Friday, 20 May 2011

The End Of The World As We Know It...!

Well, as you probably all know by now, the rapture is apparently scheduled to happen tomorrow, followed by the end of the world on October 21st!

Harold Camping has apparently worked out the dates through some kind of numerical analysis of Biblical history which, frankly, I can't be bothered to properly delve into! It seems to be based on:
  1. Assigning precise dates to ancient Biblical events - which is frankly impossible as the Bible records nothing like enough information to come to such conclusions.
  2. Some extremely dodgy mis-interpretation of certain Bible passages to come up with some other numbers that can then be applied according to Camping's unique logic to come up with tomorrow as the day of the rapture!
First of all, in defence of evangelical Christians everywhere, I'd like to start by saying that I'm pretty certain that only an extremely small percentage of us actually believe Camping's predictions (I don't personally know of anyone who does).  It's certainly attracting a lot of publicity though!

The standard position among evangelicals is that it is and always will be impossible to predict such dates.  When talking about His predicted return, Jesus himself famously said (as recorded in Matthew's gospel),  "about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father".  There are also various other passages in the New Testament which talk about Jesus coming back when we don't expect it, so we should always be watchful, etc.

As can partly be seen from this though, it is part of standard Christian doctrine that the world as we know it will end at some point, Jesus will return and somehow set everything to rights and there will be some kind of final judgement.  Much of the Biblical language used to describe these things seems very figurative and I personally find it very hard to imagine how any of it might really happen.  I find it less hard to believe that it will happen somehow though - because I've already been convinced of the miracle of Jesus' coming the first time around and my whole life has been a series of encounters (along with countless other believers) with Him and the amazing God who sent Him.

On the subject of the rapture specifically - i.e. the idea that on some specific date all Christians will be mysteriously transported from the earth - this is a belief that does have widespread support among evangelicals - particularly in America - but seems to me to also be based on some rather dodgy interpretations of the Bible.  One of the 2 passages usually cited in support of it reads like this:
As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.  For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left. (Matthew 24 - see the last few verses)
The popular assumption seems to be that the "one taken" will be the Christian, and the poor unbeliever will be left behind to meet their miserable fate.  But the passage above makes a clear comparison with the story of Noah, in which it was the unbelievers who got taken away (but unfortunately not to anywhere nice!).  So whatever else Jesus was getting at with this story, it doesn't seem to have been about Christians getting whisked off to heaven!

The other passage normally quoted is this one:
For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. (1 Thessalonians 4)
This one does look a bit more like the standard vision of the rapture, although frankly it's pretty minimalist.  It's main purpose is not to provide a comprehensive theology of the end times, but to encourage the believers in Thessalonica that their dead Christian friends are going to be alright (see the preceding few verses).  Even if it is intended completely literally though, which is disputed, it says nothing about who gets left behind, whether there's even anyone else there at this point, or what might happen to them if they do.  Neither does it say what happens to those who get "caught up", except that they are destined to be "with the Lord forever".

Accomplished theologian N.T. Wright has recently pointed out that the image of believers being caught up to meet the Lord in the air fits better with the idea of the citizens of a colony going out to meet and escort an emperor who was coming to visit them - the early Christians always believed that Jesus was going to come back to put the world right, not that they were going to be transported off for ever to some other-worldly dimension.

So Biblical evidence for the rapture - in my opinion - is pretty thin. But the New Testament part of the Bible does say that Jesus will come back and that the world as we know it will come to an end and be renewed and/or replaced with something better. What all that might mean exactly though, is not completely clear to me, and is probably a subject for another post...


  1. Do not confuse about the situation going on today's world. What Jesus says in the Holy Bible about the End of this World and the Second coming of Christ..You need to Read more References in Holy Bible but one thing is True and that is only the Father(God) knows about the End Time. you need to read Holy Bible: Matthew 24, then you will get perfect idea..
    If you want more perfect idea about the End Time of the World then read my Blog..

  2. Well surprise surprise the rapture didn't happen. I'm still here ;-)

    There are however millions of examples of the end of time if you look into the sky. Each star is the death of a sun, and the obliteration of anything in its vicinity (life or otherwise).

    One thing is certain, our world will be destroyed one day when our Sun goes supernova - if we haven't destroyed ourselves already before then.

    Religion is very focused on our Earth, and not once seems to mention the vast expanse of space and all of the other universes that are out there. Are these not created by God also? And if they are how can God destroy so many millions of worlds (ie all the stars we can see in the sky)?

  3. >> Religion is very focused on our Earth, and not once seems to mention the vast expanse of space and all of the other universes that are out there.

    Not completely true, although obviously when the Bible was written, they didn't know about other planets etc. The wonders of the Universe do get a mention occasionally though, e.g. this quote from Psalm 8:

    "When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
    what is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?"

    The Psalmist then goes on to explain that we do matter to God in spite of all of that!

    >> And if they are how can God destroy so many millions of worlds (ie all the stars we can see in the sky)?

    Good question and I'm afraid I don't know the answer to it! I find it very hard to imagine exactly what the "end of the world" might really mean as the Bible seems to talk about it.


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