The Doomsday Clock Edges Closer to Midnight

In a sure sign of spring, or at least the lengthening of days, this Sunday, March 8, we will “spring forward” setting our clocks ahead by one hour to begin Daylight Savings Time. Since the time change occurs at 2:00 am on Sunday morning it makes for some interesting times at church services later in the morning. Sometimes those of us who remembered to set our clocks ahead ask each other, “What comes after the 9:00 am service?” Answer: All those who forgot to set their clocks ahead for Daylight Savings Time!

In January the leaders of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists initiated a historic advancement of The Doomsday Clock. This symbolic clock is designed to call attention to the things that threaten our existence such as nuclear war, climate change and Cyber warfare. It does so by the position of its hands. The closer the clock’s hands get to midnight, the greater the likelihood of doomsday happening and the farther the clock’s hands get away from midnight, the less the likelihood of doomsday happening.

The Doomsday Clock was started in the 1940’s by scientists from the University of Chicago who had worked on the Manhattan Project, the group that developed the first atomic weapons. Once a year the clock’s guardians, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, decide whether or not to change the setting on the clock. The organization includes 13 Nobel laureates so the Doomsday Clock has become a universally recognized indicator of the world’s vulnerability to catastrophe.

For the first several decades the clock’s movements were impacted mostly by the Bulletin’s analysis of the potential for nuclear war. During the height of the Cold War in 1953 the Doomsday Clock was set at two minutes away from midnight. When the Cold War ended in 1991 the clock was placed at 17 minutes to midnight.

Climate change, which was not even a concern when the clock was created, was added as a factor in 2007. Cyber warfare is another factor that is now considered but was not on anyone’s radar in the 1940’s.

The most recent adjustment to the clock’s hands puts them closer than they have ever been to midnight; 100 seconds away. That’s how concerned these scientists are about the world coming to an end.

In our globally-connected world, the Doomsday clock scientists believe that international agreements such as the Paris Climate Accord and arms control agreements offer the best hope for reducing the chance of a worldwide catastrophe.

The Bible has a lot to say about doomsday. It will not be caused by any human activity but by God, the very one who created the world: “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.” (2 Peter 3:10, ESV)

Jesus will be the one in charge on this great day: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations.” (Matthew 25:31-32, ESV)

And although many have tried to figure out when God’s doomsday will be no one knows when it will happen: [Jesus said] “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.” (Matthew 25:13, ESV)

It’s hard to determine God’s timing on world events because, “With the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. (2 Peter 3:8-9, ESV)

The Lord is waiting. He does not want anyone to perish so the reason Jesus has not returned yet for Judgment Day is that he is still waiting for more people, preferably everyone, to reach repentance. Those who do not repent of their sins and turn to Jesus for forgiveness will be doomed on God’s doomsday. Those who do repent and turn to the Lord will be graciously welcomed into God’s kingdom and will have nothing to fear on doomsday.

Not surprisingly, when the scientists of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists announced their reset of the Doomsday Clock they did not urge people to pray to the Lord for his help in reducing the chance of worldwide catastrophe. For many people of faith, myself included, turning away from the Creator and looking only to ourselves for the solutions to our problems is a greater concern than nuclear war or any other man-made catastrophe.

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling.” (Psalm 46:1-3, ESV)

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