Well, today is the 21st of December 2012 and this is the day a surprisingly high number of people believe the world will end. Up to 1 in 10 of the population are worried about the possibility according to some sources. The date is the apparent end of the “long count” calendar of the ancient Mayan civilisation. Groups have gathered at Mayan ruins in Mexico awaiting the end, while others in China, Turkey, Serbia, France and the US are readying themselves by hiding in mountains or stockpiling provisions. This idea was popularised in the Roland Emmerich film 2012 that was released a few years ago. The “long count” cycle of the Mayan calendar began in 3114 BC and is believed by some to come to an end today. However, other experts claim that rather than signifying the end of the world, the calendar would just move into another cycle.
The Maya is a Mesoamerican civilization, noted for the only known fully developed written language of the pre-Columbian Americas, as well as for its art, architecture, and mathematical and astronomical systems. Initially established during the Pre-Classic period (c. 2000 BC to AD 250), according to the Mesoamerican chronology, many Maya cities reached their highest state of development during the Classic period (c. AD 250 to 900), and continued throughout the Post-Classic period until the arrival of the Spanish.
But why should anyone today take the Mayan worldview as the truth? What is the Biblical worldview?
The period before Christmas in the Christian calendar is known as Advent, from the Latin word adventus which means “coming”. It is a time for preparing and waiting as Christians remember how God became the human being Jesus, born as a baby to the Virgin Mary on the first Christmas over 2000 years ago. As an aside, it is unlikely that Jesus was actually born in December, other possible dates are more likely. However, the church at some point fixed 25 December as the day to celebrate the birth of Christ, hence Christ Mass, or Christmas.
The story of the Bible is one of Creation and Fall (the story of Adam and Eve), of Election (the call of Abraham and the chosen people of Israel) and Exile (the end of the kingdom and exile to Babylon), of New Creation in Christ (an end of exile and restoration of Israel) and the Redemption of human sin in the death and resurrection of Christ. Christmas is the time to celebrate the birth of Christ, when God became man and dwelt among us, as one of us. Easter is the celebration of his resurrection from the dead.
Advent, is also a time for Christians to look forward to the return of Christ, his second coming, or parousia. After Jesus was resurrected he remained on Earth for a period of forty days before he was taken up into heaven, known as the ascension. At that time God promised that one day Jesus would return again (see Acts 1). A traditional Advent hymn by Charles Wesley is “Lo! He comes with clouds descending.” The hymn looks forward to the day when Christ will return. There are many references to the second coming in the Bible. Perhaps the most well known, if not most understood, is in the last book of the New Testament called the book of Revelation. (Not Revelations as often incorrectly called.) Revelation contains apocalyptic writing. This word has taken on the meaning of end of the world, disastrous global events. Although the origin of the word apocalypse is a Greek word meaning uncovering or revealing – hence revelation.
In the Bible a mystery isn’t something hidden, but rather it is something once hidden but whose meaning is now revealed. God yearns to be heard by his creation. The book of Revelation was written at a time of great persecution of the church under the Roman Emperor. This necessitated a style of writing which has led to misunderstanding by some groups. The end of the book talks of a time when there will be a new heaven and a new earth (Revelation 21). This is the end of the Biblical narrative. When God will finally dwell with his Creation. Eden is restored.
So the Mayan calendar does not relate to this Biblical narrative. Christianity teaches that there will be an end of the present world one day when Jesus returns and the whole of history will be wrapped up. When this day will be is the one thing not revealed. It’s in God’s timing. The early church thought it might be in their lifetime. Many individuals and groups have claimed various dates. The 21st December 2012 is just another such date.
So, as we near the end of Advent we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ and we look to his second coming.
Maranatha! – Amen. Come Lord Jesus!
Lo! He comes with clouds descending,
Once for favoured sinners slain;
Thousand thousand saints attending,
Swell the triumph of His train:
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
God appears on earth to reign.
Every eye shall now behold Him
Robed in dreadful majesty;
Those who set at naught and sold Him,
Pierced and nailed Him to the tree,
Deeply wailing, deeply wailing, deeply wailing,
Shall the true Messiah see.
Every island, sea, and mountain,
Heav’n and earth, shall flee away;
All who hate Him must, confounded,
Hear the trump proclaim the day:
Come to judgment! Come to judgment! Come to judgment!
Come to judgment! Come away!
Now redemption, long expected,
See in solemn pomp appear;
All His saints, by man rejected,
Now shall meet Him in the air:
Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah!
See the day of God appear!
Answer Thine own bride and Spirit,
Hasten, Lord, the general doom!
The new Heav’n and earth t’inherit,
Take Thy pining exiles home:
All creation, all creation, all creation,
Travails! groans! and bids Thee come!
The dear tokens of His passion
Still His dazzling body bears;
Cause of endless exultation
To His ransomed worshippers;
With what rapture, with what rapture, with what rapture
Gaze we on those glorious scars!
Yea, Amen! let all adore Thee,
High on Thine eternal throne;
Saviour, take the power and glory,
Claim the kingdom for Thine own;
O come quickly! O come quickly! O come quickly!
Everlasting God, come down!
For further reading:
Surprised by Hope – Tom Wright