End Times

Despite God’s omniscience, He, apparently, can always use some help in orchestrating His master plan for His earthly kingdom and the wretched sinners that inhabit it. This is why more than a few — tens of thousands — fervent souls are working to bring about the apocalypse sooner than later.

As with almost every page of the Bible and other holy books, there are numerous interpretations of how the End Times will unfold. But the stock Christian version outlined in the Book of Revelation goes something like this: The wandering Jews return to Israel after 2,000 years, where they rebuild the Holy Temple and survive seven years of plagues in which billions of people die and the anti-Christ briefly rules the world. This incites the battle of Armageddon, in which Jesus returns to defeat Satan. When the dust has settled, we have Judgment Day.

Since current events always seem to resemble the prophesied calamities, many folks, particularly eager Christians, have the sense that the Second Coming is just around the corner. Millennium Madness, you may recall, was tinged with this kind of apocalyptic fervor. Once 2000 passed, the frenzy might have abated if not for the symbolically heavy events of September 11, 2001. Now, according to polls published in the Times, nearly 40% of Americans believe that the End Times drama has begun to play out.

This enormous minority isn’t comprised solely of homeless alcoholics muttering to themselves at bus stops. Among the true believers are the leaders of some of America’s largest churches. These doomsayers convened in Los Angeles a few months ago, where they made plans to erect 5 million new churches worldwide in the next decade. This is a necessary component of encouraging Judgment Day, since Jesus Christ commissioned his disciples to spread the Gospels and educate everybody on how to achieve eternal life. Once the whole globe is onboard, the fun can begin.

This all sounds quite reasonable to many Christians. To Muslims, though, it’s all a bunch of nonsense. Iran’s sober leader, Mr. Ahmadinejad, has stated publicly — like, while addressing the United Nations — that a 9th Century Imam will emerge from a well to convert the world (even Jews!) to Islam and fill the world with everlasting peace and justice.

Jews, it seems, are the key to every religion’s End Times strategy. Many fundamentalists believe Christ is going to be chiefly concerned with how Christians treated his (former) ancestors, the Hebrews. So, not only did the Jews bring about the chance for everlasting life, they’re the litmus test for the rapture. (They still have to accept Jesus, however, unless they want to burn in Hell with the rest of the heretics.) Some of Israel’s strongest political supporters are evangelical Christians, who recognize the nation’s importance in helping bring about the apocalypse. Meanwhile, pious Jews don’t believe in any of the Second Coming silliness — except when it involves their Messiah, who previously was thought to live in Brooklyn.

What we have now is a world filed with several powerful religions competing to bring about the end of the world sooner than later. Might our planet be a better place if their rapturous energy was directed at making mortal living conditions healthier and kinder for countless generations to come?

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