Many people would give almost anything to know what the future holds. This has been true as long as human beings have walked the earth.
The apostles of Jesus Christ were no exception. He spoke often to them about His return when He will dwell again on the earth—in the future Kingdom of God, reigning over everything.
Shortly before He died, Jesus was with His 12 disciples in Jerusalem in the area of the splendid Temple Mount. Jesus told them that the temple, in which the Jews of that day took exceptional pride, would one day be razed to the ground (Matthew 24:1-2).
The disciples were likely shocked and surprised at that statement by their Master, and it prompted them to ask the question about which Christians from the first century to this day have earnestly desired to know: "Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?" (Matthew 24:3, emphasis added throughout).
This conversation occurred nearly 2,000 years ago. Jesus would not return in the lifetime of those to whom He spoke, although it seems they expected Him to for many years. They all died, still waiting for the return of the King of Kings (Revelation 19:16).
While they were alive, they repeatedly preached the promise of His coming and earnestly longed for His return. One of the 12, Peter, recorded a warning for those of his day that has echoed through time and still speaks today to all who read it. He wrote that some skeptics—"scoffers," he called them—would say, "Where is the promise of His coming?" (2 Peter 3:4). And he responded in advance, "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise" (verse 9).
When Jesus returns, it will be the end of "this present evil age" (Galatians 1:4), the end of the world in which human beings rule.
Human-generated prophecies of the coming apocalypse
When Jesus' disciples asked Him when the end would come, He told them of signs and events that would occur during the intervening period. Yet He also told them, "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only" (Matthew 24:36).
Jesus' statement has not dissuaded men from making brazen prophecies. People of every stripe and type have been stricken with prediction addiction. Raymond Hundley's 2010 book Will the World End in 2012? noted one website that "cited 149 different predictions of the apocalypse between AD 44 and 2008" (p. ix).
The predictions of the end of the world did not cease in 2008. If anything, the avalanche has gained momentum. Many of the prophecies even center on a specific day—Dec. 21, 2012.
This has been called the most intriguing date in history. The orientation of those who pinpoint this date is widely varied—some are religious and some are secular. The events they say will trigger the ultimate cataclysm comprise descriptions of a human-contrived cauldron of horror.
But will they come to pass? It's vital for your spiritual safety and peace of mind that you are well-grounded in the truth of the Bible. There are many deceivers in the world; indeed Scripture tells us that Satan "deceives the whole world" (Revelation 12:9). For this reason, Jesus warns His disciples, "Don't let anyone mislead you" (Matthew 24:4, New Living Translation).
Many people are putting forth their own interpretations regarding the future, but the Bible must be our sole guide. It brims with prophecy about the end of the world. We must also be careful about the spin that people put on biblical prophecies about the end.
While we can have a better idea of the general time frame of Christ's return as time goes on and we see prophecy being fulfilled around us, the pages of history are strewn with erroneous dates on which some predicted or expected the end to come.
As Mark Hitchcock notes in his book 2012: The Bible and the End of the World: "The oldest surviving prediction of the world's imminent demise was found inscribed upon an Assyrian clay tablet which stated, 'Our earth is degenerate in these latter days. There are signs that the world is speedily coming to an end. Bribery and corruption are common'" (2009, p. 102).
We will be wise if we stick to what the Bible says rather than pay heed to self-proclaimed prophets. What do some gloom-and-doom prophets do? "The Bible is consulted and considered reliable when they believe it supports their 2012 theory, but when it contradicts and challenges their beliefs it is rejected and in some cases even ridiculed" (p. 92).
The anticipated day: Dec. 21, 2012
Why has Dec. 21, 2012, been selected by many as the day of catastrophe? It is due in large part to calculations on the calendars of the ancient Mayans.
The Mayan people were centered in Central America, the apex of their civilization lasting from around A.D. 250 to 900. The Mayan priests devised a calendrical system connected to astronomical observation that some believe to be more accurate than the calendar we use today. This despite the fact that they had no telescopes, using only the naked eye to study the sky.
What was their calendar like?
"Based on their studies in astronomy, the Maya created a calendar system that plotted the history of time starting with the beginning of the current world on August 11, 3114 BC. Using a lunar calendar system, the Maya measured time in units of twenty. Twenty kin (days) made a winal (month); 18 winals made a tun (year); 20 tuns made a katun (20 years); and 20 katuns made a baktun (400 years).
"To designate a specific date, they recorded it in terms of how far away from the start of creation it was . . . The significance of the Mayan calendar is that it appears to predict 13 baktuns as the end time of the present world age. After dating every year from the beginning of time, the calendar abruptly ends at the close of the thirteenth baktun.
"Translating the Mayan calendar date into the Gregorian calendar system used today produces a date of December 21, 2012, as the end-date for the present age" (Hundley, pp. 7-8). This date coincides with the time of the winter solstice.
"The Mayan obsession with time can be seen in the fact that they developed 20 different calendars . . . the Maya relied upon three main time-tracking calendars—three calendars that are most relevant to the 2012 date . . . The third Mayan measure of time is known as the Long Count calendar. It was used to document the 'world age cycles' that repeat over and over.
"This calendar was divided into five units that extend forward and backward from the mythical creation of the Maya, which they believed was August 11, 3114 B.C. . . . The year 2012 is the year that the fifth great cycle is supposed to end. This is the genesis of the belief that the end of days is 2012" (Hitchcock, p. 32-33).
Beliefs not of godly origin
Where did the Mayan people receive the religious and cosmological conceptions related to their calendar? They certainly didn't come from the God of the Bible. In fact, the Mayans practiced abominable religious rites that are strongly condemned in the Bible, such as human sacrifice.
"The Maya practiced human sacrifice as part of their religion, often using children for the ritual in which the Mayan priest cut open the still-alive child's chest and pulled out the heart as a sacrifice to the gods. In fact, to celebrate the beginning of a new year, the Maya 'ripped out the heart of a sacrificial victim . . . and started a flame with a fire drill in his open chest cavity'" (Hundley, p. 5).
As Mark Hitchcock notes, "Much of the barbaric, bloodthirsty 'worship' of the Mayans, including human sacrifices, can be accounted for if we recognize that it was demonically motivated by the real power behind their gods of stone" (p. 41).
The gods of pagan worship are not real, but the devil and his demons are behind much of false religion—sometimes posing as these false gods. The apostle Paul wrote that "the things which the Gentiles sacrifice they sacrifice to demons and not to God, and I do not want you to have fellowship with demons" (1 Corinthians 10:20; compare Leviticus 17:7; Deuteronomy 32:17; Psalm 106:35-38).
What do modern Mayans believe?
While many Westerners seize on Dec. 21, 2012, as a date of unparalleled disaster, modern Mayans generally do not see it that way. Don Alejandro, one present-day Mayan leader, has given his opinion on what the time will mean. He presents in poetic terms a time of positive change:
"According to the Maya Long Count Calendar, we are finalizing the 13 Baktun and . . . thus approaching the Year Zero . . . The world is transformed and we enter a period of understanding and harmonious coexistence where there is social justice and equality for all.
"It is a new way of life. With a new social order there comes a time of freedom where we can move like the clouds, without limitations, without borders. We will travel like the birds, without the need for passports. We will travel like the rivers, all heading towards the same point . . . the same objective" (quoted by John Major Jenkins, The 2012 Story, 2009, p. 369).
Another leader, Benito Ramirez Mendota, offered this perspective: "As the elders said, everything is going to change. The world will be changed by that memorable date. Our children will have a different world view. The time will have passed and other beings will inhabit the universe" (p. 371).
World peace and harmony will not come in 2012, but it will come eventually—as we shall see. Both of these "prophecies" contain some elements of truth. But it's worth noting that these Mayans do not share the catastrophic views many people have of next year.
Why accept Mayan prophecy anyway?
Hundley points out regarding the Mayan legend: "It does seem that if December 21, 2012 was an earth shattering prediction for the Maya of the end of the world, it would have been preserved as an important part of the cultural and religious heritage of that civilization, even today. But apparently, such is not the case. Many modern Maya do not affirm that interpretation of their calendar and belief system but complain that Westerners have forced this interpretation on them from their own perspectives and for their own purposes.
"Having said that, even if it could be proven that the Maya predicted the end of the world in 2012, what would qualify them as prophets? Although the Maya were gifted astronomers, that ability does not necessarily mean they were gifted prophets.
"According to the same logic, do we expect present-day astronomers, who have made incredible discoveries through the use of advanced telescopes and space-traveling satellites, to be qualified to provide us with trustworthy, detailed predictions of the future of our planet? Of course not! The idea that those who make remarkable astronomical observations are therefore qualified to be seers, predictors and prophets of future events is unfounded" (p. 17).
We see, then, that the idea that the Mayan calendar predicts the end of the world in 2012 simply lacks credibility. It means nothing, and it's only because our world is in such sad shape that some pay attention to such things.
Other predictions of doom
Pretentious prognosticators prattle about other fearful tales of destruction they say will occur in 2012. They have assembled a catch-all container chock-full of imagined tragedies lurking around the corner!
"Worldwide droughts, floods, hurricanes, tsunamis, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions caused by solar storms, cracks forming in the earth's magnetic field, and mass extinctions brought on by nuclear winter, famine, human disease, wars, economic cataclysm, massive solar flares, polar reversals . . . These have all been predicted to occur in the year 2012" (John Claeys, Apocalypse 2012, 2010, p. 1).
Yes, some of these things are occurring now in various parts of the earth. And the Bible prophesies that some catastrophes will become global in scope before the very end of the age! But the year 2012 is not the time for the worst of the horrors to come.
And yes, some of these threats are very real. One scenario that seems likely to happen eventually is the eruption of a supervolcano. The Geological Society of London has stated that the eruption of a supervolcano "sooner or later" will chill the planet and threaten human civilization.
The gigantic caldera underlying Yellowstone National Park is a distinct possibility. "The magnitude 5 eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980 blew out the side of the mountain, destroyed forests for miles around, caused $3 billion worth of damage, and killed fifty-seven people. The U.S. Geological Survey described it as the 'worst volcanic disaster in the recorded history of the United States.' A super eruption at Yellowstone would be a thousand times more powerful" (Greg Breining, Super Volcano, 2007, p. 229).
"But Yellowstone is not the only magma caldera, even in the United States. There is at least one more at Long Valley in California, near Yosemite National Park and the popular ski resort of Mammoth Lakes. Other possible sites are Japan, New Zealand, the Andes, and Indonesia. Yellowstone is the most frequently studied of these caldera . . . It has been noted that the area is continually undergoing seismic activity, and it certainly will erupt again at some point" (Sharan Newman, The Real History of the End of the World, 2010, p. 288).
The scope of such a disaster defies the imagination. Will this happen in 2012? We don't know. But there's nothing that points to 2012 as the time for it to happen. It could just as well happen this year or in 2013—or years after that. Or it may never happen, at least on the anticipated scale, if Christ takes care of the problem when He returns.
Yet Scripture does indicate there will be volcanic eruptions accompanying the return of Christ: "The mountains melt like wax at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth" (Psalm 97:5). "Bow down your heavens, O Lord, and come down; touch the mountains, and they shall smoke" (Psalm 144:5).
What about "Planet X"?
The most cataclysmic of prophesied end-time "natural" disasters is the scenario of a collision or near-miss of another planet with the earth. The mysterious orb that supposedly threatens us has been called "Planet X" or "Planet Nibiru," and some expect it to arrive on Dec. 12, 2012.
But what is the evidence that this will occur? There is no scientific evidence that supports this idea. The idea came "not by radio signals from the cosmos, but [instead has supposedly been] channeled through medium and Zeto envoy Nancy Lieder, who was in contact with . . . altruistic aliens" (Govert Schilling, The Hunt for Planet X, 2009, p. 115).
Who are the Zeto and Nancy Lieder? Here is the story: "Nancy was only nine years old when it happened. What looked like a bright light came from the sky and crashed into the field next to her home. Her parents were out shopping, so Nancy was left alone to investigate the strange event. As she crept near the site of the crash, she was terrified to see what appeared to be a spaceship hovering above the ground. When a door in the ship opened, Nancy fainted.
"When she came to, she was inside the ship, and there were strange beings hovering around her. As she tried to speak, one of the Zetas told her to lie still. A large mechanical arm with a small device at the end of it began to move closer and closer to her head. As the device touched her scalp, she lapsed into unconsciousness again.
"When she awoke, she was inside her home. One of the extraterrestrials was placing her gently into her bed. And then he spoke: 'Nancy, do not be afraid. You have been chosen from all the people on your planet to be our voice on Earth. We are very concerned about what is happening on your planet. The device we placed in your head will enable us to communicate messages to you for all earthlings'" (Hundley, p. 63). This is either a made-up story or an encounter with demons.
Govert Schilling is an internationally acclaimed astronomical writer. He and prominent scientists have debunked the Planet X/Nibiru scheme. Schilling presented this compelling comment about Planet X: "So that means there is plenty to do for the debunkers—the archaeologists and astronomers who take a long and skeptical look at the tidal wave of Nibiru nonsense and explain with scientific precision what is wrong with the cosmic fairy-tale. They will have their work cut out in the next few years.
"And on December 22, 2012 there will be a new pseudoscientific cock-and-bull story doing the rounds and the whole circus will start all over again. Because no matter how many new celestial bodies are found in our solar system, there will always be a need for a mysterious Planet X" (Schilling, p. 117).
What should we expect?
Yes, Dec. 21, 2012, will come and go, Dec. 22 will arrive, and the earth will go on. And so will new theories regarding new exact dates for the end of the world. The cry has been shouted by strident voices for millennia, and you can be sure it will continue.
Sadly, many will take this non-event and other failed predictions as an excuse to dismiss what the Bible foretells is yet ahead. We will no doubt see an even greater increase in scoffers concerning Christ's return, as Peter mentioned. But rest assured: The Bible's actual prophecies are not false predictions like the 2012 hype. What God has revealed in His Word certainly will come to pass. We just don't know exactly when. So what should we do?
Jesus Christ is quite plain: "Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect" (verse 44).
His point? We need to be ready at all times for the end of the age. Jesus will return—six times in the book of Revelation He states that He is "coming quickly."
The life of any of us could end today or tomorrow. "For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away" (James 4:14). At whatever time we die, Jesus' return will occur for us in our next second of consciousness. If we have lived a life of serving God, we will then be given eternal life and rewarded according to our works (Matthew 16:27).
This is the good news of the Bible! It is priceless truth that can add immeasurable meaning to your life.
For too many, life is vacant and lacking in transcendent purpose. Barton Payne in the Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecy sums it up well when he writes: "We live in an uncertain world. Men of today are casting about eagerly, and almost pathetically, in search of meaningfulness. For while we have amassed knowledge, we seem to have missed truth. Indeed, apart from God and from His revealed words that constitute the Bible, mankind and life and time do seem to be essentially purposeless.
"Yet the Lord of grace, who once sent His Son Jesus Christ to redeem the world (John 3:16), will some day send Him again to lead this world into its intended goal of glorifying God (Romans 11:36). This is the hope which pervades the whole of Scripture" (1973, p. v).
Jesus Christ's second coming is the most certain prophecy in the Bible that is yet to be fulfilled. More than 500 verses in the Bible comment specifically on various facts and aspects of this monumental, earthshaking event.
While we do not know exactly when Jesus will return, signs around us indicate we are in the end time. Paul's statement in 1 Corinthians 7:31 looms larger each day: "For this world as we know it will soon pass away" (New Living Translation). As we look around us, many of the foundational pillars that provide order to society are in jeopardy. "And the world is passing away and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever" (1 John 2:17).
People have longed for a better world and a better life since the beginning of human history. And it is coming! The time rapidly approaches when God will shake all nations and "the Desire of All Nations" will come (Haggai 2:7).
You must seek the knowledge of God and not allow it to slip from your grasp! You can know what the future holds. More than one quarter of the Bible is prophecy, and most of it is yet to be fulfilled.
The Bible tells us that the millennial reign of Jesus Christ is coming (Revelation 20:4)—not in the year 2012, but perhaps not much beyond that! All who repent and receive Jesus Christ as their personal Savior and then live a life of obedience to God's commandments will reign with Him during that time in a world of peace. The invitation is extended to you. Now is the time to act!