It seems that I have had this conversation several times in the last few months. The question revolves around the observation that things seem to be getting worse in our society. We are facing intense economic downturn. If you look at hollywood you see that what we find morally acceptable is continuing on a downward spiral. Divorce rates are hovering around 50% for Christians and non-Christians. There are many things that we could point to that show that our world is getting worse. There are also many things that we could point to that show that our world is getting better, I don’t need to go into those here.
The point is that, biblically speaking, the world is not getting worse. It is in conflict, but it is not getting worse. Why do I say this? First, Jesus tells a great parable in Matt. 13:24-30. There he speaks of the kingdom of heaven as wheat in a field, but the enemy has sown his own kingdom, these are tares (or weeds). The parable speaks of the two kingdoms growing together. In the end they will be judged, but the tares do not overcome the wheat and the gardener does not rescue the wheat from the tares, they are opposing forces that grow up together to be judged accordingly ‘in the time of the harvest’ (ἐν καιρῷ τοῦ θερισμοῦ).
Another reason we know that the world is not getting worse is the promise in 1 John 2:17. There the elder (writer of John and the epistles) writes concerning the world, which is a cipher for the ‘this worldly’ forces that oppose God. He says of the world that it and the desires of it are passing away (παράγεται). This world is presently passing away. What does this mean? Like was said earlier in the epistle “the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shinning” (2:8). The present world is being infiltrated by the kingdom of God, by the true light. When the light came into the world (see John 1:1-17) it signaled the end of the ‘this world’ not our physical world but the element of the world that opposes the kingdom of God.
Therefore, to say that the world is getting worse is to fail to live in the reality that Scripture portrays. Yes we live in a world where the kingdom of God and the kingdom of the enemy grow up mixed with each other. But the world cannot overcome the kingdom of God, because Christ has already overcome the world. While the world may temporarily get worse this is just part of the ebb and flow of the two kingdoms growing together. The ultimate promise is that the world is getting better and will get better. No, not better, perfect.