Is 2012 gonna be the end of the world?
Here is a question I am asked ALL THE TIME.
No wonder really. People are always curious about the future, especially when the present seems to be acting really crazy - earthquakes, tsunamis, nuclear fallout, asteroids, global warming, ice ages, wars, terrorism, assassinations, the list goes on and on and on. Its getting hard to tell the difference between your average Michael Bay movie and CNN.
Enter the Mayan calendar. I don't know exactly how it works, or how many different kinds there are or what the symbols mean - all I know is that the Mayans had an ancient calendar, that apparently has accurately predicted a whole bunch of things in the past, including the end of their own Mayan civilization. It tracked astronomical events, and was used to keep time, fairly effectively. AND apparently, it signals the END, coming on the winter solstice of what by our modern Gregorian Calendars would call, the year 2012.
That's December 21, 2012. And we're done.
Is this true?
Well, the way I look at it, the Mayan Calendar is a big wheel, for keeping time.
Now it just so happens, that another culture has a wheel for keeping time. It looks like this:
And what happens when the hand goes all the way around to 12 again? Well, its the end of the world of course!! Right?
Wrong. It just keeps going around. So does the Mayan Calendar. They're round "long count" clock calendar, counted a period of time, 5,126 years, after which they believed a new age could come about - or not - it was just a method of keeping time really.
But, lacking anything more exciting to do, no doubt, conspiracy theorists, superstition freaks, and Hollywood executives will keep us on the edge of our seats, counting the minutes until that fateful moment, midnight 12/21/2012.
Which time zone was that going to be in?
Other Ends of the World
Most of us remember, the fear of the Y2K computer virus, erasing our computerized bank accounts, shutting down our electicity, making it impossible to watch TV. It was the END OF THE WORLD!
Many of us also remember, sadly, 9-11, when terrorists showed us just how fragile we were by destroying a couple of buildings that we thought would be there forever. It seemed like the end of the world that day too, and some people thought it was.
And in 1000 AD, they also thought it was the end of the world coming, signaled by a giant monster eating the Sun (it was an eclipse).
And this is what people have always done, whenever we've faced some natural disaster, time of change, new war, solar eclipse - we assume that it has a MEANING - we WANT IT to have a meaning. If it has a meaning, then maybe we can figure out the meaning, and navigate through it, by praying in a certain way, or avoiding the mark of the beast (whatever that is), or not buying a cell phone, or stocking up on canned goods in a cabin in the woods.
But here's the thing - the human need to find MEANING, in every random occurence in life or in nature, is a product of our fear. There usually isn't a meaning. Its usually NOT God's will - I wrote a whole article on this on natural disasters - to read it, click HERE. Bad things happen, even to good people, all the time, and there doesn't seem to be ANY reason for it - to read another explanation of this statement, of why bad things happen to good people, click HERE.
And if it seems like these crazy events, signalling the "end of the world" are on the increase, well, I would suggest that this is for two reasons:
1) technology; which allows us to know about every natural disaster or terrorist shot within minutes, from all over the world - in the past, people often didn't even know about these things, so they didn't worry about them, and
2) science; in the past we thought life on earth was very stable and very permanent. The more we learn about the universe around us, the more we learn about all the astroids that can hit us, all the volcanoes that can blow up under us, all the hydrocarbons we pour into the atmosphere - basically we have learned just how fragile we actually are.
So, it looks to us like its the end of the world. But its not. Life will keep on beating.
But is there and end of the world?
Well, actually, the Bible's answer to this question is YES. Threw you off there didn't I?
The truth is, the Bible talks about an end, when Jesus will return to earth in glory, and right every wrong, conquer every evil, and even destroy death itself.
Now something worth noting here - this return of Jesus, to fix every problem, to save us - sounds AWESOME!! Its Good News. Its the BEST news!
Its not the stuff of doom and gloom and violence and terror. That isn't what happens at the end of the world - that's what's happening NOW, while we wait. Jesus return in glory means - all this pain we go through here in this world isn't gonna last forever. Jesus is going to end it.
The Church also believes that this will happen in historical time - that it's not just symbolic of the end of our lives when we go to heaven (or not).
And its not just those little events that happen all the time in our daily lives when Jesus shows up, and calls us to put our faith into action - although I would call those little "mini" ends of the world.
So again, when!?! When will it happen?
For this we look, again to the Bible. Jesus warns us of tribulations, persecutions, wars, earthquakes, etc. This was a message not just for Christians at the END of the world - it was for Christians of EVERY age, because we ALL face them, if we are Christians, especially persecutions.
And we do. Just turn on the news. Or go to work. Or school. Or whereever. Sometimes love will hurt. That's what Jesus is warning us.
But it won't hurt forever. Jesus will return.
So what about the second coming? Jesus was directly asked by his Apostles, "So when are you coming back? How long are we going to have to wait, and suffer?"
Jesus answered in Mark 13:32. "I don't know. No one knows. Not the angels, not even the Son, only the Father."
But he also said, in Matthew 26:16, "But chill - because I'll be with you always, until the end of the world."
In the mean time, we live every moment like the next is the end of the world.
One time, St. Charles Borromeo was playing chess, and some scholarly student of his asked him, "What would you do if the end of the world happened right now?"
He answered, "I'd keep playing chess!"