Friday 20 May 2011

Will the world end tomorrow (May 21)?

Image entitled End of the World
(I'm pretty sure it's really a screen
shot of Hell in the movie Constantine)
from  XarJ blog.
There's a lot of hype right now about tomorrow being the end of the world.  Some people are laughing at the idea, while others are deadly serious.  I had mostly just heard it mentioned that "the world is going to end May 21, not December 21" and read jokes about the rapture on Twitter, but didn't know what this was really about.  Was it a New Age prediction that Christians had latched on to and associated with the rapture?  Was it a small group of fanatical Christians?  Where did this idea come from?  I honestly didn't care and didn't take the time to look it up.

Today, I got curious and did a Google search and read the following "tract" and laughed:
The people pushing this idea (both this website and others) aren't saying May 21 is the end of the world, they're saying it's the "rapture" and the closing of the doors of salvation.  Everyone who isn't a Christian on that day is doomed, they say.  The end of the world is October 21, destruction in fire.

I put tract in quotes because when I was a new Christian back in 1995 in a church that actively used tracts, a tract was a small folded paper with a short message on it, used to try to get a spiritual truth across or to try to "lead someone to Jesus".  It's small so it's easy to pass out or leave somewhere and easy for someone to pick up.  It usually has pictures on it, both to make it look more attractive and to get across the point.  This is on a website, and if you print it out, it's a full 8"X14" legal sheet, which isn't easily passed out or kept.  Though in the history of religious and political tracts, they've been much bigger.

Anyway, back to the "tract".  The part that immediately made me laugh were the following, especially in light of what's actually said in the rest of the tract:
The Bible’s calendar of history is completely accurate and trustworthy.
Since this Bible calendar is given by God in His Word, it can be trusted wholeheartedly.
Image from Regnum Christi.
If you read the pamphlet, it's supposition, interpretation of Bible verses with no support beyond the ones used.  Whether you believe the Bible is the Word of God and 100% accurate and infallible or not, this isn't things that are said right out in the Bible, they are conclusions based on how the author (and his/her sources) read those verses.  While that doesn't mean the conclusions are false, it does mean that you should think about it and come to your own conclusions, not trust it wholeheartedly or take it as "completely accurate and trustworthy".  As human's we have a rational, reasoning brain for a reason.  It doesn't take rational thought to believe everything you are told unquestioningly.  To use a (Christian) Bible verse to show what I'm saying:
"As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." ~Acts 17:10-11
The Bereans are praised for not just taking what Paul said as Truth but examined the Tanahk (Jewish scriptures) to see if what he said was true.

Now, lets look at what they actually say.

They use the date of creation at 11,013 BC and the flood at 4990 BC.  These dates are based on Harold Camping's estimates in 1970.  All of the idea of May 21 (rapture and closing of the doors of salvation) and October 21 (end of the world by fire) are from Camping, who now runs Family Radio which has pretty fanatical, extremist messages.  There are many other dates that have been calculated for both creation and the flood.  My first church used the Jewish dates of the world being about 6000 years old and claimed the end would be around 7000 years after creation.  The Mayan Long Count started this cycle relatively close to the Jewish date, give or take a few hundred years.  Based on the way I read dates when I was looking at it, I figured we were around 100000 years from creation based on the Bible.  Camping says about 13000 years, which is much more than anyone before him estimated, and of course much less than scientists say.  I can't find what his method was of coming up with an exact year, but his assumption is that the genealogies aren't literal father/son but the important persons.

The estimates of the birth and crucifixion of Christ, though not the same as other scholars, are within the proximity of what has been estimated, so I don't really have any issues with them.

Image (probably screen shot
from movie Blood Reign) from
God Discussion.
The year 1988 for the end of the "church age" (coinciding with when Camping left his church; did he leave because he felt it was the end of the age or did he choose the date based on leaving?) and the Tribulation began, 13000 years from creation seems made up.  Did he determine that date based on creation or creation based on that date?  And why 13000 years?  That's not a number of any importance in Christian or Jewish numerology.  It does look strikingly like the roll-over point in the Mayan Long Count,, but the Long Count doesn't mean anything like 13000 or even 130000, since it's not base 10.

The tract says 1994 was when the first 2300 days of the Tribulation ended.  I'm not sure why 2300 days, though it seems to relate to the idea of 23 years of Tribulation.  Why a power of 10 when years aren't related to powers of 10, I don't know.  1994 is when Camping first thought the end would come (though he said maybe 2011 instead, at the time he said 1994), so I'm guessing this is just him reworking his theories when they didn't come to be.

May 21 of this year they say is the end of the 23 year Tribulation.  Not that the last 23 years really seem like they've been bad enough for the Tribulation, but whatever.  Considering that most things in Jewish traditions are in periods of 7 years (a week of years), and the traditional Christian interpretation of Revelations is 7 years of Tribulation, 23 years seems an odd number to choose.  The 7000 years from the flood (instead of the traditional 7000 years from creation) does make some numerological and mystical sense, whether it's true or not.  And the idea of Pentacost landing on the day the flood started is great symbolism, whether there's any basis for his calculations of not.  Why Judgement Day is five months and still called Judgement Day, I don't know.  The idea of it lasting the same amount of time as the flood makes some sense, though it would make more sense for five months of fire rather than the things they say, if you're drawing a parallel with the flood.

The Four Horses of the
Apocolypse.  Image from Pitch Blogs.
The argument that the Feast of Tabernacles doesn't land at the end of the year because it's in the seventh month shows a great lack of understanding of Hebrew calendars and the Torah.  The seventh month is based on the civil calendar, which begins around March.  The end of the year is based on the religious calendar, which begins October.  While it does make sense for the end of the world to come at the end of the religious year, their explanation for why shows a lack of understanding.

Of course, all this is null and void if you look at the end of the world based on what the Christian Bible says.  They even quote one of the verses about this:
But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. ~2 Peter 3:10
Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. ~1 Thessalonians 5:1-3
Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him. ~Matthew 24:42-44
“But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Be on guard! Be alert! You do not know when that time will come. It’s like a man going away: He leaves his house and puts his servants in charge, each with their assigned task, and tells the one at the door to keep watch. “Therefore keep watch because you do not know when the owner of the house will come back—whether in the evening, or at midnight, or when the rooster crows, or at dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him find you sleeping. What I say to you, I say to everyone: ‘Watch!’” ~Mark 13:32-37
The whole point of these passages is that you don't know when, so you need to be always ready.  Yet Camping claims we will know and now do know.  Sure.

~Muninn's Kiss

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