A prediction that the world would end last weekend went viral around the world. Most Christians I know joined in the fun; no one was deceived except for the poor old pastor’s followers.
Rapture Pets: Who Will Feed the Dog?
I joined in the jokes for a few days, then called my really good daughter when the deadline was passed to see if she was gone. I got a slight jolt when I got her voicemail. She was just away from the phone, as it turned out. I knew Regular Christians weren’t worried: you can’t go to church too many Sundays in a row without hearing about the End of the World. But a lot of non-Christians seemed confused about how Regular Christians view the whole thing, so I thought a blog about the “End of the World for Dummies” might be helpful.
Dummies: No Offense Meant
Normally I refuse to call non-Christians Dummies, based of a strict policy of respect for human dignity. The truth is, I myself have a large library of Dummies books, including the Idiot’s Guide to Philosophy, which is actually quite good. I haven’t yet found one called Quantum Theory for Dummies or an Idiot’s Guide to String Theory but I’ll buy them when I do.
Generic End of the World: Christian Style
I’m going to give you the Regular Christian End of the World Story, while pointing out that the Menthol Christian End of the World Story takes many forms. We like End of the World stories; that’s why disaster movies are so popular. I personally quit trying to figure out the Book of Revelation (the last book in the Bible that would make an awesome disaster movie) when I found that Bible scholars seriously disagreed with each other on major details. This is no surprise for two reasons. First, Revelation is loaded with esoteric symbolism, and second, it hasn’t happened yet. I finally decided to live with that mystery, among so many others, and that I would know how it happens after it happens.
The World WILL End
No one denies that the world will end, but many predict it will be a long, long time before the second Law of Thermodynamics kicks in and the sun refuses to shine. By then, we hope our descendants will have built space ships to transport the survivors to another habitable planet. So it’s not a question of IF, but when. Regular Christians think it will be much sooner than that; maybe any minute. This does affect their attitude toward the world. After all, why get too attached if it is all going up in smoke any minute now? Other religions have their own version of the end.
What Jesus Said About the End of the World
Jesus’ followers also wanted to know when the world would end, so they asked him. They often asked him questions which he answered, but then they couldn’t grasp the answer; this was yet another of those times. His answer is in Matthew 24:
As Jesus and the disciples passed the magnificent temple in Jerusalem, he said, “See this? Not one stone will be left standing on another.”
(He often popped out with odd statements, too, as if he had something loftier on his mind. The temple was destroyed about 40 years later, in 70 AD when riots in Jerusalem led to violent repression by the occupying army of the Roman Empire. Riots, repression-see how history keeps repeating itself?)
Later, when everyone was relaxing on the Mount of Olives, his disciples came and sat down with him. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”
Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 5 For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. 6 You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of birth pains.
(Note that he said people will try to deceive them and that wars and earthquakes mean the end is not yet)
9 “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.
(Christians were indeed persecuted as he said, especially during the reigns of Nero and Caligula, but the end wouldn’t come until the good news was preached worldwide. PS: He meant the Good News, not colonial imperialism.)
He then described sudden and very unpleasant events that would take place and suggested they flee to the mountains for safety if they have time.
(The Rapture or “snatching” refers to 1 Thessalonians 4:17: “After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.”)
Back to Matthew 24:
29 “Immediately after the distress of those days “‘the sun will be darkened,
and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky,
and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’
32 “Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. 33 Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. 34 Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
Israel and the End of the World
(The reference to the fig tree is thought to refer to the nation of Israel, which was non-existent for a long, long time until 1948. This is one reason Christians take such a keen interest in, and support, everything Israel does-it supposed to be there, you see. The other reason is that God said to Abraham, “Whoever blesses you I will bless and whoever curses you I will curse.” Christians want to be on the right of the Abraham thing.*)
The Day and Hour Unknown
36 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son,[f] but only the Father. 37 As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 38 For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; 39 and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. 40 Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.
(This is why NO “predicted” day can be the right one. He said NO ONE KNOWS.)
42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.
(Jesus: So how about living right, go do that ‘love one another’ thing I keep telling you about, etc., and stop worrying about the End of the World.)
The Antichrist and the Mark of the Beast
The deal with the Antichrist is that a one-world government will form, led by some charismatic monster who will claim to be God (lots pf people buy it, too) and slaughter everyone who resists him. The fact that these things were written a couple thousand years ago and we’re now talking about globalization and a New World Order is kind of creepy, no? Even creepier is the Mark of the Beast, numbers on your hand or forehead without which you cannot “buy or sell.” You get the Mark, you’re his. It’s creepy that the technology now exists to actually pull this off with relative ease. The numbers of the Mark have something to do with 666-I have no clue what-whole books are written on this.
That’s it, the End of the World for Dummies; and yes, many millions of people believe it just like I’ve described. For me, this is one of the things I don’t know, which I will put on the CD that goes in the Library of Things I Don’t Know. But that New World Order thing and the Mark of the Beast thing seem to keep popping up in current headlines-and it does make me wonder.
Jesus said people would deceive others about the End.
Wars, earthquakes, unrest means “not yet.”
No one knows when-it will not be expected.
Revelation says a one-world monster dictator (initially popular) will arise.
Everyone will need an implanted ID number to buy or sell anything.
Oh! I forgot to mention Revelation says the sky will “roll back like a scroll” which is an eerily good description of a mushroom cloud, I thought.
Jesus said LOTS more about living than about dying; really good stuff. It would be great if we would we focus on that.
*Modern Israel has committed serious violations of human rights, perhaps war crimes. News about Israel from US sources is quite distorted for some reason. Israel should be “blessed” by being forced to stop this bad behavior-why is it good for them to allow them to do wrong? If you doubt this, do the research, Israel’s behavior is not secret anywhere but it the U.S.