From the January/February 2023 Discern issue of Discern Magazine

The End of History?

There are things we want to see end, like war and threats to human survival. Can human governments achieve these goals? Or does human misrule need to end?

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At the end of the Cold War, when the Communist Soviet Union was failing, political scientist Francis Fukuyama suggested we might be approaching what he called the end of history.

He did not mean the end of humanity, or even the end of the study of history. Basically, he meant that the best form of government would win out, and humanity would no longer need to struggle with failed political experiments like fascism, communism and autocracy.

But things have changed. Autocracy is on the rise; many democracies are flailing; and great power conflicts are again in the news. Many would say Dr. Fukuyama’s predictions 30 years ago were at best premature and overly optimistic and at worst flatly wrong.

Still, wouldn’t an end of history be a good thing?

If you think of history as the story of wars and disasters, who wouldn’t want that to end?

If you think of it as the chronicle of man’s failed experiments at self-government, who wouldn’t want to move beyond that to a way that really works?

The end of history revisited

In an Oct. 17, 2022, article in The Atlantic, Dr. Fukuyama defended his concept that history is marching toward an end—the ultimate goal of historical progress.

“The philosopher Hegel coined the phrase the end of history to refer to the liberal state’s rise out of the French Revolution as the goal or direction toward which historical progress was trending. For many decades after that, Marxists would borrow from Hegel and assert that the true end of history would be a communist utopia. When I wrote an article in 1989 and a book in 1992 with this phrase in the title, I noted that the Marxist version was clearly wrong and that there didn’t seem to be a higher alternative to liberal democracy. We’ve seen frightening reversals to the progress of liberal democracy over the past 15 years, but setbacks do not mean that the underlying narrative is wrong. None of the proffered alternatives look like they’re doing any better.”

Dr. Fukuyama’s article makes the case that the apparently strong authoritarian states, such as Russia and China, have key underlying weaknesses. He argues that eventually people will recognize that liberal democracy is the better alternative. Ultimately, the conflicts that have defined history will be things of the past.

“Supporters of liberal democracy must not give in to a fatalism that tacitly accepts the Russian-Chinese line that such democracies are in inevitable decline. The long-term progress of modern institutions is neither linear nor automatic. Over the years, we have seen huge setbacks to the progress of liberal and democratic institutions, with the rise of fascism and communism in the 1930s, or the military coups and oil crises of the 1960s and ’70s. And yet, liberal democracy has endured and come back repeatedly, because the alternatives are so bad. People across varied cultures do not like living under dictatorship, and they value their individual freedom. No authoritarian government presents a society that is, in the long term, more attractive than liberal democracy, and could therefore be considered the goal or endpoint of historical progress.”

Dr. Fukuyama’s assessment that fascism and communism have failed makes sense. But is he overly optimistic to see democracy as the goal and solution?

Liberal democracy is clearly not without its own weaknesses. As Winston Churchill once said, “Democracy is the worst form of government—except for all the others that have been tried.”

Now polarization, hypocrisy, incompetence, corruption and political shenanigans seem to be increasing in governments around the world. Being the best of the worst seems to be inadequate in solving humanity’s burgeoning problems.

“The Beginning of History”

William MacAskill, an associate professor of philosophy at Oxford, looked at the end of history from a different perspective in his article “The Beginning of History” in the September/October 2022 issue of Foreign Affairs.

But Jesus Christ promised that He will return and end this downward spiral of evil and destruction. He will save us from ourselves.Dr. MacAskill noted, “Contrary to what Fukuyama foresaw, the political horizon has not narrowed to a sliver. Enormous economic, social, and political transformations remain possible—and necessary.” He advocated wisdom in managing the dangers of our own creative genius.

“Advances in weaponry, biology, and computing could spell the end of the species, either through deliberate misuse or large-scale accident.”

Dr. MacAskill wrote, “The prospect of a timeless future has given way to visions of no future at all. Ideology remains a fault line in geopolitics, market globalization is fragmenting, and great-power conflict has become increasingly likely. But the threats to the future are bigger still, with the possibility of the eradication of the human species.”

He quoted U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower’s inaugural address in which he warned that “science seems ready to confer upon us, as its final gift, the power to erase human life.”

He ended his article, “We in the present day recklessly gamble, not just with our lives and our children’s lives but with the very existence of all who are yet to come. Let us be the last generation to do so.”

Conflict is inevitable

History shows cycles of strength and weakness, good leaders and corrupt ones, good policies and bad policies, brief times of cooperation and long stretches of conflict.

The Bible makes the case that under human rule, conflict is inevitable.

Jeremiah wrote, “O LORD, I know the way of man is not in himself; it is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jeremiah 10:23).

God says, “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart departs from the LORD” (Jeremiah 17:5). This is because “the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (verse 9).

Throughout history, man has tended toward selfishness, which inevitably leads to conflict. This evil thinking reached a crescendo at the time of Noah:

“Then the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually . . .

“The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence” (Genesis 6:5, 11).

If you think that sounds a lot like our world today, you’re not the only one. Jesus prophesied these same conditions would be a hallmark of the end times.

Jesus said, “And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man” (Luke 17:26). Though the violence, corruption and evil should be a sign, people will continue with their daily lives, oblivious to the impending doom (verse 27).

In fact, human misrule is inexorably marching toward self-destruction.

Jesus warned, “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved” (Matthew 24:21-22).

The Bible tells us that wars and the resultant famines and disease epidemics, along with natural disasters, will wipe out vast numbers of people (Revelation 6:8).

But then even more deadly wars and disasters will come, bringing humanity to the brink of annihilation. Will nuclear, chemical and biological weapons be used? Will drones and other AI be involved?

Whatever the implements, the underlying source of self-destruction is the evil in our hearts, amplified by the spiritual influence of Satan the devil, who has deceived the whole world (Revelation 12:9; 16:13-14).

But Jesus Christ promised that He will return and end this downward spiral of evil and destruction. He will save us from ourselves.

The end of human misrule

God promises that a better system is coming. There is a goal, or end point, of history. There is a new beginning—a better world on the horizon.

After warning that humanity is on the precipice, Jesus continued, “But for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened” (Matthew 24:22).

These elect or chosen people are those Jesus is training now to serve, not as selfish human leaders, but as caring and compassionate and competent spiritual servants. He described His approach to leadership in Matthew 20:25-28:

“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”

Is God calling you now for this training program? See the online article “Many Are Called but Few Are Chosen.”

“Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end”

The government of the future Kingdom of God will be a perfect government, because it will be under the perfect, loving rule of the Prince of Peace.

“Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this” (Isaiah 9:7).

Ultimately, this beautiful prophecy will come to pass:

“‘And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.’ Then He who sat on the throne said, ‘Behold, I make all things new’” (Revelation 21:4-5).

Then the history of human conflict will end, and an exciting new chapter in history will begin.

For a deeper study of these prophecies, download our free booklet The Mystery of the Kingdom.

About the Author

Mike Bennett

Mike Bennett

Mike Bennett is editorial content manager for the Church of God, a Worldwide Association, in the Dallas, Texas, area. He coordinates the Life, Hope & Truth website, Discern magazine, the Daily Bible Verse Blog and the Life, Hope & Truth Weekly Newsletter (including World Watch Weekly). He is also part of the Personal Correspondence team of ministers who have the privilege of answering questions sent to Life, Hope & Truth.

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