The Second Coming will be in the 2040s

Many Christians look forward to the literal return of Jesus Christ to usher in a thousand year period of peace called the Millennium. This is certainly a part of Latter-day Saint doctrine. Scripture says no one knows the time of this event but God the Father but that believers should watch for the signs of its coming so they can be prepared. The scriptures are replete with signs but remember that most were written by people who were totally unfamiliar with modern technology. Sure they were inspired and received revealed truth but they still struggled to express it given their lack of experience with today’s (let alone tomorrow’s) technology. I must have been like writing in a foreign language with which they were almost totally unfamiliar.

So let’s step away from scriptural interpretation for a minute to see if there is anything that a little logic and common sense can tell us about the possible timing of the second coming. I think there is and that it points to a date somewhere around 2045. Here’s the argument:

1. For thousands of years people have been born, lived and died without the need to be ruled directly by the Lord. It is reasonable to suppose that something must be going to change that will require a more direct intervention by God. If we can guess what the change is and when it is likely to occur it should give us a better idea for the time of the second coming.

2. The pace of technological change is exponential (2×2=4, 4×2=8, 8×2=16, 16×2=32) rather than linear (2+2=4, 4+2=6, 6+2=8, 8+2=10). The more time passes the more change that takes place over the same period. Experts predict that by the 2040s the pace of change will be so great that it will completely outpace our ability to adapt. Before we can make up our minds about what to do next, the options we were considering will have changed. Borrowing a term from physics they refer to this as a technological singularity. The period from now to 2045 will see more change to the way we live than has taken place throughout all of human history until now.

Some of this technology will enable us to enhance our mental abilities so that we can keep up with the pace of change. Many will, some won’t. Those who don’t will be as helpless in the world of 2045 as a deer in Times Square. Those who do will have almost godlike powers. To paraphrase Arthur C. Clarke, the technology of a sufficiently advanced civilization would be indistinguishable from magic. By 2045 most of us will be able to perform magic.

3. To have godlike power does not necessarily imply that one will have godlike virtues. To some degree I do believe that ethics is related to intelligence but not in direct proportion. It is easy to see that we are not progressing ethically at the same pace as we are technologically. By 2045 we may find ourselves in a situation analogous to unsupervised toddlers in possession of loaded weapons. As Uncle Ben said to Spiderman, with great power comes great responsibility. The power is coming. Are we ready to exercise it responsibly? To avoid using it to hurt ourselves and others? perhaps some are, but are all of us? By 2045 most of us will not have developed sufficiently godlike virtues to avoid exercising our godlike powers irresponsibly.

4. By 2045, with most of humanity possessed of the combination of godlike power but without godlike character, only direct divine intervention will prevent us from doing great harm to ourselves and others. Thus the second coming and the millennial rule of Christ.

I do not believe the millennium will see everyone sitting around learning to play harps. It would take a lobotomy or something like a drug-induced coma for me to be able to tolerate that for much more than 5 minutes. My gratitude and respect for God’s greatest gift to man, his reasoning mind, can not allow me to believe that he will destroy that gift and call it “salvation”. If I am to be saved, that which I refer to as “I” must not first be destroyed. Without a mind with which to reason, I am no more. Without the freedom to act according to reason, I would not wish to be.

I do believe that, crudely put, upon arrival the Lord will basically tell us that collectively we’ve done a good job using our minds to develop technology but that we’ve got a lot to learn about ethics. He will need to teach us as he has always taught us. First, that we need to be humble enough to be willing to learn. Second, we need to be obedient because we only learn (acquire a new skill, talent, ability, characteristic, etc.) by successfully imitating an expert, not by trial and error as many people mistakenly believe.

The third thing we need to learn is really the first substantive thing as the first 2 just make learning possible. This third thing incorporates everything else that he’s ever taught us. Technological progress comes to us naturally, as we require it to have power to act in accordance to our reason. But this third thing does not come to us as easily. We do have the capacity to develop it, it is a part of our nature, but so many of the challenges and distractions of daily living tempt us to neglect its development.

What I am speaking of is the capacity to love. Not just the family members from whom we receive so much obvious return for our emotional investment, but everyone. Christ taught us that we have the capacity to so identify with our fellow beings that we can experience their happiness as our own. The emotional state associated with our awareness of this is love – a biochemical motivation to pursue what is best for someone else in order to share in their resultant happiness.

Without developing our capacity to love our happiness is severely confined to just that which benefits us directly. With a fully developed capacity to love we expand our potential for happiness perhaps infinitely. In scriptural language this is a “fullness of joy”.

To bring this full circle, godlike power will maximize our ability to achieve whatever ends we pursue. A godlike capacity to love will motivate us to pursue the best interests of all our fellow beings and share in their resultant happiness, which thanks to our power, will all but inevitably be achieved.

To substitute a fullness of joy for a miserable world of power without ethics is why I believe we can anticipate His return sometime around 2045.