I write this on 19th December 2012 a mere 2 days before before 21st December 2012 a date that has been flying around for a while now as the end of the world according to the Mayans. Some believe the end of the Mayan calendar on that day signals the end of the world, I Personally do not subscribe to the. However a friend online once told me he couldn't trust the Mayans- a civilization that died due to lack of food! For more details on the Mayan apocalypse theory a good place to start is the Wikipedia article here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2012_phenomenon .
I remember being asked in 1999 to write a composition on whether 1999 signaled the end of the world. Back then it was a strong candidate being at the turn of the millennium as well as the infamous Y2K millennium bug that had got people all scared about planes falling from the sky among other calamities which thankfully never happened. There went another candidate for the end of the world and I know that on the morning of 23rd December there will be another collective yawn as there was last year after Harold Camping's predictions came to naught.
This whole "End of the World" story has been a popular topic over the centuries among people not only religious but non religious too with the religions all having their own versions of the ultimate destiny of planet Earth. The study of this topic has been put under the topic which Theologians like to call Eschatology which has been a very popular one particularly in the Christian church. It is very common when you turn on your TV or radio to find somebody on the myriad Christian stations talking about "the end times." The bookstores also have lots of books on that subject. However it is interesting to note that the interpretations and opinions regarding what the bible has to say about the second coming of Christ and the end of the world are as numerous as the books. This may come as a surprise to many who think that what they hear from their pastor is all that there is to be said about it. I was once in this category until about 10 years ago when I started reading the bible for myself and started to see things differently. So for now I'll branch into specifically looking at Christian Eschatology based on the bible.
Like I said this is a hot topic in Christian circles so much so that it has become cliche to say " we are living in the end times". The chief reason given being the amount of wickedness in the world today and supposed prophecies being fulfilled today. What is interesting is that the bible which we Christians believe to be the word of God has a lot of information to do with this in writing but a lot of it has been obscured by ideas which people have come up with over the centuries. For instance a phrase like "the end of time" appears nowhere in the bible but the actual words are "the time of the end" which the prophet Daniel spoke of in Daniel 12:4. There are other assumptions made too and teachings have been popularized in fictional books such as the Left Behind series and movies too. Eventually many of us are led to believe the popular teachings of the day as opposed to checking out what was actually written in the bible about what Christ said about his coming and the establishment of the Kingdom of God. Here I note that my studies may not be exhaustive but I've pretty much gone through the basics and come to the personal conclusion that popular as the common interpretations are there are off the mark in many ways and in future posts I'll share some of my findings.
What's the big deal? you may ask and what difference does it make anyway? Well the whole idea of a world becoming worse and worse is pessimistic and the belief that Jesus Christ is coming to make people disappear is escapist in my opinion. Also there is so much work to be done to better the lives of people on planet earth and to change peoples hearts that just waiting for an event to take us all out of it distracts us from the tasks at hand. Also each one of us has a purpose on this planet and people are the ones who effect change more so those who have had their lives changed by the teachings of Christ. So my purpose is not to take away hope but to point to the Christ within who enables us to do the good work in this world as it continues. Also another thing is that Christ was not out to scare people but to remind them of the victory of good and evil. Another thing is as much as this is a fringe topic to many it has given me a renewed appreciation of the bible and has enabled me to study it with more gusto willing to learn more.
So let me start from where I began. Was used to the usual story. I knew we were living in the end times of the physical world and one day Jesus Christ would return in the clouds and Christians worldwide would disappear "in the twinkle of an eye" and the unsaved would be "left behind" to endure "the tribulation" under "the Antichrist" or "The beast" who would force all to take a 666 mark and then after three and a half or is it seven years Jesus would come again with his saints and angels to fight the devil and his armies at the "battle of Armageddon". After that Christ will rule for 1000 years on the earth then a final judgement of all at the end of it then a new heaven a new earth. That was what I was taught in a nutshell and I believed to be the absolute truth. That whole teaching package being a mix of passages from the Old and new testaments particularly Daniel and Relation as well as some passages from the gospels and Paul's letters. Little did I know that this was one of the many interpretations which I came to learn was commonly referred to as dispensational premillennialism by theologians. Now I do not want to bore you with long theological names just yet, will cover that later but I thought a good starting point would be an introduction to the most prevalent ideas which are defended vehemently by American Fundamentalist Christians who are the most common on our TV screen or radio.
Now the next task will be to analyse what you've most likely been taught above with the words recorded in the Gospels coming from Jesus. A famous passage is detailed in the book of Matthew Chapter 24 which is part of other teachings in the surrounding chapters 23 and 25. It would be a good starting point to see what Jesus himself had to say about it, after all he was the one to come. Those passages are commonly referred to as the Olivet discourse having been delivered on the Mount of Olives. I'd encourage any Christian to look at those words keeping in mind who was being spoken to at the time and about what. I will go into detail about it in later posts.
Going into detail right here will take a lot of space and I will save it for now. However I should say here that the world will continue as usual on 22nd December and a long while after and unlike what I believed before no mass disappearance of people followed by the events will happen. I will discuss why I think so in due time. Meanwhile the business of life and making the world a better place continues...
After whetting your appetite I'll share here a nice introduction to these matters posted by a friend of mine on Facebook. That should get my Christian friends started. As always I remind you of the Bereans in Acts 17:11 search the scriptures to find out if it's true. Enjoy and see you soon!