This week saw the latest book of the extremely popular “Left Behind” series published. Written by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, the Left Behind books are religious fiction based on a premillennial understanding of the way the world will end. Because so many people are curious about this subject, let us consider what the Bible has to say about whether the end of the world is indeed near.
Jesus is coming back — At His ascension, an angel asked the apostles, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). The early church eagerly anticipated the return of Jesus, “Even so, come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20). “When He comes, in that Day, to be glorified in His saints and to be admired among all those who believe, because our testimony among you was believed” (2 Thess. 1:10). Jesus Himself predicted His return, “If I go to prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also” (John 14:3). Scriptures plainly teach that Jesus will one day return. His second coming is sure as was His first (Titus 1:2; Gal. 4:4).
Jesus’ return will signal the end of this world — Despite what many today are teaching, there will be no secret “rapture of the saints” preceding the second coming of Jesus. Paul told the Christians in Thessalonica that His coming would be very public: “with a shout” (1 Thess. 4:16) before the resurrection of the dead. The writer of Hebrews says, “as it is appointed for men once to die, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time apart from sin, for salvation” (Heb. 9:27-28). If Jesus is returning once to rapture the saints, and then returning again to rule on the throne of David as premillennial doctrine states, then there are too many comings. Peter, who knew Jesus better than almost anybody, said that when Jesus returns, “the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up” (2 Peter 3:10). His return will signal this world’s end. There will be no more opportunities for repentance, and there will be no more time to seek the Lord’s will (Matt. 6:33).
Jesus’ return will be a surprise — Many are pointing to current troubles in the Middle East and elsewhere in the world as “signs” that Jesus’ return is imminent. This is generally the premise of the “Left Behind” series of books as well. Scripture teaches that it is foolish to try to predict the return of Christ, however. “The day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night” (2 Peter 3:10). Jesus said, “of that day and hour, no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only” (Matt. 24:36). Again, “watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming” (Matt. 24:42). And a third time the Lord says, “therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matt. 24:44). The lesson of Scripture is clear: all human beings are obligated to be prepared for the second coming of Jesus, for His coming will be unexpected and sudden.
In light of these and other passages, it seems foolish to try to discern the events preceding the end of the world. Heaven is a prepared place for people who are prepared to meet God in judgment (Amos 4:12). Are you prepared for the end of the world? Are you prepared to meet your Maker? —JB