It’s an interesting exercise to connect dots. Those dots may come from completely different places. They may come from secular sources as well as from religious origins. In fact, some may come from a non-fictional wellspring while others, surprisingly, may be birthed in the realm of fiction. All this to say that the shape we see forming may arise from a mashup of concepts and ideas taken from anywhere, yet work to form something cohesive in the greater scheme of things. (God works in the midst of all things to accomplish His purposes.) As you’ve probably deduced by now, that’s how this series of essays is going to look. And you’ll have to decide if the crazy thoughts put forth here make the kind of sense that I think they may.
In 1997 William Strauss and Neil Howe, secular writers in the political, economic, and historical marketplaces, wrote The Fourth Turning – What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America’s Rendezvous with Destiny. In the book, the authors describe their research that shows the historical cycles our nation has gone through for centuries. They make the case that each cycle typically has four aspects to it and reflects back to the ancient Roman understanding which calls each four-period era a saeculum. The saeculum arose from the concept of “a long human life” or “a natural century” because the four seasons combined would generally total about one hundred years.
As you might imagine from the book’s title, each of these seasons comprising the saeculum is known as a Turning. Through history, each turning has certain characteristics that similarly repeat on the next go-around. The thought reminds me of the only thing I remember from attending Sunday school as a child. The teacher told us that history repeats itself. Now what that had to do with Jesus and Christianity leaves me wondering, but the idea nonetheless stayed with me as the single thought I retained from those Sunday mornings.
Space and time don’t allow me to dive too deeply into this, but as the book describes, each turning had a specific characteristic that repeated every eighty to one hundred years. “The First Turning is a High… The Second Turning is an Awakening… The Third Turning is an Unraveling… The Fourth Turning is a Crisis.” Again, from the book’s title, you’ll likely deduce that the Fourth Turning is of greatest interest right now, because it reflects where America is historically in this worldview. The authors have much to say about this. In a nutshell, the Crisis, Fourth Turning is a season of great disruption with social, economic, political, and every other kind of chaos one could use to describe an era as unsettling as this one is. As an aside, within each turning, different generational characteristics also arise so that the people populating each season have an archetypal role to play.
After describing the turnings in much detail and bringing us to the conclusion that—when the book was written in 1997—America was on the cusp of entering the Fourth Turning, the authors included a chapter called “A Fourth Turning Prophecy.” In this section they describe what they saw could occur in this nation during this time. Of course, the Bible is our ultimate and inerrant guide to prophecy. Even so, I think God may give even secular people certain insights into future events.
Every turning has a defining moment that propels it into the next one. Straus and Howe projected that this next turning would occur early in the 2000s, that a “Crisis catalyst” would push us there. One of their crisis scenarios was: “A global terrorist group blows up an aircraft and announces it possesses nuclear weapons. The United States and its allies launch a preemptive strike.” To my thinking, that correlates to an extent with the 9/11/2001 attack on the World Trade Center and its aftermath. In reality, didn’t this crisis change everything? It’s my contention that within the context of Fourth-Turning thinking, America entered this chaotic period at that very moment.
Events during this Fourth-Turning period take time to form and swell into the unexpected. Every aspect of society moves toward a climax situation that could take twenty-five years to develop. How it shakes out is completely unknown. Reaching this climax, however, may very well include many of the following ingredients:
Economic distress, with public debt in default, entitlement trust funds in bankruptcy, mounting poverty and unemployment, trade wars, collapsing financial markets, and hyperinflation (or deflation)
Social distress, with violence fueled by class, race, nativism, or religion and abetted by armed gangs, underground militias, and mercenaries hired by communities
Cultural distress, with the media plunging into a dizzying decay, and a decency backlash in favor of state censorship
Technological distress, with cryptoanarchy, high-tech oligarchy, and biogenic chaos
Ecological distress, with atmospheric damage, energy or water shortages, and new diseases
Political distress, with institutional collapse, open tax revolts, one-party hegemony, major constitutional change, secessionism, authoritarianism, and altered national borders
Military distress, with war against terrorists or foreign regimes equipped with weapons of mass destruction [p. 376]
… The very survival of society will feel at stake…
… Decisive events will occur—events so vast, powerful, and unique that they lie beyond today’s wildest hypotheses.
… Thus will Americans reenact the great ancient myth of the ekpyrosis. Thus will we achieve our next rendezvous with destiny. [p. 377]
Note: ekpyrosis is defined as follows in www.definitions.net: “Ekpyrosis is a Stoic belief in the periodic destruction of the cosmos every Great Year. The cosmos is then recreated only to be destroyed again at the end of the new cycle.”
How accurate are the authors in their Fourth-Turning prediction from their vantage point in 1997? What is currently happening now that we’ve turned the corner into this historic era? Taking a quick look at the above ingredients pointing toward climax, here’s a little of what we see:
Economic distress – I wrote about this in my blog/Rapture Ready post titled: Prophecy Update: America’s Financial Doom https://www.raptureready.com/2019/11/24/prophecy-update-americas-financial-doom-gary-ritter/. Debt hovers at unprecedented levels. Prosperity appears to be the order of the day, but it’s teetering on a very fine edge that God is holding up until the time only He knows. At that point, financial markets, overwhelmed with debt burdens, will crash with great disruption around the world.
Social distress – Racism is charged at every turn. To many, simply being white is an indictment against the character of a person. Many cities have been plagued by violence through gangs such as MS-13 and Antifa. In Virginia, because of the threat by liberal politicians to take away Second Amendment gun rights, citizens are banding together and some counties are declaring themselves as Sanctuary Counties to protect these rights.
Cultural distress – Not much has to be said about the mainstream media. Its bias has become legendary against conservatives and Christians. The #MeToo movement has seemingly come against male patriarchy among Hollywood elites and the political classes.
Technological distress – No one’s online accounts are safe with the prevalence of hackers and identity theft. We receive regular updates about the dangers of CRISPR genetic engineering that modifies human embryos. People are willingly turning themselves into cyborgs, i.e. “being[s] with both organic and biomechatronic body parts.” (Wikipedia). Artificial Intelligence (AI) holds great promise but significant risk for humanity.
Ecological distress – New diseases are regularly reported. Many diseases are reappearing that were once eradicated in this country, e.g. typhus in California. High intensity 6.3 or greater earthquakes have increased exponentially with massive earthquake swarms so common around the world as to almost be ignored.
Political distress – Not much need be said about the political climate in this country. Partisanship, completely unfounded lies, attempts to thwart the Constitution and political schemes to unseat a duly elected president because some people simply don’t like him are overwhelming many of us.
Military distress – North Korea continues to threaten with its unstable leader Kim Jung Un. China has made inroads throughout the world to gain prominence, power, and control. The Ezekiel 38 coalition of Russia, Iran, and Turkey, all quartered in Syria ready to pounce on Israel at the appropriate God-appointed time, holds the attention of the world.
Remembering that all these pieces come from a secular perspective, it nonetheless fascinates me how accurate they are as I view the predictions through a Biblical, prophetic lens.
Having set the stage, in Part 2 of this essay series, we’ll bring in another aspect of the mashup: the spiritual side as represented by Dr. Michael S. Heiser’s book, The Unseen Realm.
Gary W. Ritter is a lay pastor, Bible teacher, and serves as Missions Director at his church. He is also a prolific author. His Whirlwind Series is comprised of three books: Sow the Wind, Reap the Whirlwind, and There Is A Time. All these books are also contained in the collected volume of the Whirlwind Omnibus. Gary has been given the Christian Redemptive Fiction award for two novels: The Tattooed Cat and Alien Revelation. His intent in all his writings is to bring a strong Christian witness to what people read. You can reach him via his website at www.GaryRitter.com or his Facebook Author page at https://www.facebook.com/gritter3390. You can also see his video Bible teachings on his Gary Ritter YouTube page – look for the fish symbol.