The Apocalypse is coming

The Apocalypse is coming and we are not ready.

I woke up last night (Susan says I have old man sleeping syndrome); I noticed Stephen McAlpine was writing about the great toilet paper crisis, a tornado was hitting Nashville, and then without warning our street suddenly had a blackout.

Morning finally came, and while our power had returned, the toilet paper crisis had worsened, and a real tragedy had unfolded in Nashville.


Firstly, I just want to say to all the panic buyers around Australia, thanks for nothing. Quite literally, nothing! I had tried to convince Susan that while there was no problem with the supply of toilet paper, people don’t always react with good measure. Thank you media for ramping up the scare levels. I heard this morning that one of the country’s major supermarket chains has begun rationing its toilet paper supplies thanks to those Aussies who couldn’t hold on for a little. While I sit around and hold on for the foreseeable future, let me share some thoughts about the Apocalypse which I was preaching last Sunday at church.

Talk about the end of the world was once associated with religious mania, but today throngs of irreligious people have amped up the chorus, ‘the end is nigh’, while others are following on social media, quietly pondering the possibility.

I’ve already responded to a piece by Geoff Dawson on the ABC, where he argues that perhaps humankind will become extinct and it doesn’t really matter because people are not special.  Dawson may be following the logic of his own Zen Buddhism, which sounds almost identical to atheistic naturalism, but most of us don’t buy it. People do matter. We are not the same as animals. Prospects of mass eradication of human beings trouble us because surely we have inherent and great worth.

Then we have our Climate Change alarmists who are going around and warning us that the world only has 10, 12 or 20 years remaining on the clock.  Before we roll our eyes at this new era of apocalyptic mania, I  can understand people being swept up rhetoric and tales of disaster. Indeed, for those who have survived personal trauma, such concerns are not merely hypothetical.

Global warming isn’t a phantom, Australia has just experienced a frightful bushfire season, and there are geopolitical uncertainties, and now, of course, there is the potential global pandemic with the Corona Virus.

Instead of thinking that maybe Hollywood was right, with its constant stream of disaster movies, there is another word that’s worth consideration.

Matthew ch.24 records the famous ‘Apocalyptic’ sermon of Jesus. You can listen to my exposition of Matthew ch.24 on the Mentone Baptist website. For now, I want to make note of four salient points from Jesus’ discourse on the end of the world.

Firstly, Jesus is describing how life in the world will be.

Jesus isn’t giving us a linear description of history, but a Divine interpretation of history and what we ought to expect in the world before the real and physical return of the creator King. There are 3 characteristics that mark this age.

One, there are global catastrophes and uncertainties,

 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of birth pains. (vv.6-7)

When we see a disaster, it makes us pause and ponder. When the sky darkens and the thunder rolls, we often ask, what of the end? These things are not the end but serve as reminders that the world has not yet finished.

Second, there are attacks on the Church, from outside and from within. Jesus speaks of persecution, false prophets, and apostasy.

 “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 

Again, we are not required to read these verses as though Jesus is describing a not yet time in the future or as though there will necessarily be an escalation of these things prior to the coming of Christ. Rather, throughout this age Churches will experience this trifecta.

Thirdly, world evangelisation will take place. The good news of Jesus will be preached and reach every nation, and people from every tongue and tribe will respond and believe Jesus is Lord.

 “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” (v.14)


Second, we are not the first generation to face significant crises.

Last month I wrote an article criticising legislation that the Victorian Government is planning to introduce this year.  Thousands of people were reading, with hundreds and hundreds of comments made on social media. One of the more popular responses came from Christians who said things like, “this proves Jesus is coming soon….this is a sign of the end times….the anti-Christ has appeared in Melbourne…”

This reminded me that not only do we let our imaginations disconnect from the Bible, but also from history. I wanted to post an emoji with a screaming face, saying, “no, you have misunderstood me”! 

The problem with our apocalyptic manic Christians is that they always believe that ‘now’ are the last times, whereas yesterday wasn’t. If only we listened to our history classes at school. Ours is not the first generation to experience massive issues and seen terrible evil. The world has faced staggering mountains of trouble and uncertainty before. What of Jews living in Poland in 1939 as the Nazis destroyed everything in their wake? What of a Jewish family in hiding, as the SS hunted down neighbours and friends, either shooting them dead on the spot or throwing them onto a train bound for a death camp? Could things be any worse? Or what of those living 14th Century Europe as the Black Plague killed 1/3 of the continent’s population in Europe? What about the people fleeing from Genghis Khan who killed population after population across Asia and Europe? Could things be worse than that?

Most Aussies live in a luxurious bubble that few people in the world today enjoy, and even fewer in history.  There are however issues of major consequence facing us. At the very least, reading Jesus’ words should cause us to rethink our assumptions about our own security and dependencies in life.

Third, Jesus gives only one sign for his impending return

The word apocalyptic simply means, unveiling. It is to make known something that was previously unknown. The great unveiling concerns the time and manner in which the world will wrap up and the new creation revealed. As Jesus speaks to this question of the apocalypse, he explains that there is one sign, and that sign is his return.

“Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. 31 And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other. (vv.30-31)

This one sign will be visible, unavoidable and unmistakable. As Jesus adds, people will mourn. Why? Because we have spent our days denying and explaining away the reality of Christ. To those whom he describes as the elect, he says, stand firm (v.13) keep watch (v.4; v.42), don’t grow cold (v.12), don’t get sucked in by false teachers (vv.23-24).

Fourth, God is Sovereign

When will the final hour strike? No one knows the time or hour when Christ will return. Jesus tells us that only God the Father knows, and yet people press for more information and our imaginations get drawn into all manner of crazy theories and speculations.

42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 

And Jesus also says,

“see to it that you are not alarmed.”

We should not be alarmed or surprised by events that take hold of people, nations, and the natural world. We can be appalled and grieve these sharp reminders of a world that is cursed and cannot redeem itself. Alarmism, however, isn’t befitting for the one who trusts in a God who is Sovereign.

Jesus’ apocalyptic sermon reinforces one of the Bible’s great themes, that events in our time are not beyond God’s knowledge or control. He isn’t reacting to events in the world as though he’s playing catch up. He knows what will happen tomorrow. He knows the outcome before the event. He is omniscient and omnipotent. Surely, this can be of great comfort? We may not know what lies tomorrow, whether it’s a virus or the weather, our work or exams. God has it all under his control and it is all pointing to the return of our Lord and Saviour.

The Apocalypse is coming and we are not ready.

And yet, here we are, religious and non-religious Australian alike are beginning to talk and to contemplate the potential. As talk about the apocalypse intensifies here are two simple things Christians can do: 1. Don’t contribute to the mania, 2. Take on board the encouragements and admonishments Jesus gives to the apocalyptic generation.



Susan has just returned from the supermarket….there was no toilet paper!

Is the human race special?

If you’re looking for a pick me up message for today, I don’t recommend this contribution on the ABC website, The human race is not special. So why do we think we’re immune to mass extinction?

Geoff Dawson, whose bio says he is a psychologist and Zen Buddhist teacher, explains that human beings are no more important than any other species on the planet and that we should not over concern ourselves with our potential demise.

He asks the question, “Could we face a mass extinction of human beings in our lifetime?”

Dawson acknowledges that,

“To contemplate mass extinction is indeed a dark place to go to and a difficult conversation to have — even more difficult than global warming itself — because it is to think the unthinkable.”

However, don’t be fooled into thinking that this dark place holds any real meaning. Dawson explains that this conversation isn’t difficult because there is some overarching meaning to life or because human life is intrinsically more important than other life forms. Far from it, he would say. The extinction of people only warrants a problem for those who are facing termination.

“If one’s view of the world is based on science, we are not special, we were not placed here by a God to be the custodians of the Earth (and if we were, we have let the Almighty down big time!) and like all other species, we will have our place in the sun.

We will die out, and other, more adaptable, life forms will take our place.

The myth that we are somehow special and will continue to live forever as a dominant species is based on a deluded human-centric form of existential narcissism.

We may wring our hands and our hearts may ache at the rapid destruction of wildlife that is happening right now before our eyes, but we never seem to seriously consider that we may go the same way.”

What fantastic news! Don’t worry about the future because you are not special.  Our significance is no greater than that of any other species on the planet. Your impending death may not be a particularly pleasant experience for you or for the people who have affections for you, but in real terms, you’re just preparing the ground for future species. In the grand scheme of meaningless time, we are no more special than the dinosaur, the Dodo, or the Sabre-toothed Tiger.

Feeling better now? Probably not, but our Zen Buddhist friend insists that this is science. Although, why Dawson is bothered with science remains a mystery to me, because one of the basic assumptions of Zen Buddhism is that intellect and language of ethereal and true meaning can only be found by disengaging from both. 

Contradictions aside, what Dawson describes is not science, but naturalism, which is a way of interpreting scientific evidence based on the prior assumption that there is no God. In this way, both Zen Buddhism and naturalism share some common threads. The world has no overreaching design or telos, and one creature is not inherently more valuable than another. What makes human beings important is the evolutionary roll of the dice, that has resulted in cognitive, physical, and social strengths that enable us to control and use other species. Naturalism believes that people only sit at the top of the world because of power. All these conscious thoughts and beliefs about inherent dignity and greater worth than a tree or a frog are simply evolutionary mechanisms put in place to maintain the survival of our species. In fact, the very notion of human rights presupposes superiority over other things; perhaps this should be revisited!

By now, I’m sure you’re feeling the love. If you weren’t already questioning your self-worth, you probably are by now. But of course, this is the natural course when believing there is no God. Should we ignore this logic and feign belief in intrinsic human worth or do accept the world of Geoff Dawson? If the latter,  why bother addressing issues of Global warming or caring for endangered species? After all, it’s all a game of power and serving self-interest.


I suspect most of us are uncomfortable with Dawson’s evaluation. We do not believe that goats and rats or even our pet dog are as important as other human beings. This raises an important question, why?  Why do most of us find Dawson’s comments not only unsatisfying but even grotesque?

Why should your thoughts or feelings or relationships matter any more than those of non-Homo Sapiens? Why should my desires and plans bear any more weight than that of non-sentient objects such as the rainforest or mountain or bushland?

Surely, it is because we know that while birds and fish and kangaroos are wonderful creatures and who add beauty and wonder to this world, we are not those things. Human beings are unique. We are physical beings, but also sentient and moral beings. We have a mind, soul, and spirit. There are vast cognitive differences between a human being and every other species on the planet, and to argue otherwise is stupid and anti-science. None other, despite their astonishing habits and works, come remotely close to the glory of man and woman.  But in our world of today, the obvious cannot be spoken, and the evidential is denied. People know that they are superior to animals and yet it is almost blasphemous to say so.

The answer humanity’s greater worth is not limited to this existential knowing, it is also grounded in a knowing that is more ancient than the universe itself. One might even say, that it is a Divine word that has created this knowledge of ourselves and of the world.

Rather than denigrating human beings, belief in God elevates our stature in a way that is both congruent to experience and that fills us with meaning and purpose. You were not just a clump of moving cells in flesh; you are made in the image of God. You are no mere animal with no more rights than an orangutan or cow or goldfish. At the same time, neither are we God. While I cannot speak for other religions, the Christian view pushes against both insignificance and self-absorption. Christianity repudiates the ultimate meaningless of naturalism and its companion, ultimate hopelessness, and Christianity also rebukes greed, consumerism, and abuse.

The answer to human misuse of the environment is not to relegate human beings to the place of monkeys, snakes, or the koala. Rather, it is to renew a proper understanding of what the Bible refers to as stewardship. And it is to recognise the reality of the incarnation, where at a direct point in history, God the Son took on flesh. John announced in his famous prologue,

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (John 1:1-5)

The fact that God became man, more than anything in history, says that every single person matters. They are not neglected by God or of no consequence to him. Indeed, God entered this space, becoming fully human without stripping his Divinity. The Gospel describes how this Jesus suffered the full gamut of human trials, and went through death that we might not be extinguished. Indeed, according to the Christian Bible extinction isn’t the end, but there is genuine hope of redemption and resurrection.

I appreciate that among my readers, you may or may not accept the Christian worldview. But my question, for now, is this – Which is better, the world of Geoff Dawson or the world explained by Jesus Christ? Should we suck it up and conclude that you and I are not special, and so treat each other accordingly? Or perhaps this Jesus has more to show us about both human worth and failing, and global trauma and reconciliation, than we perhaps realise.

Is the human race special? Are you special? Let me conclude by turning to these words of the Psalmist,

“You have searched me, Lord,

    and you know me.

You know when I sit and when I rise;

    you perceive my thoughts from afar.

You discern my going out and my lying down;

    you are familiar with all my ways.

Before a word is on my tongue

    you, Lord, know it completely.

You hem me in behind and before,

    and you lay your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,

    too lofty for me to attain….


…For you created my inmost being;

    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

    your works are wonderful,

    I know that full well.

15 My frame was not hidden from you

    when I was made in the secret place,

    when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.

16 Your eyes saw my unformed body;

    all the days ordained for me were written in your book

    before one of them came to be.

17 How precious to me are your thoughts, God!

    How vast is the sum of them!

18 Were I to count them,

    they would outnumber the grains of sand—

    when I awake, I am still with you. (Psalm 139)