Could the world come to an end on April 23 -- Are Biblical end times finally upon us?

The Bible is more than clear in its theological claim that Jesus Christ will return to Earth at an undisclosed, future time. In fact, that belief is a central hallmark of the Christian faith.

And the latter point about the timing is essential to highlight, as scripture makes it clear that no one knows exactly when the so-called “second coming” will unfold. Yet, once again, here we are with some people setting a specific date — April 23, 2018 — for the purported fulfillment of certain prophetic signs or events.

This follows other failed claims about the rapture and the end times — predictions that were set for September 23, 2017 and October 15, 2017, yet obviously never came to fruition.

The date-setting all seems quite bizarre, considering that the Bible repeatedly and clearly speaks to our inability to know exactly when end-times events — and particularly Jesus’ return — will unfold. Matthew 24:36-37 tells us, “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man” — and Mark 13:32 says the same.

My guess is that April 23 will be a day like any other. I wouldn’t worry; I wouldn’t panic. The best line of defense for those who believe the Bible is to be ready and waiting by following Jesus, living our lives right and sticking to our faith.

But as I noted in my book “The Armageddon Code: One Journalist's Quest for End-Times Answers,” time and again throughout history people have sought to ignore these verses and predict exactly when they believe the rapture — the belief that Christians will be taken up before cataclysmic, end-times events kick into high gear ­— or the end itself will unfold. 

And time and again, they have been wrong, bringing embarrassment not only on themselves and their followers, but on Christians who take the whole of scripture into account when diving into the massively complex debate over eschatology (the study of the end times).

But no matter how many times these predictions fail, some people are still bent on advancing strange and unbiblical eschatological theories.

You might recall Christian leader Harold Camping, who made international headlines in 2011 for twice predicting that the world would end — and getting it wrong both times. In the days and weeks leading up to the dates he set, some of his followers were so convinced he was right that they sold their homes and spent their savings helping spread the message that judgement would soon be upon us.

In the end, they were likely shocked to learn that Camping, as the Bible clearly notes, couldn’t have possibly known the “day nor hour.”

So, that brings us back to April 23, a date that has sparked some chatter. The Express has more about what some end times enthusiasts are proclaiming:

According to conspiracy theorists, codes in the Bible suggest the end of the world is imminent, with Earth set to be destroyed on April 23.

One theory suggests the end times dates back to astrological constellations appearing on November 23, matching the book of Revelation 12:1-2.

The passage signals the start of the Rapture and the second coming of Jesus Christ.

This is pretty similar to what was “prophesied” last year before Sept. 23 when some said that the alignment of the stars, sun and moon pointed to a coming series of prophetic events — and there were also some stranger theories involving “Planet X,” a purported planet that NASA says doesn’t exist but that some people believe could somehow destroy Earth.

Christian ministry Answers in Genesis, which previously dismissed the Sept. 23 hoopla, explained in a blog post last year the celestial happenings that have led to so much speculation about specific end times dates:

On [Sept. 23], the sun will be in the constellation Virgo (the virgin), along with the moon near Virgo’s feet. Additionally, Jupiter will be in Virgo, while the planets Venus, Mars, and Mercury will be above and to the right of Virgo in the constellation Leo. Some people claim that this is a very rare event (allegedly only once in 7,000 years) and that it supposedly is a fulfillment of a sign in Revelation 12.

And since Revelation 12 discusses a “woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head,” a connection was made between what is described in Revelation and what was slated to happen in the skies.

And on April 23, since the sun, moon and Jupiter will be in Virgo, there’s once again speculation that something biblical could be afoot. On what basis, you ask? Beats me. History shows again and again that these predictions are always wrong.

Don’t get me wrong: As a Christian and a journalist who has spent a fair bit of time writing on the end times, I fully agree with Pastor Greg Laurie who recently told me, “We need to be students of Bible prophecy. I believe if we understand it correctly, it will just motivate us to live godly lives and do all that we can to reach our generation while we can.”

With that said, we also need to take seriously — as Laurie would argue — the scripture in its entirety, including those pesky verses in Mark and Matthew that tell us not to date-set. And sure, Jesus tells us in Luke that “there will be signs in the sun, moon and stars,” but he’s not specific and Christians seizing on various celestial happenings or events to definitively speak what they believe to be the heart and mind of God is unhelpful; in fact, as we’ve seen, it can be damaging.

My guess is that April 23 will be a day like any other. I wouldn’t worry; I wouldn’t panic. The best line of defense for those who believe the Bible is to be ready and waiting by following Jesus, living our lives right and sticking to our faith.

Obsessing over the end times isn’t healthy, but being aware of the ins and outs of what the Bible says is certainly both beneficial and warranted, which is why I wrote “The Armageddon Code” — a book that gives you a solid overview of the never-ending debate over Bible prophecy. 

It’s not crazy to look at world events and ponder whether the signs mentioned in the Bible are, in some form, coming to fruition; but it is bizarre and dangerous to start setting dates in violation of the very scripture you claim to hold dear.

Billy Hallowell is the the director of communications and content at PureFlix.com, the former faith and culture editor of TheBlaze and the author of “The Armageddon Code.” Follow him on Twitter @BillyHallowell.