Doomsday prophecies are as old as recorded time. For as long as humans have existed, there has been a fear of an apocalypse or ‘end of times’, when the gods wish vengeance upon their people, when humans pay for the sins of their fathers and forefathers, and when the demons of the world rise up and devour all that is good.
Prophecies of the end of times stem from the mythologies of civilizations past: the Norse story of Ragnarök, the tale of Noah and the Flood, and the Biblical apocalypse. Though these civilizations are all thousands of years in the past, the same fear that drove them to make these myths—the fear of the unknown—continues to haunt the human race today.
Supposedly, the earliest prediction of the end of the world came from the Assyrians, a powerful Mesopotamian culture that lasted for roughly two thousand years. A tablet was found dating back to sometime between 2800 and 2500 BCE that bears the first known prophecy of the end of days.
According to the translation, it claims that the earth was in its final days in those years, and that the world was slowly deteriorating into a corrupt society that would only end with its destruction. Though it is not known who wrote this inscription, and where specifically the tablet came from, it is a fervent example of how far back in human history apocalyptic prophecies world began.
In Norse mythology, Ragnarok is a series of apocalyptic events that will define the end of the world, where giants of frost and fire will together fight the gods in a final battle that will ultimately destroy the planet, submerging it under water.
According to the legend, the world will resurface, the surviving and returning gods will meet, and the world will be repopulated by two human survivors.
Numerous other prophecies have appeared throughout history pertaining explicitly to the mortal fear of the ‘Second Coming of Christ’ —the belief that a day will come when humankind would be judged for all of their sins, and Christ would battle the Anti-Christ, Satan, and a False Prophet in the biblical Armageddon. The Four Horsemen, traditionally named War, Famine, Pestilence, and Death, will ride during the Apocalypse.
Most, if not all, prophets claimed that preceding the enormous battle would be the Rapture, where the purest of humankind would be removed from the Earth before the battle between Christ and the Anti-Christ. The expectation of this event and the fear of what would happen to humankind during it called for various people from numerous religious and ethnical backgrounds to try to predict the event so those alive could prepare for what they believed was an inevitable end, and so those soon to be born could be taught to live a pious life to survive such an ending.
The belief in Armageddon and the Rapture primarily stems from the Bible and biblical translators and interpreters, however the cryptic and symbolic language used in the text creates quandaries about the appropriate date and time of the so-called Second Coming.
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