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2023 in Review: Some things old, some things new

The start of a new year provides us with an opportunity to remind ourselves where we were one year ago. What has happened in the last 365 days, what has changed, and where do we see ourselves 365 days from now? I remind you of the facts and events that our sovereign Lord unfolded for us to see and know about in 2023. Before you read through this article, however, I would ask you to first read the entire chapter of Matthew 24. Using God’s word as a frame of reference, ask yourself which signs of the times are becoming increasingly evident. 

Space does not permit for an extensive list of events, nor is it necessary for us to relive all of them again. I have broken down the list of notable events into two categories: (1) Old, which are things that have happened in the past and have recurred in 2023; and (2) New, which is a section full of firsts for this past year. My thanks go to the New York Times, The Top Tens, The Fact Site, and other news organizations that release these lists for our remembrance. 

Part one: Old  

  • Jan. 24 – The Doomsday Clock was created in 1947 to represent how close the world is to a major catastrophe or nuclear war. The clock was set to 90 seconds before midnight, the closest point ever, after the escalation of Russia’s forces in Ukraine. 
  • Feb. 6 – Turkey and Syria were struck by a 7.8 magnitude earthquake that killed almost 60,000 people. Over the next three weeks there were 10,000 recorded aftershocks. 
  • April – The beginning of the Canadian wildfires that would burn for most of the year. These fires would be seen—and smelled—throughout the US for weeks, prompting ozone action days and the return of face masks in some locations. 
  • April 3 – NASA announced the names of the 4 astronauts for the Artemis II moon mission, the first in over 50 years. 
  • April 20 – Space X’s Starship rocket, the most powerful rocket ever built and designed to carry people to Mars, exploded 4 minutes into its full test flight. 
  • May – Magellan Ltd., a deepwater seabed mapping company, released 715,000 still images of the Titanic wreckage, including a 3-D scan. 
  • June 18 – Ocean Gate’s Titan submersible imploded while on an expedition to the wreck of the Titanic. 
  • July – Landscape, a private Chinese space company, successfully launched a methane-fueled rocket into orbit. 
  • Aug. 19 – Russia’s Luna 25 lunar lander crash-landed on the moon. This was Russia’s first attempt to send a spacecraft to the moon since the 1970s under the Soviet space program. 
  • Aug. 23 – India became the fourth country to successfully land a spacecraft on the moon (following Russia, China, and the US); however, they were the first to land on the unexplored south pole. They were eager to explore this region of the moon after traces of water in the form of ice were discovered there. 
  • Oct. 8 – Israel formally declared war on Hamas following a surprise attack by Hamas in Israeli-controlled territory. A reported 1,100 people from both sides had already been killed by the time this declaration was made. 
  • Nov. 1 – Tropical Storm Hilary dumped 2.2 inches of rain, the most in a single day, on Death Valley National Park, creating a shallow lake in Badwater Basin. 
  • Dec. 8 – Russian president Vladimir Putin announced he will run for reelection in 2024. This almost-guaranteed fifth presidential term will have him in power until 2030. 
  • Dec. 8Shohei Ohtani, one of baseball’s biggest stars, will depart the Los Angeles Angels and head across town to the Los Angeles Dodgers after signing a contract reportedly worth $700M. In total value, the 10-year deal is believed to be the biggest contract signed by any athlete in global sports history. (This contract guarantees him $2.22 per second. To put that in perspective, 700 million people in the world live on less than $2.15 per day.) 
  • Dec. 18 – In Iceland, a series of earthquakes led to a huge volcano eruption resulting in a two-mile-long fissure of spewing lava that forced regional evacuations on the island. 

Part 2: New  

  • March – Scientists at Osaka University in Japan created mice from two biologically male parents, using skin cells to generate eggs that were then implanted into female mice. 
  • March 14 – Open AI released GPT-4, their newest artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot. 
  • March 31 – Italy banned the use of Open AI’s chatbot over data security concerns. One month later it was restored when it was made possible for users to prevent chatbots from using their data. 
  • May – A man with paralysis was able to walk again using only his thoughts, thanks to brain and spinal implants. The implants use AI to decode signals in his brain, which send messages to his muscles, allowing him to stand with the aid of a walker. 
  • May 1 – Geoffrey Hinton, the “Godfather of AI,” resigned from Google so he could spread the word about the dangers of this emerging technology. 
  • May 25 – The FDA gave Elon Musk the go-ahead to begin trials on humans for his Neuralink brain implants. 
  • June 27 – Virgin Galactic announced that it will begin monthly commercial space operations (for only $450,000 per ticket!). To date the company has concluded five successful flights. 
  • August – AI was used to interpret part of an ancient scroll that was preserved in ash after the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD. 
  • Aug. 10 – Two driverless taxi companies (Cruise and Waymo) were given approval to operate full-time in San Francisco, California. They had been testing this service for over a year before being given this approval. 
  • Oct. 30 – Joe Biden signed an executive order to guide the use of AI by federal agencies. 
  • Nov. 1 – Collins Dictionary announced “AI” as the most notable word in 2023. 
  • Dec. 8 European Union officials reached a provisional deal on the world’s first comprehensive laws to regulate the use of AI. After 36 hours of talks, negotiators agreed to rules around AI in systems like ChatGPT and facial recognition. The European parliament will vote on the “AI Act” proposals early next year, but any legislation will not take effect until at least 2025. The US, UK, and China are all rushing to publish their own guidelines. 
  • Dec. 8 – The FDA approved a new treatment for sickle cell disease that uses CRISPR, the Nobel-prize-winning technology that edits patient DNA to remove problematic genes. This is the first time that gene editing therapy has been approved for humans, and each treatment costs $2.2 million. 
  • November 2022 – October 2023 was declared the hottest 12 months on record for the earth. 
  • 2023 – A category 5 storm was formed in every ocean basin in the world (the first time this has happened in a single year). 

As you read the preceding lists, what was your general takeaway? Were you surprised by how much you did not know happened? By how much you forgot? This is not a lesson to promote history, or even awareness of what is happening all around us. Rather, it is a gentle reminder that our Lord is sovereign over all things, whether we know them or not. He has a plan that he is leading to perfection: the return to this earth of our Lord and Savior, who will come to issue the great call for his elect to live with him for all eternity. May God be praised in what has happened in this past year, and in all the events to come, which will serve his purpose in 2024.  

Scott is a teacher at Covenant Christian High School in Walker, MI. He worships with his family at Zion Protestant Reformed Church in Jenison.