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End times

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During the so-called End Times the Antichrist (often stated to be many people from Adolf Hitler to Barack Obama depending on the vogue of the time) will appear and stamp 666 all over the planet and on the foreheads of everyone who wasn't whooshed away to heaven in the rapture, though some Christians call the rapture HERESY!. For seven years there will be "tribulations," including war and famine. In the end, God will win over Satan and good Christians everywhere will live happily ever after.

While people may think that it's only recently that evangelists have been calling "time-at-the-bar" on existence, the End Times have been predicted as "just a few years away" for a long time (since long before 1000 CE).[1] Every specific date that has been predicted to set off "the end times" has so-far passed without incident and every historical villain who has been predicted to be the Antichrist, from Napoleon to Hitler, has turned out to have a relatively transient rule. Attempts to shoehorn historical events into being a version of the End Times usually fail because we are still here and Christians have never been teleported away in the rapture.

Eschaton is the academic term for the End Times. Eschatology is the academic study of the End Times.

Mathematical calculations[edit]

A 2010 article in American Atheist noted that the Jehovah's Witnesses Watchtower Society has actually computed, several times, the date of the "Parousia":[2]

The Jehovah's Witnesses have been kind and diligent enough to compute the exact year of the Parousia. They know exactly when it will occur! Their Watchtower Society's first calculation was slightly off, computing it to be 1874. That year came and went without the glorious Rapture they so sincerely desired. They tried again, coming up with 1914, a 365-day time period that remained intact until midnight Dec 31 arrived, proving them again wrong. The Jehovah's Witnesses remained undaunted, their next prediction being 1915. Neither Yahweh nor Jesus showed up that year to end the world, as far as I know.
Then the JWs regrouped and re-computed: 1918 seemed right at first, but that didn't work out. Next they predicted 1920 (failure, obviously). Next 1925, then 1941, then 1975, all clearly miscalculations.orig. fn 3 Perhaps they'll get it right for us one of these centuries. Kudos on the effort, Witnesses!

The usual American Protestant fundamentalist scenario[edit]

I'd like to play you folks a little song about another 'crazy' preacher you might've heard of. His name was Jesus. He was a... "one-eyed, one horned, flying purple people eater..."
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

The foundation of Israel in 1948 gave a major boost to the dispensationalist belief system; Israel's history of wars with its Arab neighbours did even more for it. After the Six Day War in 1967 and the Yom Kippur War in 1973, it seemed plausible to many fundamentalist Christians in the 1970s that Mideast turmoil may well be paving the way for the Battle of Armageddon.

Leaders of the movement such as Hal Lindsey claimed furthermore that the European Economic Community, which preceded the European Union, was a Revived Roman Empire, and would become the kingdom of the coming Antichrist or Beast. A Roman Empire, of course, also figured in the New Testament writers' vision of the future. The fact that in the early 1970s, there were (erroneously thought to be) seven nations in the European Economic Community was held to be significant; this aligned the Community with a seven-headed dragon in Revelation. This specific prophecy has required revision, but the idea of a Revived Roman Empire remains.

The Antichrist was supposed to be the dictatorial leader of a "one world government". He would promise peace to the world while leading Christians into apostasy, and impose a "one world money system" in which everyone had to have the Number of the Beast branded on them to buy or sell. Like the Roman emperors of old, he would force the world to unite in "one world religion", and impose horrible martyrdoms on surviving Christians. At some point after his appearance, a large number of Jews would convert to Christianity and preach the gospel after the Christians had been removed by the Rapture.

Believers in the system therefore scanned the headlines wondering if various world leaders might be the Antichrist, and wondering whether Mideast violence might be a sign of Armageddon. They feared such things as Social Security numbers and UPC barcodes, fearing that these tax identification numbers may be precursors to the dangerous Number of the Beast, whose receipt destines one's soul to damnation.

The Antichrist has as his allies the Beast and the Whore of Babylon, mysterious figures who run an apostate church or false religion. A world ravaged by plague and turmoil turns to the Antichrist to lead it, and who promises to deliver it. Eventually, the Antichrist musters an army to attack Israel. Gog and Magog have something to do with it. At the climax of the story, the Battle of Armageddon, Jesus returns in the Second Coming and stops the fighting.

The movement has spawned various timetables and countdowns to the apocalypse, whose general tendency can be summed up with the title of one of Lindsey's books, The 1980s: Countdown to Armageddon. The former Soviet Union played a large role in Lindsey's earlier interpretations; his later books understandably tone that down considerably, while new villains like Saddam Hussein take its place. The movement has strained relationships with conservative U.S. governments and the government of Israel, as some Jews think American Christians' supposed support of Israel is merely a cover for their hope of the destruction of Judaism during the end times.

It should be obvious from the foregoing that there is nothing in the Biblical apocalypses that forces these particular interpretations. The Seventh-day Adventists have their own tradition of millennialism arising from the nineteenth century Millerite movement that is distinct from contemporary dispensationalism. The prophecies have had to be revised several times in the light of changing current events. The whole belief system is often characterised by those who do not hold it, or who have abandoned it, as a mass paranoid delusion, full of ideas of reference that supposedly reveal the secret and sinister meaning that links unrelated events.

End times speculations have occasionally been made the subject of political controversy, especially in the United States when conservative Christians seek national political office. The implications of the prophecies that turmoil in the Middle East is inescapable, that nuclear war is predestined by Scripture, and that it will supernaturally lead to a divine utopia, give rise to some misgivings among unbelievers in the prophecies. James G. Watt, Ronald Reagan's Secretary of the Interior, once remarked that "my responsibility is to follow the Scriptures which call upon us to occupy the land until Jesus returns;" this was interpreted by political foes as meaning that we did not need to take care of the environment because Jesus was returning soon. Ronald Reagan himself was quoted in 1980 as saying that "we may be the generation that sees Armageddon," suggesting that he was familiar with the prophecies. Similar controversies have followed former United States Attorney General John Ashcroft.

End times questions and answers[edit]

There are numerous "signs" that point to the End Times coming. With a little rational thought and a little snark thrown in for entertainment value, it can be shown that these signs are either meaningless, or have been around so long that their use as a "sign" is somewhat limited.

Political factions[edit]

  • Fundie: But isn't Russia becoming defiant and returning to a Cold War stance?
    A: Why must a sovereign nation be compliant to the United States? Despite all the nuclear war mongering, the world didn't end during the Cold War. From a non-American perspective, the US is undoubtedly becoming a total asshat with regards to its warmongering and anti-environmental stances so Russia isn't solely to blame for becoming the "defiant" side regarding the End Times.
  • Fundie: But isn't the US currency falling?
    A: This is more of a sign that Americans like to buy imported oil and finished goods. Since we pay for them in dollars, we are shipping a lot of dollars overseas. There is more supply for greenbacks than demand. But still, you'd think the End Times would be global rather than applying only to Jesusland.
  • Fundie: What about China’s immense military power (200,000,000, as called out in Revelation)?
    A: China only has 2,250,000 active troops. Thus fails at least one direct prediction - although there are other interpretations about what the "200 million" actually represent.[3] At least 200,000,000 is about double the entire world's population at the time of Revelation's writing.[4]

Events[edit]

  • Fundie: What about the natural disasters increasing in record numbers?
    A: There is little evidence that the frequency of natural disasters is spiking. Reports of them are increasing due to media coverage and the severity of the death tolls increase because of the rising levels and concentrations of the global population. A few hundred years ago, an earthquake hitting a city would barely affect a few thousand people, now the same level of disaster could affect millions. In addition, the really big natural disasters such as super-volcanoes and meteor impacts have been very much lacking recently.
  • Fundie: What about all the celestial signs increasing?
    A: Name one recent celestial sign… well, there's the sun signs but these have always been there, and "planetary alignments" happen every so often and we're still here.
  • Fundie: What about crime rising in record numbers?
    A: Usually, figures about crime are open to interpretation; crime goes down, but violent crime goes up or vice versa. In the modern context, crime has been falling in the West for decades. In many cases, crimes are at all-time lows — some crimes, such as bank robbery in the U.S., are virtually extinct. Mass media reports of crime, particularly sensationalised ones, are going up because they tend to sell a lot of ad time by grabbing eyeballs. It's the train wreck phenomenon — we just can't look away.
  • Fundie: What about the fact that love for others is growing colder?
    A: And meanwhile we try to pass amendments to the Constitution to make sure same-sex couples who do have warm love for each other can't get married… As with all of these "signs," it's open to interpretation.

Religious upheaval[edit]

  • Fundie: But isn't Jerusalem becoming of interest to the entire world?
    A: Jerusalem is a holy city for the three Abrahamic religions. It has always been of interest.
  • Fundie: But isn't Apostate Christianity running rampant?
    A: Seriously, one person's apostasy is another person's orthodoxy.
  • Fundie: What about the One World religious movements gaining momentum?
    A: Christ said he would have one flock and one shepherd.[5]

See also[edit]

Icon fun.svg For those of you in the mood, RationalWiki has a fun article about End times.

End Times doomsayers[edit]

References[edit]

  1. A Second Look at the Second Coming (Sorting Through the Speculations) by T. L. Frazier. ISBN 1888212144.
  2. American Atheist, April 2010, "Separation of Armageddon and State — Freethought at the Polls", Michael B. Paulk, pp 14–15.
  3. Bible Insight — 200 Million Horsemen Revelation 9:16
  4. Wikipedia - World populationWikipedia's W.svg About 55 million lived in the combined Roman empire around 300-400 CE, Revelation is dated to around 95 CE or so.
  5. John 10:1-16