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End of the world

Many religious faiths teach that the end of the world, or Apocalypse, will occur at some unknown point in the future. Such an event would probably climax with the destruction of civilization, if not the elimination of all life on Earth. In some religions (most notably Christianity) the chosen and worthy, members of the one true faith, will most likely be spared from the coming destruction, and be ushered into paradise, as a reward for their struggles on earth. In such religions, the unworthy are usually cast down into some kind of hell. Other religions strongly disagree with such viewpoints.

Jewish views of the end of the world It is worth noting that the Talmud, in the tractate Avodah Zarah, page 9A, states that this world as we know it will only exist for six thousand years:

  • "...The Tanna Debey Eliyahu taught: The world is to exist six thousand years; the first two thousand are to be "void" [of Torah], the next two thousand are the period of the Torah [from Abraham until the completion of the Mishna - the first part of the Talmud], and the following [last] two thousand are the period of the Messiah [i.e., the Messianic Age could commence during this time]; through our [the Jews'] sins a number of these [times for the Messiah's coming] have already passed [and the Messiah has not come yet]."

The end of the world is called the acharit hayami ("end of days"), when tumultuous events will take place in the world overturning the old world order and creating a new order where God is recognized by every single individual as the God[?] who rules over everyone and everything in the Universe. One of the sages of the Talmud says that "Let the end of days come, but may I not live to see them", because they will be filled with so much conflict and suffering.

The Jewish calendar (luach) functions completely on the assumption that time begins at the Creation of the world by God in Genesis. Many people (notably Conservative and Reform Jews and Christians) think that the years of the Torah, or Jewish Bible, are symbolic. According to the ancient Jewish teachings continued by today's Orthodox Jews, the years are literal and consistent throughout all time, with 24 hours per day and 365 days per year. Appropriate calibrations are, of course, done with leap years, to account for the difference between the lunar calendar and the solar calendar, since the Jewish calendar is based on both. Thus the year 2003 equals 5763 years since creation on the present Jewish calendar.

According to Jewish tradition, the end of the world will see:

  1. the ingathering of the scattered Jewish exiles to geographic Israel,
  2. the defeat of all of Israel's enemies,
  3. the building of the third Jewish Temple in Jerusalem and the resumption of the sacrificial offerings and Temple service,
  4. the Revival of the Dead (techiat hameitim), or the Resurrection,
  5. and, at some point, the Jewish Messiah who will become the anointed King of Israel. He will divide the Jews in Israel into their original tribal portions in the land. During this time Gog, king of Magog, will attack Israel. Who Gog and the nation Magog are is not known yet. Magog will fight a great battle, in which many will die on both sides, but God will intervene and save the Jews. This is the battle referred to as Armageddon. God, having vanquished this final enemy once and for all, will accordingly banish all evil from human existence. After the year 6000 (in the Jewish calendar), the seventh millennium will be an era of holiness, tranquility, spiritual life, and worldwide peace, called the Olam Haba ("Future World"), where all people will know God directly.

One group of Jews from Hasidic Judaism, the Chabad Lubavitch movement, believes that the Messiah has quite possibly arrived and begun his mission, and that it is their deceased Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneerson, actually the Messiah in waiting. The defeat of Iraq by the the United States Army during the Gulf War in 1990 - 1991 , and the fact that Israel was not seriously harmed, was taken as a sign that the Messiah was at hand. This view was rejected by all other groups who still await the traditional "End of Days" as described in the writings of the Prophets of the Tanach, the classic Jewish Bible .

The history and study of religious writings on this topic is eschatology, and can be traced back to the earliest days of civilization. Famous myths describing the end of the world include Ragnarok and the Book of Revelation; the latter is a Christian description of a final battle between good and evil and a predicted Armageddon.

Predictions for the end of the world

A number of predictions for the end of the world have been made throughout history. Notable end-of-the-world incidents include:

  • In 1843, William Miller[?] made the first of several predictions that the world would end in only a few months. None of them took place, but followers of Miller went on to found separate churches, the most successful of which is the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
  • Many fictional (and non-fictional) stories from the era of the Cold War were based on the belief that a nuclear war was inevitable, and that this would result in the destruction of all life on the planet Earth.
  • Nostradamus is alleged to have written a prediction that a great catastrophe would occur in July the year 1999. Many followers of his writings took this to mean that the end of the world would occur. When the chosen date came and went, translators of his works began revising them with new interpretations of what the prediction actually meant.
  • The Y2K bug, which was supposed to wreak havoc on computer systems and disrupt life as we know it.
  • A large number of meteors enter the Earth's atmosphere every day, though few of them survive the effect of atmospheric friction. It is a probability that a meteorite of sufficient size could strike the planet at some unknown moment, causing catastrophic effect and possibly even ending life on earth as we know it. Astronomers have calculated that given its present orbit, Asteroid 1950DA will come very close or collide with the Earth on 16 March 2880[?]. Other Earth impacts with comets in deeper orbits could occur with less warning. However, such catastrophic collisions are quite rare, so the odds of a civilization-destroying impact in the next few hundred, or even few thousand years, is quite low.
  • Based on observation of other stars, science predicts that in about five billion years, our sun will expand into a red giant, evaporating the Earth, and thus ending all life there.

Related Topics

"The End of the World" is a name for Thunder Mountain, the base of operations for the protagonists in the apocalyptic science-fiction TV series Jeremiah.

"End Of The World" is a song by the rock band Cold[?], from the album 13 Ways To Bleed On Stage. Also, R.E.M. recorded "It's the End of the World (and I Feel Fine)".

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