The End of Days and Apocalypse movements were on the rise when I was coming of age in the ’80s, which means the assorted movements in the Protestant Christian Churches were growing and would soon spill over into the general culture.
The End of Days movements have been around since the earliest days of the Apostle Paul who wrote as if he expected the Second Coming to be arriving during his lifetime, a sentiment that seems to have continued for nearly 2000 years.
Several of the sects of Christianity that we see today actually started as End of Days splinter groups. Both Seventh Day Adventists and Jehovah’s Witnesses started by their leaders claiming to have the date of the Rapture and the beginning of the End of Days. Apparently both were wrong, but that has not stopped the groups from continuing. I would not be surprised to discover that most of the membership of both these groups have no clue about their origins. I always wonder about the people who happen to be there at the time and their response when Jesus failed to arrive on schedule (fashionably late?).
What is the End of Days
The End of Days, also called the Apocalypse, is a period prophesied in the Old Testament book of “Daniel” and the New Testament’s “Revelation” for the most part. The general idea is that the world will destroy itself and at the last moment Jesus will return and save humanity from itself.
Depending on which sect and opinion you have, the timeline works something like this:
- The Rapture – the true followers of Jesus will be removed from the Earth and be spared the next seven years of grief as “Hell on Earth” becomes a reality.
This is not universally accepted, some Christians think the Rapture will occur at the mid-point when the promises of the Beast are broken, some do not accept the Rapture at all.
- The Rise of “The Beast” – the Devil incarnate will rise to power and become the leader of a One World Government that will start off as a peaceful endeavor, but eventually will fall into chaos and destruction. The biggest key to this individual is his declaration of a Seven-Year Peace treaty between Israel and its enemies. The Beast is also the bearer of the infamous name with the numerological value of “666”.
- After 3½ years of peace, everything falls apart and the judgments of God come across the world as plagues and cataclysmic events.
- The armies of the world will gather in the Middle East for the war to end all wars, The Battle of Armageddon during which it is only the return of Christ, that man will not destroy himself.
After these events, Jesus is supposed to judge the living and the dead, the “Day of Judgment” and then set up his kingdom for the next 1,000 years. There is more, but that is not really the End of Days itself.
Popular Culture and the End of Days
During the late ’70s and into the mid ’80s Hal Lindsey became a household name in Christian circles with his book “The Late Great Planet Earth” and Jack Chick‘s illustrated tracks and his “The Crusaders” comic series started to be seen.
Jack Chick comes out of that group of Protestants that believe that the Bible’s “Whore of Babylon” was the Catholic Church and the “Last Days” would be invited by the victimization of Israel. The reformed Roman Empire of Daniel was the European Union coming into existence.
We have seen a lot of the Apocalypse and End of Days entering the cultural context of America in recent years. I think the first secular entry was likely “The Omen” and its sequels.
The “Left Behind” series of books have done well on their own and the first two were adapted into three films (decent, acceptable and why?!? in that order). I hope Kirk Cameron was not to depressed to be replaced by Nicholas Cage as the star power and “Buck” being recast to Chad Michael Murray in the remake of the first film.
TBN semi-celebrities Peter and Paul LaLonde of “This Week In Bible Prophecy” would also fund a series of four End of Days films starting with “Apocalypse”.
Even Arnold Schwarzenegger jumped in with “End of Days” which was a completely secular retelling of the attempt to give birth to the Beast.
All three pull off the evil “Beast” extremely well, though Michael York does go a bit overboard in the second Omega Code movie “Megiddo”, but I suspect that was scripting and direction.
Recent Events and the End of Days
It was also a time that created a culture within certain Christians that the end was coming so why concern ourselves with the repercussions of our actions. I also noticed this group seems to suffer from a certain arrogance that they may be able to hasten the Second Coming by attempting to fulfill prophecy themselves and thereby force Jesus’ return.
I was not the only one to notice the above in the Christian Right/Republican Party policies. I heard many in the center and on the left questioning this as a possible reason for several policies and actions of the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld administration as well as what was coming from many pulpits around the country.
With the actions in Syria over the last few years, I am sure many people are convinced that the End of Days is upon us. With the last week or so with Russia’s insertion and the downing of their plane and Putin’s ego; start the Apocalypse parties.
This is why, one traditional sign is the entry of Magog, thought to be Russia and symbolized by the bear, coming out of the north and attacking Israel. I could easily see this moving south easily, especially if Israel were to insert itself into Syria or it’s threatened entry into Iran, a friend of Russia.
The only two major pieces missing, as I remember the details, would be the damming of the Tigris and Euphrates so that the Dragon, thought to be China, can march to the plain of Megiddo.
Yes, I could watch the TBN web feed, but I honestly have better things to use my time and energy on. I do not know it as a fact, but I would be willing to place bets on the likes of Lindsey, Jack Van Impe, as well as John Hagee are in hog heaven and to be honest I cannot even imagine what is coming from Pat Robertson.
One thing that most in the West do not realize is that there is a certain aspect of this in Judaism and there is and End of Days contingent in Islam as well. I am not sure what the issue is in the Abrahamic religions with the world ending, I suspect it just has to do with life in that part of the world throughout most of history.
Sadly, I suspect that the “wack-a-doodle” contingent of the Conservative Right will also use this as a ploy in manipulating its followers in the coming American elections; if you expect the world to end tomorrow, why not put on a good show.
Several Protestant groups have expressed the opinion that the “Whore of Babylon” is the Catholic Church, I am not so sure.
If you actually look at modern Christianity, its theology and traditions, you find that it has more in common with an ancient mystery-cult called Mithraism than it does with any Jewish tradition. Mithra was a Persian deity that has been dated back to the 15th century BCE that is thought to be the same as the Babylonian deity Shamash.
With what changes have appeared in Christianity, the growth of Mega-Churches, the influx of money and power, and the complete disregard for the teachings of Jesus; I cannot help wondering if the true “Whore of Babylon” might be today’s church in general, both Catholic and otherwise.
Sadly, I suspect that it would answer SO many questions why the simple teachings of Jesus do not exist in large segments of today’s “Christian” actions.