Doomsday prophets always talk about the “end of the world.” What does the Bible really say about end-time prophecy? And why is God’s message called good news?
Pick a year—any year—and probably somebody somewhere has predicted it for the “end of the world.”
Many are intrigued by these dire predictions, but many others are jaded and skeptical, having heard it all before.
They dismiss all talk about the end of the world in spite of the fact that serious scientists and world leaders constantly warn of clear and present dangers that threaten the existence of the human race, or at least the end of the world as we know it.
Prophecies about the end of the world
Recently, some have found in the coronavirus pandemic signs of the end of the world. Obscure writings have been resurrected to support these claims.
For example, Business Insider noted that “self-proclaimed psychic Sylvia Browne was also said to have predicted a global pandemic similar to the coronavirus.
“In her 2008 book, ‘End of Days: Predictions and Prophecies About the End of the World,’ she wrote: ‘In around 2020, a severe pneumonia-like illness will spread throughout the globe, attacking the lungs and bronchial tubes and resisting all known treatments.’”
Though her book shot up best-seller lists in March 2020 and physical copies were selling for hundreds of dollars, her foresight about epidemics was by no means unique. Bill Gates and many experts on infectious diseases have been predicting something like the coronavirus pandemic for many years.
Plus, “Browne, the author and psychic, was consistently criticized for the inaccuracy of her prophecies when she was alive. … She even predicted she’d die of old age at 88—she died at 77” in 2013 (CNN).
Certainly, Sylvia Browne was not alone in pointing to the end of the world. Many others have and will continue to predict the end of life as we know it, the end of days or the extinction event.
Some may base their predictions on Nostradamus or the Mayans or tea leaves or crop circles. But many say they base their predictions on the Bible.
Eschatology: study of what the Bible says about the end time
There is a whole field of biblical study known as eschatology. It is the study of “last” things, of prophecies of the “end time” and beyond. (For more on this, see our article “What Is Eschatology? (And Why Do You Need to Know?”)
But not everyone who studies end-time Bible prophecy sets specific dates or walks around shouting or talking to themselves.
And surprising to some, the “end of the world” is actually good news!
What do you mean, “end”?
Some of those predicting the “end of the world” base their wording on the old King James Version’s translation of verses like Matthew 24:3. The disciples asked Jesus Christ, “Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?”
The word translated end here is from the Greek sunteleia, “a bringing to completion together” (Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 1985, “end, ending”). Vine’s goes on to say that “end of the world” is misleading. “Consummation of the age” is more like it. “The word does not denote a termination, but the heading up of events to the appointed climax.”
The worst time in human history is pretty bad news. But Christ will intervene to prevent the total destruction of the human race. And from then on it’s very good news!Jesus Christ laid it out in bad-news, good-news fashion. He said: “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 worst time in human history is pretty bad news. But Christ will intervene to prevent the total destruction of the human race. And from then on it’s very good news! More about the good news in a minute.
What do you mean, “world”?
The New King James Version and many other modern versions clear up Matthew 24:3. The disciples were asking about the “end of the age.” The Greek word aion means “an age, a period of time.” It’s like the Bronze Age, the Iron Age, the Middle Ages or even the golden age of television. These are all part of the age of human misrule of the earth. The apostle Paul called it “this present evil age” (Galatians 1:4).
Why is the end of the world good news?
Jesus Christ’s message was the “gospel of the kingdom of God” (Mark 1:14). Gospel means good news. So how does the “end of the age” fit into good news?
The Bible puts things in perspective. This evil age of misery and suffering will be replaced by a wonderful world ruled by our perfect Savior—the Kingdom of God.
- The age of war will be replaced by the age of peace (Isaiah 2:4).
- The age of scarcity, by the age of plenty (Amos 9:13).
- The age of hatred, by the age of love (1 Corinthians 13:4-13).
- The age of sin and evil, by the age of obedience and good (Revelation 22:14-15).
- The age of futility and corruption, by the age of liberty and glory (Romans 8:20-21).
- The age of selfish tyrants, by the age of leaders who are true servants (Matthew 20:25-26).
Acts 3:19 calls the coming age the “times of refreshing”! Who could deny that this world is in desperate need of refreshing? Many inspiring biblical passages describe this coming age of utopia. One of my favorites is in Micah 4.
“Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and peoples shall flow to it.
“Many nations shall come and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.’ For out of Zion the law shall go forth, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.
“He shall judge between many peoples, and rebuke strong nations afar off; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.
“But everyone shall sit under his vine and under his fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid; for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken” (verses 1-4).
End-time: the analogy of labor pains and birth
“For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now” (Romans 8:22).
Okay, when will the end of the age come?
Hopefully, looking at these scriptures and at the world today has convinced you that the end of this age and Jesus Christ’s second coming to set up the Kingdom of God is the best news this world can hear. So now maybe you, too, want to know, “When?”
Jesus Christ did lay out the major trends and the prophetic framework. He tells us to “watch therefore, and pray always” and to discern the “signs of the times” (Luke 21:36; Matthew 16:3). But can we know exactly when?
“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only” (Matthew 24:36).
We must be about the work of spreading the good news and living more and more by the perfect laws of the Kingdom of God. Then, even though we don’t know exactly when the end will come, we will be ready.
The good news is, it’s not really the end. It’s the beginning of a much better world! Be sure to read the articles on this website about the Kingdom of God. And learn more about how you may enter that wonderful Kingdom in our free booklet Change Your Life!
We offer you help in fulfilling Christ’s command to “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). Subscribe to the Life, Hope & Truth Weekly Newsletter, which contains our World Watch Weekly section. It’s free and comes directly to your email inbox each week.