“You have to hear about this book I just read!” My normally laid-back friend was quite worked up. “I tell you, it’s happening soon!”
“What’s happening soon?”
“The end of the world as we know it!” My friend launched into a series of facts and statistics to try to convince me. “Did you know that over the past 20 years, the Arctic Ocean has been warming eight times faster than it did over the previous 100 years?”
I nodded. Global warming is in the news almost every day.
“World oil production has just about reached its peak, but demand is steadily growing, especially from the rapidly developing giants of China and India. Unless sufficient new reserves are discovered, we could run out of oil within a few decades. Then what? And overpopulation, along with deforestation, slash-and-burn farming, and other misuses of the world’s resources could eventually cause famines and droughts of apocalyptic proportion.”
My friend was obviously full of his subject, but in fact I didn’t need to be convinced that the global outlook is grim. I believe we’re living in the era referred to in the Bible as the “time of the end” or the “last days,” and in the holy books of Islam, Hinduism, and other religions by various other names.
Jesus said that just as we can tell what kind of weather to expect by observing the sky, we can know what is about to happen in the world by watching world events and trends.1 Current economic and environmental crises are sure signs that dire change is heading our way.
A generation ago, mentions of impending doom were routinely accompanied by cartoons of a disheveled, bearded crackpot holding a sign that read “THE END IS NEAR!” But that iconic doomsday character rarely makes an appearance these days because his message is no longer a laughing matter or a fringe opinion. A growing number of prominent scholars, scientists, climatologists, and economists are now saying the same thing, and they have data to back it up.
In telling us to watch for signs of the end, Jesus wasn’t trying to strike fear or dread into our hearts, but rather to prepare us for what’s around the bend. No matter what happens, we have the assurance of His presence: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you,” He promises. “Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”2