Since man exists, there has been numerous religious movements or leaders that have heralded the End of the Times. None of these predictions has been fullfilled but the strengh of such beliefs has never been so strong than in our present times. The adaptability of apocalyptic movements is the result of a number of characteristics, not all of which may be present at the same time. First, expectations may be announced in sufficiently ambiguous language to cover a variety of future events. Because of the very nature of apocalyptic texts that wrap their prophetic message in symbolic or metaphorical language, their messages can be adapted to many different situations, and interpreted in many different ways.
Apocalyptic belief systems are also remarkably resilent and enduring because they speak to such basic human needs: for a sense of meaning and order in history, for the promise of a better world, for the drama and excitement they can add to life. The human condition nature involves suffering and death. Therefore, the perennial appeal of catastrophic millennialism is that it gives meaning to suffering, promises defeat and elimination of evil, and permanent well-being to the believers. It also fits with dualism, a tendency to think in terms of Good vs. Evil that is a constant in the human psyche.
According to theologian Catherine Keller "the apocalypse script" is the tendency in Western society to read the signs of the times as reflecting the power of evil, while anticipating a sudden destruction of the evil world and its replacement by the reign of truth, goodness, and beauty. The apocalypse script can easily be detached from the biblical writings, as was the case later with Marx's vision of a proletarian revolution or Hitler's of a 1,000 Year Reich.
It's extremely important to prophecy believers to be able to read the signs of the times, that is, events that are signalling to us that the end time is near. These watchers view those events through a particular prism of biblical interpretation that they are convinced tells us the true meaning of these unfolding events.
The unique capability of Internet users to simultaneously monitor multiple events and processes in the world creates a new awareness of time and of the weight of historical action and has spured the advent of an Apocalyptical mood among the Youth often disheartened by the grim future and the lack of spirituality that our society offers. Once one begins to see the world through this lens, other signs emerge from their surroundings: the wasteland of capitalist-driven consumerism, sexual licentiousness, cold-hearted personal and international violence.
Apocalyptic movements tend to be triggered by a charismatic figure who has absolute confidence in his or her particular prophetic scheme, and who comes up with an interpretive system that seems to address some of the central concerns of a particular time period. William Miller, for example, in upstate New York in the 1830s, came up with a complex mathematical scheme based on the Book of Daniel, which foretold Jesus' return in 1843 or 1844.
Hal Lindsey, publishing The Late Great Planet Earth in 1970 is another example. Lindsey used the popular language of the day, even slang, to address such issues as the Cold War, fears of nuclear war, the rise of the European Common Market, and conflict in the Middle East that were of intense concern to millions of people, and place them within a particular framework of prophetic interpretation. Of course, this tradition found ultimate expression in the visionary experience of John of Patmos, recorded in the book of Revelation. Long before Hal Lindsey, readers of John's apocalypse found its imagery speaking to their own situation and interpreted its language as predicting an imminent end of the world.
The signs of the apocalypse depend on your religious bent, but you might be in the apocalypse if you notice one or more of the following:
- Fire (whether nuclear or otherwise)
- Pestilience (i.e., plague, anthrax, SARS, etc.)
- Rumors of wars
- Strange lights in the skies
- The Second Coming (of whomever you happen to be expecting)
- A virgin birth
- The birth of the Antichrist
- Also a spree of false Christs and/or Messiahs
- Identifying marks being placed on the population at large