The doctrine of the “End Times” (eschatology) is, sadly, controversial, with some Christians polarising over different views and (many) others avoiding the subject, perhaps regarding it as a happy hunting ground for extremists. Yet nearly 10% of the New Testament is about eschatology. It is not a fringe subject. We should not neglect it.

 

The problem is that some people have a natural tendency towards naivety – readily believing assumptions about what prophecies mean and how they relate to current events. Others have a natural tendency towards rationalism – being rather cynical about the subject. I am more like the latter group but because of the importance of the subject in Scripture I seek to overcome it. However we do need to be careful in our approach.

 

Yes, there are those who jump to naïve conclusions about the eschatological significance of current events. Nevertheless I do find an approach which regards prophecies as totally symbolical, rather than referring to literal events unconvincing in the light of the evidence. For example, it is difficult to see Jesus’ prophecy of the End Times return of the Jewish people to Israel as symbolical in view of the remarkable event which has happened 2000 years later. In addition, so many of the Old Testament prophecies have come to pass.

 

One of the main areas of disagreement is over the biblical prophecy of the millennium (the future thousand year reign of Christ on earth). Some believe that happens after Jesus returns, others before he returns and others that it is symbolical about the on-going influence of God in the world. Some years ago, we brought together 75 clergy, ministers and teachers from various denominations for three days of intensive discussion on eschatology. Initially, there was a good deal of tension and apprehension. But, as we listened to one another, that disappeared and, whereas there were respectful disagreements, the conference put out a united statement as to what it agreed over (we must avoid falling out over secondary disagreements over eschatology). You can find the statement on my Christian Teaching website at http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/ChurchLeadersAgreeReturnofChrist.pdf. It ended with the words “We urge all Christians to recognize that eschatology is a vital context and incentive for growth in holiness and for evangelism.” I personally would now add “and as a motive for prayer for Revival” but that was before the Lord spoke to me about Revival.

 

We are called to live in the light of the Return of Jesus

 

On several occasions Jesus says this.

 

“Keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come” (Matt 24:42; 25:13). “‘But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. It’s like a man going away: he leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. ‘Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back – whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the cock crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: “Watch!”’(Mark 13:32-37).

 

“‘Be dressed ready for service and keep your lamps burning, like servants waiting for their master to return from a wedding banquet, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them watching when he comes. Truly I tell you, he will dress himself to serve, will make them recline at the table and will come and wait on them. It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready, even if he comes in the middle of the night or towards daybreak. But understand this: if the owner of the house had known at what hour the thief was coming, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.’(Luke 12:35-40).

 

Similarly, Paul writes:

 

“The day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety’, destruction will come on them suddenly, as labour pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.

But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober” (1 Thess 5:2-6).

 

Unfortunately many Christians seem to ignore this teaching. But, the Lord says we need to be eschatological in outlook.

 

We are called to take note of the “signs of the times.”

 

It is also clear that Jesus wants us to note the signs of the End Times.

The disciples askedWhat will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?’ Jesus answered: ‘Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, “I am the Messiah,” and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumours of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth-pains” (Matt 24:3-8).

He is speaking here of long term, repeated signs pointing towards his return – false messiahs, wars, earthquakes, famines, persecution. They do not mean the End is imminent. They are like motorway signs repeatedly pointing towards a distant destination. But he goes on to refer to later signs which are closer to the destination – the ‘abomination that causes desolation’ antichrist, the great distress (often called “tribulation”), cosmic signs – and he adds “Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it [the End] is near, right at the door” (Matt 24:33). He also speaks of the fall of Jerusalem, the exile of the Jewish people to the nations and their eventual return to Jerusalem. (See the footnote for comment on the controversies surrounding Israel’s relationship with the Palestinians).[i]

 

So Jesus wants us to take note of what is happening in society and the world and to understand its significance vis a vis the End. In other words, we have to be prophetic (although we need to be careful and properly critical, rather than jump to conclusions). But many of us never stand back to see the bigger picture. We have our eyes down on the details of everyday life, including church life.

 

The interesting thing is that some secular scholars do stand back to see the bigger picture in connection with the threats to the future of the world and they speak about it in the ways prophets should do. So there is a secular eschatology over such things as dangers from global warming, viruses, war (nuclear and cyber), genetic engineering and artificial intelligence.

 

Many Christians need to wake up to what is going on. And we need to be discerning because often something developed for good reasons can go wrong and have bad effects. Here are some concerns very briefly:

  • The dangers in globalisation in our ‘global village’ becoming oppressive. (The current moves against globalisation could misfire and are very likely to be reversed by the pressures of inevitable international interdependence in trade, security, etc).
  • The dangers of the development of dictatorships (including through the growth in populism, political leaders on the extremes of politics, surveillance etc).
  • The growing influence of a major world religion, Islam, which believes in a Christ who is not divine, didn’t die on the cross or rise from the dead but who will come to earth in power.
  • More widespread worldwide persecution of Christians than has ever happened previously (Jesus foretells an increase in persecution).
  • Huge problems with water sources, extreme weather, mass migration, starvation, conflict caused by global warming, pollution etc (which seems relevant to New Testament prophecies)
  • The possibility of sudden global economic collapse (foretold in the New Testament in the End Times).
  • Israel becoming more central to world affairs and the nations (particularly the UN) becoming more negative towards her (also prophesied in Scripture). There is also a growth in antisemitism.
  • (I might also refer to the serious concern that NASA etc., have about the possibility of a large asteroid or meteorite colliding with the earth which seems to relate to the prophecies about cosmic signs, even though some of the language may be symbolical).

 

See my Christian Teaching website for detailed teaching on eschatology in both a full version and a summary http://www.christianteaching.org.uk/eschatology.html.

 

I find no difficulty in seeing the relevance of all these issues to biblical prophecy about the End Times and I think this is justified by reasonable thinking, not naïve jumping to conclusions.

 

We are called to hasten the return of Christ by praying for revival

 

We have noted that the New Testament makes it clear that we are not to ignore the “signs of the End.” Nor are we, as some do, just to be excited by the subject. We are to “look forward to the day of God and speed its coming” (2 Peter 3:12). The apparent delay in the coming of the day of God is because God is “not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Similarly, in Acts 3:19-20, Peter says: “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you – even Jesus.” Hence in the predominantly eschatological Book of Revelation Jesus called the church not just to take an interest in the End Times but to come to repentance (Rev 2-3).

 

So praying for Revival (alongside evangelism and living “holy and godly lives”) is a very important way of speeding the coming of the day of God, the return of Christ.

 

What Peter preached on the Day of Pentecost is very significant:

“This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Acts 2:16-21).

 

He uses the term “the last days” and we need to remember that the last days began at the time of Jesus’ first coming. When we use the term we often mean “the end of the last days.” But Joel’s prophecy about the outpouring of the Spirit is definitely related to “the end of the last days” or what we call the End Times. It is associated with cosmic signs of the End e.g. by Jesus in Mark 13:25 and Luke 21:25. It is therefore reasonable to conclude that there will be a major outpouring of the Spirit (Revival) in the End Times.

 

Some Christians who are interested in eschatology focus on doom and gloom and almost seem to be excited about it. Others are fascinated by eschatology but it doesn’t affect their lives or motivate them to greater obedience and witness. But if we are truly eschatological we will seek to do something positive in the light of the doom and gloom, including living holy lives, doing evangelism, but also praying and preparing for revival, which is much more far reaching, in terms of the numbers affected, than our evangelism. In that way, we will be speeding the return of Christ.

 

When the Lord spoke to Patricia (my wife) and me about Revival he seemed to be underlining Luke 1:17 “Make ready a people prepared for the Lord” which was John the Baptist’s calling. And that is an excellent motive for prayer and preparation for Revival. We are praying for the formation of a people prepared for the Lord – a more numerous people than can be achieved by evangelism (although evangelism remains an important priority).

 

So, by the grace of God, we are seeking to hasten the return of the Lord by making ready a people prepared for the Lord through Revival.

 

However we are also seeking to have a positive impact on society and the world by praying and preparing for Revival. It is a historical fact that the Wesleyan Revival had a profound positive effect on 18th century society which previously was described as a spiritual and moral quagmire. How we need that again.

Conclusion

 

Prayer and preparation for Revival is properly related to eschatology. We Christians are not only called by God to
live in the light of the End Times and to take note of the “signs of the times.” We are also called to pray and prepare for Revival in order to “make ready a people prepared for the Lord,” for his return and to seek to counteract the negative “signs” in society and the world.
Tony Higton

 

[i] I am very aware of the justice issues in the Israeli – Palestinian conflict. I was General Director of the Church’s Ministry among Jewish People and Rector of Christ Church in the Old City of Jerusalem and had contact both with Jewish Israelis and Palestinians/Israeli Arabs. I have seen the conflict first hand (and heard the bombs going off). For years I have encouraged Christians (via a mailing list and website http://www.prayerforpeace.org.uk) to pray about the needs, pain and fears of both Israelis and the Palestinians. Both sides act wrongly at times. But we must not ignore Jesus’ prophecy about the return of the Jewish people to Jerusalem (plus Old Testament prophecies on the issue) as a sign of the End Times.

We are living through a time of significant political change. I have in the past written about globalisation – its benefits and dangers. But now we are in the Trump-Brexit era which seems to be moving away from globalisation. How are we to understand what is going on relative to biblical predictions about the End Times? Does it mean that world trends are no longer moving in a direction which could ultimately facilitate the rise of the Antichrist as a global leader?

 

We are seeing how easy it is for extremists to gain power

 

In fact, the current reaction against globalisation shows how easy it is for extremists to come to power. I am aware that many US Evangelicals support Donald Trump. One of the main reasons is that, unlike Hilary Clinton, Trump takes a conservative line on abortion. Abortion is a big deal in the US but isn’t in the UK. I myself am conservative over abortion and many years ago mounted a local campaign against liberal views of abortion. But we need to realise that there are other very important moral issues as well as abortion and similar matters of personal morality. Trump may be conservative over abortion but many of us think that in other ways he is an extremist:

  • He is very self-promoting
  • He rubbishes anyone who disagrees with him (including the press)
  • He regards any news he disagrees with as “fake news.”
  • He says people who protest against him are being paid to do so
  • He claims that he alone represents the people against “the elite”
  • He thrives on divisiveness and claims his opponents are un-American.
  • He bullies, threatens and holds grudges
  • He acts hastily on important issues such as global warming and other international threats (e.g. N Korea, use of chemical weapons in Syria).

The Pope recently reminded people of what happened in Germany in 1933 and warned: “A people that was immersed in a crisis that looked for its identity until this charismatic leader came and promised to give their identity back, and he gave them a distorted identity, and we all know what happened.” This shows how a charismatic, extremist can gain power and go on to become a dictator.

Mark Malloch-Brown, former UN deputy general secretary, expressed deep concern about “the growing cult of the strong man.” He said: “In a range of countries there are very strong leaders, not always that respectful of the rules of the game.” He instanced the current leaders of China, India, Turkey together with Vladimir Putin and Donald Trump. They are a very powerful group on the G20 which is a major factor in globalisation. Malloch-Brown said that “democracy is being replaced by a generation of Caesars.”

 

Paul Mason, writing in the Guardian, said: “Putin has, at the cost of diplomatic isolation and the suppression of democratic rights, restored growth, order and national pride. Now all over the world there are mini-Putins.”

 

Tony Blair stated: “In a world of uncertainty, people want strength in their leaders. It’s our job to make sure that that does not bleed across into authoritarianism.”

A recent survey for The Independent discovered a fear of global fascism amongst British people. Contributory factors were the appointment of Trump, Brexit and the danger of far-right wing leaders coming to power in Europe. 53% of Britons said global fascism is growing. 46% said it was growing in Britain and 48% that it is growing in Europe.

Globalisation, one trend relevant to the eventual rise of Antichrist as a global leader, may be partly in reverse in some places. But the trend towards the emergence of extreme world leaders, another trend relevant to the eventual rise of Antichrist, is obvious.

 

Trump has a policy of rubbishing people who disagree with him. He does this with the media who, for all their faults, are crucial to freedom of speech and democracy. He is effectively supporting those who reject free speech and human rights. Human Rights Watch warned about the emergence of leaders who magnify their own authority. They “directly challenge the laws and institutions that promote dignity, tolerance, and equality.” They are “seeking to overturn the concept of human rights protections.”

 

Until recently it was assumed that the political extremes – left or right – would not be able to take over. That assumption has been shattered recently. Extremists can come to power and take over and that is just as relevant to the eventual rise of Antichrist as globalisation.

 

Appreciation of the benefits of globalisation will return

 

Globalisation has brought about increasing interdependency and interaction between nations. It seems that nations are returning to protectionism and restrictions on overseas workers and refugees. Some think the apparent reaction against globalisation is merely a reaction against the inequalities caused by multinationalism which will ultimately lead to a fairer globalisation. Many feel that globalisation has to re-orientate in order to cope with inequalities and global warming.

 

Stephen Hawking argued for the importance of globalisation: “For me, the really concerning aspect of this is that now, more than at any time in our history, our species needs to work together. We face awesome environmental challenges: climate change, food production, overpopulation, the decimation of other species, epidemic disease, acidification of the oceans.”

 

In any case we live in an electronic global village. That cannot be reversed. It is a world dominated by the internet and social media. One very important factor in the move towards globalisation is technological change. Goods can easily be ordered across national boundaries if they are more suitable to the consumer. Politicians have little control over this.

 

Roberto Azevêdo, Director General of the World Trade Organisation stated recently that tit-for-tat protectionism in the Great Depression of the 1930s led to world trade shrinking by two-thirds in three years. He added that if this were to happen today it “would be a catastrophe of unimaginable proportions.”

 

Globalisation promotes peace

 

Many people are already beginning to see the dangers in the reaction to globalisation. Take Donald Trump, for example. He has spoken of a nuclear arms race and has made aggressive statements about how America will deal with N Korea (a very dangerous nuclear power). He has also been provocative towards China including through his irresponsible tweets. However globalisation has been a movement towards word peace. The United Nations, NATO and the European Union which Trump tends to treat with contempt, have been powerful forces for peace. It is likely therefore that eventually people will react against the views propounded by Trump in favour of a fairer globalisation.

 

Boris Johnson commented: “We should never forget the old truism that when goods and services no longer cross borders then troops and tanks do instead. By rebelling against globalisation we endanger as system that has been associated with 70 years of post-war peace and prosperity and that has allowed billions to lift themselves out of penury by toil and enterprise.”

 

However Wolfgang Ischinger, chairman of the Munich Security Conference, said that the world is on the brink of a ‘post-Western age’ with European and American influence declining allowing other states, including Russia, to shape a new global order.  He asked: “Will this new era again be marked by greater tensions and, possibly, even outright conflict between the world’s major powers, not least between China and the US? Is this a post-order world in which the elements of the liberal international order are fading away because no one is there to protect them? The world is about to find out.”

 

Globalisation promotes free speech and human rights

 

We have noted that Trump is effectively supporting those who reject free speech and this is true of other extremists who have come to power. There will be a growing reaction against this and an appreciation of the support for free speech and human rights which globalisation provides.

 

The dangers of Surveillance

 

Since November 2016 the UK has had what is being called the most extreme surveillance laws ever passed in a democracy. Like the CIA, MI5 will be able to spy on citizens through their smart TVs, cars and cell phones. Silkie Carlo, policy officer at Liberty, said: “Under the guise of counter-terrorism, the British state has achieved totalitarian-style surveillance powers – the most intrusive system of any democracy in history. It now has the ability to indiscriminately hack, intercept, record, and monitor the communications and internet use of the entire population.”

 

Jim Killock, executive director of Open Rights Group, said: “The UK now has a surveillance law that is more suited to a dictatorship than a democracy.” Lord Strasburger commented: “We do have to worry about a UK Donald Trump. If we do end up with one, and that is not impossible, we have created the tools for repression.

 

GCHQ has warned the leaders of Britain’s political parties of the threat Russian hacking poses to democracy. They said: “This is not just about the network security of political parties’ own systems. Attacks against our democratic processes go beyond this and can include attacks on parliament, constituency offices, think tanks and pressure groups and individuals’ email accounts.”

 

It seems clear that globalisation will continue. But there is also the worrying emergence of extremist, authoritarian leaders and of very pervasive surveillance. All of these trends have relevance to the biblical predictions of the End Times about the ultimate rise of Antichrist etc.

 

Concerns here are not only about the replacement of democratic national governments by remote world government but also about the danger of oppression inherent in world government.

 

Reaction against globalisation

 

Supporters of globalisation point out its economic benefits. However global economic growth has fallen from 3.5% to 2% since 2008. Also there is an awareness of rising inequality, e.g. the wealthy pay less tax proportionately than the poor. The banks have been producing money which, instead of funding wages and job growth, has found its way into the assets of the rich and is pushing up prices. In Britain, whilst wages rose by 13% the stock market rose by 115%. World trade talks have been disappointing and the issue of immigration has come to the fore. Globalisation has produced a volatile economy. Industries, jobs and careers which used to be secure are no longer.

 

In fact, there is a growing trend against globalisation, and in favour of nationalism, led by right-wingers such as Donald Trump. Experts say that ISIS wants to induce western countries to become more right wing, nationalist, intolerant and xenophobic so that many citizens turn against Muslims, and therefore encouraging greater radicalisation, providing more terrorists and suicide bombers. Closer economic integration is seen as to some degree incompatible with national sovereignty and national democracy. There is a growing anti-establishment movement. Successful re-election of existing political leadership has virtually halved since 2008. Brexit is one evidence of a reaction against globalisation.

 

On the other hand, many issues call for close global co-operation, e.g. terrorism, global warming, world poverty and undermining of human rights. Also economists warn that anti-globalisation will worsen the global economic slowdown we are experiencing.

 

Despite the current reactions against it, the trend towards globalisation will not go away.

 

Disturbing definitions of ‘non-violent extremism’

 

This is one of the most serious areas of concern and could lead to government oppression, including over those (including Christians) who teach conservative values.

 

Britain is at the forefront of preparing legislation to prevent violent extremism. Theresa May, now prime minister, has been a leading figure in this process. Yet the government proposals have been subjected to very serious criticisms. In July 2016 the Joint Committee on Human Rights found that the proposals:

  • gave “no impression of having a coherent or sufficiently precise definition of either ‘non-violent extremism’ or ‘British values’”.
  • Would give the authorities “wide discretion to prohibit loosely defined speech which they find unacceptable”.
  • would “potentially interfere with a number of human rights including freedom of religion, expression and association”.

The committee also said that the government assumed “that there is an escalator that starts with religious conservatism and ends with support for jihadism”. They expressed “very grave” concerns about proposals to compulsorily register out-of-school education settings, such as church youth work. It said this could penalise Evangelical Christians, Orthodox Jews and others who have conservative religious views but do not promote violence.

 

Fiona Bruce, MP for Congleton warned that Sunday Schools and other church groups could still face inspections by the school regulatory body Ofsted. Several MPs have warned that the legislation could be used to target Christian groups that teach marriage is between a man and a woman.

 

Simon Cole, Chief Constable of Leicestershire, said the plans risked creating thought police – judges of “what people can and cannot say.” Alistair Carmichael, MP for Orkney and Shetland, said the definition of extremism as “the vocal or active opposition to our fundamental values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and the mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs” could be used against those who oppose the government, believe the monarchy should be abolished or disagree with same-sex marriage. He added that it would only be a matter of time before the powers are used in a way for they were never intended.

 

Commenting on the government emphasis on “British values”, the Bishop of London said: “The business of the State is to ensure that the living traditions in our pluralist society have space to flourish without the State itself being drawn into the role of an ideologically driven Big Brother, profligate with ever more detailed regulation.”

 

In February 2016 a Hampshire school called the police after a 15 year old pupil viewed the UKIP website on a school computer. He was interviewed by police for viewing “extremist views.”

 

The Scottish Government Named Person Scheme

 

In a very disturbing move, the Scottish Government proposed to assign a state guardian to monitor every child’s ‘wellbeing.’ This would undermine the parent-child relationship. It would also allow public bodies to share sensitive private information about children and parents without their knowledge or consent. Christian parents would be particularly concerned that such a system would undermine the Christian upbringing of their children.

 

Fortunately, in July 2016 five judges of the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that the scheme was unlawful. However it is a cause of deep concern that the Scottish Government ever embarked upon this oppressive course of action and it shows the danger of such ideas being repeated in the future.

 

 

The number of deaths per year from terrorism has risen nine-fold since 2000, according to the Global Terrorism Index. In 2014 32,658 people were killed by terrorists – an 80% increase on 2013. Steve Killelea, chair of the Institute for Economics and Peace said recently: “Terrorism is gaining momentum at an unprecedented pace. The Paris incident in many ways is a watershed within Europe.”

However the horrific terrorist attack in Paris has profoundly changed the situation. Although the highest death toll from terrorism has been in Iraq, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Pakistan and Syria, Europe now feels very vulnerable. Shortly after the Paris atrocity Brussels (a European capital city) shut down for several days because of intelligence about an imminent attack.

It is also clear that terrorists are mixing with the huge number of genuine refugees entering Europe, which heightens the insecurity felt by Europeans. BuzzFeed, an American internet media company, claims that an ISIS operative told them that 4000 terrorists had been smuggled into Europe.

I am convinced that some of most serious dangers in the world are not caused by totally evil actions but by good actions going wrong. These actions will further trends towards various End Time scenarios. For example, it is clearly right and necessary for governments to protect their citizens from terrorism, including by tightening security and strengthening surveillance. But these actions can go wrong in the hands of failing human beings. They can lead towards a totalitarian state. I do not believe that such a thought is paranoid but rather a serious concern we should pray about.

 

Is there a sinister conspiracy to establish a repressive world government or is this simply the view of paranoid extremists?

Dr Seth Baum, Executive Director of the Global Catastrophic Risk Institute, wrote that many people do not appreciate that “Global government might begin benevolent, but it could turn sour, even becoming the oppressive disaster that the conspiracy theorists fear. And if it does, there would be no other government out there to keep it in check.” He added: “It’s worth noting that there have been several major oppressive governments throughout world history, resulting in some of the biggest disasters ever. Fortunately, a historical trend has been that other, more open societies have eventually out-competed them, leading to the oppression declining. But if that oppressive government is a global government, then there is no chance for another society to out-compete it.”

The steady development of globalisation

Globalisation is an inevitable process, a lot of which has already happened. Some people may not appreciate that there is already a huge amount of international co-operation and control. Much of it is for positive motives and has the potential to improve the lives of human beings. But, as Seth Baum says, well-intentioned and helpful developments can go wrong. There are various contributory factors to globalisation some of which I’ll mention briefly:

POSITIVE TRENDS

Economic Cooperation

One of the biggest factors driving the movement towards globalisation is economic. There has been an increasing exchange of products, services, capital and labour across national borders which has led to closer integration of economies throughout the world. This is linked with a large fall in transport costs over time. Also modern communications facilitate global trade and an international work force, and enables companies to split their work between different countries. The great increase in speed of travel and transport assists this trend. These developments require international laws to govern economic activity. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) founded in 1945, is composed of “188 countries working to foster global monetary cooperation, secure financial stability, facilitate international trade, promote high employment and sustainable economic growth, and reduce poverty around the world.”

Peacekeeping

Another factor which has brought nations together in global co-operation is the experience of the world wars. Both the United Nation and the European Union have grown out of the aftermath of war as an attempt to promote and maintain peace. Dag Hammarskjöld, UN Secretary General, said the UN “was created not to lead mankind to heaven but to save humanity from hell.” In addition to providing peacekeeping forces around the world, the UN set up the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in 1957, to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy and to inhibit its use for any military purpose, including nuclear weapons.

Upholding Human Rights

The disturbing oppression and inequalities in many countries has led to attempts to bring nations together to promote human rights and welfare across the world in the 20th and 21st centuries.
• The Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the UN on 10 December 1948 in Paris.
• The International Labour Organisation (ILO), set up in 1919, was inspired by the idea that social justice was crucial to world order and peace.
• The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, set up in 1946, contributes to peace and security by promoting international collaboration through education, science, and culture to further universal respect for justice, the rule of law, and human rights.
• UN Women, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women was set up in 2010.

Overcoming Hunger, Ill-Health and Poverty

The need to overcome the huge challenge of world poverty has also led to global co-operation which has drawn nations together.
• The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, set up in 1945, leads international efforts to defeat hunger.
• The UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, was created 1946 to provide food, clothing and healthcare to European children who faced famine and disease. It now works in more than 190 countries with families, local communities, business partners and governments, to help protect children in danger.
• The World Health Organization (WHO), established in 1948, is concerned with international public health
• The World Food Programme, which was set up in 1961, delivers food and other relief supplies to about 80 million people in more than 80 countries every year.
• The UN Population Fund, UNFPA, set up in 1969, aims to ensure every young person has their potential fulfilled, every pregnancy is wanted and every childbirth is safe.
• The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), set up in 1977, is dedicated to eradicating rural poverty in developing countries.

Caring for Refugees

The increasing problem of people fleeing war and oppressive regimes has also brought nations together to provide for them.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), was founded in 1950 to help displaced Europeans. Globalisation encourages people to move. In 1970 there were 70 million international migrants. Now there are over 200 million.

Professor Alexander Betts is director of the Refugee Studies Centre at the University of Oxford believes that refugees and displacement are likely to become a defining issue of the 21st century. This is because an increasing number of states are very weak and so are unable or unwilling to ensure the most fundamental human rights of citizens. The UN Security Council has not dealt well with this increase in migration and there will need to be a more effective international co-operation on the issue.

It is interesting that in September 2015 for the first time, at a meeting of EU Interior Ministers, a majority decision was made on the sensitive issue of refugee quotas which was binding on all EU countries. Previously such a decision would have been left to individual states to make. This was based on the new mechanism whereby 55% of EU countries representing 65% of the EU population can decide for all 28 members of the EU. This was a significant step forward in European solidarity and a corresponding weakening of national sovereignty.

Combatting Climate Change

One of the biggest challenges facing the world is, of course, global warming and this requires much more global co-operation. In 1988 The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was set up to assess scientific information relevant to the impact of human-induced climate change and options for adaptation and mitigation. It is essential that the nations of the world work together to combat this problem.

In August 2015 President Obama launched his Clean Power Plan which sets achievable standards to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 32% from 2005 levels by 2030. His action encourages the possibility of a realistic international agreement at the UN Climate Conference in Paris in December 2015. It is possible that such an agreement could limit global warming to a maximum of 2oC.

Obama predicted what would happen if world leaders don’t take action on climate change: “Submerged countries. Abandoned cities. Fields no longer growing. Indigenous peoples who can’t carry out traditions that stretch back millennia. Entire industries of people who can’t practice their livelihoods. Desperate refugees seeking the sanctuary of nations not their own. Political disruptions that could trigger multiple conflicts around the globe.” He added: “Climate change is already disrupting our agriculture and ecosystems, our water and food supplies, our energy, our infrastructure, human health, human safety—now. Today.”

Sustainable Development Goals

In July 2015 24 Heads of State and Government met with other politicians in Addis Ababa to discuss ending poverty in the world and combatting climate change. They put forward 17 Sustainable Development Goals. Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary General said the agreement “encompasses a universal, transformative and integrated agenda that heralds an historic turning point for our world.” The UN General Assembly endorsed the Addis Ababa agreement and Ban Ki-moon commented “We launch a new era of cooperation and global partnership.” Then at the end of September 2015 the 193 countries of the UN ratified the Goals. Ban Ki-moon commented: “They are a to-do list for people and planet, and a blueprint for success. To achieve these new global goals, we will need your high-level political commitment. We will need a renewed global partnership.”

The 17 goals including ending poverty and hunger, ensuring people have healthy lives and access to water, energy and education, achieving gender equality, promoting economic growth and employment for all, tackling climate change, pollution and promoting sustainable use of ecosystems, etc. They also include “promoting the rule of law at the national and international levels and ensuring equal access to justice for all.” In addition it involves “promoting a universal, rules-based, open, non-discriminatory and equitable multilateral trading system under the World Trade Organization.”
Another aspect of the Addis Ababa conference was that developing countries are demanding a global body on tax co-operation. Currently global tax standards are decided privately by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) which any see as the “rich countries’ club.” Developing countries lose more money through international tax dodging than they receive in aid. They want this to be stopped.
Achieving all this will require much greater international co-operation between governments and nations. The pressure is on and this will move the world more in the direction of world government.

Others

In addition to the numerous international bodies mentioned above, the following also encourage globalisation:
• The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), set up in 1947 to encourage the planning and development of international air transport to ensure safe and orderly growth.
• The International Maritime Organization (IMO), set up in 1948 to regulate shipping.
• The International Telecommunication Union (ITU), originally founded in 1865, as the International Telegraph Union, is now responsible for issues that concern information and communication technologies.

As can be seen, global co-operation has led to many very positive developments.

NEGATIVE TRENDS

One of the ways in which world government could “turn sour” is by it seriously limiting human rights and freedom, despite the organisations set up to promote human rights. There is already disturbing evidence of such a trend. The reason may be international crime, cyber war and the spread of Islamic terrorism. But counter measures carry serious dangers. One aspect of an oppressive world government would be a powerful surveillance system.

The dangers of surveillance

David Anderson QC produced a report in June 2015 in which he said: “Modern communications networks can be used by the unscrupulous for purposes ranging from cyber-attack, terrorism and espionage to fraud, kidnap and child sexual exploitation. A successful response to these threats depends on entrusting public bodies with the powers they need to identify and follow suspects in a borderless online world … But trust requires verification. Each intrusive power must be shown to be necessary, clearly spelled out in law, limited in accordance with human rights standards and subject to demanding and visible safeguards.” He recommended replacing the current legislation on surveillance. He also proposed safeguards against snooping on journalists, lawyers and other groups. He rejected the idea that the threat from terrorism is “unprecedented” and questioned whether the intelligence services need the power laid out in the Government’s proposed “snooper’s charter” to search through people’s web browser histories to see what they have been looking at online.

He also suggested that control over the intelligence services be transferred from politicians to judges, which does not seem to have gone down well with the government. Sir David Omand, the ex-head of GCHQ (Government Communications HQ), commented that it would be “unconscionable for a judge to authorise a very sensitive intelligence operation where the political risk, if it went wrong, fell on the home secretary, or overseas the foreign secretary, who would know nothing about it and wouldn’t have approved it.”

However he has agreed with demands from GCHQ that bulk data gathering should continue. Although the security authorities claim it is an anonymous exercise in tracking, it is clear from the US that personal information can be extracted from it.

In February 2015 GCHQ was found guilty of illegal behaviour in the period leading to December 2014 when it allowed American security authorities to access private personal information about UK residents. However the government strongly defended GCHQ and said this judgment would not affect its operations.

Tony Porter, the UK government’s Surveillance Camera Commissioner, said he was very concerned about the “burgeoning use of body-worn videos” by police, university security staff, housing and environmental health officers – and even supermarket workers. He added: “If people are going round with surveillance equipment attached to them, there should be a genuinely good and compelling reason for that. It changes the nature of society and raises moral and ethical issues … about what sort of society we want to live in … I’ve heard that supermarkets are issuing staff with body-worn videos. For what purpose? There is nothing immediately obvious to me.”

The Commons Home Affairs Select Committee has criticised the level of secrecy surrounding the use of the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA), saying it allows the police to “engage in acts which would be unacceptable in a democracy.” Keith Vaz, the committee chairman, said: “Using RIPA to access telephone records of journalists is wrong and this practice must cease. The inevitable consequence is that this deters whistleblowers from coming forward.”

The Intelligence Services Committee (ISC) report into the murder of Lee Rigby confirms the existence of the Tempora programme – which taps undersea cables off the Cornish coast in order to collect the communications data of every UK internet user.

Whilst avoiding a paranoid reaction to the security services, it is important to recognise that modern surveillance, although claimed to be about combatting terrorism, is disturbing. It is easy for it to be misused and to be open to facilitating political oppression.

Another factor which can encourage oppressive political action is terrorism and there is growing evidence of this trend today.

Counter-radicalisation strategy

One of the most disturbing recent developments is the establishment of the UK governments Counter-Radicalisation Strategy. There is widespread concern that this could lead to censorship. One of the problems is that “radicalisation” has not been defined. Also “British Values” is a term which lacks clarity. Roger Mosey, former editor of the Today programme on Radio 4, commented: “There are difficulties sometimes in deciding what is extremism and what is not; hardline religious conservatism is one thing, inciting terrorist violence another. I’m not sure politicians are the best to judge which is which.”

Sajid Javid, when he was UK Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, told David Cameron that he couldn’t support the Home Secretary’s plan to vet TV programmes which might contain extremist material before they were screened. He added: “It should be noted that other countries with a pre-transmission regulatory regime are not known for their compliance with rights relating to freedom of expression and government may not wish to be associated with such regimes.”

Sir Peter Fahy, Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police supports the UK government’s new counter-terrorism measures. But he commented: “If these issues [defining extremism] are left to securocrats [police officers with power to influence government] then there is a danger of a drift to a police state. …There is a danger of us being turned into a thought police. This securocrat says we do not want to be in the space of policing thought or police defining what is extremism.”

There is a real danger that views such as that homosexual practice is sinful or Jesus is the only way to God (and thus other religions are false) would be deemed extremism.

Growing restrictions on human rights is a serious issue in many parts of the world.

Limitation of human rights

James Savage, Human Rights Defenders Programme Manager for Amnesty International, commented on the fact that, in the last three years over 60 countries have drafted or passed laws that curtail human rights groups and 96 countries have inhibited them from operating at full capacity. He said: “This global wave of restrictions has a rapidity and breadth to its spread we’ve not seen before, that arguably represents a seismic shift and closing down of human rights space not seen in a generation. There are new pieces of legislation almost every week – on foreign funding, restrictions in registration or association, anti-protest laws, gagging laws. And, unquestionably, this is going to intensify in the coming two to three years. You can visibly watch the space shrinking.”

Contributory factors are the shifting of political influence away from western countries which tend to fund such groups, reaction against pro-democracy uprisings in former communist states and the Middle East and counter terrorist actions which, intentionally or otherwise, adversely affect human rights groups.

As is often the case, the truth lies in the middle. Some people dismiss the danger of oppressive world government as the stuff of fiction. Others oppose genuinely positive developments to promote human welfare on a global level because they read everything as sinister. Both of these approaches are unhelpful. A more balanced view is that globalisation has many positive aspects but there is a real need to be alert to unhelpful and sinister developments. The New Testament envisages an eventual oppressive world global regime. But that does not mean that Christians should oppose the positive trends which benefit