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The end of the world – how powerful a concept is apocalypse?

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paintingFrom a historical perspective, ‘Christian’ attempts to pinpoint the date of Jesus’ return have always made us look bizarre and ridiculous, not least the supposed ‘end times predictions’ of 2011.

However, this is surely not to say that we should never discuss the concept of disaster-apocalypse. In the collective consciousness, there is increasing awareness of the potential for everything to implode.

A nuclear exchange in 2012 is not impossible. The finance system could go in many directions. And not in a good way. These are strange days, and many Westerners, younger people at least, have never before witnessed such uncertainties. 2011 had the highest catastrophe-related worldwide losses in history – $350 billion – says Richard Ward, chief executive of Lloyd’s of London. (And this does not represent the total cost, merely the insured cost. Rebuilding cost for Japan alone may be as high as $600 billion. Indirect costs to worldwide economies, even before factoring in banking crises, are huge.)

Apocalypse is a widely-used background to many books and movies (e.g. Day After Tomorrow, Day of the Triffids, A.I., Armageddon, Nausicaa and more.)

Post-apocalyptical artwork is also common – check these. Similar artwork was painted in the 19th century, although more grounded in a religious worldview. I have certainly been profoundly moved by the force of John Martin’s The Great Day of His Wrath in the Tate Gallery (photo above).

Who else, apart from followers of Jesus, has a counter-balancing practical message of hope in the face of such trouble?

The Mayan Calendar issue

You may not be aware that in the wider world, many people who loosely hold to New Age or alternative spiritualities (and also Hinduism), give some credence to December 2012 being the end of the Mayan Calendar, which they think may usher in huge change or calamity. Check the vast online speculation about this.

Huge numbers of people are conducting Google searches using variations of will the world end in 2012. Most of these current top-20 search results are credible news reports or sensible refutations. One result is a full-on approach by a well-known evangelist. Two are non-Christian and totally wacky.

I suggest that apocalypse can be an appropriate conversation starter (online and offline), if only we can avoid formulaic religious jargon, dates and over-claim, and engage sanely with people in secular, even perhaps New Age, terminology. And without trying to slot every world event into a biblical timetable – something that Christians have repeatedly and incorrectly done since 1000 AD.

The concept of unexpected disaster is also going to be a focus for 2012 in the shape of the Titanic sinking centenary. This also presents a ready-made parable and conversation starter we can use.

What do you think? Please add your thoughts using the comment link below.

If you would like to ask questions about why God allows disaster, or if you have other concerns, go here.

Photo credit: The Great Day of His Wrath (Tate Gallery) | Pleroma/Flickr | Creative Commons

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2 comments to The end of the world – how powerful a concept is apocalypse?

  • Colin Stone

    I believe the term ”Apocalypse” has probably been a word overused today, especially by the moguls of Hollywood. Just about anything that tends to happen today is of ‘’apocalyptic’’ proportions. Of course what we should be doing is referring ourselves to the Bible to see what it has to say on the matter.
    The subject to do with ‘The End Times’ is an emotive and controversial subject today, especially in our churches, which it shouldn’t be because the Bible has all the information we need, albeit sometimes you have to dig around a bit. If something is worthwhile, then a bit of work is only going to be rewarding.
    The author of this website is well aware of my interest in ‘End Times’ prophesy, so won’t be surprised by a response from me.
    I prefer to refer to the ”Apocalypse” as Daniels 70th week, or perhaps as it is more commonly known, the Tribulation, which will last for seven years, the last three and a half years being known as the Great tribulation, read Daniel 7.
    At the end of the seven year Tribulation Jesus Christ will return. Whatever anyone says, the Bible is quite clear that we cannot know the day or hour of his return (Matt 24:36-37 and 42). We may not know the day or hour but the Bible says we should know the season of His return (Matt 16:1-4).
    I am sure if ‘End Times’ prophesy was taught far more than it is in our churches today, then a lot of the confusion and fear, surrounding the subject would not not exist but sadly this is not the case.
    One further thing (here we go), do we as born again Christians have to worry about an ”Apocalypse”, the answer is NO.
    I believe again the Bible says that the Church (all born again Christians), will be raptured before any of this happens. Again we do not know when the rapture will happen but we do know it could happen at any time.
    I realise that some of this is controversial but that is no reason for discussing it, quite the contrary. I hope that is what happens here.
    Yours in Christ
    Colin Stone

  • [...] Others, particularly those of alternative spiritualities, give some credence to the end of the Mayan Calendar in December, and are wondering if the world will end or be radically changed. We need to be able to answer their questions and engage sanely with them. [...]

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