(from the Greek έσχατος meaning "last" + -logy) is a part of theology (End
Times) and philosophy concerned with the final events in the history of the
world or the ultimate destiny of human kind, commonly phrased as the end
of the world. In many religions, the end of the world is a future event prophesied
in sacred texts or folklore. More broadly, eschatology may encompass related
concepts such as the Messiah or Messianic Age, the afterlife, and the soul.
The Greek word αιών means "age"; some translations may read "end of the
age" instead of "end of the world". The distinction also has theological
significance, for the "end times" in many religions may involve the destruction
of the planet (or of all living things), but with the human race surviving
in some new form, ending the current "age" of existence and beginning a new
Most Western monotheistic religions have doctrines claiming that 'chosen'
or 'worthy' members of the one true faith will be "spared" or "delivered"
from the coming judgement and wrath of God. They will be ushered into paradise
either before, during, or after it depending upon the end-time scenario
to which they hold. As well as the wrath of God at the end of the age there
is the wrath of man.
predicted that his teachings would disappear after 500 years. According
to the Sutta Pitaka, the "ten moral courses of conduct" will disappear and
people will follow the ten amoral concepts of theft, violence, murder, lying,
evil speaking, adultery, abusive and idle talk, covetousness and ill will,
wanton greed, and perverted lust resulting in skyrocketing poverty and the
end of the worldly laws of true dharma.
During the Middle Ages, the span of time was expanded to 5,000 years.
Commentators like Buddhaghosa predicted a step-by-step disappearance of the
Buddha's teachings. During the first stage, arahats would no longer appear
in the world. Later, the content of the Buddha's true teachings would vanish,
and only their form would be preserved. Finally, even the form of the Dharma
would be forgotten. During the final stage, the memory of the Buddha himself
would be forgotten, and the last of his relics would be gathered together
in Bodh Gaya and cremated. Some time following this development a new Buddha
named Maitreya will arise to renew the teachings of Buddhism and rediscover
the path to Nirvana. Maitreya is believed to currently reside in the Tusita
heaven, where he is awaiting his final rebirth in the world.
The decline of Buddhism in the world, and its eventual re-establishment
by Maitreya, are in keeping with the general shape of Buddhist cosmology.
Like Hindus, Buddhists generally believe in a cycle of creation and destruction,
of which the current epoch represents only the latest step. The historical
Buddha Shakyamuni is only the latest in a series of Buddhas that stretches
back into the past.
Christians in the 1st century
AD believed the end of the world would come during their lifetime. Jesus
in Mark 13:8 compared the end of the world with a mother's birth pain, and
the image implied the world was already pregnant with its own destruction,
but no one but God knows when it will happen. When the converts of Paul
in Thessalonica were persecuted by the Roman Empire, they believed the end
was upon them. However, doubt rose when as early as the 90s Christians said,
"We have heard these things [of the end of the world] even in the days of
our fathers, and look, we have grown old and none of them has happened to
us". In the 130s Justin Martyr declared God was delaying the end of the world
because he wished for Christianity to become a world religion. In the 250s
Cyprian wrote that Christian sins of that time were a prelude and proof that
the end was near.
However, by the 3rd century most Christians believed the End was beyond
their own lifetime; Jesus, it was believed, had denounced attempts to divine
the future, to know the "times and seasons", and such attempts to predict
the future were discouraged; yet the End was given a date with the help of
Jewish traditions in the Six Ages of the World. Using this system, the End
was fixed at 202, but when the date passed, the date was changed to AD 500.
After AD 500 the importance of the End as a part of Christianity was marginalized,
though it continues to be stressed during the season of Advent.
Some current Christians place the end of the world within their lifetime
or shortly thereafter. As evidence to support these ideas, many point to
the prolific news coverage of tragedies around the world, sometimes "Biblical"
in proportion, and offer interpretations of various passages from the Bible.
Also, some Catholics believed that the third part of the Fatima message,
which was to be disclosed by the Vatican in 1960 but finally was published
under the pontificate of John Paul II, was a prophetic message from the
Blessed Mother about the end times, but it turned to be a symbolic message
closely related to the assassination attempt of the late Pope.
The issue of whether the true believers will see the end causes division
in evangelical circles.
Hindu traditional prophecies,
as described in the Puranas and several other texts, say that the world
shall fall into chaos and degradation. There will then be a rapid influx
of perversity, greed and conflict, and this state has been described as:
"When deceit falsehood, lethargy, sleepiness, violence, despondency,
grief, delusion, fear, and poverty prevail ... when men, filled with conceit,
consider themselves equal with the Brahmins...that is the Kali Yuga."
This is followed by the appearance of an avatar, "The Lord shall manifest
Himself as the Kalki Avatar...He will establish righteousness upon the
earth and the minds of the people will become as pure as crystal...As a
result, the Sat or Krta Yuga (golden age) will be established."
Mohammed Ali Ibn Zubair
Ali's Signs of Qiyamah discuss the arrival of the Enlightened One, Imam
Mahdi, followed by natural disaster, "The ground will cave in, fog or smoke
will cover the skies for forty days. That will appear all over the earth
which will cause believers to catch something similar to a slight cold, whereas
the unbelievers will be hit harder by it. Finally, a cold wind will come
and kill all believers, leaving only unbelievers on the earth who will then
witness the Last Hour. The angel Israfil will blow a trumpet, and the resurrection
of all human beings will begin. The Qu'ran will be lifted from the hearts
of the people.
The "Imam...will create a world state...He will teach you simple living
and high thinking. With such a start he will establish an empire of Allah
in this world. He will be the final demonstration and proof of Allah's merciful
wish to acquaint man with the right ways of life."
In Judaism, the end of the
world is called the acharit hayamim (end of days). Tumultuous events will
overturn the old world order, creating a new order in which God is universally
recognized as the ruler over everyone and everything. 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 Talmud, in the tractate Avodah Zarah, page 9A, states that this world
as we know it will only exist for six thousand years. 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 some 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 an average of 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 2005 equals 5765
years since creation on the present Jewish calendar. According to this calculation,
the end of days will occur in the year 2240.
According to Jewish tradition, the end of the world will see:
Ingathering of the scattered Jewish exiles to geographic Israel,
- Defeat of all of Israel's enemies,
- Building of the third Jewish Temple in Jerusalem
and the resumption of the sacrificial offerings and Temple service,
- Revival of the Dead (techiat hameitim), or the Resurrection,
- 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 Magog nation are is unknown. 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. The Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah
has many identical aspects to the Islamic belief in Qiyamah, such as the
title of, "Day of the sounding of the Shofar".
Tribal leaders of the Hopi tribe, such as Dan Evehama, Thomas Banyaca and
Martin Gashwaseoma prophecize that the coming of the white man signals the
end times, along with a strange beast "like a buffalo but with great horns
that would overrun the land" (i.e. cattle). It is prophesized that during
the end times the earth would be crossed by iron snakes and stone rivers,
(i.e. railroads), and the land would be criss-crossed by a giant spider's
web (i.e. freeways), and seas will turn black (i.e. oil spills).
It is also prophesized that a "great dwelling place" in the heavens shall
fall with a great crash. It will appear as a blue star, and the earth will
rock to and fro. White men would then battle people in other lands, with
those who possess wisdom of their presence. There would then be smoke in
the deserts, and the signs that great destruction is near.
Many would then die, but those who understand the prophecies shall live
in the places of the Hopi people and be safe. The Pahana or "True White Brother"
would then return to plant the seeds of wisdom in people's hearts, and thus
usher in the dawn of the Fifth World.
The Mayans believe that earth would be destroyed by several catastrophes
(i.e. earthquakes, volcanoes, floods etc.). Civilizations would then collapse,
and the Indian god Kulkulcan - the Mayan equivalent to the Aztec Quetzalcoatl
- a feathered serpent deity, who represents forces of good and light, would
According to The Mayan Prophecies "The end of artificial time signals
and the return to natural light, a time in harmony with the Earth and with
the natural cycles [would] hold the potential to reinstate a balanced, positive
love and unity cycle."
The current Mayan calendar cycle ends on December 21, 2012, thus this
year is predicted to be the end of the world according to several prophecies.
According to an Ogalala - or Sioux medicine man - "darkness would descend
over the tribe...the world would be out of balance. Floods, fires and earthquakes
would then ensue."
A "White Buffalo Calf Woman" will then purify the world. She will then
bring back harmony and spiritual balance.
A white buffalo was born in 1994, and another in 1995. Many tribal leaders
thus feel that the prophecy is being fulfilled.
In Norse mythology a strong winter called the Fimbulwinter will seize the
earth and bring disorder and fighting between the people of Midgard just
before Ragnarok. Ragnarok ("fate of the gods") is the battle during the end
of the world waged between the gods (the Æsir, the Vaner and the Einherjar,
led by Odin) and the forces of Chaos (the fire giants, the Jotuns and various
monsters, led by Loki). Not only will the gods, giants, and monsters perish
in this apocalyptic conflagration, but almost everything in the universe
will be torn asunder.
Zoroastrianism eschatology is the oldest eschatology in recorded history.
By 500 BC, Zoroastrians had fully developed a concept of the end of the
world through a divine devouring in fire.
According to Zoroastrian philosophy, redacted in the Zand-i Vohuman Yasht,
"at the end of thy tenth hundredth winter...the sun is more unseen and
more spotted; the year, month, and day are shorter; and the earth is more
barren; and the crop will not yield the seed; and men ... become more deceitful
and more given to vile practices. They have no gratitude."
At the end of the Battle between the righteous and wicked, a Final Judgement
of all souls will commence. Sinners will be punished 3 days, but are then
forgiven. The world will reach perfection as poverty, old age, disease,
thirst, hunger and death are halted. Zoroastrian concepts parallel greatly
with those of Jewish, Christian, and Islamic eschatological beliefs, largely
due to the influence Zoastrianism exerted on Judaism whilst the Levant was
under Achaemenid control and the subsequent emergence of Christianity and
Islam from Judaism.
In 1843, William Miller made the first of several predictions that the
world would end in only a few months. Obviously, 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.