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Millennium and end-of-the-world prophecies

An overview

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Overview of TEOTWAWKI (The End Of The World As We Know It):

The Christian Bible contains many prophecies about the future. In particular, the Book of Revelation talks extensively about the return of Jesus Christ to this earth; God pouring wrath over most of humanity, causing horrendous suffering; and the end of history as we know it. Christian beliefs about the message of Revelation differ:

bulletAccording to many liberal Christians, the Book of Revelation is typical of apocalyptic literature which is found throughout writings from the Middle East in ancient times, from the second century BCE to the second century CE. It appears in various forms: Jewish, Christian and Pagan. 

The main theme of Revelation was to  bolster the morale of 1st century Christians in seven churches, located in present-day Turkey. It encouraged Christian solidarity to resist the oppression of the Roman empire and to bolster moral so that the Christians would refuse to worship the emperor during the waning years of the 1st century CE. Martin Luther rejected Revelation because it portrays a God who is extremely hateful and bent on revenge against the vast majority of the human race. He wrote in his book "Preface to Revelation" (1522) -- at a time when he was translating the Bible into German -- "I miss more than one thing in this book, and this makes me hold it to be neither apostolic nor prophetic." Religious liberals agree, feeling that the God described in Revelation bears no resemblance to the loving, kind Abba who was worshiped by Jesus and described in the gospels. The book describes visions of armies fighting on horseback with primitive, first century weapons. It obviously has little relevance to us today.

bulletAccording to many conservative Christians Revelation, along with all of the other books in the official canon is inerrant -- without error. They tend to interpret the book literally. It describes the end of the world which is expected soon in our future. Because of ambiguities and lack of clarity in the Bible, many conflicting belief systems have been developed down through the centuries that predict the sequence of events that will occur at this time. Several theories have arisen which have variously been treated as preferred beliefs, or heresies, or both during the history of Christianity. They are: Historical Premillennialism, Dispensational Premillennialism, and Amillennialism.

Countless individuals and organizations have tried to predict the precise date of the return of Jesus to earth, as predicted in the Bible. Many Christians expected it to happen in 1844 CE, the year of the "great disappointment." Later, some Christian leaders settled on 1914. It didn't happen then either. But since that time, few competing groups have been able to agree on a common date. One denomination that has been burned many times because of their estimates is the Jehovah's Witnesses. Each of their past predictions have seen the world continue without a ripple. According to Robert Johnson, a spokesperson for the denomination, they no longer make estimates. "We learned our lesson...The Bible has a list of about two dozen things to watch out for. They've all [already] happened." As J. Gordon Melton, head of the Institute for the Study of American Religion has commented: "Everyone who predicted the end of the world had one thing in common. They were wrong." We suspect that this record will continue unblemished for the foreseeable future.

Stephen D. O'Leary, a millennial scholar at the University of Southern California, commented: "What the prophets try to do is make predictions and leave the fulfillment vague...The prophets who do get specific tend to the more marginal ones." 1

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Natural ways that the world may end:

There are a lot of possibilities.

bulletSome talk in a general way about increasing levels of pollution on Earth ending human life.
bulletOthers worry about a virus or bacteria that is immune to all treatments.
bulletThe nuclear powers in the world (Britain, China, France, India, Israel, North Korea, Pakistan, USA, etc.) have a sufficient number of warheads to raise the radiation level to an untenable degree. If World War III starts and goes nuclear, there may well be a sufficient number of bombs exploded to make the Earth unlivable for humans. The earth itself won't end from this cause, but the human race might. Cockroaches will probably survive almost any level of radiation, and be the "seed" that may evolve into the next "intelligent" species -- in 100 million years or so. 

There are some naturally occurring, but rare events that have the potential to cause the end of all life on earth:

bulletAsteroid collision: Sometime in the future, a large asteroid will head on a collision trajectory towards earth. Scientists at the Near Earth Asteroid Tracking project at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory estimate that there are between 500 and 1,000 large near-Earth objects which have a diameter of 1 kilometer (0.6 miles) or more. Scientists had identified 15 to 20% of these asteroids by mid-1999.

On 2002-JUL-05, scientists at the Linear Observatory in New Mexico detected an asteroid that they called 2002 NT7. It circles the Sun every 837 days and has a tilted orbit that takes it from near Mars' orbit to just inside the Earth's orbit. It will next cross the Earth's orbit on 2019-FEB-01. Fortunately, the Earth will not be at the location of the asteroid at that time, so no collision will happen this time. It is about two kilometers in diameter and would have impacted the Earth at about 26 km/sec (100,000 km an hour or 62,000 miles an hour). It would have had sufficient mass and velocity to cause continent-wide devastation. 7

Scientists in tracking stations in California, Massachusetts and Arizona expect to locate 90% of the biggest near-Earth objects by the year 2010. 2 If one of these asteroids is not pulverized and scattered, or deflected, it has the potential to collide with earth and to wipe out most of humanity. The rock may come next month, or may be delayed for tens of millions of years. But it is coming! Scientists estimate that there is between once chance in 1,000 and one chance in 10,000 that a "doomsday" asteroid collision will head towards earth during the 21st century. A web site maintained by the University of Pisa in Italy collates the latest information. 3 H. Ja Melosh and Gareth Collins have placed a computer program online  that estimates:

"... the regional environmental consequences of an impact on Earth. This program will estimate the ejecta distribution, ground shaking, atmospheric blast wave, and thermal effects of an impact as well as the size of the crater produced." 9

The Earth experienced a near-miss on 2009-MAR-02 when asteroid 2009 DD45 passed about 48,800 miles from Earth above the Pacific Ocean near Tahiti. That is about twice the height of some geocentric telecommunications satellites and about one fifth of the distance to the moon. It is about 110 feet in diameter, similar in size to the asteroid that devastated 800 square miles of forest in Siberia in 1908. One sobering thought is that it was only discovered two days before the closest approach. 10

bullet Explosion of the sun: Our sun will not last forever. In about 5 billion years, it will expand into a red giant, and may engulf the Earth. More details. With a life expectancy less than two decades, I am personally not too worried about this.
 
bulletCollision with a parallel universe: Some scientists believe that our universe may smash into what is sometimes called a twin or parallel universe which is invisible to us. String theory researcher Paul Steinhardt of Princeton University suggests a better description: the universe which is visible to us might collide with another part of our universe which is not quite sealed off from us. The two areas interact through gravity but are separated by dimensions that we cannot enter. A "mutual annihilation" might occur if they actually made contact. A new universe might emerge from the mutual destruction. Researchers suggest that this might have been the type of incident that created the Big Bang about 15 billion years ago. The encouraging news is that if this phenomenon is possible, it probably will not happen for another 300 billion years or so. 4,5
 
bulletGamma ray burst: A type of colossal cosmic explosion could wipe out most forms of life on Earth. At least some of them are believed to occur when massive stars collapse and form black holes. They produce two cone-shaped beams of radiation from each pole that could fry life on nearby locations.

Douglas Galante and Jorge Ernesto Horvath of the University of Săo Paolo, Brazil, reported that these gamma-ray bursts could cause "... global environmental changes and biospheric damage" even at distances equal to five times the width of the Milky Way’s -- width -- a total distance of 500,000 light years. The radiation burst takes two forms:
bulletA flash of gamma rays which would kill even the the bacterium Deinococcus radiodurans -- the most radiation-resistant organisms known to science. This microbe can survive 3,000 times the radiation necessary to kill a human.
bulletUltraviolet radiation. Thhis would kill 90% of this same bacterium up to 62,000 light years from the source.

Even if life survived these two blasts, it might not be able to cope with the depletion of the Earth's protective ozone layer. That would kill 90% of the same bacterium up to 40% of the distance across the Milky Way.

Researchers at Ohio State University calculated that the probability of the Earth being hit by such a blast is virtually nil. However, astronomers at the University of Kansas and at NASA have suggested that at least one has already struck Earth, causing the Ordovician Mass Extinction 450 million years ago. 8

Web sites devoted to prophecy:

According to a poll taken by Rapture Ready at http://www.raptureready.com, the most popular Christian prophecy web sites are, in order of decreasing popularity:

bulletJack Van Impe Ministries at http://www.jvim.com/ 
bulletMillennium Weekend at: http://www.millenniumweekend.org/
bulletProphecy Central at: http://www.bible-prophecy.com/ 
bulletLamb and Lion Ministries at: http://www.lamblion.com/ 
bulletKiononia House at: http://www.khouse.org/articles/prophetic/ 
bulletProphezine at: http://www.prophezine.com/index.shtml 

References:

  1. John Whalen, "Apocalypse When?," at: http://www.sfweekly.com/extra/apocalypse.html
  2. Robin Lloyd, "Scientists reduce odds of earth-asteroid collision," CNN.com, 1999-JUL-28, at: http://www.cnn.com/TECH/space/9907/28/asteroid.newser/ 
  3. "Asteroid information services," by the Space Mechanics Group of the Department of Mathematics, University of Pisa, Italy, at: http://newton.dm.unipi.it
  4. G.W. Gibbons, H. Lu, and C.N. Pope, 2005. "Brane worlds in collision," Physics Review, Letters. 94, 131602 (2005).
  5. "Theory that smashup might end universe draws support," World Science, 2005-DEC-20, at: http://www.world-science.net/
  6. Dave Armstrong, "Luther vs. the canon of the Bible," (1998) at: http://ic.net/
  7. David Whitehouse, "Space rock 'on collision course'," BBC News, 2002-JUL-24, at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/
  8. "Death from across the galaxy," World Science, 2007-MAR-05, at: http://www.world-science.net/
  9. Melosh & Collins, "Earth impact effects program," Department of Planetary Sciences, University of Arizona, at: http://www.lpl.arizona.edu/
  10. "Phew! Asteroid's Passing Was A Cosmic Near-Miss," Associated Press, 2009-MAR-04, at: http://cbs2.com/

Copyright © 1996 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Last update: 2011-APR-14

Author: B.A. Robinson

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