Friday, 9 November 2018

The Enduring Attraction of the End Times

Like Mr Shaw, I am hearing more and more doomsayers predicting 'The End'. I have lived through so many predicted 'End(s) of the World' I've lost count. However, I am inoculated against such fears because of a personal experience.

In early October, 1973, I took my firstborn daughter to meet her great grandmother. I was the last of my grandmother's many grandchildren to become a parent, so it was quite a big thing. After visiting her, we proceeded on to Colorado Springs to visit friends.

Our friends were fundamentalists, convinced that the End Times were at hand. They had chosen not to bring children into the 'Tribulation', were laying in supplies for the 'collapse', etc. They were heavily influenced by Hal Lindsey, and his book, The Late, Great Planet Earth. They gave me the book to read.

Being a very fast reader, I read the entire book before falling asleep. I was convinced! Using arguments based on prophecies in the Books of Daniel and the Apocalypse, Lindsey argued that The End was indeed at hand. Using those prophecies, he 'proved' that the next war Israel fought would be with the (then) Soviet Union, and that would trigger the Final Battle at Armageddon.

I woke up, ready to start laying in supplies and building a bunker. I walked into the kitchen for coffee. On the table was the local morning paper, The Gazette, with the front page showing.

The Headline? 'Arab-Israeli War Breaks Out'! It was the morning of 6 October, and the Yom Kippur War had just begun. At that point, I became a sceptic about all 'predictions' of the End Times, and decided to simply take Christ at his word, 'Watch therefore, for you do not know at what hour your Lord is to come”'.

From Catholic World Report

By Russell Shaw

The best advice has always been Jesus’: “Watch therefore, for you do not know at what hour your Lord is to come” (Mt 24.42).

As I stood in line waiting to go to confession recently (yes, I still do that), a man who’d lately exited the confessional approached me and in a confidential tone of voice said, “I’m beginning to believe we are in the End Times. Do you think that might be true?”
This is not a question I get asked every day. “I guess there’s some evidence for it,” I said. “Anyway, we’ll all find out soon enough.” I might have added, but it didn’t occur to me just then, “In a sense, we’re always in the End Times, and I suppose we always will be.”
There’s a lot of interest today in the End Times—the appearance of the Antichrist, the Second Coming of Christ, the Last Judgment, the end of the world, the inauguration of a “new heaven and new earth,” and associated events. As you might expect, a casual check of the internet shows many sites dealing with the subject. I chose one at random, and the first thing I saw was the flat-out statement, “There can be no doubt that we are living in the last days.”
Reading that, I wondered how the writer could be so certain. After all, Jesus in the gospel tells his disciples when they’re fretting about these things, “Of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven” (Mt 24. 36). It must be pretty gratifying to have the inside scoop on something not even the angels know.
Make no mistake, interest in the End Times is hardly new. It is sometimes associated with millenarianism (or millenarism, if you prefer), which concentrates on thousand-year intervals. Think of the hubbub that accompanied the run-up to the year 2000, as well as the disappointment in some circles that the world didn’t end as they’d apparently been expecting when the ball dropped in Times Square on New Year’s Eve.
Historically, the End Times have had their share of prophets. One notable figure was a Baptist preacher named William Miller who, based on his study of the Bible, predicted that the Second Coming was going to arrive in 1844. The time came and went, and the Second Coming failed to occur. Some of Miller’s followers morphed into the Seventh Day Adventists, who retain the original interest in the Second Coming but set no specific date for it.
The End Times also appear now and then in literary sources. A notable instance of that is Robert Hugh Benson’s 1907 apocalyptic novel Lord of the World, which is a favorite with Pope Francis. The story, set in a dystopian world of the not so distant future and featuring an Antichrist figure, makes disturbing reading. This is the only novel I know of in which, at the conclusion, everything really does come to an end. [Editor’s note: For more on Benson’s writing, see the July 2015 CWR essay "The Fiction of Robert Hugh Benson”.]
Most of the speculation about the End Times is accompanied by a certain amount of fear and trembling, and up to a point there’s nothing wrong with that. But the Catechism of the Catholic Church also offers the consoling thought that the Last Judgment will show “that God’s love triumphs over all the injustices committed by his creatures and that God’s love is stronger than death” (CCC 1040).
As for getting ready for the great event, the best advice has always been Jesus’: “Watch therefore, for you do not know at what hour your Lord is to come” (Mt 24.42). Which, truth to tell, is one reason I was standing in that confession line.

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