Many world religions predict an end to this world. Christianity does, too; however, it emphasizes the futility of trying to predict doomsday’s timing and instead instructs all humanity to focus on living in a way that is pleasing to God. In many doomsday predictions—such as the December 21, 2012, date based on the ancient Mayan calendar—“the end” simply represented the time when the whole cycle of creation started over. But according to Christian thought, the end of this world will usher in a completely new creation where those who have trusted in Christ to pay for their sins will live with God in eternal paradise.
What are the two most dangerous geometric figures?
A vicious circle and a firing line.
Okay, so the joke is awful, but it highlights the two different ways people throughout history have viewed time. Most ancient Near Eastern religions viewed time in a cyclical fashion where the performance of New Year festivals and rituals “reactualized” the original cosmology. In stark contrast, Christianity describes a universe operating under linear time. The universe starts “in the beginning” and will come to a final end.
One ancient culture’s calendar sparked lots of speculation regarding the possibility of a December 21, 2012, doomsday. Historically speaking, the date marks the end of a 5,125 cycle on a calendar used by the Mayans. Various fringe groups have used this “ending” to argue for doomsday scenarios or New Age spiritual transformations. One scenario even inspired a movie (a marginal one, in my opinion) where the Yellowstone supervolcano erupts and destroys all life except for the passengers aboard a few arks built in Tibet.
While I am confident that December 21 will come and go without the world ending or the occurrence of significant spiritual transformations, I do think it worthwhile to highlight a number of chronological things that validate the biblical view of the universe and the end times.
The Biblical Chronology
The Bible opens by describing the creation of the universe: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” Yet, up until the early 1900s, most scientists believed the universe had existed forever into the past. Major scientific discoveries over the last 100+ years have confirmed that the universe had a beginning. Einstein developed the theory of general relativity. Hubble discovered the expansion of the universe. Penzias and Wilson discovered the cosmic microwave background radiation. Hawking and Penrose developed space-time theorems (based on general relativity) showing that the universe had a cause outside of itself. Borde, Vilenkin, and Guth extended those theorems to show that even the multiverse (if it exists) had a beginning.
Genesis 2 continues by describing the creation of the first humans, Adam and Eve. Numerous lines of evidence from bioinformatics, genetics, and linguistics support the idea that all humanity originated from one pair. This first couple decided to disobey God’s direction and, consequently, all people were separated from God by sinful nature.
Then, over 2,000 years ago, Jesus, the second person of the Triune God, “became flesh” and lived among us. Jesus died on the cross to pay the penalty for human disobedience. In a spectacular affirmation of His divinity, Christ rose from the grave on the third day.
Thinking about End Times
The creation of the universe, humanity’s creation and fall, and Christ’s death and resurrection provide a testable chronology that affirms the Bible’s veracity. Since Scripture passes all those tests, it follows that its description of an end to this universe will prove true as well.
Specifically, the Bible describes at least five things that will happen at the end of the world. First, Jesus will come again to Earth. Second, all humans who ever lived will rise from the dead. Third, Jesus will judge all human beings. Fourth, all humans will enter their final eternal state. Those who trusted Jesus to pay for their sin will enter his presence with glorified human bodies. Those who rejected Jesus will suffer consciously the wrath of God as punishment for their sins. Fifth, God will destroy this cosmos and create a new heaven and new earth for all who belong to Him.
The Bible makes it clear that no one knows or can predict when the end will come. Every Christian who has tried to calculate the end has been wrong; Harold Camping provided the most recent public example. (It bears mentioning that, even though many people today have taken the Mayan calendar as a doomsday prediction, the Mayans themselves did not treat it this way.)
Rather than focusing on questionable predictions or on how the end times will look, the Bible commands us to be prepared for whenever it comes. Matthew 25 assures us that the end will come, but, again, it mainly illustrates the importance of being prepared. Therefore, let’s live in holiness, anticipating Christ’s return. To show gratitude to God for his precious gift of redemption, let’s exhibit works that promote goodness, peace, and justice. Let’s be “salt and light” to the culture in which we live and do our part to fulfill the Great Commission by delivering the gospel message to all people.