Let me tell you, it’s hard to remain bright and cheery about the future after watching the evening news. They always have a story that will convince you that the world is teeming with murderous predators and it’s best to never again leave the protection of your home. Or you will see a story that signifies the end of civilised society and quite possibly the world.
One such story was the stealing of data from the Ashley Madison website. Hopefully you don’t know this, but AshleyMadison.com boasts of its ability to facilitate affairs between married individuals. Its slogan is “Life is short, have an affair.” The stolen data seemed to reveal that every other spouse in Australia was ready to jump the fence on their domestic situation.
In Sydney alone, more than a quarter-million residents had Ashley Madison accounts. To give you an idea of how many people that is, imagine putting them all on 747s at Sydney Airport. If one aircraft took off every two minutes, it would take 21 hours for all the adulterers to leave the country. (I’m not making a suggestion about what to do with the people on the list. This is just an illustration of the extent of the problem.)
When the hacking scandal broke around the world last year, two breakfast hosts on Australian radio station, Nova FM, asked listeners to call in and they would check to see if their spouse had an Ashley Madison account. Bizarrely, a woman did phone in to satisfy her curiosity, listened to by an audience of 400,000. On air, she gave her husband’s details to the hosts, and they searched for it in the Ashley Madison database.
“We’re putting him into this website right now and his details have revealed that he’s actually on the website,” said radio host Fitzy. The woman, obviously distraught, said, “These websites are disgusting,” and hung up.
The hosts sounded stunned and uncomfortable after the call ended. “Oh, I don’t know if we should have done that,” said co-host Wippa. “That hasn’t left me with a good feeling. What a horrible situation to be in.”
No kidding! What a horrible situation for a lot of people to be in. In fact, more than 30 million people worldwide were exposed in the website hack. Some were even police and government officials.
At tipping point?
This is the kind of event that reminds you that there are a lot of people out there with the moral standards of a fevered weasel. And the assumption is that when you have enough fevered weasels in the population, society will collapse. In fact, if you get enough people engaged in wanton immorality, it might even be the end of their world if not the entire world.
This is an idea we see in several stories in the Bible. We know that the world almost ended in Noah’s day when, “The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time” (Genesis 6:5).
There is also the story of two cities destroyed by fire in the time of Abraham. The book of Jude in the Bible says, “Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding towns gave themselves up to sexual immorality and perversion. They serve as an example of those who suffer the punishment of eternal fire” (verse 7).
“God looked down on [that] world and it was just like our world, and His answer was severe cataclysmic judgement—which is coming very soon,” Pastor Jimmy Evans told his Texas congregation. “The world that we live in today is unlike the world 40 years ago, 50 years ago or 100 years ago. This is the world of the end times. However you look at this thing, we’re at a tipping point.”
Evans is not alone in that opinion. Not only religious people, but political pundits look around in alarm. “We wallow in our pens of decadence covered in the filth we pretend is freedom and watch the world built on 5000 years of Western morality burn around us,” said columnist Rob Taylor, supporting his point by giving examples of recent crimes that are so outrageously horrific you wish you could rinse them out of your memory.
But have we really reached a “tipping point?” Are we really that much worse than the generations before us? Evans cites as evidence the fact that people could leave their doors unlocked when he was a kid. Of course, the same Texans who left their doors unlocked could remember attending lynchings of blacks and Mexicans for public amusement, so it’s hard for that generation to claim the moral high ground. But he makes a more general point nevertheless.
The real adultery
I don’t know why it is, but every generation assumes that the next generation is taking society down the tubes. Even Plato complained that “the young men of the governing class, are habituated to lead a life of luxury and idleness both of body and mind; they do nothing, and are incapable of resisting either pleasure or pain.”
But Ashley Madison must surely signify something more. After all, adultery is listed by God as one of His Top 10 no-nos. To have a website that involves millions in betraying their most intimate relationship must indicate some sort of moral watershed, right?
Maybe so. But, interestingly, it isn’t specifically mentioned as a sign of the end-time by the Bible. The apostle Paul, writing to his protégé, Timothy, mentions some 19 sins of people in the last days, and adultery is not among them (see 2 Timothy 3:1–5, 8).
However, the prophecies contained in the book of Revelation do talk about it—a different kind of adultery in the context of the closing chapters of earth’s history: An angel flying in the heaven says, “Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great which made all the nations drink the maddening wine of her adulteries” (14:8).
These are not adulteries committed by husbands and wives. One interpretation is that this adultery has to do with the Christian Church. The Church—which is described in the Bible as Christ’s bride—will leave her intimate relationship with her Bridegroom and flirt with political power. So if you want to anticipate the end of time, keep an eye out for a worldwide combination of religion and politics.
Meanwhile, a website that makes it easy for husbands and wives to cheat does not signify the end of the world. Rather, and so sadly, it marks the end of many small worlds. Acts of adultery are shattering the worlds of unsuspecting spouses and children. This is the real tragedy and a cause for alarm. In fact, prophecies of global apocalypse do not mean much to those who are crushed tonight by learning that there has been infidelity in their marriage.
Whether or not our society is collapsing, there are people who have suffered at the blunt end of sin who need compassion. They need to know that even though it seems like the end of their dreams, there is hope in a God who wants to make all things new again.