At Church | Published 2008/08/20

The Forgotten Seven Thunders

Scientist's view on some biblical issues.

About the author

Dr Ron Nielsen , MSc, DSc, FAIP, MNYAS, MAAAS, was born and educated in Poland. He has conducted pioneering research work in Poland in the field of nuclear reactions. He has introduced and directed research of direct nuclear reactions in the Department of Nuclear Physics at the Australian National University, Canberra, Australia. He has also worked as a visiting professor in a number of nuclear research institutes in Europe.

Dr Nielsen has published many research papers in peer-reviewed international scientific journals. He had two lecture tours to nuclear research institutions in Europe and the US. He has given numerous public lectures in Australia and overseas. He also attended many international conferences presenting results of his research.

Under his supervision, a number of graduate students received their PhD degrees. His biography has been published in many international Who’s Who compilations and other similar publications. He is a presenter of regular radio programs on topics of science and technology. He is a Fellow of the Institute of Physics, Active Member of the New York Academy of Sciences, and a Member of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

PO Box 178, Bond University, QLD, 4229, Australia (Email)

The Forgotten Seven Thunders

Dr Ron Nielsen

And I saw another mighty angel come down from heaven, clothed with a cloud: and a rainbow was upon his head, and his face was as it were the sun, and his feet as pillars of fire:
And he had in his hand a little book open: and he set his right foot upon the sea, and his left foot on the earth,
And cried with a loud voice, as when a lion roareth: and when he had cried, seven thunders uttered their voices.
And when the seven thunders had uttered their voices, I was about to write: and I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Seal up those things which the seven thunders uttered, and write them not.
And the angel which I saw stand upon the sea and upon the earth lifted up his hand to heaven,
And sware by him that liveth for ever and ever, who created heaven, and the things that therein are, and the earth, and the things that therein are, and the sea, and the things which are therein, that there should be time no longer.(Rev. 10:1-6)

Little is known about this enigmatic passage except that it must be referring to an important event. It has never been my aim to work out an explanation of these verses let alone to fit them to a preconceived idea. However, I recalled them in unusual circumstances, which I am about to describe.

Many years ago, I was invited to give public lectures in Melbourne on environmental issues. I am not an environmentalist. My field of expertise is nuclear physics. However, I have been always interested in many other fields of knowledge, and environmental science has been one of them. I have also been brought up in a Christian home where the Bible has not just been read but studied every day. Used correctly, this collection of ancient writings has much to offer to improve life. I have therefore had an opportunity of sampling the best of the two worlds: science and theology. Having a wide range of information never hurts. You never know how it could be useful.

In around 1997, many years after my Melbourne lectures, I have decided to revisit the field of the environmental science. My renewed interest was triggered by a public lecture at Bond University. I also needed this intellectual diversion.

As I was reading and analysing available data and as I was going deeper into this field, I was uncovering information that was both fascinating and frightening. Soon, more and more people were becoming interested in what I was doing. As the consequence of this widening interest, I was asked to give a series of radio programs. Little did I know at that time that I started a never-ending story. People are so strongly interested in these topics that I have been asked to continue indefinitely my regular radio programs.

Requested by my listeners, I have prepared for them at first a small volume with a summary of the topics I was discussing on the radio. Later, I have prepared a larger summary, under the title of The Seven Thunders.1 I have chosen this particular title because by that time I have realised that there must be a connection between the current critical global events and the seven thunders of the Book of Revelation.

We now have so many problems in the world that it is easy to be overwhelmed by them, confused and lost. My aim in preparing the second summary for my listeners was to present all the current critical global trends and the associated with them events in a clear, simple and concise manner.

The first and essential task in achieving this aim was to introduce a suitable classification. My self-imposed requirements for such a classification were as follows: (1) I should have the smallest possible number of items on the list, (2) each item should be as distinctly different as possible, and (3) the whole set of items should represent all the current critical global trends and events. At this stage I had yet no intention of linking this list with the Bible.

My aim was purely practical: to reduce the complex issues to a simple and easy to follow presentation. I have arrived at the following seven groups of the current critical global events:

1. The population explosion
2. The diminishing land resources
3. The diminishing water resources
4. The destruction of the atmosphere
5. The approaching energy crisis
6. Social decline
7. Conflicts and increasing killing power

By the time I finished this classification it was already late at night so being satisfied with my work I went to bed. It is interesting how human mind works. Quite unexpectedly, as I was about to sleep, my mind presented me with a question:

"Do you remember the seven thunders?"

My immediate reaction was to answer this question with another question:

"Is there any connection between my classification and the seven thunders?"

My hope to sleep was over. Suddenly, I was jolted out of the world of science, in which I was living, to the world of theology. It was like having someone open a door just a little to show that there is still another room behind it; or like being moved to a new dimension; or like being presented with a new perspective.

Expecting that I would be able to disprove any such connection I decided to get up and see whether I could change my classification. After working hard for a while I had to conclude that the best way was to leave my classification as it was.

The next day, still skeptical and unconvinced about any possible connection, I decided to consult biblical scholars. They should know better so I better try to learn from them. I checked a variety of Bible commentaries but I was surprised to find nothing of any value in them, except for a few brief comments by just one author, E G White. Here it is what she wrote about the seven thunders:

The mighty angel who instructed John was no less a personage than Jesus Christ. Setting His right foot on the sea, and His left upon the dry land, shows the part, which He is acting in the closing scenes of the great controversy with Satan.

After these seven thunders uttered their voices, the injunction comes to John as to Daniel in regard to the little book: “Seal up those things which the seven thunders uttered” (Revelation 10:4). These relate to future events, which will be disclosed in their order. -EG White, Manuscript Releases Volume 1, page 99, paragraph 2, Chapter Title: Daniel and Revelation.

The special light given to John, which was expressed in the seven thunders was a delineation of events, which would transpire under the first and second angels' messages. It was not best for the people to know these things, for their faith must necessarily be tested. In the order of God most wonderful and advanced truths would be proclaimed. The first and second angels' messages were to be proclaimed, but no further light was to be revealed before these messages had done their specific work. This is represented by the Angel standing with one foot on the sea, proclaiming with a most solemn oath that time should be no longer. -EG White, Manuscript Releases Volume 19, page 320, paragraph 3, Chapter Title: Jots and Tittles II

Let us compare the three sources: the Bible, my classification and these commentaries, and let us see whether there is any agreement between them.

  • According to E G White, the seven thunders of the Book of Revelation should be understood as events. It is clear that these events cannot be just any events, but events of some special importance. Now, if we look again at my classification we can see that all the seven groups, refer to something that is happening. These seven groups are obviously the seven groups of events.

    Are they important? Of course they are. All of them are global events that affect us all and threaten our existence on this planet. What other seven groups of events could be more important than that?

    Current critical global trends are a reflection of problems. However, we can have either potential or active problems. Potential problems are easier to fix. However, if problems become manifested as events the circumstances are much more serious. The current critical global problems are manifested in a variety of serious, threatening, and critical global events.

  • According to E G White, the seven thunders of the Book of Revelation are associated with the closing scenes of the great controversy. People familiar with the Bible know perfectly well what it means. For those who are not familiar, this expression means the end of an era of our familiar existence on this planet. It does not necessarily mean that there will be a total annihilation of human species. On the contrary, it could mean a beginning of a new era, something like a change of government, which brings a change of rules for the inter-human interaction and for their interaction with nature

    This turns out to be interesting. The seven groups of critical global events pose a serious threat to humans and are often interpreted (by people who make no reference to the Bible) as the closing events of our ruthless dealing with nature and with each other.2 They are seen as the warning sings, which desirably should lead us to changing our way of living. These events mark the closing chapters of the familiar style of human existence characterised by a selfish and ruthless behaviour, and hopefully to the beginning of a new, radically different and better chapter of our life on this planet.

  • The timing of the events described in Revelation 10:1-6 seems to be more than coincidental. Shortly after the seven thunders began to speak, another angel declared that there should be time no longer. Biblical scholars interpret this phrase as the end of the prophetic time. If this interpretation is correct then according to the biblical description, the end of the prophetic time should be shortly after the commencement of the critical global events.

    The first item on the list of my classification is the population explosion. Rapid increase of global population is the driving force behind the remaining six groups of trends and events.

    The commencement of global population explosion, and thus the commencement of all the critical global events, can be traced easily to the early 1800s. In my book I describe how it is done. The early 1800s was the time when global population reached its first billion, the event, which at that time was described as the population explosion. The explosion is not yet over but there are signs that it is slowing down. Unfortunately, we already have for too many people in the world so the slowing down of the explosion is not going to alter the course of the remaining six critical global trends. We now have well over six billion people living on our planet but we can expect close to nine around 2050.

    From the timing of the beginning of the population explosion we can see that if the suggested interpretation of the seven groups of the current critical global events is correct then the seven thunders commenced delivering their message around the early 1800s. How is this related to the end of the prophetic time? Again, people familiar with the Bible and its prophecies had always claimed that the end of the prophetic time occurred in 1844. This timing is quite remarkable and it closely reflects the timing described in the Book of Revelation.

    Furthermore, it is now also clear why we are not given any prophetic time. The answer is obvious: We do not have any prophetic time because we do not need it. Prophetic timing is now unnecessary, and indeed it is completely redundant, because the seven thunders have already begun ‘to speak’. Anyone who cares to listen to them will be able to tell the time. We are also close to the finishing line and critical events are coming in quick succession. People who make no reference to the Bible but who are familiar with the current critical global trends know that the time for our response is short

    For instance, many authorities use the expression the window of opportunity to show that we do not have much time left to respond to the quickly developing global crisis. Notably, this expression is used in the well-known Stern Review.3 Recently, Scientific Expert Group on Climate Change published a document in which they claim that our window of opportunity for solving climate change is likely to close around 2020 or even earlier.4,5 So, here you are, if you wanted to have a date you now have it. It has not been given to you by panic-stricken religious fanatics but by cool-minded scientists.

  • While the whole world is now abuzz with the expressions of concern about the progression of the critical global events, what has happened to those who were expected to lead the world in understanding them? Where are the biblical experts of prophetic visions?

    It might not be pleasant to hear it but the Bible has also an answer to this question. Sadly, all the ten waiting virgins remain fast asleep (Mathew 25: 1-13). Intoxicated by self-praise and pride (Revelation 3:17) they are totally blind and oblivious to anything and everything that is happening around them.

Sadly also, they will make no positive impression on anyone. They will not wake up anyone or warn anyone. Instead, it is they who are going to be woken up by a loud cry from outside.

It is hard to imagine a louder cry than it is now. The loud cry associated with the current critical global events is made by a host of concerned individuals and organizations, and its intensity is increasing. They warn the world about the possibility of a dramatic, far-reaching and catastrophic conclusion of these critical events in the course of the current century.

  • The description in the Book of Revelation gives the impression of urgency. If we now look at the current critical global events we shall see that all of them are taking place in a narrow window of time. They commenced only around 200 years ago, which from the point of view of human history is a very short time. The intensity of these events is so great that many of them take place within a single lifespan of a human being. For instance, global population increased from 2 billion to 6 billion in just 70 years. It is expected that the critical global trends will reach their climax and conclusion most likely in the second half of the current century. We really do not have much time left for us.

    Christians who study the Bible and its prophecies also claim that the time is short. However, here is a problem. If we want to argue that the current critical global events, which I have identified in my classification, have nothing to do with the seven thunders but that the seven thunders will be revealed in the future, then we are quickly running out of time. The seven thunders should be already here. Where are they?

    Should we insist that we could still squeeze in some other seven thunders in the small slot of the remaining time in the future, their message would be totally useless and meaningless. By then, most, if not all, of the dramatic and important events will be over. These imaginative seven thunders would serve no useful purpose. The future is right on top of us. In just a few decades, the conclusion of the current critical events will be reached, one way or another. In just a few decades we shall know whether we are going to survive on this planet and whether we are going to have any future on it.

  • According to E G White, the expression seal up used in the Book of Revelation should not be understood as never to be revealed. The disclosure, that is, the identification of the seven thunders was supposed to be made at the time of the proclamation of the three-angels' message, that is before the conclusion of all these dramatic developments.

  • It is probably more than coincidental that the characteristic features of the seven critical global events are represented as thunders. The current critical global events, categorised in one group are often echoed in another. Like thunders, they are everywhere, now here now there, now stronger now weaker but becoming more frequent and more intense. Like thunders, they also have a background of prolonged rumbling, in the form of continuing events, such as a continuing increase of global population, gradual decrease of the availability of water, or gradual increase of global warming. At the same time, we can also distinguish certain discrete events, which you can find listed in my book. No other symbolic representation describes better the current critical global events than the representation of thunders.

  • The seven groups of the critical global events (the seven thunders) do not specify precisely the time of their dramatic conclusion. We can tell only that we do not have much time left but we have no way to be more precise. Again, if we link this feature with the Bible we have a perfect correspondence (Mat. 24:36, 32). The seven groups of critical global events show only that the climax is now not far away.

  • In conclusion, if we put together all the available information, we have a perfect match. The seven groups of the critical global events are the seven thunders of the Book of Revelation. All we have to do now is to doze just a little longer and we shall miss it all.

We live in a special time of human history. Many dramatic events are now taking place for the first time. Dramatic events were taking place also in the past but never before were they carrying a global threat. Here are just a few examples.6

  • For the first time in human history we have global population explosion.7 Never before have we had such a fast and dramatic increase in global population. We now have more people on our planet than we can adequately support but we are continually adding more to this number.

  • For the first time in human history most of the world population lives in cities. The increase of global population is cities is faster that the increase in rural areas. This creates many undesirable problems, which I discuss in my book.

  • For the first time in human history we have passed the ecological limit of our planet. This event took place around 1985.
    Our combined global consumption of goods and energy is higher than our global ecological capacity. We are now supporting global consumption by overexploiting natural resources and thus we are living on an increasing ecological deficit. We are supporting our existence by systematically destroying the Earth (cf Rev. 11:18).

    We now have so many people on our planet that to support the Western European standard of living in all countries, we would have to have now a total of four planets Earth. By 2050 we would need at least five.8 Clearly, under the present management, we do not have enough room for everyone. Our planet is rich but under our present ruthless and inconsiderate exploitation its full potential is not fully utilised.

  • For the first time in human history we are experiencing an increasing global shortage of water.
    Water is essential to life. In Asia, 730 million people (about as many as the number of people who live in rich countries of the US, Canada, Western Europe, Australia and Japan) have no access to pure water. In Africa the number is over 300 million. These are the most populated areas of the Earth.

    In the Asia-Pacific region, about half a million infants die each year just because they have no clean water to drink and because they do not have adequate sanitation facilities. By 2025, estimated 25 countries in Africa are expected to suffer severe water shortage. Between 1959 and 1990, the demand for water in Europe and Asia increased nearly six-fold.

    In 2000, 44 per cent of global population (that is, over twice the number of people who lived in richer countries in that year) did not have access to adequate sanitation facilities. In the least-developed countries, 55 per cent of the population did not have access to sanitation services, and 37 per cent did not have access to safe water.

    Worldwide, about 2.4 billion people have no access to sanitation facilities. This is about twice the number of people living in all industrialised countries.

    About 2.4 billion people in the world live in countries with severe water stress. By 2030, this number is expected to increase to up to around 4 billion.

  • For the first time in human history, we are experiencing an increasing global shortage of arable land.
    Worldwide, over 800 million people live with hunger. Meanwhile, we are loosing about 10 million hectares of arable land each year through mismanagement, which means that each year we can feed 50 million less people.9

  • For the first time in human history we are destroying the atmosphere to such an extent that we are changing global climate. Globally, we are now emitting about 29 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide per year into the atmosphere. By 2030, the projected emissions will be around 54 billion tonnes per year.

  • So far, we have deposited close to 800 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere mainly by burning fossil fuels. Never before, in the entire existence of humans on this planet, had we ever had such a high concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as we have now. In addition we are also depositing other greenhouse gases such as methane and nitrogen oxide. Global warming is steadily increasing, and soon it likely to become uncontrollable.

  • For the first time in human history we are facing global energy crisis. Our nearly total dependence on fossil fuels makes us exceptionally vulnerable. We are facing a peak in crude oil production followed by a peak in natural gas production. The peak of crude oil production is expected to be reached in 2010. From that year on, the production will continue to decrease while demand will be increasing. The price of petrol will continue to increase.

    The future of transport, which depends nearly entirely on crude oil, is uncertain. Without the efficient transport life will come to a standstill or at best will be strongly impaired. The cost of living will be increasing.

  • For the first time in human history we are facing a strong probability that we may be defeated by drug-resistant microorganisms.

  • For the first time, humans are causing massive global deforestation and the loss of species.

  • For the first time in human history, we now have weapons of mass destruction: nuclear, chemical, and biological. For the first time we can kill ourselves many times over. Once is enough, of course, but in our madness we are making sure that we can do it more than once.

  • For the first time in human history we have a rapidly increasing global inequality. For the first time only about 20 per cent of global population uses over 80 per cent of global resources.

    In 1820, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of affluent countries was only about three times higher than in poorer countries. In that year, poor countries were only about three times poorer than rich countries. By 2000 they were about 80 times poorer and in 2010 they are expected to be 100 times poorer. For the first time in human history this increasing global inequality creates global tension between nations, which is likely to be manifested in a final devastating global confrontation

    Developing countries have no future. Currently, the consumption of goods and energy of the richest countries is about ten times higher than the consumption of the poorest countries. Considering that globally we are already experiencing ecological deficit, this high and steadily increasing consumption by rich countries is dangerously out of balance.

    At present, respective governments of the world cooperate in fighting terrorism. What is going to happen when poorer and more populated countries such as Indonesia, India, and China will realise that they will never be able to catch up with richer countries? What will happen if poorer countries realise that they will never be able to enjoy the same lifestyle as taken for granted in richer countries. Nations are already angry. What will happen when their anger and resentment will reach a breaking point? In desperation, even the weak might dare to attack the mighty.

    "And the nations were angry, and thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that thou shouldest give reward unto thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth." (Rev. 11:18)

Should we not pay attention to the forgotten seven thunders? Should we not make an effort to understand them? Should we not try to learn from them about the time in which we live? Should we not study the current critical global trends and events? Should we not learn how important their message?

In The Nobel Laureates Declaration on the Survival of Mankind, signed initially by 36 and now by 78 Nobel Laureates, there is a vision of a world in which Man can live in Dignity, Peace and Brotherhood. What a noble and lofty idea! What an exceptional opportunity for our activity! Do we have nothing to contribute to achieving this vision? Have we nothing to share? How long shall we remain in our present slumber and inactivity ? How long shall we live in the world of dreams? How long shall we remain redundant and out of touch with reality? How long shall we neglect the golden opportunity presented to us by the fast-progressing momentous events? How long will the seven thunders remain forgotten by those who should be leading the world in understanding their special and timely message?

“For if the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself to the battle?” (1 Cor 14:8)

1. A significantly larger version of this book has been first published in Australia under the title The Little Green Handbook: A Guide to Critical Global Trends and a year later in the US under the title The Little Green Handbook: Seven Trends Shaping the Future of Our Planet. In 2007, the book has been translated into Chinese language. This book has now established a reputation as a reliable source of information. The book has been endorsed by many top scientists, including a Nobel Laureate, by one politician, and praised by many common readers. (Back)

2. I have closed my book with a quotation from a book by Albert Einstein. I want to quote here at least one sentence from his book: “Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison [of selfishness] by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole nature in its beauty.” Many other great thinkers share the same vision. They see that our future can be only secure if we change radically our behaviour. (Back)

3. Stern, N., Peters, S., Bakhshi, V., Bowen, A. Cameron, C., Catovsky, S., Crane, D., Cruickshank, S.,Dietz, S., Edmonson, N., Garbett, S.L., Hamid, L., Hoffman, G., Ingram, D., Jones, B., Patmore, N., Radcliffe, H., Sathiyarajah, R., Stock, M., Taylor, C., Vernon, T., Wanjie, H. and Zenghelis, D. 2006, Stern Review: The Economics of Climate Change, HM Treasury, London. (Back)

4. Bierbaum, R. M. and Raven, P. H. 2007, ‘A Two-Pronged Climate Strategy’, Science, 316(5821)17; Scientific Expert Group on Climate Change 2007, Confronting Climate Change: Avoiding the Unimaginable and Confronting the Unavoidable, Report prepared for the United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development, Sigma Xi, Research Triangle Park, NC, and the United Nations Foundation, Washington, DC. (Back)

5. The year 2020 should not be interpreted as the end of the world. The meaning of this time is that by that year the probability of uncontrollable climate change will be high. By that time, our chance to control climate change might be over. Whatever we shall decide to do after around this year will probably have no effect on controlling global climate. (Back)

6. For more information on these topics see my book, The Little Green Handbook: Seven Trends Shaping the Future of Our Planet, Picador, New York, USA and references therein. (Back)

7. This comment is for people who are familiar with mathematics. Contrary to the common misconception, global population does not increase exponentially but hyperbolically. The characteristic feature of the hyperbolic function describing the time-dependent distribution of the world population is that after a long and slow growth it leads to a fast accelerating increase that could be described as explosion. (Back)

8. If we consider the standard of living in such rich countries as the USA or Australia, we would have to have six planets now, and eight in 2050. (Back)

9. This figure is estimated assuming the basic, mainly vegetarian diet. (Back)