Doomsday Predictions

Dr. Ron J. Bigalke

Acts of disaster have fascinated people since the beginning of time. Religious sects arise worldwide to explain the acts of awesome devastation that are beyond human comprehension and control. Scripture predicts earthquakes, famines, natural disasters, and wars to occur in relation to the end of the age. There have been many times throughout history that people have believed they were living in the time of the end. However, in today’s troubled world, more and more people believe that doomsday is imminent.

The term “disaster” is a combination of Latin words meaning “ill-starred,” which refers to the early belief that such occurrences were divine punishments. Etymologically, something disastrous is “’ill-starred” and can be synonymous with catastrophe. The present age is one of calamity, cataclysm, and catastrophe. Disaster is everywhere, and continues to be the dominant theme of conversation and news. While the 21st century may not be more disastrous than the past, awareness of catastrophe is certainly more heightened. The media have brought disaster into the living room more readily.

In the previous century, many people feared the world was nearing a nuclear apocalypse. Who can forget the pervasive speculation at the turn of the century regarding Y2K (the millennium bug that was supposed to bring forth catastrophic problems at midnight on 1 January 2000, potentially resulting in the end of the civilized world)? The Mayan calendar became infamous in 2012 when one of its great cycles ended. Media hype and hysteria ensued, with predictions of an apocalypse on 21 December 2012. A few, influential religious leaders then predicted a series of “blood” moons in 2014-15 as heralds of the Lord’s second coming. The latest war between Israel and Hamas has now caused speculations that it may initiate the apocalypse and set the stage for the second coming of Christ.

Every view of the millennium has advocates who have made end-time predictions. Edgar C. Whisenant (1932-2001), a former NASA rocket engineer and premillennial Bible teacher, predicted the return of Christ in 1988, and revised his dates frequent times when proven wrong (as expected). One of the most recent amillennialists to prophesy end-time events was Christian radio broadcaster Harold Camping (1921-2013), who first predicted doomsday events to culminate in 1994, and then falsely prophesied again in 2011. The first major postmillennial thinker in the United States was Christian preacher and theologian Jonathan Edwards (1703-58). Edwards speculated that contemporary events of his time proved the millennium was imminent. In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, liberal theologians modified postmillennialism by redefining biblical prophecies in terms of a social gospel.

Many devout, knowledgeable, and sincere people have regarded the end of the age as imminent, and many of those individuals have used the Bible to prove such beliefs. What is important to know is they have all been wrong! The failure of those predictions should not cause one to be adverse to biblical prophecies of the end, because someday they will be fulfilled and Jesus will return in glory and power. While it is easy to refute failed predictions for the Lord’s return, many Christians relate current events to specific biblical prophecies, perceiving them to indicate life is approaching the end of the age. While not declaring a specific day for the second coming, many still do so implicitly. How should Christians respond to all the doomsday predictions and related news events?

Certainly, it is commendable to “discern the signs of the times” (Matt 16:3) and to live with eager anticipation of the Lord’s return (Tit 2:13). Many believers probably do not live enough in expectation of the second coming. Nevertheless, one cannot ignore the explicit statement from Jesus that no one knows “of that day and hour” when the Son is coming (Matt 24:36). The inability to “know which day your Lord is coming” requires alertness, yet also patience (v. 42). Sadly, there have been those in the past who quit their jobs, sold their homes, and closed their bank account(s) so they could devote themselves to prayer and readiness in expectation of a predicted date.

As opposed to squandering one’s resources, Jesus taught His followers to be productive. In the parable of the talents, the Lord told a story in which a man departed on a journey and entrusted his possessions to his servants (Matt 25:14). He “also commanded the doorkeeper to stay on the alert” (Mark 13:34). Jesus commanded His disciples to “be on the alert,” because they would not know the time of His coming (v. 35). Alertness does not mean concocting a prediction for the Lord’s coming; it is faithfulness with one’s responsibilities in the present until He returns.

Not knowing the timing for an event can be uncomfortable, yet Jesus encouraged such discomfort so that one would always be ready for His return. The conclusion of His parable of the ten virgins communicates what it means to await the Lord’s coming in a prudent and sensible manner: “‘Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour” (Matt 25:13). The time of the Lord’s return is not the believer’s concern; rather, alertness for His coming means having such expectation impact one’s life in the present (cf. Acts 1:10-11).

Jesus said, “Behold, I am coming quickly” (Rev 22:12a). Many people find it difficult to understand why Jesus has not yet returned. Second Peter 3:8-9 reads, “But do not let this one fact escape your notice, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years like one day. The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” The Day of the Lord is certain to occur (v. 10), and just as a human day reaches a conclusion, so also will it. In view of that coming time, Scripture proclaims, “Behold, now is ‘THE ACCEPTABLE TIME,’ behold, now is ‘THE DAY OF SALVATION’” (2 Cor 6:2b). Although the day of salvation has endured for thousands of years, it will certainly reach an end. The opportunity of grace will one day cease. Jesus Christ will return at the appointed time (Rev 19:11-13).

A personal doomsday awaits the person who is not prepared for the Lord’s return (Matt 24:42-51). Everyday life, whether an accident or illness, can bring a person before the justice of God more readily than a global disaster (Jas 4:13-16). Regardless of the precise time when biblical prophecies of the end will be fulfilled, all people are to live each and every day in view of eternity.

Many people assume more time than is theirs to have faith in Christ. Many are mistaken in thinking they can indefinitely halt having faith in God, yet just like the leaves that wither, so will our earthly lives. Jesus gave an account of an individual who did not give any thought regarding eternity (Luke 12:20). God responded to him: “‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared?’”

Jesus articulated the tremendous error involved in only thinking of life in the present and not being mindful regarding eternity. “Behold, now is ‘THE ACCEPTABLE TIME,’ behold, now is ‘THE DAY OF SALVATION.’” Like the individual that Jesus addressed, we never know when God requires our soul. Now is the time to believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, and only then can we know that we are ready for eternity and will enter heaven.

Far too many Christians are being deceived or troubled by false prophets. God’s words through the prophet Jeremiah are as relevant now as when they were first uttered: “I did not send these prophets, but they ran. I did not speak to them, but they prophesied” (23:21). The truth is, false prophets read into Scripture what just is not there. It is entirely appropriate to pray for their repentance for instigating such confusion. The large majority of doomsday predictions are nothing more than speculation or unreasoned hysteria. Computer experts did not propagate the Y2K panic. Misinterpretation of the Mayan “Long Count” calendar was the reason for a prediction that disaster would occur on 21 December 2012. Scientists criticized the blood moon prophecy. No credible Bible teacher believed the blood moon phenomenon would be anything other than another aspect of God’s marvelous displays of His splendor in creation.

Furthermore, when Christians begin accommodating the false prophecies of religious charlatans and propagate their misinformation (subsequent to the dates arriving and transpiring, with no return of Jesus), the credibility of the church is damaged and the Word of God suffers disrepute. Moreover, those believers who gullibly believed the prognostications of such “prophets,” become discouraged and may even question the reality of the Lord’s second coming, similar to the Thessalonians who were persuaded by messages contrary to the apostolic teaching (cf. 2 Thess 2:2-5). By contrast, the “noble-minded” Bereans were “examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11).

A word of clarification is necessary. Scripture indicates that present times are indeed the “last days,” for that is the entire time between the Lord’s first and second coming (cf. Heb 1:2). Nevertheless, 1 John 4:18 exhorts, “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” Consequently, if someone (even if their book[s] are popular) instills an attitude of anxiety or fear within you, as a believer, it is not from God. “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity [cowardice], but of power and love and discipline [resolute judgment]” (2 Tim 1:7).

Jesus taught His disciples that God can be trusted in all things (Matt 6:25-34), because nothing—“things present, nor things to come”—can separate them “from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:38-39). Scripture allows one to “discern the signs of the times” (Matt 16:3), yet it is not possible for anyone to know the day and hour for the Lord’s return (24:36). The end will come, yet the believer’s focus is not upon when but who to serve as His witnesses (Acts 1:7-8), and what to do in the present, which is “make disciples of all the nations” (Matt 28:19).

Midnight Call - 03/2024

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