Jeffery L. Sheler, in his article, “The Lure of the Prophetic Word,” published in U.S.News & World Report, Collector’s Edition, states that the Apocalypse stories are inspired by the fact that, “Human beings have always wanted to know the future – and the end of history.”
Christopher Columbus and Apocalypse
America’s intrigue with the end of the world, can be relate to Christopher Columbus, who supposedly believed the world would end in 1650. He said, “God made me the messenger of the new Heaven and the new Earth of which he spoke in the Apocalypse of St. John [the book of Revelation].
Columbus wrote, ” He showed me the spot where to find it.” Columbus was referring to his discovery of the New World, which he felt was part of God’s plan for establishing a new paradise.
Early Americans believed in prophecy and that the second coming was going to occur in America. Some of those beliefs included:
- Puritans believed their New England settlements where habitats for Christ’s Second Coming
- During the Civil War, preachers and politicians used “prophetic imagery” and claimed God’s favor for their cause
- Mormonism’s growth and the success of Joseph Smith were tied in with the prophetic phenomenon of the 19th century in America
- Pentecostal and charismatic Christianity consider prophecy a spiritual gift
Today’s Prophecies Favor the Apocalypses
Today, many are probably most familiar the three most influential biblical apocalypses, which are Ezekiel, Daniel, and Revelation. These books generally refer to the Second Coming and the end of the age: the appearance of the Antichrist.
According to Sheler, some scholars say that these prophets didn’t intend their prophecies to be interpreted as messages about the End of the World. Rather, some believe that the Antichrist figure in Revelation refers to the Roman emperor, Nero, who killed himself. Stories abound that Nero returned from the dead, haunting his enemies.
The passage in Ezekiel, which predicts Armageddon, some scholars say,probably refers to the invasion of Israel by Scythian hordes in pre-Christian times.
Prophecies of Jesus’ Second Coming
Most scholars think that the first disciples did believe that Jesus was going to return soon. St. Augustine warned against accepting claims of the soon coming end of the world.
John Nelson Darby, of the 19th Century, claimed that history was divided into seven ages; the second coming would occur at the end of the final age. Darby’s thinking became very popular amidst Christian schools of thought during the 20th century. In fact, the Left Behind novels of LaHaye and Jenkins promote Darby’s thinking.
The Rapture discusses believers who are pulled out of the world, while unbelievers have to face the Great Tribulation, a seven year period ruled by the Antichrist. Eventually countries go to war in the Middle East which becomes the Battle of Armageddon. It’s said that this nuclear holocaust is stopped at its zenith by Jesus, who destroys the evil doers and establishes his golden era.
There are millions of people awaiting the Second Coming, peace and happiness or world destruction. True believers of prophecy, As Jeffery Sheler points out, want to know how the story ends.
U.S.News & World Report, Collector’s Edition, “The Lure of the Prophetic Word,” by Jeffery L. Sheler.
The Holy Bible, King James Version: Ezekiel, Daniel, and Revelation.