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 https://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 https://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.

It is interesting that the dangers secular scholars see as threatening the world or the survival of humanity are remarkably parallel to the dangers Jesus told us to take note of as reminders of his return. I regularly stress that these events are not to be regarded as signs of Jesus’ imminent return but as reminders that he is coming back.

Jesus spoke of earthquakes, war, famine, disease etc. He also mentioned “stars falling from the sky.” Dr Seth Baum, founder of the Global Catastrophic Risk Institute, a secular organisation, lists various “Catastrophic Threats to Humanity :

Environmental change: climate change, biodiversity loss, biogeochemical flows (interference with the nitrogen and phosphorus cycles), stratospheric ozone depletion, ocean acidification, global fresh water use, land use change, chemical pollution, and atmospheric aerosol loading.

Emerging technologies: artificial intelligence (robots and intelligent computers), biotechnology (genetic manipulation), geoengineering (climate engineering), and nanotechnology for atomically precise manufacturing.

Large-scale violence.

Pandemics: Pandemics can be of natural or artificial origin, or both.

Natural disasters: asteroid and comet impacts, supervolcano eruptions, solar storms, and gamma ray bursts from the sun. (He also mentions the very long-term issues of the gradual warming of the Sun, which will ultimately make Earth uninhabitable for humanity in a few billion years and the Milky Way collision with the Andromeda Galaxy)

Physics experiments: This includes high energy particle physics experiments such as at the CERN Large Hadron Collider going wrong.

Extraterrestrial encounter.

Let us examine some of these concerns:

Asteroid strikes

There is considerable interest in the danger of a devastating asteroid strike on Earth. The world’s first Asteroid Day was held on 30th June 2015, the anniversary of the “The Tunguska Event” when an asteroid destroyed thousands of square miles of forest in Siberia on 30th June 1908.

Some 150,000 asteroids have been registered but there are many more. Some are about a mile in diameter and, if they impacted Earth they could destroy civilisation. It is not just the impact damage but the ensuing serious weather changes and starvation. Asteroids only 450 feet across could cause severe regional damage.

In September 2014 an asteroid the size of a house came within 25,000 miles of Earth. In August 2027 an asteroid 0.6 miles across could approach within 19,000 miles.

Paul Cox, technical and research director of the Slooh Space Telescope in the Canary Islands, commented: “We continue to discover these potentially hazardous asteroids – sometimes only days before they make their close approaches to Earth. We need to find them before they find us!”

One of his colleagues, Dr Bob Berman said: “On a practical level, a previously unknown, undiscovered asteroid seems to hit our planet and cause damage or injury once a century or so, as we witnessed on 30 June 1908 and 15 February 2013 [The Chelyabinsk meteor which entered Earth’s atmosphere over Russia].”

Global warming

Scientists have reported that the first half of 2015 was the hottest since records began. June was the fourth month of the year to break a temperature record. The average June temperature across the world was 61.48°F, 0.22°F higher than the record temperature last year. Earth has broken monthly heat records 25 times since the year 2000 but hasn’t broken a monthly cold record since 1916.

The reduction in Arctic ice is an indicator of global warming. From 2010 it reduced by 14% but in 2013 it increased by 41%. Those sceptical about global warming seize on this as proof global warming isn’t happening. But scientists respond that there are occasional cold years, but they don’t alter the fact that overall the temperature is rising. In fact, they point out that the temperature in 2013 would have been considered normal in the 1990s but since then, with global warming, has become below normal. The melting trend resumed in 2014.

The sun’s activity (processes which produce heat) vary over a cycle of 10-12 years and some scientists are predicting that solar activity will fall by 60% between 2030 and 2040 causing a “mini ice age.” However, as on previous occasions, this will be a temporary reduction and won’t affect the overall warming of the earth.

Pope Francis has produced an encyclical about the problem of global warming. He refers to the earth as a sister who “cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her. We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will.” He adds that “A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system… Humanity is called to recognize the need for changes of lifestyle, production and consumption, in order to combat this warming or at least the human causes which produce or aggravate it.” He expresses particular concern for the poor who will face the worst consequences of global warming. He warns that the results of global warming could cause wars. He writes: “Doomsday predictions can no longer be met with irony or disdain. We may well be leaving to coming generations debris, desolation and filth.”

Johan Rockström is an internationally recognised expert on global sustainability who teaches natural resource management at Stockholm University. In January 2105 he wrote a paper in the Science journal about the damage humans have done to the environment in which he said that in order to keep the earth hospitable :

• We should keep carbon dioxide levels to less than 350ppm (parts per million) but the level reached 400ppm in March 2015.

• We should maintain 90% of biodiversity (variety of plants and animals) but it has dropped to 84% in parts of the world such as Africa.

• We should limit the addition of phosphorous, nitrogen, etc., to crops to 11 trillion grams of phosphorus and 62 trillion grams of nitrogen but we are adding some 22 trillion grams of phosphorus and 150 trillion grams of nitrogen.

• We should maintain 75% of the earth’s forests but the level is down to 62%.

• We should limit the emission of aerosols (which affect climate change and organisms) into the atmosphere to a technical level of 0.25 but it is up to 0.30 over S Asia.
Global warming is a major factor in various negative developments in the natural world:

• Large areas of the Atlantic Ocean, up to 100 miles long, are no longer able to sustain any animal life.

• We are producing the same amount of carbon dioxide as occurred in the Permian Era when ocean acidification led to a mass extinction not only of sea creatures but of some terrestrial life forms and forests. Prof Rachel Wood of Edinburgh University said: “The data is compelling and we really should be worried in terms of what is happening today.”

• Water shortage around the world is causing hardship, violence and political tension because 50% of the world’s water is transnational, i.e. flows across national boundaries. Thousands of rivers have disappeared. As the world population has tripled in the last century, water demand has increased sixfold. The UN’s recent annual World Water Development report predicts demand will increase by 55% by 2050 and if usage remains as now the world will only have 60% of the water it needs by 2030. This could lead to crop failure, ecosystem breakdown, an increase in disease and poverty, violent conflicts and industry breakdown.

• A report in the journal Nature Climate Change says that heatwaves that previously occurred once every three years are now happening every 200 days due to global warming.

• It is true that there has been a dramatic growth in plant cover around the world in the last decade, including through a major tree-planting campaign in China and natural growth in grasslands and non-tropical forests in former Soviet States, Africa and Australia because of heavy rainfall and abandoned farms. However the problem is that the extra carbon being stored by this additional vegetation is only 7% of the 60 billion tonnes of carbon which has been emitted into the atmosphere during the same period. The remainder will stay in the atmosphere.

The Pew Research Center published its “Global Threats Report” in July 2015 which revealed that the majority of people in Latin America and Africa (19 out of 40 nations surveyed) regard global warming as the worst threat facing the world. Many people in Asia also regarded it as a big threat. (By comparison, Europe and the Middle East regard ISIS as the top threat).

Nuclear accidents

The Science and Security Board of the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists created a symbolic clock which represents a countdown to a global catastrophe. In January 2015 the clock was advanced to three minutes to midnight, the closest it has been since 1987 during the Cold War. The scientists concerned warn of the risk of global warming and nuclear accidents. Since 2009 all nuclear powers are expanding nuclear reactors and weapons programmes. The West hopes that the Iranians will not develop nuclear weapons but others, especially the Israelis, do not expect them to keep their word, which is hardly an irrational fear, despite all the precautions. North Korea has nuclear weapons, as does Pakistan. The Saudi Arabians are speaking of the possibility of obtaining nuclear weapons because of their fear of the Iranians. Many people are worried that terrorists will get hold of nuclear devices.

Volcanoes

Bill McGuire, Professor emeritus of Geophysical and Climate Hazards at University College London has recently written a book on how climate change triggers earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanoes. He says: “We ignore volcanic threats at our peril.” He described how the eruption of the Tambora volcano in Indonesia in 1815 produced pumice which clogged shipping routes for years and created a thick covering some 300 miles away. It also produced a sulphurous fog over eastern N America and Europe which reduced summer temperatures by 2 degrees centigrade, incessant rain and very powerful storms. This led to harvest failure and famine, causing disease and death on a large scale. If such an event were to happen now the effects on our interconnected world markets could lead to a collapse of food production.

Much larger eruptions in the past have produced hundreds of times more sulphur and volcanic winters lasting for years with one third of the Earth covered in ice and snow. The Yellowstone supervolcano in America is thought to be overdue for a major eruption. It is possible it could produce so much sulphur dioxide that it could block the sun for 5-6 years causing worldwide famine and even an end to civilisation.

Global warming will affect ice-covered volcanoes, facilitating eruptions.

Conclusion

The Lord wants us to take notice of all these things as reminders that he is returning to bring a transformation of nature and of human nature. But he also wants us to pray about them and the people affected or likely to be affected by them.

Jesus said that wars, famines, earthquakes, pestilences etc., were “the beginning of birth-pains” of the Messiah (Matt 24:6-8), i.e. early reminders that he would return to deal with injustices and suffering of the world. Global warming fits into this category of “the beginning of birth-pains” of the Messiah.

Global warming sceptics

There are, of course, people who deny that global warming is happening, for example Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, many members of the US Republican Party and the Wall Street Journal. Nigel Lawson’s Global Warming Policy Foundation also does so. According to press reports in September 2014 the GWPF is secretly funded by the Institute of Economic Affairs which is itself funded by fossil fuel companies which have a vested interest in denying global warming.

On the other hand, the Daily Telegraph and the Daily Mail, which have cast doubt on global warming in the past, have now changed their tune and accept that it is happening and human beings play a role in it.

One argument against global warming is the claim that warming has been on pause in the last 15 years. However scientists point out that, whereas global warming has slowed down, there has still been a rise of 0.2℃ over the last 15 years. They also point out that a reason for the slowdown is that excess heat is being stored in the Atlantic and Southern Oceans and that a natural ocean cycle will cause the temperature to rise in around 15 years’ time. The Pacific may also have a similar role. Trade winds help the oceans to absorb heat into an area 100 -300 metres below the surface. These trade winds are likely to drop in some years’ time (probably soon after 2020) which will facilitate the heat being released. Scientists also point out that volcanic eruptions spread particles into the atmosphere which reflect the sun’s heat back into space, thus acting against global warming.

The fact is that the World Meteorological Organisation has reported that 13 of the 14 warmest years have occurred since 2000 and each of the last three decades has been warmer than the previous one, with 2001-2010 the warmest on record.

The WMO also reported that concentrations of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere increased faster in 2012-13 than at any time since 1984. They were 142% of pre-Industrial Revolution levels. Methane was 253% and Nitrous Oxide 121% of pre-industrial levels, both of them greenhouse gases. The seas are becoming more acidic at a greater rate than for 300 years.

The effects of global warming

It would be a mistake to put all the extreme weather and other disasters (floods, hurricanes, drought, heatwaves, etc) down solely to global warming. The world population has doubled since the 1970s and many expanding cities are either built on the coast or on flood plains. Some scientists are considering declaring 1950 to be the start of a new geological age called the Anthropocene which refers to the human domination of the planet. It has been characterised by dramatic population increase and industrial development leading to great pollution and waste. Pollution is said to cause 1 in 8 human deaths. The so-called Great Pacific Garbage Patch – a floating ‘island’ of rubbish – is said to be twice the size of the United States. Forests have been cut down, oceans over-fished and many species becoming almost or actually extinct. This will all be evident in the sediments which will form the rocks and fossils in the future.

However, climate change is predicted to have serious effects:

Extreme weather: Hotter air holds more moisture which will lead to extreme precipitation, and, of course, water expands as it grows warmer which will lead to flooding. This can be linked with melting ice caps. Also the Amazon rainforest, the “lungs of the earth” is drying out making it vulnerable to massive forest fires. In 2005 and 2010 it became a net producer rather than an absorber of Carbon Dioxide.

Hunger: because of reduction in food production and increasing prices.

Heat-related deaths: The Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health points out that “many countries experience annual heat-related and cold-related deaths associated with current weather patterns.” It added that “heat-related deaths would be expected to rise by around 257% by the 2050s.”

Violence: because of growing poverty and hunger and resulting migration. The 2014 IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) Report stated: “Throughout the 21st century, climate-change impacts are projected to slow down economic growth, make poverty more difficult, further erode food security, and prolong existing and create new poverty traps, the latter particularly in urban areas and emerging hot spots of hunger.” It is also obscene that half of the world’s wealth is owned by 1% of the population. The US Center for Naval Analyses Military Advisory Board, described climate change as a “catalyst for conflict.” It claims that it “will aggravate stressors abroad, such as poverty, environmental degradation, political instability and social tensions – conditions that can enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence” as “massive floods, water shortages and famines … are expected to hit and decimate unstable nations.”

Water shortage and flooding: experts are speaking of the 21st century being characterised by “water in the wrong place” – a lack of drinking water in some places and flooding in others. Water tables are falling in every continent. Arctic ice is disappearing much faster than scientists expected. Flooding in Europe is likely to double by 2050. Dame Julia Slingo, chief scientist at the Meteorological Office, said that in early 2014 the UK had seen the “most exceptional period of rainfall in 248 years.”

Ocean acidification: because of absorption of carbon dioxide. This will lead to a shortage of fish for those dependent on it as a food.

Extinction of species: In 2007 the IPCC suggested that 20 to 30% of plant and animal species faced an increased risk of extinction this century if the planet keeps warming. The wildlife population is less than 50% of what it was 40 years ago and valuable habitats are being destroyed.

John Kerry US Secretary of State said in February 2014: “Climate change can now be considered another weapon of mass destruction, perhaps even the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction.”

Attempts to combat global warming

Various methods have been suggested, for example:

Reflecting sunlight back into space: This could be done by spraying sulphate particles high in the atmosphere, whitening low clouds by spraying salt water above the oceans, thinning high cirrus clouds to allow more heat to escape from the earth, whitening the ocean surface to reflect more sunlight by generating microbubbles or covering deserts with shiny material. However a study in November 2014 showed that these methods would cause worse floods and droughts for billions of people.

Extracting Carbon Dioxide from the atmosphere: This would require burning many plants and trees in power plants and capturing the Carbon Dioxide from them. It would require the planting of huge numbers of trees. This would be very expensive.

Climate Change talks

At the talks in Lima at the end of 2014 every country committed to cutting greenhouse gas emissions. There is, however, much more to be done and commitments are not always worked out in practice.

A call to action

As always, when considering events and trends which fit into the category of “the ‘beginning of birth-pains’ of the Messiah” we should seek to do whatever we can to counteract the harm involved. Desmond Tutu, writing in The Observer in September 2014, said: “Never before in history have human beings been called on to act collectively in defence of the Earth. If we don’t limit global warming to two degrees or less we are doomed to a period of unprecedented instability, insecurity and loss of species. The most devastating effects of climate change – deadly storms, heat waves, droughts, rising food prices and the advent of climate refugees – are being visited on the world’s poor. Those who have no involvement in creating the problem are the most affected, while those with the capacity to arrest the slide dither. Africans, who emit far less carbon than the people of any other continent, will pay the steepest price. It is a deep injustice.”

He then went on to call for a boycott of events, sports teams and media programming sponsored by fossil fuel companies; demand that their advertisements carry health warnings; ask our religious communities to speak out on the issue from their various pulpits, etc.

It remains to be seen if global warming becomes the global nightmare it has the potential to be. In the meantime it fits into this category of “the ‘beginning of birth-pains’ of the Messiah” alongside wars, famines, earthquakes and pestilence.