Picture of Pastor Gettys

Sermon delivered February 27, 2010 by Pastor Don Gettys

McDonald Road Seventh-day Adventist Church

McDonald, Tennessee

Biblical quotations are from the New International Version NIV unless otherwise noted. Divine pronouns and titles are capitalized.

The Fall of Rome and US

Revelation 3:17-18

(RealAudio available)

I would like to speak with you this morning about the fall of Rome and us.  U.S.

The editor of a small newspaper received a phone call one day and the man on the other end of the line said, “Sir, there's a truck that has rolled down a hill and hit a house. Would you be interested in this for the newspaper?”  He said, “No, we get that kind of thing all the time.“ The man said, “Well, it was your house.”  He suddenly became very interested. 

When you hear about an earthquake in Chile of 8.8 on the Richter scale and you think about all that stuff you think, “Well that's pretty significant.”  The world is our house, right?  So we need to be attuned as to what is going on, and be aware.  When we hear of things that happen in Iran or Afghanistan or Iraq, we need to be contemplating the signs of the times in which we live.  We are Seventh-day Adventist Christians.  As Seventh-day Adventists we believe in the soon advent of Jesus Christ, don't we?  So you would expect to hear sermons about that, and because so many things are happening, we need to be cognizant of the times in which we are living.

Now in Daniel 2, you remember the various visions that are there.  Nebuchadnezzar had a vision of a great image.  The head of gold represented Babylon.  Then you had the silver kingdom of the Medes and Persians.  Then you had the thighs of brass which would be Greece and then you had the legs of iron which represented Rome.  And in Daniel 2:38, “After Babylon there will be another kingdom inferior to you and then a third kingdom of bronze which will rule over the earth,” and verse 40 goes on.  “Then there will be a fourth kingdom as strong as iron.”  This powerful autocratic Roman kingdom ruled when Christ came upon the earth.  It ruled for hundreds and hundreds of years.  Finally Rome did collapse and like the empires that preceded her, she found herself on the rubbish pile of history.  Any nation that defies God will actually corrupt her people and be doomed.  I would like to compare the reasons for the fall of the Roman Empire to the reasons why I think America is in trouble today.

There have been many books that have been written about things.  One of the latest books I have is Are We Rome?  Are we Rome?  It's looking to a lot of people like we are, indeed, Rome, and so I would like to point out several things that are happening.  In fact, the five major causes of the collapse of the Roman Empire are all significant in the United States right now.

Number one.  The first cause of the fall of the Roman Empire was the family breakdown.  A nation can be no stronger than its individual family units.  Would you agree?  I think that's evident.  When the family is weak the nation is weak.  In Rome, divorce was increasing rapidly.  Children ran away.  They were never heard from again.  There was very little family life together. 

Did you know that almost half of the homes in America are vacant during working hours because the kids are in school, the father is working, and the mother is working.  Today, 59% of all married women are working outside the home.  You compare that to 1948.  22% worked outside the home.  So you can see that things are rapidly changing. 

We are just too busy today to have very much communication.  When we get home we don't talk and we don't visit like we used to, and why is that?  Well a lot of people, when they're eating supper, they’re listening to the news and the weather and so forth, and after supper they do their e-mail.  They do their Wheel of Fortune and they do their Facebook and their Twitter until bedtime, and so husband and wife could technically be home alone and still be there with each other, in silence, staring at the L.C.D. panel.  We watch TV in America an average of 4.5 hours every day.  That adds up to 32 hours every week.  That is almost as much time spent watching TV as we have working.  That's significant.  You think about that.  Adults are spending a lot of time.  Children are being educated by their television sets more than they are being educated by their teachers, because the average child, aged eight to 18, now spends literally every waking moment outside of school on the Internet, watching TV, listening to music, listening to videos, texting or some other electronic device.  That's amazing.  That's Time magazine.  This is something.  We are worse than the Romans.  Can the U.S. go on much longer?  Now I don't know.  Families are becoming unglued and as families break down, nations break down. 

Look at the last page of the Old Testament in your Bible.  Verse five.  “Behold, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and terrible day of the Lord.”  And what is his job description?  “He will restore the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers.”  We have some great similarities that are going on.  What's happening today was happening in Rome.

Number two.  The second cause of the fall of the Roman Empire.  They had money problems.  Do we have money problems today?  Everybody has a job that wants a job, right?  Everybody that wants to sell a house can sell the house.  Is that correct?  Not true.  

Ancient Rome was rich, however.  How did they get all their wealth?  Well if you think of Daniel's image, what was the head made out of?  It was made out of gold.  Was Babylon the gold kingdom?  Absolutely.  Babylon had gold everywhere, and when Babylon fell, who got the gold?  The Medes and Persians.  What did the Medes and Persians do?  They had their own gold plus they accumulated Babylon’s, so they had a lot more and when Alexander the Great came, then who got that gold?  Greece.  And then when the Romans took over, where did all that gold go?  The accumulated gold of the head, the shoulders, the thighs of the image, went into the feet.  Rome was exceedingly wealthy.  You can read about a lot of that wealth.  They confiscated all of the wealth of the empires before them and there were tons and tons of gold and silver in Rome.

Now Rome did not officially fall until 538 A.D.  However, the barbarians came in the year 410 under the leadership of Alaric and they sacked Rome and they invaded Rome and they did nothing, but for days these barbarians carried off and looted the entire gold of the Roman Empire out of the city of Rome.  They carried off plates, they carried off all sorts of wealth.  Billions of dollars of gold they took away from Rome in just a few days.  They got the combined gold of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece and Rome in a great haul. 

Now we used to have a fantastic preacher in our denomination who worked for the Voice of Prophecy who was named H.M.S. Richards senior.  He was meeting with a group of pastors in the Michigan conference one day up at Camp Au Sable and he says that Alaric and his troops carried that gold down to southern Italy.  Their leader Alaric died and when you had a very important general to die in those days you buried him with money and they buried all of it with him.  They diverted the river out of the riverbed.  They buried all of this with their leader.  They covered it all back up.  Put the river back in its course and they killed all the slaves that did that.  They killed them all.  These slaves could not mention, of course, because they were dead, where this treasure was, and the treasure has not been discovered to this day.  It's never been discovered.  In fact, there's a book about this called The Lost Gold of Rome.  Where is it?  It's still there.  It’s still buried underneath that great river.  Which river?  Well, you'll have to read the book. 

So H.M.S. Richards went on to explain to us pastors that Rome was drained of its money, the gold and silver were basically gone out of that great city.  They didn't have any finances to recover completely until eventually they fell.  This is the basic reason why the world went into a great period of time known as the Dark Ages.  Financially they were out of money.  That's the basis for the beginning of the thousand years of the Dark Ages and they did not come out of that until the early explorers found the gold of the Aztecs and the Indians in South America.  The Incas.  That's the major reason we came out of this period of the Dark Ages.  So we got our gold back although it was different gold.  Rome debased its coins.  They were out of that and so the reason that Rome fell was because Rome went broke. 

Fort Knox up in Kentucky, are you aware that they contain absolutely zero gold backing up the United States dollar.  There's no gold bullion backing up our dollars.  We went off the silver standard back in 1964 and today we don't have any gold or silver coins in circulation and we don't even have any copper pennies since 1982.  You look at the penny.  It isn't copper.  It’s zinc with a little plating of copper. 

The United States is basically broke.  How do we know that?  Because our national debt is approximately $12 trillion.  $12 trillion.  Now how much is that?  Well if I were to earn one dollar every second, every second I earn a dollar.  Do you know how long it would take me to be a millionaire?  12 days.  12 days I'd be a millionaire.  Do you know how long it would take me to be a billionaire?  It would take me 32 years, and I’d be a billionaire.  Do you know how long it would take me to be a trillionaire?  31,000 years.  31,000 years!  That's the difference between 1 trillion dollars and 1 billion dollars.  How deep in debt are we?  $12 trillion.  We can't imagine how much money that is.  For every dollar that our federal government takes in, we now spend two dollars.  We are basically bankrupt. 

How long will America last?  Now in my opinion, as I read Revelation 13, I see America in here and I see America as being strong, but as I look out and I look at what's happening in America, I see America weakening and going the same route as Rome.  So I'm beginning to wonder, what is going on?  Are we really in the last days?  If the Lord is going to come when America is strong then he better come pretty quick, isn’t that correct? 

Rome's vitality was also sapped by welfare-itis.  The free distribution of corn and bread and oil and wine and pork in Rome was very significant.  The Romans loved pork.  A large percent of the Romans were on welfare.  Did you know that one out of every eight people in New York City is on welfare?  Did you know that one out of every four children in America, they either get their food from a government SNAP program or food stamps.  One out of every four kids in America.  That's amazing to me.  The way I understand it, we are also going bankrupt.  Our scripture reading today, Revelation 3.  “You say I am rich, I have become wealthy and I don't have need of anything, but don't you know that you are poor and miserable and blind and naked.”  We think that we’re a rich nation and yet we are bankrupt.  We’re poor.  Dozens of states are grappling with budgets as they are billions of dollars in the red.  Public debt will soon reach 60% of our gross domestic product. 

We are spiritually poor as well.  We are spiritually bankrupt.  Our churches are empty.  How much we need to trust in the righteousness of Jesus Christ.  How much we need to be in church.  We need to be a people of prayer.  We ought to be studying our Bibles, and we’re doing other things.  I think we’re more concerned about the world than about Jesus.  I’m concerned that my members would have a relationship with Jesus Christ.  That you would have a saving relationship with Jesus. 

I'm going to tell you some statistics now.  As you think of this, I want you to think how much longer can the world last?  How much longer can the United States last?  Did you know that food prices since the year 2000 have gone up 75%?  In fact, one bushel of green beans right now is $75.  It may be time for you to plant a garden.  Number two.  Wheat prices from the year 2000 to the year 2008 have tripled.  Number three.  The earthquakes.  In 108 years there has been a significant increase in the number of major earthquakes.  Why is that?  May I project to you that something is going on.  Number four.  Our national debt.  Actually, it's 12 trillion now.  Number five.  The population is increasing.  How long can that continue?  How long can the number keep going in a vertical direction.  This is approximately from the time of creation projecting to the year 2025.  Number six.  We’re running out of fresh water.  Number seven.  The number of people who are in jail.  From 1920 to 2006 the number has increased significantly.  Can this continue?  What is happening to America.  Number eight.  The sea levels are rising.  I don't know why they’re rising.  How big would 20 centimeters be?  This would be about that big, the sea levels are going up.  What does that mean for coastal cities and tsunamis?  It means something.  Number nine.  In 1844 there were 1045 patents applied for.  In the year 2008, do you know how many patents were applied for?  456,321.  Knowledge is increasing.  Number 10.  Revelation 11:18 says that we are doing what?  We’re destroying the world.  Are we?  How long can we last?  I think we’re living in the last days.  Would you agree that we’re living in the last days?  The times are bad.

Number three.  The third cause for the fall of the Roman Empire was pleasure and brutal sports.  In the great amphitheaters of their day, the Romans loved bloody sports.  The martyrdom of the Christian was high entertainment.  Hungry lions devoured Christians and when the Christian finally died, do you know what the crowd would do?  They would applaud.  They loved it.  What games are watched the most today?  Our Super Bowl is what?  Ping-pong?  Is that what the Super Bowl is?  It's hard to watch a wrestling match today without seeing a lot of blood.   Or boxing.  People want action.  They want hard playing.  The rougher the better.  A Roman living in America today would probably be right at home. 

Just before God destroyed the world the first time what was the world like?  Well, in Noah’s day, according to Genesis 6:11, the world was full of violence, say many translations.  Full of violence.  What will the world be like in the last days?  Luke 17:26-30 says, “As it happened in the days of Noah so shall it also be in the days of the coming of the Son of Man.”  It'll be just the same on that day that the Son of Man is revealed.  In Roman times they were more interested in going to games than they were in going to church.  They would skip church to go to pleasure. 

In the book Education, 210, sister White says this.  “We are developing,” this is America, “the same characteristics as did the games of ancient Rome.  The love of dominion, the pride in brutal force, the reckless disregard of life, the stimulation of love of pleasure,” and if time lasts what are we going to come to?  You should also read page 177. 

The United States of America is pictured in Revelation 13 as the lamb-like beast.  But the lamb-like beast changes.  Now if you were going to change a little lamb and change him the most you could possibly change him, what would you change him into?  A cat?  Or a dog?  The Bible says he speaks like a dragon.  Then the end of the world comes.  I don't see any other nation taking the place of the United States, do you?  I don't see that.  It's not in the Bible. 

What's the conclusion?  The end is near.  It's near.  We Seventh-day Adventists need to get on with the work of Jesus Christ.  I wish we had 200 people from this church this year who would go out and do a mission trip.  Do a Bible study.  Do an evangelistic meeting.  Do something for the Lord.  The day is quickly coming.  Joel 2:1 says we need to “blow a trumpet in Zion and sound an alarm on My  holy mountain.  Let all of the inhabitants of the land tremble because surely it is near,” says the Bible.  In verse 10, “Before us, the earth quakes, the heavens tremble.”  We are seeing earthquakes now and what we have seen in Haiti, what we are going to be seeing on our television screens in Chile is nothing compared to what's going to be happening.  When all the earthquakes start happening all at once and the asteroids join in and the volcanoes play their havoc upon the world and storms and everything else happens, and the economy goes south, the end is near.  That's what's happening.  The day of the Lord is at hand.

Now how do you know when the United States reaches its limit?  How do we know?  Well, let me read you something.  The fifth volume of The Testimonies, 451.  “As the approach of the Roman armies was the sign to the disciples of the impending destruction of Jerusalem, so may this apostasy,” she says, and what is she referring to?  The Sunday law, the repudiation of the principles of the United States’ constitution as a republic and Protestant government.  “So this apostasy will be the sign to us that the limit of God's forbearance is reached, that the measure of our nations iniquity is full.”  We're seeing that today.  Revelation 13 says the voice of the dragon.  America's morals are going down.  7th volume of the Bible Commentary.  “National apostasy will be followed by national ruin.”  First volume of The Testimonies, 253.  “The United States will be humbled into the dust.”  That day is soon coming. 

I personally think the gospel is pretty well being preached to most of the world today.  Most people have access to it.  All of the signs are pretty well here now.  I think in one way or another, the gospel has practically gone to the whole world, and so the next event is the letting go of the four winds by the four angels.  When they let go then the Sunday law takes place and the Lord’s coming is not far behind.  Revelation 2:10.  “Be faithful unto death and I will give thee a crown of life.”

The promise was given at the time when Christians lived in danger of losing their lives and that time is now.  In fact, every time Rome was visited by a calamity or a famine or an earthquake or an epidemic, they started slaughtering Christians because they blamed God's people for the problems that were coming upon the earth.  Do you think that'll happen again someday?  I do too.

The fourth sign of the fall of Rome.  Preparation for war.  They were warring people while forgetting and neglecting character preparation.  Notice the prediction in Joel 3:10.  It says, “Beat your plowshares into swords and your pruning hooks into spears.  Train even your weaklings to be warriors.”  Rome lost control of its borders.  Do we have control of our borders?  Rome had 13 miles of high walls around their city.  Those walls are 40 feet high.  They’re massive.  Hadrian's Wall in Britain was built to repel the northern barbaric tribes but they eventually came to ruin any way.  America cannot seem to control its borders.  Rome ran short of recruits to sustain their military efforts and so Rome hired barbarians.  Have you noticed that today in many of our battles over in Iraq and Afghanistan that we are hiring companies, independent companies.  We are outsourcing our offense over there.  Today America is looked upon by many, many outsiders as a militant, warring nation.  Just like Rome.  Today we have a violent land.  

They have tested our children here in America and children don't read any better today than they did 25 years ago.  Reading levels have not increased.  42 million American adults do not know how to read.  42 million adults.  Where does that lead, when you can't read?  You end up in crime, so 70% of the prisoners in state and federal prisons are illiterate.  That's why they're there.  Yet in 2010, in our budget here in America, we are spending six times more on military than we are on education.  We would rather spend for war than for school.

Number five.  The fifth cause of the fall of the Roman Empire.  The Roman people had a great decay in their religion.  They weren't converted.  They were worldly.  The churches were empty.  You go around today and many Christian churches are empty.  You go to London today, how many people are in church on any given Sunday?  Let alone on Saturday.  We just don't have too much going on over there.  Those of us who grew up back in the 50s and 60s have seen a tragic change in America.  Those of you who are young probably don't see it.  We do.  President Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “A rich nation can for a time, without noticeable damage to itself, pursue a course of self-indulgence, but only for a time.”  That's what we've done.

Look at Second Timothy 3:4,5.  “Treacherous times will come.  People will be conceited.  Lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God.  Having a form of godliness but denying its power.  Have nothing to do with them.”  Nothing at all.  Religion today is decaying, just like it did in the days of Rome.  We have swept religion out of our public schools in America.  A couple of years ago I happened to run across a McGuffey’s reader.  That's an original reader from the public schools of the United States when we were an early nation.  All the stories in there are moral stories.  Good stories. 

Where do kids learn morals today?  If you don't have family worship in your home, if your kids don't attend church or Sabbath School, where are they going to learn any morals?  It can't be taught in the public school system.  Standards of behavior today on the streets of our nation are about as high as the gutter.  As a nation we have drifted away from God.  We've drifted into dangerous waters and I think it's high time that we get back to Jesus Christ. 

I wish we had in America an index of leading spiritual indicators.  We've got an index of leading financial indicators.  I think we would see a sharp decline.  We would be, in fact, in a moral depression.  In the last 30 years, notice these five things.  Illegitimate births have gone up 120%.  7.3% of teenagers commit suicide.  37% of the children of America live with a single parent.  Money that is spent for welfare, adjusted for inflation, in the last 30 years is up 600%.  Money for education during that same period of time is down 225%.  Rome fell because its citizens were without character.  Every great nation dies by suicide.  They thought that the enemy was without when actually the enemy was within.

Dear people, it is time to get back to Jesus Christ.  It is time to get back to the Bible.  Get back to church.  Get back to a relationship with Jesus.  It's time to instill the love of Jesus in our children.  It's time for us to be awake.  Romans 13:11.  You know how late it is?  The time is running out, the Bible says.  “Wake up, for the coming of our salvation is nearer than when we first believed.”  It's time for us as a people to accept Jesus.  To teach Jesus.  To help our nation.  America is a great place.  I love it here, but we need to get involved and help and to accept our Savior.  Invite Jesus into your home.  Make the last-minute preparations of whatever you need to do.  Surrender your will to Him and keep your eye on the waymarks.  Look at the waymarks.  They are there.  From Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome, right down to today.

Dear Father in heaven.  The next kingdom is the Stone Kingdom, the Kingdom of Jesus Christ.  Help us to be great citizens, preparing our hearts to abide in that kingdom.  Keep us faithful.  The end is near.  May we be near to Jesus.  Dismiss us with Your rich blessings, we pray in Jesus’ name, amen.

Hymn of Praise: #43, When Morning Gilds the Skies
Scripture: Revelation 3:17-18
Hymn of Response: #596, Look For the Waymarks
Sermon Notes:  Sermon notes available as PDF

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McDonald Road Sermon transcribed by Steve Foster 3/11/10