As far as 2011 is concerned, there were the predictions of Harold Camping of Family Radio in California that the rapture of believers would occur on 21st May 2011, followed by five months of divine judgements, up to 21st October 2011, during which virtually all life on earth would have been exterminated. Camping wrote a book titled, The Doomsday Code.
Furthermore, there was the calendar of the Aztecs, an Indian tribe of Mexico, according to which the end of the world would have occurred on 24th December 2011. Like many other mythological theories on the origin and destiny of humanity, these theories have no logical or credible content which would merit any serious consideration.
Hollywood films are also increasingly riding the wave of sensational prophecies of doom. Particular attention is given to the calendar of the Maya, another Indian tribe, which indicates the end of all human life on 21 or 23 December 2012. It is expected that, on one of these two days, the earth will be struck by a comet which will destroy all life.
Web pages such as www.2012danger.com elaborate on this theme, and discuss the possibility of a new ice age which may be introduced on earth by such a disaster, similar to the one that allegedly caused the sudden extinction of Protozoa such as the dinosaurs. No people will be able to survive this disaster.
A prophecy by Nostradamus also refers to a comet which will strike the earth in 2012, causing large-scale devastation, even to the extent of ending the world: www.december2012endofworld.com/nostradamus-2012.
Apart from the prophecies of Nostradamus and the Indian tribes, there are many people who expect that Planet X (Nibiru) will collide with earth early in 2012, leading to the potential extinction of all life. In spite of all efforts by NASA scientists and astrobiologists to refute the theory on Nibiru (The Destroyer), there are still thousands of people who believe in it. More information is offered on the website http://astrobiology.nasa.gov/ask-an-astrobiologist where it is said: “Ask an Astrobiologist has received more than 5 000 questions about Nibiru and Doomsday 2012, with more than 400 answers posted.” More information may be gained by doing a Google search under the name “Nibiru”.
How should we make sense from all the disturbing and confusing claims about the future?
To Christians there is only one reliable source of prophetic information, and that is the Bible. There is however no agreement on how prophecies should be interpreted. Some theologians spiritualise all prophecies on future events (particularly those in Revelation) by regarding them as symbolic or allegoric statements, and therefore not as literal possibilities. Others hold an historical view (preterism) by alleging that all disasters associated with the great tribulation were fulfilled in the first century AD during the destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman Empire.
But fortunately there are also those who follow a literal interpretation of biblical prophecies: “If the plain sense of the Word makes common sense, then seek no other sense” (Dwight Pentecost). There are indeed symbols and imagery in the prophetic word, but there are also many literal statements which should be accepted on face value without changing their meaning in any way.
When biblical prophecies are objectively studied it is evident that by far the most of them have a futuristic application since they refer to the time directly preceding, during, or after the second coming of Christ. In the light of prophecies that have already been literally fulfilled to the smallest detail we have all reason to believe that end-time prophecies will be literally fulfilled.
The Olivet Discourse
In the Olivet Discourse of Christ, attention is devoted to two critical periods in the church dispensation, i.e. its beginning and end. At the beginning of this period, directly following upon the first coming of the Lord Jesus, Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed and Israel were dispersed from their land because of rejecting the Messiah (Luke 19:41-44; 21:20-24).
This was followed by the times of the Gentiles (the non-Jewish nations), a period designated to the evangelisation of the entire world (Mark 16:15; Rom. 11:25). During this time Israel would be dispersed among the nations and Jerusalem in a downtrodden state: “And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” (Luke 21:24).
However, at the end of the period of world evangelisation, Israel and Jerusalem would be restored as part of preparing the scene for the second coming of Christ. When He returns He will set foot on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem (Zech. 14:4-5), and by then Israel should be back in their land. On that occasion they will “look on Him whom they have pierced ... and grieve for Him” (Zech. 12:10).
The change in Jerusalem’s status is an important indication that the church dispensation is drawing to a close. In 1948, during the independence of modern Israel, they only controlled the new, western part of Jerusalem. In 1967, Israel also recaptured the old part of the city (biblical Jerusalem) from Jordan. In 1980, Jerusalem was again declared as the capital of Israel and the Prime Minister, Menachem Begin, moved his office from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
The important “time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jer. 30:7) will be a short but decisive period in Israel’s end-time restoration. Daniel 9:27 describes it as a year-week, which is a period of seven years. In the New Testament, this period is referred to as the “tribulation” and also as the “great tribulation” (Matt. 24:21, 29; Rev. 7:14). It will elapse during seven prophetic years of 360 days each, which are divided into two halves of 3½ years each, i.e. 42 months or 1 260 days each (Rev. 11:3; 12:6, 14; 13:5).
The entire seven years may be described as “the tribulation period”, of which only the last 3½ years constitute “the great tribulation”. Christ referred to the middle of the tribulation period when the rebuilt temple in Jerusalem will be desecrated by the Antichrist, and added: “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be” (Matt. 24:21).
In His Olivet Discourse, Jesus Christ gave more detail on the coming time of great tribulation. He said that it would be a time of wars and rumours of wars, as well as famines, pestilences, and earthquakes (Matt. 24:6-7). He also said that this time of great distress would occur directly prior to His second coming:
“And there will be signs in the sun, in the moon, and in the stars; and on the earth distress of nations, with perplexity, the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them from fear and the expectation of those things which are coming on the earth, for the powers of heaven will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (Luke 21:25-27).
These dramatic prophecies tie up with a great number of Old Testament prophecies on the day of the Lord, which will be a time of unprecedented judgements upon the wicked (cf. Isa. 13:9-13; 24:1-23; Joel 2:11, 31).
But we should note that the coming seven years of tribulation will not be initiated by great judgements, but with the revelation of the Antichrist during a time of intense spiritual deception (Matt. 24: 4-5, 11, 24). During an impending war against Israel he will appear on the scene as a false prince of peace. Shortly afterwards, he will conclude a seven-year covenant with Israel and the nations (Dan. 9:27).
In the book of Revelation, the scenario of the final seven years before the public coming of Christ is described in all its terrifying detail. Apart from the military dictatorship of the Antichrist, who is described as the “beast” by John, 21 divine judgements will also be poured out upon the unsaved world. The wrath of God will be revealed in the form of seven seals, seven trumpets, and the seven bowl judgements, as discussed in Revelation 6 through 19.
From Revelation 6:2 it is evident that the Antichrist will appear on the world scene as the rider on a white horse of peace. He will institute a world government, as well as an alliance of world religions and a world economy, which will function under his personal leadership. In this way he will give final expression to the objectives of globalisation.
According to Revelation 13, he will be the undisputed political leader of the world: “And he was given authority over every tribe, tongue, and nation” (Rev. 13:7). The entire world will follow him in amazement and also worship him (Rev. 13:3-4, 8). Together with his co-ruler, the false prophet, he will also control the world economy and allocate numbers to all people (Rev. 13:16-18).
During the course of time, there will be revolts against his rule, which will induce him to enforce his decisions by military power. That will introduce the second half of the tribulation period, referred to as the great tribulation. The Antichrist will definitely know that, according to biblical prophecies, the true Christ will return at the end of that year-week to destroy the antichristian world system and all its supporters. Because of this threat to him and his empire he will, with the assistance of demons, mobilise a multinational force to fight against the true Christ (Rev. 16:13-16). That will set the scene for the notorious battle of Armageddon:
“And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone” (Rev. 19:19-20).
At the same time, the Lord will pour out severe judgements upon His enemies. Great earthquakes will occur and, due to air pollution, the sun will become black as sackcloth, and the moon like blood. Parts of disintegrating heavenly bodies will fall on the earth, and people will flee to the mountains from ruined towns and cities (Rev. 6:12-17; 16:1-21).
In various countries (particularly the US, but also South Africa) there are already people who are moving out to places of refuge in the mountains or in sparsely populated rural areas, where they store up medicine, dehydrated food, and water. In this way they hope to survive the disasters of the coming day of the Lord.
A clear biblical principle which applied since the beginning of human history, and still applies today, is that the Lord never judges the righteous with the wicked (cf. Gen. 18:23). That did not happen during the Flood, and also not during the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah – neither will it happen during the coming tribulation of seven years. Christians are indeed persecuted and oppressed by a wicked world because of their faith, but they are not judged by the Lord. The coming tribulation will be the period of God’s wrath, and for that reason all believers must first be removed form the disaster area of divine judgements. We have a very clear promise to this effect:
“Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36; cf. John 14:2-3; 1 Thess. 4:16-17).
Christ will first come like a thief in the night to secretly snatch away His bride. Seven years later, at His public coming, He will judge His enemies, save the remnant of Israel, and establish His kingdom on earth.
On the prophetic calendar of the Bible, the first major event ahead of us will be the catching away of the true Christians, directly after the first resurrection (1 Thess. 4:13-18). Then, the Antichrist will be revealed, followed by 3½ years of false peace, and subsequently the final 3½ years of the major disasters and judgements of the great tribulation.
False, extra-biblical prophets do not proclaim the truth, as God only reveals Himself to us through His Word. Even Christians who claim that they have received information which adds to the Bible, are false prophets who subject themselves to the judgements of God. The last chapter of the Bible contains a serious warning to those who add to the Bible, and also to those who take certain things away (Rev. 22:18-19).
When existing extra-biblical prophecies on 2012 are compared with the Bible they are all proved to be false. The world will definitely not end in 2012, as that will only happen at the end of Christ’s thousand-year reign of peace which will be instituted after His second coming (Rev. 20:7-15).
However, in the foreseeable future during the coming tribulation period, there will be major disasters on earth but they will only occur during the second half of the tribulation and can therefore not take effect in 2012. Smaller disasters may well occur but they will not form part of God’s judgements as described in Revelation.
In referring to the end-time, the very first warning of the Lord Jesus was the following: “Take heed that no one deceives you” (Matt. 24:4). We should, at this present time, be particularly cautious of deception since the rise of political, religious, and economic globalism is preparing the scene for the appearance of the Antichrist. We are living in a world in which political leaders are not able to offer a safe future to their followers while, at the same time, Christian foundations are collapsing in the quest for international reforms towards multireligious thinking.
In the sphere of economics it is evident that the serious debt crisis in most of the developed countries, as well as crumbling monetary systems, are paving the way towards a new economic order. All these events are proclaiming the same message: we are living in the time of the great falling away before “the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God or that is worshipped, so that he sits as God in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God” (2 Thess. 2:3-4).
This depraved person will arise in the Middle East and will also be known as “the Assyrian” (Isa. 10:12-14, 20-25), which suggests that the ancient Assyrian and Babylonian Empires (the present Syria and Iraq) will be revived in the end-time. The emerging new world order will be controlled from this region in the Middle East.
Developments pertaining to the new ideology of globalism should take precedence in the prophetic thinking of Christians, since the spirit of the Antichrist is the spirit of rebellion against the true Christ. All who are engaged in deconstructing the image of the true Christ by denying His virgin birth en deity, as well as the significance of His atoning death on the cross, and the reality of His resurrection, ascension and second coming, while regarding all religions to be equal, are actively preparing the way for the false christ of the new world order.
If we wish to be effective withholders of the Antichrist (cf. 2 Thess. 2:6-8) we should be able to discern the present religious, political, and economic falling away in the world, as well as the deceptive globalisation strategy of the kingdom of the darkness, by which a concerted effort is made to take over the world. They also intend to discredit and ultimately uproot evangelical Christianity as well as the people of Israel.
In order to divert attention from these evil objectives, various false rumours of devastating disasters that will shortly strike the world are being spread. In view of these looming catastrophes, humanity is urged to set aside their political and religious differences in the interest of cooperation and enhancing the possibilities of future survival.
The Utopia which is offered by the new world order differs very little from that which historical dictators such as Hitler, Lenin and Stalin offered to their followers during their rise to power, but its end will be a far worse dictatorship than Nazism or Communism. The evil mustering of power which now occurs within the framework of globalism, will give rise to the greatest tribulation which the world has ever experienced.