Post-apocalypse analysis

Sunday morning and the world has not ended. My hangover has gone which is a good post apocalypse result. There are no hoof prints in the garden, no open graves and there was no thundering in the night. The only trumpet to be heard is my daughter’s rather perfunctory practising, which for quite different reasons creates within me a sense of foreboding.

Most of this end of the world imagery has stemmed from the Book of Revelations, a book contentiously added to the New Testament early in the 2nd Century. There were quite a few early Christians who rejected it and did not think it should be included in the Christian canon at all.

Revelations, is thought to be the writings of John of Patmos, an unknown early Christian (perhaps suffering persecution for his beliefs), although it was credited to St John the Apostle (this was often done to give a piece of work more credibility with early Christian Bible readers). It was probably written at the time of the Emperor Domitian (51-96 AD) who may have been responsible for severe persecution of Christians.

Revelation means the revealing of the power of God. It comes from the Latin revelare, to reveal. The Book of Revelations describes how the forces of the Christian God would rise up and conquer the evils of the world and only the chosen would survive (reassuring thoughts for the early Christians contemplating martyrdom).

Revelations has given us many important Christian icons and symbols. It certainly gave church artists material for their most terrifying works: the four riders of the Apocalypse, the seven seals, the number of the beast, Armageddon, the seven trumpets and also The Last Judgement.

The Apocalypse and Armageddon are often used as the Christian descriptions for the End of Days. But the end of the world, fitting with our pessimistic nature has quite a few names Judgement Day, doomsday or currently in vogue, The Rapture.

However, apocalypse originally meant the same as revelation: apocalypse coming from the Greek for uncover or disclose in much the same way as revelation had come from the Latin for revealing.

Doomsday is the Old English equivalent of Judgement Day. In Old English dom originally meant law, judgement or condemnation and thus a book of laws was a dombec. But as doomsday (dom daeg) meaning Judgement Day was used the meaning of doom shifted to mean the end of the world.

Armageddon comes from the Hebrew words har meggido, meaning mountain of Megiddo. It is mentioned in Revelation but only as a gathering of kings in preparation for battle. Armageddon as the battle of the end of times is not part of the bible but a tradition within most of the western religions.

But Revelations is not the only source of the apocalypse vision. Many of the visions of Revelations were inspired by the prophets of the Old Testament including Ezekial. The Gospel of St Matthew describes Christ’s version of the beginning of sorrows. The important thing for believers is that Christ said at Matt 24:36:

But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.

It is rather arrogant, then, for any Christian to claim that he has more advanced knowledge of the end of the world apocalypse than even the Son of God. When it comes we are unlikely to get a warning other than some rather better trumpeting than I am hearing.