Will the world end in 2012? Are "New Age" prognosticators on to something? Can the truth be found on ancient Mayan calendars, or in the pages of your Bible?
What does God’s word tell us about “the end of the world” and the times just ahead?
All around us, the world seems to be mired in problems. Can those problems be solved before the human race is destroyed?
Earthquakes continue to cause suffering and loss. We remember the 9.1 magnitude Tohoku quake, which struck Japan on March 11, 2011. Between the quake itself and the tsunami it spurred, this disaster led to more than 15,000 deaths and at least 25,000 serious injuries. According to World Bank figures, which placed the cost of damage at $235 billion, the Tohoku event is currently the most expensive natural disaster in recorded history. Many observers remain concerned about the lingering effects of radiation release from the Fukushima nuclear power plant that was irreparably damaged by the earthquake and tsunami.
Also in 2011, the United States experienced on May 22 its deadliest tornado since 1947, causing $3 billion in insured damages around the town of Joplin, Missouri. From April 25–28 of that year, a “super outbreak” of 343 tornadoes across the U.S. Midwest caused an estimated $10 billion in damage.
As if natural disasters were not enough, financial crisis is looming in many nations. The U.S. is still reeling from effects of the 2008 global financial meltdown, and Europe is poised on the edge of chaos as the stability of the euro currency is in doubt and the European Union is in danger of losing member nations or breaking up entirely.
Many recent college graduates are having trouble finding jobs, while older workers find themselves without job prospects after layoffs. Immigration is changing the demographics of nations that had for decades—and even centuries—taken shared heritage and values for granted. Long-standing moral and religious norms are being challenged. To many, it seems as though our world is on the brink of total collapse.
So, what will happen? An April 2012 poll by Ipsos Global Public Affairs found, “Nearly 15 percent of people worldwide believe the world will end during their lifetime and 10 percent think the Mayan calendar could signify it will happen in 2012” (“Nearly one in seven thinks end of world is coming,” Reuters, May 1, 2012).
Will the world end during your lifetime? Will it end in 2012? For several years, “New Age” enthusiasts have pointed to the ancient Mayan civilization’s calendar, which ends one of its important cycles on December 21, 2012. Could this be the Mayans’ idea of the end of the world? The recent discovery of a ninth-century ad Mayan inscription in Guatemala’s Xultun complex suggests otherwise, as it includes dates extending 7,000 years into our future (“Ancient Mayan calendar unearthed,” Irish Times, May 11, 2012).
Earlier this year, scientists who monitor the threat of nuclear war moved their symbolic “Doomsday Clock” one minute closer to midnight. On January 10, 2012, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists made this announcement: “It is five minutes to midnight. Two years ago, it appeared that world leaders might address the truly global threats that we face. In many cases, that trend has not continued or has been reversed. For that reason, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is moving the clock hand one minute closer to midnight, back to its time in 2007.”
Yes, it is symbolically just five minutes to midnight! So, will we experience the “midnight” doomsday in 2012? Will 2012 be a time of transition or trouble? Will events long ago prophesied in your Bible occur? Your Bible does predict a climactic, catastrophic conflagration that—were it not for the return of Jesus Christ to save mankind from itself—would destroy all life on the face of the earth. But will 2012 be the date?
The book of Revelation—the final book in the Bible—is sometimes called the Apocalypse. The Greek word apokalypsis signifies a “laying bare” or “disclosure of truth”—a revealing. In modern English, “apocalypse” has come to refer to a major catastrophe, because of the events described in the apokalypsis revealed by the Apostle John in the book of Revelation.
Those who understand the symbolism of this mysterious book can recognize the ride of the prophesied “four horsemen” predicted in its pages. The Apostle John describes four horsemen that symbolize great deception and devastation to mankind and life on earth. “And I looked, and behold, a white horse. He who sat on it had a bow; and a crown was given to him, and he went out conquering and to conquer. When He opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, ‘Come and see.’ Another horse, fiery red, went out. And it was granted to the one who sat on it to take peace from the earth, and that people should kill one another; and there was given to him a great sword. When He opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, ‘Come and see.’ So I looked, and behold, a black horse, and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. And I heard a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, ‘A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not harm the oil and the wine.’ When He opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature saying, ‘Come and see.’ So I looked, and behold, a pale horse. And the name of him who sat on it was Death, and Hades followed with him” (Revelation 6:2–8).
One of the basic principles for understanding Bible prophecy is that the Bible interprets itself. In this case, Jesus Himself tells us the meaning of these four horsemen, as we will see later. Jesus, the Revelator, wants us to understand this book. Notice the purpose of the book. “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show His servants—things which must shortly take place. And He sent and signified it by His angel to His servant John” (Revelation 1:1).
Since Jesus is the Revelator, did He reveal their symbolic meaning? Yes, He did! He gave an outline of end-time prophetic events in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21. These prophetic events explain the four horsemen in the book of Revelation. Putting the Gospel accounts and Revelation together, we see that the famous four horsemen of the Apocalypse symbolize:
These four horsemen will cause devastation all over the earth. We read: that “power was given to them over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword, with hunger, with death, and by the beasts of the earth” (Revelation 6:8).
Jesus’ disciples asked Him, “what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3). Jesus explains that Christians will be persecuted (v. 9). The Gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness (v. 14). You are reading that gospel being preached in this magazine!
In the NKJV Bible, the subhead after verse 14 reads, “The Great Tribulation.” In 70ad, Roman armies besieged Jerusalem and destroyed the Second Temple. The Jewish historian Josephus records that more than one million died. This was “a” great tribulation for the Jewish people. But the end-time great tribulation will begin just three and one-half years before the return of Christ. Jesus gives us and the world this warning: “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened” (Matthew 24:21–22).
The Great Tribulation will be a time unique in human history. There has never been such a time in mankind’s experience. The prophet Jeremiah calls it the “time of Jacob’s trouble”—trouble for the end-time descendants of Jacob (whose name was changed to “Israel”). This tribulation is prophesied to devastate the Western nations, particularly the American and British-descended peoples. Jeremiah wrote: “Alas! For that day is great, so that none is like it” (Jeremiah 30:7). The prophet Daniel described the Great Tribulation: “And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time. And at that time your people shall be delivered, every one who is found written in the book” (Daniel 12:1). Daniel was told that the fulfillment of the final end-time events will take place over “a time, times, and half a time”—meaning three-and-a-half years (v. 7).
Notice what comes in sequence after the Great Tribulation: “Immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken” (Matthew 24:29).
These cosmic disturbances—the heavenly signs—signal God’s intervention and His judgment on the nations. The heavenly signs introduce the Day of the Lord, leading up to Christ’s Second Coming. The heavenly signs also constitute the sixth seal of Revelation. The Revelator, Jesus Christ, opens the sixth seal. “I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood. And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind. Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place” (Revelation 6:12–14).
The Day of the Lord—God’s wrathful judgment on rebellious nations—will begin right after the heavenly signs (Revelation 6:17)! More than 30 prophecies refer to the Day of the Lord. Isaiah 34:8 and Isaiah 63:4 show that the Day of the Lord in end-time prophecy, the time preceding the Second Coming, is a period of one year!
The three major events we previously mentioned, the Great Tribulation, the heavenly signs, and the year-long Day of the Lord cover a period of about three-and-a-half years. The Day of the Lord is the year preceding the return of Christ!
The Apostle John, author of Revelation, describes the Messiah—Jesus Christ—opening seven seals so we can understand the sequence of prophetic events. You can read about that in chapters 5 and 6 of Revelation. The first five seals, as we have seen, lead up to the Heavenly Signs, or the sixth seal. The seventh seal is the year-long Day of the Lord. This seventh seal consists of seven trumpets. “When He [Christ] opened the seventh seal, there was silence in heaven for about half an hour. And I saw the seven angels who stand before God, and to them were given seven trumpets” (Revelation 8:1–2). Chapters 8 and 9 describe the first six trumpets. The seventh trumpet consists of the seven last plagues or judgments leading up to the return of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
The heading above Revelation 11:15 in the NKJV is: “Seventh Trumpet: The Kingdom Proclaimed.” This great announcement takes place at the seventh trumpet. It is the good news all Christians look forward to. “Then the seventh angel sounded: And there were loud voices in heaven, saying, ‘The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!’” (Revelation 11:15).
This is wonderful news for true Christians, but how will the nations respond? How will you respond? Notice: “The nations were angry, and Your wrath has come” (v. 18). The nations of planet Earth will try to fight against God’s Kingdom on earth. They will be angry that Christ has come to rule on the earth as King of kings and Lord of lords, assisted by His saints.
God has been warning all of us to prepare for Armageddon. Even General Douglas MacArthur gave a prescient warning at the end of World War II. Addressing the dignitaries gathered on the U.S.S. Missouri for the ceremony marking Japan’s formal surrender, MacArthur famously said: “Military alliances, balances of power, leagues of nations, all in turn failed, leaving the only path to be the way of the crucible of war. The utter destructiveness of war now blocks out this alternative. We have had our last chance. If we will not devise some greater and more equitable system, our Armageddon will be at our door.”
Where did the term “Armageddon” come from? Har Megiddo is Hebrew for “the Mount of Megiddo.” Scripture reveals that Satan and his demons will influence the nations to gather together at Megiddo, about 55 miles north of Jerusalem, to fight against Christ at His coming! “For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty. Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame. And they [the spirits of demons] gathered them together to the place called in Hebrew, Armageddon” (Revelation 16:14–16).
Christ and His army will conquer the rebellious and evil nations. The Prince of Peace will win this battle between good and evil. The King of kings, along with the resurrected saints, will establish the Kingdom of God on planet Earth, and will teach all nations the way of peace, love and godly prosperity (Isaiah 2:2–4). In the “model prayer,” Jesus taught Christians to pray, “Your kingdom come” (Matthew 6:10). This is the kingdom for which we are praying!
God promises protection for His spiritually alert people in the dangerous times ahead! Jesus exhorts us, “Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36). How can we do this? We need to trust the Bible’s “sure word of prophecy” (2 Peter 1:19, KJV).
During the Great Tribulation, Jerusalem will be trodden down by the Gentiles for 42 months, and the two witnesses will prophesy for 1,260 days (Revelation 11:2–3). God’s most faithful people will be taken to a safe place in the wilderness for three-and-a-half times—three and-a-half years—and the Beast power will continue through these 42 months (Revelation 12:13–17).
Yes, we can know from the Apostle John’s visions, recorded in Revelation, that the Messiah will not return to planet Earth until these prophesied events have taken place! We can know that Christ will not return in 2012—or in 2013 or 2014!
Even so, true Christians must always be in a state of spiritual readiness. We cannot “wait until later” to repent and obey God. If we die as rebellious sinners who have knowingly rejected the Truth, our next moment of consciousness will occur when we are resurrected to the judgment of the Lake of Fire (Revelation 20:15). But if we die as true and faithful Christians, our next moment of consciousness will be at the resurrection, when the seventh trumpet sounds—the “last trumpet” as described in 1 Corinthians 15:52—when today’s faithful Christians will be born into the Family of God as Spirit-beings.
God promises that we will be blessed if we read, hear and keep the truths revealed in this powerful book (Revelation 1:1–3). So, study the book of Revelation, stay close to its Revelator, Jesus Christ, and be prepared for what is ahead!