Head for the Hills, it’s the End of the World

Is the world as we know it going to end sometime? Yes. When? Who knows. For millennia Christians have sought to set dates and predict when the end of the world would occur. Indeed, many believers have tended to become overly and unhealthily preoccupied with end-times scenarios and date-setting.

My advice, as always, is simply to remind us of what Jesus said in Luke 19:13: “Occupy till I come” (KJV). Let’s just keep busy with the work of the Kingdom and not get so hung up on identifying the Antichrist or trying to pin down every current event as another piece of a ticking-down prophetic clock.

Of course Christians are not alone in worrying about the end of the world. Non-Christians too can get quite fixated on all this. Indeed, plenty of folk are getting all bent out of shape by the Mayan calendar prediction of the end of the world occurring in December 21, 2012. I have written this up elsewhere:

But with threats of terrorism, especially after 9/11, many people are quite concerned about the end of the world. While one can understand why non-Christians can be in panic mode about all this, Christians of all people should not be overly concerned. We know that our God is in control of human history, and that the end will arrive according to his will, not ours.

Yet plenty of believers are not only alarmed about end-time scenarios, many are looking for ways to opt out. Many are urging us to quite literally head for the hills. Many are urging believers to sell their properties and move out to remote parts of the country, and begin stockpiling and so on, to prepare for these apocalyptic times ahead.

This became even more pronounced when last month was designated National Preparedness Month by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. In line with this, a number of Christian groups jumped on the bandwagon, and milked this for all it’s worth. Some of course simply did it to make some handsome profits by pretending to be end-time prophets. I received a number of emails from Christian news services to this effect.

One of them said this: “‘SurvivorMall.com was started following 9/11 to provide a single-source platform where people, businesses and agencies could find the numerous products they need for disaster readiness,’ says CEO Tom Horn. ‘We are in the business of reducing fear and building confidence through helping people and organizations prepare for the unknown. As Proverbs 22:3 says, “A prudent man foresees the difficulties ahead and prepares for them, while the simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences”’.”

And another said: “Even when we envision a worse case scenario – such as a terrorist nuke or ICBM exchange – low-cost shelters, that can be built at home and combined with a minimal amount of Potassium Iodide, would help keep as much as 99 percent of the population alive according to one synopsis by the Department of Homeland Security. Free designs for building such family shelters as well as hundreds of pages from reports and booklets on how to perform first aid, defend against terrorism and chemical contamination, survive earthquakes, storms, floods, and dozens of other emergency situations are available FREE this month.”

It continued, “For National Preparedness Month, Spiritual leaders can download these booklets and reports, print them out and place them on a table in a church foyer, hand them to neighbors, give them out during classes, or better yet teach a class on preparedness and tie it in with Scripture.”

Scaring people into buying fall-out shelters, stockpiling food and rations, and even firearms, is certainly one way to make lots of money. And many groups are profiting from this big time. Consider one secular business which is hoping to rake in the dough with luxury underground survival shelters.

This is how one article describes this: “Surviving the end of the world for just $5,000 down; an underground, survive-the-end-of-the-world community consists of bunker built to withstand a 50-megaton nuclear blast ten miles away, 450mph winds, a magnitude-10 earthquake, 10 days of 1,250 F surface fires, and three weeks beneath any flood; a soon-to-be-installed air-filtration system will also neutralize any biological, chemical, or nuclear attacks; The community will stock enough food and clothing to sustain 135 people for at least a year in a lifestyle described as compact but luxurious.”

The California-based company has as its motto: “You can’t predict, but you can prepare”. Cashing in on people’s fears is not new. Think of all the hysteria just before the turn of the millennium with the Y2K scare. Plenty of groups made heaps of money, and plenty of Christian groups jumped on the bandwagon.

Of course now all the gloom-and-doom merchants have egg on their face, with yet another false prediction of end-time calamity. But countless false prophecies in the past have not stopped gullible folk – both Christian and non-Christian – from still making a mountain out of the molehill of eschatological predictions.

So, what should Christians do? Should we be moving out of the cities, buying up underground fall-out shelters in the countryside, and sit out the end of the world? I find little biblical warrant for any of this. Indeed, I am not aware of any clear passage in either the Old or New Testament telling believers to run and hide, awaiting the end of all things.

The closest we seem to come to all this would be scenarios like Genesis 19 in which Lot and his family were told to flee Sodom and Gomorrah as God was about to rain down his judgment on the cities of the plain. Or 1 Kings 18 where we read of the prophet Obadiah who was hiding 100 prophets in two caves, to protect them from the wrath of Jezebel.

Whether we can take these passages – and any others like them – and use them as a biblical principle that we should be selling up and moving out is a moot point. For the most part, God calls his people to stay and fight, not run and hide.

It is of course possible that God can give specific words to specific people, warning them of judgment to come, encouraging them to head for the hills. But like so many things claiming to be a word from the Lord today, we need to carefully and prayerfully discern what is being said, and test everything.

If and when we get a clear word to flee, fine. But it is generally the case that God calls us to be salt and light in a needy world, and not run for the hills or hide in the caves. The world is certainly in a mess, but that is all the more reason why we should be there in the thick of things, making a difference.


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18 Replies to “Head for the Hills, it’s the End of the World”

  1. Thanks Ray

    Yes, that’s a good one. But of course if anything, it applies to those in Judea, perhaps in the first century, and not to those in Australia or America in the 21st century. And it would be quite hard for, say, Dutch believers to apply this, with no mountains in Holland!

    In other words, the Olivet Discourse (see also Matthew 24, Mark 13) is something which applies to a specific place (Jerusalem and Judea) and a specific time (either in the times of the disciples or in some future end time scenario, depending on how you interpret the text). So it may be more of a one-off word to a one-off people in a one-off place, rather than a general principle for all believers for all ages.

    But you have a sharp biblical mind to recall this passage. Well done!

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  2. ‘ “Occupy till I come” (KJV)’ a nice double meaning – occupy the territory or occupy oneself in Kingdom business.

    John Angelico

  3. Ray, the context of Luke 21:21 (reading further on) makes it quite specific.

    As I read it, Jesus is prophesying not the end of all things, but most likely the end of the OT era: the old covenant and the nation ie. the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus and the Roman armies in AD70.

    John Angelico

  4. Good one Bill.

    I confess to thinking this way back in the 70/80s when world events seemed gloomy. But the Lord spoke to me through Matthew 7:24 about the wise man who built his house on the rock. Hearing the words of God and acting on them is being wise and will see us through all kinds of storms and floods.

    Greg Cadman

  5. Referring to the military like descriptions used in relation to the Kingdom and the way in which we should approach our Christian lives, I’d say that “to occupy” nicely sums it up. This is an active, not reactive, state of being and indicates a purposefulness and determination which ties in with Jesus commandment to “go and make disciples of nations” (Matt 28:19). There may come a time when we “head for the hills” but it seems to me that we’ll be clearly aware of the need ahead of time – not through paranoia or hysteria (or TV evangelism) but clearly through the signs that have been laid out for us, and the obvious necessity of it at the time, and the guiding of the Holy Spirit.

    If we do need to take stock and prepare ourselves, then surely it’s not a material preparation that we should be considering.

    This is where I am reminded of the “Parable of the Ten Virgins”. It’s a good study to do in these times as we prepare for ‘this present darkness’ which is growing nearer.

    All ten were virgins with oil in their lamps, yet only the five *wise* virgins that carried the *extra oil* were prepared for the midnight hour.

    Surely it must lead us to ask some questions of ourselves – do we have the ‘extra oil’ required to sustain us, to run the race to it’s finish: Do we fear God? Do we seek His face when our world enters into a crisis? Have we come to know God more intimately in our dark passages through life? Have we taken time to address the spiritual issues as we walk with God through this life?

    Garth Penglase

  6. Bill I like your comment that we should stay in the midst of things and not run to the hills. My sketchy belief of the end time scenario is that there will be signs in the sky, wailing and gnashing of teeth and the Rapture where some chosen people, who got down on their knees and acknowledged God in this chaos, will be whisked out of this realm in the twinkling of an eye. I am sure there will be the Revelations scenario and the Second Coming of Christ. In a new era the people who were chosen to be saved from the end time destruction will return in a glorified state as spiritual guides to people living in a new era – in other words, like angels, so that God’s will will be done. If this is true (and it is open to much debate, which I fully accept (a) because nobody knows what will happen or when and (b) because I am not well versed in the bible scriptures) surely we should be aiming to be like people in biblical stories who had an aura of the Holy Spirit about them and start being like that sort of person now and, as you say, holding our ground in the midst of chaos, when calm people living in a state of grace will be looked for by panicing hordes. I hope this post isn’t too bizarre and would welcome anyone’s input to further my limited understanding of all this.
    Rachel Smith

  7. Ha Ha Bill.
    Well I remember back in the 1970’s when it was all going to happen in 1984. It didn’t and we Pentecostals were proven as daft as the Jehovah witnesses has been. The last days are particularly Israels last days and the world gets dragged in with it. We need to watch for the peace agreement, restoration of the temple and the abomination of desolation being set up as a significant indicator.
    In my opinion below is the best website for discussion interaction and consideration I know of regarding end times.
    Rob Withall

  8. Thanks Bill
    I would like to quote Matthew 24:36 “No one knows, however, when that day and hour will come – neither the angels in heaven nor the Son, the Father alone knows.”

    But Luke 17:30-36 is even more specific.
    Luke 17:33 “Whoever tries to save his own life will loose it.”

    We can debate this however much we like, and I don’t think there is anything wrong in this, but at the end of it all every persons end of the world is when we die. That is why Jesus tells us that we should always pray and never be discouraged and live according to His law.
    As He said, “The world will pass away, but My word will not pass away.”

    Anne van Tilburg

  9. Compact but luxurious. I like that. It’s the end of the world but we’ll all have compact and luxurious accommodation. Sounds a bit like a first class berth on the Titanic to me.

    It is wise to prepare and good for people to have a grab-and-go kit in case of fire, tsunami, tornado etc. Much better to be prepared than be caught out.

    I believe the Biblical way to be prepare for the return of Christ is to be ‘caught’ doing his will. Matt 24:45

    Kylie Anderson

  10. You are right Anne. It reminds me of a saying: Live as if Jesus died yesterday, rose today and is coming back tomorrow.
    Kylie Anderson

  11. Yes Kylie, to be ‘caught’ doing his will, to be numbered in the sheep, not the goats. And that is a very good saying, pretty much sums it up.
    Garth Penglase

  12. I wonder why anyone would want to spend a year in a “luxurious” bunker, after a nuclear holocaust, only to emerge into a world devastated and largely unlivable.

    Regardless of all the precautions in the world, we will all die someday. You could spend millions on disaster bunkers and die of appendicitis in your own mausoleum.

    I think if I got advanced warning of a nuclear holocaust I would rather say my final prayers, run to ground-zero and sit under a tree with a nice glass of Reisling!!!

    David Williams

  13. Hi Kylie
    I have not heard that saying before, but it is spot on!

    Anne Van Tilburg

  14. C. S. Lewis said that there are 2 things of which we can be absolutely certain: 1 Christ will return, bringing with Him the end of this age; 2 You can’t possibly know when. (Er … what’s the point of hilltops/caves if the world is going to come to an end?)
    John Thomas, UK

  15. I agree with everything you say Bill, but be careful not to empower the “she’ll be right mate” attitude. We need practical wisdom in our planning as we read the rates of change of economies, populations and social changes.
    I know Christians who remember their own fears about Communism during the cold war era and use it as an antidote to thinking about Islam’s takeover today. But there are some major differences – like population growth for instance.
    You talked about extremes – like nuclear bunkers – but managed to skirt around more mundane and practical issues, like reducing financial risk.
    Risky behaviour regarding debt REQUIRES a certainty about the future which I think cannot be assumed right now. But it’s OK if God tells us to, as you say “If and when we get a clear word to flee, fine.”
    It comes down to whether we really hear God, doesn’t it?
    And we hear God by obeying. Acts 5:32 – “the Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him”
    Let that be my response. Take a good look at all the fearsome things looming today and do something about it by committing myself to God like I got saved yesterday.
    And all the more as you see the day approaching!
    Tim Lovett

  16. Thanks David

    I don’t know why, but what you said, well it gave me the biggest smile. Seems to me your spot on, as you say whats the point, in trying to survive when the world is ending. So this is whats its all about, the non-believers desperately hanging on, where is we are welcoming the huge wedding in heaven.

    Blessings too all here.
    Daniel Kempton

  17. Bill, this reminds me of what my less than politically correct work colleagues used to tell as a joke: “the last thing Jesus said to the was don’t do anything until I come back”. they also used to have a saying after reading more crazy happenings in the newspaper …”God will be here soon”. They would not be able to find the quote to which they were referring to save themselves but they none the less had an innate understanding of biblical teaching.

    Keep up the good work Bill.
    Lawrie McNamara

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