Is it the end of the world?
Is Dec. 21, 2012, the end of the world? The Mayan calendar says as much.
Many around the world fear the end has come, and they are preparing for it. Writing for the Associated Press last week, Jack Chang notes: “[T]housands are getting ready for what they think is going to be a fateful day.”
He adds, “The Maya didn’t say much about what would happen next, after a 5,125-year cycle known as the Long Count comes to an end. So into that void have rushed occult writers, bloggers and New Age visionaries foreseeing all manner of monumental change, from doomsday to a new age of enlightenment.”
Chang notes, “Even the U.S. space agency NASA intervened earlier this month, posting a nearly hour-long YouTube video debunking apocalyptic points, one by one.”
Chang quotes one descendant of the Maya who views Dec. 21 not with hype or dread, but rather as opportunity for renewal. Jose Manrique Esquivel says, “For us, this Dec. 21 is the end of a great era and also the beginning of a new era. We renew our beliefs. We renew a host of things that surround us.”
Some of the plans of preparation for Dec. 21 include getting ready for all the tourists. “Mass tribal drumming, circles of energy and ritual dancing are also planned.”
Meanwhile, the Vatican is reassuring their followers that the world will not end on that day. AP notes: “The Vatican’s top astronomer has some assurances to offer: The world won’t be ending in about two weeks, despite predictions to the contrary.” The astronomer said of the Mayan prophecy: “[I]t’s not even worth discussing.”
It’s tempting to be smug over the prophecy not being fulfilled. But we as Christians shouldn’t gloat. We have had more than our share of major false prophecies that ended up not being fulfilled.
Christianity teaches that history is linear, not circular. Christ divided time in half. B.C. (Before Christ) and A.D. (Anno Domini, “in the year of our Lord,” so, for instance, the U.S. Constitution is signed “in the year of our Lord” 1787).
The politically correct folk now refer to these distinctions as BCE and CE. No, that doesn’t mean Before the Christian Era or Christian Era – although it could because the Christian era still defines the date in question. (The C stands for the word “Common.”) But how is time reckoned in the so-called “Common Era”? The birth of Jesus (which was most likely during the winter of 5-4 B.C.).
The idea of the world coming to an end gets back to teaching from Jesus Himself and the apostles. He talked about His return as a day of reckoning, as a day of accountability.
Tragically, at various times during Church history (and even in our own time), many professing Christians have speculated about the day or time of His return and have given the Church a collective black eye for it. The end of the world on such-and-such a date? Been there, done that.
Consider, for example, what happened when the year 999 was drawing to a close, before the ushering in of A.D. 1000. Thousands crammed into St. Peter’s in Rome, convinced the end of the world had come – since 1,000 years had passed sine the time Jesus had come to earth.
Richard Erdoes, author of “A.D. 1000,” describes it this way: “On the last day of the year 999, according to an ancient chronicle, the old basilica of St. Peter’s at Rome was thronged with a mass of weeping and trembling worshippers awaiting the end of the world. This was the dreaded eve of the millennium, the Day of Wrath when the earth would dissolve into ashes. Many of those present had given away all of their possessions to the poor – lands, homes and household goods – in order to assure for themselves forgiveness for their trespasses at the Last Judgment and a good place in heaven near the footstool of the Almighty” (p. 194).
But the year ended, and the next year came (and went).
Since Jesus Himself said, “No man knows the hour or day, not even the Son of Man” (referring to Himself), then who are we to speculate? In fact, if anybody claims they have an actual date of Christ’s return, to me that’s a tell-tale sign that they are wrong – by definition. His return will be a big surprise.
There are sects within Christendom that even began because of a prediction (false, of course) of Christ’s return. One thing all the would-be prophets seem to forget is the element of surprise.
Jesus said that it will happen when people least expect it. Paul said that Day of the Lord will come “like a thief in the night.”
So the key is to be ready for His return at all times. Meanwhile, until He comes, we should “occupy” – i.e., go about doing His will on earth, as it is in heaven. One slogan mocked, “Jesus is coming. Look busy.” That’s not what He has in mind. We should work “heartily as unto Him.”
So, is Dec. 21, 2012, the end of the world? Well, let’s talk it over – on Dec. 22.