Are we approaching the end of days? If so, will humanity cease to exist then? And what does Scripture tell us about this frightening time?
The end of days is on our minds. Consider our obsession with how the world might come to an end. That obsession becomes quite clear when we look at the subject matter of so many modern movies.
According to a list on the website IMDb (which stands for Internet Movie Database), there are 1,187 “apocalyptic movies.” Of course, the site uses the word apocalyptic loosely. Apocalypse, which comes from the Greek word for revelation, is the Greek name for the final book of the New Testament. That book is filled with terrifying visions that reveal future events.
It is because these revelations are about frightening future events that the word has taken on a different meaning in English. One definition in the online Merriam-Webster Dictionary is “foreboding imminent disaster or final doom.”
Most of the apocalyptic movies on the IMDb list don’t mention the Bible or biblical prophecy. Rather, these movies with end-of-the-world scenarios play on modern fears that range from nuclear war to pandemics, and from zombies to artificial intelligence run amok.
Even so, the IMDb list is significant because it points out our fascination with the end of days. So what does the Bible say about this subject?
Looking for the end of days in Scripture
The New King James Version of the Bible doesn’t use the term end of days, though it does include the phrase end of the days twice in Daniel. A few other English versions do occasionally use the phrase. And the Bible uses a variety of other expressions that point to the same climactic point in history.
The end of days is more than what Hollywood portrays. It is the culmination of God’s plan of salvation for this present age, and it is the time when Christ will return to earth to save humanity from self-destruction. If you so choose, you can be part of that wonderful kingdom.These phrases include “day of the LORD,” “that day,” “latter days,” “last days” (first used in Genesis 49:1) and “end of the age.”
Space does not allow this article to cover the concept throughout the entire Bible. Since the expression most similar to end of days occurs in Daniel, we’ll focus on the end-of-days idea in the book of Daniel.
Daniel’s use of end of the days
As noted above, Daniel mentions end of the days twice. Only one of those is a prophetic reference.
That reference occurs at the very end of the book. In fact, it constitutes the last four words of Daniel: “But you, go your way till the end; for you shall rest, and will arise to your inheritance at the end of the days” (Daniel 12:13).
Not the end of humanity
These words at the end of Daniel do not describe the destruction of humanity. On the contrary, an angel uttered these words to the prophet Daniel to encourage him after he had been told startling and terrifying details of a coming “time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time” (verse 1).
The angel explained that Daniel would “rest” before he would “arise” at the end of the days. In verse 13, “rest” is a euphemism for the period between Daniel’s death and his resurrection—the time that he would be in the grave. The word arise refers to his resurrection from death.
For Daniel, then, the end of the days was not something to fear. Rather, it was to be anticipated as the fulfillment of a wonderful promise!
Here we already see a great disparity with Hollywood’s apocalyptic ideas. Many times moviemakers show the human race nearly destroyed—and without any real hope for the future. If there is any glimmer of hope in these movies, it lies in the efforts of humans rather than the promises of God.
The end of days in other words
To understand the broader meaning of this concept in Daniel, we need to consider where it appears in the rest of the book. Daniel has much to say about the end of days, though the book may not use that exact term. Besides “the end of the days,” Daniel uses these expressions:
- “The time of the end” (Daniel 8:17; 11:35, 40; 12:4, 9).
- “The appointed time” (Daniel 8:19; 11:35).
- “The time” (Daniel 7:22).
- “That time” (Daniel 12:1, three times).
- “The end” (Daniel 8:19).
- “A time of trouble” (Daniel 12:1).
- “Latter time” (Daniel 8:19, 23).
All of these are in four chapters of the book, and all four of those chapters (7, 8, 11 and 12) are in the second half of Daniel.
The first half of the book gives readers a glimpse into the royal court of Babylon. More importantly, these early chapters deal with the gentile world, its kings, and the future God revealed to King Nebuchadnezzar. That revelation summarizes the rise and fall of major empires, from Babylon to the last human government to exercise dominion over most of humanity.
A time of trouble at the end of days
In contrast to the first half of Daniel, the second half focuses on the fate of Israel as a people and as a nation, particularly in relation to the world-ruling empires prophesied in the first half of the book. Significantly, the visions are not those of gentile kings, but visions Daniel himself received over the course of several years.
It’s important to understand that Daniel was living in exile in Babylon. His nation, the kingdom of Judah, had ceased to exist, and his people, like him, had been taken into captivity. And more than a century before the exile of the kingdom of Judah, the northern tribes, called the kingdom of Israel, had gone into captivity under the empire of Assyria.
Daniel, like the rest of his people, longed for restoration. His visions foretell a time of restoration and reconciliation for the people of God. These same visions, however, tell of difficult—even desperate—times leading up to that restoration.
The angel Michael told Daniel that all the people of Israel, dispersed as they were, would face “a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation, even to that time” (Daniel 12:1).
A time of hope at the end of days
Unlike many of the apocalyptic movies Hollywood rolls out, the book of Daniel does not leave the careful reader feeling hopeless and afraid. Sprinkled throughout are encouraging words about the end of days.
There are three such encouraging remarks in chapter 7, all prophesying that the “saints of the Most High” would be given dominion over the kingdoms of the world (verses 18, 22, 27). Though God’s people would experience terrible troubles leading up to the end of days, God promises ultimate victory!
What is significant about this victory is that it does not come about because of the efforts or ingenuity of humans. It is not a human hero or band of heroic figures who save humanity. It is the Messiah, Jesus Christ Himself, who steps in to save us from utter destruction.
The angel Gabriel explained that this intervention would be brought on by the rise of an evil king at the end of days. That king would “even rise against the Prince of princes” (Daniel 8:25)—arrogantly attempting to fight against Christ!
The verse continues, telling us that this malignant ruler “shall be broken without human means.” It is Christ who will put down this threat to humanity and usher in the Kingdom of God. This is why one of the terms for this future time is “Day of the Lord.”
How you should view the end of days
It is clear that the not-too-distant future will not be an easy time. The warnings throughout Scripture are sobering, but they are not without hope for the “saints of the Most High.”
Michael assured Daniel that “at that time your people shall be delivered, every one who is found written in the book” (Daniel 12:1). This book is the Book of Life. (To learn more about this book, read our online article “The Book of Life.”)
Does this chapter in Daniel give us any clues about how we can be sure we are in the Book of Life? Yes! First, Michael told Daniel that the saints would be “purified, made white, and refined” (verse 10). This verse shows that, although some of the saints will endure some horrific trials, they will be delivered through them (and not necessarily from them).
In the same verse, we read that “the wicked shall do wickedly; and none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand.” This statement puts a clear choice before us. If we continue to “do wickedly,” we will not understand the prophetic warnings.
If we are wise, however, we will understand. That wisdom comes from obedience to God, as another part of Scripture points out: “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments” (Psalm 111:10).
The end of days is more than what Hollywood portrays. It is the culmination of God’s plan of salvation for this present age, and it is the time when Christ will return to earth to save humanity from self-destruction. If you so choose, you can be part of that wonderful kingdom.