In spite of terrorism, most people in the world live a fairly sheltered life. However, Clifford Goldstein warns us not to get too complacent.
Is the world about to end? That depends upon what you mean by “about to.” As far as I know, no imminent catastrophe looms. The nuclear threat, of course, remains; but there’s no particular reason to think it’s about to be unleashed, either accidentally or otherwise. Scientists do speculate that the sun will eventually explode, but that’s not about to happen
in the foreseeable future. And as bad as pollution has become in some places, it hasn’t yet reached the point of destroying the world.
So, is the world about to end? From this perspective, the answer is No.
However, from a different perspective, that of Jesus Christ and the promise of His return, the answer isn’t so simple. Though Jesus told us explicitly that the day and hour of His return are unknown (see Matthew 24:36; Mark 13:32), He gave very clear and specific signs by which we can know that it is near. If we are reading these signs right, there’s no question that Jesus is about to return. And when He does return, the world as we know it will indeed end.
Just what are those signs?
The book of Revelation says that before Christ’s return there will be an attempt to establish global religious unity (see Revelation 13:11–18). It warns that a global religio-political system will persecute those who worship and obey God (see Revelation 12:7; 14:8–12).
God condemns this alliance of religion and politics. John the revelator pictures an angel-messenger from heaven shouting God’s warning: “‘Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great! . . . For all the nations have drunk the maddening wine of her adulteries. The kings of the earth committed adultery with her, and the merchants of the earth grew rich from her excessive luxuries.’
“Then [John wrote] I heard another voice from heaven say: ‘Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues; for her sins are piled up to heaven, and God has remembered her crimes’” (Revelation 18:2–5).
How fascinating that in recent years, particularly in Christendom, we have been witnessing a strong drive toward unity—the kind that could ultimately lead to the formation of “Babylon” as depicted in Revelation. Though Jesus does want His church to be united (see John 17:21), this oneness is to be based on a common love of Him and a common obedience to His teachings. In contrast, much of the current drive toward unity stems from political considerations. This motivation perfectly fits the pattern depicted in Revelation, which warns that Babylon will hold great political, economic, and religious power.
The Bible clearly says, too, that the people living in the time of Christ’s return will face powerful spiritual deceptions (see Matthew 24:11; Revelation 16:13, 14). Some of the greatest of these are posed by spiritualism and the occult. Today we see this very thing expressed in the guise of the New Age movement.
Millions all over the world are being deceived by the old lie that after our bodies expire, we immediately go into another conscious existence and that the dead can contact and guide those they’ve left behind. This lie has found expression through channeling, seances, “spirit-guides,” and near-death experiences. Those who believe there’s something inherently immortal in us have no protection against these New Age deceptions.
The Bible explicitly teaches that death is an unconscious sleep (see Psalm 6:5; 146:4; Ecclesiastes 9:5–10). When Lazarus died and Jesus headed toward Bethany to resurrect him, Jesus didn’t say, “Lazarus is now in heaven, but I will bring him back down to
earth.” He said, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up” (John 11:11).
Though spiritualistic and occult manifestations have been around in one form or another for almost all of human history, in recent years there’s been an explosion of interest in these phenomena. TV, drama, movies—all to some degree or another help promote this deception that we live on after we die. The Hollywood hit The Sixth Sense, about a young boy who can see the souls of the dead, is one prime example.
Some manifestations, like near-death experiences, have even taken on a “scientific” aura. Scientists have studied and “affirmed” them, lending them even more credibility among those who don’t know the biblical teaching about death.
Almost all of these deceptions have one thing in common. They avoid telling
us the truth about our situation: that we are sinners, that Jesus Christ died to pay the penalty for our sins, and that only through faith in Him and His shed blood can we receive the promise of eternal life. Yet that’s the one thing all people around the world need to know.
Another sign of the times is the continued and often escalating political, military, and social unrest that ravages the planet. Though the collapse of the Soviet Union has ended the Cold War between the two superpowers, hopes of worldwide harmony have been shattered by the eruption of one regional conflict after another. That shouldn’t be a surprise.
Speaking of the time before His return, Jesus said: “‘You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places’” (Matthew 24:6, 7).
Whether in Rwanda, in the Balkans, in Northern Ireland, or in Africa, war, violence, and bloodshed continue. Whether in Seattle, in Montreal, or in Manila, civil and social unrest continue. Whether in the Middle East, in the United States, or in Russia, the reality of terrorism continues. Exactly as Jesus warned.
What can we learn?
Though many lessons can be drawn from these events, perhaps the most important is this: Jesus Christ’s death paid the price of eternal life for all of us (see John 3:16; Romans 5:21; 2 Peter 3:13; 1 John 5:12:13). But even that great sacrifice won’t help us if He doesn’t return in the clouds of glory and fulfill the promises that cost Him so much. That’s why the Second Coming is so important. Without it, His death would be meaningless.
So, how certain is it that Jesus will return to earth for us? As certain as the fact that He died for us at His first advent.
And Scripture ties Jesus’ return to the end of the world—which brings us back to the question, Is the world about to end? Certainly, the fulfillment of the biblical signs indicates that the day is drawing near.
One thing, however, is sure: At any given moment, the world can end for us. Death is never far away. That’s why every day we need to surrender anew to Jesus, to be covered with His righteousness, the “righteousness of God” (Romans 3:22, KJV) Himself, the
righteousness that makes us ready for the end of the world—whenever it is “about to” come.