In the first part of this series, we briefly highlighted the concepts of assets and wealth on the earth today. We concluded that mankind has come a long way in magnifying worldly riches.
The most unimaginable things in the earth’s sphere are now owned by humans. The “lust of the eyes” in this late era of world history has been built up into a highly sophisticated, debt-based system of ownership and capital valuation, giving rise to massive wealth, riches, and splendor. Seen in the aggregate, this great big, measurable pile of wealth—though much of it indeed is false wealth—serves as a perfect anchor for the materialist and humanist agendas mounted against God in the latter days.
In this second of our 3-part series, we take a brief excursion into the rarified world of big money and wealth. Just who is experiencing its splendor? And just what does the Bible have to say about wealth in general and its prophetic role? As it turns out, quite a bit.
No Shortage of Hoards
Many commentators and economists today point to the widening chasm between the wealthy—namely, the “super wealthy”—and the general populace. Wealth distribution today is perhaps more uneven than ever before (whether in North America or the entire world). Lately, economist authors such as Thomas Piketty (celebrated author of Capital in the 21st Century) and Emmanuel Saez have gained a following due to their attempt to explain the reasons for this wealth stratification. An accepted conclusion by most commentators is that this condition generally causes slower economic growth. Nevertheless, Piketty has already been branded a Marxist by the factions who believe that wealth accretion is a divine right. And so, the debate continues.
Interestingly, the Bible provided a view on these matters long before anyone invented the terms “capitalism,” “Marxism,” or anything else. Jesus said: “From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked” (Luke 12:48b). Whether legislated or not, those with much have greater responsibility.
The Levitical financial system that the Hebrews were commanded to practice kept a check and balance on wealth distortions. To recall, God said through Moses, “At the end of every seven years you must cancel debts” (Deuteronomy 15:1). As such, we see that a seven-year debt cycle was instituted. We can conclude that there should be no such thing as perpetual debt: Every Sabbath Year, debts had to be laid flat. Anyone who could not pay back their debts by that time was forgiven this amount.
We can imagine just how different our economies would be today were this same convention applied. There would be no massive accumulations of debt as we see in our time.
But, back to the present-day reality. Without a doubt, wealth has been stratifying in recent decades to sharp extremes. That said, comparisons to ancient history are difficult to make. It could well be that the world’s wealth skew today is even more extreme than in the late ancient Roman era.
What we do know for sure is that wealth based on its modern definition—this including everything from hard assets (i.e., real estate, gold, etc.) to highly derived financial instruments—is at its highest in the entirety of mankind’s history. Despite the interruption of the Global Financial Crisis (beginning some time ago), total modern asset wealth has continued to soar in value (including the Covid environment). We have hazarded the estimate that this value has been rising an average of 10% plus a year since the early 1970s. Of course, this is much, much faster than total world population growth (which is only inching along at an annual pace of 0.8% in the recent decade).
As we will see, all of this provides the facility for some gargantuan wealth hoards to be accumulated by both individuals and various entities such as corporations or sovereign wealth funds.
Is this mere happenstance? No, we think not. It is largely a function of rampant materialism and greed converging through globalization and financialization (driven by the “lust of the eyes,” 1 John 2:16). All of these are coincident developments that are outlined in Bible prophecy, according to this writer’s beliefs. Moreover, James expressly mentions that this condition of hoarding will exist in the last days:
“Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. […] You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you” (James 5:1-6).
What is observed here is that hoarding and love of wealth have taken on primacy. Economic fairness for the poor is neglected. Somewhat imaginatively interpreted, it is an era where the elite rich try to enclave themselves and find safety in their brutal strategies to preserve and build more wealth.
The most recent update of the Wealth Report 2023 by Knight Frank states that the world had 2,629 billionaires at the end of 2022, up 58% from 1,682 in 2014.
A billion dollars is a lot of money. It is hardly possible to imagine. And, the world may have its first trillionaire before long (amounting to one million times one million), according to some forecasts. Currently, Elon Musk (world-renowned founder of Tesla, among other activities) has a net worth greater than $200 billion. Other contenders to be the first trillionaire could be Jeff Bezos (founder of Amazon) and Bernard Arnaut (owner of famous luxury brands). Both are estimated to have a net worth of greater than $150 billion.
In America and many other countries, more and more wealth and income are held or received by a smaller group of people. For example, according to Forbes, the planet’s billionaires are now worth $12.2 trillion.
In the Service of the Monied Rich
The service of managing money has been a growth business. Why? The value of real and financial assets has been climbing over time; and secondly, as mentioned, it has been piling up in fewer hands. There are quite a number of asset management firms with over one trillion in capital, according to the consultancy Willis Tower Watson (one firm with over $10 trillion). Some firms (we will not mention names) have been shown in the past to have been only too willing to deal with anyone with money … no matter the source of the wealth.
Despots, dictators, and others who may have pillaged their countries—perhaps stolen the proceeds of resource exports or misdirected foreign aid for tens of billions—have found willing complicitors. In the past, they have had little difficulty hiding their assets abroad with the professional help of “highbrow” financial service companies, the names of which would be well-recognized. Thankfully, there are some organizations, such as Global Financial Integrity, that are seeking to expose such corruption. The scale of global kleptocracy that this organization has unearthed can hardly be believed.
Despite the supposed crackdowns on tax havens and offshore financial centers, the mega-rich (and many of the world’s multinational corporations) use covert companies and bank accounts, as well as complex offshore financial structures, to own mansions, yachts, art masterpieces, and other assets of all types. Highly paid accountants and middlemen help to hide identities and business interests, establishing shelter for assets as well as securing tax advantages not available to the average person.
Perhaps surprising to many, experts consider the United States to be the biggest haven of all.
In short, the wealthy have been accruing wealth in leaps and bounds in recent years. Evidence of their rising stature and consumption patterns is everywhere. We will cite some examples. In doing so, we must be careful not to claim these short-term, one-off anecdotes as proof of Bible prophecy. Nevertheless, taken in aggregate, it would still be correct to sense the developments in the present era as part of a prophetic timeline.
Powerful World of the Elites
Without a doubt, the world’s wealth is stratifying. A very small group of people, by whatever means, control immense riches. According to a report by Wealth-X/UBS several years ago, the average total wealth of a billionaire’s social circle (of only the top three connections) is estimated to be $15 billion. Factoring in all the connections between the world’s billionaires would represent a social circle worth a combined $33 trillion. Suffice it to say that the ultra-rich travel in rarified circles.
We earlier quoted an estimate of the number of billionaires in the world—2,629. We see here that a very small band of people controls a very large portion of global wealth. Such wealth affords great influence and power at a time when money and economics are highly esteemed by the world.
As James prophesied, in the last days, we are to expect a great heaping up of wealth. It is also reasonable to infer from Scripture that the end-time world would be greatly transfixed with the love of money and greed (see 2 Timothy 3). Many people stand to be trapped economically, being carried away with the cares and anxieties of this world (see Matthew 13:22; Luke 21:34). But does Bible prophecy tell us anything specifically about the role of the rich and elites in the last days?
We can conclude that money and greed definitely define the “antichrist” streams and impulses in our world. Satan most certainly uses these as lures to gain willing accomplices for his end-time scheme. Also, we can agree that most of the events concerning the elites mentioned in the Bible will unfold throughout the Tribulation period (though James’ prophecy and those concerning the 10 kings could occur earlier).
Nonetheless, it is only reasonable to expect that the trends that give rise to these conditions will be noticeable well in advance … for example, such as we are observing in this very article. One other thing we certainly do know from Scripture, and that concerns the final outcome for the elites. We will come back to this point (as well as illuminating their identity) in our conclusions to be presented in Part 3.
Thoughts to Ponder
Of course, not everyone is rich or well-off, seen from a materialistic perspective. Nor can we say that all rich people are evil or taken up with the love of money.
To an extent, wealth is a relative concept. Today, even billionaires are feeling poor and disadvantaged in their circle of relationships. Why? Because they see themselves as not having enough relative to someone richer than they.
Generally, the demands and temptations of great wealth test the strongest and most ethical of people. Very, very few are able to live free of its lures and without being singed by its hot fires. Jesus warned about this, saying: “Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God” (Matthew 19:24). As it turns out, despite the fact that some of the patriarchs and major personalities the Lord used in His salvation plan for the world were rich, the Bible generally does not have much good to say about the wealthy. Some of the Bible’s authors directly equated the rich with bad people (see James 2:6).
Most of us can be thankful that we are not super-rich. It could be threatening to one’s eternity. The Proverbs writer recognized the problems of wealth, saying: “Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonor the name of my God” (Proverbs 30:8-9).
Yet, all those who are saved are rich, the Bible tells us. “[…] Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Timothy 6:6). But, sadly, some have still “been led astray from the faith, and have pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (verse 10, ASV) due to the love of money.
The world, in its frenzied preoccupation with temporal money, overlooks the greatest investment deal of all time … a proposition that pays eternal rewards. We are given the opportunity to convert filthy worldly money into eternal riches in heaven.
Paul points this out. “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. In this way, they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life” (1 Timothy 6:17-19).
We can actually lay up wealth in heaven, where thieves cannot steal and moths cannot destroy.
In Luke 16:8-9, Jesus validates this investment offer. “[…] For the people of this world are more shrewd in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves so that when it is gone, you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”
In the final Part 3 of this series, we will address the fate of the elites and just what will happen to the world’s wealth distribution. Bible prophecy provides the answer to these interesting questions.
Wilfred J. Hahn is a global economist/strategist. Formerly a top-ranked global analyst, research director for a major Wall Street investment bank, and head of Canada’s largest global investment operation, his writings focus on the end-time roles of money, economics and globalization. He has been quoted around the world and his writings reproduced in numerous other publications and languages. His 2002 book The Endtime Money Snare: How to live free accurately anticipated and prepared its readers for the Global Financial Crisis. A following book, Global Financial Apocalypse Prophesied: Preserving true riches in an age of deception and trouble, looks further into the prophetic future.
If you have questions or other perspectives, you can contact Wilfred at: email@example.com. Please note that for reasons of volume and investment securities regulation, he cannot give financial advice.