The global disruption of Facebook is a disturbing glimpse of the deeper reality of things revealed in the Bible’s apocalyptic books.
Facebook and its family of social media platforms was down some six hours on October 4. The cyber collapse shut instant global communications, driving people everywhere to more old-fashioned methods of communicating, like the telephone that made Alexander Graham Bell the Mark Zuckerberg of his era.
Hopefully, the event will cause us to think on an entirely different level.
“Revelation” is the Greek word, apokalupsis, an “unveiling” or “lifting of the curtain” exposing what is really going on in time and history.
Students of Bible prophecy might suggest that everything is happening right on time. Previous generations often scoffed at the predicted spread of tribulation and disorder on a global scale. There were broad chasms of ocean between the nations. It took months for people to interact. It was inconceivable that one could converse with someone on the opposite side of the world within a second.
We live now in what past generations might call an “impossible age” when all these things are now possible.
But this should not spark hubris within us. Just like contact and commerce are instantaneous, so can the catastrophic be.
The Bible reveals that the fundamental crisis in the fallen world is between cosmos and chaos. Cosmos is harmonious order, alignment, and unity—the nature of the Kingdom of Light. Chaos is separation and fragmentation, the characteristics of the kingdom of darkness. Systems are especially vulnerable in such a struggle. This is because they are not only carriers of good things, but because interconnectedness, especially across broad systems, can propagate disorder quickly and widely.
Genesis says God gave Adam and Eve the authority and stewardship over His creation. They opened the gates to the chaos of evil, and it has been propagating and intensifying ever since. It culminates in apocalyptic upheaval and, ultimately, transformation through the return of Christ’s Kingdom and his attributes of righteousness, justice, peace, and joy. (Romans 14:17)
Until then, in addition to systemic electronic disorder, there are other systemic crises afflicting our time say socio-cultural critics: systemic racism, systemic evil, systemic poverty, systemic corruption, systemic economic collapse, systemic bias, systemic disease, systemic shock, systemic consequences, to name a few.
And of course, as the Facebook crisis showed: systemic failure.
Therefore, in this unprecedented age, we not only have important systems that help us interact and transact positively and productively on a planetary scale, but we also possess systems that can become igniters and spreaders of chaotic blasts and wildfires.
The Book of Revelation discloses the hard truths about what we might call “the Babylonian world system”. Ancient Babylon is the symbol, or type, of the world system attempting to organize itself in defiance of God and without God. It is the fallen world system built around the essence of all sin: “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful (hubristic) pride of life.” (1 John 2:16)
Babylon systems stimulate and exploit each of these characteristics, seeking to make them marketable commodities and the primary stuff of its commerce.
Revelation 18:9-11 says there is a time coming when the rulers of the Babylonian world system “will weep and lament over her when they see the smoke of her burning.” Further, with the crash of the system itself, “the merchants of the earth weep and mourn over her as the systemic collapse brings economic and commercial disorder.
And it all happens in “one hour.” (Rev.18:10)
For the first time in history, the unraveling of the worldwide systems of finance and commerce within one hour is possible because of dependence upon the internet. And, because “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23) there will always be those who try to hack the systems to benefit themselves.
The Bible, however, gives hope. It points to and calls us toward a higher systemic interconnectedness that propagates order, peace, and healthy relationship based on love, not as a commodity, but as caring. The world of Christ’s Kingdom will be one in whose atmosphere and environment predation and exploitation can no longer exist.
C.S. Lewis wrote that Jesus Christ “came to this world and became a man in order to spread to other men the kind of life He has—by what I call ‘good infection.’ Every Christian is to become a little Christ. The whole purpose of becoming a Christian is simply nothing else.”
If evil can spread systemic fragmentation and disorder as “bad “infections” producing a spiritual pandemic, so the love described in the Bible and exemplified in Jesus Christ can become the “good infection” that heals the pandemic and stimulates “good works” across the world “system.” (Hebrews 10:24)
Some might argue that the Facebook issue was mechanical, not something that could be fixed with spiritual truth. Yet, as the Apostle Paul reminds us, we can learn about God from natural and material phenomena. Spiritual eyes can discern spiritual truth through what has been made and our experience with it. (Romans 1)
This is the meaning of the parable.
So, what is parabolic and instructive arising from the Facebook incident? It illustrates the Bible’s prophecy of the sudden judgment that will someday fall upon the world and its systems.
And just as Mark Zuckerberg’s engineers were no doubt working hard on the “day after” to make sure it doesn’t happen again—or if it does, what immediate actions should be taken to correct the situation—so should we ready ourselves for the judgments to come on the world system we inhabit and its “systemic” vulnerability.
Wallace B. Henley’s fifty-year career has spanned newspaper journalism, government in both White House and Congress, the church, and academia. He is author or co-author of more than 20 books. He is a teaching pastor at Grace Church, the Woodlands, Texas.
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