THEME: Did 2020 Signal the End?

by Andrew Dow

Synopsis: The events of 2020 do not indicate when the world will end but remind us that the world will, indeed, end. Let us, therefore, prepare for the day when we will stand before God in judgment.


2020 has come and gone, but the endless barrage of bad news has been seared into our memories. Political and cultural divisions were heightened by a controversial President and heated election cycle. Protests and riots broke out across the nation which resulted in city blocks being burned, police headquarters being attacked, and the US Capitol being invaded. Wild fires ravaged the west coast. “Murder hornets” became commonplace terminology. All the while, Covid-19 spread around the globe claiming lives and livelihoods.

All of this is enough to remind anyone of the divine judgments found in the Bible. Prognosticators seized the opportunity to use these events as signs of Christ’s coming and the end of the world (cf. endnote #1). After a year like 2020, we may feel like the world is falling apart. Is it, though? Do the events of 2020 indicate that the end of the world is imminent?

These Events Are Not All That Unique

Discussions concerning 2020’s relationship to the last day should be tempered with an appropriate perspective. The events we collectively endured in 2020 were not unique. The world has seen pandemics (cf. endnote #2). Mass death, starvation, and wars have come and gone. Raging forest fires and bug infestations have decimated property and crops. Political unrest and cultural divisions are nothing new. Last year was uncomfortable, but it was not anything that humanity has not already seen.

Solomon’s reminder is helpful here: “That which has been is that which will be, and that which has been done is that which will be done. So there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one might say, ‘See this, it is new’? Already it has existed for ages which were before us” (Eccl. 1:9-10, NASB95; cf. 3:15; 6:10). What we lived through is not unlike what our ancestors endured. Therefore, the disasters of 2020 are no more an omen of the end of the world than the disasters of previous generations.

Why, then, did 2020 seem so earth-shattering? First, the events of last year seemed egregious because—to be frank—they were! People suffered and died. Livelihoods were lost. While such events are not unique, they were devastating. Second, the events of 2020 seem overwhelming because we were directly affected. They happened to us! It is one thing to read about pandemics, fires, and financial crises in a history book, it is quite another thing to live through them yourself. Third, the events of 2020 seemed like the end because 24/7 news coverage and the near constant connection to social media hype amplified every painful event.

Last year was bad, but the notion that we can only explain it as the inauguration of the end-times is simply not true. Similar tragic events plagued humanity long before 2020. If God allows the world to continue, they will undoubtedly plague mankind again.

Can the End Be Predicted?

This is hardly the first time that current events have been used to predict Christ’s return (cf. endnote #3). In recent memory, the blood moon eclipses of 2014 and 2015 were thought to signal the end. Harold Camping predicted the world’s end would be in May (and then October) 2011. How many end-time predictions surrounded the turn of the millennium at 1999-2000? The one common theme is that each of these “prophecies” failed. In each of these cases, as Moses reminds us, “the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him” (Deut. 18:15-22).

The Bible teaches that the timing of the Last Day is unknown. Paul wrote, “You yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, ‘Peace and safety!’ then destruction will come upon them suddenly” (1 Thess. 5:2-3; cf. 1 Pet. 3:10). The thief analogy highlights the uncertain timing of this event. Thieves do not announce their arrivals in advance, and neither has God.

This uncertainty is intensified by the tension between descriptions of the end being both imminent and distant. On the one hand, Jesus’s return is described as if it is coming shortly. Paul and James both encourage righteous living on the basis that “the Lord is near” (Jas. 5:8; Phil. 4:5; cf. Rev. 22:20). Meanwhile, other texts describe the end as remaining in the distant future. In Matthew 24-25 Jesus tells three parables in which a master “is not coming for a long time” (24:48), a “bridegroom was delaying” (25:4), and a master returned “after a long time” (25:19). Which is it? Both! These are two ways of describing the same event. The end is imminent: it is the next event in God’s redemptive plan. The end is also distant: it is yet future, and there are preparations to be made as we wait.

Uncovering the timing of the end is simply not the Bible’s concern. God is far more interested in us living in anticipation of that day. This is why every attempt to discern the “signs of the times” in order to predict Christ’s return is ultimately futile. These attempts try to discern more than what is revealed in the Bible.

A Reminder That There Will Be an End

Although 2020 will not help us predict the end, it is still useful to remind us that the end is coming. When life becomes “business as usual,” we risk neglecting the Bible’s eschatological outlook. The suffering of 2020 was not “good,” but “good” can still come out of it.

The tragedies of 2020 should remind us we live in a world affected by sin. The world as God designed it was “very good” (Gen. 1:31). Adam and Eve lived in a God-made home, ate God-provided food, and lived in unity with God and each other. After they sinned, however, Adam and Eve were evicted, compelled to labor, accused each other, and were separated from God (Gen. 2-3). Because of man’s sin, the earth is “cursed” (Gen. 3:17). “The whole creation groans and suffers,” Paul says, as it anxiously waits to be “set free from its slavery to corruption” (Rom. 8:19-22). The devastation we witnessed is a vivid reminder of sin’s curse.

The tragedies of 2020 should also remind us that God has promised to undo the curse of sin (Gen. 3:15). As we see sin and death run its course, we can take comfort in God’s promise to eradicate both. John points to a day when “there will no longer be any curse” (Rev. 22:3). This will be on that last day: “Then comes the end. . . The last enemy that will be abolished is death” (1 Cor. 15:24-26). We may watch in terror as the world seems to fall apart around us, but we can look on in hope knowing that our God has guaranteed us victory (1 Cor. 15:57).

The events of 2020 will not bring us closer to predicting the day and hour of Jesus’s return. However, these events remind us that the end is a reality. Friends, that is good news! Truth Symbol


1 Hagee, John. “Pastor John Hagee: Coronavirus: Dress Rehearsal for the New World Order.” YouTube. Hagee Ministries. June 28, 2020.

2 Pope, Kyle. “How Christians Responded to Spanish Influenza in 1918.” Focus Online. April 18, 2020.

3 “List of Dates Predicted for Apocalyptic Events.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation. February 28, 2021.

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