Summary: A time is coming when it will all be gone! When all the earth’s inhabitants will disappear, This is the end of the end, how will this happen?
Cyrus L. Lundell was just out looking for gum. What he found was far more interesting.
The year was 1931. Thanks to Chicago’s Wrigley Company, the world had an enormous appetite for a new confection called chewing gum, made from the sticky sap of the tropical tree Manilkara chicle. The problem: the tree can only be tapped a limited number of times. Lundell, a biologist and pilot for the Mexican Exploitation Chicle Company, was flying around an uncharted area of southern Mexico in search of new chicle reserves when he noticed what looked like several small hills poking up out of the dense jungle. Flying closer, he realized that what had looked like a rocky peak on the highest of them was, in fact, dressed stone. It wasn’t a hill—but a massive pyramid. He reported his find (which he named Calakmul) to an archaeologist friend.
Later investigations at the site showed that Calakmul had been occupied for about 400 years, until roughly A.D. 900. A Mayan superpower whose dominion had extended as far as a hundred miles away, Calakmul had, at its peak, 50,000 inhabitants, who left behind ruins of 6,750 ancient structures.
But until it was rediscovered by Cyrus Lundell, Calakmul had been lost to the world for almost a thousand years. Its inhabitants gone, the jungle had reclaimed it. Everything was obscured by the rain forest except for the tallest 180-foot pyramid. Where once massive buildings lined noisy, crowded streets, there remained only silent, half-buried, vine-choked ruins.
The empty planet
We human beings are this planet’s most aggressive builders. We construct cities, highways, buildings, and machinery. Nearly 7 billion of us occupy this globe, and we’re always busy. We dam up rivers and tunnel through mountains, erect skyscrapers and stadiums, farm millions of square miles, and extract minerals from thousands of feet beneath the surface of the earth. We travel through the air, over and under water, and even into space, from which we can see our cities by the brilliance of their never-extinguished lights. The signs of our presence on this earth seem permanent and enduring.
Yet a time is coming when it will all be gone! When all the earth’s inhabitants will disappear, the great works of humankind will succumb like Calakmul, not to intentional destruction, but to neglect.
This story begins with the return of Jesus Christ to this earth. Scripture promises that when Jesus comes back, “every eye will see him” (Revelation 1:7). And that will include some who had been dead, for Scripture says that when He appears, “the dead in Christ” (faithful believers who have passed to their rest) will come fully alive and ascend into heaven to meet Jesus. As for those of us who are still alive, we “will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17).
Picture the scene: all around the globe graves will gape open. Jesus will reassemble the molecules of every believer who has ever lived, forming them into billions of living beings who, with the righteous living, will accompany Him to heaven.
On the other hand, those whom Christ has judged to be unworthy of a heavenly reward will be destroyed “by the splendor of his coming” (2 Thessalonians 2:8). The earth will be eerily quiet: no cars, no sirens, and no hustle and bustle in the streets. The ground will be littered with the corpses of the wicked, but there won’t be a living person on the planet!
According to Revelation, our world will continue to exist as a depopulated planet for the next 1,000 years. Students of prophecy call this period of time “the millennium,” from two Latin words, mille, meaning “one thousand,” and annum, meaning “year,” hence, 1,000 years. While the term millennium is not found in Scripture, the idea it describes very much is.
What earth will be like
The fate of a suddenly depopulated world is the subject of a History Channel television documentary called Life After People.1 The producers don’t say, as I do here, why people might disappear from planet Earth, but they do predict the fate of our human creations when we are no longer here to maintain them.
Some disasters will happen quickly. Without human operators, oil and gas refineries will catch fire, spawning massive fireballs. There will be no engineers at the controls of dams, so they will overflow and burst, sweeping away entire cities. Electrical power will go out and with it all automatic and computerized processes, such as the controlled atomic reactions in the cores of nuclear power plants. These will eventually malfunction, spewing deadly radiation. Tanks of toxic chemicals will burst open, fouling land and water.
Farm crops, bred to be cared for by human beings, will die out, leaving weeds and native plants to take over. Animals, both domestic and wild, that were once held in check by civilization, will overrun the land, feeding on whatever they can find. Cars, planes, and ships will rust away. Without firefighters, flammable suburban tracts will disappear in vast firestorms. Water will seep into the world's largest buildings through unmaintained roofs, eroding the steel frames. The tallest building in the world, the massive Burj Khalifa in Dubai, will eventually collapse and become a heap of steel and concrete. The roots of plants growing in the cracks of streets and buildings will tear apart even the thickest cement.