Tomorrow, 23/09/17, the world will NOT end
Why do people believe absurd apocalypse theories? Tomorrow, according to a strange interpretation of the Bible, some think the world will end. Are these beliefs religious or psychological?
According to apocalyptic predictions the world is supposed to have ended 29 times since the turn of the millennium. For instance, Isaac Newton predicted that Jesus would return in the year 2000, and Grigory Rasputin that a storm would wipe out humanity on August 23rd 2013.
And tomorrow, along comes another one. It echoes a claim — dismissed by NASA as a hoax — that the asteroid Nibiru would destroy the world in 2012 The asteroid did not exist.
But David Meade, a “Christian numerologist”, is now revisiting this idea. He has homed in on the number 33, to which he ascribes significance.
“Jesus lived for 33 years. Elohim, which is the name of God to the Jews, was mentioned 33 times [in the Bible],” Meade said. And September 23rd is 33 days on from the solar eclipse, which Meade regards as an omen.
He points to the last book of the Bible, Revelations. In it a woman “clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head” will gives birth to a boy who will “rule all the nations with an iron sceptre”. The woman then grows the wings of an eagle and is swallowed up by the earth. At this point Nibiru will appear.
Meade believes that these prophecies will lead to a time of tribulation, a series of catastrophes heralding the end of the world, or the apocalypse.
It will not happen. Obviously.
But interest in eschatology - the part of theology concerned with doomsday - has revived over recent years. It is due in part to the emergence of Islamic State, whose followers see themselves as key players in the imminent apocalypse. Meanwhile others have pointed to the recent spate of natural disasters as evidence for approaching doom.
Lurid myths about armageddon are a staple of most cultures. After all, if people ask themselves “How did we get here?”, the troubling follow-on question is: “How will it all end?”
We have solid scientific theories for this now: one day the Earth may collide with the Sun, or a black hole may instantly wipe out our planet.
So why do people cling to these bizarre theories?
Apocalypse not yet
“The power of certainty,” say some. Psychologist Karen Douglas likens their mentality to conspiracy theorists: both "feel like they have knowledge that others do not". Meanwhile Shmuel Lissek, a neuroscientist, thinks "apocalyptic beliefs make existential threats—the fear of our mortality—predictable."
Others see the intense power of religion as the greater cause. As of 2015, 40% of Americans believe we are living in the end times, the final period before Jesus returns to judge us. While people still take the book of Revelations literally, these views will persist. Countering religious fundamentalism is the answer.
- Why do you think people believe outlandish apocalypse theories?
- How do you think the world will end?
- Write an end of the world diary. What happens? What is it like?
- The end of the world has been a popular subject for artists for centuries. Pick one such painting, and give a presentation to your class about it.
Some People Say...
“Humanity will be able to prevent the end of the world.”
What do you think?
Q & A
- What do we know?
- A man called David Meade, who is described as a “Christian numerologist”, believes the end of the world will begin tomorrow. It would be 33 days after the total solar eclipse, and Meade ascribes great biblical importance to the number 33. We know that the end of the world has been predicted hundreds of times, with almost every culture having their own conception of armageddon, but that we are — somehow — still around.
- What do we not know?
- How the world will end, because it almost certainly will. Several events could wipe out all life, such as a major climate shift or an asteroid impact. Meanwhile a black hole, the expansion of the Sun or a collision between the Milky Way and a neighbouring galaxy are all ways Earth could be destroyed.
- Jesus would return
- In Christian theology, the return of Christ will signal the end of the world, also known as the apocalypse or armageddon, or usher in the kingdom of God.
- A Russian mystic and self-proclaimed holy man befriended by Tsar Nicholas II, the last Tsar of Russia. He thus gained influence in Russia during the early 20th century.
- The end-date of a 5,126 year-long cycle in the Mayan calendar. This was explored in the film 2012.
- From the Greek eschatos, meaning “last”, and -logia meaning “the study of”.
- Islamic State
- The extremist group believes in a final battle between Muslims and “Rome” at Dabiq, a small town in modern-day Syria. It will set in train events that will see the return of Isa (Jesus) and the end of the world. The identity of Rome is disputed by the group’s scholars.
- 40% of Americans
- This includes 77% of evangelicals and 51% of protestants; according to research by Barna Group in the USA. Even Ronald Reagan in 1971 stated his fear of the apocalypse: “For the first time ever, everything is in place for the battle of Armageddon and the second coming of Christ.”