Dec 09 - It's the end of the world............

It’s the end of the world…..

            Apparently, the world is to end on 21st December 2012. At a cinema near you is ‘2012’, a $200 million disaster movie which depicts massive earthquakes, cracking continents, and a tsunami which dumps an Aircraft Carrier into the White House (where else?) I know, because I went to see it – all in the interests of research for this newsletter, you understand! The official website of the movie gives the following as a synopsis.

“Never before has a date in history been so significant to so many cultures, so many religions, scientists and governments. ‘2012’ is an epic adventure about a global cataclysm that brings an end to the world and tells of the heroic struggle of the survivors.”

I gather that there are other major movies in the pipeline which are also about the 2012 doomsday forecast.

           

            Why all the fuss? The ancient Maya of Mexico and Guatemala kept a calendar, and a raft of books, published in recent decades, have sought to make mileage out of the fact that this calendar can be interpreted as signalling the end of all things in 2012. Some doomsday authors also write about the solar system swinging into ‘transcendental alignment’ with the heart of the Milky Way, which will sweep our hapless planet into the firing line of a rogue planet (or something like that).

            For those of us who like peering through telescopes, it is a tad infuriating to find this doomsday prediction substantiated by references to astronomical ‘facts’. Thus modern astronomy is married to Mayan mystery calendars to precipitate our doom. Tripe!

            Live long enough and you see stuff repeating. Old chestnuts are re-invented. This is true of doomsday predictions, both religious and secular.

            Back in the 1970’s I remember being harassed by the writings of one Hal Lindsay who wrote books with titles such as ‘The late great planet earth’ and ‘Countdown to Armageddon’, both of which, if I remember correctly, tried to fit Biblical prophecy, and  especially the book of Revelation, with current political upheavals, particularly those in the Middle East. Mr Lindsay’s biggest crime was not that he got his predictive dates wrong (which he did) but that he misused, and therefore misrepresented, the Bible in the process.

            Two things must be said in response to Christians who insist on trying to predict the timing of the return of Christ. First, Jesus doesn’t know the time, and tells us we don’t need to know. He actively discouraged the disciples from guessing

"No-one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. (Mark 13:32)

He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. (Acts 1:7)

            You would think this would settle the matter.

            Secondly, my own experience of this preoccupation with the end times suggests that it runs the risk of eclipsing the gospel. The Good News we have to share is of a Saviour, Christ Jesus. It is not primarily a message about the end of time. We long for people to experience the grace of God, and scaring them witless about the end of the world is rarely a healthy introduction to that grace.

            Back to 2012 and the secular doomsday scenarios. Again, it is worth remembering how often these predictions come about. It is only ten years since we celebrated the millennium. The turning of the calendar got lots of people excited, speculating that it would signal ‘the end’ or result in disaster (Y2K computer bug aside – remember it?).

            5th May 2000 was another date fixed as signalling cosmic disaster for some and ‘the end’ for others. It was the date of an unusual planetary alignment. I received some strange phone calls at the Manse in Wigtown prior to that date. As chairman of the local Astronomical Association I was fair game for people to call and share the weird things they thought they had seen in the sky, or indeed had seen in the sky. They evidently believed that I was on first name terms with the aliens and had inside knowledge concerning their plans. Prior to May 2000, lots of people were wound up as to the significance of the planetary alignments. Some of them wanted to argue with me when I insisted that such alignments did not have power to induce disaster. I suggested to some that they phone me on 6th May. None did.

            Around 5th May that year, I enjoyed viewing a number of planets in close proximity to each other in the sky. It was pretty to look at. That was it.

            On 21st December 2012 the Mayan Calendar comes to the end of Baktun 13. The Mayan calendar seems to be based on cycles of time, including what they called Baktun, periods of 144,000 days, or a little over 394 years. As far as I can find out, the date in 2012 has no more significance for the Mayan calendar than the turn of a millennium in our Calendar. It is just the end of a unit of measurement.

            Those careful in their reading of the Scriptures know that teaching about the return of Christ and the end of all things is not presented as fuel for speculation, but as motivation to live lives of preparedness. We should live each day in the light of Christ’s claim upon our lives, and with a desire to live as He would wish to find us living.

            As we celebrate the first advent of Christ over the coming weeks, may we be mindful that our Lord will return, and He will do so unexpectedly. He will return according to the Father’s will and plan and purpose and not the arbitrary dictates of human calendars. We are told about it in the Bible as an incentive to holiness of life.

            Wishing you all a happy Christmas

            Your friend and minister

            Martin Thomson

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