now, “A second wave of desert locusts is threatening east Africa with estimates that it will be 20 times worse [than] the plague that descended two months ago” (“Second wave of locusts in East Africa said to be 20 times worse,” The Guardian, April 13, 2020).

Noting that the desert locust is considered “the most destructive migratory pest in the world,” the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization reported, “The Desert Locust upsurge continues to remain alarming, particularly in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, where it poses an unprecedented threat to food security and livelihoods. In the six East African countries worst affected or at risk of locusts—Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Uganda and Tanzania—around 20 million people are already experiencing acute food insecurity, and a further 15 million in Yemen, which is also being affected by the pest” (“FAO continues to fight desert locust upsurge in East Africa and Yemen despite COVID-19 constraints,” UN.org, April 14, 2020).

And it’s not just Africa that is threatened. According to Business Insider, desert locusts are “found in around 30 countries throughout Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, and can swarm through one-fifth of the landmass on Earth” (“Swarms of locusts forced Somalia to declare a national emergency. Skin-crawling photos show how menacing their plagues can be,” February 28, 2020). Swarms are already moving from the Horn of Africa into the Middle East as far as Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Pakistan.

But this perfect locust storm is “on steroids,” because the black swan of global pandemic hampers efforts to control the plague: “Kenyan officials have said coronavirus crackdowns have slowed efforts to fight the infestation, as crossing borders has become harder and pesticide deliveries are held up. Aerial spraying is the only effective means of controlling locusts but there have been complaints that the pesticides are affecting livestock” (The Guardian, April 13, 2020).

And according to Weather.com, “The setbacks are being exacerbated by the global actions taken to curb the spread of COVID-19. Experts can no longer travel to in-country meetings to train locals to combat the locust threat” (“Unbelievably Large Swarm of Locusts Threatens Middle East,” March 18, 2020).

Furthermore, “Uganda’s agriculture minister said authorities are unable to import enough pesticides from Japan, citing disruptions to international cargo shipments” (“New, larger wave of locusts threatens millions in Africa,” APNews.com, April 10, 2020).

And, yes, conditions can get worse—and they have. Since I began writing this article, flooding rains have come to East Africa during the month of May. Our Tomorrow’s World representative in Kenya reported to us on these developments:

"Countries in East Africa are suffering a 'triple blow' of locusts, COVID-19, and flooding. There are nearly 300,000,000 people being affected by these events. Floods have destroyed whatever crops the locusts did not eat. Prolonged rainfall has caused the worst floods ever experienced in some areas. Lake Victoria has risen by more than two meters (more than six feet) and rivers have become raging torrents. Many thousands of people are displaced, a number have drowned, some families have been buried alive by mudslides, and hundreds of sheep, goats, and cows have been swept away. Several bridges have also been taken out by the flood waters, paralyzing transportation. Meanwhile, the heavy rainfall and warm temperatures are ideal for locusts to breed, so even more damage is expected from them."

The Flower Industry Blown Away?

Spring is about flowers, and growers and hothouses across the globe geared up on a grand scale for spring in the Northern Hemisphere. But from San Francisco, to South America, to the Netherlands, the flower industry collapsed overnight. The San Francisco Chronicle reported in March, “More than $1 million worth of flowers was destroyed at the San Francisco Flower Mart last week as it prepared to close. Farmers are watching their livelihood wither on the vine” (“Flower industry hit hard as coronavirus pandemic dries up business,” SFChronicle.com, March 30, 2020).

California’s entire $360 million cut-flower industry has wilted. Growers had already been struggling, working on razor-thin profit margins due to overseas competition, and for many, COVID-19 is the shop-closer. “There probably won’t be a grand reopening for Lompoc-based Ocean View Flowers, which produced 40 million stems only two years ago. Its produce-growing parent company, Santa Barbara Farms, closed the flower operation permanently, according to company and industry sources” (“Coronavirus hit California’s cut-flower industry at the worst time,” LATimes.com, April 4, 2020). I find this sad on a personal level, as I worked summers during high school in Lompoc’s flower fields. Lompoc is a small, sleepy, out-of-the-way city with residents of modest means. Most people have never heard of it, much less can pronounce its name properly (it’s LOM-poke). “‘This is our busiest and most profitable time of the year,’ Mellano [a third-generation grower and wholesaler] said. ‘So, it’s absolutely the worst time for something like this to happen.’”

Similar stories are happening elsewhere, all for the same reason. Two countries hit especially hard by the convergence of these two “storms” (locust plagues and the arrival of COVID-19) are Kenya and Ethiopia. They are also Africa’s leading flower-growers and, between them, they employ 500,000 workers. The flower industry adds $1 billion to the Kenyan economy each year and accounts for a quarter of Ethiopia’s export earnings. The pandemic compounded the effects of the locust plagues devastating both countries. Roses are a specialty in Kenya and plants deteriorate unless they are watered, fertilized, pruned, and otherwise looked after. Growers are squeezed between lost income and what it costs to preserve their future. “‘This is also the period with the most important days for the flower industry like Valentine’s Day, International Women’s Day, Mother’s Day,’ van Schie [of Royal FloraHolland Co.] said. ‘The crisis which we are now facing couldn’t have come at a worse moment than this’” (“East African Flower Industry Wilts as Sales to Europe Dry Up,” VOANews.com, April 17, 2020).

Imminent Oil Crisis?

Oil prices have always gone up and down. Many of us can still remember the gasoline price wars of the 1950s, when major chain stations lowered their prices below the profit level from time to time to drive the independent stations out of business. Consumers loved these “gas wars,” as they meant cheap gas, at least for a time.

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) was founded in 1960 by four Middle Eastern states and Venezuela. It has since grown to include many more countries, most of which are in the Middle East and Africa. Few people paid much attention to OPEC until October 1973, when the Arab members of OPEC imposed an embargo against nations supporting Israel against its Arab neighbors during the Yom Kippur War. Prices soared, gas was rationed, and lower speed limits were imposed across the United States. The days of cheap oil were over—at least for several decades. Even though the embargo ended in March 1974, prices rose from 25 cents a gallon in parts of the U.S. to $1.50 and more before the decade ended.

There was a time when the United States, the world’s largest user of gasoline, seemed likely to remain at the mercy of Middle Eastern oil producers. But then came fracking—a technique originally used for extracting natural gas from oil shale and later found to be cost-effective for extracting the oil as well. This prompted the development of oil shale deposits in North Dakota, Oklahoma, and numerous other states. Within a short few years, the United States became a net exporter of oil, and prices began to stabilize, even to fall. This also meant that there was another competitor in the market. Other oil-producing countries would love to see frackers go out of business.

Becoming energy independent should be good news, at least for the United States, if not for other oil-producing areas of the world. But then the coronavirus black swan replaced “black gold” as the industry’s concern. Planes stopped flying. People stopped driving. Major oil producers Saudi Arabia and Russia, seeing revenues evaporating, engaged in an oil war, driving down prices so low that for a short time on April 20, oil futures went negative—meaning you would be paid to take it off their hands!

Notice how Forbes describes the effect of negative oil futures: “One contract of oil futures buys 1000 barrels of oil, so what a negative price of $-40 means is that one could theoretically receive the rights to 1000 barrels of oil and at the same time receive a payment of $40,000. Converting this to gallons, one could receive approximately 42,000 gallons of crude oil and get paid $40,000 in addition to the oil! Think about that—for each gallon of crude oil you could get the crude oil and also get a dollar, [Before you get too excited, here is the caveat:] only if you could officially store it somewhere” (“Negative Price Of Oil Is Telling Us That Something Else Will Break Next,” Forbes.com, April 21, 2020).

In an April 23, 2020 newsletter, financial expert Dr. Martin Weiss put it this way: “Oil producers had to pay $40.32 per barrel just to get buyers to take it off their hands. Oil was instantly reduced to pure, toxic junk—stuff that even garbage collectors wouldn’t carry away without a huge tip.”

Will There Be True Repentance Before the Return of Christ?

The above are examples of what is occurring in every nation and in thousands of sectors within economies across the globe. This is a pivotal time in modern history. It will no doubt be some time, even years—long after this pandemic becomes history—before the full effect will be known.

In multiple ways, perfect storms and a black swan converged and descended upon the whole world in March 2020. But one question remains: If God is a loving God, why would He allow so much suffering? And despite the many theologians who are throwing up their hands and struggling for answers, there is a very clear explanation. Our world has entered a time of great rebellion against our Creator.

Humanity as a whole has never respected the One who made us—rather, the vast majority of mankind has collectively thumbed its nose in His face. Many deny His existence—and mock those who do believe in Him. And sadly, even many who profess to know Him do not actually know Him, for, as we are told by the Apostle John, “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 John 2:3–4). John goes on to tell us what sin is (3:4) and that God’s commandments are not burdensome (5:3).

Up to a point, God leaves us alone to “do our own thing,” allowing the natural consequences of our decisions to correct us (Jeremiah 2:19). But biblical history also shows that when a people sinks to a certain level of immorality and rebellion against God and His laws, He will step in. We have the example of the Noachian Flood: “Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5). We have the example of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19). And we know that God did not allow Abraham’s descendants to replace the pagan peoples of the Promised Land until generations later, “for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet complete” (Genesis 15:16). God’s patience should not be confused with His permission.

Considering such arrogance against our Creator, we should not be surprised when the next perfect storm and black swan combination arrives. He has given us a warning shot across our bow. This is not the end—things are going to get much worse before we learn our lesson. Be assured that unless we repent and change, greater calamities are in our future.

However, a time is coming when Jesus Christ, the One we crucified, will save us from our rebellious insanity and set up His Kingdom here on the earth (Daniel 2:44; Zechariah 14:9, 16–19). That is an amazing statement of fact, and many reading this article probably find it hard to believe. But it is the message Jesus brought. If you have not done so already, please order our free booklet Do You Believe the True Gospel? Amidst all the bad news, this is the good news, and the reason we pray, “Thy Kingdom come!”