Is doomsday really just round the corner? Steve Wohlberg finds out.
Have you heard the news? The world will end this month!
This terrifying thought has been buzzing across the globe for the last few years in books, in theatres, in television documentaries and on the web. In fact, fears that doomsday may strike on December 21, 2012 were so great that Sony Pictures released a mesmerising apocalyptic movie in 2009 named (aptly enough) 2012, bringing this concern into the mainstream.
Television programmers have also become strong advocates of the idea that 2012 predictions may be true. Documentaries and TV shows like Nostradamus: 2012, Doomsday 2012: The End of Days and “2012: The Beginning,” an episode on Brad Meltzer’s Decoded, all suggest that we don’t have much time left.
Spooky “proof” is offered from various sources, such as the ancient Roman sibyl, the Greek oracle at Delphi, Merlin, Nostradamus and even the Native American Hopi Indians. Apparently, they all pinpointed 2012 as the Year of the End.
By far the biggest spark igniting 2012 concerns is the ancient Mayans, whose civilisation flourished in Central America from the third to the ninth centuries A.D. The Mayans have developed a worldwide reputation for being scientific, mathematical and astronomical geniuses.
And here’s the red-hot issue: their highly sophisticated Long Count calendar mysteriously drops over the edge on December 21, 2012.
According to the theory, one reason for this is because Mayan astronomers realised that on that day, the earth, the sun and the Milky Way would settle into a rare galactic alignment.
Then something big would happen: the world would end.
The world will end? Approximately 2000 years ago, a small band of men gathered around Jesus Christ on the slope of the Mount of Olives, just east of Jerusalem to consider this thought.
“Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3).
In response, Jesus provided a detailed list of prophetic indicators, or “signs” which He said would notify earth’s multitudes that they are getting closer to the grand finale.
Did Jesus Christ Himself really believe that, eventually, a literal end of the world would come?
The proof is in His response to His disciples’ question. Notice what He said:
- “But the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (verses 13, 14; emphasis added).
- “Immediately after the distress of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken” (verse 29; emphasis added).
- “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” (verses 38, 39; emphasis added).
According to Christ, “the end will come.” Thus, the notion of an apocalyptic, inescapable global consummation of human history isn’t a loony concept spouted by bearded individuals waving “The End is Nigh!” placards on street corners. Jesus taught it too.
Obey God, But What About Faith?
If our salvation was solely dependent upon whether or not we keep God’s commandments, it would be safe to say that humankind is certainly doomed. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God“ (Romans 3:23).
However, the Bible assures us that if we repent (turn from sin) and trust in Jesus as our Saviour, then “He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness“ (1 John 1:9).
Obeying God’s commandments is not about a ticket to heaven; it’s about a demonstration of our love for Jesus and appreciation of the cost of the Cross, for Jesus Himself said, “If you love me, keep my commands” (John 14:15).
However, far from catching us by surprise, it makes perfect sense that a merciful God would send a special message to prepare human beings for the final crisis. Long ago, He did the same thing right before a global flood wiped everything living off the map.
During those ancient times, “The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. . . . So the Lord said, ‘I will wipe from the face of the earth the human race I have created—and with them the animals, the birds and the creatures that move along the ground—for I regret that I have made them.’ But Noah found favour in the eyes of the Lord” (Genesis 6:5, 7, 8).
God told Noah to build a massive boat, and then He gave him this unique assignment: “When the time comes, tell everyone to get into the boat, or they will drown.”
So, for many years, Noah built and preached. But before the Flood hit, only eight people listened and found safety. The rest were destroyed.
Now carefully notice the following: “As it was in the days of Noah,” Jesus predicted, “so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man” (Matthew 24:37, emphasis added).
In other words, just like God sent a special message in Noah’s day before countless trillions of tons of water fell, even so will He send another special message before the return of His Son.
That message is the message of the three angels recorded in Revelation 14:6–12. It talks about the following:
- the everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ;
- the hour of judgement has come;
- worship the Creator of heaven and earth;
- mysterious Babylon has fallen;
- all nations have drunk Babylon’s “wine”;
- beware of the beast and its deadly mark;
- keeping the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.
Discovering these heaven-inspired details is like hearing old Noah shout, “A monstrous flood is coming! Get into the ark!” In Noah’s day, the ark was a three-storey boat. In these last days, it’s a three-story message designed to prepare us for the end.
Now here’s a brilliant gem of truth: the preparation stressed in the three angels’ messages is moral; that is, it isn’t about eating organic foods, stockpiling weapons or building bombproof hideouts. It’s about getting ourselves right with God.
The message concludes, “This calls for patient endurance on the part of the people of God who keep his commands and remain faithful to Jesus” (Revelation 14:12; emphasis added).
Then John, the author of Revelation, wrote, “I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one like a son of man with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand " (verse 14; emphasis added).
In other words, in order to be ready for Jesus Christ’s return, as predicted in verse 14, we must join “the saints.” These are the ones who “keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus,” as described in verse 12.
There is no doubt that Jesus Christ is coming soon and when He returns, the world will end. Whether that will happen on December 21 is anyone’s guess, although I believe that day will pass without a hiccup and we will live to see another day (even year).
According to Jesus, it is possible to discern when His return “is near.” But He also explained with striking clarity that “about that day or hour no-one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matthew 24:33, 36; emphasis added).
But that doesn’t mean we should settle down into complacency. If we do, we’re just as foolish as those who thought Noah was a crazy crackpot and that the Flood would never come. Then bang, it started raining. Then it was too late.
Christ’s counsel is penetrating: “So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him” (verse 44; emphasis added).
We have a heavenly Father who loves us more than we will ever know. So much so that He allowed His own Son to die on a cross as a mysterious form of payment for our sins that completely satisfied His own eternal justice.
Now, if we repent and believe in Jesus, His promise is sure, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (Isaiah 1:18).
His love is infinite. And, believe it, He loves you.
This article is adapted, with permission, from 2012 and the End of the World (Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 2012).