Mankind has always possessed a morbid fascination with the apocalypse. From the Biblical Flood and Mayan calendar to modern day science fiction, civilizations have been aware and intrigued, sometimes terrified, by their impending doom. In fiction, this is entertaining, but the reality is more chilling. Societal collapse has been a recurrent theme in our history, and perhaps this is one of the reasons we are drawn to books like The Stand and television shows like The Walking Dead.
For many Christians, the End of Times means the rise of the Anti Christ, Armageddon, and the return of Jesus. Christians have been looking toward the heavens for about two thousand years now, wondering if this is it.
Sad ruins remain to remind us that the world as we know it is far from eternal. Entire cultures in the Pacific rose and fell, and disappeared. The mighty Mayans are gone, the Roman Empire fell, sacked and destroyed from within. Yet, even those breakdowns did not lead to the destruction of the human race. Life went on.
Only in the last sixty years, the blink of an eye in terms of history, has mankind developed the ability to cause its own extinction. While in the past, a meteor strike, super-volcano, or a blast from a star light years away could have erased us from the planet, we now can do it ourselves with the push of a button.
A global nuclear war is one obvious way this could happen. To put this in perspective, consider that Russia and the United States possess thousands of nuclear weapons. Russian weapons are dirtier and their largest nukes are more powerful than those in the United States’ arsenal, but it’s irrelevant. The tipping point for a nuclear winter is roughly one hundred explosions, according to the most recent science. There has been debate over the years on this topic, with some estimates coming in at only thirty or forty simultaneous explosions causing the planet to go cold. If thousands of these weapons were launched, that’s the end of us. The atmosphere is choked with radioactive ash, obstructing sunlight, the temperature falls, plants die, and there is no more food. The animals die, and homo sapiens perish right along with the rest of them.
In the last sixty years, we have also decided to come up with other, creative weapons of extinction. Biological weapons could do the job just as well as nuclear bombs. Our scientists tinker with viruses, which actually alter DNA, finding ways to make these things more deadly. A genetically altered virus could end our species. We’re looking at the worst outbreak of Ebola, a virus as scary as its name, which according to Dr. Tom Frieden, the Director for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, “is the world’s first Ebola epidemic, and it’s spiraling out of control. It’s bad now, and it’s going to get worse in the very near future. There is still a window of opportunity to tamp it down, but that window is closing. We really have to act now.”
Against this backdrop, we now have the greatest level of danger in the world we’ve seen since World War II, with Russia poised to trigger a global war over the Ukraine, and Vladimir Putin on the throne and his finger on the button, not the kind of man to face in the ultimate game of chicken. Because, he’s the guy that doesn’t swerve at the last minute. Then of course, there is the militant, insane, ISIS movement which is spreading like the black plague, a tide of evil which is consuming countries torn by war. The radicals are willing to stop at nothing, bereft of the slightest shred of morality or human decency, killing innocents without remorse or hesitation, and seeming to relish every shot Shia, every cut throat.
In Gaza, Israel sends in armored vehicles to stop rocket attacks on civilians, and levels schools, homes, and lives. Israel is defending itself against attack, against those who use children as human shields in order to gain support from around the world. Hamas WANTS to provoke Israel into these attacks. It’s Terror 101. Israel becomes more isolated from the rest of the world, increasingly vulnerable to attack from neighbors who have invaded time and time again. Israel also has nuclear weapons, and while they will never confirm this, everybody knows. If Israel is attacked, and it’s really just a matter of time, they will use these weapons if it looks like the war is lost. It’s called the Sampson Option, and it is chilling.
The Old and New Testament in the Bible lay out some things which have come to pass that are irrefutable, though seemed highly unlikely. Israel, it was foretold, would cease to exist, and it’s people would be scattered. That happened more than once. The temple would be torn down. The Romans did that. Israel would become a nation again. This seemed impossible, yet in 1948 Israel was again a nation. One of the last important pieces of scriptural prophecy is the rebuilding of the Temple. There are plans underway now in Jerusalem to do just that.
Whether one believes in the prophecy or not, those things did happen. The book or Revelation, the last and scariest book of the Bible, is rife with images and verses open to debate, with the scrolls and seals being opened, the four horsemen of the apocalypse coming, and death on a pale horse riding to doom mankind.
These may not be the end of times, and perhaps humanity will figure out a way to become better, alter its essential warlike nature and selfishness and transcend the hatred we wield like a sword. At no time in all of human history, though, has the end seemed quite so imminent or possible.