John Bradshaw - Surviving the Election
We wanna thank you for joining us. I am your host, Joseph Ikner. Welcome to "Answers in Prophecy," brought to you by It Is Written. Wherever you are, whether you are watching this broadcast sitting in your living room, or you're in your kitchen, or you're walking, or you're out right now, we're so glad that you have joined us. We're gonna be talking about an interesting subject today: "Surviving the Election". Again, we're so glad that you have joined us for this important subject.
— Today we're gonna be talking about a very interesting subject, entitled "Surviving the Election". And I'm so glad that our speaker, John Bradshaw, is with us. John, how are you?
— I'm well. Great to have you here, Joseph. Thank you very much.
— So glad to be here.
— Hey, what about this, surviving the election? It's not far away.
— I know, I know, we're less than 30 days. And I just have to say, John, it has been a year. 2020 has not been what I expected it to be at all. What about you?
— Well, it started in January on the other side of the world with catastrophic fires in Australia. The world looked on and said this is terrible. And it was, it was disastrous. And you'd like to think things are just gonna get a whole lot better, but this year, we've been challenged left and right.
— Yeah, yeah, yeah. And also in January, I remember the death of Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna.
— Yeah, that was a shock. Somebody that a lot of people grew up with, a lot of people admired, a lot of people looked up to, and gone too young. People say, how and why should a life end so short?
— And then we jump forward to March, COVID-19. I remember in March looking forward and saying, "Oh, this will be over in a few weeks".
— "This'll be over before long. Life will be back to normal soon". So, can you look into the crystal ball and tell us when life is gonna be back to normal?
— Um, not quite, 'cause, you know, me too, I kind of thought, you know, this would just be a few weeks, but this thing has turned into now about six months. I remember being in my church at the end of February and being in a full church. And by the time we had gotten to the middle of March, we were sitting in an empty church. And now we're doing virtual services and trying to have services outdoors. It's been amazing.
— Yeah, hasn't it been something? So many people have died.
— It's brought pain to a lot of families.
— The economy has been really challenged. Businesses are still struggling to try to figure out how they can survive.
— Education, I mean everything, every part of life has been affected by this.
— Yes, yes. We'd never have believed that our children will be going to school in a virtual age and hybrid programs, and be afraid for our children to go to school. We'd never have thought that we would have to wear a mask, and stand six feet apart...
— That's right.
— ...and spend all this time washing our hands. It's a whole different era, and it just happened overnight.
— Yeah, things can change quickly. That's what 2020 has taught us. Then we have had... I shouldn't say had... continuing to have real race challenges.
— Oh, yes.
— Significant problems. And what's interesting, we go back through history and we say, "Well, we sort of got past that. We made improvements".
— Yeah, yeah.
— "We figured that out". It looks like we haven't, and we're gonna have to.
— It's been challenging with the death of George Floyd...
— ...and the riots there in Minneapolis. And then the shooting of Jacob Taylor and the riots in Kenosha, Wisconsin. There is so much tension where we thought we had made progress. It has us questioning.
— Yeah, it sure does. We're wrestling with this, trying to forge ahead and get certain things behind us, but maybe there's still a little work to do. And now, out west there have been fires, and in the South, hurricanes have brought flooding. This has been a year.
— So much devastation, hurricanes, tornadoes, tropical storm. We don't know what's next. And you know, John, it just, you know, when I'm talking with individuals and the word on the street, it just all seems like it's doom and gloom.
— Yeah, yeah. And now we look forward to the election.
— No matter the result, half the country is gonna be really upset;
— Half the country is gonna be really happy.
— And you know what it's like looking forward to an election. People say, "Oh, if this so-and-so gets elected, then it's the worst thing in the world".
— This time around, though, there's real tension.
— Yeah. Yeah, and even if you're trying to figure out how to vote, absentee vote, can I go to the polls? Can I be safe? What is gonna happen?
— We really don't know.
— So this subject is an important one: "Surviving the Election".
— Surviving the elections, so what is that all about?
— Yeah, well, we're gonna find out, we're gonna find out. You're trying to draw me out right now.
— Absolutely! Come on, you've gotta give us a little hint.
— No, no, no.
— Not a little teaser?
— No, we're getting ready to go right now.
— Oh, okay.
— Hey, thanks so much. I really appreciate you.
— And I appreciate you joining us. This is gonna be a tremendous series, "Answers In Prophecy". Let's pray before we begin and expect that God will speak to us clearly. Come on, let's pray.
Our Father in heaven, in the name of Jesus, we come to You, confident, grateful, asking for Your leading and Your guidance, praying that Your Word would be alive for us. Speak to us, we ask You, and bless us, increase our knowledge, our understanding, and our confidence in heaven. We pray in Jesus' name. Amen.
Welcome to "Answers In Prophecy". I am John Bradshaw from It Is Written. We've been sharing answers from the Bible and the prophecies of the Bible here at It Is Written for more than 60 years. And it seems that today, we really need answers. The world is in unprecedented territory right now. Several things have come together right at around the same time. A pandemic has impacted the entire planet. A million or so deaths have been credited to the coronavirus disease around the world. And there have been more than 30 million cases. In the United States, 6 1/2 million reported cases of COVID-19, 200,000-plus deaths blamed on the illness.
The country with the second-highest number of cases: India. Brazil has the third-highest number of cases, but the second-highest number of deaths. The numbers are worrying. The official word is that COVID-19 symptoms may appear two to 14 days after exposure to the virus. And those symptoms may include fever or chills, coughing, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat...there's a lot, isn't there?... congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting, and diarrhea. How do you get your arms around all of that? Well, countries have grappled with this in a number of ways. There have been lockdowns. There have been shutdowns. Economies are struggling, as governments have spent billions of dollars attempting to preserve livelihoods and keep businesses open and prevent them from floundering completely.
There have been predictions that the economies of some countries, especially those that rely heavily on tourism, would absolutely collapse. Some countries are now experiencing, officially, a recession. Now, of course, if you're watching this sometime in the future, you could be thinking a number of different things right now. You could be thinking, if only they knew then just how good things were gonna work out. Or you could be thinking, if only they knew just how bad it was going to get. And that's the thing. Looking into the future, we don't know exactly what to expect, but we hope for the best. But uncertainty is present, and it's real.
Now, speaking of uncertainty, in the West of the United States in the last few weeks, there have been devastating fires. Homes have been destroyed. Wildfire has been... wildlife, rather, has been wiped out. And worst of all, lives have been lost. I've spoken to people who've lost everything, and to people who have lived with the uncertainty of not knowing which way the fires were going to go, or if they themselves were going to be in the path of destruction. There's been a lot of anxiety in this country over racial tensions, in fact, around the world.
Again, lives have been lost, and people have looked ahead wondering if things will get better or worse, hoping for the best, but recognizing that years of hoping haven't resolved our issues. Looking ahead is not an easy thing to do. You can only look from your own vantage point, and it's not always easy or even possible to see what lies ahead. You can only hope for the best. Although in some cases, people don't have a lot of hope. Which brings us to the upcoming presidential election in the United States, November the 3rd, a Tuesday. Again, with the benefit of hindsight, you might be able to look back at all of this with a wry smile. But from here, we just don't know what the election result will be, or what the reaction to the election result will be like. The polls say what they say, but history proves polls certainly don't always get it right.
One of the most famous photos in American history is a photograph of President Harry S. Truman holding up a copy of "The Chicago Tribune," and on the front cover the headline shouts out, "Dewey Defeats Truman". Democrat Harry Truman was the incumbent. It was widely expected that he would be defeated in the election by the governor of New York, Thomas Dewey, a Republican. It was 1948. Truman had assumed the presidency after the death of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who died of a brain hemorrhage at the age of 63. Truman saw the country through the end of the Second World War. He holds the distinction of being the only U.S. president, or the only military leader, or, sorry, political leader in the world to have authorized the use of nuclear weapons in war. But by 1948, Truman's popularity was low, or so it seemed.
In the end, Truman won the presidency. But "The Chicago Tribune" was printed before the results of the election were known. So they printed what they were sure would be right, that Truman lost. Not history's greatest prediction, because Truman won, and he won convincingly. The polls don't always get it right. So, what's gonna happen this year? No doubt there are people who say they're gonna move from the United States to Canada if the election goes a certain way. One man told a friend of mine he's moving to Central America, because he says he sees the writing on the wall, and the way he feels this election is gonna go leaves him with no hope for the future.
Some people really do have a deep concern about how the election might play out. And these concerns can affect families and employment and relationships. Most people know that it's a risky business to discuss politics in certain environments. How much does an election affect the course of a country? Well, you could say, "Not very much at all," or you could say, "Immensely". And you could probably defend your thesis whichever way you lean. But you might wonder sometimes, what if Richard Nixon had defeated John F. Kennedy in 1960? Or what if Bill Clinton had lost to George Bush Sr. in 1992? You know, early in the Democratic primaries, it didn't even look as if President Clinton would win the Democratic Party's nomination. How would history have changed if an election result was different? How will history change after November the 3rd of this year?
Of course, it's hard to know. Taxes might go up or down, trade policies will certainly be affected, one way or another. International relations will almost certainly be handled differently, depending on which presidential candidate is successful. Perhaps the economy might go one way or it might go the other, it might strengthen, or it could go down the drain. It might be that you are not very hopeful as you look forward. What will the mood in society be? But right now, we're gonna look at how you can survive the election, whatever the result. Anticipating the future is a challenge. And with an election, you're gonna have, basically, 50% of the population wanting one outcome and 50% of the population wanting the other. And owing to human nature and the nature of the political process now, elections pretty much are "Vote for me and all your problems will go away, but if I lose, it's gonna be a disaster for the country".
That's sort of the way people present it these days. The way politicians present it and the way the media presents it, the wrong election result could bring about just about the end of the world. But what if there was something that could get you through a challenging time? Who knows what's coming? What if there's a stock market crash, a recession? What if there was another pandemic? What if a major war broke out? Would all hope be gone? You know, in 1998, a journalist named Tom Brokaw... many people remember Tom Brokaw... wrote a book called "The Greatest Generation". Brokaw coined the term to describe that generation who lived during the Great Depression, many of whom went on to serve their country during World War II. That generation is sometimes referred to as the G.I. Generation. But Brokaw's terminologies really caught on.
I often hear people now referring to "the Greatest Generation". In that book he told stories of men and women who served, of men and women who didn't always make it through okay, of many men who lost limbs, of people who lost family, of people who came back broken. What was that era like? Well, during the Great Depression, unemployment had risen to 25%. During that time, more than 5,000 banks failed. The Dust Bowl displaced hundreds of thousands of people. There was drought for as long as eight years in some parts of North America, 100 million acres of land were affected, and the equivalent of $460 million a day was being lost. The mood of the Great Depression was summed up in the famous photo taken by Dorothea Lange. It was a photo of a woman named Florence Owens Thompson.
At the time, she was a 32-year-old mother of seven who had moved from Oklahoma and was then picking peas in Nipomo, California, about eight miles out of Arroyo Grande. Times were tough. Then, a world war, times were tougher. Brokaw wrote about a group of people who not only got through that time, but returned home sometimes severely affected by what they'd experienced, and rebuilt their lives. They started families; they built businesses, essentially, rebuilt a nation. You see, somehow, they got through. They hoped for a better future. So what gets a person through a challenging time? Let me share something with you. We're gonna open the Bible and look at words spoken by Jesus.
If you're familiar with the Bible, you know these words, and quite likely, you know them very well. If you're not familiar with the Bible, listen to these words and let them sink in. We'll start in the book of John, the Gospel of John, in chapter 14. This is Jesus speaking. He says, "Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you". Jesus said, "I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself; that where I am, there you may be also". That's John 14, verses 1-3.
Now, what if that was true? What if there was an eternal future to look forward to? If there isn't, then this life is all you have, and you're gonna live and die on election results, and on the economy, because there's nothing more to life than what we experience in the everyday, disappointed at the results half the time, up and down as the economy waxes and wanes. But what we just read suggests a number of very powerful things to us. One, if we take this passage at face value, then Jesus exists. He said that He came to the world "that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly". You read that in John 10 and verse 10.
So, if those three verses, John 14:1-3, those verses we looked at, are instructive at all, then we learn that Jesus came into the world for the very purpose of giving to you and me a more abundant life, and an eternal life. That is a powerful thought. What Jesus said suggests to us that yes, there is a God, that yes, there is a real heaven. Not only that, but God wants you to be in heaven with Him one day. And a very important part of this passage is that Jesus has said that He is going to return to this earth. Now, let's think about that. First, let's remember that things aren't all bad in this world. In spite of the serious challenges we face, there is a lot in this world that you have to like or even love. There's natural beauty. There are people who love and care for others. You have wonderful experiences of all kinds. There's the blessing of family and close friends.
Now, having said that, it's a tough place, this world. More than 40 million Americans over the age of 18 battle depression. That's true in all of the Western world. The numbers in Canada, also very high, in Europe, very high, South Pacific, very high. That's a big number. More than 1 in 10 Americans has diabetes. One in three adults in the United States has prediabetes; that's 80 million people. And the same statistics hold true across the developed or the Western world. We deal with race issues, and injustice, and financial challenges, and so much else. It can be tough. But Jesus says, "I'm coming back to this world, and there is something better ahead". That's like the knowledge that buoyed or encouraged the children of Israel when they were in slavery in Egypt. The promise was they were gonna get out of there, and they lived hanging on to that promise.
Could that promise that Jesus gives us, could it provide hope for a better future? Hope is a very powerful thing, let me tell you. When an earthquake struck Haiti some years ago and killed 200,000 people, a 39-year-old mother believed that her 16-year-old daughter, Darlene, was still alive. A week after the quake, she believed. Two weeks after and she believed she would see her daughter again alive. Fifteen days after the 7.0 earthquake, people heard faint cries coming from the rubble. Rescues after that long are rare, but the daughter herself never gave up hope while she was in the rubble of that building. Her mother never gave up hoping, and that hope got both of them through what was a tremendously difficult time. We all need something to hope in. And the return of Jesus is described in the Bible as being "the blessed hope". You read that in Titus 2 and verse 13. The idea of the return of Jesus to this world speaks to the thought that God is very much with this world.
Now, you could be an atheist who believes that there is no God, or an agnostic who believes that you can't really know one way or the other, or you could be a deist, who believes that yes, there is a God, and He started the world up, but He's moved on to other things, and He's left the world to itself to find its own way. You could believe that the world is trending upwards and that human beings are becoming more enlightened. You might think we're doing a pretty good job without God. But you'd have to be denying the reality of everything you see to arrive at that position. I read this the other day, published by Britain's "Guardian" newspaper: "On average, global populations of mammals, birds, fish, amphibians and reptiles plunged by 68% between 1970 and 2016".
That's according to a report by the World Wildlife Fund and the Zoological Society of London. Now, you don't have to be any kind of environmentalist to be alarmed by this. It's frightening. They say vertebrate wildlife populations... that's anything with a backbone... they say they've collapsed by more than 2/3 since 1970. In Latin America and the Caribbean, it's down 94%. Mammals, birds, fish, amphibians, and reptiles are down by 65% and 45%, respectively, in Africa and Asia Pacific. Almost 90% of the wetlands on the entire planet have been lost in the last 300 years. Freshwater species, down globally by 84%.
Here's my point: Humans have not demonstrated that they have answers to life's biggest problems. 6,000 years after the creation of humanity, we killed around 75 million of each other during World War II. Who's enlightened? Tell me this. I'll ask you a question. What do these countries have in common? These countries, Germany, the former Yugoslavia, Cambodia, and Myanmar, which used to be known as Burma... what are those countries? Germany, Yugoslavia, Cambodia, and Myanmar or Burma, what do they have in common? There could be others that we could add to this list. What's the common denominator? Genocide. Genocide or ethnic cleansing in the last 100 years alone.
Now, let's be honest with each other. Humans have looked for political solutions for our problems for centuries, but we haven't been successful at finding them. There's a solution coming, though. The Bible says that one day "God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away". That's Revelation 21 and verse 4. What God is saying is that one day the pain of this world will be replaced by the glory of a new world, where everything is perfect. I got a question for you: What do people do who don't have hope, who have nothing to look forward to? Well, of course, there are people who go right on and they make the very best of what they have, sure. But we also know that there are masses of people who are wrestling with the futility of life. They're trying to cope by doing things that end up being destructive.
Now, I don't have the numbers for Canada, I looked, I don't have the numbers for Europe, but I've got the numbers for the United States. Experts say that 21 million Americans are addicted to at least one substance. That's almost as many addicts living in the United States as people living in Australia. In 2017, more than 1 in 10 Americans committed a DUI. About 15 million Americans have an alcohol use disorder. Between 1999 and 2017, 400,000 Americans lost their lives due to opioid use...or misuse. Half a million Americans use heroin regularly. Some reports say the number is higher. And I don't say this to be critical, not at all. Drug addiction is a beast. It's difficult. Anyone who has ever been prescribed heavy-duty pain meds knows how easy it is to become addicted. But we're seeing that humans aren't trending upwards.
We don't have the solutions to our problems. Around 40 million Americans a year smoke marijuana; 34 million Americans smoke cigarettes, even though cigarette smoking kills half a million people a year in the United States. Suicide is now the 10th-leading cause of death in the U.S. It's the second-leading cause of death in people aged between 10 and 34. The rate of suicide continues to increase. By the way, if you're challenged, if you're dealing with those issues, please reach out to somebody. Please get help. There are people willing to help you right now. See, these trends are absolutely tragic. They show us that we're not coping. We're not doing better. Social problems are becoming more complex, and division is becoming more pronounced.
Is there something that can get us through? Oh yes, there is. It's why the Bible talks about the return of Jesus again and again and again. You know that God is in the business of helping people get through hard times? One of the most-loved verses in the Bible is Jeremiah 29 and verse 11. I'm gonna turn there in my Bible and read it to you, Jeremiah chapter 29 and verse 11. "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope". Isn't that something? This reveals how deeply God cares for His people. Question: When did God say this? When did He make that promise? He addressed these words to Israel, or Judah, shortly before His people went into captivity. They were about to be taken to Babylon for 70 years, and knowing the hardship that was coming to them, God said, "I know the thoughts I have towards you, thoughts of peace, not thoughts of evil. I wanna give you a future and a hope".
What's interesting is that they didn't know what was coming, but God reassured them, "I'm with you. I'm for you. I've got your back. It's gonna be tough, but please know that the God of heaven is in your corner". I think a lot of people aren't certain whose side God is on. There's a lot of pain in the world, a lot of loss. There's terrible violence. There's great injustice. There's racial conflict. And ordinarily, God gets the blame. There's an accident. "O God, why did You do this"? There's a terrible diagnosis. "Why would God let this happen"? There's a devastating natural disaster, and people say, "Where was your loving God? Why didn't He save those people"? I expect you've heard it said. I've heard it many times. Of course there's an answer to that. Ever since sin entered the world, people have been fundamentally selfish. The world itself has been altered irretrievably from its original perfect state.
So now there are earthquakes. Now there are drunk drivers. Now there are tornadoes. Now we have emergency rooms and cancer wards and dialysis clinics. It surely isn't God's fault that Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit and brought sin into the world. In fact, God warned them about doing just that. No, just like Jesus said in the parable where terrible people had planted noxious weeds in a man's grain field, Jesus said, "An enemy has done this". And that's why there's sin in the world. An enemy has done this. But what we have the opportunity to do is turn to God for the solution. And in God we find the very real hope that all of this that doesn't make sense is one day going to be gone. It just doesn't make sense that we'd have to live in a world where there's terrorism.
Just recently we passed another anniversary for the 9/11 attacks. We can never forget that day. None of that makes sense. Racism doesn't make sense. Murder doesn't make sense. Babies born with fetal alcohol syndrome, that doesn't make sense. Thousands of people dying from COVID-19, that doesn't make sense. But that's what turning away from God has done. We chose to go our own way. That's the human family. Doing our own thing has gotten humanity to where we are today. Maybe there's a better way. Listen to this, written by a journalist a year or so after a terrible mass killing took 50 or so lives. Got that? A mass shooting. And this journalist wrote these words. Listen. "In secular societies," she said, "culture is supposed to be the new scripture but, given the state of our mental health, it's evidently failing to deliver the sense of spirituality most of us need to bring resilience, solace and meaning to our lives. Maybe it really is time for us to rethink our attitudes towards faith and its role in modern society".
Think about that. Not written from a Christian perspective, but potent and meaningful words, all the same. We're looking for ways to cope. People are looking ahead and wondering, "What if the Republicans win the election? What then? Four more years of Donald Trump? I think I'll leave the country". But others are saying, "What if the Democrats win the election? What then? Four years of Joe Biden? I'm gonna leave the country". There are people who will shrug their shoulders no matter the result. But some are saying this might be the most decisive election in history. And if it doesn't go your way, you might conclude that the future is hopeless. All right, let's add to that. What if the economy tanks and your retirement savings crater? What if the value of your home plummets? What if you lose your job? What if grandma's tests come back and they're bad? What if you or someone you love tests positive for COVID-19? About 6 million Americans have dementia. What happens if you start noticing warning signs? What does your future look like then?
Don't think that God doesn't care. He cares. That's why in the Bible He says things like, "The Lord has appeared of old to me, saying: 'Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.'" You read that in Jeremiah 31 and verse 3. And you read this: Jesus saying, "Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest". These are serious statements made by a God who isn't distant, and who does care. Way back there in the beginning, God created Adam and Eve, and they spent time together and communicated face to face. That's Adam and Eve and God. When Adam and Eve sinned, God pursued them, not to punish them or throw the book at them, but to win them back and connect with them.
When Israel was wandering in the wilderness all those years, God had Moses build a tabernacle as a dwelling place for God. He said, "And let them make me a sanctuary, that I may dwell among them". Did you notice that? God wanted to live in the midst of His people. The sanctuary was situated right in the middle of the camp of Israel. God dwelled among them. Jesus came to the earth. As the prophet Isaiah said, quoted later in Matthew, "Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a Son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, 'God with us.'" Jesus was on the earth: God with us. And now 2,000 years later, we look forward to the time when God will be with us again, because Jesus is coming back to this world.
My friend, God does care. The Bible makes that plain. The circumstances of your life make that clear. He sees the trouble in this world. He sees whatever your hardships are right now, and He says, "I will come again". It's so important to God He talks about it all the way through the Bible. The great prophecy of Daniel chapter 2, which we will look at in a future presentation, it climaxes with the return of Jesus to the world. Look at what Daniel wrote about this, just a little bit: "And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever".
"Inasmuch as you saw that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it broke in pieces the iron, the bronze, the clay, the silver, and the gold... the great God has made known to the king what will come to pass after this. The dream is certain, and [the] interpretation is sure". This was an epic vision given to Daniel to interpret a dream had by the most powerful monarch on the planet. And it concludes with Jesus returning to this earth. Let's look in the book of Revelation, chapter 19, starting in verse 11. Let's read this passage through. John writes: "Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war".
Notice the imagery. Jesus is depicted as conquering those who've rebelled against Him. It references the great spiritual battle of earth's last days, and it presents Jesus as putting down a global insurrection. So some of the language is pretty strong. It goes on to say, "His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: King of Kings and Lord of Lords".
The reason for the uncompromising language and imagery is the context of what's taking place before Jesus returns. You know, the Bible is pretty clear. The planet is gonna go through some stern trials before Jesus returns. Think about this with me: Water always flows downhill. Not much you can do about that. It's what water does. It's how gravity works. So let's think about human nature. What does human nature do? Well, just look at how things have gone over the years. We all know we only have one planet. This is home. But we have dead zones in the oceans, food deserts in major cities. We're cutting down forests at a faster rate than ever, and there are rivers all over the world that are effectively dead.
So that's what 6,000 years of accumulated wisdom has accomplished. Our modern lifestyles are taking their toll. We have the capacity to destroy this world many times over with nuclear weapons. It's this late in world history, and yet we still have world leaders engaging in saber-rattling, seizing territory, still looking to expand their domain, still threatening their neighbors with annihilation. There are countries in the world committed to the destruction of other sovereign nations. I thought that people knew enough about the horrors of war and the pain of needlessly losing loved ones. Wouldn't you think that people would have figured out now how to get along? Ah, but it's human nature. Murder rates are high. Rates of violent crime are high. Do we think that suddenly the world's gonna wake up one morning having learned to sing in perfect harmony?
The internet has just given us more ways to treat people inhumanely. Human trafficking is at an all-time high. The United Nations states that an estimated 40.3 million people are enslaved today. That's more than at any other time in human history; 71% of them are women. More than 24 million of them are trapped in forced labor, while 5 million human beings are being sexually exploited today. Politicians at the national level, at the state level, at the local level all know about this. The police know, you and I know, and yet the problem persists. We just aren't fixing it. So where are we headed? I'll show what Bible prophecy says. It says in Revelation chapter 13 that a power will rise up in earth's last days, and that "all who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world".
Look at what it goes on to say: "He was granted power to give breath to the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak and cause as many as would not worship the image of the beast to be killed. He causes all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on the right hand or on their foreheads, and that no one may buy or sell except one who has the mark or the name of the beast, or the number of his name". Once upon a time, you might've looked at that and said, "How could that ever happen"? You might've wondered how an entire planet could be so affected by one issue that every nation would take decisive action on that issue in a way that affects the behavior of every person in the world.
Well, we don't wonder that anymore. COVID-19 has given us a front row seat. We've watched the entire world become impacted. We've seen people paralyzed by fear. We've seen people report their neighbors. We've seen people disagree on the best way to handle this. We know now that the entire world can coalesce around a single issue and take drastic action that affects every area of life. Revelation says it's gonna happen again, but on a bigger scale. You see, Daniel wrote many years ago that "there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time". A "time of trouble such as never was"? We've seen this before. But in the last few weeks, we've had people fleeing fires in the West, and we've had homes underwater in the South as hurricanes rolled through.
Life now isn't just like it's ever been before, and we can't fix it. We can get to the moon. We're talking that maybe someday we'll travel all the way to Mars. We can build supercomputers and artificial intelligence that does amazing things. We can't fix a broken planet, and we cannot stop man's inhumanity demand. It's getting worse. What can fix it? Well, I'm telling you there is a solution, and that solution is the return of Jesus. He's coming back to this world. When?
Well, I can't tell you that, but I believe it's gonna be soon. And I believe that based on what the Bible says. I believe that because Jesus Himself said that before His return we would see signs around us suggesting His return is near. You read about them in Matthew 24 and in the Gospel of Luke. Jesus talked about "wars and rumors of wars," about nations rising against nations, and kingdoms against kingdom. He spoke of general lawlessness and deception and signs in the heavens. He said it'd be like it was in Noah's day. And in that day, there was rebellion against God, to the extent that all God could do was find only eight people willing to get on the Ark.
Jesus said people would be oblivious to important spiritual matters. There's never been a time in human history that fits those points better than our day. And Jesus said, "Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near...at the doors"! So when talking about the return of Jesus, we're talking about something imminent. How imminent is imminent? Well, honestly, there's no point going there, because Jesus Himself said that no one knows the day or the hour of His return. We accept that, but it sure looks like it has to be soon. And that being the case, how do we relate to that? I'll tell you how. We relate to that with hope. There's a better day coming. Whatever this world brings, we're gonna get past this and into the world God wants for us.
Jesus said, "Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws nigh". Isn't that hopeful? He said that your redemption is near. Now, that concept of redemption, we could understand that concept as being something like buying something back to regain possession of it. There's a story in the Bible that really demonstrates this in a beautiful way, in the little book of Ruth. A famine drives Naomi out of her country. The husband and her sons die. She decides she's gonna go back home. And her daughter-in-law, Ruth, whose husband was one of the sons who died, chooses to go with her mother-in-law. Ruth says to Naomi, "Wherever you go, I will go; and wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. Where you die, I will die, and there will I be buried".
Beautiful words. Naomi had sold the land that belonged to her husband, but the land could be purchased by a relative, bought back, redeemed. A man named Boaz buys the land, marries the young widow Ruth. Ruth has children. The great-grandson is David, the future king of Israel. The women say to Ruth, "Blessed is the Lord who has not left you without a redeemer today, and may his name become famous in Israel". That's Ruth 4:14. Redeemed, bought back by a near kinsman. And that's a picture of how God treats us. Sin leaves us outside our real homeland, which is heaven. But Jesus, a close relative, He came to this earth and became one of the human family. Jesus redeemed us, bought us back by His death on the cross. Sin separated us from God. Jesus' death means He offers us His righteousness in this world, in the place of our sin. And He gives us the hope of life in a better land.
Our redemption draws near. Redemption from sin has taken place. Liberation from this world, redemption in the other sense, that's just ahead. Israel was in Egypt in slavery. God liberated Israel, opened up the Red Sea, marched them across the open floor and eventually into the Promised Land. We're stuck in a sinful world. We might, well, we might've learned to like it here, but this isn't how it was ever supposed to be. There was never meant to be hate or sin or death or loss. There was never meant to be sickness, sadness, pain, isolation, never. There were never meant to be rancorous political elections. But just like God got Israel out of Egypt, just like He redeemed them from Egypt, He's gonna redeem us from this broken world.
Paul wrote that we are "eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. For we were saved in this hope". He wrote that in Romans chapter 8. Our redemption draws nigh. Now, look at this with me. Again, the Bible looks towards the Second Coming of Jesus. And it says this in Revelation chapter 14, and I'm gonna read in Revelation chapter 14, and we start in verse 6: "And I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to them that dwell on the earth, and to every nation, and kindred, and tongue, and people, saying with a loud voice, 'Fear God, and give glory to Him; for the hour of His judgment is come: and worship Him that made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and the fountains of waters.'"
There are three angels. The next one warns about the dangers of Babylon, the next about the importance of not receiving the mark of the beast. Right after what's referred to as "the everlasting gospel"... you saw that, the final gospel message to go to the world... we see this: "Then I looked, and behold, a white cloud, and on the cloud sat One like the Son of Man, having on His head a golden crown, and in His hand a sharp sickle. And another angel came out of the temple, crying with a loud voice to Him who sat on the cloud, 'Thrust in Your sickle and reap, for the time has come for You to reap, for the harvest of the earth is ripe.' So He who sat on the cloud thrust in His sickle on the earth, and the earth was reaped".
That's another picture of the return of Jesus. He's coming back to harvest the world, that is, to gather those who are ready for Him, who have opened up their hearts to Him, who've stated their desire to be saved for all eternity. There's nothing more hopeful. I don't know how this election is gonna turn out. I know the world is watching. I don't know what society will look like when it's over. I don't know how we're gonna get past this coronavirus. I just don't. But we will. And when we do, well, there'll be more challenges... and more blessings. This world isn't getting any better, but there's a better world to come, and you can be part of it. You must be part of it. The Creator God has done everything He possibly could to see to it that you are part of His plans for eternity. He wants you with Him throughout all eternity.
Remember Jesus' words as we began? "Let not your heart be troubled". Later in the same chapter He said, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid". Let not your heart be troubled. Jesus offers you His peace. There's a story often told about King Canute, the 11th-century king of England, Denmark, and Norway. Some say the story is true; others say it's a legend. Probably a legend. In one account, Canute becomes so frustrated by the flattery of his courtiers that he marches into the ocean and sets up his throne there by the ocean. He ordered the tide to go out. Ordered it, "Go out"! And when it didn't, he proclaimed that there was no one great enough to command the tide to recede. No one, other than God. His point was that he was powerless in the face of the supreme power of God. How true.
You know, not a single country has been able to keep COVID-19 from crossing its borders. Not one. All the worrying in the world isn't gonna stop what's gonna happen on November the 3rd from happening, whatever that may be. Not one of us can prevent humanity's inexorable slide into the abyss. Although we can do what we can do to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. The only one with power over this world and its affairs is the God of heaven, and He offers us union with Himself, a place in His kingdom forever.
Paul wrote to the Thessalonians and he said, "For the Lord Himself [shall] descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of [the] archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord". That day is coming. Paul wrote about it, "the blessed hope". That day is coming. Jesus is coming back. He's gonna gather us together, get us out of here, take us home, where we'll be free at last. Thank God Almighty, we'll be free at last. The Underground Railroad was the name given to an escape route, or escape routes, that were set up to help slaves in the South of the United States escape to the North, even all the way to Canada, which was a haven.
Harriet Tubman is possibly the most famous conductor on the Underground Railroad. She had herself escaped slavery on the eastern shores of Maryland in the year 1849. She fled to Philadelphia and lived there free, in one sense, but really not free at all when you consider that she lived with the constant fear that someone might capture her and return her to the South and to slavery, given that ghastly Fugitive Slave Act. When she found out that her niece and her niece's two children were gonna be auctioned off outside the Cambridge, Maryland, courthouse, she traveled to that town to work out a way to save them from slavery. Her niece's husband attended the auction. And here's what they planned. He outbid everybody else when it came to the bidding for the woman and the two children. He offered the highest price to buy people who were actually his own family. So he purchased them. Before the auctioneer could figure out what was going on, the man got the three people to Baltimore, then Philadelphia, and freedom.
Harriet Tubman, who they called "Moses," led 13 rescue missions and freed 70 people. She put herself in terrible danger so that others could be free. Jesus is coming back. He's coming back to set you free. He gave His life to set you free. You see what we read a moment ago? "Thus we shall ever be with the Lord". Would you say right now that you wanna be with the Lord? The alternatives are not great. And God offers citizenship in His forever kingdom to anyone. He offers that to you, and He offers it right now.
Friend, I cannot know what's going on in your life right now, but here's what I know. I know that within everybody there's a gap, a hole that only God can fill. I know that everybody looks into the future with some kind of measure of uncertainty, maybe fear, maybe worry. I know they're looking forward to the elections in the United States. People around the world are concerned. If it's not a great concern to you, then you can appreciate it's a terrible concern to some. We live with worry of all kind, and we wonder, what will get us through? I'll tell you what will: the promises made to you in this Book, the hope offered to you in this Book. Would you accept this hope? Would you do that right now? Will you accept the hope that God offers you in the soon return of Jesus? I hope you will. Let me pray for you. Will you pray right now? Come on and let's pray together.
Our Father in heaven, we thank You that the Bible is a book that offers us hope when there's no other hope. We, collectively as human beings, have been trying for thousands of years to turn things around, but we just end up deeper in the muck of sin and dysfunction. Right now, there's a man, there's a woman somewhere reaching out to You and saying, "I want Jesus to be my Lord. I want the return of Jesus to be my hope". Is that you, friend? Is that you? Lift up your heart to Jesus, would you? And Lord, take that heart; make it Yours, now and forever. And let Jesus soon come back, that we can go home, and be in that glorious kingdom You've prepared for us. We thank You, and we pray in Jesus' name, amen.