Perhaps the most common question arising from those who desire to know what the Bible says about the future is, “Do you think the end is near?” After all, it has been over 2500 years since God unveiled His New Covenant for salvation to His chosen people of Israel (and by extension, to all those who are children of Abraham by faith; cf. Gal 3:29). Moreover, it has been nearly 2000 years since the Son of God, Jesus Christ, triumphed over sin and death via His crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension, propitiating God’s wrath, expiating the penitent believer’s sin, and—critically for our topic—introducing the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. The Bible announces this last development as the triggering event for the “last days” (Amos 2:17; Joel 2:28; Acts 2:16-21).
So the Bible’s answer to this predominating question is an unequivocal, “Yes.” Peter, Paul, James, Jude and the writer of Hebrews all stipulate under inspiration of God that “the end of the ages has come” (1 Cor 10:11) and that “the end of all things is at hand” (1 Pet 4:7; see also Heb 1:2; James 5:3; Jude 1:18). No less an expert on eschatology than Jesus Christ, in revealing the closing events of the world to the Apostle John around A.D. 95 or 96, said of their imminent launch, “the time is near” (Rev 1:3). Undoubtedly for this reason, the Apostle John describes the time of his writing as “the last hour” (1 John 2:18). But how far into that hour are we? Here we can turn to God’s specific descriptions of earthly developments that will herald the end. What does the Bible say life will be like as creation comes to a close?
Unfortunately, God’s Word is clear that as the end draws nigh, things in this world will be going from bad to worse (2 Tim 3:13). James says the time will be marked by the idolatry of wealth (5:3). Jude foresees “scoffers, following their own ungodly passions” (Jude 1:18). Peter says sinful desires will lead these scoffers to a host of impudent disavowals, including denial of the imminent return of Christ, denial of God’s literal rendering of creation, denial of the Noahic flood, and denial of the future destruction of the universe (2 Pet 3:3-7). Paul agrees as he writes:
But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.2 Tim 3:1-5
Paul goes on to say people, “will be burdened with sins and led astray by various passions, always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth” (vv. 6b-7). These same individuals will, “oppose the truth, men corrupted in mind and disqualified regarding the faith” (v. 8). In another passage, Paul describes the course of the human condition on earth as marked by foolish and futile thinking and by hearts that have become darkened, leading to a progressive and shameless decline into all forms of sexual immorality (Rom 1:21-27). And what is the endpoint? Paul continues:
And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.Rom 1:28-32
Notice in particular that this deterioration of society is not only among those outside the Church. The Bible is clear that there will be those who profess faith—those “having the appearance of godliness” (2 Tim 3:5)—who will contribute toward this decline into greater and greater depravity. The pernicious deviation from sound doctrine by some within the professing church is encompassed in the term apostasy. Its sinister and malignant effect is the reason why the Bible continually warns believers to be on guard against those within the Church who would alter the Word of God, and in particular the gospel (Acts 20:28-31; Gal 1:6-10; Eph. 5:11; 1 Tim 6:20; 2 Tim 4:1-4; Titus 1:9; 2 Pet 2:1-22; 2 John 7-11; Jude 3-23). In fact, in 1 Timothy 4:1, Paul writes, “Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons….” And what are the teachings of demons? Any ideas raised against the true person and purpose of God, as written in His Word (2 Cor 10:5; James 3:14-15).
The common characteristic of those contributing to this degenerative spiral—both among those who profess to believe and those who flat-out reject—will be their denial of truth. Recall above how Paul describes them as, “always learning and never able to arrive at a knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim 3:7). They are those who will, being corrupted in mind, “oppose the truth” (v. 8). In his letter to the Romans, Paul writes, “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (Rom 1:18; emphasis added). Opposition to truth reaches its nadir when what is true is actually labeled as false, and what is false is labeled as true. Addressing this, the prophet Isaiah warns, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter!” (Isa 5:20).
That the enemies of God would be characterized by their disdain for and rejection of truth follows the logical progression of Scripture. For if Jesus says that those who follow Him are sanctified by the truth of God’s Word (John 8:31-32; 17:17), then it stands to reason that those who reject Him would be identified as deniers of that same truth. In any event, the consequence of rebelling against God’s truth is at once both startling and sobering. In 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12, Paul describes those who are ultimately perishing as those who “refused to love the truth and so be saved.” He then continues: “Therefore, God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” Here we learn there comes a time when God actually reinforces the delusion of those who rebel against Him, because of their persistent effrontery in snubbing His truth. It is a fearful thing to reject the great mercy of God by rejecting His truth about the path to salvation, for beyond that there is no other mercy available, but only judgment (cf. John 3:18; 36; Heb 10:31; Rev 21:6-8).
So are we near the end? Consider the following: Is wealth idolized? Are scoffers mocking the biblical account of the return of Christ, a six-day literal creation scheme, a worldwide Noahic flood and the coming destruction of the universe? Are sexual immoralities and other forms of ungodliness rampant? Is right being characterized as wrong, and wrong as right? Is God’s truth being desecrated by professing but false believers, committed hedonists, and all those in between? These are the signs that will herald the beginning of the end.
You can read more on this topic in Colin’s book, What the Bible Says About the Future.