The World’s last day will be quite eventful. All these things will occur:
– The Lords return (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18),
– The dead raised (John 5:28-29),
– The living changed (1 Corinthians 15:51),
– The earth burned up (2 Peter 3:10-13),
– Humanity judged (Matthew 25:31-46),
– Kingdom is given to God (1 Corinthians 15:24)
– Wicked separated (Matthew 25:41), and the
– Saved go home (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17).
Is that last day near? Some say so. Are they right? How can we know? What can we know?
Let’s see what the Bible says.
The End Will Come
The world will have an end as surely as it had a beginning (1 Corinthians 15:24; Hebrews 3:6, 14; 2 Peter 3:1-11). Jesus promised to return (John 14:2-3), but each generation has its doubters. Scoffers in Peter’s day asked, “Where is the promise of his coming?” (2 Peter 3:4). They thought a long delay meant God had forgotten humanity—if He was there at all. Peter explained that time is irrelevant to God—a thousand years is a single day (3:8). Promises, however, are important to God. “The Lord is not slack concerning his promise” (3:9). He is faithful (2 Thessalonians 3:3); He cannot lie (Titus 1:2). Thus, “the day of the Lord will come” (2 Peter 3:10).
The End Will Come Unexpectedly
One preacher would ask, “Do you believe Jesus is coming today?”
If the person replied “no,” he would say, “Then you had better be ready, for He is coming at an hour when you think not!” (Luke 12:40).
No one can predict the world’s expiration date. Some things have not been revealed to men. Moses wrote, “The secret things belong unto the Lord our God: but those things which are revealed belong unto us” (Deuteronomy 29:29). Jesus said, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power” (Acts 1:7; cf. Acts 15:18; 17:26). Jesus repeatedly emphasized: “Of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father” (Mark 13:32; cf. Matthew 24:36, 42, 44, 25:13, 19).
Still, many have tried to set a date (from Wikipedia):
– Montanus’ followers, in the second century, sold their belongings and ascended a hill to await Jesus’ return. Eventually, police had to disperse them because they resorted to stealing to survive.
– Hippolytus of Rome predicted A.D. 500 based on the dimensions of Noah’s ark.
– Pope Sylvester II predicted January 1, 1000. Riots occurred. Pilgrims headed to Jerusalem.
– Pope Innocent III taught it would come 666 years after Islam’s rise (1284).
– Martin Luther predicted by 1600.
– Christopher Columbus predicted I656 in his Book of Prophecies (1501).
– Following Isaac Newton’s death in 1727 thousands of pages deciphering Bible codes and dates were found. Some estimate he spent twice the time on this as on science. In a twist to common date-setting, he said the end would be no earlier than 2060. He said, “This I mention not to assert when the time of the end shall be, but to put a stop to the rash conjectures of fanciful men.”
– William Miller, an upstate New York farmer and founder of Adventism, thought he had found the final day by matching dates on the calendar with the words of Daniel. He calculated the last day to be Sunday, March 21, 1844. His congregation, many in white robes, went to meet Jesus on a rooftop. When He did not come, calculations were revised to October 22, 1844.
– Joseph Smith said Christ would come by 1891.
– Charles T. Russell predicted Jesus’ return in 1874. After it passed, he explained that Jesus had come in invisible form to fight a spiritual battle that would close in October 1914. Other Watchtower prophets predicted the “end of the present order of things” for 1918, 1925, 1975, and 1984.
– Herbert W. Armstrong told members of his church a “rapture” was to take place in 1936, and that only they would be saved. During World War II, some watched world political events and nuclear armaments involving Europe, Israel, Russia, and America and warned the last days were here. Premillennial leaders were convinced the end would be within one generation (40 years) of Israel’s becoming a nation in I948.
– Hal Lindsey, for instance, laid it out in the popular book, The Late Great Planet Earth (1970). He believed that Jesus would return by I988 and that after a seven-year period of tribulation, Jesus would visibly appear by 1995 to win the Battle of Armageddon and commence a millennial reign.
– Jerry Falwell foresaw God pouring out judgment on the world on January 1, 2000.
– Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins stated that the Y2K bug would trigger global economic chaos, which the Antichrist would use to rise to power. As the date approached they recanted.
– Harold Camping gained notoriety by predicting that October 21, 2011, would be the final day.
After this failed, Camping admitted in a private interview that he no longer believed anybody could know the time of the end of the world.
With this last statement, we can agree. Jesus had said it long ago.
The End May– or May Not—Be Soon
Everything the Bible said would occur before Jesus’ return has happened—e.g., a departure from the truth (Acts 20:29; 1 Timothy 4:1—3) and the man of sin revealed (2 Thessalonians 2:3). Jesus could now come at any time.
Then, again, He could wait another thousand years to give more time for souls to be added to His kingdom (2 Peter 3:9).
But what about “the signs of the times” we hear about?
When a famine, earthquake, or war occurs, many see the end just around the corner. This happened with the Gulf War, 9/11, Afghanistan, and Iraq. As wickedness grows, many say the end cannot be far off. It is possible that the end is near, of course, but does the Bible give signs to watch for?
Matthew 24 is the passage often used to assert this doctrine. This chapter answers two questions the disciples asked following Jesus’ prediction of the temple’s destruction (24:l-3):
– “Tell us, when shall these things [involving the temple] be?”
– “And what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” (24:3).
Jesus answered the questions in order.
In the ﬁrst section (24:4—35), He explained signs pertaining to the Roman invasion of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. In the second (24:36—25:46), He plainly stated there would be no signs to precede His return.
To properly interpret Matthew 24, it is imperative to observe what scholars call the chapter’s “continental divide” in verse 34: “Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things are fulﬁlled.” “All these things” refers to what He had said up to that point (24:4-33). Everything before verse 34 pertains to that generation—roughly A.D. 30-70. Everything following verse 35 pertains to His second coming.
In which section do some think they ﬁnd “signs” of the end of time? The ﬁrst section, which discusses events that occurred in ﬁrst century Jerusalem and have nothing to do with a twenty-ﬁrst century international nuclear conﬂict. It does mention “the end” (24:6, 13, 14), but this refers to the end of Judaism, not the end of the world.
In ﬁgurative language, it mentions Christ “coming,” but this refers to His coming in judgment on that generation and not His personal return (cf. Matthew 16:28). The wars, famines, earthquakes, and false Christs that some see as fulﬁlled in today’s newspapers, ancient historians Josephus, Suetonius, Tacitus, and Seneca show occurred in the years leading up to A.D. 70.
A simple reading of the text shows the threat was a Roman invasion of Jerusalem:
– The “holy place” (temple) (24:15) in Jerusalem (Luke 21:20) was the target.
– Fleeing to the mountains (24:16) was advised (which Christians dwelling in Jerusalem did when Rome attacked).
– Returning from housetops to take things from houses was forbidden (24:17). Christians had to ﬂee quickly before ofﬁcials closed the gates and trapped them in the siege. The fastest way was across the “road of roofs” to the edge of town.
– Harsh, outside conditions were considered. They were to pray that they did not have to ﬂee in winter (24:10) and that they would not be pregnant or nursing a child at the time (24:19). This makes sense in a Roman attack, but not for the end of time.
– A Sabbath day invasion was undesirable (24:20) because Christians living in a Jewish city could ﬁnd the gates locked if they needed to ﬂee on Saturday (cf. Nehemiah 13:19).
It is interesting that people claim to ﬁnd clues in Jesus’ sermon on the end of time that the One who gave it did not know were there! In the middle of the sermon, Jesus said that “of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only” (Matthew 24:36; cf. Mark 13:32).
The important thing is to always be ready for Jesus to return. To get ready one must become a Christian (Acts 8:35-40); to stay ready one must remain faithful (Titus 2:11-13; Revelation 2:10).