The Rise and Fall of Empires

In 1976, Lieutenant-General, historian and scholar Sir John Bagot Glubb wrote and published an insightful essay on the rise and fall of empires entitled, The Fate of Empires and Search for Survival. In it, Glubb analyzed the duration of eleven major world empires pictured in Figure 3 on the following page and discovered that remarkably, these world empires all had a duration of roughly 250 years, or ten generations, before they collapsed and lost their economic, political and military world dominance as what we refer to today as super powers.

Furthermore, Glubb identified six stages which all empires go through, which always occur in the same predictable sequence. This historical insight is highly relevant and quite telling in light of the fact that the American empire and super power in 2017 is now 241 years old and manifesting all the predictable signs of decay, decadence and imminent collapse as the eleven other world empires which have preceded it. Many historians, myself included, have observed that those who fail to study history are doomed to repeat it. However, whether we have studied history or not has no effect upon whether or not a nation will repeat the mistakes of the past or of one’s predecessors. All great nations will inevitably repeat the pattern of those which came before them, for reasons which this article will aim to illustrate and prove rather conclusively. Nevertheless, those of us who are individuals living in such nations at the time, may or may not succumb to repeating the mistakes of our forebears. That all depends upon God’s predestinated will for each of our lives.

Figure 3

[Chart to be added later]

The Duration (in Years) of Major World Empires[1]

Glubb’s six distinct stages that all world empires progress through are as follows:

  1. The Age of Pioneers (outburst)
  2. The Age of Conquests
  3. The Age of Commerce
  4. The Age of Affluence
  5. The Age of Intellect
  6. The Age of Decadence

For purposes of this article, we are going to focus on the last stage, the Age of Decadence, and study its attributes and compare them to the conditions we observe all around us in America today. Glubb identified seven distinct cultural, economic, psychological and political attributes of this final stage of an empire’s existence:

  1. Defensiveness
  2. Pessimism
  3. Materialism
  4. Frivolity (bread and circus amusements)
  5. An influx of foreigners
  6. The Welfare State
  7. A weakening of religion

Moreover, Glubb properly attributes this state of decadence (decay) that we are now living in to 1) too long a period of time of wealth and power, which we begin to think of as inevitable and that will last forever, 2) selfishness, 3) a love of money (the root of all evil), and 4) the loss of a sense of duty. America today is defined by every last one of these seven attributes and its four root causes, and we all know it. Yet a culture trapped in this environment lacks the ability to properly recognize the root causes of its malaise and to take decisive corrective action that would be necessary to reverse its inevitable death spiral.

I would suggest to you that this state of man’s condition is predestined by YHWH (God) and its pattern of repeating itself throughout the history of the last 3000 years is designed by God to teach His born again elect that worldly wealth and power are forever fleeting and transitory. In the long run, they can do nothing to save us from our own reckless depravity.

Without a genuine Biblical worldview, such notions are virtually incomprehensible to man. Most of mankind harbors the illusion that a man is the captain of his own ship and fully in control of all factors which define his success or failure in life. Yet nothing could be further from the truth.

Does any man have any real control over the factors that matter most in determining his lot in life? Does he control who he is born to? In what era of history? Where he is born? What his gifts and limitations are? The financial resources available to him and his family? Who he encounters in his lifetime? What opportunities he is presented with in his life? These are the factors which matter more than anything else in life that determines the course of our lives, and none of us have any effective control over any of them! The notion that we have any real control over anything even remotely important is nothing more than an illusion and a purposeful self-deception.

Those of us who number among YHWH’s born again elect are blessed to have God’s word, the Bible, available to us to make sense out of a life that often seems totally incoherent and without purpose or genuine meaning. And for most historians, this is the missing piece of the puzzle that allows some of us to make sense out of it all. Proverbs 16 – 21 offers us nine glimpses into the hidden hand of God that is operating behind all of world history and behind every thought, person and circumstance that comes into each of our lives from birth to death. Consider this:

“The preparations of the heart in man, and the answer of the tongue, is from the LORD (YHWH).” Proverbs 16:1

“The LORD (YHWH) hath made all things for himself: yea, even the wicked for the day of evil.” Proverbs 16:4

“The lot is cast into the lap; but the whole disposing thereof is of the LORD (YHWH).” Proverbs 16:33

“House and riches are the inheritance of fathers: and a prudent wife is from the LORD (YHWH).” Proverbs 19:14

“There are many devices in a man’s heart; nevertheless the counsel of the LORD (YHWH) that shall stand.” Proverbs 19:21

“The hearing ear, and the seeing eye, the LORD (YHWH) hath made even both of them.” Proverbs 20:12

“Man’s goings are of the LORD (YHWH); how can a man then understand his own way?” Proverbs 20:24

“The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD (YHWH), as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will.” Proverbs 21:1

“There is no wisdom nor understanding nor counsel against the LORD (YHWH).” Proverbs 21:30

Four times in the Bible, we are given the clues that God has predestinated the adoption of His born again elect, in Romans 8:29-30, Ephesians 1:5 and 11. In light of this reality, how was it possible for God to perfectly fulfill roughly 300 prophecies given hundreds of years before Yahushua’s first coming in His life, and how is it that He has already accomplished the perfect fulfillment of ten end times prophecies in the last 5-6 years unless He has predestinated everything? This same thinking and insight applies to the predictable life cycles of nations and empires. God is orchestrating all of it behind the scenes, unbeknownst to 99.97% of the people alive on earth today. Only a few of us, the .03% who are of the born again elect, know and see what has been going on throughout all of world history. History repeats itself because God wills it that way and there is nothing man can do to thwart or stop Him.

Consider this quote from Glubb at the conclusion of his essay:

“Perhaps, in fact, we may reach the conclusion that the successive rise and fall of great nations is inevitable and, indeed, a system divinely ordained. But even this would be an immense gain. For we would know where we stand in relation to our human brothers and sisters. In our present state of mental chaos on the subject, we divide ourselves into nations, parties or communities and fight, hate and vilify one another over developments which may perhaps be divinely ordained and which seem to us, if we take a broader view, completely uncontrollable and inevitable. If we could accept these great movements as beyond our control, there would be no excuse for our hating one another because of them.” (Boldface added for emphasis)

Glubb was 100% correct in this insight. YHWH has made it very clear to a few of us in His word, the Bible. But since “Fear of the LORD (YHWH) is the beginning of knowledge,” according to Proverbs 1:7, very few humans have any real insight and knowledge as to how life and the world really work, because so few people know and fear God as He longs to be known and feared. In short, Biblical ignorance and illiteracy, combined with a willful rebellion against God, is the root cause of all of humanity’s ills, of which there are many.

Now that a few of us have this further insight from the patterns of world history over the last 3000 years, we are blessed with yet another compelling and confirming sign that we are in the bitter last days right before the second coming of Yahushua occurs. What further proof do you need?


[1] Glubb, Sir John. The Fate of Empires and Search for Survival. p. 2.

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