Doomsday Clock nears midnight

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“The most dangerous moment in modern history”: The Doomsday Clock nears midnight

January 25, 2024 -

A staffer shows the location of the minute hand shortly before the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announces the latest decision on the "Doomsday Clock" minute hand, Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024, at the National Press Club Broadcast Center, in Washington. This year, Jan. 2024, the clock will remain set to 90 seconds to midnight. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

A staffer shows the location of the minute hand shortly before the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announces the latest decision on the "Doomsday Clock" minute hand, Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024, at the National Press Club Broadcast Center, in Washington. This year, Jan. 2024, the clock will remain set to 90 seconds to midnight. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

A staffer shows the location of the minute hand shortly before the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announces the latest decision on the "Doomsday Clock" minute hand, Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024, at the National Press Club Broadcast Center, in Washington. This year, Jan. 2024, the clock will remain set to 90 seconds to midnight. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

The Doomsday Clock was created in 1947 by a group of scientists who were concerned about the impact of nuclear weapons on the world. Considering that many of them, such as Albert Einstein and J. Robert Oppenheimer, had been the ones to help develop those weapons, their fears were understandable. 

Every year since, their organization shifts the time in accordance with how close they think humanity is to global catastrophe. This week, it was set at ninety seconds to midnight, matching last year as the closest the clock has ever come to its final mark. 

Back then, the group’s decision was driven primarily by the fear that Russian President Vladimir Putin would make good on his thinly veiled threats of using nuclear weapons in his war against Ukraine. 

And while those fears haven’t gone away, this year the group seemed more focused on fears that the conflicts in Ukraine and Israel would escalate beyond those borders, as well as increased concerns over climate change and the advancements in artificial intelligence

As such, the official statement from the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists warns that “leaders and citizens around the world should take this statement as a stark warning and respond urgently, as if today were the most dangerous moment in modern history. Because it may well be.”

Why the Doomsday Clock matters—and doesn’t

While the Bulletin’s sentiment seems a bit hyperbolic, the Doomsday Clock has been used as a basic barometer for global angst since its inception. As such, it can be a helpful way of understanding how some of society’s most influential minds see the state of the world. 

We don’t have to agree with them, but given how many global leaders do, their opinions are worth noting. 

They’re just not necessarily worth getting too worked up about. 

You see, the basic premise behind the Doomsday Clock is that, if we’re not careful, our world will end, and it’ll be humanity’s fault. As such, it’s meant to spark change—often much-needed change—by using fear as the primary motivator.

But, as Christians, that’s not how God wants us to approach things. 

Four signs of the end

Ultimately, no one but God knows when our world will actually end, but Scripture is clear that that moment will be preceded by Christ’s return. 

Still, Jesus did speak of signs that would come before that day, and Christians have been weighing events in their time against those signs ever since.

In one of his final lessons to his disciples prior to the crucifixion, Jesus told them to look for four signs in particular: 

  • The warning that “many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray” (Matthew 24:5). 
  • That we “will hear of wars and rumors of wars. . . . For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom” (v. 6–7)
  • “There will be famines and earthquakes in various places” (v. 7). Moreover, the account in Luke’s gospel speaks of “pestilences. . . . terrors and great signs from heaven” as well (Luke 21:11).
  • And finally, that “they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake” (Matthew 24:9). 

But if we can’t know when that end will come, what good are the signs? 

After all, evidence of these precursors to the end times has existed in most every generation for the last two thousand years and Jesus still hasn’t come back. 

Why did Jesus give us signs of the end times?

The reason, as with most prophecy, is to give us hope and encouragement in the midst of such troubles. 

We err when we look at all the factors mentioned by the Bulletin group with any sense of assurance that these signs are the signs. Yet, knowing that our Lord promised such events would take place and that, ultimately, they will either pass or result in his return should give us the courage and perspective needed to walk through dangerous times without losing hope or being overwhelmed.

God’s goal is that when the world seems like it’s falling apart, his people won’t.

So as society looks at the Doomsday Clock and fears that our end is near, let’s use it instead as motivation to continue sharing the gospel and proclaiming that Jesus is Lord as we prepare for the day when Christ will return and remove all doubt as to the truth of that statement.

NOTE: In Awaken My Heart, our new Lenten devotional, you will ask God to awaken the heart of our nation and our culture, as well as your own heart. Each of the 47 daily readings requires only a few minutes, but we pray that the suggested reflections, questions, and prayer topics will spur you to spend much longer in conversation with the Father. Request Awaken My Heart: A Lent Devotional today.

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