9. The self-destructive apocalypses of the third millennium

9. THE SELF-DESTRUCTIVE APOCALYPSES OF THE THIRD MILLENNIUM

In the 21st century predictions continue to have a stronger effect on society than prophecies and messianisms. While predictions, when they are well-grounded, are taken very seriously into consideration, prophecies and messianisms are ridiculed or become alarm signals for possible terrorist or suicidal actions. This trend forces the contemporary mystics to adapt and – as the 2012 phenomenon demonstrated – to skillfully use scientific data to support the validity of their prophecies. Nevertheless, it is obvious that the traditional harbingers of apocalypse “expired.” In fact, the veritable apocalyptic propagandists of the 21st century are no longer the prophets, the clairvoyants, the mediums, the astrologers or the insane, but Hollywood. Not even the scientists, who warn us with clear proofs about our possible grim future, have such an influence as the movies. Apocalypses, of any kind, are extraordinary subjects for screening. And Hollywood does not care about religious doctrines or scientific laws. From impossible apocalypses, produced by zombies, apes, vampires or even plants, less probable apocalypses, as the apocalypse of the machines, to possible apocalypses, caused by climate failure or another natural phenomenon, the film industry has a large palette where it can choose from. Its only

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8.3. The Maya pseudo-prophecy and the year 2012

8.3. THE MAYA PSEUDO-PROPHECY AND THE YEAR 2012

After the failure of the year 2000 the interest in apocalypticism was quickly invigorated through the pseudo-prophecy of the Maya calendar for the year 2012. Once again, an army of astrologers, journalists, writers, contactees, mediums and spiritual healers begged for attention screaming that in 2012 something extraordinary was about to happen with Earth and its inhabitants. Unfortunately, their efforts were mercilessly amplified by the mass media and the Internet, both flooded by prophetic clichés such as the “turning point in the history of humanity,” “year of great changes” or “the special significance of the year 2012.”

The 2012 phenomenon was by far the most widespread apocalyptic phenomenon. It shattered the cultural, social and religious barriers and it manifested itself within nations that have nothing to do with Christianity or with Maya culture. Hundreds of books, articles, video documentaries and websites discussed and analyzed this subject. A virtual domain owned by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration received more than 5,000 questions from the public on

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7.1. The year 2000 and the computer apocalypse

7. THE END OF THE MILLENNIUM

7.1. THE YEAR 2000 AND THE COMPUTER APOCALYPSE



(This text is incomplete. If you wish to read it in full, please purchase the book) ... the disgusting prophetic circus, the year 2000 truly had a destructive potential, but not due to divine wrath, but because of technology. The most serious and widespread scarecrow of the year 2000 was Y2K or the “Millennium Bug.” In essence, Y2K was defined as the inability of computers to make a valid transition from the year 1999 to the year 2000. In mathematics, the number 1,000 is sometimes represented by the letter “K” (for example 3,000 = 3K, 5,000 = 5K) from the prefix “kilo,” which is derived from the (Romanized) Greek word chilioi (“thousand”). So, the name “Y2K” is an abbreviation of the English expression “Year 2000.”

The Millennium Bug was not an invention of prophets or religious fanatics; it was a fact. In the 1970s, when the computer industry was at the beginning, virtual memory was very expensive. So, programmers had to use different solutions to save virtual space. One of these solutions was to mark the years only with the last two digits of the total of four. For example, 72 was used instead of 1972, or 84 was used instead of 1984. The computer determined the year only according to the last two digits, adding 19 automatically as a standard prefix. The problem was that the last two digits of the years 2000 and 1900 are identical: 00 and 00. Hence, on January 1, 2000, at 00:00, some computers could interpret the time as being the year 1900, others as 2000, and others to give error and to crash.

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5.1. The eternal Armageddon of Jehovah’s Witnesses

5.1. THE ETERNAL ARMAGEDDON OF JEHOVAH’S WITNESSES

Jehovah’s Witnesses are one of the last monstrous progeny of the American religious orgies. Founded in the second part of the 19th century by Charles Taze Russell, the organization of Jehovah’s Witnesses rose from the Millerite ash on the theory that the expected event was just, but the date was erroneously calculated. A charismatic figure, Russell never claimed that he had divine revelations. Instead, he believed that God had endowed him with wisdom to correctly interpret the Bible. Between 1870 and 1875 the Russell family, together with the Adventist pastors George Storrs and George Stetson, intensively studied the Bible and the history of Christianity. Following this intellectual effort, the group came to the conclusion that they gained a better understanding of the Bible and that they found significant errors in the foundations of the contemporary Christian doctrine. The entire group rebaptized in 1874.

In parallel with Russell, the former Millerite Nelson Barbour began a new round of biblical and prophetic study. In 1873 he launched the Herald of the Morning magazine, in which he advanced a possible return of Christ in 1874. One year later Russell found a copy of Nelson’s work and contacted him to establish a meeting and to compare the notes. They both agreed that Parousia took place indeed in 1874, but in an invisible way, and it would become visible in 1878. In this period of four years the return of Christ could be known only by the true believers. This is how the association between Barbour and Russell began. The latter was so impressed

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4.4. Ellen White and the Adventist vision of the end

4.4. ELLEN WHITE AND THE ADVENTIST VISION OF THE END

The Millerite ash was the ideal fertilizer for the rise of several groups generically called “Adventist.” All these groups preserved, more or less, the features of Millerism and have been characterized by the obsession for the end of the world. Of all, the best-known group is the one initiated by Hiram Edson and Joseph Bates, and later completed by James and Ellen White.

In January 1845 Joseph Turner tried to explain the Great Disappointment through the “shut-door” theory based on the Parable of the Ten Virgins from Matthew 25:11-12. After the “heavenly door” was closed on October 22, 1844, people could no longer be saved. The period of the testing of the world was over. The wise virgins (the true believers) were going to be in the kingdom, while the foolish virgins (the infidels) were left outside, regardless of their subsequent actions.1123

Hiram Edson came up with an even more interesting theory, which somehow complemented Turner’s argument. After he, allegedly, had a vision the day after the Great Disappointment, Edson said that on October 22, 1844, an extraordinary event took place indeed, but in Heaven, not on Earth, where Christ entered the second part of the heavenly sanctuary. Together with Owen R. L. Crosier and Franklin B. Hahn, Edson conducted a thorough biblical study at the end of which he concluded that the “sanctuary” from Daniel 8:14 does not represent the earth or the Church as Miller previously thought, but the heavenly sanctuary.1124 Hence, the 22nd of October marked indeed the Second Coming of Christ, but on the heavenly realm. These new

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4.3. Millerism and the “Great Disappointment”

4.3. MILLERISM AND THE “GREAT DISAPPOINTMENT”

While Joseph Smith Jr. was forging the Mormon aberration, another prophetic colossus was rising in the “burned-over district” of the New York State: William Miller. Smith and Miller had a different theological training, a different eschatological approach and even an opposite prophetic message; and yet, they both enjoyed a tremendous success. While Smith used false revelations and became an icon of prophetic falsehood, Miller was a sincere biblical scholar who wasted his life for a chimera and turned into a model of prophetic failure. But the latter is also a good example that human beings think what they are trained to think and see what they want to see: a chess player sees chess movements in real life, an economist sees around him transactions and economic opportunities, and a religious fanatic identifies apocalyptic trumpets and God’s vials of wrath in the flow of history.

After 15 years of intense biblical and historical study, Miller came to believe that a correct eschatological interpretation must rely on a couple of principles: the biblical prophecies are expressed in figurative language, but they are being literally fulfilled, the events described in the Bible can happen only once, and the biblical prophecies are codes that can be deciphered. This retired captain was one of the last major exponents of Protestant historicism: Revelation and the Book of Daniel were treated as maps of universal history, while

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6.5. The year 1666: the Black Plague and the Great Fire of London

6.5. THE YEAR 1666: THE BLACK PLAGUE AND THE GREAT FIRE OF LONDON

It is strange that in the first part of the Middle Ages historical documents said nothing about apocalyptic manifestations related to the year 666, but there were fears related to 1666. The year 1666 is no more apocalyptic than the year 666, although it might be seen as the sum between the Millennium (1,000) and the number of the Beast (666). The similarity between the year 1666 and the number of the Antichrist was obvious, but it came in contradiction with the apostle’s words: “here is wisdom”; there was nothing wise in looking in the calendar and seeing that the year 1666 was approaching.753 And yet, as a strange coincidence, the year 1666 hosted three major apocalyptic manifestations, independent of each other: in Asia Minor, the Jew Sabbatai Zevi reached the apex of his messianic career;754 in Russia, the reform of the Orthodox Church broke the community of believers in two, leading to antichristical slanders and a long civil war;755 and in England the Black Plague and the Great Fire of London created a hellish atmosphere.

Same as in the 14th century, the havoc of the plague represented God’s tangible and immediate fury. The years 1665-1667 were years of horror for the Londoners. The writings of the time portray a terrifying picture of the society affected by this ruthless disease. Although it is considered to be a work of fiction, Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year from 1722 is based on a solid documentation and describes

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3.3. The second period: 1000-1033

3.3. THE SECOND PERIOD: 1000-1033

After the year 1000 proved to be a year as any other, all apocalyptic expectations were channeled toward the year 1033. According to Glaber’s chronicles, the end of the world was delayed for 33 years, 1,000 years from the crucifixion, the resurrection and the ascension of the Savior:

After the many prodigies which had broken upon the world before, after, and around the millennium of the Lord Christ, there were plenty of able men of penetrating intellect who foretold others, just as great, at the approach of the millennium of the Lord’s Passion, and such wonders were soon manifest.193

The year 1033 had an apocalyptic importance due to three reasons: the transition between the millennia did not bring major changes in the world; in the year 1000 Christians celebrated the completion of a millennium since the Savior’s conception and birth (two major religious events), while in the year 1033 they celebrated his death, resurrection and

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3.2.2. Popular manifestations around the year 1000

3.2.2. Popular manifestations around the year 1000

The fundamental problems of the generation of the year 1000 were the lack of information and the extremely precarious understanding of the Universe. Rodulphus Glaber’s notes show that history served no other purpose than to boost the meditation of the believers, to increase their vigilance and to emphasize the warnings that God sends to his creatures through miracles and prophecies:

But since the nation of men multiplied, ... the divine decisions of his good Creator displayed for him amazing miracles in things, extraordinary prophecies in elements and also, in the mouth of the wisest, the prophecies destined to instill, on the divine path, at the same time, hope and fear. ... The closer the end of the world, the more we see multiplying the things that people talk about.178

God’s miraculous intervention in history and in everyday life was the driving force of the medieval religious life. The medieval people did not believe in hazard; unusual events could not simply happen. They were always seen as manifestations of the all-powerful divine will. Driven by the belief that time flows according to a precisely established order, people were terrified by temporal coincidences. In the year 992 the Black Friday and the Annunciation coincided on the 22nd of March, a coincidence that for a long time was thought to mark the advent of the Antichrist. Bernard of Thuringia, a fanatical hermit, spread the word that the end was near because close to this date a solar eclipse occurred. Some were so scared that they fled into caves and into the mountains.179 Other monks in the region of Lotharingia said that the end would come in 970, when more biblical events of crucial importance coincided on the same calendar date: Friday on the 25th of March – when Adam was created, Isaac was sacrificed, the Red Sea was crossed by the Israelites, Christ incarnated, Christ was crucified and, it was believed, Michael the Archangel would

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4.3.2. Jesus Christ and the Mahdi

4.3.2. Jesus Christ and the Mahdi

Unlike Christian eschatology, which is populated by a single messianic figure in the person of Jesus Christ, in the Islamic one there are two messianic figures with similar roles: Isa (Jesus, the son of Mary) and the Mahdi.

The first, Isa, was an important prophet, but his mission and teachings only foreshadowed – and at the moment they complement – the true teachings received by Muhammad. According to lots of hadiths, at a moment known only by Allah, Isa will return in a physical and visible way, concurrently with the advent of the eschatological entity the Mahdi and shortly after the rise of al-Dajjal. Jesus will descend to the earth from the clouds of heaven, will guide the righteous through the power of Allah, will kill al-Dajjal, will put an end to all wars and will establish an era of peace and prosperity. Jesus will perform the role of the Messiah (mahdi), but only as an apostle of God.

The second, the Mahdi (or Mehdi – the “Guided One”), is a controversial messianic entity. The Sunni doctrine still debates if the idea of the Mahdi is an invention with political tint or he is indeed Muhammad’s successor who is yet to come.40 The concept is not explicitly mentioned in the Quran and in the Sunni hadiths such as the famous Sahih Al-Bukhari; these

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