Thursday, January 19, 2017

From Trump to the Tribulation

Preface and Disclaimer:
I am politically neutral and neither support nor oppose Trump. Though I live in the United States and am affected by what happens, I have no political affiliation of any kind. I look at things as a detached observer. Much as one would look at the history of ancient political developments, some of which we will consider here.

Under the Big Top
When Donald Trump announced his run for the office of president of the United States I chuckled. Knowing his record of manipulating the media I thought this might even be a publicity stunt. I mean really a reality TV star as leader of the worlds most powerful government. It reminded me of the movie Idiocracy where a professional wrestler is president. But after a bit more consideration I wondered; is it really that unusual. There have been many others in high offices who have similarly odd resumes. Remember Sen. Sonny Bono, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Gov. Jessie Ventura and Sen. Al Franken? In fact Trump is not even the first show biz president. In any event I settled in for an entertaining election cycle

I've always seen him as a showman/businessman, somewhat like P. T. Barnum. For this reason I initially assumed his motive, ever the showman, was likely just more self promotion. I also didn't take very seriously many of the things he said. Things that seemed to freak everyone else out. My main reason for this is as an experienced businessman and negotiator he is probably just using a standard anchoring technique. The way this works is you anchor with an opening bid in an extreme position and negotiate back towards the other side, likely settling in a position far more in your favor than if your opening bid was more reasonable.

As his candidacy picked up steam the old movie Brewster's Millions, where the protagonist Monty Brewster runs for Mayor of New York, never intending to win, came to mind. I still think that the "Vote for None of the Above" sentiment was going through the minds of many who supported him. As he defeated all primary candidates I began to take him more seriously. By the time the British voted to leave the E.U., despite the same full court press from the ruling elites, I could see that not only was he very likely to be the next president but something greater was going on here.

Some historians subscribe to the Great Man Theory. I tend to believe that the constantly undulating mood of the sea of humanity has more to do with the shaping of events. Great men may change history but they arise from the sea of humanity and only by its permission. That is to say they are shaped by the conditions created by the events of the current and previous generations and can only really do anything with the cooperation of their contemporaries. Trump could never get to where he is without the current zeitgeist being what it is.

Oddly enough Trump has been talking about running for president for at least the last 30 years. Why did he wait until now? Is he a genius who was waiting for this perfect time? Did he just have other things he wanted to do first? Or was there something else at work here? I'll not answer that last question in this article, but I will give some food for thought.

The populist wave that Trump rode into office is not confined to the U.S. The spirit of anger and rebellion toward the establishment is truly Global. It's also not something confined to our times but rather heralds all the way back to the very beginning of humanity. Mankind has been self willed and rebellious for a long time.

As alluded to before, the current mood is a product of the events in the recent past that precipitated from the actions of the previous generation. Most of the attitudes and actions of today's ruling elite were shaped by events in the early twentieth century, most notably the two world wars. The wide spread fear of repeating such a horrific slaughter shaped both the values of those who ran for office as well as the others involved in helping them get into office. But it's more than just cause and effect, when it comes to social change there seems to be a cyclical rhythm to it.

Because human nature hasn't changed in thousands of years we see the same patterns appear over an over again through out history. Ideas like Generational Theory as explained in The Fourth Turning provide a fascinating insight into how this process works. Other theories such as the PI cycle provide a more abstract view into the cyclical manifestations of mass psychology. Everything is driven by human psychology cycles: the economy, views on parenting, social mores and populism.

Initially when a cycle begins, whether it was initiated by the branching of a tribe or a cataclysmic fall of an empire, everyone starts out relatively equal. As time goes on wealth and power gradually accumulate in the hands of those who are diligent, bold, ruthless and/or clever enough to acquire it. And these, wishing to hold onto and grow their wealth and power, begin to rearrange things to favor themselves and there progeny. As the system becomes more and more rigged and the disparity of wealth increases, so the discontent of those who feel left out grows until it reaches the flash point. Such is the cycle of populism and revolution.

About 80-100 years ago populism disrupted many long established regimes. In 1917 the Russian Revolution overthrew 300 years of Czarist tradition. During the 1930's the desperate conditions the Great War created resulted in Fascist regimes through out Europe and various populist movements in the rest of the world, including the U.S.  During the 1930's Heuy Long promised populist reforms that make the promises of Trump and Bernie Sanders look conservative. He made a run for president of the U.S. and was assassinated before he got very far.

After WWII the world entered a period of strong economic growth. The U.S. especially benefited by being the only major economy to escape the destruction that befell much of Europe and Asia. But everywhere else too the relative peace, coupled with a demographic baby boom and accelerating technological ability increased prosperity for all. Now we are in the twilight of that demographic bubble and what little economic gains there are to be had are not distributed as evenly. Today the growing disparity between rich and poor along with the growing irritation at elites, who seem to be prospering, would seem to suggest we are entering another era of populism. I suspect recent events are just the beginning.

Nothing New Under the Sun
The constitutional republic of the United States is thought by many to be a marvel of civic human achievement. The originators of its divided powers are haled as far sighted geniuses. But let's simplify it: out of the dread of tyranny they essentially created a system that makes it difficult to govern. The often complained about "Gridlock" is by design. Those "checks and balances" are designed to slow the inevitable rise of tyranny. That's really all there is to it.

The American experiment, as it's often referred to, is really not that novel either. Rome has been there, done that. Most people can immediately see the superficial resemblance the American Republic holds to ancient Rome. A quick stroll through Washington D.C. not to mention a consideration of the excessive use of Latin in the legal terminology, money, national and state mottos, etc gives one the impression that the people who created this country were quite enamored with Rome. But the similarity goes much deeper.

Most know about the Roman senate and understand it to be the source of inspiration for the U.S. Senate. What is less understood is that over two millennia ago the Roman Republic had many of the familiar "checks and balance" mechanisms the U.S. Constitution provides. The reason for these was the same paranoia toward tyranny that the the so called "Founding Fathers" of the U.S. had. Rome did not just have a Senate. They had various other government offices some of which were specifically designed to limit the power of the Senate.

Consider as an example the highest office in the old Roman Republic, Consul. Two were elected for a term of one year and they would alternate dominance each month. These would perform many duties including judge, legislator and, much like the office of president, commander of the army. Initially the class known as the patricians (wealthy land owners) were only allowed to be elected to this high office.

As time went on the plebeians (common non land holders) gained access to the consul and other offices meant to be a check on the senate and patrician power. Chief among these was the office of Tribune of the Plebs. The tribune had significant power up to and including the power to veto the actions of consul and other magistrates. Additionally they were protected from harm by law to prevent their power from being diminished through intimidation.

This is just a cursory view of the complex web of ancient Roman political institutions. When you add to this the various other familiar checks on power they had such as term limits and filibusters, you begin to see that the United States of America is not as unique as it is often portrayed. As a wise man once said, "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun." - Ecclesiastes 1:9

Fall of the Republic
Everyone knows that the Roman Republic officially ended when Gaius Julius Caesar became the first Roman Emperor. What is less understood is the series of events that lead to a reasonably stable republic loosing power to a dictator. To understand this we need to understand why the Roman Republic was so stable for so long.

As stated before, Rome was paranoid of tyrants. This was a part of the culture and anytime someone would even so much as be perceived to gain an inordinate amount of power, they would be countered by any means necessary. For much of the republic's early history those in power respected this notion religiously. Thus no one even entertained the idea of being a king let alone make a play for it. Such a thing was viewed as the most hated villainy.

By about the last century B.C.E. Rome had defeated all its major enemies, at least those that stood a real chance of threatening its existence; Carthage to the south, Macedonia to the east and the Gauls to the north. With the external threat gone they began to experience a threat from within. The lower classes along with the Italian allies began to want more from the ruling elites. Enter stage left, populism.

The first major populist was Tiberius Gracchus. Depending on your level of cynicism, he either championed or pandered to the plebeian's as their tribute. The disparity between haves and have-nots that creates populism had risen to unprecedented levels in Rome due to the newly conquered lands and the death of so many who fought to do the conquering. Essentially those who survived bought up both the lands abandoned by the dead legionnaires as well as the newly conquered territories. Couple this with the lack of a credible external existential threat and Roman unity began to unravel.

Tiberius Gracchus forced through land reforms even, as some report, illegally overturning a veto by another tribune. This lead to the senate's paranoia that he had ambitions to be king and to Tiberius' assassination. Then, much to the senate's horror, Tiberius' brother Gaius Gracchus took up the populist mantel and using the lessons of his predecessor went even farther with populist reforms. Though he was hugely popular among the people the ruling elites in the senate hated and feared him. Subsequently he eventually suffered the same fate as his brother.

Likely the senate thought they had put an end to this nonsense and everything would go back to the way it was. But that would never happen. It was too late to put the genie back in the bottle. The Gracchus brothers opened the door for what would eventually lead to the end of the Roman Republic. A whole series of populists one after another began to degrade the senate's power.

In addition to the populists, one very powerful conservative Lucius Cornelius Sulla ruthlessly attempted to regain control for the oligarchy. In a reactionary campaign he literally killed off anyone who was even rumored to support the previous populist he had eliminated when seizing power. Then he passed government reforms to prevent anyone from rising to power the way he did, creating an even more tangled web of checks and balances, term limits, political road blocks, etc. All these were meant to restore and safeguard the republic. Feeling satisfied that he had accomplished his goal, he stepped down and returned power to the senate.

For all his efforts to restore the stability of the old republic, Sulla's reforms did not stick. In fact his unprecedented and lawless tactics used to gain power to do the reforms, simply provided a road map for others to follow. The core of the problem was that once tradition had been broken and the new precedent set, the door was opened to even further political innovation.

Over thousands of years we've seen how man has tried every possible form of  government: Monarchy, oligarchy, direct democracy, representative republic. Likewise with the various forms of economic system: Capitalism, socialism, communism. They all end the same. Thus it will be with the current establishment and any that may come after it. They all have the same flaw. Man's imperfection. This is one reason for my neutrality.

What About Trump?
The U.S. has been a stable republic for far less time than Rome was. It is not inviolable. The stability of any system relies on everyone agreeing to abide by certain rules. Some of these are solidly written down. Others are merely implied or viewed as traditions that you dare not break. When someone violates these it invariably encourages others to do the same.

Trump has shown himself to be no respecter of tradition. As the media continually reminds us he is breaking one precedent after another. And most, if not all, of it is intentional. He purposes to completely change the way things work in the halls of power. Everyone understands this about him. But does everyone understand that even if the elites eventually succeed in taking him down, there's no going back to the way things were.

So whether he's reelected in four years, impeached or assassinated, succeeds or fails in his reforms, Trump has blazed a trail for others and opened many minds to new possibilities that not so long ago were unthinkable. A door to a new era has been opened. One that will be very different than anything we've ever experienced.

So What's Next
The past is hard enough to piece together, but the future, who can tell? Well, I don't know the future, but I know someone who does: “The One telling from the beginning the finale, and from long ago the things that have not been done.”—ISAIAH 46:10. The creator of the universe Jehovah God knows the future and he has revealed some of it to us. Though we don't know much of the how and when, we do know the major sequence of what.

1. Cry of peace and security
2. All world governments give at least some of their authority to the U.N. to eliminate false religion.
3. A period of great tribulation and fear.
4. Attack of the king of the North, Gog of Magog, upon God's people.
5. Armageddon, God's war on all who do not submit to his appointed king Christ Jesus.

Peace and Security
At some point in the near future there will be a conspicuous announcement of peace and security. Though there will not actually be true peace and security it may appear as though there is or is about to be. Will this be tied into Trump's "make America great again" slogan or some new technological break through. Perhaps it could even be an attempt by the elites to regain control and they will declare victory against the populists. One thing is sure, this announcement will be quickly followed by the demise of the entire system.

"Whenever it is that they are saying, “Peace and security!” then sudden destruction is to be instantly on them, just like birth pains on a pregnant woman, and they will by no means escape." - 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3

End of Religion
Immediately after the cry of peace and security the governments will turn on religion. The Bible tells us in graphic symbolism that 'God will put it into their hearts to carry out his thought (removing his enemy false religion) and their one thought' (maintaining and increasing their hold on power). Apparently the nations will see it to their advantage to eliminate religion.

"...The waters that you saw, where the prostitute is sitting, mean peoples and crowds and nations and tongues. And the ten horns that you saw and the wild beast, these will hate the prostitute and will make her devastated and naked, and they will eat up her flesh and completely burn her with fire. For God put it into their hearts to carry out his thought, yes, to carry out their one thought by giving their kingdom to the wild beast, until the words of God will have been accomplished. And the woman whom you saw means the great city that has a kingdom over the kings of the earth.” - Revelation 17:15-18

The financial crisis that began in 2008, the one that most experts agree almost gave the entire global economy a fatal stroke, has by all accounts not been stopped but rather diverted and delayed. The various schemes of central banks have not fixed the actual cause of the problem for it cannot be fixed with financial maneuverings. They are systemic and thus will only be resolved painfully when the system completely collapses and a new one replaces it. One thing they have accomplished is converting much of the private debt to public debt. Therefore the next crisis will not be just companies failing, it will be countries.

So where will desperately indebted nations turn to for help, particularly when all the other nations are likewise in crisis, and its people have already been taxed to the breaking point? Who seems to always be well stocked whether the economy is good or bad? Who lives in shameless luxury and often doesn't even seem afraid to flaunt it? Who not only has the needed funds to pay the crushing debt of the nations but also has been losing favor more rapidly than any other human institution? Who's public services and social value, that in previous times seemed to make her an invaluable asset to society, have withered and been replaced by the services of governments and other social institutions? None other than Babylon the Great AKA false religion.

As for Trump he has already gotten in a war of words with the Pope and mentioned that it might be a good idea to ban all Muslims from entering the country. It's not hard to imagine a man like him, who enjoys slaying sacred cows, making an effort to eliminate religion all together if they get in his way or if doing so seems like a pragmatic means to an end. Could it be that "...devour her flesh" indicates the seizure of the great wealth of the worlds religions? That's a quick way to finance expensive infrastructure projects.

Notice the obscene wealth of just a few of the worlds religions. For most of these religions it's impossible to calculate exactly how much they have because being tax exempt they don't have to tell anyone.

Catholic Church
Church of England

This situation has not escaped notice and there are many indications that the days of religion's tax exempt status are numbered.

Religion will also be a target for many other reasons including the destabilization and fear created by the growing violence of Jihadists and a refugee crisis which forces very religious people to live in close proximity with mostly secular humanists who have very different world views and sense of morality.

The Great Tribulation
After this attack on religion begins a great period of fear will envelope the entire global society. True
 religion, the people who as Jesus stated were doing the will of his father (John 7:21), will be ignored by the governments least initially. Perhaps this is because they are less prominent or less wealthy and so are not as tempting a target. Maybe their refusal to meddle in politics and their non violent, tax paying, law abiding lifestyle will show they are no threat to the governments. Interestingly Jared Kushner, who purchased the Watchtower buildings in Manhattan recently, is to be the senior adviser to Trump. This is a man who likes and respects the Witnesses and even gave an interview showing his appreciation for their integrity.

During this time, as mainline religions that have existed for centuries are being dismantled, Jehovah's Witnesses will stop preaching and conducting Bible studies and will shift their efforts to a warning work. As they are still boldly and diligently serving their God and everyone else has abandoned theirs, it will become increasingly apparent who are God's people and who are not. This will make many very angry as it becomes obvious that the door to salvation has closed.

At this point, when all false religions are completely gone an attack on God's people begins. This attack is described in both Daniel 11:44,45 and Ezekiel 38:1-23. The king of the North will lead this attack and God will step in as the final war begins. God's people will seem vulnerable to the nations. After all they have no weapons, no political power, no vast wealth to protect them. Only their God Jehovah to defend them.

 “You will be given attention after many days. In the final part of the years you will invade the land whose people have been restored from the ravages of the sword, collected together out of many peoples onto the mountains of Israel, which had long been lying devastated. The inhabitants of this land were restored from the peoples, and all of them dwell in security. You will come against them like a storm, and you will cover the land like clouds, you and all your troops and many peoples with you.” - Ezekiel 38:8-11

This will surely be the most intense test of faith and courage ever experienced for all true Christians living at that time. That is why it's called the Great Tribulation.

Once the nations reach for God's people to destroy them the way they did false religion, Jehovah unleashes the execution forces to finish off all who oppose his kingdom. God's people will not need to fight. They will faithfully await their salvation just as they have many times in the past. 2 Chronicles 20:17, Isaiah 37:35, 36.

Once Satan's old system has been completely ripped out by the roots, a new earthly society under God's kingdom will be implemented and true peace and security will be enjoyed by all those who survive and by millions, perhaps billions, who are resurrected Acts 24:15, Revelation 21:1-4.

So is it the end of the world as much of the media seems to believe? Is Trump the guy who will bring on the end of the system? Maybe. Trump's rise to so high a position of power, so quickly with such powerful enemies aligned against him, not to mention his unconventional way of looking at the world could indicate a divine hand is involved. It wouldn't be the first time God has elevated an unbeliever with unconventional views to the heights of power and used him to accomplish his will.

In the sixth century B.C.E. Cyrus the Persian rose from relative obscurity, and in less than 30 years went on to conquer and create a huge empire stretching from the Mediterranean to India. He had a unique policy of respecting the religion of the people he conquered. This was unheard of for his time and it was not by accident. The prophet Isaiah foretold of Cyrus approximately two hundred years in advance (Isaiah 44:24-45:6). Saying that the Jewish people would be released from seventy years of captivity in Babylon by him and that further he would send them back to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple.

The thing to keep in mind though is that Bible prophesy is usually only fully understood after it is fulfilled. This is not because of vagueness such as can be found in false prophets like Nostradamus or fortune tellers. No, in contrast Bible prophesies are actually very specific. Cyrus for example was mentioned in Isaiah by name and the method he used to conquer Babylon was laid out in detail. However, Bible prophesies usually contain only the information necessary for God's people to survive.

A perfect example of this is Jesus instructions to first century Christians to leave Jerusalem when the city was surrounded by encamped armies.

“However, when you see Jerusalem surrounded by encamped armies, then know that the desolating of her has drawn near. Then let those in Ju·deʹa begin fleeing to the mountains, let those in the midst of her leave, and let those in the countryside not enter into her, because these are days for meting out justice in order that all the things written may be fulfilled. Woe to the pregnant women and those nursing a baby in those days! For there will be great distress on the land and wrath against this people. And they will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled on by the nations until the appointed times of the nations are fulfilled."

Who would the encamped armies be? When would they come? How would Christians be able to escape if the city is surrounded? Those early Christians didn't know. All they knew was; when they saw these things, they needed to take action and get out.

In 66 C.E. relations between Judea and their Roman overlords deteriorated. Soon the people of the city found themselves under siege by the Roman legions. Now Christians knew the who and when but how were they going to be able to obey Jesus command to leave the city and flee to the mountains. Well, suddenly and inexplicably the Romans withdrew and the emboldened Jewish zealots went after them. This provided a small window of time for faithful, obedient Christians to leave Jerusalem without being harassed by either the Roman army or the Jewish Zealots. History shows that the Jewish Christians did exactly that, and survived the calamity that came just four years later when, just as Jesus said, Jerusalem and its temple were completely destroyed, never to be rebuilt.

The Bible contains similar life saving instructions for Christians today. Not every detail about who, when and how is included, but we have what we need to survive if we keep on the watch and act obediently.