Beyond Today — When Nations Rise and Fall

Beyond Today — When Nations Rise and Fall


[Darris McNeely] Have you ever heard the term
“a thief in the night?” It refers to someone or some significant event
coming upon one suddenly, without warning. An unforeseen event that changes life in an
instant. The term comes from the Bible and it is used
to refer to significant events in prophecy that will suddenly come upon an unsuspecting
and ill-prepared world. It describes a time when world events suddenly
happen and everything changes. Peace becomes war, and turmoil and upheaval
are the result. Could today’s world events suddenly speed
up and overnight your world is a different place? The Bible says it can. Join us on Beyond Today as we discover “When
Nations Rise and Fall.” [Announcer] Join our host Darris McNeely and
his guests, as they help you understand your future on Beyond Today! [Darris] Look at today’s world. The United States is the dominating power. China is rising in power and influence among
Asian nations. European nations have created a union that
has brought a measure of peace to an often war-torn continent. The Middle East has conflicts—but has been
kept from spilling completely out into the rest of the world. Do you think today’s world will always remain
the way that it is? This is the world we have today. It has been going along relatively the same
for as long as we can remember. Now think about that phrase I just said, “as
long as we can remember.” As long as I can remember, as long as you
can remember is really a very short time, even though it is just about all our life. You see, all my adult life I have lived in
the United States and enjoyed the great blessing of prosperity that comes from the world’s
best and strongest economy. America’s power in just about every area
you would imagine has given me, and you, a pretty good life. I can carry this passport—a United States
password—whenever I go abroad. And I carry my United States dollar. Together, they have given me a freedom of
entry to many parts of the world. You see, our lives have been made comfortable
and safe in our present, modern world. But will it always remain so? The Bible tells us that history has not nor
always will be so tranquil and peaceful. Let’s look at what it says about history
and prophecy. The apostle Paul writes, “Concerning the
times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the
day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, “Peace and safety!”
then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape” (1 Thessalonians
5:1-3). Bible prophecy shows us God controls history
and the destiny of nations. God determines when nations rise and fall. Now what could this mean for America and today’s
great powers? You see, today’s world could change virtually
overnight. It’s happened before and the Bible tells
us it will happen again. But you can understand and not be surprised
by dramatic changes in world events. There is one historian who understands this
principle of a “thief in the night” very well. He’s Harvard historian Niall Ferguson. He wrote an analysis of recent world history
that shows exactly how the idea “thief in the night” scenario has happened, and could
happen again in current history. He wrote an article in Foreign Affairs magazine
and there he showed that many large nations of the past were gone in a few short years. They were strong, functioning nations and
then they faded virtually overnight. Ferguson goes on and gives the example of
the collapse of the Soviet Union over a short period of about five years from 1986 to 1991. The Soviet Union went from a position of global
strength to collapse and the world was surprised and stunned. No one predicted the collapse and disintegration
of a global nuclear power that had dominated European politics since 1917. He wrote: “If ever an empire fell off a
cliff—rather than gently declining—it was the one founded by Lenin” (ibid., p.
30). World empires are large complex systems that
can be turned upside down in a short time. One small event that is missed by experts
can create conditions that lead to larger events that create fear, and loss of confidence
and chaos. Probably the best example of this is the assassination
of Austrian Archduke Ferdinand in June of 1914. That event was the fuse that lit the powder
keg of World War I. No one saw it at the time, but events quickly
got out of control and within weeks, Europe was at war. A hundred years later, the world is still
dealing with the effects of one small event that led to the collapse of empires and millions
of people dead. A more recent event was the near meltdown
of the world financial system back in September of the year 2008. Massive debt and a complex web of financial
arrangements created a financial crisis that brought down large Wall Street financial institutions. Large global companies like General Motors
nearly went bankrupt. In America, the situation was so serious that
the nation’s financial structure nearly went under. One report said we were 48 hours away from
our debit cards not working at the neighborhood ATM. Could you imagine the panic that would set
in if overnight your credit cards would not work at the gas pumps or on the internet? The global economy is still recovering from
that event. It’s an object lesson in how quickly events,
even small events, can happen and turn around the world and turn it upside down. The historian Ferguson concludes by observing
that “empires behave like all complex…systems. They function…for some unknowable period. And then, quite abruptly, they collapse… It is sudden” (ibid., p. 32). He then asks: “What if collapse does not
arrive over a number of centuries but comes suddenly, like a thief in the night?” (“Complexity and Collapse,” p. 22). Sounds like what we just read from the Bible
doesn’t it? “Like a thief in the night.” What the Bible says about the end-time events
culminating in the Day of the Lord applies to the sudden collapse of powerful nations
and empires throughout history. What historians miss in their studies is what
can be called the missing dimension in world affairs. That missing dimension is the hand of God
in the rise and fall of great nations and empires. You see, the Bible, the Word of God, is a
chronicle of ancient nations that rose and fell according to His plan and purpose. Nations like Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia,
Greece and Rome—all are mentioned in the Bible and all played key roles in working
with the nation of Israel and the Church founded by Jesus Christ. Even today, the lessons of empires embedded
in the Bible apply as we watch the modern world move toward what Christ said would be
the end of the age. Of all the examples in the Bible to examine,
there is one that fits what we have been discussing. It’s one of the “remote” sections of
the Bible. It’s the story of the collapse of the great
ancient nation of Assyria. Now Assyria figures prominently in the story
of Israel and Judah. Its kings brought large armies to capture
the nations of Israel, taking captive the northern ten-tribe nation of Israel, removing
every trace of their existence. The Assyrian king, Sennacherib also brought
180,000 troops against the walls of Jerusalem only to have them killed in one night by the
hand of God. Assyria was large and a long-lived empire
of nearly 1,000 years in the region that we call the Middle East–where the modern nations
of Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Turkey exist. Their cities, the Assyrian cities, they were
large. Their armies, very powerful. The Assyrians thought their nation would always
exist. But God had other plans. The story of Assyria’s collapse is told
in the biblical book of the prophet Nahum, one of the books in that section that is called
“The Minor Prophets.” Nahum’s prophecy gives testimony to the
truth that God governs world history. Let’s look briefly at this very compelling
message. The prophet Nahum lived in the seventh century
BC in the nation of Judah. It’s possible that Nahum had a position
as an emissary, or an ambassador, to the great nation of Assyria while his own country, Judah
was a vassal state of Assyria. Now what did it mean to be a vassal state? Well it meant that Judah had to pay a yearly
amount of money to Assyria as protection money to remain semi-independent. A lot of gold, silver and other goods were
transferred annually to the Assyrian treasury. Nahum may have been one who carried the money
to Assyria. It would explain how the prophecy of his contains
very specific descriptions of the Assyrian capital, the great city called Nineveh. And Nahum did not like what he saw. Nahum was moved by God to write some very
strong condemnation of the city. While in Nineveh, Nahum would’ve observed
the large city, and its walls, and its gates, and its broad boulevards, its buildings, its
palaces, and its squares, which are all a part of what he describes in his very short
prophecy. Nahum says, “The chariots rage in the streets. They jostle one another in the broad roads. They seem like torches. They run like lightning.” You see, the city of Nineveh had broad streets
and broad avenues in its ultimate form and setting after it had been in embellished by
all of its kings. And Nahum goes on to describe, “He remembers
his nobles. They stumble in their walk. They make haste to her walls, and the defense
is prepared. The gates of the rivers are opened and the
palace is dissolved and its vast wealth.” (Nahum 2:4-6). In Nahum 2:9, here of the same chapter, the
prophet goes on and says, “Take spoil of silver. Take spoil of gold. There is no end of treasure or wealth of every
desirable price.” An apt description of what Assyria did. As they would wage war, conquer a city, a
nation, they would loot the treasures. And that would give them an impassioned, powerful
indictment of the city of Nineveh and the Assyrian power. Nahum, God’s prophet, is moved by the Spirit
of God’s to write this message of God’s judgment in very simple and clear language. You see, Assyria was a vicious nation that
liked to revel in its wars. They wanted to remember their conquests with
large elaborate stone reliefs that they placed in their government buildings for all to see. Archaeologists have uncovered these scenes. We can see how the culture reveled in killing
and conquest. Nahum says, “Woe to the bloody city.” (Nahum 3:1) And Nineveh was a bloody city. The Assyrians had a well-earned reputation
for their treatment of other people. And because of this evil, Nahum pronounced
God’s judgment. “The Lord has given a command concerning
you. Your name shall be perpetuated no longer.” (Nahum 1:14). Their name would be wiped out and forgotten. And once the city falls, which it did in the
year 612 BC, Nineveh was quickly forgotten. The Assyrian kings would boast of defending
the honor of their Assyrians gods. And they also took the gold and the silver
from the other nations. And they carried it back into Nineveh. And Nahum shows that all of this wealth, all
of it, was going to disappear. He wrote, “Take spoil of silver. Take spoil of gold,” because all of it was
there in Nineveh and that’s why he could say, “There’s no end of treasure or wealth
of every desirable prize.” It had all been taken to Nineveh. And quite likely, Nahum had carried even Judah’s
share of that and deposited it there as bribe money. It goes on, “She is empty, desolate, and
waste” (Nahum 2:9-10). Nahum is saying it was all going to be taken
away. And it was. We see how the story concludes. God says, “Behold, I am against you…I
will burn your chariots in smoke, and the sword will devour your young lions. I will cut off your prey from the earth. The voice of your messengers will be heard
no more…It shall come to pass that all who look upon you will flee from you and say,
‘Nineveh is laid waste. Who will bemoan her? Where shall I seek comforters for you?” (Nahum 2:13; Nahum 3:17) For hundreds of years their wickedness passed
back and forth over the peoples of that Middle Eastern region. And now, God was saying through His prophet,
that it was going to come to them. And so it did. Nineveh and the Assyrian empire disappeared
from history and was forgotten. You see, God’s in control of history and
when God moves it’s like a “thief in the night.” Change and destruction can come very quickly. There’s an interesting story after the fall
of Nineveh, about 200 years later, after the fall of the city. In the year 400 BC, there’s a great story
about a group of Greek mercenary soldiers, called the Ten Thousand. They had been in Persia waging a battle as
mercenaries. The money runs out and the tide of battle
turns against them, and they finally come to the point and they say, “We’re had
enough. We’re going home.” So they get began to make their way back to
the west, back toward Greece. And as they’re making their way home, they
camp one night on the Tigris River near this huge mound of dirt and the evident spoils
of something that was there. One of their soldiers, a man by the name of
Xenophon, who actually wrote the account. He was an eyewitness and he wrote—and he
doesn’t even know in his history that he’s looking at the ruins of the city of Nineveh. Here’s a story of a group of Greek soldiers
camping on the ruins of this great city of Nineveh and they don’t know what’s in
front of them. It’s a lesson for any great and large nation
then and now. God judges the nations. God controls history. God decides when nations rise and fall. Could you imagine a time when America might
not exist? That great cities like Chicago or New York
would no longer be remembered? It’s hard for us to imagine that. To even think like this is to conjure science
fiction and fantasy. But it has happened in history. It could happen again. It’s a lesson in how transitory power can
be. And there is a lesson for us today, how quickly
things can change. America today is a great power, a world superpower. It is great because God made it great. And America will remain great until God removes
His blessing. That’s something we should never forget. When God removes His blessing, and it can
happen because of sin, then it will be a different world order than what we see today. America has been guided and blessed by the
hand of Almighty God. And we should understand our history and our
time on the world stage and what it has been. Because God made promises to the biblical
patriarch Abraham, we have been blessed with prosperity, security and power in the modern
world. But America has not lived by God’s law and
its national sins are not small. When God decides to judge this nation, when
its pre-appointed time has come and it is over, that fall will be conclusive and it
will be dramatic. And it will come as a thief in the night. And we should not forget that. That is a lesson for us to look at look at
how quickly cities like Nineveh fell, and how when God decided the time was over, it
was over, and it was forgotten. There’s a stanza from a poem that makes
this point quite well. It’s a poem by the Englishman Rudyard Kipling. Kipling wrote when Great Britain was a world
empire. He wrote a poem called “Requiem”. And there’s one stanza that applies to the
topic. The poem says, “Far-called our navies melt
away,” and he’s speaking of the British Empire. Their navies went far and eventually they
did melt away. He goes on to say, “On dune and headlands
sinks the fire. Lo, all our pomp of yesterday is one with
Nineveh and Tyre.” Kipling was writing at a time when some could
see that the empire of Great Britain was beginning its decline. And he says, “Our pomp of yesterday is like
that of Nineveh and Tyre.” Well, we’ve read about Nineveh today. And even a poet of Great Britain understood
how transitory national greatness and power is. And he says in conclusion here, almost to
God, “Judge of the Nations, spare us yet, lest we forget, Lest we forget.” We don’t need to forget. And we should not forget that God is the God
of history. God is the judge of all nations. God judged Nineveh, the Assyrians, and every
other great world power after that. And He judges and rules in history today,
and His purpose still stands. No matter what we see in today’s world,
understand that it all could change quickly, “like a thief in the night” when God begins
to move in world affairs to fulfill prophecy and His divine plan. So what should you do? Well let’s see what God says. The apostle Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians
about the sudden changes that take place when God intervenes in world history. He says, “But concerning the times and the
seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you” (1 Thessalonians 5:1). Now this phrase, “times and seasons” refer
to events that mark key events in the plan of God. Earlier in this book, Paul was talking about
the resurrection to occur at Christ’s appearing. Now he’s talking about a specific event. Notice. “For you yourselves know perfectly that
the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, ‘Peace and safety!’
then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape” (1 Thessalonians
5:2-3). The Day of the Lord marks a time when God
intervenes in the world as mankind faces critical challenges at the end of the age. The day of the Lord will be a period unlike
any ever seen in past history. “But you, brethren, are not in darkness,
so that this Day should overtake you as a thief. You are all sons of light and sons of the
day. We are not of the night nor of darkness.” (1 Thessalonians 5:4-5). What he is saying is this, that with a proper
understanding of Bible prophecy and contact with God, you don’t have to be deceived
over what is occurring. Paul goes on, “Therefore let us not sleep,
as others do, but let us watch and be sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those
who get drunk are drunk at night” (1 Thessalonians 5:6-7). You and I, we can all understand the meaning
of world events. When you know that God works in history and
nothing escapes His attention, you’ll not be ignorant of what is taking place. Paul continues, “But let us who are of the
day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of
salvation” (1 Thessalonians 5:8). History has a purpose within the plan of God. God’s intent is spiritual salvation for
mankind. And that is the hope to look for at the end
of the age. Paul goes on, “For God did not appoint us
to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, that
whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. Therefore comfort each other and edify one
another, just as you also are doing.” (1 Thessalonians 9:11). In a moment, we will have our Beyond Today
panel here to discuss more about this topic. We have been discussing how quickly nations
can fall. Small, seemingly insignificant events can
trigger large shifts in power among nations and overnight empires and powers disappear. The Bible describes this type of event. So I am joined today by Steve Myers and Gary
Petty for this discussion. What does the term “a thief in the night”
mean for the today’s world order? [Steve] I think when you think about it, it
points to an uncertainty in our world. That the little guy can suddenly be most important
when they wield their weapons and whether it’s chemical weapons or the potential dirty
bombs or nuclear weapons. Things can change in an instant. And like a thief that comes in and breaks
in, it could happen overnight. [Gary] Yet people say, well how could it be
a thief in the night? We know all this information. All we have to do is pick up our newspaper
or go to the Druge Report, but the truth is we’ve been inundated with so much information,
we become desensitized to it. So we don’t even recognize that we sort
of know, we are filled with anxiety but we are still caught off guard when the events
happen. [Darris] But what does that mean for America
you think? [Steve] For America? I can’t help but think back to World War
II. You think about Peral Harbor, that changed
everything! It changed the whole focus of the war. And we were trying to avoid that certain section
of the world and all of a sudden, there it was and overnight we were in it full bore. And so, like a Pearl Harbor, it means for
America, we have to be weary and things could change instantly. [Gary] And you know what’s even more amazing
today, is it took the Japanese military and industrial power to do that. Today, a man with a dirty bomb and a suitcase
could bring down the world to hitting a financial center or something. So it can happen so differently today. And that would really be a thief in the night,
the first events. [Darris] But if it did happen to America,
what do you think the response would be from this country? [Steve] Boy, I guess the scenarios play out
that we’re always going to retaliate. That we’ve talked about mutually assured
destruction. If one is launched, we are going to launch
back. We are going to retaliate. The world could be in an uproar and… [Darris] But would people be able to respond
effectively to it? [Steve] That’s the challenge. I think the challenge is what would we do? We could hardly respond to a financial crisis
a number of years ago, let alone warfare that is just blatant. [Gary] Even if we did respond, say North Korea
hit Honolulu with a nuclear weapon and we launch a couple weapons and kill almost everybody
in North Korea. It still creates an economic chaos that just
the whole world is sucked down into a pit. So, even our response wouldn’t change what
is going to happen to the world. [Darris] So what should a viewer take from
that statement “a thief in the night”? What should it mean for our audience, individually? [Steve] Yeah. In some sense, you’ve got to recognize—boy,
this world is on the verge. But yet, it doesn’t have to be a thief for
us, personally. It means we’ve got to get our religious
life in order. We’ve got to develop a relationship with
God. We’ve got to put that first and foremost
in the importance of our relationship with Him. And learn about God’s way and His will. [Gary] Be right with God! You can’t prepare physically for this—be
right with God. [Darris] It’s a scary thought, but an important
warning from the Bible. During today’s program, I’ve explained
how Bible prophecy shows that God controls history. And to be sure—He oversees the destiny of
nations and determines when they rise and fall. Plus, I’ve covered how world conditions
could change virtually overnight. Because of this, you really need to grasp
and not be surprised by probable, dramatic ups and downs that will occur in global events
during the coming months and years ahead. To help you understand what the Bible says
is in store for the world, we have prepared a truly valuable—yet totally free study
aid entitled: You Can Understand Bible Prophecy. This key publication will give you better
comprehension about prophesied events and how they will affect your life—and the lives
of your family members, friends and neighbors. So, I highly encourage you to order your own,
free copy of You Can Understand Bible Prophecy—by calling us toll free, 1-888-886-8632. Again, 1-888-886-8632. Or you can go online at BeyondToday.tv or
write to us at the address that is shown on your screen [PO Box 541027, Cincinnati, OH
45254, USA]. And, when you order your free study aid, we’re
going to send you a free subscription to Beyond Today magazine. Every issue of Beyond Today if filled with
outstanding, well-researched articles which are designed to assist you in better grasping—not
only what’s prophesied for our world—but also the many remarkable truths of the Bible. Again, to order your free study aid, You Can
Understand Bible Prophecy and your free subscription to Beyond Today magazine call, 1-888-886-8632
or go online to BeyondToday.tv to read or download those articles. So, when you visit BeyondToday.tv, we invite
you to watch BT Daily as well. These are 2-4 minute daily videos on a diversity
of Bible topics and current events. BT Daily is a great way for you to get valuable
comprehension about Bible prophecy and God’s perfect blueprint for you and all mankind! Plus, you can watch BT Daily and our 30-minute
Beyond Today programs anytime on YouTube, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, Roku and other streaming-enabled
devices. Our world can suddenly change. Events can happen to turn the world—even
your world upside down. You can understand Bible prophecy and what
that means for our future. Great and significant events are prophesied
in Scripture as the nations and history move to the end of this age. Don’t let yourself be caught by surprise. Study the Bible and let it begin to shape
your view and understanding of world events. God controls history and His purpose guides
the course of great nations today. It can all change quickly, “like a thief
in the night.” Thanks for watching our program. For Beyond Today, I’m Darris McNeely. [Announcer] For the free literature offered
on today’s program, go online to BeyondToday.tv. Please join us again next week on Beyond Today!

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