During my college years as a Protestant, I often heard about the Second Coming of Christ and the end of time. How Jesus was going to come and rapture us all up into the clouds and bring us to heaven. It sounded like a marvelous idea, especially to a college kid who was facing final exams. There were many times I would be at my desk in the dorm room studying for a final exam and my prayer went something like: “Lord, I know you’re coming again and will put an end to this world. If you would please come back anytime before this final exam, then that would be greatly appreciated. Thanks Lord.” It was one prayer Jesus didn’t grant for me. (I still had to take the final exams)
From Martin de Tours to Y2K (and beyond), there have been countless end-of-time predictions. Most point to the emergence of the Antichrist and predict he was already born. Others, such as Y2K, expected a computer virus to crash computers on January 1, 2000, and lead to major catastrophes which would usher in the end of time. The majority of these predictions, however, focus on the return of Christ. But what do we really know about the end of time and how it will happen?
Martin de Tours said, “there is no doubt that the Antichrist has already been born. Firmly established already in his early years, he will, after reaching maturity, achieve supreme power.” Tours expected this end of time to happen in 400 A.D. He obviously was wrong. (or the Antichrist is super old by now)
Pope Innocent III predicted the end of the world would occur in 618, a total of 666 (a number often associated with the Antichrist and Satan) years after the rise of Islam. His prediction tied the end of the world to Islam. Pope Innocent III died in 1216 and the world is still here. He was wrong.
Not to be outdone by Catholics, Protestant Reformation originator Martin Luther had his own predictions about the return of Christ and the end of the world. He predicted the end would happen on or before 1600. He, too, was wrong. (nice try Luther)
Martin de Tours, Pope Innocent III, and Martin Luther are all joined by those such as Christopher Columbus (predicted it would be 1658), John Mason (predicted it would be 1694), John Wesley (predicted it would be 1836), Jim Jones (predicted it would happen in 1967), and all the predictors of the Y2K disaster. They have all been wrong. So, let’s look at what we know for certain about how the world will end.
We know the birth of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and God Incarnate, is not the only time the Lord Jesus will come to earth. We know He is coming again because he tells us. He promises He is coming, and Jesus keeps His promises. This time, unlike his birth in a manger, everyone will know the Lord has arrived.
“For just as lightning comes from the east and is seen as far as the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be.” (Matthew 24:27) For those afraid you might miss Jesus coming again if you do not live in the right place or if you are not looking at the sky at the right time, you will not miss him. If you are alive when Christ returns, then Jesus promises you will see him. There will be nowhere a person can hide to get away from Christ. There will be no place safe to prevent Him from seeing you. There will be no where to escape Jesus when He returns in all His glory. The question is not, “where will you be” or “will I miss him?” The question is “what are you doing to get ready?”
We also know that no person on earth will be able to predict when Jesus will return. So, I hate to burst that bubble, but if you follow or believe some of these predictors who claim to know when the world will end then you are wrong. Jesus promises us that we will not be able to know until it happens. If a person is predicting the end of the world will happen on a specific day, then you can be sure it is likely NOT going to be that day. “But of that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. For as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. In those days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying, and giving in marriage, up to the day that Noah entered the ark. They did not know until the flood came and carried them all away. So, will it be also at the coming of the Son of Man.” (Matthew 24:36-39) If Jesus does not even know the day He will return, what makes you think any human being can know? It is impossible to know because Jesus does not even know until the Father tells Him it is time.
However, we do know for certain that there will be an Antichrist. He will, at first, deceive the world and persuade the world that things which are evil and wrong are, indeed, good. He will persecute the Church because the Church will be deemed as oppressive and intolerant. He will set himself up as god and oppose the true God. “Let no one deceive you in any way. For unless the apostasy comes first and the lawless one is revealed, the one doomed to perdition, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god and object of worship, so as to seat himself in the temple of God, claiming that he is a god – do you not recall that while I was still with you I told you these things?” (2 Thessalonians 2:3-5) As a result of the persecution promulgated and organized by the Antichrist, the church will suffer greatly but will never be defeated.
We also know, at the end of time, the Jewish people will finally come around to recognizing Jesus Christ as their long-awaited Messiah. “I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers, so that you will not become wise in your own estimation: a hardening has come upon Israel in part, until the full number of the Gentiles comes in, and thus all Israel will be saved, as it is written: ‘The deliverer will come out of Zion, he will turn away godlessness from Jacob; and this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins.” (Romans 11:25-26) Let us not forget that Israel remains holy in the eyes of God. It is His people. It is the people whom Christ revealed Himself to when He came the first time. He will not forget His people. We must not forget them either. We must guard our hearts and our tongues from believing and speaking any type of anti-Jewish thoughts or beliefs because the Jews’ lack of faith in Christ at this time will not remain forever. They, too, will come to know the Lord.
One of the primary elements of the end of time many people associate with the apocalypse is the raising of the dead. We, indeed, are certain the dead will be raised incorruptible. St. Paul writes in his first letter to the Corinthians about this event. “This I declare, brothers; flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does corruption inherit incorruption. Behold, I tell you a mystery. We shall not all fall asleep, but we will all be changed, in an instant, in the blink of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” (I Cor. 15:50-52)
There is a lot we, as Christians, know about the eventual end of the world. What we know, for certain, is that it will happen and the above-mentioned aspects of what it will look like are a guarantee. This is one of many reasons Catholics, and all Christians, should be reading their Bible and devoted to prayer. St. Jerome said, “ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” Let us not be ignorant of Christ. Let us prepare, look with anticipation, believe in faith, rejoice in hope, and celebrate the coming of Christ….again. Are you ready?