When will Christ return?
Good question, not to be shrugged off too quickly with the incorrect reply that we can’t know this and thus should not even try to examine the matter.
The issue of the Last Days is a recurring theme in the Bible. The entire New Testament has been written in the expectation of Christ’s speedy return. In Acts 2, when the church had its modern beginning, we read that people sold all their possessions and shared what they had, in anticipation of Jesus’ Second Coming. Since then there have been a lot of false alarms.
Of course all Bible readers know that the day and the hour is unknown. That restriction means very little. I compare it to the birth of a child. There we know the approximate date, but not the ‘day or the hour.’ We know that after a 9 months period more or less, new life will come, but even when labour pains start the actual time of birth cannot be accurately predicted. In the same vein we cannot say that on July 10 2012 at 8.22 p.m. we will see Christ’s glorious re-entry. The Bible is quite emphatic on this point: the Lord repeats it twice in Matthew 24 that not even the angels nor the Son of Man know the exact date and time. That makes eminent sense to me.
Yet the Lord tells us to keep watch, because there will be definite indications. Jesus points to the fig tree and how it, at a certain time, will change in appearance, signaling summer. That it will be accompanied by disasters is certain: not only Matthew 24 signals that but much of Revelation is a testimony to this.
So then, are signs of the ‘fig tree’ apparent today?
There are two major indications of coming catastrophes.
One is Climate Change, the topic of a study commissioned by the Pentagon, the Head Quarters of the world’s largest corporation, with millions of employees and a budget of half a trillion dollars and under the direct command of the President of the United States.
The report was written by two consultants on energy, one of them the former head of planning for Royal Dutch/Shell. That company has the best ‘future-gazing’ department of any major corporation. Some 30 years ago it accurately predicted the 1973 oil crisis and was prepared to deal with it, greatly profiting in the process. Equally the Pentagon has a direct interest in the future. Although the common saying is that generals always prepare for the last war, the American Army is so formidable because it uses the most up-to-date technology and strives to belie that notion, not always successfully, of course. Yet its venture into the Middle East is a forward looking exercise, securing oil for future use, and so safeguarding the American way of Life.
This 22 page report starts with this summary:
“There is substantial evidence to indicate that significant global warming will occur during the 21st century. Because changes have been gradual so far, and are projected to be similarly gradual in the future, the effects of global warming have the potential to be manageable for most nations. Recent research, however, suggests that there is a possibility that this gradual global warming could lead to a relatively abrupt slowing of the ocean’s thermohaline conveyor, which could lead to harsher winter weather
conditions, sharply reduced soil moisture, and more intense winds in certain regions that currently provide a significant fraction of the world’s food production. With inadequate preparation, the result could be a significant drop in the human carrying capacity of the Earth’s environment. The research suggests that once temperature rises above some threshold, adverse weather conditions could develop relatively abruptly, with persistent changes in the atmospheric circulation causing drops in some regions of 5-10 degrees Fahrenheit in a single decade. Paleoclimatic evidence suggests that altered climatic patterns could last for as much as a century, as they did when the ocean conveyor collapsed 8,200 years ago, or, at the extreme, could last as long as 1,000 years as they did during the Younger Dryas, which began about 12,700 years ago.”
Later on the report suggests that climate change would cause:
1) Food shortages due to decreases in net global agricultural production;
2) Decreased availability and quality of fresh water in key regions due to shifted precipitation patters, causing more frequent floods and droughts
3) Disrupted access to energy supplies due to extensive sea ice and storminess.
“Weather-related events have an enormous impact on society, as they influence food supply, conditions in cities and communities, as well as access to clean water and energy. For example, a recent report by the Climate Action Network of Australia projects that climate change is likely to reduce rainfall in the range lands, which could lead to a 15 per cent drop in grass productivity. This, in turn, could lead to reductions in the average weight of cattle by 12 per cent, significantly reducing beef supply.”
The report gives an example of what could happen in the near
“ In 2007, a particularly severe storm causes the ocean to break through levees in the Netherlands making a few key coastal cities such as The Hague unlivable. …
“ The Mega-droughts begin in key regions in Southern
China and Northern Europe around 2010 and last throughout the full decade….. By the end of the decade, Europe’s climate is more like Siberia’s.”
“United States. Colder, windier, and drier weather makes growing seasons shorter and less productive throughout the northeastern United States, and longer and drier in the southwest. Desert areas face increasing windstorms, while agricultural areas suffer from soil loss due to higher wind speeds and reduced soil moisture. The change toward a drier climate is especially pronounced in the southern states.
“China. China, with its high need for food supply given its vast population, is hit hard by a decreased reliability of the monsoon rains. Occasional monsoons during the summer season are welcomed for their precipitation, but have devastating effects as they flood generally denuded land. Longer, colder winters and hotter summers caused by decreased evaporative cooling because of reduced precipitation stress already tight energy and water supplies. Widespread famine causes chaos and internal struggles as a cold and hungry China peers jealously across the Russian and western borders at energy resources.
“Humans fight when they outstrip the carrying capacity of their natural environment. Every time there is a choice between starving and raiding, humans raid. From hunter/gatherers through agricultural tribes, chiefdoms, and early complex societies, 25% of a population’s adult males die when war breaks out….
As famine, disease, and weather-related disasters strike due to the abrupt climate change, many countries’ needs will exceed their carrying capacity. This will create a sense of desperation, which is likely to lead to offensive aggression in order to reclaim balance. Imagine eastern European countries, struggling to feed their populations with a falling supply of food, water, and energy, eyeing Russia, whose population is already in decline, for access to its grain, minerals, and energy supply.
In short, while the US itself will be relatively better off and with more adaptive capacity, it will find itself in a world where Europe will be struggling internally…and Asia in serious crisis over food and water. Disruption and conflict will be endemic features of life.”
So far quotes from this report. The gist of this report is that due to the decreased carrying capacity of the planet “death from war as well as starvation and disease” will over time lead to rebalancing our population, meaning, of course, far fewer people.
The Climate Change danger can be the result of two factors: human-induced, due to the burning of fossil fuels, and a natural occurrence as ice-core analysis indicates that spontaneous climate change has happened in the past. The Ice-age, some 10,000 years ago, comes to mind. Yet, the increase of carbon-dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere is something new under the sun. In an interview with the Guardian – a British newspaper – in late June 2004 Lord Ron Oxburgh, chairman of Shell, one of the world’s biggest oil companies, has admitted that the threat of climate change makes him “really very worried for the planet.” He is quoted , ”Unless we can sequester CO2 emission I see very little hope for the world.”
Sequestering CO2 is a gigantic job: for every freight car of coal – the biggest source of CO2 and the main fuel for electricity in the world, including the USA – three cars of captured CO2 would need to be removed and transported to a safe place underground. According to a Toronto professor, Thomas Homer-Dixon, the future looks bleak, when what “ we have experienced , (are) so far only the earliest stages, just the leading edge, of the planet’s environmental crisis. Far, far greater environmental challenges are still to come.”
Climate Change is one real danger we are facing.
We have to deal with another threat as well: “The End of Oil,” the title of a book by Paul Roberts. This 389 pager -50 pages of footnotes, resources and index – has as sub title: “On the Edge of a Perilous New World.”
Having to deal with less or little oil will demand the overhaul of the entire global economy, currently based on the very fossil fuels whose combustion we no longer can afford, witness climate change.
Here is our problem. During the past century, our population has quadrupled, but our energy use has increased 20 times, on an average. In countries like the United States, Germany and the Netherlands, the production of goods and services today requires, for each person, over 80 metric tons of natural resources annually. Much of these earth-shaking events remains behind the scenes. We, consumers, don’t notice that producing food causes about 15 metric tons of soil erosion for each North American resident each year. Building roads and other infrastructure needs the moving of a further 14 tons of rocks and soil for each person on this continent. If present trends continue, by 2050 the total quantity of energy, resources and waste moving through the world’s economy each year will have nearly tripled, and Planet Earth, the only one we have, will have to withstand nearly three times today’s dangerous annual impact.
We already have a serious problem. According the Harriet Friedman, another University of Toronto professor specializing in analysis of food systems, “more than half the world’s agricultural land suffers moderate to extreme soil degradation. Climate change will certainly make yields unpredictable in the future, if not already.”
Our efforts to change the make-up of the earth is connected to “Primary Productivity,” a concept indicating the total amount of plant mass created by Earth in a given year, the sum of earth’s plant energy that makes our lives possible. It is in essence “the total budget of life.” All humans and all animals eat either plants or eat animals that eat plants and solar-powered photosynthesis is the only way to make this fuel. It is this very activity that is now in danger. When Adam and Eve lived in the garden of Eden, Primary Productivity was at its peak: 100 percent.
After the Garden of Eden, the number of people rose quickly, starting agriculture and making cities possible of which Cain was the prime mover. As a result Primary Productivity started to decrease.
In our age of rapid population growth this phenomenon has accelerated with earth-breaking speed. Consider the following, as quoted from “The Ingenuity Gap” by Dr Thomas Homer-Dixon.
“We are moving so much rock and dirt, blocking and diverting so many rivers, converting so many forests to cropland, releasing such huge quantities of heavy metals and organic chemicals into air and water, and generating so much energy, carbon dioxide, methane and nitrogen compounds that we are perturbing the deepest dynamics of our global ecosystems. Between one-third and one-half of the planet’s land area has been fundamentally transformed by our actions: row-crop agriculture, cities, and industrial areas occupy 10 to 15 percent of Earth’s land surface; 6 to 8 percent has been converted to pasture; and an area the size of France is now submerged under artificial reservoirs. We have driven to extinction a quarter of all bird species. We have used more than half of all accessible fresh water. In regions of major human activity, large rivers carry three times as much sediment as they did in pre-human times, while small rivers carry as much as eight times the sediment. Along the world’s tropical and subtropical coastlines, our activities – especially the construction of cities, industries and aquaculture pens – have changed or destroyed 50 percent of mangrove ecosystems, which are vital to the health of coastal fisheries. And about two-thirds of the world’s marine fisheries are either overexploited, depleted, or at their limit of exploitation.”
There have been two efforts to figure out how Primary Productivity is spent, one by a group at Stanford University, the other by biologist Stuart L. Pimm, professor of biology at Duke University in Durham N.C. They both have concluded that we humans consume about 40 percent of Earth Primary Productivity, 40 percent of all there is. That percentage may explain why the current extinction rate is 1,000 times that which existed before human domination of the planet: we, the 6 billion plus, have simply stolen the food, the rich, a lot more than others.
It’s the Oil we use that now makes up the difference. Oil is Primary Productivity stored as hydrocarbons, a trust fund of sorts, built up over many thousands of years. However of that trust fund we not only have used the interest but the capital as well, to the point where we now must envision, “The End of Oil,” with drastic consequences for the human race. We now have come to a point where we no longer eat food but oil.
Consider the following. In 1960 expansion of the supply of unfarmed, arable lands came to an end. In spite of that, grain yields tripled. Ever since we ran out of land, food is oil. Every single calorie we eat is backed by about ten calories of oil. That figure does not include the fuel used in transporting the food from the factory to the store, nor the fuel used by us driving to the store. Writes Dr Harriet Friedman, “One kilogram of asparagus sent from Chile to New York takes 73 kg of fuel energy and contributes 4.7 kg of carbon dioxide to global warming…The foodmiles average of the supermarket items was more than 5,000 times greater than the same items in the farmer’s market.” Compare this to 1940 when the average farm produced 2.3 calories of food energy for every calorie of fossil energy it used.
Basically this means that the End of Oil means also The End of Food. Not only poses Climate Change almost insurmountable problems, when combined with “The End of Oil,” potential catastrophes are so big that they remind me of the seven angels in Revelation 8.
In Climate Change far into the future? No. We already have forest fires – when I am writing this the entire low Arctic seems ablaze – and are subject to air pollution killing thousands, as well as drought. Once Oil becomes scarce total blackouts, food shortages, insect infestation and pandemics are sure to follow.
This may sound an overstatement, but, the ‘End of Oil’ will mean that civilization as we know comes to an end. This is not the wacky forecast of a religious nut, but the conclusion of people in responsible positions.
Matthew Simmons, is one of them. A George W. Bush’s Energy Adviser, he has written: “The situation ( of peak oil ) is desperate. It is past time. As I have said, the experts and politicians have no Plan B to fall back on. If energy peaks, particularly while 5 of the world’s 6.5 billion people have little or no use of modern energy, it will be a tremendous jolt to our economic well-being and to our health – greater than anyone could ever imagine.”
When asked if there is a solution, Simmons responded:
“I don’t think there is one. The solution is to pray. Under the best of circumstances, if all prayers are answered there will be no crisis for maybe two years. After that it’s a certainty.”
At a recent conference on Peak Oil, Simmons predicted oil will be priced at $182 per barrel in the near future – over four times its current price.
His investment firm, Simmons and Co., has been ranked by the prestigious Greenwich Survey as the most trusted and knowledgeable energy investment firm in the world. When a man like Simmons makes a prediction of $182 barrel oil, we had all better pay attention.
Simmons isn’t the only one sounding the alarm. According to the (USA) Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham:
“America faces a major energy supply crisis over the next two decades. The failure to meet this challenge will threaten our nation’s economic prosperity, compromise our national security, and literally alter the way we lead our lives.”
The statements of Vice President Dick Cheney have been equally alarming. In late 1999, Cheney stated:
“By some estimates, there will be an average of two percent annual growth in global oil demand over the years ahead, along with, conservatively, a three-percent natural decline in production from existing reserves.”
Cheney ended on a disturbing note, “That means by 2010 we will need on the order of an additional 50 million barrels a day.”
This is equivalent to six times the amount of oil produced per day by Saudi Arabia, the world’s leading oil producer.
A report commissioned by Cheney and released in 2001 was no less alarming:
“The most significant difference between now and a decade ago is the extraordinarily rapid erosion of spare capacities at critical segments of energy chains. Today, shortfalls appear to be endemic. Among the most extraordinary of these losses of spare capacity is in the oil arena.”
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Matthew Simmons, by the way, was a member of Cheney’s Energy Committee, whose report was never published. No wonder. I’m sure he mentioned the Oil Peak. Publication of this report – for which members of Congress went to court, but failed – would cause havoc in the world, a world not at all ready with alternative energy sources.
I have 10 solar panels, and while I am writing this, my computer runs on solar power. But I am an exception, and, even though my panels supply only part of the needed energy, my ‘grid’ electricity bill was only $9.00 in June. Some months I have even earned a credit.
Back to the “Peak, which tends to suggest a nice, neat curve. But in the real world, the landing will not be soft. As we hit the peak, soaring prices -$70, $80, even $200 a barrel – will encourage oil companies and oil states to scour the planet for oil. For a time, they will succeed, finding enough crude to keep production flat, thus stretching out the peak into a kind of plateau and perhaps temporarily easing fears. But in reality, this manic, post-peak production will deplete remaining reserves all the more quickly, thus ensuring that the eventual decline is far steeper and more sudden. As one US government geologist put it: “the edge of a plateau looks like a cliff.”
As production falls off this cliff, prices won’t simply increase; they will soar. If our oil dependence hasn’t lessened drastically by then, the global economy is likely to run into a recession so severe that the Great Depression of the 1930’s will look like child’s work. Political reaction will be desperate. Competition for remaining oil supplies would intensify, potentially leading to a new kind of political conflict: energy wars, of which the Iraqi wars were only a prelude.
The harsh truth is that for the foreseeable future there are no true alternatives to oil. The sun shines only a certain numbers of hours in a year and we can’t command the wind to blow when power is needed. I know. I have both power sources and still need the ‘grid.’
When wood ran out, some 400 years ago, coal came on line. When coal proved to be too polluting, oil and natural gas were available. Now, what do we do? Rely mainly on Natural gas of which the world still has plenty, but all in very remote locations, such as Siberia or Australia? It will take trillions of dollars to feed the North American market with adequate supply, assuming there is plenty of it left.
Once we pass the oil production peak, a return to a medieval style of existence looks a frightening possibility. It will mean a greatly reduced human population. Thanks to oil, in my lifetime, the world’s population tripled from 2 billion to 6.3 billion. As late as 1945 my maternal grandfather had no electricity on his small farm. He managed with one horse and one help. Then people were mentally and physically equipped in coping with little. These skills we have lost. Also much of the earth has been spoiled, unfit for intensive, organic, agriculture. The End of Oil may mean a reduction in the world’s population to perhaps 1 billion. Imagine the hardship.
Now we have a multi-trillion dollar infrastructure powered almost exclusively by fossil-fuels. Cars, trucks, roads, boats, docks, airplanes, airports, hospitals, schools, farms manufacturing plants, food processing centers, water treatment plants – all run on fossil fuels. Heat at the touch of a switch. Cooling just as easy. All plastics, pesticides, and fertilizers are derived from that source as well.
The End of Oil means the End of growth, on which our economy depends. What we have in abundance is debt: corporate debt, government debt, and consumer debt, all at record levels. In order to finance debt, we need economic growth. Economic growth requires a constantly increasing consumption of consumer goods – most of which are made from plastic, which comes from petroleum (oil) and are delivered by trucks, which consume diesel fuel (oil). Even a truly successful conservation program would require us to drastically cut our consumption of consumer goods, which would also stop economic growth. Conservation would cause indebted corporations, governments, and individuals to slide towards bankruptcy. No wonder the USA is against the Kyoto Agreement. Banks would call in outstanding debts, businesses would close, government services would cease, and people would lose their jobs. During the Dirty Thirties many people had relatives in the country, where food, at least, was plentiful. That option is gone. Even farmers don’t grow their own food anymore.
I don’t have to be a prophet to conclude that without an abundant supply of cheap energy, transportation systems will break down. Electrical grids will collapse. Unemployment levels will skyrocket. Consumer goods will only be available to the super-rich. Food and water will become desperately sought after commodities. Riots and urban uprisings will become common.
There is no doubt that we have followed the path of least resistance, assuming that current conditions will last forever.
The words in the Pentagon Report comes to mind: “Every time when there is a choice between starving and raiding, humans will choose to raid.” Applied to the USA as a whole, it points to a World War for Oil, with the Middle East as the centre. Expect the US Army to expand, and perhaps re-institute the draft, in order to be able to conquer Saudi Arabia, the world’s treasure chest. War leads to more destruction, and a further rapid decline in Primary Productivity. War are always wasteful. The U.S. army requires 400,000 barrels of oil a day to maintain its troops in Iraq.
All this points to the last days. And these days are not far off.
What will speed up is the Primary Productivity percentage, with China and India leading the way. Cambodia, Mongolia, Indonesia, all are being stripped of trees to feed the building booms there, including Brazil to supply China with soya beans.
Primary Productivity now stands between 40 and 50, meaning that almost half of the world’s basic energy, vested in plants, trees, animals, has been used for the benefit of the human race, but in such a way that once it is used, it cannot be restored. Depleted oceans, soil degradation, disappeared species, cannot be re-created by human technology.
Revelation 11 : 2 says that “they will trample on the holy city for 42 months.” Revelation 13: 5 repeats that: “The beast was given a mouth to utter proud words and blasphemies and to exercise authority for 42 months.”
Satan, God’s great Adversary, is the beast whose aim has been from the beginning – starting in Eden – to destroy God’s beloved cosmos. ( John 3 :16 )
There is significance in the number of 42 months, which is 3.5 years, exactly half of that perfect number ‘7’. Matthew 24: 21-22 says that “ For there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now – and never to be equaled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect, those days will be shortened.”
Allow me a brief detour by means of a riddle, illustrating the nature of exponential growth. A lily pond contains a single leaf. Each day the number of leaves doubles – two leaves the second day, four the third, eight the four, and so on. “If the pond is full on the thirtieth day,” the question goes, “at what point is it half full?” Answer: “On the twenty-ninth day.”
Back to two things: the 3.5 year period and Primary Productivity.
It is my contention that we are quite close to the 3.5 year mark, judging by the number of Primary Productivity, which now stands somewhere between 40 and 45 percent. Due to the scramble for more oil to keep our economic system lubricated, and also the increasing pace of Global Warming, environmental destruction will greatly speed up, rapidly approaching the 50 percent mark, which is the half- way to total chaos, just as 3.5 years is halfway to 7, the number of fulness.
I believe that the Lord will not return on Day 30, but Day 29, when, seemingly, the glass is still half full.
Then the trumpet will sound and, all will be changed, in a flash, in the twinkling of the eye.
The words of Peter come to mind: “ Since everything here today might well be gone tomorrow, do you see how essential it is to live a holy life? Daily expect the Day of God, eager for its arrival. The galaxies will burn up and the elements melt down that day – but we’ll hardly notice. We’ll be looking the other way, ready for the promised new heavens and the promised new earth, all landscaped with righteousness.” ( The Message, 2 Peter 3.)
What constitutes a Holy Life? We all must answer that question. That is has something to do with “LIFE”. our daily doings, our activities in God’s creation, is beyond question. This makes me think of Matthew 5:48: “Be perfect.” The Greek word there is ‘teleioos,’ which is best translated as ‘holistic,’derived from ‘telos’, which suggests that we have to live, keeping the End – telos- in mind, our final destination, the New Earth.