Millennium and end-of-the-world prophecies
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
According 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.
According 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
There are a lot of possibilities.
||Some talk in a general way about increasing levels of pollution on
Earth ending human life.
||Others worry about a virus or bacteria that is immune to all
The 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:
Asteroid 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
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. 3H. 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
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. |
Collision 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|
||Gamma 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 São 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
||A 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.
||Ultraviolet 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.
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:
John Whalen, "Apocalypse When?," at:
Robin Lloyd, "Scientists reduce odds of earth-asteroid collision,"
CNN.com, 1999-JUL-28, at:
"Asteroid information services," by the Space Mechanics Group of
the Department of Mathematics, University of Pisa, Italy, at:
- G.W. Gibbons, H. Lu, and C.N. Pope, 2005. "Brane worlds in collision,"
Physics Review, Letters. 94, 131602 (2005).
"Theory that smashup might end universe draws support," World
Science, 2005-DEC-20, at:
Dave Armstrong, "Luther vs. the canon of the Bible," (1998) at:
David Whitehouse, "Space rock 'on collision course'," BBC News,
2002-JUL-24, at: http://news.bbc.co.uk/
"Death from across the galaxy," World Science, 2007-MAR-05, at:
Melosh & Collins, "Earth impact effects program," Department of Planetary
Sciences, University of Arizona, at:
"Phew! Asteroid's Passing Was A Cosmic Near-Miss," Associated Press,
Copyright © 1996 to 2011 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Last update: 2011-APR-14
Author: B.A. Robinson