A lot of people are asking these days: When is the end of the world coming?
Ever since I got serious about my faith about 50 years ago, there has been a recurring theme I hear among many of my Christian friends, and especially online today.
It’s the deeply held conviction that Jesus is coming back, very soon, any day now, which will trigger the other thing I hear over and over, that the end of the world is coming, that we’re in the “end times” as many like to call it.
There are books and sermons, Bible studies and podcasts, online discussions and debates, and every possible forum you can imagine, promoting a wide range of opinions about how and when the end of the world will come.
Do you remember about 11 or 12 years ago, a fellow named Harold Camping predicted with great fanfare, expectation, and amazing confidence that May 21, 2011 would be the beginning of the end. Jesus would return, the rapture would take the faithful to heaven and soon the world would be destroyed with earthquakes and all kinds of horror. He took out full page ads in large city newspapers and had billboards warning people of the impending doom.
I actually watched one of his videos.
Giving him the benefit of the doubt, I think he was sincerely convinced he was right. He had all kinds of charts, time tables, dates, and calculations that convinced him he was on the right track.
A lot of folks scoffed at him. Some Christians shook their heads in embarrassment and denounced him. Probably most people didn’t take his seriously and gave the whole affair little thought. But remarkably, some people actually believed him.
Here was a very sincere fellow earnestly preaching what he thought was true. He honestly believed his interpretation of the Bible’s prophecies.
Obviously, his calculations were not accurate. Jesus did not return on May 21. Harold Camping then revised the date to October 21, 2011. But that day came and went with no Jesus and no end of the world. Interestingly enough, he had made the same prediction for some time in 1994, also with several revisions of dates.
Humiliation and devastation
Can you imagine how humiliating and humbling this must have felt? But more than that I think he must have been devastated and deeply disappointed that what he believed so sincerely did not take place the way he thought it would.
According to Wikipedia, he later privately admitted that he had been wrong to make such a prediction.
Harold Camping was not the first, and probably will not be the last person to try to calculate when what they think of as the second coming of Jesus and the end of the world will occur. It’s kind of sad this earnest and dedicated student of the Bible spent decades of life on chasing this theological, eschatological rabbit. Eschatology, by the way, is the study of End Times. It’s a pretty big deal with a lot of churches.
If you take the Bible literally…
And I would just like to say, as an aside, that for those who are expecting the end of the world any day now, and who also insist the Bible must be taken literally, there is no way the world could end any time soon.
God promises in one of the Ten Commandments that He will show
love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments. Exodus 20:6 NIV
How long is a thousand generations? Have you ever done the math? Let’s say a generation is 30 years. That’s 30,000 years.
Moses, to whom God gave the Ten Commandments, lived only about 3,300 years ago.
We’ve got a lot more time to pass to reach the 1,000 generations God will express love to for obeying His commandments.
Not all Bible scholars believe this is a literal number. But if you take the Bible literally, you’ve got to recalculate when the end of the world will be.
I can only wonder about all the other self-appointed prophets today that prophesy about the end times or any number or other issues in the name of God. They may believe God has revealed things to them. Then they try to convince others. But just because someone makes some grand prediction about the future or how Bible prophecy will be fulfilled, is no guarantee they are correct.
If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously, so do not be alarmed. Deuteronomy 18:22 NIV
There was quite a problem with false prophets in the Old Testament, and we obviously still have this problem today.
Then the LORD said, “These prophets are telling lies in my name. I did not send them or tell them to speak. I did not give them any messages. They prophesy of visions and revelations they have never seen or heard. They speak foolishness made up in their own lying hearts. Jeremiah 14:14 NLT
Be careful who you listen to. And that includes me! Just because I say something about what the Bible says, please do NOT take my word for it. Go do your own Bible research. Pray about it. Ask God for guidance. Listen for His voice, not the voice of men to tell you what the Bible is saying.
Jesus set the standard
When Jesus approved of Peter’s answer to who Jesus was, he pointed out that no person had told him Jesus was the Christ. It was a revelation from God.
Jesus replied, “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being.” Matthew 16:17 NLT
I’ll say it again, don’t take any person’s word that God has revealed something to them unless you see the signs of the prophecy being fulfilled.
And if you feel God has revealed something to you, be careful and prayerful in your efforts to convince others you’re right. If God has truly revealed something to you, God, and not your human will, will find a way to share it with others.
So, when is the end of the world coming?
Let’s get back to this idea of the end of the world.
I’ve been thinking about this on and off for years actually. One thing I’ve realized is that it’s important to go back to the original Greek word for “world” when it’s used in this phrase in “the end of the world” in some translations.
For example in the parable of the tares and the wheat, Jesus explains that
the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. Matthew 13:39 KJV
The Greek word for world is aiōn which has the sense of “an era” or specific time period. It’s talking about the end of an era, the end of this age, the end of the world as we currently know it, you might say.
Physical scientists predict all sorts of possibilities for the end of the earth. In so many millions or billions of years, the sun will expand and consume the planet. Or a giant asteroid could destroy us. Others think man-induced climate change will destroy our planetary home.
So, I don’t disagree that at some point this material world will come to an end. How that will happen is way beyond my prophetic skills.
The end of the world is not a one time event
But the more I’ve thought about it, the more I believe that the end of the material world is not just a one-time historical or chronological event, way off, or not so far off, in the future. It’s more about how we see the world on a daily basis.
To the degree there is a spiritualization of the way we perceive the world, the world will appear less and less material.
The material world ends, or disappears, or appears less material, bit by bit as our awareness increases of the absolute supremacy of God and His already-present spiritual kingdom, glory, and power.
I know, that’s a pretty bold statement. But think this verse from the book of Revelation for just a minute. John writes,
“And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.” Revelation 21:1 KJV
What did John see?
John of Patmos was still here on earth, but could see the end of the first heaven and earth and the dawning of a new heaven and earth. He saw the material world as passed away. Which is kind of odd, in one sense, because he was still in it. Or was he?
Was it just a vision he saw of some future event or was it what was being revealed to him, to his advanced abilities of spiritual perception, so that he saw at that moment what was already real and true? If that’s the case, are the new heaven and earth real and true right now for us to bear witness to as well?
Now I have to be completely transparent here. This is not an idea I came up with. One of my favorite Christian authors, from over a hundred years ago, Mary Baker Eddy, shared this idea in her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures.*
And here again, I’m not trying to convince you I’m right or that Eddy is right. I’m just sharing how I currently see things. But don’t take my word or anyone’s word for it. Go back to the Bible itself.
The new heaven and new earth
I’ll ask again, Are the new heaven and earth real and true right now for us to bear witness to just as John did?
God does not finally achieve supremacy at some point in the future. God is supreme now and forever. His kingdom exists now and forever. It is not a place to go in the future. I talk about this idea a lot on The Bible Speaks to You Podcast.
This kingdom, the supreme reign of God exists right now. We can open our hearts and lives to it right now. You cannot see it with your material eyeballs or touch it with your fingers. You cannot figure it out with the human mind.
It is our spiritual senses that must awaken, must be opened, in order to behold this present glory.
But again, don’t take my word for it. Jesus said,
The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Matthew 4:17 KJV
God’s kingdom is here
Jesus said that almost 2,000 years ago and it’s still true today. God’s kingdom is here, but we can’t see it unless we’re born of the Spirit, born anew, born from above. Jesus told Nicodemus,
Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. John 3:3 KJV
Paul says to come out from the material world and “be ye separate.” (see 2 Corinthians 6:17 below) He also tells us:
put off concerning the former conversation [or lifestyle] the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24 KJV
Every time we put off the old, material man with his deeds and put on the new, reborn, spiritual man in God’s likeness, we are witnessing the end, the ending, of the material world. Every time you are led by the Spirit of God instead of sinful ways and means of living, the material world is coming to an end.
Where do you really live?
Now you may be thinking, “Hey James, that sounds great, but the world is just as material as it ever was and we still live in it, and we still live in our flesh—in case you hadn’t noticed.
But do we really…still live in the flesh?
Where do we actually live? Paul states flatly
You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. Romans 8:9 NIV
And he declares to the Athenians, referring to God,
For in him we live, and move, and have our being.” Acts 17:28 NIV
Paul does not use the future tense of these verbs. If it was true in the present then, it is true in the present today, right here, right now, for us as well.
When will we quit living in the material world? We’ve been taught it will happen after we die. But that’s not what Jesus said.
Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent. John 17:3 NIV
Again, this is in the present tense. Jesus did not say eternal life will be in the future when we know God, but right now.
An important question…
So the question is: When will we be more consciously present in the spiritual realm of God’s kingdom here on Earth?
It happens one step of faith at a time. One spiritual insight at a time. One action in obedience to God at a time. One victory over sin at a time.
Every time you turn away from the world’s way of doing things and follow God’s will, the material world is coming to an end. Each time you respond with God’s love instead of fear, greed, hatred, or revenge, the material world is coming to an end. Every time you battle with temptation and are victorious, the material world is coming to an end.
And every time others have spiritual victories in their lives, the material world is coming to an end.
Or to put it another way, you’re just seeing more clearly, as John did on the island of Patmos, that the material world, the first heaven and first earth, as he calls it, does not have the substance, prestige, or power we have been conditioned to believe.
When the final trumpet referred to in 1 Corinthians 15:51, 52 (see below) sounds the victory over all evil, the material world will be no more. John has already born witness of this. And you and I can begin to bear witness of it ending.
But it is not for you and me, or any man or woman, to predict when that final moment takes place in human history. It is not an event we need to attach a date and time to.
Quit trying to figure out when the end of the world is
Harold Camping, and others, had to learn the truth of what Jesus said about the end of this era and his appearing,
But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Mark 13:32 NIV
If Jesus doesn’t know the day, we shouldn’t even try to figure it out. When Jesus’s disciples asked him about certain future events he said to them,
It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. Acts 1:7, 8 NIV
We don’t need to figure out God’s time table. We need to bear witness to God and His Son, Jesus Christ. As we do, we’ll bear witness to the new heaven and new earth, right where there is no more old earth or heaven to bear witness to.
The end of the material world is today and every day that we obey the First Commandment, that we put God and the things of the Spirit first and foremost in our lives.
The end of the material world is today and every day that we follow Christ and imbibe his mindset that the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
The more we do this, the more we will see the end of this material world, the less material it will appear, because the lens we’re looking through is more spiritual. And the more we will see of God’s kingdom already come, here and now.
Don’t believe what the world, and the people in it, tell you. Open your eyes, your spiritual eyes, and bear witness to what already exists, and that God is revealing to you this very day, that the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
James Early, the Jesus Mindset Coach, is a Bible teacher, speaker, and podcaster. He conducts Bible workshops online and in person. His focus is on getting back to the original Christianity of Jesus by embracing the mindset of Christ in daily life. Contact him here.
Exodus 20:6 NIV
6 love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
Deuteronomy 18:22 NIV
22 If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously, so do not be alarmed.
Jeremiah 14:14 NLT
14 Then the LORD said, “These prophets are telling lies in my name. I did not send them or tell them to speak. I did not give them any messages. They prophesy of visions and revelations they have never seen or heard. They speak foolishness made up in their own lying hearts.
Matthew 16:17 NLT
17 Jesus replied, “You are blessed, Simon son of John, because my Father in heaven has revealed this to you. You did not learn this from any human being.”
Matthew 13:39 KJV
39 the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels.
Revelation 21:1 KJV
1 “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.”
Matthew 4:17 KJV
17 The kingdom of heaven is at hand.
John 3:3 KJV
3 Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
2 Corinthians 6:17 KJV
Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you,Paul also counsels us to
Ephesians 4:22-24 KJV
22 put off concerning the former conversation [or lifestyle] the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;
23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;
24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
Romans 8:9 NIV
9 You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you.
Acts 17:28 NIV
28 For in him we live, and move, and have our being.”
John 17:3 NIV
3 Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent.
1 Corinthians 15:51, 52 NIV
51 …we will all be changed—
52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.
Mark 13:32 NIV
32 But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
Acts 1:7, 8 NIV
7 It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.
8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
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