Remember those bearded men with the signs around their necks who walked around down town? “THE END OF THE WORLD IS COMING,” they chanted. We laughed at them. We thought they were ridiculous and maybe mentally ill and certainly not to be taken seriously.
But I remember talking seriously about a nuclear war. In 1982 it was estimated that a US/Soviet nuclear exchange might kill 400–450 million directly, mostly in the United States, Europe and Russia, and maybe several hundred million more through collateral damage. Then there was the possibility of an asteroid colliding with the earth; if such an object struck the earth it is even possible that humanity would be completely destroyed.
And recently many serious scientists have been saying some of the same scary things. Physicist Stephen Hawking, Microsoft founder Bill Gates and SpaceX founder Elon Musk have expressed concerns about the possibility of Artificial Intelligence evolving to the point where humans could not control it. Hawking theorized that this could "spell the end of the human race.” Nowadays, of course, you hear more about global warming.
Have people always predicted the end of the world? Well, Religions certainly have. Baha’i, Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism all have mythical stories leading up to the end of the world but most of them give us some kind of resurrection; some kind of a new life; some hope for another chance at reincarnation. None of them want it to end with the end.
It wasn’t that way with the early Hebrews, however. They understood death to be final. They did have a dark place called Sheol where all the dead were dumped but you wouldn’t want to live there. It wasn’t until a few hundred years before Christ that we see some of the Prophets like Isaiah and Enoch and Daniel talking about a resurrection from Sheol. And we know the Pharisees believed in a resurrection, but not the Sadducees.
How about Jesus? We wish we knew.
Jesus lived and taught in Galilee during the late 20’s and early 30’s. We all wish he would have written down his opinions and ideas about the end of the world and a resurrection (and a lot of other things, too) but he didn’t. His illiterate Jewish followers certainly did their best to revive his statements and stories, but they couldn’t read or write so they just talked about them. This “oral tradition” with additions and redactions went on (some say: without any changes) for the next 50 years. Mark’s gospel was written down in Greek – not Aramaic- in the late 70’s, followed by Matthew, Luke, and John into the year 110.
Now there is no doubt that all these people believed in both the end of the world and the resurrection of a new life with Jesus. It would be called the new Kingdom of God; and each one of the 4 evangelists either quoted Jesus from the oral tradition, or put these statements and beliefs back on his lips. But when they tried to predict when this “end-time” would happen, they ended up with three different variations:
The Kingdom of God is already inside of us.