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Global Warming and the End Times: Is there a Connection?

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A battle is going on among Southern Baptists and evangelicals in general over the global warming hypothesis. The real battle is between those advocating stewardship and those pushing for government to control our behavior in the belief that global warming is man-made rather than part of weather cycles. For example, so far 2008 is not turning out to be a good year for global warming certainties, especially with record snowfalls in several cities. Even the Atlanta area had snow flurries yesterday.

A new twist in the debate is that some see real climate change as part of an end-time prophetic scenario.  Jonathan Merritt, who caused quite a stir with his “A Southern Baptist Declaration on the Environment and Climate Change,” writes that “one Southern Baptist pastor said that environmental problems are just ‘signs of the end times and God’s judgment,’ and we should embrace them.”[1] How prevalent is the belief among evangelicals that reports of “climate change”[2] are linked to the approaching “end times”?

In Personal Faith, Public Policy (2008), authors Harry R. Jackson and Tony Perkins give a good explanation of biblical stewardship based on creation ordinances (209–210). They then walk out on some theological thin ice by claiming that while Jesus “does not mention global warming directly, He does help us perhaps understand the role disruptions in our weather patterns may play in the days leading up to His return” (210). They then appeal to Luke 21:7–12 for support where they “believe it is possible that Jesus is referring to dramatic, national weather changes” that ‘could be related to the famines and pestilences He says will come” (211).  “It’s possible,” they write, “that the End –Time signs that Jesus referred to were part of God’s warning the world of His imminent return” (211). After listing everything from “increased civil disturbances” (Luke 21:9) to “unusual astronomical events” (21:11), Jackson and Perkins ask, “Did you notice that what Jesus warned would occur in the last days are almost identical to what some global warming theorists are saying is going to happen? (211). There is no discussion about how all these passages come before Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all things take place” (21:32). All of these “signs” referred to events leading up to and including the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. There is no other meaning that can be given to “this generation.” It’s not a type of generation that will not pass away; it’s “this” generation will not pass away. The “this” generation was “that” generation.

In Matthew 24:7 Jesus also spoke of earthquakes that would proceed the fall of Jerusalem. Acts records that there was “a great earthquake” that shook “the foundations of the prison house” (Acts 16:26). According to historical accounts, this was not a rare occurrence for that time. Rather, a staggering number of earthquakes took place throughout the Roman Empire in the period before A.D. 70. Josephus writes that earthquakes were common calamities, and he describes one earthquake in Judea of such magnitude “that the constitution of the universe was confounded for the destruction of men.”[3]

A great deal of attention has been focused on the number of hurricanes that struck the United States in 2005 and the tsunami that hit Asia in 2004. Many believe that these are signs of the end based on Luke’s account of the Olivet Discourse where he writes about the “perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves” (21:25). The Mediterranean Sea floor is littered with ships that broke apart and sank because of storms. We read of one such incident in Acts 27. The storm is described as a “Euraquilo,” that is, “a northeaster” (27:14). Luke writes that they did not see the sun or stars “for many days” (27:20). The ship finally ran aground where it was “broken up by the force of the waves” (27:41). The Roman historian Tacitus describes a series of similar events in A.D. 65:

The gods also marked by storms and diseases a year made shameful by so many crimes. Campania was devastated by a hurricane. . . the fury of which extended to the vicinity of the City, in which a violent pestilence was carrying away every class of human beings . . . houses were filled with dead bodies, the streets with funerals.[4]

The natural disasters described by Matthew, Mark, and Luke, common to every age, pointed specifically to the coming of Jesus in judgment upon Jerusalem before that first-century generation passed away. When the temple was destroyed in A.D. 70, these events ceased to be prophetic signs.

Care for the environment is based on Mandate 28: the Dominion Mandate of Genesis 1:28 and the Great Commission Mandate of Matthew 28:18–20. Jackson and Perkins are correct when they write, “We must never forget that as the planet changes and goes through various cycles, our call to subdue the earth. As a practical matter, this would mean that we should treat the matter of working with nature and the earth as someone would approach breaking a horse or taming a wild animal. Wisdom, strength, focus, and even force may be necessary to exert our will over the planet.” (210).  None of these things can happen if we keep teaching an erroneous view of eschatology that claims that the end may be near, especially when the texts used to such a view do not actually support it. 

Footnotes:
[1]
Jonathan Merritt, “Baptist plea churns up a tempest,” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (March 24, 2008), A11
[2]
You will see the use of “global warming” go out of favor to be replaced consistently with “climate change.” This will allow the global warming dogmatists to use any change in the climate as evidence of man-made climate change, including record cold weather and snow fall.
[3]
Quoted in Thomas Scott, The Holy Bible Containing the Old and New Testaments, According to the Authorized Version; with Explanatory Notes, Practical Observations, and Copious Marginal References, 3 vols. (New York: Collins and Hannay, 1832), 3:108.
[4]
George Edmundson, The Church in Rome in the First Century (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1913), 143.
 
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