Many in the church feel that something ominous is about to happen; that some end-time related event might happen soon. The Signpost interpretation of the Bible of course gives us an articulation of this ominous something. In addition, many in the secular circles of this nation feel that we are not out of the woods yet. Some believe there is another financial crash coming bigger than the one in 2008. And of course politically the international scene seems to be spinning out of control.
To that end, The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy by William Strauss and Neil Howe, is a remarkable secular study of history and sociology showing a definite repeating pattern in history. The book articulates future American history that may remind some of Daniel Revisited which does so for end-time Bible prophecy. Strauss and Howe have uncovered and defined a rhythm in history and have applied it specifically to American history.
An old saying is that history repeats itself. More exactly this book shows that every four generations, or roughly eighty years, history does indeed repeat itself. There are four seasons in this cycle of history, where each season is roughly twenty years, the time for another generation to beget another generation. Each season is called a “Turning”. There is a winter of hardship where the long-standing institutions and ways are challenged and a new way emerges at the end of the twenty years. There is a spring (the First Turning) where for twenty years following the end of the winter of crisis, society supports the new ways. There is enthusiasm. Then there is a twenty-year summer (the Second Turning) where some are dissatisfied and think there needs to be change. After that is autumn (the Third Turning) where problems with the current ways begin to appear. This leads to a new winter (the Fourth Turning) – a time of the next crisis that covers another twenty years.
Here in the United States, the last full winter was 1929-1949 with the Depression and World War II. The last spring was 1949-1968 where the fifties and early sixties are remembered as the last time in American history where things seemed relatively stable. But then summer arrived from 1968-1987 when the nation’s society seemed to explode. The year 1968 saw the Chicago riots, L.A. riots, the murders of King and Kennedy, and the protests against the Vietnam War which all showed that many wanted change and that our nation was changing. Watergate only added to the distrust of government. The last autumn was 1987-2008 where there seemed to be financial bubble after bubble belying the problems with the banking system and manipulation of the markets. We are now in a new winter, a new Fourth Turning, having started in 2008 with the great financial crisis.
In the Figure below I show graphically the three winters that the United States has endured and compare them against our current timeline and our current winter. Every Fourth Turning follows the same pattern:
– First there is some event that reveals that there are imbalances or points of grievance and that the current modus operandi will not last.
– Second, there is the climax during those twenty years which decides what new direction the country will take. Will the problems of the sixty years preceding it continue, or will they be truly remedied in a newly changed society?
– Finally there is an event confirming that the new order – whatever it is – has taken hold and is in force. At this point the new spring, the new First Turning, begins.
– And quite frequently, the seeds of the next Fourth Turning are planted with the resolution of the current one.
The first Fourth Turning of the United States was the Revolutionary War period. Taxes imposed on the colonies by the English crown culminated with the Tea Act of 1774. That was the event that showed increasing tyranny and taxation of England and made the American colonies finally react. It was the Tea Act that resulted in the Boston Tea Party in December 1774. The climax of that first winter was the war itself which lasted from 1775 to 1781. Would the colonies remain colonies or break away and form a new nation?
After the war there was the Constitutional Convention which formed the United States government. The last event was the Whiskey Rebellion. It tested the new government’s authority to lay its own taxes. From the Tea Act showing a change was needed to the Whiskey Rebellion testing that change, there were roughly twenty years. The seeds for the next winter were planted however. Slavery was not abolished altogether but was contained and tolerated.
The second Fourth Turning, or winter, was the Civil War period starting almost sixty years after the end of the last winter. As the nation expanded, the ongoing argument was whether the new states and territories continue slavery as in the southern states, or abolish slavery as in the northern states. It all came to a head with the Compromise of 1850. The disposition of many states, territories and regions towards slavery was decided with that act. However, there was equal dissatisfaction on both sides. The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 and the Dred Scott decision of 1857 saying that free or slave Africans could not be U.S. citizens, added to the fire. The Civil War itself decided the issue of whether slavery would continue or finally be abolished.
After the war, three amendments to the constitution were ratified. The thirteenth abolished slavery, the fourteenth stated that all slaves are citizens, and the fifteenth said former slaves could vote. That last amendment was ratified in 1870, twenty years after the Compromise of 1850. The seeds planted for the next winter sixty years in the future were planted by Abraham Lincoln, who, having saved the Union, used methods that evil men would use to subvert this nation and its freedoms. These included the creation of paper money, and the military draft.
The third Fourth Turning was the Depression and World War II. Where the banker elites had no power at the start of the nation in the 1780s, they gained power through charging interest on the thousands of companies and projects built in this nation over the nineteenth century. By 1913 they pushed for the creation of the Federal Reserve. The Fed caused the Depression, by making money too available in the 1920s and then tightening the belt in the early 1930s. The Crash of 1929 showed there was a problem and that excesses in markets had to be trimmed. The government in conjunction with the Fed only made the Depression long and deep.
(Hardly anyone has heard of the Depression of 1921. Why? Because in 1921 President Warren G. Harding being the conservative he was, refused to do anything about it. And the market fixed itself.)
It was Central Bankers gaining power across the world that funded World War II. And that was the climax. What was decided? Would the power of central banking be removed? No. But now the United States instead of Britain would be the new world military and banking power. The problem of growing elite power was not fixed but was preserved. Government continued to grow as did the reach of the banking system. By not “fixing” the problem, that was the seed for the next winter sixty years after that. The confirming moment was the start of NATO, where the United States took the position as leader of the Free World. The U.S. dollar was almost as good as gold and the Fed and the U.S. government were now free to manipulate markets, gold and the dollar.
So here we are at the start of the fourth and latest Fourth Turning of the United States. The Fourth Turning, published in 1997 has this to say about our time:
“Sometime around the year 2005, perhaps a few years before or after, America will enter the Fourth Turning.”
With the repeal of Glass-Steagal in 1998, the creation of CDOs and CDSs, and the corruption of the system where the regulations were in place but enforcement looked away, derivatives were created. The effect of derivatives and the loss of Glass-Steagal were to take other peoples’ money, bet on it, and spread the risk of loss among millions of people. This of course was absolutely evil and resulted in 2008 in the impoverishment of tens of millions of Americans. The Financial Crisis of 2008 was the event showing that something was wrong; that the excesses and trends of the last century had come to a head; that the financial elites were out of control.
What is next for us if history teaches us anything is the coming crisis and resolution. American society by and large has been heading away from God. A hundred years ago with the creation of the Fed and income taxes, government was able to replace God in “taking care” of people and the people gave their consent.
What will happen in this current crisis time? Will America be brought back to God or will we continue to wander and our society become more evil? If Christ were to tarry another several decades I might think that it was equal to a coin toss in outcome. However, God’s Word tells us the larger trend. In Matthew 24 Christ said that everything that was to happen at the end – from the warning of being deceived (i.e. the First Signpost starting in 1979) through to His coming would be witnessed by one single generation. If this is interpreted correctly, Christ would have to come sometime toward the end of our current winter or maybe the decade following it. If this is the case, the Bible also tells us that He will rule the all the nations (including the U.S.) with an iron rod. Therefore the problems with this nation (and all of the nations!) would be resolved. The question is how would this be resolved? Is God going to have to resort to judgment to beckon that we return to Him? Will He do this before His Son returns?
Since all other past winters had a major war it would seem the United States might see one more final great battle prior to Christ’s return, and one that would even be on our own soil. The Signposts and the Tribulation don’t need to wait for America to proceed. In fact for the Second Signpost to proceed might require our nation to be crippled in some way to prevent our nation from stopping or doing anything more in the Middle East. Maybe this event to occur during this current winter would be the final nail in the coffin allowing Iran to run out, taking away any fear their leadership might have of being stopped.
Finally, I am hoping that the end event of this winter, this Fourth Turning, proving that things have changed, would be the return of Christ Himself!
In conclusion, The Fourth Turning, a secular study, shows that America is headed for some hard times on par with the Civil War, and the Depression. And this is to occur during the end times called out by Signpost theory. The secular Fourth Turning therefore joins Daniel Revisited in supporting the idea that Americans will have much hardship to go through before any pre-Tribulation rapture, if indeed it really is pre-Trib.
Perhaps before this current winter season is over, there will be a new Great Revival for America. If it does, I believe it will most likely be accompanied by great judgment. Prepare spiritually and materially, and of course, watch.