On January 26, 2017, six days after Donald Trump was inaugurated as President of the United States, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists reset their symbolic “doomsday clock” to its closest time to midnight in 64 years. The clock reflects the group's assessment of the combined nuclear, environmental, and political threats that face humanity. A spokesperson for the Bulletin stated, "The board takes the unprecedented step, the first time in its history, of moving the clock hand 30 seconds closer to midnight. Today we move the clock a half-minute closer to midnight; it is now two-and-a-half minutes to midnight."
Lawrence Krauss, the bulletin's chair, told a news conference in Washington, “The Doomsday Clock is closer to midnight than it's ever been in the lifetime of almost everyone in this room.” Its hands were moved from three minutes to midnight to two minutes and 30 seconds to midnight. The bulletin cited nuclear volatility, especially between the United States and Russia, climate change, and cyber threats as significant contributing factors to the change of the doomsday clock.
How—and when—will the world end? Christians who believe that the Bible is God’s inspired Word don’t have to worry about the world ending due to catastrophic climate change, collapse of the world’s computer systems, or a nuclear holocaust. These and other threats may very well wreck havoc on this world in the future, but according to the Bible, the world will end when Jesus Christ returns at the second coming. In Matthew chapter 24 Jesus said,
“And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.”
Christ’s return will prove to be the true “doomsday” for this world. According to 2 Peter 3:10, “the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.”
Today we are going to look at the Biblical evidence that God has hidden a “doomsday clock” in the very fabric of creation. We are going to look at several prophecies and stories that act as “pictures of the end.” Understood together, they paint a very clear picture about how close the world really is to midnight and the end of human history.
Jesus warned against the temptation to try and determine the exact time of His second coming. He said in Matthew 24:36, “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.” So we are not attempting to set a specific time for Christ’s return. However, Jesus also predicted that a time would come when His disciples must recognize that His return is imminent, “even at the doors.” In His discourse on end-time events and the signs of His coming, Jesus said, “When ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors” (Matt. 24:33). While we cannot and should not try to know the exact day of Christ’s return, we can and should know when it is near.
Is there an appointed time for Jesus to return? Yes, but the exact day is known only to God. In Mark 13:32 Jesus said, “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father” (Mark 13:32). The Bible does not reveal the exact time of Christ’s return, but it does reveal a general prophetic clock that points to the completion of the work of salvation. Romans 1:20 reveals where we can find the Bible’s hidden “doomsday clock.”
“For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made…” (Romans 1:20).
God’s visible work of creation reveals important principles of His invisible work of salvation. The length of time allotted to sin before the work of salvation is accomplished is one of the things revealed by creation week. During creation week, God worked for six days, completed His work at the end of the sixth day, and rested on the seventh day (Gen. 1:31-2:3). For hundreds, even thousands, of years, people have understood that the seven days of creation reveal a seven-thousand year limit that God has placed on sin here on earth. This is sometimes referred to as the “great week of time.” The basic premise is this: There will be six thousand years between creation and the second coming of Christ, and the earth will lie in chaos during the seventh and last thousand year period.
How long have Christians understood the “great week of time”?
The general validity of the six-thousand year timeframe between creation and the second coming of Christ has been understood for centuries. Many ancient Jews and early Christians believed that, on the basis of creation week, the world would last six thousand years and be in chaos during the seventh thousand years. Consider the following statements from their writings:
- Irenaeus (170-234 ad). “For the day of the Lord is as a thousand years; and in six days created things were completed; it is evident therefore, that they will come to an end at the six thousandth year.”
- Hipolytus (b. 115-125 ad). “For the Sabbath is the type and emblem of the future kingdom of the saints, when they shall reign with Christ, when He comes from heaven, as John says in his Apocalypse. For a day with the Lord is as a thousand years. Since, then, in six days God made all things, it follows that 6000 years must be fulfilled.”
- Hugh Latimer (16th century). “The world was ordained to endure, as all learned men affirm and prove it with Scripture, six thousand years.”
- John Andrews (19th century). “When God created our earth, he indicated the period of time which must elapse before the day of Judgment. He employed six days in the work of creation; on the seventh day he rested from all his work. He sanctified the seventh day to be an everlasting memorial of the work of creation. But it appears that God designed by the first seven days of time to indicate the period assigned to the probation and judgment of mankind…Thus we have for the probation and judgment of mankind a great week of time,—the period of 7,000 years.
Does the Bible really support the idea of a “great week of time”? Does it really predict that Jesus Christ will return six thousand years after creation? Let’s dive into the Bible and look for some answers.
Which of creation’s seven days did God reserve for Himself?
“And God saw every thing that he had made, and behold, it was very good. And the evening, and the morning were the sixth day” (Genesis 1:31).
God created Earth in six days, “And on the seventh day God ended his work…and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made” (Gen. 2:2). The seventh-day Sabbath stands unique in God’s Word, for God calls it “my holy day” (Isa. 58:13). The seventh-day Sabbath, or the “day of the Lord,” is the day that God reserves for Himself.
What does God reserve His day for?
Throughout the Old Testament the “day of the Lord” is consistently associated with judgment, retribution, and destruction for God’s enemies. It represents the day of judgment. Consider Isaiah 13:6, “Howl ye; for the day of the LORD is at hand; it shall come as a destruction from the Almighty.” Joel 1:15 also associates the day of the Lord with the day of judgment and destruction: “Alas for the day! for the day of the LORD is at hand, and as a destruction from the Almighty shall it come.”
The epistle of Jude expands on these Old Testament verses and tells us who is judged during the day of the Lord. Verse 6 speaks of the “angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation” and are now “reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day” (Jude 6, emphasis supplied). It is the fallen angels that are judged during the day of the Lord! Now here is the incredible part: God’s redeemed people will, with Christ, judge these fallen angels. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 6, “Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world? and if the world shall be judged by you, are ye unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life?”
So, according to the Bible, the seven days of creation week are a model, or prophecy, of the length of time that God will allot for the work of salvation. That length of time is 6,000 years of “work,” followed by a seventh thousand years that parallel the seventh and last day of creation week. The seventh day of creation, the Sabbath, is the “day of the Lord,” and the Bible reveals that God’s judgment of fallen angels takes place on this day.
How long does “the day of the Lord,” or the day of judgment, last?
“…and I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them…and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years” (Revelation 20:4).
During the one thousand years, or millennium, the saints reign and judge with Christ in heaven. Referring to this same time period and other events associated with the final destruction of sin, Peter advises us to “be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day” (2 Peter 3:8). The Biblical evidence is clear: God “hath appointed a day” of 1,000 years “in the which he will judge the world in righteousness” (Acts 17:31). The work of salvation, patiently and mercifully carried out since Adam’s fall, will conclude on the “day of the Lord.” The antitypical Sabbath, while it brings blessings, peace, and rest to those who serve God, also signifies a time of judgment and destruction for God’s enemies.
What event marks the start of “the day of the Lord”?
“Do not marvel at this; for the hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:28-29).
The second coming of Christ, when the resurrection of the righteous dead takes place, marks the start of the “day of the Lord” or the day of judgment. Paul made this clear in 1 Corinthians 4:5. He wrote, “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come.” According to Paul, this judgment of God’s begins when Jesus Christ returns. So when is the second coming? That is the question that has held Christians captive for 2,000 years. Many attempts to guess or figure out the time…Jesus said no man knows the day or the hour…We are not attempting to set a time for the second coming! But we should be able to know when it is near.
We have discovered that serious Bible students for centuries have understood that the six days of creation actually represent six one-thousand-year periods of time between creation and the second coming. The seventh day of creation, the Sabbath, is referred to in the Bible as “the Lord’s day” and it is a type, or symbol, of a final one-thousand year period after the second coming during which the fallen angels will be judged. There are three stories, two in the Old Testament and one in the New, that paint pictures of this “great week of time.” Let’s take a look at each of them.
- Moses called by God in the mountain. After Israel arrived at Mount Sinai, God called Moses up into the mountain, “and the glory of the Lord abode upon mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it six days: and the seventh day he called unto Moses out of the midst of the cloud” (Exo. 24:16). At the second coming, Jesus will come in the clouds and call the saints to be “caught up” (1 Thess. 4:16, 17) to him, just as Moses was. It was on the seventh day that God called Moses up into the cloud, and it will be at the beginning of the seventh millennium, after 6,000 years of sin, that God will call His people at the second coming.
- The transfiguration. Christ’s transfiguration on the mountain was a type of His coming in glory, for Jesus said that some of His disciples would “not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power” (Mark 9:1). Six days after Jesus made this promise, Peter, James, and John witnessed Christ’s transfiguration. “And after six days Jesus…was transfigured before them” (verse 2). The transfiguration serves as a type of the second coming which will take place at the beginning of the “day of the Lord” after six days of a thousand years each.
According to these “pictures of the end,” Christ’s second coming will happen at the end of the sixth day, or at the end of 6,000 years after creation. The second coming also marks the beginning of the final thousand-year period of time often referred to as the “millennium.” What happens during this seventh day, or this seventh thousand-year period of time?
What happens during the thousand-year “day of the Lord”?
“…and I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them…and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years” (Revelation 20:4).
Beginning at the second coming of Christ, the saints will live and reign with Jesus in heaven for a thousand years, and the Bible indicates that during this time they will sit on thrones of judgment with Him. We have already seen that the Bible says the fallen angels are judged during the millennium, the thousand-year long “day of the Lord.” This judgment takes place in heaven as the earth lies in ruins after Christ’s second coming.
What happens at the end of the thousand-year “day of the Lord”?
According to Revelation chapter 20, the Earth will be cleansed with fire at the conclusion of the millennium, the thousand-year long day of judgment in heaven. Revelation 20 says:
“And when the thousand years are expired, Satan shall be loosed out of his prison, And shall go out to deceive the nations which are in the four quarters of the earth…to gather them together to battle...And they went up on the breadth of the earth, and compassed the camp of the saints about, and the beloved city: and fire came down from God out of heaven, and devoured them…And the sea gave up the dead which were in it; and death an d hell delivered up the dead which were in them: and they were judged every man according to their works. And death and hell were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. And whosoever was not found written in the book of life was cast into the lake of fire.”
What a picture of the end of sin on this earth! A lake, or sea, of fire will destroy every trace of sin and cleanse the world of this terrible curse. According to Revelation, this cleansing will occur at the end of the “great week of time,” after seven-thousand years of sin on this planet.
The story of Noah’s flood paints a powerful picture of this final cleansing from sin after the thousand-year millennium. According to Genesis, Noah preached and built the ark for 120 years, and then he and his family entered the ark. Genesis 7:10 says, “And it came to pass after seven days, that the waters of the flood were upon the earth.” Peter states that the flood is a type of Earth’s cleansing by fire at the conclusion of the millennium (2 Peter 3:5-7).
“By the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.”
Immediately after drawing this parallel Peter states that “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years” (verse 8). At the conclusion of God’s great week of time with seven “days” of one-thousand years each, Earth will be cleansed with fire and sin will be forever destroyed.
So where are we now in the great week of time?
A careful chronology of Bible history indicates that it has been about 6,000 years, or six “days,” since Creation and the fall of Adam. Johannes Kepler, Gerhard Hasel, James Ussher, and Isaac Newton are among the Bible scholars who have placed creation and the fall of Adam at about the year 4,000 BC. We are nearly at the end of the sixth “day” allotted by God to this sinful world. We don’t know exactly when creation was, so we can’t know exactly when the six thousand years end. But we can know that it is near, even at the door. The seventh day Sabbath, or “day of the Lord,” of God’s great week of time is about to begin!
Will Jesus return before the 6,000 years end?
“For he will finish the work, and cut it short in righteousness: because a short work will the Lord make upon the earth” (Romans 9:28).
The Bible indicates that Jesus will cut short the time allotted for sin by finishing His work of “righteousness” before the end of 6,000 years. He is more anxious than we are to bring an end to sin and suffering.
Where does Christ do His work of righteousness?
“…the Lord…shall suddenly come to his temple, …and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness” (Malachi 3:1, 3).
It is through Christ’s work in the sanctuary that He gives sinners the gift of righteousness. In the Hebrew religious year, it was on the annual Day of Atonement that the guilt of the previous year’s sins was removed from the earthly sanctuary. “For on that day shall the priest make an atonement for you, to cleanse you, that ye may be clean from all your sins before the Lord” (Lev. 16:30).
“In the typical system, which was a shadow of the sacrifice and priesthood of Christ, the cleansing of the sanctuary was the last service performed by the high priest in the yearly round of ministration. It was the closing work of the atonement—a removal or putting away of sin from Israel. It prefigured the closing work in the ministration of our High Priest in heaven, in the removal or blotting out of the sins of His people, which are registered in the heavenly records. This service involves a work of investigation, a work of judgment; and it immediately precedes the coming of Christ in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory; for when He comes, every case has been decided. Says Jesus: ‘My reward is with Me, to give every man according as his work shall be.’ Revelation 22:12.” (E.G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 352)
The final act of the yearly religious services in the earthly sanctuary was to cleanse the sanctuary of sin, and this was an annual picture of Christ’s last work in heaven before returning to Earth. His last work in heaven will be to “cleanse the sanctuary,” or cleanse His people, of sin. The Bible contains many promises about how Christ will cleanse his people from sin and prepare them for His second coming. One of these is found in Ephesians chapter 5, where Christ promises that He will “sanctify and cleanse [the church] with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Eph. 5:26-27).
Is the second coming “even at the doors”?
“And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation closer than when we believed” (Romans 13:11).
The Bible reveals that before God does anything significant in salvation history, He always sets up a prophetic clock. For example, Christ’s first advent occurred exactly on schedule, at the time when God’s prophetic clock pointed to the Messiah’s appearance. Galatians 4:4 says, “But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son.” What time was “full” when the Messiah appeared? It was a prophecy given over 500 years earlier to the prophet Daniel, who predicted the very year that the Messiah would appear.
At other critical points in history, God has expected His people to recognize what “time” it is, prophetically, and to act accordingly. For example, in Noah’s day God gave the world 120 years before it would be destroyed by water. At the end of that time period, God expected people to do something very specific, get in the ark. Their lives depended on the decision they made.
Another example is the 400 years that God told Abraham his descendants would be in bondage in Egypt. Exodus 12:41 records that at the end of that time period, “even the selfsame day it came to pass, that all the hosts of the Lord went out from the land of Egypt” (Exodus 12:41). Again, God expected His people to recognize when it was time to leave Egypt, and their future life as part of the nation of Israel depended on their understanding of the prophetic times, and their willingness to act accordingly.
A final example is the Jews’ return to Jerusalem after 70 years in captivity. Through the prophet Jeremiah, God had predicted that He would bring them home after 70 years in captivity. When the prophetic clock struck zero and King Cyrus made it possible for the Jews to return, God expected His people to recognize the time and act accordingly. Many did return, but many did not, and missed out on the blessings of being part of Israel’s remnant that rebuilt Jerusalem and the temple.
God gave these time prophecies because He wanted His people to understand the “prophetic times” and to act accordingly. Time and again, people’s salvation has depended on understanding and acting in accordance with God’s prophetic clock. The same is true today. God is about to end His work of salvation and Jesus Christ is about to return. God’s doomsday clock is ticking, and while we don’t know exactly when Jesus will return, we can know that it is near, “even at the doors.”
The Bible describes those who will be prepared for Christ’s return. Revelation 14:12 says, “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” Make the decision today and every day to trust your life to Jesus, and to obey God’s commandments! If you do, when God’s doomsday clock strikes zero, you will be prepared to welcome your Savior and your Lord.