The End of The World As We Know It…Or Not

December 21, 2012. The last day on the Mayan calendar. I marked it on my calendar as the end of the world as we know it…


Every few years, a movie or a book is released foretelling the end of the world. Relying on “inside” information, the authors proclaim that the end of the world is upon us. And people can’t get enough of it!

In 1973, Hal Lindsey wrote The Late Great Planet Earth, which sold 28 million copies, making it the best-selling book of the 1970s.

Following in their theological footsteps, Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins authored the Left Behind series with over 75 million copies sold (the only thing “left behind” about that book were two wealthy authors!).

But they weren’t the only ones making a buck off their prophetic End-Times book sales.

In the mid-1970s, Salem Kirban’s books mesmerized me. It still astonishes me that I was only 10 years old at the time. One book that particularly arrested my attention was his tome I Predict. In it, Kirban offered specific dates about the end of the age. For instance, he predicted that marijuana would be legalized by 1975 and Jesus would return by 1980.

Fifteen years later, another pamphlet rocked the evangelical world: 88 Reasons Why The Rapture Is In 1988 by Edgar C. Whisenant.

Then in 1994, Harold Kamping, predicted Jesus would return on September 6 of that year.

So far, everyone has missed the mark.

Why do we keep predicting dates and why does Jesus keep waiting to return?

Please join me in today’s reading.

For examples of more unfulfilled prophecies, click here.


Exodus 23:14-25:40
Matthew 24:29-51
Psalm 30:1-12
Proverbs 7:24-27


Exodus 23:14-19. We’ll explore these festivals more in-depth later in our reading. But what strikes me is that Israel was commissioned by God to celebrate. Boring, meaningless, ritualistic-driven church is not of God. Christians should be known for having a good time. I’m preaching to myself, here!

Exodus 23:21. The phrase “my Name is in him” means the angel is an extension of God.

Exodus 23:32. The command not to make a covenant (or treaty) with the surrounding nations wasn’t followed by the Israelite leaders and later came back to haunt them. We’ll read more about it in the book of Joshua.

Exodus 24:9-11. Take notice of something important in this passage: Moses and the elders saw God…without dying. This was pretty significant. And extremely rare.

Exodus 24:18. The number 40 shouldn’t be taken literally. Most scholars agree it represents a long period of time.

Matthew 24:34. This verse has always been troublesome to me: “this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.” The generation passed away, but don’t some of elements in this prophetic passage remain unfulfilled? Not exactly. Many scholars believe this is a reference to the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. But I’m not convinced. Donald Hagner speculates, “The fact that…the expression clearly alludes to a sinful generation, one ripe for judgment, fits the fall of Jerusalem (and not merely the end of the age). That sounds more plausible, but I’m not sold 100%.

Psalm 30:5. This verse is like balm in those moments when I fell like I’ve messed up: “For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.

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When authors begin naming dates concerning the end of the world, do you ever wonder if maybe they’re right…even a little bit? Do you? You know you do! Despite my severe disappointment that Jesus didn’t come back by 1980, I still fight those thoughts.

I can’t speak for everyone, but I don’t think people devour all those prophetic, end-times books because they’re looking forward to going to heaven. They just want to hedge their bets that they won’t be left behind.

Really, any time someone offers a date of when the world will come to an end, we should feel pretty confident that Jesus won’t come back on that date. In today’s reading, he said, “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matthew 24:36).

In spite of this, prophetic teachers arrogantly reply to this verse, “We may not know the day or the hour, but we can know the season!”

Jesus didn’t say anything about knowing the season.

The apostle Paul, though, offers us great advice: “be prepared in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2). Just be ready. This world isn’t our home, so don’t live as though it is.

Finally, this prophetic, end-times discussion begs the question, “Why does God wait?” Here’s my take: time is an element of grace. God is giving us time to prepare ourselves. Like the bride waiting to marry the bridegroom, he’s giving his church time to get in shape and prepare her heart for eternity together with him.

Thank God he hasn’t sent Jesus back just yet because I’m not ready!


  1. What spoke to your heart in today’s reading?
  2. In Exodus 23:23-33, God clearly tells the Israelites that when they settle in the Promised Land, they must not follow the other nations’ practices nor even let them live in their land. How do we live today in that tension—being in but not of the world?
  3. Why do you think people devour books and movies about the end of the age? Is this healthy? Why or why not?
  4. Have you ever felt duped about the end of the age? What hooked you?
  5. How can we live “ready” for the end of the age?
  6. Why does God wait?

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Michael co-pastors The Neighborhood Church in Littleton, Colorado.


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3 responses to “The End of The World As We Know It…Or Not

  1. Mike

    Oh Michael, I would like to talk about conspiracy theory people (most of whom are very interested in end-time prophesy) but simple facts are easier to deal with. In Exodus 23 where God warns about coexisting with those who hold different religious views we have a more powerful and relevant message. God knows that we live in a spiritual world. Spiritual powers are at work in all religions, whether imagined powers, demonic powers, or Godly power. People base their life decisions on their religion and the destiny of a whole nation depends on their spiritual foundation. God is building a spiritual foundation in Israel, a far different one than they left in Egypt or will encounter in the Promised Land.
    The practical application for us today is the acceptance of pluralism (the belief that there are more than one or two ultimate truths – an oxymoron) that is politically correct in America. One belief is not just as good as or as true as another. Sincerely held beliefs can be both wrong and dangerous. A nation that cannot recognize one ultimate truth for itself will be constantly divided between definitions of truth and the residence of ultimate authority for law and order.

    • I couldn’t agree with you more, Mike. I once heard someone say, “You can be sincere–and still be wrong.”

      It seems as if our nation applies pressure to accept all religions as truth. We call this toleration. But this isn’t our only option. We can treat other religions with respect. In fact, I find it interesting that Jesus did virtually nothing to oppose the Roman Empire’s spiritual beliefs. But he railed against his own religious leaders.

      Thanks for your comments, Mike!

  2. Pingback: Wasn’t Jesus Supposed To Come Back? | A Daily Bible Conversation

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