“Men fainting [expiring] for fear, and for expectation of the things which are coming on the world [the inhabited earth]” (Luke 21:26, all scriptures from the RVIC.)
Fear of the failure of world computer systems on January 1, 2000 (the Millennium Bug, or Y2K crisis) drove many in 1999 to stockpile bottled water, batteries, candles and canned food and to buy survival kits. Would planes drop from the sky at one second past midnight, 12/31/1999? When 1/1/2000 was ushered in and nothing unusual happened, computer “experts” were disparaged. (Few critics appreciated that businesses began preparing for the event over a decade in advance.) Other apocalyptic predictions were not as widespread or credible. They do demonstrate how anxiety has surrounded “end-of-the-world” scenarios.
● 2012 Mayan Calendar — December 21, 2012, marked the end of the first “Great Cycle” of the Maya Long Count calendar. Many misinterpreted this to mean an absolute end to the calendar, which tracked time continuously from a date 5,125 years earlier.
● Harold Camping — The radio evangelist publicly predicted specific dates for “Judgment Day” 12 times. Two were 1994 (a book title with a question mark) and May 21, 2011 — his proclamation of exactly 7,000 years after the Biblical flood, and later amended to October 21.
● True Way — Taiwanese religious leader HonMing Chen said God would appear on U.S. television on March 25, 1988, to announce that he would descend to Earth the following week in a physical form identical to Chen.
● Halley’s Comet — When the comet approached Earth in 1910, French astronomer Camille Flammarion used “spectroscopy” to detect cyanide gas in its tail, which he claimed could “impregnate the atmosphere and possibly snuff out all life on the planet.” The New York Times published, “Comet May Kill All Earth Life Says Scientist.” Panic ensued. Gas masks and bottled air became hot commodities.
● The Great Flood — Johannes Stöffler, a respected German mathematician, predicted in 1499 that a great flood would cover the world on February 20, 1524, when all of the known planets would be in alignment under Pisces. Pamphlets announcing the coming flood caused general panic including one German nobleman, who built a three-story ark.
Doomsday and Armageddon
In 1947, The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists created the Doomsday Clock using the imagery of apocalypse (midnight) and the idiom of nuclear explosion (countdown to zero) to assess threats to humanity. It is reviewed every year by a board which includes 11 Nobel laureates. Each January, the clock’s hands are positioned to indicate the world’s vulnerability to catastrophic destruction from nuclear weapons or other threats. It now reads 100 seconds to midnight, the same as the previous year. However, two months later the Board released a new statement following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine but did not change the clock.
Apocalyptic Anxiety: Religion, Science, and America’s Obsession with the End of the World was the title of a 2016 book by Anthony Aveni, tracing the American obsession with end-of-the-world predictions. The Coronavirus pandemic, worldwide talk of climate change, and the renewed threat of nuclear war have rejuvenated the term. Russian Foreign Minister Sergi Lavrov recently warned of a “serious risk” of nuclear war over Ukraine. A Russian TV host postulated: “Knowing us, knowing our leader … the most incredible outcome that all this will end in a nuclear strike seems more probable to me.” UN Secretary General António Guter res stated: “The prospect of nuclear conflict, once unthinkable, is now back within the realm of possibility.”
The Atlantic published this lead paragraph: “World War III, this time with multiple nuclear-armed states. That’s the nightmare scenario haunting many people as Russia’s horrific war on Ukraine metastasizes, moving toward NATO’s borders, stoking further Western involvement, sucking in other powers, and spurring nuclear threats from President Vladimir Putin. This is not the most precarious moment since the lowest points of the Cold War — at least not yet.”
The Book of Revelation uses the term Armageddon to describe the final battle on earth between good and evil: “They are spirits of demons, working signs; which go forth unto the kings of the whole world, to gather them together unto the war of the great day of God, the Almighty. (Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.) And he gathered them together into the place which is called in Hebrew Har-Mageddon [Armageddon]” (Revelation. 16:14-16).
The word, of Hebrew origin, is associated Biblically with the hill of Megiddo, a strategic position for battle in Ancient Israel. Its association with the “great day of God, the Almighty,” points to prophecies regarding Jehovah’s revealment to the world. “Therefore wait ye for me, saith Jehovah, until the day that I rise up to the prey; for my determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms, to pour upon them mine indignation, even all my fierce anger; for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy” (Zephaniah 3:8). “Jehovah will go forth as a mighty man; he will stir up his zeal like a man of war: he will cry, yes, he will shout aloud; he will do mightily against his enemies. I have long time holden my peace; I have been still, and refrained myself: now will I cry out like a travailing woman; I will gasp and pant together” (Isaiah 42:13, 14).
God now refrains from overt interference in world affairs. Many ask why. Others question His very existence. God’s people, on the other hand, through study of prophecy are encouraged to be patient, knowing that in due time, He will rise up and this present evil world will experience the symbolic fire of his jealousy. However, the dissolution of the systems of this present social order will not bring the destruction of the planet (Ecclesiastes 1:4), but only the end of Satan’s evil systems.
The Apostle Paul, in describing this same Great Day of God Almighty, writes, “Concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that aught be written unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. When they are saying, Peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall in no wise escape” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-3). This travail, with rest periods between, has been the pattern of events since World War I.
The final outcome of present distress among nations is not subject to the hands of earthly rulers, but to the promised establishment of the kingdom of Christ. During a thousand-year reign (Revelation 20:4,6) he will establish a new, worldwide government based upon righteousness. “And I saw a new heaven [spiritual dominion of Christ] and a new earth [reconstructed condition of society]: for the first heaven and the first earth are passed away; and the sea [restless and fearful masses of people] is no more” (Revelation 21:1).
In the real post-Armageddon, the earth will abound with joy, as the Lord will have destroyed all the various systems of iniquity. “For then I will turn to the peoples a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of Jehovah, to serve him with one consent [shoulder]” (Zephaniah 3:9). Love will replace selfishness in human affairs. The resurrection of the dead to a joyful world will bring blessings that no leader has ever delivered to his subjects. “And every created thing which is in the heaven, and on the earth, and under the earth, and on the sea, and all things that are in them, heard I saying, Unto him that sitteth on the throne, and unto the Lamb, be the blessing, and the honor, and the glory, and the dominion, for ever and ever” (Revelation 5:13)!