Bible Prophecy and Fear Mongering
Question: We’ve often heard some prophecy preachers crying out, "The end is near!" Sometimes they speak about "God’s final warning to the world." It seems that people ridicule Bible prophecy because nothing horrible has yet happened. How near is "the end" and how many "final warnings" does God give?
Answer: It's true that Bible prophecy has gotten bad press because some have made claims and promises that have not actually come to pass. However, some non-Christians and non-prophecy preachers have done the same thing. In his 1968 book The Population Bomb, Paul Ehrlich claimed that we wouldn’t get much beyond the 1970s because millions would starve to death.
Even liberals have been at it. In 1977, President Jimmy Carter predicted that we would use up all of the oil reserves in the entire world by the end of the next decade.
But prophecy preachers need to be a little more guarded in their statements. Scoffers like Gary DeMar and others have a point when they cite all the last days' hysteria that goes far beyond anything found in Scripture.
A key Scripture is 2 Timothy 3:1, "This know also that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters . . . disobedient to parents. . . ." Preterists go to a verse like this and say that we have been living in the last days for the last two thousand years. They also quote Scripture verses like Hebrews 1:2.
Now there are two very important truths. The first one applies to preterists and scoffers. Second Timothy 3:1 does not say that the entire period known as "the last days" will be evil. Rather, it says that somewhere in that time period known as "the last days" evil will abound.
The second applies to sensationalistic prophecy preachers. It is hard to quantify moral decline. No matter how bad things get, they can always get worse. It is impossible to know specifically how bad things must be in order for them to be a prophetic sign. We have to be careful in being too specific and saying that such and such a news event is the final sign.
Of course, modern technology and weapons of mass destruction certainly make this a unique time in the history of planet earth. There has never been a time like the present time.
The horrible judgments and catastrophes of the Book of Revelation are well within the realm of the possible. As Mark Steyn has said
In the old days, the Injuns had bows and arrows and the cavalry had rifles. In today’s Indian territory, countries that can’t feed their own people have nuclear weapons (America Alone, xxi).