The End of The World Again

A poll was released by Reuters last week that showed one in seven people believe they will not die before the end of the world. This seems to be a trend throughout the ages.

In 1499, Mathematician and Astronomer Johannes Stoffler predicted that a great deluge would cover the world on February 20, 1524, a catastrophic event similar to the time of Noah and the Ark. This prediction gained traction due to Stoffler’s respectable position at the University of Tubigen. During the intervening twenty-five years, over one hundred different pamphlets were written and distributed warning of the predicted disaster.  People built ships on the Rhine River to survive. Land began to sell in the lowlands and along the waterlines for greatly reduced rates. One famous count, Count von Iggleheim, led the charge and built himself a three-story ship to survive the deluge. This ship sat with many other boats and ships in the Rhine River. Merchants made good money selling survival supplies to all of the fearful people.

February 20, 1524, came. The wealthy who were able to purchase boats were sitting securely with their survival supplies in their boats. And then a giant thunderstorm came. While the wealthy were sitting in their boats, panic set in with the rest of the people. The great storm convinced them that Stoffler’s prediction was true. And hundreds of people died. Not from the storm, but from the mad rush to try and get in the boats already in the river. The deluge did not come. It was just a storm.

Stoffler recalculated to find his error and came up with a new date. He predicted that the world would end in 1528 this time. The Germans failed to heed this new warning and the date passed with barely a notice.

In 1998, Michael Drosnin wrote the Bible Code. A runaway best-seller. It had sold over 20 million copies by the time his predicted atomic holocaust failed to manifest in 2000. I’m sure the money from all of those books comforts his broken ego. It’s comforted it so much that Drosnin has gone on to write Bible Code II and Bible Code III. I don’t recommend picking them up.

One after another, end times prognosticators pop up and their predictions about the end of the world fail to manifest.

And here we go again. You would think we could learn like the Germans learned in the early 1500s. Last year, we had Harold Camping. And the list of failed end times prophecies goes back and back. But now it’s 2012 and on December 21, the Mayan calendar ends and the planets align. Don’t blame the Mayans. They just ran out of room. Blame all the paranoid Americans who easily succumb to fear.

Jesus taught us three important things to remember when end times fervor strikes. First, he gave us a Spirit of peace, not fear. We should not let our hearts be troubled or controlled with fear (John 14:27).  Second, He claimed that He nor the angels know the day or the hour of the end (Mark 13:32). If he doesn’t know the end, then why we would expect Harold Camping, the Mayans, or Johannes Stoffler to know it. Third, He told us to stay awake (Mark 13:35-37). We should live our lives looking for Him. Not in a paranoid state, but in a state of righting wrongs and doing the good things today that we could easily put off until tomorrow.  

So when you hear of another end of the world prediction or circumstances around you make you think this might be the end, remember, don’t fear and make things right today. The best remedy for the paranoid, selfishness that end times predictions seem to bring about in people is to keep Jesus and the life He wants us to live in focus at all times.