State of the world is improving, end of days is not near


According to a 2013 LifeWay Research poll, “one in three Americans see Syria’s recent conflict as part of the Bible’s plan for the end times” and “one in four think that a U.S. military strike in Syria could lead to Armageddon.”

This extreme view of the world comes from the interpretation of the Biblical book of Revelation known as “Premillennialism.” Premillennialism teaches that things will get progressively worse towards the end of time and will culminate in a war between Christ and the Antichrist, after which everything on earth will be destroyed.

This inevitably leads to pessimism and apathy since they are expecting everything to get worse and see no reason to care for what’s here now, as it will all be destroyed soon anyway. Some have even gone so far as to hope for a major war in the Middle East, which they believe will help usher in Armageddon and the second coming of Christ.

The idea that everything is getting progressively worse extends beyond Premillennial Christians. According to numerous polls, a clear majority of Americans believe that everything from gun violence to teen pregnancy to crime are getting worse when, actually, these things have all decreased. It seems that many people simply assume, without looking at the data, that humanity is becoming more violent and the world is becoming more dangerous.

The 20th century is often referred to as the “bloodiest century.” However, in per capita terms, the 20th century was the least bloody century on record. In fact, this pessimistic view of history has been shown to be completely false. Over the course of human history, there has been a steady decrease in murder, rape, incurable disease, famine and killing of most kinds. Steven Pinker, a professor in the department of psychology at Harvard, compiled the historical, archeological, anthropological and economic evidence necessary to disprove the pessimistic view of history in his 700-page book, “The Better Angels of Our Nature.”

There has long been a debate between those who agreed with Thomas Hobbes that life for man before civilization was “nasty, brutish and short” and those who agreed with Rousseau’s vision of the “noble savage” who lived peacefully until civilization came along and corrupted him. According to Pinker, this debate has now been conclusively settled in Hobbes’ favor due to substantial data from archeology, anthropology and history. The archeological data shows that the average percentage of people who died in warfare among prehistoric and hunter gatherer societies was 15 percent, and in some regions as high as 60 percent. Meanwhile, the percentage of people killed by war in the 20th century was much lower at only 0.7 percent.

It turns out that the “bloodiest century” was much safer than almost any pre-state society. Pinker also shows in his research that violence, rape and incurable disease have all steadily declined over the last 3,000 years.

How can this evidence be reconciled with pessimistic Biblical prophecies of ever-worsening conditions leading to ultimate destruction? As most of the early Christian church understood, the book of Revelation was mostly written about events in the first century such as Nero’s persecution of Christians and the Roman destruction of Jerusalem. All of the book of Revelation, with the exception of a few chapters, was fulfilled almost 2,000 years ago. Christ died to redeem and renew the world, not to watch it get worse and then be destroyed.

Along with the early church, the Puritans also held this hopeful view of Revelation and came to America as optimists, believing that everything would keep improving as the kingdom of God continued to advance throughout the world. Unfortunately, modern Americans are more likely to read the “Left Behind” books than the Puritans or the early church fathers and, consequently, they end up rooting for senseless murder in the Middle East in a vain attempt to bring about the second coming of Christ.

Andrew Rogers is a junior in philosophy. Please comments to