What is driving society’s fascination with December 21, 2012, and other end-time prophecies?
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Here we go again. The world is now slated to end December 21, 2012 (or December 23, depending on who is counting). As this time approaches, hysteria among some will inevitably crescendo to a thundering climax—with one of these days supposedly marking an “end date” on the now-infamous long count calendar of the ancient Maya.
These dates come on the heels of a number of other popular doomsday prophecies that have since failed.
Philadelphia’s Penn Museum summed up the calendar theory in a special Maya-themed edition of its Expedition magazine: “Now, by the best reckoning available to us, December 23, 2012 CE will see the end of the next 13th Bak’tun cycle, 5,125 years after the one completed in 3114 BCE. Many people believe that this anniversary is of huge cosmic significance and, indeed, that it will mean either the dawn of a new age of enlightenment, or a catastrophic collapse of the world as we know it, or even the end of time itself.”
Best reckoning available. Note those words.
Every reputable news article, scientist’s report, or television special on the 2012 phenomenon is laced with similar qualifying phrases. Each tells their audience about what “may,” “might” or “could” happen. They have to state that only some of Maya descent believe doomsday is approaching—and that some archaeologists believe a cataclysmic event is set to occur. Realize that “some” likely means a tiny minority. When journalists and TV presenters have concrete numbers proving their point, they use them.
In actuality, no one knows what will happen at the end of this year. Every idea is mere speculation—with the ancient Maya’s calendar and legends offering no definitive proof of what will occur.
Still, the theories are legion. Many are convinced this date will mean cataclysmic disasters the likes of super-volcanoes erupting, geography-altering earthquakes, and city-destroying tsunamis—purportedly brought on by a sudden shift of Earth’s magnetic poles, a surge in solar storms, or alignment of the earth, sun and “galactic center” of the Milky Way Galaxy.
Another camp feels the date will mark an age of spiritual awakening where mankind will learn to live in harmony with nature.
Yet apocalyptic notions do not end with prophetic ideas, and there are those who believe global warming will cause substantial changes to Earth’s climate. This may come through a sudden increase in extreme weather or a catastrophic rise in ocean levels. In America, a Yale University poll found that 62 percent of citizens reported seeing “unusual weather” within the last year, and 69 percent believe “global warming is affecting the weather in the United States.”
Another segment of the population has stockpiled guns, ammunition and food supplies in case of complete government collapse or nuclear war.
End-of-the-world fever is in the air. An Ipsos poll revealed that among global citizens, one in 10 believes the world will end in 2012. One in seven believes the world will end in his lifetime.
Think. If you see seven people on the street, one of them feels the world will end in the coming years.
Time and again, millions are more than willing to give themselves over to these theories—some seemingly credible, others utterly bizarre or strange.
For now, December 2012 is the flavor of the week. As the clock ticks down, expect a surge in compulsory news media coverage, wild “world’s end” parties, and tragic reports of those who commit suicide out of fear of what may come to pass.
Yet after so many failed doomsday end dates, why is society willing to consider December 2012?
The notion of Earth’s demise makes for big business, with numerous movies capitalizing on the trend. Since the 2009 disaster feature, simply called “2012,” there has been a surge in doomsday-themed titles, with a recent trio of films dealing with everything from mystery planets and asteroids smashing into Earth to a depleted ozone layer causing human extinction. In addition, there have been numerous post-apocalyptic thrillers involving zombie hordes, disease pandemics, and teenagers forced to fight to the death in a gladiator-style arena.
Hollywood shells out cash for these features because it knows there is an audience. Likewise, major cable networks regularly pump out specials on 2012 phenomena. If ratings were bad, these shows would have faded from view.
Many authors have also jumped on the bandwagon, hoping for a cut of the profits from the Maya craze. Still others write about the purported end date in an effort to debunk sloppy science or expose the faulty logic of these ideas.
For example, NASA issued a fact check of the science behind the 2012 theory. Notably, the organization called the idea that galactic alignment will affect Earth “bizarre,” saying that it pays “very little attention to facts.”
Add to this that a contingent of Mayanist researchers believe there are 20 Bak’tuns in the present era—not 13—which means that the long count calendar will not “end” just before 2013. There is also disagreement among scholars regarding how to definitively correlate Maya dates to the modern Gregorian calendar.
In reality, not one of the theories holds up to even modest scrutiny. Yet the ideas themselves—and the people that bring them—are telling:
There will be gigantic solar storms in 2012. The worst ever! False. Sun storms are cyclical, and while the next one is scheduled to occur between 2012-2014, NASA predicts it will be an average peak.
A massive planet named Nibiru will suddenly appear and smash into Earth! Wrong. This idea started with a woman in Wisconsin who said she received word of the secret planet during telepathic contact with aliens she calls Zetas.
The magnetic poles are suddenly going to shift! Wrong again. While there is some geological evidence of pole shifts throughout Earth’s history, these all took place during a period of over a million years—never all at once through one gigantic event.
Many also look to the work of drug activist Terrence McKenna, who studied the use of hallucinatory plants in societies that used them in their religious ceremonies. During an extended period of using psychedelic mushrooms, he came up with a convoluted mathematical formula to map important events throughout human history. He called this the “time wave” theory, and it supposedly pointed to an important occurrence in November 2012. When he found out about December 21, 2012, he conveniently “tweaked” his formula to correlate with a different day.
The only source that seems to lend an air of authority to December 2012 predictions is the Classic-era Maya (AD 200-600) themselves. Compared to other ancient cultures, they do have an impressive resume. This civilization, which stretched from southern Mexico through Central America, accurately charted the movement of stars and planets across the night sky for many years into the future. Its people were innovative architects, building pyramids with mathematical precision. They were also the only fully literate Native American culture.
Yet there is another side to the Maya often overlooked in the context of these prophecies—namely how they derived their religious knowledge. The Encyclopaedia Britannica explains, “The profoundly original feature of Maya religious thought, in comparison with that of other pre-Columbian civilizations, is the extraordinary refinement of mathematical and astronomical knowledge, inextricably mixed with mythological concepts.”
Their interest in astronomy—really astrology—was used as a way to stay in contact with the spirit world. Stone etchings throughout Mesoamerica show Maya kings, who also served as priests, adorned in elaborate feathered headdresses and bejeweled cloaks. Clutched to many of their chests are ceremonial two-headed serpent bars that were used to make them “one with the universe.”
What is disconcerting is how they contacted the “spirit realm.” Horrific scenes of royalty calling on their dead relatives and pantheon of gods are all preserved in Maya paintings and carved into stone.
One panel shows a queen, who has pierced her tongue with a stingray spine, proceeding to pull a rope embedded with thorns through the hole. Blood is dripping down the rope into a bowl that contains paper that will be burned to gain access to spirits. Her husband, who is standing over her, has a preserved human skull in his ceremonial headdress.
Other carvings depict men cutting their ears and piercing other appendages to receive the “vision serpent.” Many murals show captured rival warriors being sacrificed. In addition, evidence points to the use of hallucinogenic drugs and alcohol to assist in the blood-letting rituals, presumably to dull the pain and induce altered states.
Blood-letting. Human sacrifice. Drug use. All of this to appease gods or gain “divine” knowledge.
Of course, the Maya were not alone in this. Many ancient cultures engaged in similar practices.
Place such actions in the 21st century. Imagine that a preeminent astronomer—one with multiple doctorates and a popular television show about the universe—suddenly reveals on his personal blog that he has definitive proof the world will end January 15, 2013. He claims, “It is written in the stars.”
Additional posts contain descriptions of how he reached this conclusion. He tells of how he used a stingray spine and pierced his tongue, then pulled a thorny rope through the opening. He also punctured his earlobes, allowing blood to freely flow. On top of this, he details his use of hallucinogenic drugs to see the future.
Also, the scientist reveals that he kidnapped his male neighbor and murdered him to strengthen his prophetic visions.
At the moment anyone received word of such activity, they would inevitably call the police and the man would be jailed! Due to the source, no thinking person would seriously consider his proposed end date.
Yet this does not stop some from believing such prophecies—from the Maya or any other culture that practiced such rituals—which originated from a similar source…
The same Expedition issue mentioned earlier further deflates any December doomsday idea: “Although the Maya certainly did have apocalyptic ideas, especially of a world destroyed by a heaven-sent flood, these are not linked to the Long Count calendar and cannot be used to support an ‘end of time’ in 2012. In sum, this date has far more relevance for us than it appears to have had for the ancient Maya—one of many examples of popular mysticism that actually springs from the present rather than the past.”
Consider the present global mood. Everything from a cascading series of disasters to some sort of global spiritual reawakening plays right into public sentiment. News outlets churn out continuous reports of weather upsets, economic woes, riots, oppressive governments, humanity running out of natural resources, class divisions, injustice, rampant crime, clashing ideologies, and so on.
A major reason so many give end-time ideas credence is the overwhelming feeling that something is terribly wrong.
Penn Museum’s magazine also stated, “Hard times beg for change. Much like the’ 60s, the first decade of the new millennium has been a stressful one, marked by terrible events and trends too depressing and familiar to enumerate. It is enough to drive even the most rational segment of the citizenry to bizarre, alternative outlooks. This includes a deep desire to recapture an imagined distant past that knew the essence of true wisdom. And so we romance the Maya. Still there is nothing new under the sun…all the elements of the logic informing the impending contemporary doomsday scheduled for December 21, 2012, have long been in place. Time’s end is in our American blood.”
“Time’s end” is not just in America’s blood. It is also infused into the thinking of all Western nations.
This fixation on doomsday inevitably springs from its Judeo-Christian roots, and can be traced back to the question posed by Jesus Christ’s disciples in the New Testament book of Matthew. They asked what seems to be on everyone’s mind today: “…what shall be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the world?” (24:3).
Christ’s response, which is also recorded in the parallel accounts of Mark 13 and Luke 21, includes talk of great earthquakes across the globe and “fearful sights and great signs” in the sky such as the sun and the moon being darkened and stars falling to Earth.
These events are further described in the book of Revelation, particularly chapter 6. The text includes imagery such as “a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood” (6:12)—“the stars of heaven fell unto the earth” (vs. 13)—and “every mountain and island were moved out of their places” (vs. 14).
Since the completion of the New Testament around AD 100, ministers and lay members of traditional Christianity have attempted to explain these passages and pinpoint when they would come to pass. The results have been paltry and vague.
Case in point: look at the hysteria that surrounded the proposed May 21, 2011, end date. Radio evangelist Harold Camping arrived at this day through a random selection of Bible numbers he deemed important. He then multiplied them together. When his figure was too small, he doubled it in a strange misapplication of the Bible phrase “time is short.”
More recently, another man claimed Christ would return on May 27, 2012. This prophecy failed, as did an earlier prediction from him for 2008.
About 25 years ago, Edgar Whisenant’s book 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Occur in 1988 sold millions of copies. Hal Lindsey also hinted at a 1988 doomsday marking the modern state of Israel’s 40th year. Church Universal and Triumphant’s Elizabeth Clare Prophet similarly called for Armageddon preparations in the late 1980s.
Every few years of the 20th century meant another proposed date for the world’s end.
The same was true of the 19th century. After their “Great Disappointment” in the 1840s, the Millerites suffered a series of failed doomsday prophecies. In 1806, the “Prophet Hen of Leeds,” later revealed to be a hoax, was rumored to lay eggs imprinted with the words “Christ is coming.”
The pattern was the same in the 1700s, 1600s, 1500s, and so on.
Trailing backward through this historical record of futile predictions can be disillusioning. And this trend does not only apply to Christians. Over millennia, an equal number of doomsday ideas came from other religions and secular sources. Those failed just as miserably.
Despite an unbroken record of botched predictions, the desire to know what the future holds remains stronger than ever. People desperately want to understand what the coming years will bring—and will even look to kooky sources for answers.
Yet, if prophecies inevitably fail, knowing for certain what the future holds seems implausible.
Ask yourself: “What would it take for me to be absolutely sure about a prophecy?”
Clearly, anyone attempting to tell you the future would have to bring a logical, well-thought out case proving his point. You would almost certainly require solid historical evidence proving that such a person has successfully predicted past events.
Unknown to most, this sort of proof does exist. The God of the Bible does not leave any teaching up to “blind faith.” Instead, He insists that every man prove such things for himself.
While the Bible is often dismissed as antiquated Hebrew literature, and any prophecies are largely overlooked even by those who profess to believe it is “God’s Word,” the events it foretells hold a greater purpose than future-telling—they also serve to validate the Book’s authority.
In the Old Testament book of Isaiah, God says, “I have declared the former things from the beginning; and they went forth out of My mouth, and I showed them; I did them suddenly, and they came to pass…I have even from the beginning declared it to you; before it came to pass I showed it you…” (48:3-5).
Isaiah 46:11 states, “I have spoken it, I will also bring it to pass; I have purposed it, I will also do it.”
Read these verses as a challenge. When God declares He will do something, He says it will happen. If just one event does not come to pass as He declared, then the Bible should be thrown out!
In the book The Bible’s Greatest Prophecies Unlocked! – A Voice Cries Out, Real Truth Editor-in-Chief David C. Pack explains the basics of how to study prophecy in God’s Word: “The apostle Peter wrote this about how God intends that prophecy illuminate the understanding of those who study it: ‘We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto you do well that you take heed, as unto a light that shines in a dark place…’ (II Pet. 1:19). This verse reveals God’s purpose—His ‘sure word of prophecy,’ bringing ‘light’ to ‘dark places’—so people will ‘take heed.’ You must be willing to heed what is written.
“Now continue: ‘Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation’ (vs. 20). This is most crucial to understand. No single verse—or even any two or three passages—is sufficient to bring full, correct prophetic understanding on big events.
“Grasp this. All of the verses on every aspect of prophecy must be carefully assembled first. Second, building the truth begins with the most clear and obvious passages. These are two of the greatest rules of Bible study when exploring any of this Book’s topics. Sadly, these rules, and the rest of the twelve rules of Bible study, are not followed by, or even known to, almost any who read God’s Word. Prophecy ‘experts’ are no exception.
“Continue again in II Peter 1: ‘For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit’ (vs. 21). In short, prophecy comes from God, through His servants, as He inspires them to record His words.”
Any prophetic ideas “by the will of man” will always fail.
A final element driving Maya mania and intense interest in Bible prophecy comes down to the personal level: each person alive wants to know where he is headed, and his place in the universe.
But the theories proposed are not very heartening. The 2012 future involves either total destruction of the earth, or some sort of amorphous, feel-good spiritual awakening. Bible-related theories generally include believers joining God in heaven while all of the rest of humanity suffers the events found in Revelation.
These options are hardly appealing. In addition, they disregard the biggest—most exciting—prophecy found in the Bible, which pertains directly to your future!
Throughout history, there has remained a sense that the purpose of mankind is much grander than the here and now. This is never so evident as when gazing at a star-filled sky on a clear night, away from city lights.
In the Old Testament, Israel’s King David captured this feeling in the book of Psalms: “When I consider Your heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained; what is man, that You are mindful of him?” (8:3-4).
This question’s answer is the single most exciting prophecy found within the Bible. It reveals God’s purpose for mankind. Countless theories abound about “why we are here,” yet none carry any weight when compared to what God states.
The New Testament book of Hebrews quotes David and then begins to answer his question: “What is man, that You are mindful of him?…You [God] crowned him with glory and honor, and did set him over the works of Your hands: You have put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him” (2:6-8).
At first these verses may seem to contradict each other. God put “all things in subjection under” man, but “we see not yet all things put under him.” Put another way, God absolutely will put all things under the rulership of man, but He has not done so yet.
When God says “all things,” He really means all things. The Moffatt translation of the Bible renders the Greek word for “all things” as “the universe.”
God intends for all of mankind to rule over the entire universe. Can you imagine a more exciting future?
While this differs greatly from common teachings of traditional Christianity, there it is in your Bible!
Other details about mankind’s incredible future are found throughout God’s Word, and they are both astounding and encouraging. There is a greater purpose for your life than you could ever imagine.
To learn more, read The Awesome Potential of Man.