Multiple sources, both books and web sites, have stirred people’s fear that the world (or life as we know it) will end on December 21, 2012. This date is cited as the end of the Mayan calendar and is said to align with a number of potential causes, such as the solar maximum, Venus’s transit of the Sun, Planet X’s approach, and a possible asteroid or comet impact. (See http://www.raidersnewsnetwork.com and http://www.2012warning.com/planet-X.htm, for example.)
The Mayan “end” date is also said to align with Incan and Egyptian calendars, as well as with the prophecies of Nostradamus, Edgar Cayce, and I Ching.
Perhaps few people realize that doomsayers for over a hundred years have been alleging that the Mayan, Incan, and Egyptian calendars predict a specific, imminent date for the end of the world. In my lifetime, over half dozen such dates have come and gone without incident. A closer look explains why: these calendars and prophecies are so esoteric, so vague, that one can pull almost any doomsday date from them.
Sooner or later, however, the wolf will be at the door. Major natural disasters have occurred in the past, and they are bound to happen in the future. World Wars have occurred in the past, and with weapons of mass destruction in the hands of tyrants and terrorists, Armageddon is hardly in doubt. So if doomsayers keep on predicting dates for the world’s end, they will be right eventually.
From an astronomical perspective, however, no one should be particularly concerned about December 21, 2012. Venetian gravity is much too weak to significantly impact Earth’s stability during a transit event. One such transit occurred in 2004 without any measureable effect on Earth. (It should also be noted that the date for the next transit is June 5-6, not December 21.)
In 1983 two astronomers encountered an infrared source they were unable to identify, initially. Some reporters speculated that the unidentified source might be a tenth planet (at the time Pluto was still considered a planet). A frightening rumor developed that Planet X had traveled from 50 billion miles away to less than 7 billion miles away in less than two decades. However, thanks to extensive research on the Kuiper Belt* during the 1990s and early 2000s, astronomers have determined with considerable confidence that Planet X does not exist.
While it’s true that the Sun will be at sunspot and flaring maximum in 2012, such a solar event occurs every eleven years. The worst case scenario for a solar maximum is that a few giant solar flares could temporarily disrupt satellite and radio communications. Some GPS satellites could possibly be knocked out, but certainly life on Earth would not be threatened. So far, sunspot monitoring indicates that the 2012 solar maximum will likely be moderate to minimal.
As for the coming Armageddon, a consistent (and literal) biblical interpretation embraced by some (though not all) Christians indicates that certain events must occur first. A sampling of such events includes these:
• a dictator takes control of a confederation that includes all the world’s nations1
• the nation of Israel agrees to disarm, 2
• all adherents of Judaism reside in Israel, 3
• Israel achieves economic prosperity, 4
• Israel gains some degree of political control over the lands known in the ancient world as Edom, Moab, and Ammon, 5 and
• the “Great Commission” reaches completion, as Christ’s followers raise up disciples in every ethnicity, kith, or people group throughout the world. 6
Whatever a person believes about “end times,” we all would do well to heed the words of Jesus: “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.”7
In other words, energy focused in “divining” the date of the world’s end is wasted energy. God calls each person to live each day fully engaged in fulfilling His stated purposes for humanity so that whenever He comes for us, individually or collectively, we’ll hear Him say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”8
* The Kuiper Belt is a huge cloud of asteroids and comets that lies beyond the orbit of Neptune. Since 1985 more than a thousand Kuiper Belt objects have been discovered. Though a few rival Pluto in size, none are larger than the Moon. Accurate measures of the orbits of Neptune and the larger Kuiper Belt objects definitively rule out the possible existence of a planet the size of Mars or larger within the vicinity of the solar system.
1 Daniel 7:7-8, 23-25; 2 Thessalonians 2:3-12.
2 Ezekiel 38:3-11.
3 Ezekiel 34:6-16, 36:8-12, 24, 37:20-21, 38:8, 39:25-28.
4 Ezekiel 36:8-12, 33-36, 38:12-13.
5 Isaiah 11:14; Ezekiel 38:3-8, Daniel 11:36-45; Amos 9:11-12; Obadiah 19-21; Zephaniah 2:8-11; Zechariah 10:10.
6 Matthew 28:8-20.
7 Matthew 24:42-44.
8 Matthew 25:21 and 23.