Doomsdayers and false prophets have predicted the “end of the world” for centuries. But never was there an era like the 21st century. Could our generation indeed be witness to the close of an age?
Never before have apocalyptic visions and scenarios of future calamities been more rife. Theologians and scientists alike have vividly described what could be “the ultimate holocaust.”
Nuclear scientists warn that life could be annihilated in a thermonuclear war. Others cry out that mankind threatens the biosphere with pollution. Global population itself portends dire famine, pestilence, and “food wars.”
Could we be living at the end of an age? Could our generation be in the Biblical “time of the end,” the “last days,” mentioned so many times by the Biblical prophets?
People are interested in the unknown, the occult, and the future of world events. Books on the subjects are skyrocketing. Books, such as “The Beginning of the End, The Late Great Planet Earth, and What To Do till the Messiah Comes”. Others like “The Return of Christ, End of Days”, further fuel the growing interest of the public in this topic.
Bumper stickers in the United States display such messages as “If I’m Raptured, Take the Wheel,” and Guess Who’s Coming Again!”
This resurgence of popular interest is similar to the general obsession with the “end of the world” which Europeans expected around A.D. 1000 to 1400. Millions lived in fear, expecting the return of Jesus Christ in that age.
In A.D. 1188, Saladin captured Jerusalem, Earthquakes dismayed many. Cyclones appeared to run riot from 1180 to 1223.Storms, lightning, and floods caused havoc. Repeated fires threatened entire cities. And, added to these catastrophes were terrible wars accompanied by pillaging, looting, burning of cities, and raping, followed by pestilential epidemics. All these were looked upon as signs of divine wrath (Achille Luchaire, Social France at the Time of Philip Augustus, pp. 1-8).
The times were so depressing that a monk, Rigord, moodily wrote: “The world is ill; it grows so old that it relapses into infancy. Common report has it that Antichrist has been born at Babylon and that the day of judgment is at hand.”
During these calamities, religious fervor flourished. Thousands expected the imminent return of Jesus Christ to punish the wicked. In succeeding centuries, anticipation of the return of Christ blazed anew among Protestant reformists and even more among Anabaptist groups. Radicals attempted to arouse populations to usher in the New Age by overthrowing the “Babylonian” tyranny and by slaying the godless. After the revolt and the ensuing time of suffering and privation, they were told that the messianic age would arrive.
At no time since the Middle Ages has the world come to grips with this same question on a similar scale until our modern 21st century. Today, thousands are noting, for the first time, specific statements in the Bible which seem to have particular reference to current world conditions and circumstances.
Could such prophecies indeed be referring to our age? Could we be living in the “end time”? Just what does the Bible say about the “end of the world” and the return of Jesus Christ?
Consider an event which occurred over 1900 years ago. A few intimate disciples of Jesus Christ came to him and asked Him some very modern questions about the “end of the world,” or as the original Greek word aion actually means, the end of the “age.” Jesus was not asked about the end of the world, or the planet earth, but rather about the end of the age of human misrule on the planet. The disciples expected Jesus to set up the Kingdom of God during their own generation. They wanted to know what events would lead up to that messianic hope.
Christ, however, told them it was not for them to know precisely when He would return or when the Kingdom of God would be established on earth (see Matt. 24:36-44: Acts 1:6-7). Rather, He told them that they should preach the gospel – the good news – about the Kingdom of God to all nations (Acts 1:8). One indication that the end was near, He told them, would be when all nations finally heard the good news He had brought (Matt. 24:14).
But then Christ described a breathtaking scenario of events leading up to the time when He would actually return to this earth.
He told His intent listeners that before He would set up the Kingdom of God, the government of God on earth, a host of false ministers and prophets would arise, proclaiming themselves to be true representatives of Jesus Christ, claiming to have special messages from God. Some, at the very end, would even assert that they were Christ Himself.
Then Christ spoke of wars, rumors of wars, and vast international conflagrations (Matt. 24:6-7). These, of course, have been occurring intermittently since nations were first organized. But what do see today?
There certainly has been an intensification of conflict since World War II. Southeast Asia is only one “hotspot” in the world. Civil strife has been continuously erupting in African states. We live with confrontation between India and Pakistan, wars in the Middle East (Iran and Afghanistan), and periodic coups in Latin America. War has become a monotonously regular occurrence, just as Jesus indicated it would be before His return. Nations seem to be endlessly girding themselves for some ultimate conflict.
Christ next mentioned great earthquakes, famines, and disease epidemics. These, of course, have occurred throughout history. But what makes them more significant for our generation is mounting world population and shrinking resources and food supplies. Malnourished and undernourished millions are particularly susceptible to calamitous diseases. Burgeoning populations are vulnerable to natural disease, droughts, and subsequent famine. Millions could die in India, for example, with the failure of important monsoon rains to water desperately needed food crops.
Christ also said, “Because wickedness is multiplied, most men’s love will grow cold” (Matt. 24:12). He was referring to normal human warmth and affection. He meant that people would be much more self-centered than usual, lacking even natural affection. With declining morals and deteriorating ethics in our Western world, who could deny that human love is being overwhelmed with terrorism, violence, crime and mayhem?
Wickedness, crime, and senseless violence, Jesus declared, would be a leading cause in the decline of human love during the time of the end. In our age, crime is a worldwide problem, and violent crimes are becoming more blatant, common, and customary.
Next in sequence, Jesus said, “This gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, as a testimony to all nations: and then the end will come” (v. 14). That is happening before your very eyes! With global communication, the advent of radio, television, modern printing presses, and sophisticated computers with internet access, the gospel of the Kingdom of God is being proclaimed to all the world, to all nations. Never before in all history was this humanly possible. But our age is seeing this remarkable prophecy fulfilled for the first time!
What would happen next? Jesus then mentioned armies threatening the Middle East and warfare (Matt. 24:15-20). “For then, “said Christ, “there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. And if those days had not been shortened, no human being would be saved: but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened” (Matt. 24:21-22).
The prophet Jeremiah spoke of the same period, using similar language. He prophesied 2500 years ago: “Thus says the Lord: We have heard a cry of panic, of terror, and no peace. Ask now, and see, can a man bear a child? Why then do I see every man with his hands on his loins like a woman in labor? Why has every face turned pale? Alas! That day is go great there is none like it; it is a time of distress for Jacob (that is the modern descendants of Jacob, or “Israel,” as he was later called); yet he shall be saved out of it” (Jer. 30:5-7).
Consider, both Jeremiah and Christ spoke of a future time such as the world has never seen before. Logic compels us to conclude that they must have been speaking of the same future period. Because two separate times cannot excel each other in being the greatest. Only one time can be “the greatest,” or the “worst.”
But another Old Testament prophet spoke of the very same period. Daniel wrote: “At the time of the end the king of the south shall attack him; but the king of the north shall rush upon him like a whirlwind, with chariots and horsemen (Daniel used terms familiar to him, but was referring to modern soldiers), and with many ships, and he shall come into countries and shall come into the glorious land (the land of Judah or modern Israel in the Middle East). And tens of thousands shall fall” (Dan. 11:40-41).
Notice that Daniel was speaking of armies in the Middle East, at the “time of the end,” (v. 40), just as Jesus Christ spoke of armies threatening Jerusalem and those living in that region.
Daniel continues in chapter twelve: “At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time; but at that time your people shall be delivered, every one whose name shall be found written in the book” (Dan. 12:1).
Now pause for a moment and think about this prophesied time period. All three of the references quoted are clearly referring to the identical time of the end, a time unparalleled in all history.
We can know that these prophecies are referring to our modern world, this present generation, because Jesus said that during this time, global conflict would be so fierce that all life on earth would be threatened. He remarked, “And if those days had not been shortened, no human being would be save” (Matt. 24:22). Moffatt’s translation makes it plainer: “not a soul would be saved alive”! The Living Bible also clarifies it: “In fact, unless those days are shortened, all mankind will perish.” Also, The New English Bible has it: “No living thing could survive.”
At no prior age was it even theoretically possible for all life to be destroyed by human conduct or warfare. But today, in a world of overkill, of nuclear and biological and chemical weapons, the threat of human oblivion has never been more real or more urgent. This awesome fact alone is cogent evidence that we are living in the days of which Christ spoke, and that no previous time could possibly have been “the time of the end.”
But there is even more evidence that we are living in the time of the end. In the book of Daniel, chapter twelve, where the time of the end is described (vs. 1-3), Daniel is told to seal the words of the prophecy until the time of the end (v. 4).Then, the angel adds, “Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase” (v. 4).
Consider that statement carefully. Today, in our generation, knowledge is doubling every ten years. We are living amidst a tremendous knowledge explosion. Technical, scientific, engineering, military, industrial, biological and technological knowledge is growing so rapidly that scientists and educators themselves cannot keep up with it!
Further, just as Daniel was told, thousands are running to and fro in our age of rapid transportation. The invention of the automobile, the diesel engine, the airplane, and advances in the development of these inventions has made it possible for people to “run to and fro” on a scale totally unparalleled in all the span of human history. Clearly, then, there is overwhelming evidence that we are living in the time of the end!
Christ declared that unless the days of great strife and global conflict to occur in the future were cut short, all life would be annihilated. But, He added, those days will be cut short, by His second coming to stop mankind’s suicidal plunged into all-out global war!
Recapitulating what Jesus said, there will be wars, famines, earthquakes, moral degeneration, all culminating in global war and the greatest holocaust the world has ever seen (Matt. 24:21-22).At that time, many false saviors and messiahs will arise, as predicted in (vs. 23-26). But what will occur after that?
“Immediately after the tribulation of those days,” Jesus announced with authority, “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light (it could be the volcanic activity on earth will darken the atmosphere with volcanic ash and obscure the light from those heavenly bodies), and the stars (perhaps referring to meteorites) will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken” (Matt. 24:29).
Luke also describes this epochal event: “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars, and upon the earth distress of nations in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world” (Luke 21:25-26). Such a colossal event sets the stage for an even greater event.
Biblical prophecy says the whole earth will be in an uproar when Jesus is about to return. Tumultuous upheavals of nature, cataclysms caused by earthquakes and volcanic eruptions and nuclear wars will be coming. This time of worldwide upheaval and war is termed “the day of the Lord” in many places in Biblical prophecy. The prophet Joel describes it this way: “And I will give portents in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and columns of smoke. The sun shall be turned to darkness, and the moon to blood, before the great and terrible day of the Lord comes” (Joel 2:30-31).
Thus the amazing signs in the heavens, also mentioned in Matthew 24:29, occur just before the day of the Lord – the time of God’s direct intervention in world affairs to save mankind.
Zechariah also speaks of this frightful day. He declares: “Behold, a day of the Lord is coming. For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women ravished” (Zech. 14:1).
Here again we see nations sending armies to the Middle East at the time of the end. This massive military attack is described in the book of Revelation: “The sixth angel poured his bowl on the great river Euphrates, and its water was dried up, to prepare the way for the kings from the east. And I saw, issuing from the mouth of the dragon and from the mouth of the beast and from the mouth of the false prophet, three foul spirits like frogs; for they are demonic spirits, performing signs, who go abroad to the kings of the whole world, to assemble them for battle on the great day of God the Almighty. And they assembled them at the place which is called in Hebrew Armageddon” (Rev. 16:12-16).
Armageddon refers to the broad valley of Megiddo north of Jerusalem, where historically, armies have gathered and fought on the plain of Esdraelon. The term “Armageddon” signifies a place of great slaughter. Zechariah warns, “Then the Lord will go forth and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle. On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives which lies before Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley. Then the Lord your God will come, and all the holy ones with him” (Zech. 14:3-5).
Here, the second coming of Jesus Christ is vividly described, and it is stated that it occurs during the “day of the Lord.” This is the time period mentioned in Revelation. But what is prophesied to occur next?
Imagine that you are living near Jerusalem when this happens. Your mind is in turmoil, your life has been greatly affected by the calamity of the times, but somehow you have survived, you have come through it all mentally and psychologically sound, and you are wondering what all these things mean.
You notice the armies gathering around Jerusalem and in the valley of Megiddo to the north. You hear that they are rapidly approaching the city. Suddenly a tremendous blast rends the air. You see a bright flash like a surging bolt of lightning, you clap your hands to your ears because of the roar of pealing thunder, and you try to hide.
You look, and there He is, Jesus Christ, setting foot on the Mount of Olives to the east of Jerusalem. At that moment a seismic tremor shakes the ground beneath your feet. You cannot run, but you try. You slowly realize that you have witnessed an epochal event, the very second coming of Jesus Christ!
The Bible describes it, in the word of the apostle John: “Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! He who sat upon it is called FAITHFUL and TRUE, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems; and he has a name inscribed which no one knows but himself. He is clad in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God.”
John continues: “And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure followed him on white horses. From his mouth issues a sharp sword with which to smite the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron; he will tread the wine press of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty” (Rev.19:11-15).
So we ask again: Are we really living in the time of the end, the period which will culminate in this awesome event?
Jesus warned: “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates” (Matt. 24:32-33). Jesus also said, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only” (Matt. 24:36). Christ went so far as to say, “Therefore you also must be ready; for the Son of man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (v. 44).
Christ compared His coming to that of a thief in the night. A thief comes unexpectedly; nobody is aware of his intentions; the household is usually asleep or away. Even so will the coming of Christ be. He will come and catch the world by surprise! Nobody will be able to anticipate exactly when he will return.
But we can know whether the signs Jesus said would precede His coming are unfolding in the world, today. Unlike the Middle Ages, we live in an age in which global life could be extinguished in nuclear, biological and chemical war. Unlike those who predicted and prognosticated that Jesus would return in the Middle Ages, or 1844, or 1914 and 2011, we can look at the very words of Jesus in the gospel accounts and see for the first time that we stand on the brink of total annihilation by the hand of man.
Scoffers will always deny it. Skeptics will point to the previous centuries when theologians misunderstood the Bible and thought Jesus would return in their day. They can scoff at any thought of His returning in our generation. But examine the prophecies of the Bible and judge for yourself. Study the evidence. And then decide what you ought to do about it. (Send for our FREE CD’s, “All Things Continue…” and “The Last Generation”). They can be ordered from our FREE MATERIALS section on our website.