(Washington, D.C.) — With today being 12/12/12, many people around the world are buzzing about the significance (if any) to this day. With the end of the Mayan calendar approaching on 12/21, people are asking if this is the “End of Days.”
* A Fox News headline reads: “With mere days to ‘doomsday,’ scientists call for calm.”
* The Detroit Free Press has a story called: “Mayan doomsday or not, all eyes on Dec. 21.”
* A headline in one British newspaper reads: “Doomsayers await the end of the world: But governments try to reassure their citizens not to panic.”
* A headline in another British paper reads: “Mayan apocalypse: panic spreads as December 21 nears: Fears that the end of the world is nigh have spread across the world with only days until the end of the Mayan calendar, with doomsday-mongers predicting a cataclysmic end to the history of Earth.”
* An Asian news site has a story called: “End of the world: There are only nine days left.“
* Another Asian news service is running this headline: “Doomsday phobia hits China.”
* Many are watching (or re-watching) the recent film, 2012.
To be clear: the Bible says nothing about 12/12/12. Nor does it say anything about the Mayan calendar. The prophecies in Scripture, however, do speak a great deal about the End of Days, known as the “last days” and the “latter times.” In several of my books — including Implosion: Can America Recover From Its Economic & Spiritual Challenges In Time? — I examine a number of these prophecies and consider their implications for the U.S., Israel, and other nations.
Short version: the Earth is not literally coming to an end this month. The Bible does say the earth will be destroyed someday, and then He will create a new earth. “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away,” wrote the Apostle John in a prophecy about the future found in Revelation 21:1. The Apostle Peter wrote, “[T]he heavens will pass aways with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.” (2 Peter 3:10). But four major prophetic events happen before the literal destruction and recreation of our planet: 1) the Rapture; 2) the Tribulation, a seven year period of God’s judgment; 3) the Second Coming of Christ; and 4) the “Millennial Kingdom,” a thousand year period in which Christ reigns over the entire earth. So at this point, we are at least 1,007 years away from the end of the earth.
Again, I’ve written about these issues in the past, but given the widespread interest this week, let’s look at several of these issues a bit more closely:
Q: What does the Bible teach about the second coming of Jesus and something called “the Rapture”?
A: The Bible describes two separate and distinct future events, both of which are often described as the Second Coming. The first event is what Bible scholars call the Rapture. In 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, the apostle Paul writes that “the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.” In this passage, Paul is describing an event in which Jesus Christ will not physically, literally touch down on the earth but will first come “in the clouds” and snatch away His true followers from the earth in an instant of time. Those who have not chosen to follow Christ, those who have not been “born again,” will remain behind on the earth and will have to go through a terrible time of wars, famines, natural disasters, and divine judgments known as the Tribulation.
The second event occurs at the end of the Tribulation. This is when the Bible teaches that Jesus will physically, literally return to earth, destroy His enemies, and set up His own righteous government based in Jerusalem. He will reign on earth for one thousand years. In Revelation 19:11–20:6, the apostle John writes, “I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse, and He who sat on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and wages war. His eyes are a flame of fire, and on His head are many diadems; and He has a name written on Him which no one knows except Himself. He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. . . . He will rule [the nations]. . . . And he laid hold of the dragon, the serpent of old, who is the devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, and he threw him into the abyss. . . . And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony of Jesus and because of the word of God . . . and they came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years. . . . Blessed and holy is the one who has a part in the first resurrection. . . . They will be priests of God and of Christ and will reign with Him for a thousand years.”
Q: Are there any signs that will indicate when the return of Jesus Christ is close at hand, and if so, what are they?
A: One day while Jesus and His disciples were sitting on the Mount of Olives, overlooking the city of Jerusalem, the disciples asked Him this very question. Their query is recounted in Matthew 24:3.
“Tell us,” they said, “what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”
Jesus could have refused to answer the question. Instead, He answered them at great length and detail. His answers are recorded in Matthew chapter 24 and in Luke chapter 21, and they provide a checklist of signs to watch for. Among them:
- Revolutions (Luke 21:9, NIV)
- The rise of false prophets and false messiahs (Matthew 24:4-5, 11, 23-27)
- Wars and rumors of wars (Matthew 24:6)
- Nations rising against nations (Matthew 24:7)
- Kingdoms rising against kingdoms (Matthew 24:7)
- Famines (Matthew 24:7)
- Plagues (Luke 21:11)
- Earthquakes (Matthew 24:7) and “great earthquakes” (Luke 21:11)
- “Terrors” that lead to “men fainting from fear” (Luke 21:11, 26)
- Persecution of the believers (Matthew 24:9)
- Apostasy and betrayal of one another (Matthew 24:10)
- Increasing lawlessness (Matthew 24:12)
- People’s love for one another growing cold (Matthew 24:12)
- “The roaring of the sea and the waves” (Luke 21:25)
- The good news (the gospel) of Christ’s love and forgiveness will be preached “in the whole world as a testimony to all the nations”—even Muslim nations, even Radical nations—“and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14)
Jesus cautioned His followers not to speculate on the exact time of the Rapture or the Second Coming. In Matthew 24:36, He said that “of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.” But “day and hour” is a very narrow slice of time. By giving us at least fifteen other specific signs that would be happening in the last days, Jesus clearly wanted us to know when the time of His return was rapidly approaching.
Why? He gave the answer in Matthew 24:42, when He said, “Therefore, be on the alert.” He reinforced the point in the next verse, when again He urged His followers to be “on the alert.” In Matthew 24:44, He stressed this critical point for a third time. “You also must be ready,” He insisted, “for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.”
Followers of Jesus Christ who study these signs are coming to the conclusion that they are being fulfilled today and that we are, in fact, living in the last days. They are, after all, living through revolutions, wars and rumors of wars, and horrifying persecution, for starters.
They have no idea precisely when Jesus will return, of course. But given how closely world events are tracking with Bible prophecy, they find themselves increasingly motivated to “be ready” by living lives of holiness, by sharing the gospel with Muslims and nominal Christians, by making disciples of all nations, and by planting new church congregations throughout the region.
That said, a final thought: while this month will not see the literal end of the world, is it theoretically possible that the Rapture could happen this month, even on 12/12/12? It is possible. I’m not saying it will happen that way. I have no idea. No one but God knows when the Ratpure will happen. But it could happen at any time. We should, therefore, be ready at any moment. How about you? Are you ready?
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