According to contemporary interpretations of the Mayan calendar, the world should end this Friday, December 21. We all know it’s coming, we just can’t agree on when or how. So we speculate. We work ourselves into hysterics over the thought that our world could end suddenly by forces beyond our control.
Humans have always been obsessed with the end of the world. Most of the world’s religions have end of the world scenarios in their sacred writings. We call it Armageddon, The Apocalypse, The End of Days, Doomsday, and a host of other frightening names. I find it interesting that the two most common names to which the end of the world is referred have their origins in the Bible. Apocalypse is a translation of the Greek word apokalupsis which means “unveiling” or “disclosure.” It is where the Book of Revelation gets its title. A revelation is a disclosure of something that was not previously known: “The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place” (Revelation 1:1). Armageddon is a translation of the Hebrew Har Megiddo, which means “the mountain of Megiddo,” and refers to a mountainous area in Israel. Throughout history, many great battles took place there. It is only referenced once in the entire New Testament, in Revelation 16:16, where the word is used symbolically.
The study of the end times is called eschatology, from the Greek word eschatos, which means last, hence, eschatology is the study of last things.
So, when and how will the world end? I can’t answer that question with any authority, but we CAN know some facts which come from the Bible, which is kind of our authority on things like the world’s end.
The date of the end of the world is unknown. Except, that is, to God. Christians are as guilty as any cult of setting times and dates of the word’s end. Shame on you. Jesus plainly said, in reference to the end, “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matthew 24:36). Similarly, we read, “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night” (2 Peter 3:10). The Apostle Paul put a point on it when he wrote “Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-2).
In light of these scriptures, it seems foolish that anyone would claim to have any inkling of when the world will end. We may set dates, look for signs, and engage in all manner of conjecture and speculation, but the truth is, we do not know. God knows and he’s chosen to keep it from us until he chooses to reveal it. Which brings us to our next point…
The end of the world will be unexpected. By unexpected, I don’t mean that we shouldn’t be ready for it. We most definitely should be prepared and ready (Matthew 25:1-13). But, The End is going to occur when we all think it‘s not going to occur. Jesus himself said, “When the Son of Man returns, it will be like it was in Noah’s day.” (Matthew 24:38a). We all know the story of Noah from Genesis 6-7. God told Noah he was going to destroy the world because of its violence and wickedness via a great flood, and if Noah and his family wanted to live, he’d better get to work building one very big ark. Jesus goes on to say, “For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man” (Matthew 24:28b-29). In other words, Jesus was saying life was going on as normal. People were doing what people do: eating, drinking, marrying – living life and having a good time. He isn’t saying eating, drinking, and marrying were evil things, but that people were simply going about their day-to-day routines. Then, without warning, the end came.
The end of the world will be obvious. The will be no mistake that when the world ends, we won’t have to wonder if the world is ending! Again, we turn to both Paul and Peter. Paul wrote, “While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape” (1 Thessalonians 5:3), and Peter penned via the Holy Spirit, “the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10). It’s hard to mistake the melting of the world for anything but The End. Whether God chooses to use a meteor shower, a comet, or some other means beyond us to destroy the world, isn’t the point. After all, he used regular already existing water to destroy the earth the first time.
It’s not the intention of the blog to go into the deep details of the end times, but something to consider is the end of the world will not be a multi-stage event as some claim. We can talk about dates and times and sequences of raptures and tribulations til we’re blue in the face, but I believe scripture teaches that Jesus returns and the world ends. Simple as that.
The end of the world is just the beginning. The world won’t end and leave us in an apocalyptic wasteland as so many movies suggest. Nor will the earth as we know it simply explode, or fade away as science might theorize. The Bible teaches that the earth will be remade and be regenerated. The effects of the Fall and sin will be removed once and for all. Eden will, in essence, be restored for good.
“See, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind (Isaiah 65:17).
“But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness dwells. So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him” (2 Peter 3:13-14).
“Then I saw “a new heaven and a new earth,” for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away” (Revelation 21:1).
We will live forever with Christ our King. It will be here that our salvation will be fully realized. This is called the consummation. This is what Paul spoke of in Romans 8:18-25. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:1-3).
“For my Father’s will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day” (John 6:40).
“For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage each other with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:16-18).
Therefore, the end of the world should be a time of expectant joy, not fear! Paul says to encourage one another, not discourage one another! Too many pastors and churches are guilty of speaking about The End as if it was a bad thing. Scripture doesn’t teach that. Certainly, it is sad to think about all those who never knew Jesus having no assurance of eternal life when Christ returns, but for those of who know him, his return is something we should expectantly look for and pray for: “He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (Revelation 22:20).