Eschatology (from the Greeks 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 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 one.
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.
Buddhist eschatology derives from Buddha's prediction 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, similar to Hindu eschatological predictions.
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.
The belief in the decline and disappearance of Buddhism in the world has exerted significant influence in the development of Buddhism since the time of the Buddha. In Vajrayana Buddhism and various other forms of esoteric Buddhism, the use of tantra is justified by the degenerate state of the present world. The East Asian belief in the decline of the Dharma (called mappo in Japanese) was instrumental in the emergence of Pure Land Buddhism. Within the Theravada tradition, debate over whether Nirvana was still attainable in the present age helped prompt the creation of the Dhammayutt Order in Thailand.
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.
Contemporary Hindu eschatology is linked in the Vaishnavite tradition to the figure of Kalki, or the tenth and last avatar of Vishnu before the age draws to a close, and Shiva simultaneously dissolves and regenerates the universe.
Most Hindus acknowledge as part of their cosmology that we are living in the Kali Yuga literally "age of darkness", the last of four periods (Yuga) that make up the current age. Each period has seen a successive degeneration in the moral order and character of human beings, to the point that in the Kali Yuga, the very laws of Karma are reversed, evil is ascendant in high places, and good people suffer in misery. Often, the invocation of Kaliyuga denotes a certain helplessness in the face of the horrors and suffering of the human condition and a nostalgia for a golden past or a future salvation.
Kali Yuga is the last of 4 Yugas. Upon its conclusion, the world will "reboot" into a new Satya Yuga (Golden Age.) This involves the end of the world as we know it and the return of the Earth to a state of paradise.
However, Hindu conceptions of time, like those found in other non-Western traditions, is cyclical in that one age may end but another will always begin. As such, the cycle of birth, growth, decay, death, and renewal at the individual level finds its echo in the cosmic order of all things, yet affected by the vagaries of the comings and goings of divine interventions in the Vaishnavite belief.
Metrics of time in Hinduism
Islamic eschatology is concerned with the Qiyamah (end of the world; Last Judgement) and the final judgement of humanity. Eschatology is one of the three main principles of Islam, alongside tawhid (the unity of Allah) and nubuuwa (prophecy). Like the other Abrahamic religions, Islam teaches the bodily resurrection of the dead, the fulfillment of a divine plan for creation, and the immortality of the human soul; the righteous are rewarded with the pleasures of Jannah (Heaven), while the unrighteous are punished in Jahannam (Hell). A significant fraction of the Quran deals with these beliefs, with many hadith elaborating on the themes and details.
According to the Islamic view Jesus (Isa, in Arabic) is not the Son of God, but was a prophet and will return to Earth. It is believed that Jesus never died and he was not crucified; instead he was raised into heaven still physically alive, where he lives now. At the time appointed by Allah, Jesus will physically return to this world, and together with the Mahdi will end all wars, and usher in an era of peace. The messianic era comes after Jesus kills ad-Dajjal, the antichrist figure in Islam, and defeats his followers.
Minority views held by the Ahmadiyya movement, which mainstream Islam regards as heretics, state that while Jesus was crucified, he did not die on the cross. Instead, he was removed from the cross while still alive after which he died a natural death in Kashmir. Their belief is that the references to the Second Coming of Jesus in Islamic eschatological literature are allegorical. This prophecy according to them was fulfilled by the coming of Mirza Ghulam Ahmad.
Islamic descriptions of Jannah (Heaven) are couched in the language of physical pleasure, sometimes interpreted literally, sometimes allegorically. Heaven is most often described as a cool, well-shaded, and well-watered garden. The rewards of the righteous are also described in explicitly physical terms; they include unlimited food and drink. Some interpretations also promise enormous palaces staffed with multitudes of servants, and perfect, perpetually-virgin spouses. Muslims stress the belief that it is only the five pillars of faith that bring one to Heaven. Muslims believe that Allah knows best who will enter Heaven and that some people of the other Abrahamic faiths (regarded as "People of the book") will also get into heaven.
The Muslims who will not inherit heaven will be punished with a temporary stay in Jahannam (Hell), and will go to heaven later as long as there is "one atom of faith in their hearts," as stated by the Islamic prophet Muhammad. Some, but not all, Muslims also believe that people who do not accept Muhammad after hearing his message, will receive eternal damnation in Jahannam; just as those who did not believe in Jesus and Moses at their respective periods after hearing of their messages will also receive eternal damnation in hell.
The descriptions in the Qur'an of punishment for unbelief (Jahannam) are, like the descriptions of Jannah, very descriptive. Skin is burned off the person's body and then they are given new skin so it can be burned off again.
One interesting point is that the Quran actually states that the skin will be replaced, due to the fact that, in the skin, are the receptors for feeling. Once the skin is burnt down the receptors are destroyed thus no pain will be felt on the burnt place. This is the reason why the burnt skin will be replaced with a new skin so the pain can be felt again.
Boiling water is poured down people's throats and it rips their bowels apart. Temperature extremes are applied to the body as punishment. However, when considering punishments such as those described above, one must also consider that in Islam the afterlife is considered to involve only the spirit, or "roh". Thus, when terms describing physical distress or physical pleasure are used to indicate what heaven or hell are like in the Qur'an, they are actually terms which refer to spiritual state. A description of heaven being an oasis of comfort or hell being one of violent misery is an analogy comparing the pains of the physical world to the pains of the spirit in the afterlife. From a literary perspective, this interpretation makes sense because the audience--humanity--only really understands the physical environment that surrounds it.
The Mahdi also transliterated as Mehdi,Mihdi or Guided One), in Islamic eschatology, is the prophesied redeemer of Islam, who will change the world into a perfect society before Yaum al-Qiyamah (literally "Day of the Resurrection").
Munkar and Nakeer in Islamic eschatology, are two black, blue-eyed malaikah (angels) who test the faith of the dead in their graves. After death, a person's soul passes through a stage called barzakh, where it is stored near their grave.
Jannah is the Islamic name for paradise. According to Islamic eschatology, after death, one will reside in the grave until the appointed resurrection on Yaum al-Qiyamah. Muslims believe that the treatment of the individual in the life of the grave will be according to his or her deeds in the worldly life. Jannah is often compared to Christian concepts of Heaven.Muslims believe that it is only God's will that determines who may enter Jannah and who may not.In contrast to Jannah, the words Jahannam and Nar are used to refer to the concept of hell.
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.
2. Defeat of all of Israel's enemies,
3. Building of the third Jewish Temple in Jerusalem and the resumption of the sacrificial offerings and Temple service,
4. Revival of the Dead (techiat hameitim), or the Resurrection,
5. 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".
Messiah - In English today, it is used in two major contexts: the anticipated saviour of the Jews, and one who is anticipated as, regarded as, or professes to be a saviour or liberator.
Tribal leaders of the Hopi, such as Dan Evehama, Thomas Banyaca and Martin Gashwaseoma prophesied 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 prophesied 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 prophesied 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.
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.
The Mayan 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 then appear. 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.
Ancient Aztec eschatology is primarily derived from Toltec eschatological beliefs and traditions, centered on the belief that four worlds, or "Suns", along with humankind, were destroyed in a catastrophe prior to the creation of the present universe. The present world is the fifth sun, and the Aztec saw themselves as "the People of the Sun," whose divine duty is to wage cosmic war in order to provide the sun with his tlaxcaltiliztli ("nourishment"). Without it, the sun would disappear from the heavens. Thus the welfare and the very survival of the universe depends upon the offerings of blood and hearts to the sun, a notion that the Aztec extended to all the deities of their pantheon.
Destruction of the four suns
The first sun was called Nahui-Ocelotl, "Four-Jaguar," a date of the ritual calendar. Humankind was first destroyed by jaguars, considered by the Aztec as the nahualli ("animal disguise") of the creator god Tezcatlipoca.
At the end of the second sun, Nahui-Ehecatl, "Four-Wind," a magical hurricane transformed all people into monkeys. That disaster was caused by Quetzalcoatl (the Feathered Serpent) in the form of Ehecatl, the wind god.
A rain of fire had put an end to the third sun, Nahuiquiahuitl, "Four-Rain." Tlaloc as the god of thunder and lightning presided over that period.
The fourth sun, Nahui-Atl, "Four-Water," ended in a gigantic flood that lasted for 52 years. Only one man and one woman survived, sheltered in a huge cypress, but they were changed into dogs by Tezcatlipoca, whose orders they had disobeyed.
Quetzalcoatl created present humanity with the help of Feathered Serpent and his twin Xolotl, the dog-headed god, who succeeded in reviving the dried bones of the dead by sprinkling them with his own blood. The present sun is Nahui-Ollin, "Four-Earthquake," and is doomed to disappear in a tremendous earthquake. The skeleton-like monsters of the west, the tzitzimime, will then appear and kill all people.
These beliefs reveal that the universe is unstable, that death and destruction continually threaten it, and that the end can occur on each of the cycles of 52 years that were celebrated in most of mesoamerica. The other emphasized the necessity of the sacrifice to the gods.
Thanks to Quetzalcoatl's self-sacrifice, the ancient bones of Mictlan, "the Place of Death," gave birth to men. In the same way, the sun and moon were created: the gods, assembled in the darkness at Teotihuacan, built a huge fire; two of them, Nanahuatzin, a small deity covered with ulcers, and Tecciztecatl, a richly bejeweled god, threw themselves into the flames, from which the former emerged as the sun and the latter as the moon. Then the sun refused to move unless the other gods gave him their blood; they were compelled to sacrifice themselves to feed the sun.
Over these beliefs they incorporated their local god Huitzilopochtli. They replaced Nanahuatzin, the sun god of the legend, with their own god, a fighting god, with a daily battle to keep the shadows and destruction away.
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 Aesir, 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.
Ragnarok is the battle at the end of the world.
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."
"Honorable wealth will all proceed to those of perverted faith...and a dark cloud makes the whole sky night..and it will rain more noxious creatures than winter."
Saoshyant, the Man of Peace, battles the forces of evil. A resurrection will then occur, and the righteous will live in peace for eternity while evil will be condemned to an eternal existence within molten metal. The righteous will, "wade through the metal as if warm milk," while the evil are scolded.
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 as most derive from each other or Zoroastrianism.
Apocalypse technically refers to the unveiling of God, in his guise as the Messiah, and not to all of the destruction of the world which will accompany God's Revelation of Himself to Humankind. An Apocalypse in the terminology of early Jewish and Christian literature, is a revelation of hidden things given by God to a chosen prophet; this term is more often used to describe the written account of such a revelation. Apocalyptic literature is of considerable importance in the history of the Judeo-Christian-Islamic-Rastafarian tradition, as beliefs such as the resurrection of the dead, judgment day, heaven and hell are all made explicit in it. Apocalyptic beliefs predate Christianity, appear in other religions, and have merged into contemporary secular society, especially through popular culture. Apocalypse-like beliefs also occur in other religious systems; an example is the Hindu concept of pralay.
Apocalypticism is a worldview based on the idea that important matters are hidden from view and they will soon be revealed in a major confrontation of earth-shaking magnitude that will change the course of history. It can appear as a tendency, outlook, perceptual frame, or rhetorical style; and can lead people toward passivity while awaiting the inevitable end, or active preparation in anticipation of a momentous event. Apocalypticism can be tied to religious or secular views, and the expected outcome can be seen as positive, negative, or ambiguous.
Armageddon refers, generally, to end times or Earth ending catastrophes in various religions and cultures. "Armageddon" also refers to any great loss of life in battle, etc. or massive use of nuclear weapons. The word armageddon is derived from Mount (Har in Hebrew) Megiddo, the site of the Battle of Megiddo and other battles. The only mention of the word "Armageddon" in the Bible was in Revelation 16:16.
End Times are, in one version of Judeo-Christian eschatology and in Islam, a time of tribulation that will precede the Second Coming of the Messiah. Specifically, what is usually referred to as the 'end times' revolves around a cluster of beliefs in Christian or Rastafarian millennialism. These beliefs typically include the ideas that the biblical apocalypse is imminent and that various signs in current events are omens of Armageddon. These beliefs have been widely held in one form, by the Adventist movement (Millerites), by Jehovah's Witnesses, and in another form by dispensational premillennialists.
Millennialism (or chiliasm), from millennium, which literally means "thousand years", is primarily a belief expressed in some Christian denominations, and literature, that there will be a Golden Age or Paradise on Earth where "Christ will reign" prior to the final judgment and future eternal state, primarily derived from the book of Revelation 20:1-6.
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