Looking Back in Decades: The Editor's Column

 •  11 min. read  •  grade level: 10
Many decades in world history have with the passing of time acquired certain descriptive appellations, such as "The Gay Nineties," which expresses a carefree way of life as characterizing those years at the end of the 19th century.
If we come down into the 20th century, we think of the 30's in relation to the worldwide depression which only really terminated with preparations for war. And the 30's ended with World War II in progress, but not yet engulfing most of the world.
The early 40's were marked by world conflict of major proportions, and then the aftermath of desolations and privations, with many nations either bankrupt or near to it. Another important milestone of the 40's was the coming of the nuclear age, which was introduced by the explosion of atomic bombs over Japanese cities.
Perhaps one of the most significant events of the 40's was the re-establishment of the nation of Israel as an independent power such as it had not been since the year 606 B.C., since Nebuchadnezzar's conquest of the land. But equally significant is the fact that in spite of all Jewish aspirations and efforts, the old city of Jerusalem remains in the hands of the Arabs as a remarkable evidence of the accuracy of the Lord's word: "Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled." Luke 21:2424And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. (Luke 21:24).
Remarkable reconstruction of nations in Europe, and of Japan, were clearly evidenced in the 50's; but the struggles between East and West, which became known as the "cold war," as each side jockeyed for positions which would guarantee it either world mastery for itself, or at least deny it to the other side, dominated the scene. This strange conflict is still unresolved.
The 50's probably produced more great changes than any previous ten-year period in history. Egypt became a world power again; many eruptions in the Middle East gave Arab nationalism a thrust forward; the West lost ground to Russia in that vital area, especially vital to the West because of its dependence on Middle Eastern oil. In these years Egypt seized the Suez Canal and, in spite of threats, coercions, war, and even appeasements, still maintains a hostile attitude to Israel and seizes her ships and cargo attempting to pass through the canal. The ages-old conflict between the descendants of Jacob and Esau became more unrelenting than for centuries-a precursor of even greater Arab hostility to Israel.
The advent of nuclear and thermonuclear weapons of destruction made the old gunpowder invention of the 13th century seem insignificant, for in all probability more destructive power was made and put into arsenals during the 50's than in all the intervening years put together. The very height of man's scientific achievements are the weapons of destruction and the means of delivering them; these are now in storehouses awaiting the greatest holocaust of his creating.
During these fateful years Soviet Russia made her entrance into the small group of nations which before had a monopoly on nuclear and thermonuclear devices. On Russia's exploding her first atomic bomb, she began her challenge of the United States for the world supremacy which the United States had within her grasp at the close of World War II. From the day when the United States alone possessed these lethal weapons, and abounded in the means of their delivery, the balance has been steadily tipping more and more from the West to the East. Not that it has gone all the way yet, but the last fifteen years have witnessed a great change.
In August, 1957 Russia brought forward an intercontinental ballistic missile (I.C.B.M.), and the last years of the 50's were marked by rapid Russian achievements in this field; this was punctuated by her successes leading to positive dominance in the space field. So, as the 50's faded, added emphasis was laid on Russia's ability to deliver the most frightful weapons to any spot on the earth.
If we look through the 50's in a religious way, they are marked by increasing apostasy in Protestantism. Every vital truth of the Word of God is being attacked, and that by men using the language of orthodoxy. The truth of the Lord's imminent return as the Christian's proper hope and expectation was departed from by many who a decade ago not only held but preached it. The blessed hope was relegated to an insignificant place, or given up entirely, by those who fell in with making the truth of Christianity an adjunct to world betterment; and so their long range plans caused them to act out the part of the servant who says, "My lord delayeth his coming," by saying, "Oh, Christ may not come for 500 or 1000 years yet." While these departures from the truth were going on, other Protestant leaders championed the great ecumenical movement for a "world church." All this is a forerunner of the predicted coming of that apostate merger, "BABYLON THE GREAT" (Rev. 17 and 18). And the 50's saw Roman Catholicism make great strides forward. Truly, according to the Word of God, the great ecumenical church will have headquarters in Rome. The 50's furnished additional proof in the religious world that the time of the end is at the threshold.
A uniting of Western Europe, a dream of warriors and statesmen for centuries, took certain forms as blueprints were drafted for implementation of such a union. At first, military alliances and organizations were planned and then formed; and later, economic unions looking to further integration of fiscal policies were adopted. A century ago, students of the prophetic scriptures would have been astounded at the strides made during the 50's toward the creation of the predicted revived Roman Empire. Much of the impact is lost on Christians today, by reason of the whirl of other matters, and by a false sense of security due to the world's unprecedented prosperity. Never have so many people had so much material prosperity as they have today. This has a dulling effect on spiritual perception to the obscuring of the sobering fact that judgment is about to break on this world, and that first the Lord must come for His own.
The seventh decade of this century does not really begin until next January, yet men do speak of the 50's and the 60's; and so we may also take a glance backward and forward on this basis. What do the so-called 60's portend? Do they presage good or evil? There certainly is no reason to suppose that the decided trends of the 50's will be reversed in the 60's. Russia and International Communism is certainly not going to give up any of the tremendous gains made during the 50's, nor will they forego their planned expansion in the years ahead. They are bent on world control; by that we do not mean that they will achieve absolute world dominion, for the Word of God indicates the survival of an apostate Christendom into those years of trouble that are coming on the earth, as also the dominant power of the revived Roman Empire at the close, even until the Son of man comes out of heaven and subdues all His enemies. Dan. 2 tells of this as a stone which will smite the image on its feet, thus breaking it all to pieces. The image represents the period of Gentile sovereignty, while its feet represent the revived Roman Empire.
But the future in the 60's is somber indeed, and foreboding. It is estimated that Russia today has a two-year lead over the United States in accurate missiles which are operational. The so-called "balance of terror" of the 50's is not sure in the 60's. This equation of terror against terror was supposed to be so evenly balanced that neither side would dare to use it. Unquestionably the West has more deadly weapons on hand than Russia, but a smaller number in the hands of men with better instruments of delivery could bring havoc on the scene. The West still leads in manned aircraft of great speed, but they are too vulnerable to match the I.C.B.M.'s.
Another potential for actual destruction is the fact that other nations too will soon have nuclear and thermonuclear devices. Reckless abandon in the use (or threat of use) of these weapons increases with the number of nations possessing them. China is working hard to join the number of nations possessing these terrifying weapons. It is estimated that she will soon succeed. And today China is more intransigent than Russia, and plays dangerously close to starting a world conflict. Even a comparatively small nation which would acquire nuclear weapons and the means of delivery could conceivably threaten and blackmail great nations unless the larger ones were willing to risk much destruction, or actually engage in a war that could scarcely be stopped short of calamity for the world. And so, as the world looks into the 60's, there is no room for any complacency. Disastrous trouble is in the offing.
Nor is Russia's (together with China's) determination at economic superiority to be overlooked. This could be as disastrous as any other form of world domination.
Now and then, information gets out about what men in high places in the United States, whose business it is to assess the global situation, say about the dangerous omens. Some have said that this nation faces the most serious problems in its history. The reason we refer to the United States is that it has not only felt secure, but has been a bulwark of security to many peoples. And so, as we go into the 60's, the whole world teeters dangerously on the brink of disaster. The time is fast approaching when men's hearts will fail because of fear. There is going to be "distress of nations, with perplexity" (Luke 21). There is nothing sure and certain in this poor world. Then why should we Christians have our hearts set on a place that is marching steadily forward to certain doom? Surely
"It is not for us to be seeking our bliss,
Or building our hopes in a region like this."
The world takes some comfort from "summit conferences" and talks of disarmament. Some think that the ban of bomb testing is a sign of progress toward peace. All this is mere wishful thinking. Man is like the demoniac who could not be bound, "no, not with chains" (Mark 5:2-42And when he was come out of the ship, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, 3Who had his dwelling among the tombs; and no man could bind him, no, not with chains: 4Because that he had been often bound with fetters and chains, and the chains had been plucked asunder by him, and the fetters broken in pieces: neither could any man tame him. (Mark 5:2‑4)).
Has man ever yet developed a means of mass destruction and not used it? The answer is, No. Surely "Destruction and misery are in their ways: and the way of peace have they not known." Rom. 3:16, 1716Destruction and misery are in their ways: 17And the way of peace have they not known: (Romans 3:16‑17).
On another front, well may we ask, Is apostasy about to recede in Christendom? No; instead, it will accelerate. Church buildings may multiply, and endowments increase, but Christendom is marching onward to full-blown apostasy. Is infidelity about to retreat? Is atheism about to be abandoned? Are the schools about to reverse the trends and start teaching that God created man, and that he is responsible to Him? Of course not. In the earliest grades of the common school, the teaching that man evolved from a little scum, or what not, is being actively propagated. And one who believes God's Word is looked down upon and branded as an ignoramus. But these things remind us of some in old times whom the world despised and even martyred, while God said, "of whom the world was not worthy" (Heb. 11:3838(Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. (Hebrews 11:38)).
So now as we look back at the rapid progress toward the time of the end, which came about in the 50's, and soberly reflect on the acceleration of these developments in the 60's, we can rest in His promise, "Surely I come quickly." May our hearts be more weaned from the attractions of this doomed world, and not be full of fear as we contemplate its end, but look up with a bright and steadfast hope-"The coming of the Lord draweth nigh." And may we have a ready response to His promise, "Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus." Rev. 22:2020He which testifieth these things saith, Surely I come quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus. (Revelation 22:20). May we be like those of whom the Lord spoke in Luke 1220But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? (Luke 12:20), who will be so living in the good of that hope that we will be ready to open to Him immediately. May we have our loins girded and lights burning, waiting and watching for Him, and not have anything to set in order before we can welcome the thought of His being at the door. Another has recently said to us, "Waiting is readiness; watching is expectation."