The “Debt-Bomb” Threat

“The time is come, the day draweth near: let not the buyer rejoice, nor the seller mourn: for wrath is upon all the multitude thereof. … They shall cast their silver in the streets, and their gold shall be removed: their silver and their gold shall not be able to deliver them in the day of the wrath of the LORD: they shall not satisfy their souls, neither fill their bowels: because it is the stumbling block of their iniquity. … Destruction cometh; and they shall seek peace, and there shall be none.” —Ezekiel 7:7,12,19,25

PRIOR to the turn of the present century, this glorious old planet of ours was considered by most of its inhabitants to be a rather large, alluring, but more or less unfamiliar place. True, knowledge concerning one’s relatives or friends living in distant nations arrived from time to time by courier or by ship. A number of the more fortunate might spend a few weeks’ vacation some forty miles away from their homes at a mountain lake after a wearisome journey by steam train. A few of the yet more affluent might even travel abroad, bring back exciting accounts of the diversities of the people and their customs, the beauties of island-studded oceans, the majesty of mighty mountains, the enticing sights, sounds and smells of busy village marketplaces. Airplanes, automobiles, the telephone and electric lighting were just beginning to appear on the scene.

But for the great majority of the people, one’s own home and family, the local village and school, the general store and the little church to which they went on Sunday constituted the major interests of their lives. For the most part, what occurred in a distant nation or on the other side of the world—be it tidal wave, famine, epidemic, or even a war—generally had but limited bearing for better or worse on their own existence. To a certain extent nations, states, and even villages were pretty much separate worlds unto themselves. And this was substantially true for the approximately six thousand years that man had inhabited this planet Earth.

But how all this has changed—and how rapidly! Today, news of a drought in Asia immediately changes the price of wheat in Kansas; an epidemic in India or a volcanic disaster in Italy is the signal for the United States or Great Britain or Germany to speed medicines, food, clothing, and doctors to the scene by jet plane; a proposal in the United States Congress to increase arms expenditures for nuclear missiles induces riots in France, Italy, and England on the morrow; an economic downturn in one of the great industrial nations causes hardship and hunger to the peoples of other nations all over the world; and a substantial rise or fall on the New York Stock Exchange brings immediate rejoicing or dismay minutes later in London, Paris, Tokyo, or Geneva. For suddenly, as a result of the revolution in the various means of communication made possible by the scripturally foretold increase of knowledge, the world has become, figuratively speaking, a very small place indeed.—Dan. 12:1-4

Astonishingly, this change has largely occurred within the lifetime of some now living. Thus, from whatever angle or vantage point we view it—economically, industrially, environmentally, or socially—the world today is truly but a single entity. “Although the world is divided politically, it is still true that it is one world economically,” says Walter Wriston, head of New York’s great Citibank Corporation. From this time forward, if peace, happiness and prosperity are to flourish in any area of the world, they must flourish throughout the world. And the peoples who make up the nations of this one world, though separate and diverse, are mutually and inescapably interdependent, interrelated, interlinked, interconnected—a fact that is daily becoming more manifest.

It is also now evident—and disturbingly so to many—that this interrelationship that exists between nations in so many other areas of their lives extends also to and includes the financial aspects of their existence. And this fact is a source of growing concern. Never before in the history of mankind have international banking commitments been so vast, so widespread, and so troublesome as they are today, raising fears that failure by one or more of the borrowing nations to meet their obligations could have serious repercussions throughout the world financial community, even trickling down to the local neighborhood bank and its depositors. In recent days, two large television networks each devoted one-hour sessions to the discussion of this most recent problem among the world’s multitude of troubles. On April 21, Channel 13 went into the matter under the portentous heading, “On Borrowed Time.” The following evening, another of the large stations discussed the matter using an equally ominous title—“Banking on the Brink.”

Fear of the extent of the trouble that could develop is such that it is being described by serious publications in language usually reserved for the nuclear threat itself. “The Debt-Bomb Threat” is the heading for a recent cover story in Time Magazine (January 10, 1983). “Never in history,” the article states, “have so many nations owed so much money with so little promise of repayment. At stake is a gargantuan debt, a 706 billion dollar lien held by banks, governments and international financial institutions around the world against a group of deeply troubled developing and East bloc countries. … [It is] keeping borrowers in bondage and lenders in growing suspense, and a major default somewhere, somehow, could trigger far-reaching political and economic reactions everywhere. The global economy is sitting on a debt bomb.”

Lord Lever, a respected British financier, agrees. He says, “The banking system of the Western world is now dangerously overexposed. If lending abruptly contracts, there will be an avalanche of large-scale defaults that will inflict damage on world trade and on the political and economic stability of both borrowing and lending countries.”

Indeed, there already have been cases where actual default by a borrowing nation was avoided only by rescheduling payment of the principal on the debt to future years, and then lending the affected nation additional money to enable it to pay the current interest on the debt. Poland, Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina, all heavily in debt to the great international banks of the Western nations, have been unable to make payments on sums due on principal in some cases, or sums due on Interest payments in other cases.

If one is inclined to ask why sophisticated international bankers are willing to defer collection of the sums due on these foreign loans, and even to increase the loans, thereby risking good money on top of bad, we refer you to the statement by Lord Lever just cited. Simply put, the answer is the bankers have little choice. The alternative would be for the bankers to declare the loan or loans in default, thus requiring the balance sheets and income statements of the lending banks to reflect that very unpleasant fact, with possible serious and far-reaching consequences. It is earnestly hoped by all concerned that the rescheduling will provide time to correct the situation; but other worried financial experts feel this is merely postponing the evil day.

Another, hardly less serious problem worrying Individuals, bankers, and politicians in our own nation is the disturbing possibility of an inflation gone out of control with prices of goods and services rising to great heights, shrinking the value of the dollar and of peoples’ savings, and leading to unimaginable sufferings and dislocations for individuals and businesses alike. The root of this fear is the persistent and demonstrated inability of our elected officials for some decades to bring the federal budget into balance with any degree of regularity, while the national debt continues its rise to astronomical levels, and the interest on that debt becomes a growing burden to all.

From and including Mr. Roosevelt’s three terms as president there have been altogether but eight federal surpluses compared to forty-six deficits. Indeed, there has not been a federal surplus in any one of the last seventeen years! In the forty-six years from Mr. Roosevelt’s three terms as president to and including Mr. Carter’s, the federal deficits amounted to a breathtaking total of 645 billions of dollars.

Portentous as that figure may seem, the pace has now greatly quickened. Seeking earnestly to address this elusive problem, Mr. Carter promised in his campaign speeches in 1976 to set the state for a balanced budget in fiscal 1981. However, his four years in office produced four additional federal deficits amounting to 181 billions of dollars, the highest total for any one presidency since Mr. Roosevelt’s 197 billions for three terms in office during the great depression. Again, when Mr. Reagan was stumping the nation in 1980 in pursuit of the presidency he, too, promised to balance the budget—this time it would be by the fiscal year 1984. But, as in Mr. Carter’s case, it is now obvious the results will be far short of the promised goal. Even if the administration’s preliminary estimates hold firm, his term of office ending in 1984 will have produced four more stunning deficits for a total of approximately 480 billions of dollars—by far the worst record of any presidential incumbent of the office.

Federal deficits come about, of course, when the government currently spends more than it takes in by way of numerous taxes. The shortage is then made up by “borrowing” arranged by the Federal Reserve which thus swells, or inflates, the supply of money operating in the nation, with the not surprising result that the value of money declines and the cost of goods and services rises. This simple but vital relationship was dramatically illustrated in U.S. News & World Report (March 8, 1982) in a diagram coinciding chronologically with most of the very period of these chronic deficits. The chart showed that a dollar which in 1939 would have purchased one hundred cents’ worth of goods steadily declined in value to the point where in 1982 it would buy only fifteen cents’ worth of the same goods. In view of the rate at which the national debt is accelerating, and in view of the inability of politicians to make the difficult decisions required to stem the tide of ever larger deficits, many serious observers are concerned that the inevitable outcome will be even greater inflation, with even greater deterioration in the value of money and savings, with unforeseeable and perhaps intense economic and social consequences.

It is true, of course, that civilization has survived many and varied and severe catastrophes during its long history, including financial disasters. We are not here suggesting that the present financial difficulties of the United States and of the world will forthwith plunge us all into chaos. We do believe, however, that the climax of the biblical time of trouble which is to precede the establishment of Christ’s millennial kingdom on earth will comprise a great many different agonizing elements. And on the basis of Bible prophecy we believe one of these vexatious factors will be widespread financial distress, wherein much gold will come to be valued at less than a loaf of bread.

In the climax of that terrible time of trouble, or day of God’s wrath, the Bible indicates that the people will be unable to purchase either peace or food with their wealth, which will then become worthless. The Prophet Ezekiel writes: “The morning is come unto thee, O thou that dwellest in the land: the time is come, the day of trouble is near. … The time is come, the day draweth near: let not the buyer rejoice, nor the seller mourn: for wrath is upon all the multitude thereof. … They shall cast their silver in the streets, and their gold shall be removed: their silver and their gold shall not be able to deliver them in the day of the wrath of the Lord: they shall not satisfy their souls, neither fill their bowels: because it is the stumbling block of their iniquity. … Destruction cometh; and they shall seek peace, and there shall be none.”—Ezek. 7:7,12,19,25

In the day of the Lord’s anger there will be no escape; all the former refuges of the mighty will fall before the wrath of the Lord, and the proud and lofty will be brought low. Their wealth will not protect them.

“The day of the Lord of hosts shall be upon every one that is proud and lofty, and upon every one that is lifted up; and he shall be brought low: and upon all the cedars of Lebanon, that are high and lifted up, and upon all the oaks of Bashan, and upon all the high mountains, and upon all the hills that are lifted up, and upon every high tower, and upon every fenced wall. …

“And the loftiness of man shall be bowed down, and the haughtiness of men shall be made low: and the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day. And the idols he shall utterly abolish. And they shall go into the holes of the rocks, and into the caves of the earth, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth.

“In that day a man shall cast his idols of silver, and his idols of gold, which they made each one for himself to worship, to the moles and to the bats; to go into the clefts of the rocks, and into the tops of the ragged rocks, for fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty, when he ariseth to shake terribly the earth.”—Isa. 2:12-21

The Prophet Zephaniah tells much the same story concerning the distress to come on the world in the day of the Lord Jehovah. It will be a trouble that is widespread and all-encompassing. He indicates that even the most powerful among men will not escape and states the reason for the troubled times as being man’s iniquity.

“The great day of the Lord [Jehovah] is near, it is near, and hasteth greatly, even the voice of the day of the Lord: the mighty man shall cry there bitterly.

“That day is a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of wasteness and desolation, a day of darkness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of the trumpet and alarm against the fenced cities, and against the high towers. And I will bring distress upon men, that they shall walk like blind men, because they have sinned against the Lord: and their blood shall be poured out as dust, and their flesh as the dung.

“Neither their silver nor their gold shall be able to deliver them in the day of the Lord’s wrath; but the whole land shall be devoured by the fire of his jealousy: for he shall make a speedy riddance of all them that dwell in the land.”—Zeph. 1:14-18

The Lord God has made it clear that the purpose of the destruction to come upon the world of mankind in the day of his wrath is to rid the earth of iniquity and iniquitous institutions and to permit mankind to return to the reverence and obedience of their great and loving Creator during the approaching thousand-year reign of Christ and his faithful footstep followers of the present Gospel Age. The ground-work for that wonderful time has already been accomplished by the sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ as the propitiation for the sins of the whole world, so that “whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16; I John 2:2) This grand opportunity for everlasting life will include even all the dead, who will be called forth from their graves to life here on earth.—John 5:25-29

The Prophet Zephaniah further wrote, “Therefore wait ye upon me, saith the Lord, until the day that I rise up to the prey: for my determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them mine indignation, even all my fierce anger: for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy. For then [after that] will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord, to serve him with one consent.”—Zeph. 3:8,9

As we have stated in previous issues of this publication, we believe other prophecies of the Bible clearly indicate that we are already in the foretold day of the Lord, or time of trouble. We believe the time for the establishment in the earth of Christ’s millennial kingdom for the blessing of all the families of the earth is near.—Gen. 22:18; Rev. 20:6; 21:1-4; 22:17

In that glorious kingdom of righteousness there will be neither want nor hunger. Quite possibly there will be no need for money. Perhaps the whole world will have “all things in common” as did the Early Church. (Acts 4:32) “The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose. … And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water: in the habitation of dragons, where each lay, shall be grass with reeds and rushes.”—Isa. 35:1,7

Slums and ghettos will be no more. “They shall build houses, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and eat the fruit of them. They shall not build, and another inhabit; they shall not plant, and another eat: for as the days of a tree are the days of my people, and mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands.”—Isa. 65:21,22

Economic tyranny will be abolished. “They shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the Lord of hosts hath spoken it.”—Mic. 4:4

All the inhabitants of the earth will come to love and worship and praise their Heavenly Father for his boundless mercy and tender care, and will offer everlasting thanks and praise to his Son, who gave his life that all the world might have life.

“In that day [of man’s restitution to the likeness of the perfect man Adam before his fall] thou shalt say, O Lord, I will praise thee: though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortedst me. Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he is also become my salvation. …

“And in that day shall ye say, Praise the Lord, call upon his name, declare his doings among the people, make mention that his name is exalted.

“Sing unto the Lord; for he hath done excellent things: this is known in all the earth.

“Cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion; for great is the Holy One of Israel in the midst of thee.”—Isa. 12:1-6

Dawn Bible Students Association
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