What Will Be in 2003?
What will happen in 2003? No human being knows for sure. But we can observe and analyze the storm clouds that are on the horizon.
by Don Ward
Pollsters in recent surveys asked the American people: What are your greatest concerns for 2003? In most polls, the number one answer is war in the Middle East; and number two is the economy.
The heat of the rhetoric in the Middle East grows hotter and the buildup for war is increasing with each passing day. With the most recent report from the United Nations' weapons inspectors stating that Iraq is not cooperating and has not provided documentation of having destroyed known weapons of mass destruction, the drum beats of war are deafening. Even the most moderate member of the Bush administration, Secretary of State Colin Powell, stated that time was running out for the Iraqis. Fox News is reporting that U.S. special operations forces are already on the ground in Iraq.
How will war with Iraq affect your life? War in the Middle East will impact your wallet immediately. Oil prices are rising rapidly—the spot price now exceeds $33 a barrel. Energy costs are soaring as the United States struggles through an arctic winter that dumped snow over the northern tier of states with thermometers plummeting as far south as Miami, Florida.
The stock market is down for the third year in a row, consumer spending is slumping, unemployment is growing, manufacturing continues to slow, the trade deficit is spiraling out of sight. The prospects for a brighter economic future grow dimmer.
According to Stratfor Report, Japan, with the world's second largest economy, continues to wallow in a protracted economic bust. Japan's Nikkei index has lost 19 percent of its value over the last 12 months.
Germany, with the world's third largest economy, also continues to experience grave difficulties. Germany's unemployment rate stands at 10 percent. Some of the nation's largest banks are in trouble.
Recently, German business leaders expressed their concerns with the economic policies of Gerhard Schroeder's government. The chairman of Adidas called the government "conceptionless" and said that "nobody has a clue in this overall chaos," while the head of IKB Deutsche Industriebank said, "Not since the end of the war have conditions been as bad as today."
Worldwide quest for armaments to accelerate
Much of the economic vitality of the nations is continually siphoned off in their pursuit of armaments. The nations of the world are trying to beat as many plowshares into swords as possible before the bombs start falling. The prophet Joel prophesies of the time that we are now entering: "Proclaim this among the nations: Prepare for war! Wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near, let them come up. Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears; let the weak say, 'I am strong'" (Joel 3:9-10).
America's military is the country's biggest business. "In the Department of Defense's most recently published report, the 2001 defense budget was more than $360 billion, of which $60 billion was spent on procurement and almost $40 billion on research and development. The budget for national defense is expected to exceed $360 billion by 2006" (Mark Williams and Andrew P. Madden, "New Technologies May Revolutionize War," Red Herring Magazine, Aug. 1, 2001).
U.S. President George W. Bush has ordered the military to begin installing a national missile defense system. Ten ground-based interceptors will be installed in Fort Greeley, Alaska, by 2004 and 10 more by 2005 or 2006. The Danish and British governments have received requests from Washington to use radar sites in Greenland and England, but they have not yet sent replies. Many analysts believe that this move will set off another arms race similar to the one that consumed much of the resources of the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
North Korea, one of President Bush's "axis of evil" nations, has openly admitted that it has the bomb. The nation has pulled out of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and has expelled the UN observers who were monitoring its nuclear power reactor. The situation in Korea appears to be reaching crisis proportions.
North Korea appears to be coldly calculating the odds, wondering if America is able and willing to fight an active war on two fronts.
China, the world's most populous nation, is sounding a clear clarion call that she intends to displace the United States as the preeminent power on the face of the earth.
Bible prophecy reveals that a powerful alliance will be the great world power just before Christ returns. According to Daniel, a "beast" power will set up its headquarters in Jerusalem. "He shall also enter the Glorious Land... But news from the east and the north shall trouble him; therefore he shall go out with great fury to destroy and annihilate many. And he shall plant the tents of his palace between the seas and the glorious holy mountain; yet he shall come to his end, and no one will help him" (Daniel 11:41, 44-45).
Tidings out of the east and the north (directions are from the point of view of Jerusalem in the prophecy) trouble the "beast," indicating that the world is divided between East and West. Neither China nor nations from the Middle East will be in control of the Middle East at the end of this present evil age.
Disease epidemics to escalate
It is estimated that some 20 million people will die of AIDS on the continent of Africa in the next few years. American politicians, businessmen and entertainment figures have visited Africa and pledged financial support in fighting AIDS. Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, has pledged millions of dollars to fight AIDS there.
On Jan. 28, in his State of the Union address, President Bush proposed an emergency plan for AIDS relief to help in the fight against AIDS in Africa. The intent of this plan is to "prevent 7 million new AIDS infections, treat at least 2 million people with life-extending drugs and provide humane care for millions of people suffering from AIDS and for children orphaned by AIDS." Congress was asked to commit $15 billion over the next five years to fight AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean.
In an effort to try to understand the nature of disease epidemics, scientists have been looking at the environmental connection to meningitis, which ravages desert areas of North Africa. They believe that there is a connection to the "desertification" that's been happening in the past 40 years. The disease doesn't occur in the forested areas of central Africa, but is endemic in the dry region stretching from Senegal to Ethiopia.
Many of the more communicable diseases are becoming more and more resistant to the so-called miracle drugs. New and more virulent strains of various diseases are rearing their ugly heads.
Upset weather conditions, food disparity
Scientists have made great strides in being able to predict the weather. Yet they cannot control it. The ultimate goal of science is to predict and control. But the weather is like the human tongue, no man can tame it. Scientists talk about global warming and the El Niño effect, but they still don't really know what is causing either one.
In some areas there is drought and in other areas too much rain. The prophet Amos prophesied of such a time. "I also withheld rain from you, when there were still three months to the harvest. I made it rain on one city, I withheld rain from another city. One part was rained upon, and where it did not rain the part withered" (Amos 4:7).
Up to 24,000 people a day—three quarters of them children under the age of 5—die of hunger-related causes. More than 800 million people are chronically undernourished, 180 million children are severely underweight for their age and, says the UN, 2 billion people suffer from nutrient-deficiency diseases.
Yet the problem is not one of a scarcity of food. The United States exports 60 percent of the food it grows, but even in America, 26 million people are in need of food handouts.
Only 20 years ago, Ghana used to export rice; today its rice industry has collapsed under U.S. and Thai imports. Many Pakistani farmers have burned their harvests in desperation because they are losing money. About 20 percent of Africa's food now comes from rich countries, even though it could in many cases grow its own.
Water becomes more and more scarce
As the world seeks and fights for the oil fields of the globe, another liquid will become more precious than all the world's petroleum reserves. That liquid is water.
A World Bank forecast for South Korea, a relatively well-watered country, calculates that if its economy grows 5 percent a year, industry's demand for water will cut in half the amount available for farming within 23 years.
In China, the water needed to produce one ton of wheat worth $200 can be used to expand industrial output by $14,000. Farming, it is thought, will always lose out to industry.
The paradox is that as nations continue to increase industrial production, there is an exponential increase of water usage. The result is less and less water for growing food. As the food supply of a country decreases, the more it depends on other countries.
Moral decline continues to accelerate
Various authors have written volumes concerning America's obsession with materialism and pleasure seeking. Supreme Court nominee Robert Bork gained notoriety with his book Slouching Towards Gomorrah, in which he graphically describes the disturbing trends of America's increasing obsession with sensual pleasure.
The United States is now in what I call "the post-immoral state" and has lapsed into a state of amorality. Amorality means no standards of morality are universally accepted. As Victor Davis Hanson writes in The National Review Online, "There is a postmodern amorality afloat—the dividend of years of an American educational system in which historical ignorance, cultural relativism, and well-intentioned theory, in place of cold facts, has reigned" ("Postmodern Palestine," March 29, 2002).
When a nation falls into the cesspool of amorality, the only universally accepted standard is that all lifestyles are to be equally accepted. Thus the greatest evil becomes intolerance of another person's lifestyle. Then intolerance is suddenly defined as hate, and then laws are passed to prosecute those who would condemn another person's lifestyle.
So one of the most disturbing trends in American life is the secularization of American society, to the point that all standards of behavior are to be equally tolerated. This has far-reaching implications for the people of America. America, a nation in which 90 percent of the people profess that they believe in God. America, a nation in which the inscription on the currency reads, "In God We Trust." America, a nation that repeats the pledge of allegiance to the flag with the affirmation, "One nation under God." America, a nation in which jurors and witnesses are sworn in with the words, "so help me God."
So the question of the day is, do Americans really believe in the God of the Bible? Based on the popular culture of the day, one would have to conclude that their belief is betrayed by their hedonistic lifestyles. Many Americans are now driven to try to squeeze out every ounce of pleasure they can while at the same time wallowing in the pits of hopelessness and despair, having lost sight of personal and national integrity.
A warning to all
In view of all of this, Christ admonishes everyone who will listen to "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. 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 21:34-36).
©2002 United Church of God, an International Association