“The apocalypse is not something which is coming. The apocalypse has arrived in major portions of the planet and it’s only because we live within a bubble of incredible privilege and social insulation that we still have the luxury of anticipating the apocalypse.” – Terence McKenna
Some say that we will have to suffer through a catastrophe before waking to a new way of being. “The sustainability revolution will occur,” promises Richard Heinberg in The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality. “The depletion of nonrenewable resources ensures that humankind will eventually base its economy on renewable resources harvested at rates of natural replenishment. But that revolution will be driven by crisis.”
And crisis has indeed been long prophesied by the religious traditions that have guided the culture we know as reality.
In the Christian tradition, the story goes that the apocalypse, the end of the world, will be preceded by the second coming of Christ, who will come like a thief in the night. No one will know the day or time, but many have tried to guess. According to the popular interpretation, first pieced together by Charles Spurgeon in the 1800s from John’s Revelation and segments from other books of the Bible, Jesus will come down on a cloud and scoop up those who believe in him, an event which will begin the thousand year war of Armageddon. It will basically be as a world without God, where the very face of God will be taken from the world. There will be wars, famines, natural catastrophes, boils, diseases, and plagues. Kind of like it’s been for the last thousand years.
The story goes that the War of Armageddon will culminate in the final battle where Christ will defeat the devil and all of his minions once and for all, and throw them into the lake of fire. Then, he will destroy this Earth, create a new Earth and a new accompanying heaven, and hopefully, the next time, he’ll figure out how to do it without having to eternally punish everybody .
This version of the apocalypse story has had people looking toward the end times since its inception. Aligning with the growth of the Industrial Revolution and the systematic degradation of the planet ever since, it would seem that Western civilization has set a course determined to bring about this prophecy. However, there are other, lesser known interpretations of the largely perplexing book of scripture that might offer a more hopeful picture of the future that awaits us.
There are a variety of ways that have been considered when interpreting the Christian apocalypse. Futurism, the seemingly most widely accepted interpretation, has us still awaiting the end times, as Spurgeon, Hal Lindsey, and many in the Fundamentalist Evangelical movement have predicted. Preterism states that John’s vision is a literal account of what already happened in the first century AD. Historicism also suggests that Revelation is symbolic of events that have already taken place. And Idealism presents the possibility that the book of Revelation is currently being fulfilled with the book offering a symbolic narrative of spiritual events.
Among these four ways of viewing the eschatology of Christianity, there are also various ways of looking at how it will or has played out. The views of Premillennialism, Postmillennialism, and Amillennialism offer three different possibilities as to when the Second Coming of Christ would occur in relation to the thousand years which follow the war of Armageddon.
Fortunately, we, as creatures granted free will by our Creator, have the opportunity to believe whichever interpretation we wish to, or to not believe in it at all. I tend to think that if there is any validity to the story, it is only through metaphor. The Second Coming of Christ is not the literal return of a man riding on a cloud, but as a shift in consciousness toward a more Christlike way of interacting with the world. This growing awareness is often simply called the “Christ consciousness,” and the literal interpretation of “apocalypse” as the “lifting of the veil” refers to seeing beyond the illusion of self and realizing that God has been within you this entire time. And beyond all of the commentary, the gift of eternal life is the realization that it is all good and that every breath is a gift.
“Apocalypse does not point to a fiery Armageddon,” wrote Joseph Campbell in Thou Art That: Transforming Religious Metaphor, “but to the fact that our ignorance and our complacency are coming to an end. The exclusivism of there being only one way in which we can be saved, the idea that there is a single religious group that is in sole possession of the truth – that is the world as we know it that must pass away. What is the kingdom? It lies in our realization of the ubiquity of the divine presence in our neighbors, in our enemies, in all of us.”
Although many will find this very difficult to accept, especially the Fundamentalist Evangelicals who have been taught to despise this planet and anxiously await moving onto the next one, Jesus himself was quoted as saying that his followers would do greater works than he, imploring them to be perfect as his Father in Heaven was perfect. Since the teachings of Christ have been echoed throughout most every religion practiced by mankind, is it too far-fetched to think that we might actually be able to practice the lessons we have learned in order to be the conduits through which a new heaven and new earth is created? Can we not build upon the understandings we have achieved by honoring the Divine Intelligence which consistently provides us with the supreme gift of life while sharing this gratitude for living with our fellow man? Is that not the culmination of the Ten Jewish Commandments which Jesus boiled down so eloquently? “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind,” reads the book of Matthew. “This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.”
Imagine if we as a people could simply shift our thinking from the need to promote our own beliefs, campaigns, interpretations, and understanding to humbly offering gratitude to the God of our personal limited understanding and expanding that admiration, adoration, and desire for service to all of the other people that He/She has so wonderfully placed in the life we inhabit. Is it so impossible to imagine a time that we throw off the shackles of imprisonment that we have created for ourselves by so vehemently adhering to man-made systems, and simply allow our faith in divinity to sustain us? Compared to the present system of giving our power to synthetic governments and corporate structures, which largely serve as parasitic organisms feeding off of the value we give them, is it not feasible that we could recognize that the inalienable rights granted to us by our Creator of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness have much more power than we have imagined?
There has been much speculation on whether or not the forefathers of this country based the foundation of America on Christian principles, yet nowhere in the Constitution nor Declaration of Independence does it mention anything more religiously oriented than honor to a “Creator.” Considering that one of the basic guidelines for this new world was the right of religious freedom, it should be considered common sense that there is no one singular way of associating with the spiritual realm of our being. Yet suffice it to say, our forefathers unquestionably allowed for the possibility that a grander Intelligence than their own was at work in setting forth this foundation, as is evidenced in their developing a Constitution which allowed for constant amendment.
As this Revolution of Wisdom continues to grow, just as the preceding Revolutions of Agriculture, Industry, and Information before it, there are sure to be many questions of how we will implement the changes that need to be made. However, the primary first step is an acknowledgement that there is a system of order in place that surpasses our understanding. From this system, we have developed cultures, governments, religion, and science. If we can first simply be grateful for how far we have come since living as nomadic cave-dwellers, and realize the potential we have for further evolution, we can harness this power of wisdom to develop new systems which will align us more closely with the benevolence of our Creator as we share that benevolence with our fellow creations.
Basically, if beyond the field of our religious mythology and understanding, we can come to an acceptance of a Divine Intelligence powered by Love, one that metaphorically went back to work on the 8th day and continues to work on this masterpiece called Life, we can realize ourselves as the tools of His/Her/Its creativity, becoming co-creators in the world we imagine. Throughout many traditions of the highest consciousness, the understanding of this Divine Intelligence is “I Am That I Am”. If we are made in the image of this benevolent Creator, are we each not “I Am That I Am” as well? The question which each citizen of the world must answer is, “Which I Am am I?”
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