When God sends Wormwood to demolish civilization (Rev 6-8), is it because time's up (6000 years) or are there conditions in society that give God cause, such as the negative attributes Paul warned Timothy about in "people of the last days?" (2Tm 3:1-3)? I could never explain this prophecy until I stopped trying to ignore how people are more rude, outraged, and angry than ever and researched the cause, a technology now infecting nearly all of us. Understand and see the writing on the wall for yourself so you can prepare for 2026.
The End Time Sign I Ignored
I have good news and bad news.
The good news is that if you're not content with my personal-dream-based conviction about 2026 being when Wormwood brings the end of civilization (rather than some later sabbath year cycle/70th-week timeframe like 2032/2039/etc.) I have a new explanation for an end-time sign in the Bible that's easier to confirm than praying for your own revelation from God to confirm my dreams.
The bad news is that if you had hoped my dreams were wrong about 2026 and that we had more time, this new sign is hard to miss once I show it to you. It is covered regularly in the news and witnessed by most of us on an almost daily basis. Once you see it, it will change how you view our modern, digital life.
The sign I'm referring to is a prophecy I have ignored for 20 years now. Paul warned Timothy about how degenerate people will be in the "last days" with a list of 19 descriptors:
2 Timothy 3:1-5 (NIV2011) — 1 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
This is no easy prophecy.
Problem #1: Subjective "Worsening"
Can you see the problem I had with this? Take a look at the list of negative characteristics of people. They are not exactly what we would call unique; most have been manifested to varying degrees in all societies throughout history. Paul confirms the universality of them by including a warning to Timothy to avoid people like that in his time. A warning about last-days people which applies already 2000 years earlier left me perplexed.
How do we know when the prophecy is fulfilled? Is it a matter of scale, an unprecedented level of anti-social tendencies in people that would be impossible to miss? Paul's statement later in the chapter seems to confirm this:
2 Timothy 3:13 (HCSB) — Evil people and impostors will become worse, deceiving and being deceived.
Indeed, that seems like the only possibility. Somehow, people will become much worse. Since "worse" is so relative and not quantifiable, we cannot hope to truly understand what this prophecy really looks like until we get there. Along the way, it's will be unavoidable that we think it has arrived when really it has not. I have seen Christians claim this prophecy was fulfilled many times over the past decades. When Democratic presidents such as Bill Clinton and Barack Obama are in the White House, or when "Christian values" (like not making cakes for homosexual couples) are knocked back, or even when “Happy holidays” is substituted for "Merry Christmas," Christians express that the end is near "because we cannot go on much longer like this."
I think most making such claims do not realize that they are simply repeating what people in nearly every generation have thought and said. Because of biased, selective memories and subjective judgment, we tend to believe things are worse than we remember from our youth—in the "good old days." This is so common it even has a name, the “Golden Age Fallacy.” As far back as in Ancient Greece, Aristotle thought that the next generation was worse than his and wrote about it.
But remember, Paul's full prophecy is not about just any subjective worsening, but rather specific characteristics multiplying in people. No surprise then that we're still here and the much-proclaimed end still is not.
Problem #2: What Could Cause All 19 Attributes?
The other problem with this prophecy comes when you try to explain how such a broad spectrum of negative characteristics would manifest in people. Some characteristics seem incompatible with the development of others. What could go so wrong in society to make them all develop? Here are two ideas I ruled out:
- Global Crisis? - Say we had another Great Depression, world war, or a similar global crisis. With lower security or standard of living foisted upon the population, we would expect them to become "brutal, treacherous." But why "disobedient to parents" or "proud, arrogant, ungrateful?" Bad circumstances tend to humble us and make us grateful for what we can get when we see lack all around us. A global crisis would not seem able to cause Paul's prophecy.
- Prosperity? - On the other hand, increasing prosperity and standards of living would easily explain people becoming "lovers of self, pleasure, proud, arrogant, ungrateful." We get narcissistic, spoiled and entitled from wealth as we already are seeing in affluent Western democracies. But prosperity does not naturally explain people becoming "brutal, treacherous, disobedient to parents, abusive, without self-control, not loving good."
What could possibly explain a rise in all these negative characteristics if the normal cycles of boom and bust, crisis and recovery do not? Heck, you would almost have to insert most of humanity into mobs personalized to their likes and interests. Mobs lead good people to do horrendous things like torture, lynching, or even genocide against the Jews as the Nazis did. But that's never going to happen, right? (wink, wink...)
I was stumped. Hence, I decided to leave Paul's prophecy alone and, as long-time readers know, focus on other more quantifiable prophecies, like Wormwood and WW3, as I wrote about in my book Know the Future.
A Nudge From God?
To be honest, I completely forgot about Paul's prophecy. I wrote it off as hopelessly unclear and useless. I had put together so much of the end time roadmap from other prophecies that I was OK with that.
Nevertheless, it seems that God acted to end my ignorance on this prophecy as he had done with others. I was provoked to think in a new direction because of a question. A supporter who is not thrilled that the end may be coming soon in her lifetime (as I believe) asked the following of me:
“The question I have now is: do you see anything with what's going on...about Russia building up of new tensions building up. Do you see not maybe as a sign but do you see anything in that kind of stuff at all like that the Damascus prophecy may be coming? ...can you squeeze anything out of what we're seeing going on in the world that shows we could be close to the end?”
My immediate answer was, no, nothing had changed in my position. She already knew that the Psalm 83 war was the next prophetic event and there was no other sign before that. However, later in the same conversation, I ended up sharing some new thoughts I had on recent negative trends in society. These trends kept being covered in podcasts and news articles I was consuming so that I finally started thinking and talking about them.
"Depart From Me, I Never Knew you!" - Jesus
Jesus predicted that he will tell many sincere believers to basically "get lost" instead of welcoming them into the Kingdom. So...who are they and what did they miss or do wrong? In this study, get those answers and the one requirement for salvation Jesus taught (that Christianity misses) so that you can make sure you don't hear these dreaded words yourself!
Later that same day after the meeting, like a bolt of lightning, a thought occurred to me: It wasn't true what I said about there not being another sign before Psalm 83; I was wrong.
The negative trends I had shared were actually related to Paul's "last days people" prophecy sign which I had forgotten, and there was one cause behind both of them. This cause finally covered all the negative characteristics that could not be explained by anything else before.
A Brief History of the World ('70s, '80s, '90s, and '00s)
In order to appreciate these new trends, it may help to back up and revisit how technology and innovation have reliably delivered decades of consistent progress to civilization. From my childhood in the 1970s and onward, quality of life has steadily improved. Products and services became better, safer, faster, cheaper, and more powerful, lifting our standard of living. We went from wall phones to cordless phones to pagers to cell phones to smartphones; from reel-to-reel to 8-track to cassette tape to CD to DVD to Blu-ray. Standards in society continually rose, too, providing better education, human rights, and opportunities.
The Cold War that had been ongoing since 1945 ended effectively with the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1991. A few years later, in 1995 the free web browser Netscape brought the ten-year-old Internet to the attention of the masses in the fulfillment of prophecy that "many" in the end times would google ("go to and fro" is not about travel but is an idiom for searching) and "increase knowledge" (Dan 12:4). Even with only "primitive" (compared to Google) Yahoo search back then, this was a game-changer for humanity as all of us know. What else could you ask for after such an incredible gift? Not much, yet the internet continued to expand and improve our lives. (I, for one, was able to start to work from home in 2000, years before that became a common thing.)
If there were any regressions to progress in the '70s, '80s, '90s, and 00's, I cannot recall them. They were either minor or aberrations that did not last long before they were coaxed forward again. For example, back in the 2000s, there was much talk about a coming serious energy shortage due to "peak oil." The theory stated that the discovery of new oil fields had peaked and was slowing while the demand was still rising which spelled an inevitable global crisis. Although conventional crude oil production did indeed peak in 2006, along came the innovation of hydraulic fracturing (fracking), increasing oil production once again.
In summary, the first four decades of my life up until 2008 impressed me as a period of constant progress and improvements to life.
New Significant Negative Trends
Against that backdrop, now consider these anti-progress developments in three different areas of modern life:
- Traffic deaths on the rise? - After 15 years of decline, traffic deaths in America rose in 2015 by a startling 9 percent, according to data recently released by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). From 2000 to 2014, traffic fatalities declined by more than 22 percent. Distracted driving especially related to smartphones is blamed. As smartphone ownership skyrocketed from 55 percent in 2013 to 77 percent in 2017, the number of accidents escalated from 5.7 million to 6.4 million, an increase of 12.3 percent.
- "Eradicated" measles returns? - Measles was declared eradicated in America in 2000. Yet in 2019 more cases of the disease were reported than since 1992, mostly among people who have never been vaccinated. The anti-vaccination movement spread on social media (stating that vaccines are dangerous or cause autism) is mainly blamed for lower vaccination rates. UPDATE: For all those commenting, I'm not judging the anti-vaccination movement. I'm judging the tragic return of an eradicated disease, OK?
- Flat earth resurgence?? - The most disturbing "progress reversal headline" of all for me is the bizarre resurgence of "flat-earthers." Just as it sounds and despite the overwhelming 2,500 years of scientific evidence to the contrary, flat-earthers believe that the earth is a flat disc, not a sphere. This means that 100 years after the first occurrence of the term "flat-earth-man," you can no longer use that term to refer to someone holding "ridiculously antiquated views." It's a current view again, held by no doubt millions globally (the Flat Earth Society twitter feed alone has around 100K followers). The next time you are tempted to express how ridiculous an idea is by comparing it to flat earth belief, be careful, as you may get the awkward response back, "I believe in flat-earth." (It's happened to me more than once.)
Can you see why these headlines reminded me of Paul's prophecy? Maybe not yet. Viewed independently, they are saddening yet can be dismissed as relatively unimportant. After all, who dies from measles (only 0.02% of cases); who really is up in arms about the carnage on the highways (few compared to much lower death rates from many diseases); and "so what if conspiracy nuts are spreading yet another ridiculous conspiracy" (as most would say in response to flat-Earthism )?
Yet taken together, all of these trends relate to "people getting worse" (2Ti 3:13) in areas of longstanding progress, all thanks to the new potent technological combo of smartphones and social media.
Everyone readily understands how dangerously seductive even old cellphones are that they lure drivers to their deaths like the sirens did to sailors in Greek mythology. What's harder to understand is how enough people became convinced it's "unsafe" to vaccinate their kids that measles returned or especially how an easily disproven, outdated belief like flat earth could have a modern resurgence. The answer to both questions explains how Paul's prophecy is already being fulfilled in people all around you, including probably you, too. They are also a key part of the answer to a new question I never could have answered before now:
"What will God say when we ask him in the Millennium why it was he sent Wormwood to punish civilization when he did?"
Smartphones and Social Media Uber Alles
Skeptical? It's understandable when smartphones bring so many benefits. If you ever leave home, GPS mapping apps alone make smartphones worth the upgrade from an old flip phone. Social media also has been wonderful, especially in the early years. It enables us to find and communicate with long lost friends and relatives long distance, or to be able to share a personal problem and get a flood of crowd-sourced solutions even more tailored to your needs than a Google search can do.
There was also the Arab Spring overthrow of Egypt's dictator Mubarak in 2011 thanks to a Facebook group started by a dissident. The potential for good and positive change from social media seemed so promising! Nevertheless, as time has gone on and this pair of technologies has spread into more people's hands, cracks have begun to appear in that rosy facade.
But spread they have. You will be surprised to learn how popular these technologies have been with humanity around the globe:
- World population is 7.7 billion
- 5.5 billion smartphones are in use across the world today.
- 3.5 billion use social media
- In rich countries (with near-universal internet), almost all young people use social media.
- On average, the world’s internet users spend 6 hours and 42 minutes online each day, over 2 hours of which is social media.
- More than 50% of the content viewed on Twitter includes images and videos.
You have to stop and think about how fast and remarkable the spread of these technologies has been. Most of the world is poor; one third live on less than $2/day. But who doesn't have a cellphone or a smartphone? A minority. I remember when we lived in poor Third World Costa Rica, even there everyone had cell phones. (We knew of one person with a cellphone despite living under a bridge!)
Likewise, while in the '90s and even '00s we used to talk about online life vs real life, the reality now because of mobile internet on our phones and tablets is that we're all online every day for hours. Our life is an integrated online life.
So what are the effects of most of us, including the poor of the world, being connected to each other through our phones, the internet, and social media for so much of our daily life?
"Reach Out and Abuse Someone"
With all the benefits of our online life, we only gradually have been becoming aware of its dark side. The chief of this is online abuse in its many forms. Americans will remember how AT&T used to promote its service with the slogan, "Reach out and touch someone." Telemarketers and others spoiled the early positive association of hearing your phone ring. The same has happened with the internet long ago. People are reaching out to harass someone through the internet in ways that make telephone harassment seem like the good old days. When you learn how bad it is, you will be shocked and hope you are never the target of doxxing, swatting, revenge porn, cyberbullying, or cyber-mob attacks.
Many people have lost their jobs, careers, marriages and even their lives—often by suicide because online abuse is so devastating. Consider just this one horrifying tale of a woman who was cyber-mob attacked as a result of a satirical joke she shared on Twitter and because she appeared to be a "person of privilege" who "deserved" to be shamed.
A Mob Mentality Epidemic
The reason people do such vicious things online, the reason that bad or false ideas like flat-earth belief spread and the reason that all the negative characteristics of "last days people" are manifesting now is one and the same cause: mob-mentality facilitated by social media. Social media enables every person, no matter how strange or obscure their likes or dislikes, to find and connect with like-minded people. Everyone on social media is part of one or more online groupings that exert a powerful effect on their thinking.
Mob or herd mentality "describes how people can be influenced by their peers to adopt certain behaviors on a largely emotional, rather than rational, basis." As we all know, individuals connected in a group agree with and do things that they normally would never do because "groupthink" overtakes their individual thinking. If you want to bring out the worst in people, grouping them with others is a historically proven highly effective way.
There are several groupthink dynamics that psychologists have observed:
- Groups tend to affirm your beliefs, whether right or wrong, good or bad. This increases your confidence in them and makes you reluctant to listen to opposing views.
- Individuals in groups desire acceptance, approval and to fit in so they conform by suppressing their dissenting thoughts and opinions. They also go along with the group and its decisions rather than stay true to their individualized values. They become "deindividualized."
- Groups tend to have a radicalizing effect on our initial beliefs ("smoking is bad...smoking kills...smoking should be banned"). Like-minded people share far more arguments for why they are right than evidence to the contrary which confirmation bias also tends to filter out.
- "Us vs. them" thinking is a natural outcome of this. The radicalization of belief includes the view that your group, the ingroup, is more right or virtuous while those outside your group, the outgroup, are more wrong or villainous. This leads to more and more polarization of the opposing groups.
Example: The Dangerous Incel Subculture
If you have wondered why mass shootings in America are steadily increasing, from once every few years, to once a year, to at times weekly, social media groupthink is a major cause.
One such contributing group is a recent cultural online movement called "incels." Incel stands for "involuntary celibate." These are the stereotypical, sad, dateless males living in their parents' basement. This class of antisocial or introverted people in the past would stay brooding alone or among their friends and family. Their feelings and thoughts would not find so much affirmation among a normally heterogeneous social circle that includes some socially successful individuals.
However, thanks to the internet, incels are able to connect with each other and group up. All the group dynamics described above occur. What started out as a support group for shy men has evolved into a brutal movement that promotes and encourages misogyny, rape, and even murder. Incels have been linked to several mass murders.
This outcome is no surprise considering how well-known the wisdom is of preventing certain elements from affirming each other. I remember back in grade school how there were two classmates that were particularly unruly. My teacher separated them to opposite sides of the classroom while explaining, "Michael is gasoline and Frank is the match." In college the rule was that two freshmen were not allowed to room together in our two-person dorms; freshmen had to be paired up with an upper-classman. When I naively asked my senior roommate the reason for this rule that was preventing him from rooming with his brother also attending the college, he explained, "Because if two freshmen are together one will suggest a bad idea to the other and he'll agree, 'sound's great, let's do it!'"
Social media is effectively not only telling all the "freshmen" out there that their ideas are great, but also why not take them even further?
Example: Flat Earth's Resurgence Explained
The detrimental groupthink of social media is its most potent drawback. But it only partially explains, for example, why flat earth has returned.
The other problematic aspect of social media (among many others) is that its greatest benefit of allowing everyone, even the marginalized, to have a voice and broadcast to the world, is also its greatest problem. Anyone with any idea, no matter how meritless, also gets a voice. They can share their ideas in a very persuasive, personal manner through video and through memes. Memes are a significant development that should not be underestimated. They have proven highly effective because as they say, a picture is worth a thousand words.
When anyone can broadcast it is not the better authority who gets listened to but rather the better storyteller. Obviously, scientists and other experts are not in their position because of their ability to tell stories. They lose competing on social media against "real people" with a story to tell of how they used to believe the earth was round and did not want to hear that the earth was flat, but a transformation happened and their eyes were opened to the Satanic conspiracy trying to keep this secret information from us, etc.
Social media does not care which is most accurate or true. It promotes what is most popular. An MIT study found that false stories were 70% more likely to be retweeted on Twitter than true ones. It comes as no surprise that most people who believe in flat-earth reported that they learned of it through YouTube. They were not even interested in the idea, but YouTube's algorithm served it up based on other conspiratorial videos they were exploring. Many initially watch such videos wanting to debunk them in the comments. Instead, after being overwhelmed with "200 proofs the Earth is not a spinning ball" that they cannot refute (including Scriptural ones), they often come away convinced. Then, after being infected with the "flat earth virus," many go on to become flat-earth evangelists to infect others. It's like Paul said:
2 Timothy 3:13 (HCSB) — Evil people and impostors will become worse, deceiving and being deceived.
But so what, flat earth belief is just a harmless, cosmological view that has no practical impact on one's daily life, right? On the contrary, it's having great negative effects. On Facebook, flat-earthers are some of the most unpleasant and divisive people you will meet. It is so bad, I have frequently seen Facebook posts announcing flat-earthers and their trolling will no longer be tolerated on their wall. Offline, flat-earthism (similar to the incels) has led to damaging effects such as breaking up marriages, families, and churches.
Isn't it ironic that by achieving the ideal of a worldwide shared resource of knowledge that one would expect to create peace, harmony and a common interpretation of reality, that quite the opposite has happened? As knowledge has been increasingly "democratized" and competing narratives have emerged, populism has won, rather than truth or idealism.
Dear Flat Earther: No Offense
Before moving on, I want to explain something to flat earth believers reading this. I do not condemn, criticize or even mock you. I have love and compassion for you because I have believed discredited conspiracy theories of my own, such as KJV-onlyism. In time, I came around to see the error of that theory and I trust the same will happen with all flat-earthers eventually, hopefully without spending $250,000 on a Virgin Galactic flight into space.
Then why do I have to make an example of flat earth belief? Because I know that the vast majority of readers see flat earth's resurgence as a shocking and perplexing development. I certainly did. I struggled to understand it until I studied it in depth. I consider this resurgence as a perfect case study to explain the key dynamics of social media that contribute to so many negative outcomes and trends since the advent of the smartphone (2007) and social media (2004, Facebook) in the mid-2000s.
Finally, since I already have proven for myself the earth is indeed a globe, I'm not interested in debating this topic or hearing from flat earthers who want to tell me I am wrong. Don't expect a response if you do.
Breaking Down "Last Days People" Characteristics
If social media can resurrect an inferior belief like flat earth and make people worse by it, what else is possible? I think every negative attribute that Paul said is also possible. It's a challenge but I will try to explain how each has been enabled and amplified by social media, its economy, and the groupthink that it creates:
- "lovers of themselves" - The first item on Paul's list deserves its lead position as it's the most important. The clinical word for this is narcissism, defined as excessive self-admiration. The epitome of a narcissism explosion seen today, the selfie photograph, exists because smartphones let you take them and social media gives you the reason why: to share them with the world. Not too long ago, anyone posting so many snapshots of themselves would have been ridiculed as full of themselves. Now many narcissistic behaviors like this have been normalized by social media; monkey see, monkey do.
- "lovers of money" - You don't love something you never see or have. People love to show off their riches and people who want to have that lifestyle are eager watchers. In the past, people would consider such a focus shallow and shameful, but social media has normalized this, too.
- "boastful" - One of the behaviors of narcissists which social media makes into a new occupation is being a show-off. For example, I read there was an Instagram channel of a woman where she makes money by only sharing "butt shots", i.e., pictures of her attractive derriere. That's a new form of boasting without words and it even pays the bills. Show-offs never had it so good. It helps to have no dignity, which is also spreading. Another form is taking daredevil photographs and videos, too many attempts at which have resulted in death.
- "proud/arrogant" - Everyone online is very confident in their particular ingroup's knowledge and rightness. After all, they googled it and now they are an expert! Hubris is foolish pride, ignorant arrogance or overconfidence that leads to disaster.
- "abusive/blasphemers" - Abuse and harassment have skyrocketed thanks to how easy it is to accomplish online and how readily people fall into us vs. them mentality, thereby justifying their retaliation on outgroups. One particular class of abuse takes place offline still because the victims are not (yet) online, yet the internet is overrun with images of the abuse, labeled "CSAM." (Warning: you could lose your faith in humanity if you research that topic or read this NYT article.)
- "disobedient to their parents" - I have witnessed shocking disobedience in my children, my siblings' children and friends' children compared to how our generation had to behave or get whooped. I could not figure out what we were doing wrong to not get the same results. Then it dawned on me that my child and the rest were connected with others from a young age already texting on dumbphones, internet sites, and game chats, even before they all had smartphones and social media as they do today. You don't have to be an adult for a communication network like that to affirm your bad ideas and behaviors and give you ideas for new ones you never would have thought of. Children get corrupted by groupthink, too, if you let them, just as I shared above about elementary children being separated by teachers to prevent it. It's extremely hard now not to let them, to tell your kid they cannot have a digital life like all their friends and be the cyber-leper. Trying to get your digitally connected kids to obey today is like doing an intervention for a drunk friend and letting his drinking buddy come and sit by his side and whisper in his ear. It doesn't work.
- "ungrateful" - With all the outrage, "important" causes, and envy spread on social media, it's hard to be slow, thoughtful and experience gratitude for things.
- "unholy" - Unholy is not set apart to honor or glorify God. If long disproven flat-earth belief has been propped up through social media, how much more is atheism going to spread?
- "without love/unloving/heartless" - To be without heart or love means you're indifferent or hateful. Narcissism leads to indifference and unmoderated, online tribalism promotes hate.
- "unforgiving/irreconcilable/unappeasable" - People hold a grudge like never before because groupthink reinforces the conviction of their own rightness or virtue. Ever try to get someone on social media to see that the "other side" are human beings, and not just "liberals" or not really evil or wrong on some point? When I tried that recently, I was told by a Christian, "you sound like the liberals." End of discussion. There is no reasoning with the "us vs. them" mindset that dehumanizes people.
- "slanderous" - Social media increases and promotes outrage while at the same time offering you an all-too-easy method to verbally attack anyone whose viewpoint offends you.
- "without self-control" - Imagine having a weakness in the area of self-control (drugs, alcohol, porn, food) and connecting with others like yourself—not in a 12 step program setting: "Eh, you're fine, I've seen worse, in fact, you are too hard on yourself." Even then, long-time AAs who harken to the original intent of AA doctrine and traditions call the groups in which the more modern and less-stringently moderated groups have extremely low success rates "Let's all go to hell together" groups.
- "brutal" - Angry mobs have always been brutal. Social media brings angry mobs together as the video above about shaming demonstrates all too well.
- "not lovers of the good" - With every conceivable interest and outrage being promoted and affirmed on social media, the truly good gets left behind. It's boring and not so sensational so it gets fewer shares. People don't fall in love with what they hardly ever see or experience.
- "treacherous/traitors" - Online relationships are shallow and easily replaceable (Tinder, etc.), so why do you need loyalty? One of the greatest values of my wife is her loyalty. I met her in college before meeting people online even existed.
- "rash/reckless" - Facts, truth and nuance no longer matter as much so people now rush to judgment and outrage. It feels good and enough others who agree with you will affirm your choice, so why hold back and be careful?
- "conceited" - Vanity is no longer such a vice. Just get a social media account and do your thing and you may get rich or at least famous in the process.
- "lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God" - Every obscure, hedonistic deviancy such as sexual fetishes of all kinds have their own online cultural subgroup now. If you love pleasure, however weird, now you can find the group that will affirm you and will join you. You no longer need to be alone, keep your interests secret and practice them rarely if ever at all. What do you need God for when you can have everything you care about all the time so easily?
- "have a form of godliness but denying its power" - In the past, I could only imagine this characteristic in a religious context, which is why I was left stumped. One synonym for godliness is "virtue" and if this is only a form of godliness of virtue, then this may fit: The light went on once I learned about the popular social media behavior of virtue signalling. People who are not religious at all love to express their superior moral values in a conspicuous way. Often it takes the form of expressing something they know people will agree with such as calling out someone else's norm-breaking behavior, rather than doing something constructive in real life about it in an inconspicuous way (that takes more work, has more risk and gets you no kudos or glory). It's a form of virtue that's powerless because it's talk and not action. It's only increasing.
What Does It All Mean?
So I have shared a lot. In my opinion, the evidence is overwhelming that the smartphone and social media are a bane for society, humanity, and decency. The smartphone is already so psychologically powerful on its own with the promise of text messages from your social circle, it's not very far off from Golem's "precious" powerful ring of invisibility calling to him in the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings movies to put it on (and same to its next Hobbit owners Bilbo and Frodo). It's a fitting metaphor when you consider people continue to text and drive, how even in college classes, plays or other paid venues people cannot help being glued to their screens. They are off somewhere else instead of being present with those around them. When they are asked to surrender their phones at the start of events so they can pay attention to what they paid for, they resist saying, "I can't; someone may want me." They fear missing out or being alone. Golem would not give up his precious readily, either.
Social media makes the smartphone even more seductive which in turn makes social media more available and intertwined into our lives. At that level of engagement, social media's cyber-mobs take over our thinking, dragging it down, degenerating us. Who could have ever imagined a mobile technology combo so present and capable of modifying human behavior in so many negative ways?
What does this mean and spell for us?
In a previous article, I shared the unexpected realization that when God fulfills Revelation by devastating Earth with a rogue planet, it will be so obvious who did it that it not only brings the end of civilization but the end of atheism with it (Rev 6:16-17). How could anyone continue to deny the existence of God when a catastrophic miracle happens which the whole world witnesses (Rev 6:15)?
As pivotal as that event will be, I must admit that I never stopped to ask a very important question about it: why does God disrupt civilization when he does? Before seeing this connection between social media and Paul's "last days people," I would have answered it's because the end of the 6000 years allotted to man to fully test self-rule is near its end; "time's up." Also, I would have pointed out that the end of civilization is needed to give rise to the Antichrist for the final 3½ of the 6000 years. The Antichrist uses the global crisis to be welcomed as "God" himself coming as the savior of the world (2Th 2:4).
But now I see all around me that God has a more directly justifiable cause for judging our society when he does, so soon now in 2026. I believe when God is asked later why he sent Wormwood on our society, he will answer that humanity had already peaked and was degenerating. Having more time would not change or reverse that.
The new, digital lifestyle that settled in during the 2010s has promoted learning of narcissism and demoted learning of empathy, the ability to put yourself in someone else's shoes. That's a big problem for God and his plan for this "eternal life training simulation" he put us all in. As I explained in my last article on the Bad News of the Kingdom, this life is designed to teach us what we need to live peacefully and joyfully in eternity with God and his other children. We cannot get along with God if we are encouraged to be narcissists who love ourselves more than God. We cannot get along with others if we are discouraged from learning empathy. The best way to learn empathy is to have a face to face conversation with someone.
Yet today we often hear or say ourselves, "I'd rather text than talk." We even get bothered when someone shows up unannounced without texting or calling first.
I saw a post on Facebook recently by a young man asking the best way to get out of unwanted conversations with taxi drivers who want to tell him about their lives. Talk about something a narcissist would say. The very thing that he needs to build empathy he's too self-important to bother with. That more and more widespread attitude is leading us to avoid the character-improving interactions that God designed life to revolve around.
What If Virtual Reality Were Here?
If you don't follow my point yet about digital life defeating God's purposes to the point that we're degenerating too far, let me explain it another way.
While researching this article, I listened on and off to a Joe Rogan interview of John Carmack, the legendary developer of 3D games Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, and Quake. He is now the CTO of a virtual reality hardware company. Virtual reality allows you to put on a headset that syncs with you as you turn your head to make it seem like you are in another world.
Carmack sang the virtues of virtual reality, "to make the world as you want it." Poorer people who could never have a mansion or home theatre could have one in VR. There are not enough islands in the world for everyone to have their own private island like Richard Branson, but with VR they all could.
As I was listening to this pitch, my mind immediately said, "Bullshit! VR is not a panacea any more than the smartphone has turned out to be." He's missing the ramifications of letting people "make the world as they want." If you want an idea of what a world with VR looks like then you need not look further than the first minute of Steven Spielberg's Ready Player One (2018):
The clip above depicts the protagonist descending a "stack" of trailers in a trailer park called The Stacks. As he passes his neighbors' trailers, you can see each of them wearing VR headsets while motioning in ways that make sense in whatever fantasy world their equipment is "making" for them. Who can blame them when you can escape your depressing world into the world of your making. But, see, it would not just be poor people who live in squalor doing this. Nearly everyone would like to make the world of their dreams. They'd be saying, "I'd rather VR than R [reality]" just as we say, "I'd rather text than talk." But what would they learn about real life and real people that God had intended? Next to nothing.
In other words, if VR were here today we would clearly understand why God would pull the plug on civilization immediately. God would see everyone opting out of the world he made to be in their own world say "game over." Today we are already in a more primitive digital/cyber world more and more and in face-to-face reality less and less with the consequent degeneration of our characters. Over the next seven years until 2026, this will only continue to worsen, and probably at an accelerated pace. I don't think we'll have anything like Ready Player One by 2026, but we'll be closer. Close enough and degenerated enough that God will still say, "game over."
Now that you heard my very heavy and depressing take on our degrading world and the technology that you yourself no doubt use that's causing it... how do I conclude this article and give you some encouragement?
Well, as I did, you will have to process all this first. Take moments away from the phone and reflect. I was quite a bit sad to learn the things above and you may be, too. This does seem to be the death knell for this civilization, which has been retreating for years already. I see that the writing is on the wall. It's like learning the "mark of the beast" is here. I did not want to see or know it.
Since processing this research, I'm more aware and wary when I'm on my phone or social media than ever before. I'm cognizant of how I'm playing with fire by using the very tool of our civilization's demise. Likewise, I'm more aware when others are "using" around me and remember to be patient when they do not give me human attention because of it. I realize they probably do not consider how the device is influencing them.
In the past, I'd be more like the man who wanted to avoid unwanted interactions with taxi drivers. Since learning the importance of conversation and interactions with others to gain empathy I'm less resistant when opportunities come up to engage like that. I gained a lot of empathy in Costa Rica and saw how that enabled me to stop making people wrong, stop judging them and love them more easily. Since that's what it's all about (Mt 7:12), I want to keep moving in that direction rather than become more narcissistic and less empathetic like the world as a whole.
Finally, I am more aware now when I reach for my phone out of dumb habit, not from intention. I am aware that the phone has cut down on my solitude and prayer time. When I'm on the phone sometimes I ask if the time would not be better spent talking to God and inviting him into my life more. I ask if the phone occupying my mind is not blocking me from hearing something from God that would benefit me or my readers. This helps me to get off the phone. If time really is running out, cultivating that connection with God is a priority.
That is how the insights above have impacted me. I hope this inspires you to make similar adjustments.
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Tim is the author of this site (since 1999) and the book Know the Future that explains Revelation literally at last--including the key event of Wormwood (Rev 6-8). To read more from Tim and not miss a single new article, sign up for his free newsletter above.