May 22, 2011

End of the World?

After the American Century

I think we can now say it is official: the world did not come to an end on May 21. This was announced as a certainty in full page advertisements in many American newspapers, including USA Today, which I get slipped under my door every day in the hotel where I am staying.
This apocalyptic vision is nothing new, of course. The Puritans were certain that the end of the world was close at hand, and the first best-seller in the Massachusetts Bay Colony was a "The Day of Doom" a long poem about the Last Judgement. In case you did not see the now expired prediction, it was worked out as part of a larger chronology of the history of the earth that Charles Darwin would find rather silly. It goes as follows (according to eBible fellowship)


(My students should  take note, I do not endorse this chronology as a study aid for the final exam in US history)

11,013 BC—Creation. God created the world and man (Adam and Eve).  
What about the mosquito. Was it also created in 11,013 BC? And why did God not begin at number 1 and count forwards?In any case, note that on this date, too, were created all the geologic strata that apparently falsely suggest that the earth is millions of years older. No doubt these were laid down as a snare to trap godless scientists and the unredeemed of little faith.

4990 BC—The flood of Noah’s day. All perished in a worldwide flood. Only Noah, his wife, and his 3 sons and their wives survived in the ark (6023 years from creation). 
I have always wondered about the whales and the fishes (the Bible usually speaks not of fish but fishes) which should have been able to survive the flood rather easily. Also the octopi and the sharks. And what about ducks, which can paddle about quite comfortably in water?

7 BC—The year Jesus Christ was born (11,006 years from creation).  
This seems rather strange, this 7 BC. How could Christ be born 7 years before Christ (the meaning of BC)?

33 AD—The year Jesus Christ was crucified and the church age began (11,045 years from creation; 5023 calendar years from the flood).  
I am rather surprised that they think Christ was 40 years old when he died, as I had learned when preparing for confirmation that he did not live that long.

Remarkably, nothing much of note then happened for a long time!

1988 AD—This year ended the church age and began the great tribulation period of 23 years (13,000 years from creation).  
Why 1988? Because it was the end of Reagan's presidency? Because the Soviet Union was falling apart? And there seems a mistake here. Surely 1988 + 11013 would be 13,001. So the end of the "church age" should have been 1987, right? Maybe that accounted for the big drop in the stock market that year.

1994 AD—On September 7th, the first 2300-day period of the great tribulation came to an end and the latter rain began, commencing God’s plan to save a great multitude of people outside of the churches (13,006 years from creation). 
Suddenly, we get a very specific date - September 7. Where does this come from? It seems quite arbitrary. I think it may have been Labor Day weekend. But surely the salient fact there is that the first Miss America pageant ever was held on September 7, 1921. That would be precisely 73 years before.

2011 AD—On May 21st, Judgment Day will begin and the rapture (the taking up into heaven of God’s elect people) will occur at the end of the 23-year great tribulation. On October 21st, the world will be destroyed by fire (7000 years from the flood; 13,023 years from creation)  Again, I am confused here, as 1998 + 23 does indeed equal 2011, but where did the number 23 come from? It seems to be plucked out of the air.

I suppose there is still a chance that the final consumption of the world by fire could take place on October 21. However, I want to register a complaint: the World Series of baseball is scheduled to begin on October 19, and even a four game sweep will take at least five days, with one day for travel. How can you destroy the world in the middle of the World Series? This makes no sense. It strikes me as downright un-American. [It turns out that October 21 has passed without the world being consumed by fire, which suggests a heavenlyk interest in the World Series, after all.]

I do note that October 21 (1833) is the birthday of Alfred Nobel, the inventor of dynamite and founder of the Nobel Peace Prize. Ending the world in fire on that particular day looks decidedly unpeaceful, and might be an unnecessarily spectacular advertisement for Nobel's explosives.  If it has to be done, though, then I propose we wait until 2033, which is the bicentennial of his birth.

But that does not solve the problem of a forever incomplete World Series.