Kilotons and megatons. Civil-defense drills. Blaring air-raid sirens. “Duck and cover.” The Berlin Wall. ICBMs. The Cuban missile crisis. Backyard bomb shelters. For those of us who grew up in the 1950s and ’60s, the end of the world was serious business.
Anthrax. “Dirty” bombs. Sarin gas. Holy war. VX. Nuclear “suitcase” bombs. Suicide bombers. Armageddon. The end of the world is serious business again today.
Many hoped the threat of nuclear war would disappear when the Soviet Union collapsed more than a decade ago. But that hope proved to be in vain. Now we have more nuclear-armed armies than there were in the ’50s and ’60s, many of them in dangerously unstable places.
At least when only a few major powers had nuclear arms, we could bet that cooler, more rational heads would prevail. Each side knew that using weapons of mass destruction could invite annihilation.
Not any more. In our new age of uncertainty it seems only a matter of time before rogue nations or terrorists get their hands on nuclear materials. Many already have deadly biological and chemical weapons-and not only the will but also the willingness to use them. Our world is perhaps more dangerously unstable than ever.
Jesus Christ, in a major prophecy He gave shortly before His death (recorded in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21), listed signs to look for that would precede His return and the end of this present age of man. They read much like today’s headlines: religious confusion and deception, wars and rumors of wars, ethnic unrest, famines, disease epidemics, earthquakes, other natural disasters and more (Matthew 24:1-8 Matthew 24:1-8 1 And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to show him the buildings of the temple.
2 And Jesus said to them, See you not all these things? truly I say to you, There shall not be left here one stone on another, that shall not be thrown down.
3 And as he sat on the mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the world?
4 And Jesus answered and said to them, Take heed that no man deceive you.
5 For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.
6 And you shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that you be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.
7 For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.
8 All these are the beginning of sorrows.
American King James Version×, 29). Ultimately, Jesus said, these horrors will build to a crescendo in a time of “great tribulation” so dangerous and devastating that, without God’s intervention, humanity would face extinction (verses 21-22).
Why does God reveal what’s going to happen? One reason is so we can be motivated to change. God doesn’t want us to be caught on the wrong side of events as they unfold. Some will be, and they will suddenly be trapped like an animal caught in a snare (Luke 21:34-36 Luke 21:34-36 34 And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come on you unawares.
35 For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth.
36 Watch you therefore, and pray always, that you may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.
American King James Version×).
When will this momentous time be? “But of that day or hour no one knows … but the Father alone,” said Jesus (Mark 13:32 Mark 13:32But of that day and that hour knows no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.
American King James Version×, New American Standard Bible). Because no one can know the exact time beforehand, Jesus warned that we must be diligent and alert to our spiritual condition, making sure our priorities are right.
“Take heed, keep on the alert; for you do not know when the appointed time is,” He warned (verse 33, NASB). His point is that even though we will have general indications that the end of this age is approaching, we don’t know exactly when the end will be or how quickly final events will unfold once they begin, so we must be prepared at all times. We must not wait until the world is crashing down around us to turn our lives in the right direction. Lest we not get the point, He repeated the warning twice more in verses 35 and 37.
In Matthew’s account of this prophecy, Jesus illustrated-with the lesson of those who lived in Noah’s time-the importance of setting our spiritual houses in order: “But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matthew 24:37-39 Matthew 24:37-39 37 But as the days of Noe were, so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
38 For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark,
39 And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
American King James Version×).
Noah labored for decades to build a giant vessel. Although his actions were a clear warning of what must shortly come to pass, no one other than his immediate family paid much attention. The people of Noah’s day went about their lives as usual, ignoring the growing danger. And then the rain started to fall. GN