Who's Telling You What to Think?
Mass Media and Bible Prophecy
Several amazing biblical passages foretell the shaping of the world at the time of the end by a powerful web of global media.
by Howard Davis
Some of the Bible's most astounding prophecies concern where global media are taking the world.
Though thousands of years old, the Bible has much to say about the "last days" and "time of the end." Some biblical visions and prophecies are descriptions of events, situations and technologies that did not apply to the ancient world and make sense only in a modern context.
Thousands of years ago the Bible foretold a massive revolution in information and communications technology like that we've witnessed in recent years. But it also prophesied a globally pervasive culture of violence and self-absorbed, pleasure - seeking indulgence in sex and greed.
Further, it forewarned us of worldwide manipulation of public opinion through economic forces and political gamesmanship that will culminate in the rise of a world dictatorship and massive religious deception so powerful that true Christians will be silenced, persecuted and even murdered- while the world celebrates their demise.
Shocking? Yes, but read on.
Daniel and the information explosion
Two prophecies lay the groundwork for many others when it comes to the role modern entertainment and news media are to play in end-time events.
First, God foretold through the prophet Daniel the development of the kind of technology and entertainment media that permeate our world. Yet Daniel lived 600 years before Christ. Through Daniel, God also foretold four mighty empires, the first and second comings of the Messiah and the final subjugation of much of the world by a charismatic dictator who will fight Jesus at His second coming (Daniel 2, 7, 8-9, 11-12).
Although God used him to record these prophecies, Daniel himself admitted that he didn't completely understand them. An angel told Daniel that some aspects of these prophecies would not be understood in his lifetime: "Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end" (Daniel 12:9). Their full meaning as they pertain to world events would not be known until the last days, yet even then "none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand" (verse 10).
But God did tell Daniel-and, through Daniel's writings, He tells us-two characteristics of the end-time age, when Bible prophecies would open up to human understanding, to the "wise" who would listen to God.
". . . Shut up the words," God said to Daniel, "and seal the book until the time of the end; many shall run to and fro [a reference to the availability of rapid mass transportation] and knowledge shall increase" (verse 4, emphasis added throughout). This last phrase is the key: The time of the end is the time of the "increase" of "knowledge."
Daniel's prophecy of a time when "many shall run to and fro and knowledge shall increase" certainly fits our time. Our age is rightly called the information age. By some estimates the accumulation of knowledge doubles every 18 months. Anyone with a connection to the Internet has vast libraries of information at his fingertips. Encyclopedias of knowledge can be reproduced on CDs for pennies apiece.
But what does the knowledge explosion have to do with modern global media?
This is where the second trend fits in. Behind the knowledge explosion is the development of mass media and the technological transformation that made them possible. Without the means to rapidly spread information abroad to many people, no knowledge explosion would have occurred. In other words, if we have no means to disseminate information, we have no information.
The invention of the printing press brought the proliferation of books, the primary medium for disseminating knowledge in the 18th century's "age of enlightenment." Along with the advent of largecirculation newspapers, public education in the 19th century brought widespread literacy, which made further technological progress possible. Technological development in electronic communications exploded in the 20th century with radio, television, computers, satellites and finally the Internet, which brings these technologies together in one worldwide web.
"At the heart of globalization," writes Thomas Friedman in his best-selling book The Lexus and the Olive Tree, are "recent advances in technology-from the Internet to satellite telecommunications" (2000, p. 22). Indeed, these two factors allow virtually anyone to instantly see and hear events and other people anywhere on the planet.
Instant international availability
Such developments are foundational to understanding two ancient prophecies that deal with the way people see and hear a final warning from two servants of God- called in Scripture the "two witnesses"- just before the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, to rule the world.
Although these men are public witnesses to God's existence and the world's need to heed the warnings of the Bible to avoid even more disasters, most people will not believe them. But Scripture indicates they will be seen and heard- throughout the entire world.
A remarkable prophecy in the book of Revelation tells us that people of every nation will simultaneously see the murder in Jerusalem of these two prophets of God by the dictator mentioned earlier, called the "beast":
". . . I will give power to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy one thousand two hundred and sixty days [31.2 years] . . . These have the power to shut heaven, so that no rain falls in the days of their prophecy . . . When they finish their testimony, the beast . . . will make war against them, overcome them, and kill them" (Revelation 11:3-7).
This prophecy deals with a time of worldwide conflict in which the dictator known as the Beast will rise to power through manipulation of public opinion and religious deceptions, no doubt using the powerful tool of mass media.
But note the indications of the kind of information technology available at the time of these events:
"And their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city . . . where also our Lord was crucified. Then those from the peoples, tribes, tongues, and nations will see their dead bodies three-and-a-half days, and not allow their dead bodies to be put into graves. And those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them, make merry, and send gifts to one another, because these two prophets tormented those who dwell on the earth.
"Now after the three-and-a-half days the breath of life from God entered them, and they stood on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. And they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, 'Come up here.' And they ascended to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies saw them" (verses 8-12).
These astounding prophecies indicate that television or similar electronic media will broadcast the murder of these two prophets-probably linked by satellite and the Internet or even more-advanced technologies. Live views of the events will be available instantly and simultaneously throughout the world. These two men will be the ultimate witnesses as nations of every language behold these startling events while commentators report on them live from Jerusalem.
Signs and wonders
Before the arrival of the two witnesses, however, their two satanic counterparts- the Beast and a religious leader the Bible calls "the false prophet"-will apparently powerfully manipulate the news media to dazzle the world with supernatural acts most people will think are divine but will really be satanic in origin.
Notice Paul's prophecy of the religious leader. Writing of the time of "the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ," Paul tells us this man "will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God" (2 Thessalonians 2:1, 4, New International Version).
Paul continues: "The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness" (verses 9-12, NIV).
Revelation 13:13-14 further explains that he "performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. And he deceives those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do in the sight of the beast . . ."
Such passages tell us that these evil leaders will cunningly and massively deceive virtually the entire world. Most people will assume these two represent God and will readily follow them-not realizing they are really tools of Satan. (To learn more about these end-time events, be sure to request your free copy of the booklets The Book of Revelation Unveiled and You Can Understand Bible Prophecy.)
Paul wrote of yet another trend in the last days in which mass media even now play a major role.
"But mark this," Paul wrote shortly before his death, around A.D. 67: "There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God" (2 Timothy 3:1-4, NIV).
Does this sound familiar? Each of these abysmal traits can be found in the daily menu of American entertainment devoured by two billion minds on televisions around the world. Welcome to the age of crude amusements and pandering to lust-24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Lust for violence, self-glorification, sex without the commitment of marriage, vicarious indulgence in forbidden fruit without the consequences-these are the themes of the comedies, soap operas, dramas and talk shows that constitute the moral equivalent of a sewer flooding human minds. It's the sated ancient Roman crowds all over again watching the doomed die in the Colosseum.
The motive for so much filth is simple -money. Delivering eyes to advertisers is the primary objective of network executives. Programming that most effectively hooks the largest audience features fastpaced content centered on a mesmerizing diet of sex, lust, greed and irreverent and profane humor. It's a sure bet to keep an audience glued to the tube. Produce such material and you make money.
If you own the movie and TV production rights to sex, lust and greed, you make more money. If you own book publishers, magazines, cable and satellite systems and video-rental stores, you make even more money-lots and lots of money. It's no wonder we've seen so many massive media mergers in recent years.
The implications are sobering. Children increasingly think, say and do what they see on commercial and "public" programming. More and more people cannot discriminate between Hollywood-produced drivel and real life. Their lives become almost surreal.
The consequences, according to the Bible, will be devastating. God's Word indicates these trends will play a major role in the downfall and destruction of the United States and other major English speaking nations.
Research shows that children's antisocial behavior in schools directly relates to the amount and content of the television they watch. In one survey 35 percent of imprisoned violent criminals said they got the ideas to carry out their crimes from watching television.
The last days and you
Ninety percent of Americans claim they believe in God. But they don't know who He is. They can't recite the Ten Commandments, name the four Gospels (much less the books of the Old or New Testament) or explain the difference between Abraham and Muhammad. As Paul predicted, the motivation of people in the last days will not be personal achievement, noble character or love of neighbor. Men, women and young people will be "lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God."
So what about you?
God says to any who are caught up in the end-time materialistic system, mindset and culture that pervades the world, "Come out of her,My people, lest you share in her sins, and lest you receive of her plagues" (Revelation 18:4).
The way to come out is to recognize where our materialistic, self-obsessed entertainment and media are leading us. Turn off the consumption; turn away from the self-obsessed way of life promoted by our global media system. Instead, turn to God and His Word, the Bible. Remember, God recorded these warnings to us for a reason. GN
©2002 United Church of God, an International Association