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These Times

These Times

A penetrating look at current events in light of Bible prophecy

Bank Closures

Growing numbers of Americans are being left without access to basic financial services as bank branches are being closed across the country. Data from S&P Global Market Intelligence shows that a total of 1,144 national and regional banks were closed between January 1 and July 31 across 49 states. California had the most closures, while New Jersey suffered the greatest losses per capita.

PNC was the worst offender, having axed a total of 201 bank branches in just seven months. U.S. Bank and Wells Fargo were close behind, with 185 and 160 branches respectively. Chase and Bank of America each closed approximately 50 branches.

Why all the closures? Banks have increasingly turned towards digital services with households using digital payments such as Venmo or Cash App—a trend that began during the COVID-19 pandemic. But some customers are reluctant to use internet banking. Branches also provide a lifeline for anyone looking to speak to a staff member in person or carry out simple tasks such as cashing a check, making a simple deposit, or accessing cash. 

According to the National Community Reinvestment Coalition, a third of the locations that closed between 2017 and 2021 occurred in areas that were predominantly lower income. This means residents must now travel farther to get to the nearest bank, making it especially difficult for the elderly or poor to access banking services.

The fact that bank branch closures are making it increasingly harder to access one’s money shows how financially vulnerable we are. The book of Revelation describes a time when financial institutions will be controlled and people will not be able to buy or sell. Rev. 13:17. It is time for God’s people to rely on the Lord, for soon all earthly financial supports will be cut off.

America’s bank branch bloodbath laid bare,”, Aug. 21, 2023.

Belief in God Hits Record Low

A nationwide Gallup poll of over 1,000 Americans conducted in May reveals that belief in five spiritual entities—God, angels, heaven, hell, and the devil—has hit its lowest point. Since 2001, Gallup has conducted this survey five times and has noted a steady decline.

Compared with 2001, belief in God and heaven are down the most, 16 points each. Today only 74 percent of Americans believe in God, versus 90 percent twenty years ago. The belief in heaven has dropped from 83 to 67 percent. Belief in hell has fallen 12 points from 71 to 59 percent. Belief in angels or the devil have each dropped 10 points with 69 percent believing in the former and 58 percent in the latter. Today only about half of Americans, 51 percent, believe in all five.

The survey asked respondents whether they believed, were unsure, or didn’t believe at all. Currently, 13 to 15 percent say they are not sure if these things exist. At the same time, nearly three in ten US adults do not believe in the devil or hell, while almost two in ten do not believe in angels or heaven. Twelve percent say they do not believe in God.

“What shall be the sign of Thy coming,
and of the end of the world?” Matthew 24:3

Frequent churchgoers, Protestants, and Republicans were the most likely subgroups to say they believe in the five spiritual entities. Other groups included those with annual household incomes under $40,000, those above age 55, and those without a college education.

The Bible predicted that in the last days there would be an increase in religious scoffers (2 Pet. 3:3) and those who will “not endure sound doctrine.” 2 Tim. 4:3. Sadly, our Christian nation is quickly turning away from faith in God and belief in the Bible.

Belief in Five Spiritual Entities Edges Down to New Lows,” Gallup, Jul. 20, 2023.

Surveilance of Church Members

A San Jose, California, church is in a legal battle with Santa Clara County officials over $1.2 million in fines for violating COVID-19 pandemic restrictions and for unconstitutional surveillance of its members on church property via their cell phones. Attorneys with the nonprofit Advocates for Faith and Freedom filed the federal lawsuit on August 22 on behalf of Calvary Chapel. They claim the county and Denver-based data company SafeGraph “embarked on an invasive and warrantless geofencing operation.”

Geofencing is a location-based tool used by the government to track individuals through their cell phone data. This tool is generally used in police investigations of criminal activity and requires the government to obtain a warrant which is limited by time and scope, according to court documents. 

“At the behest of the County, SafeGraph put two geofences around Calvary Chapel San Jose and surveilled the churchgoers within the church premises for over a year during the COVID-19 pandemic,” the lawsuit said. “There was seemingly no oversight, boundaries, or limitations—meaning Defendants could track churchgoers in the sanctuary, prayer room, or bathroom.” The county did this without a warrant in an effort to obtain information in its ongoing state enforcement action against the church.

This is a violation of the Fourth Amendment protecting individuals’ privacy, as well as the free exercise and establishment clauses of the First Amendment. “Tracking congregants in and out of church is something we would expect in China. The fact that county officials would use these tactics should be a wakeup call to every American who values their own freedom to worship, speak, or attend gatherings of any ideological nature,” Robert Tyler, president of Advocates for Faith and Freedom, said in a statement to CBN News.

Mariah Gondeiro, the church’s attorney, called the county’s actions “an invasion of privacy” and “represents a terrifying precedent” for Christians in America. “People of faith should never have to worry about the government spying on them in places of worship,” Gondeiro said. 

In a statement, Santa Clara County Counsel’s Office denied any wrongdoing.

“‘A Terrifying Precedent’: Calvary Chapel Sues CA County for Tracking Attendance of Churchgoers,” Faithwire, Aug. 24, 2023.

Maui Fires

In August 2023, a series of wildfires broke out in the US state of Hawaii, predominantly on the island of Maui. At least 115 people have died, and over 1,000 are still missing in the town of Lahaina. This is now the state’s deadliest natural disaster since a 1960 tsunami, which killed 61 people on the Big Island. It is also the deadliest US wildfire since the 2018 Camp Fire in California, which killed 85 persons and laid waste the town of Paradise.

While no one seems to know what initially caused the fires, they were fueled by the combination of dry conditions, low humidity, and strong winds from Hurricane Dora. The fires quickly spread, taking residents by surprise and giving them little time to escape.

It is estimated that about 2,207 structures were damaged or destroyed and that the cost to rebuild will be $5.52 billion. 

Hawaii boasts the largest outdoor public safety warning system in the world, with about 400 sirens positioned across the island chain. But many of Lahaina’s survivors never heard a siren and only realized they were in danger when they saw flames or heard explosions nearby. Hawaii emergency management records show no indication that warning sirens were triggered when the wildfires erupted.

The Bible describes an even greater firestorm coming at the end of the world, for which we must prepare. See 2 Pet. 3:7–15. Unlike Hawaii’s failed warning system, we must faithfully give the final warning of the three angels’ messages (Rev. 14:9–12), which will help prepare the world for the second coming of Christ.

“The number of people missing following devastating Maui wildfires has dropped to 66,” NPR, Sept. 9, 2023.

Maui fires death toll rises to 80, marking deadliest natural disaster in Hawaii history,” CBS News, Aug. 12, 2023.

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