Has the apocalypse been predicted in historical past earlier than?
Given COVID-19, it is almost impossible to access social media without encountering theories of doom and predictions of the apocalypse.
Is it part of the beginning of the end? Are there parallels in Revelation? Has the time come?
We are not the first to ask these questions. It would be almost impossible to cover all the times when whole societies thought they were facing the end of the world, be it due to war, hunger, plague, fire or even heavenly catastrophe.
Christians often seem to be the first to jump to conclusions from the end times. Well, as always, there are those who, it seems, have a great deal of biblical evidence to support their claims. Are you right this time?
To put our current situation in a better perspective, let's look at some of the most important times in history when Christians thought the end was before them.
Many New Testament Christians thought the end was near
The time of Jesus' return was not an unusual source of questions in the early church. Jesus had said he would return and many interpreted it as soon as possible. In fact, they were concerned about when Christians died before Christ returned for them, what would happen (1 Thessalonians 4:13). However, Paul assured these Christians that those who died would be resurrected in Christ.
Writers like Paul reminded readers to continue their lives in a way that God honored not to sit and wait for Christ's return. Paul writes in 1 Thessalonians 5: 1-2: “Well, brothers and sisters, about times and dates that we do not have to write to you, because you know very well that the day of the Lord will come at night like a thief . ”
Eventually, early Christians realized that Christ's return could take a while to come – although they may not have guessed how far away this future would be.
The rise of Islam should herald the end
In the 13th century, Pope Innocent III. An argument for a fifth crusade based on the logic that the rise of Islam heralded the beginning of the end. In a papal bull in April 1213, he wrote:
A son of doom has come into being, the false Prophet Muhammed, who has seduced many people from the truth through worldly temptations and the joys of the flesh. We still trust the Lord, who has already given us a sign that the good will come, that the end of this animal is approaching, the number of which, according to the revelation of Saint John, will end in 666 years, of which almost 600 have already passed .
With Mohammed as the Antichrist, Pope Innocent III proclaimed. 1284 a second coming. Unfortunately, the Pope died in 1216, long before he could see that his prediction was happening – or rather not.
Plague, famine, economic spiral and war – the end of the world in the 14th century
The 14th century in Europe was one crisis after another. Climate change led to devastating crop failures, especially with the growth of monoculture, and caused 11 years of the so-called "Great Famine", the effects of which were felt long after it began in 1311.
The famine and the rise of Mamluks, Ottomans and Mongols affected trade. The population increased, but agricultural technology did not grow. Farmers and gentlemen fell into arrears and large Italian banks collapsed.
The rural population moved to the cities as the farms struggled, overwhelmed the urban structure and led to a lot of beggars, food riots and fractional violence, while the urban crowd led to dysentery, cholera, tuberculosis and much more.
The war raged in all corners of the most troubled century so far – Germans against Italy, Germany against Germany, Catalans against Greece, Aragon against Sardinia and Granada, Leon-Castile against Muslim Spain, the French against the Burgundians, the Hundred Years War, the war of the roses, the Ottomans against the Byzantines, North African rivalries and much more.
But the worst was the plague. The Black Death, which devastated 14th century Europe, had no precedent and since then, such a terrible pandemic has never occurred again. Modern science shows that up to 60% of Europe's population has been wiped out.
The plague spread quickly and most of those who caught it died within three days. Death ships drifted without crew. Pits were dug as mass graves and filled as soon as possible. An Irish monk who described the situation in 1349 wrote that he would leave the file "if someone were still alive in the future".
The art and writing of the times reflected morbidity and many speculations about the proximity of the end times. It would take hundreds of years for the population to return to normal.
And yet this was not the end of the world either.
The great fire of London and the number of the beast
In Revelation, the number 666 is associated with the beast (Revelation 13:18). For this reason, there were theories that the world would go under in 1666. After the outbreak of the "Great Plague" in 1665-1666 – another outbreak of bubonic plague, which is believed to have killed one sixth of the London population – the city of London went up in flames from September 2 to 6, 1666 on.
The fire destroyed over 13,000 houses, 87 parishes, St. Paul's Cathedral and virtually the entire City of London within the ancient Roman city walls, leaving tens of thousands homeless. Plague and fire seemed to come straight from Revelation.
Once again the world didn't go down.
Nobody knows the time
Halley's Comet. Second World War. The atomic age. Y2K. The Mayan Apocalypse of 2012. Not to mention the hundreds of individuals, cult leaders, and movements that also predicted the end.
It seems to be in our human nature to panic and hold on to screams of doom and darkness. This is particularly a reaction in times of local or global turbulence.
However, the Bible is clear that the end will be unexpected and unpredictable. Paul said that it would come like "a thief in the night" (1 Thessalonians 5: 2).
Jesus on earth said that even he did not know. "But nobody knows about this day or this hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the son, but only the father" (Mark 13:32).
So the attempt to predict the end is unsuccessful. We cannot know.
Be awake and sober
Panic and speculation are the opposite of what the Bible tells us.
Instead, we are told to live a life of readiness and behave in a way that suits the return of Christ. In Luke 12: 35-48, Jesus compares this to servants who are waiting for their Lord's return. They don't know if their master will return at midnight or noon, but the wise servants do well in their duties so that they are ready whenever he comes back.
Note that the wise servants don't panic and don't worry when the master will return. We should not be worried, but should always be ready by doing God's will. In 1 Thessalonians 5: 6, Paul calls on believers to be "awake and sober".
In the fear that followed the advent of the atomic bomb, C. S. Lewis offered timely words to live in fear of the end:
In a way, we think way too much about the atomic bomb. "How should we live in an atomic age?" I am tempted to answer: “Why, how you would have lived in the 16th century when the plague visited London almost every year, or how you would have lived in a Viking era when robbers from Scandinavia could land every night and cut your throat; or indeed because you are already living in an age of cancer, an age of syphilis, an age of paralysis, an age of air strikes, an age of railroad accidents, an age of traffic accidents. "
In other words, let's not start overdoing the novelty of our situation. Believe me, sir or madam, you and everyone you love were sentenced to death even before the atomic bomb was invented: and a fairly high percentage of us would die uncomfortably …
This is the first point to be made: and the first action to be taken is to pull ourselves together. If we are all destroyed by an atomic bomb, let that bomb do us sensible and human things … not huddle together like scared sheep and think of bombs. They can break our bodies (a microbe can), but they don't have to dominate our minds ("About Life in an Atomic Age" (1948) in Present Concerns: Journalistic Essays).
What does that mean?
We cannot control when the end comes. We cannot even predict it. But there is one thing we can do: Be faithful followers of Christ regardless of the situation. And that's what we were called to do.
Other doomsday predictions:
The Smithsonian: Ten remarkable apocalypses that (obviously) haven't happened
History.com: Apocalypses that weren't
Britannica: 10 failed doomsday predictions
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Alyssa Roat studied writing, theology and the Bible at Taylor University. She is a literary agent at C.Y.L.E., advertising manager at Mountain Brook Ink and a freelance editor at Sherpa Editing Services. Her passions for studying the Bible and her creativity collide in her writing. Her debut novel Wraithwood will be released on November 7, 2020. She has published more than 150 bylines in publications ranging from The Christian Communicator to Keys for Kids. Learn more about them here and on social media @alyssawrote.