Apologetics End of the world

Published on May 7th, 2012 | by Gary DeMar

16

Will the World End in Your Lifetime?

Dr. Jim Denison, in his article “Will the World End in Your Lifetime?” published on the Christian Post web site, concludes with these words:

“The last recorded words of Jesus are, ‘Yes, I am coming soon’ (Revelation 22:20). Early believers lived every day in expectation of the imminent return of our Lord. Secular cultures discount such beliefs as outdated superstition, but each of us is one day closer to eternity than ever before.

“I have no idea if Jesus will return in my lifetime. But I do know that if he doesn’t, I will go to him at the end of mine. Jonathan Edwards, the greatest theologian America has ever produced, resolved: ‘never to do anything, which I should be afraid to do, if it were the last hour of my life.’

“How would such a resolution change our culture? How would it change your life?”

I’m glad to see more evangelicals distancing themselves from the belief that the world is in such disrepair that there is no hope for recovery. The only thing that will save us is our “rapture.” I just wish Dr. Denison had argued his case better.

Why did “early believers [live] every day in expectation of the imminent return of our Lord”? Because the NT writers, following what Jesus told them, made it clear that Jesus’ coming would take place in their lifetime (e.g., Matt. 24:34; James 5:1–8). There is no other way to read the NT on this point.

If the Bible is to be taken at face value, then “I am coming soon” is a definitive statement about the time frame of Jesus’ coming. The Greek word “soon” or “quickly” (ταχύς) is always used to designate what was on the horizon. It is never used by the NT writers to mean a prolonged period of, especially a period of time that is nearing two millennia. In Revelation 22:10, we also find the phrase “for the time is near [ἐγγύς].”

Popular prophecy writer John MacArthur writes the following in the Introduction to his book Because the Time is Near:

As noted on page 332, the book of Revelation deserves immediate proclamation because the end is near. As the angel told John in the final chapter of Revelation, “Do not seal up the words of the prophecy of this book for the time is near.” (22:10). And so we study Christ’s future return — a return Jesus Himself says is imminent (22:7, 12, 20).(1)

Does MacArthur’s “near” mean the same as the Bible’s “near”? Remember that John received the Revelation in the first century. MacArthur writes that “the coming of Christ has been imminent for every generation from John’s day until the present.”(2) Where does the Bible say this? It doesn’t!

First, the Bible never uses the word “imminent” (as in “any moment”) to describe Jesus’ coming. It’s always “near” or “at hand.”

 Second, when these time words are used in other contexts, they always mean an event or events on the horizon not “any moment in time” spread out over 2000 years! Don’t believe me? Search through your concordance and check out these words for yourself. That’s why it’s surprising that MacArthur can write about “the plain, normal understanding of the words of Revelation.”(3) I assume that this applies to the time words like “shortly” (Rev. 1:1), “near” (1:3; 22:10), and “quickly” (22:12). What was “the plain, normal understanding” of these words when they were revealed and written down by John and read by Christians in the first century?

Consider James 5:8–9, a passage that MacArthur uses to support his contention that Jesus could come “at any moment,” even though nearly 2000 years have passed.(4) “You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand” (v. 8). “At hand,” or “near,” cannot be made to mean “any moment.” “At hand” is defined for us by the Bible in the next verse: “Behold, the Judge is standing right at the door” (v. 9). “At hand” = “right at the door.” How far from the door is Jesus in Revelation 3:20? Being “right at the door” means being close enough to knock. Who is James telling to be patient? His first-century audience! The command to be patient has little relevance if a long-dead generation still hasn’t seen the reality of this promised coming after the passing of nearly 2000 years. If fathers are told not to “exasperate their children” (Eph. 6:4), why is it OK for God to do it?

Denison quotes Jonathan Edwards without a context. Edwards was a postmillennialist and believed that the “coming” mentioned in Matthew 24 refers to Jesus’ coming judgment against Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and was not a description of a distant end-time event.[1] Edwards writes:

’Tis evident that when Christ speaks of his coming; his being revealed; his coming in his Kingdom; or his Kingdom’s coming; He has respect to his appearing in those great works of his Power Justice and Grace, which should be in the Destruction of Jerusalem [in A.D. 70] and other extraordinary Providences which should attend it.[2]

* * * * *

The degree of their punishment is the uttermost degree. This may respect both a national and personal punishment. If we take it as a national punishment, a little after the time when the epistle was written, wrath came upon the nation of the Jews to the uttermost, in their terrible destruction by the Romans; when, as Christ said, “was great tribulation, such as never was since the beginning of the world to that time,” Mat. 24:21. That nation had before suffered many of the fruits of divine wrath for their sins; but this was beyond all, this was their highest degree of punishment as a nation.[3]

I’m glad to see Dr. Denison taking a positive prophetic stand, I just wished he had argued it a different way.



[1]John H. Gerstner, “The Latter-Day Glory and Second Coming: From Jonathan Edwards — A Mini-Theology” (www.graceonlinelibrary.org/etc/printer-friendly.asp?ID=602).

[2]Jonathan Edwards, “Observations on the Facts and Evidences of Christianity, and the Objections of Infidels,” The Works of Jonathan Edwards, Part 1, Chap. 2, § 17. www.ccel.org/ccel/edwards/works2.x.ii.i.html

[3]Jonathan Edwards, “When the Wicked Shall Have Filled Up the Measure of Their Sin, Wrath Will Come Upon Them to the Uttermost” (May 1735): www.biblebb.com/files/edwards/uttermost.htm

Endnotes:

  1. John MacArthur, Because the Time is Near: John MacArthur Explains the Book of Revelation (Chicago: Moody Press, 2007), 14.()
  2. MacArthur, Because the Time is Near, 332.()
  3. MacArthur, Because the Time is Near, 332.()
  4. John MacArthur, The Second Coming: Signs of Christ’s Return and the End of the Age (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1999), 51.()
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About the Author

Gary is a graduate of Western Michigan University (1973) and earned his M.Div. at Reformed Theological Seminary in 1979. He is the author of countless essays, news articles, and more than 27 book titles, His most recent book is Exposing the Real Last Days Scoffers. Gary lives in Marietta, Georgia, with his wife, Carol. They have two married sons and four grandchildren, Gary and Carol are members of Midway Presbyterian Church (PCA).



16 Responses to Will the World End in Your Lifetime?

  1. Jack says:

    [Hello, AV. Check this out - what I stumbled across on the surprising web.]

    70 AD Futurism !

    Preterists claim that the “Antichrist” and the “great tribulation” were fulfilled during the 70 AD period.
    If so, why do we find that the arrival of the Antichrist was still expected by writers who lived during and after 70 AD?
    Polycarp (70-167) wrote that “He comes as the Judge of the living and the dead.”
    Justin Martyr (100-168) said that “[Antichrist] shall venture to do unlawful deeds on the earth against us the Christians….”
    Irenaeus (140-202) wrote that the ten kings (Rev. 17)”shall give their kingdom to the beast, and put the church to flight.”
    It’s not true that Francisco Ribera (1537-1591) “revived” futurism because it was never lost during the Middle Ages or prior to that period of time.
    Bernard of Clairvaux (1090-1153) stated: “There remains only one thing – that the demon of noonday [Antichrist] should appear.”
    Roger Bacon (1214-1274) spoke of “future perils [for the Church] in the times of Antichrist….”
    John Wycliffe (1320-1384) referred to “the hour of temptation, which is coming upon all the world, Rev. iii.”
    Martin Luther (1483-1546): “[The book of Revelation] is intended as a revelation of things that are to happen in the future….”
    (Google or Yahoo “Famous Rapture Watchers” to see quotes from many Christian leaders throughout the Church Age which prove that they expected a future Antichrist and a future great tribulation.)
    Preterists use Matt. 24:34 (“This generation will not pass….”) to try to prove a 70 AD fulfillment of “Antichrist.” Since many of them see “these” (Matt. 25:46) fulfilled in the future in Rev. 20, why can’t they apply futurism as easily to Matt. 24:34? After all, the word “this” is the singular form of “these”!
    Church history is fascinating, right?

    • rondoudou. says:

      simple because the book of revleation was very difficult to understand and they got confused

  2. Sean says:

    (Acts 1:6-11) When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.

    (1 Thessalonians 4:13-17) But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive [and] remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive [and] remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.

    (1 Corinthians 15:50-54) Now this I say, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; neither doth corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal [must] put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory.

    (Romans 8:10, 11) And if Christ [be] in you, the body [is] dead because of sin; but the Spirit [is] life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.

    (1 Corinthians 15:12-22) Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then [is] our preaching vain, and your faith [is] also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith [is] vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, [and] become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man [came] death, by man [came] also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

  3. Diana says:

    I’m always hearing what you don’t believe but would love a clearer picture of what you DO believe, Gary.

    Do you believe there will be another coming of Jesus?
    Do you believe there will be a ressurection of the dead and glorified bodies given to us?

    And from what I gather, you believe that heaven will actually be earth? Where do people go when they die?

    Just trying to get this straight. Some things I’ve heard on here are a bit startling though I’m not too upset simply because as someone mentioned I will die and be with Jesus one way or another..and very very soon even if I live to be 100 (now 40). Life is short regardless …so we’d better get ready, “we got to die”

    But anyway, please clarify those questions for me.

    • Diana says:

      Mike,
      I appreciate that you have stated things in a positive way rather than the usual no, no, no that can sound pretty disturbing, disheartening and disappointing to someone who has travelled through dispensational teaching and then to amill in the reformed camp. To hear JESUS is NOT coming back continually…you know?

      But yes, however he does it HE is our hope and salvation.

      Curious though, what are you saying WILL happen to the earth if you are saying it will not be destroyed or renewed? Do full preterists believe heaven is on earth…what roll does the earth play, in your thinking?

      I appreciate the response and hope to see one from Gary as well.

    • Thanks Mike. From your response to Diana, it seems that I am on the same road that you were on years ago. So far I’ve made from Dispensationalist to Partial Preterist, although I’ve been having trouble understanding why certain passages get split up between A.D. 70 fulfillment and “end of the world” (Matthew 24-25, 1 Thes. 4-5, Rev. 20-21, etc.).

      Anyway, I’m still on the journey. After having been taught something and thinking one way for decades it takes some time change to a different way of thinking. I appreciate your questions and comments, which get across your point without being hostile.

    • Micah Martin says:

      Diana,

      If you click on my name it will take you to my blog. You might be interested in reading my post “Biblically Defining Eternal Life.” It might give you some food for thought.

      Blessings,
      Micah

  4. Wesley says:

    will the world end my lifetime? i could happen. will it end in someones lifetime? yes, when God decided that he is tire of playing his chess game with satan. i think it would be an interesting coincidence if Christ return and the resurrection of dead happens in 2017 when Jerusalem celebrates its first year of jubilee united under Jewish control since before Christ. only God knows when it brings this old world of sin and death to an end and sets up his new perfect world where sin and death do not exist.

    • Len says:

      The year of Jubilee occurs every 50 years. The first one as a new nation was in 1997 (1947 + 50).

      • Wesley says:

        i know that Israel had already celebrated its first jubilee as a nation in 1998 for Israel was reborn as a nation in 1948, but Jerusalem was not united under Jewish rule until 1967 with the peace treaty of the six day war. 1967+50=2017 where i got the year for jubilee for united Jerusalem.

      • Wesley says:

        Mike
        I no longer believe in dispensationalism. I was looking at the fact that fiftieth year is very important to the Jews and just like Jesus predicted that the Jews would take control of the city when the time for the gentiles to control it was over. we are just coming close to the fiftieth year of this Jewish control. who knows the Jews may become more open to their Messiah just like the Ninavites were in the time of Jonah due to the solar eclipse at that time.

    • Mark says:

      Wesley,

      Ask Gary if God is playing chess with satan……

      • Wesley says:

        the Bible is filled with moves and counter-moves much like happen when you play chess. chess is a slow moving game which takes a lot of patience to learn and play. satan is down to just a few more moves, but he is in check where he is just waiting for checkmate where the game ends. since the resurrection of Christ and Pentecost satan has been put in check.

      • Mark says:

        Satan is not in check, he HAS been checkmated…. (king laid over on its side…….or better yet, head cut off).

  5. Jesse says:

    Can you please quote specifically where Gary DeMar and Joel McDurmon have taught the “end of the planet earth” as you claim? I am curious to read their statements with regard to this.

  6. BananaSplit38 says:

    MY World will end in MY LIFETIME. I will die!!! And the world of all those I love will end in THEIR LIFETIMES. They will die!!

    Other than that, is there any reason why I should care about when this planet as we know it ends.

    With that said. Where is Heaven? Where is Hell? Is the answer to that any more mind boggling than the definition of The Trinity where 3 equals 1 and 1 equals 3? In the world of science (math in this case) everyone knows the answer to that. However, when the same question is asked in religion the same mathematical facts no longer apply.

    So who cares when this world end?

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