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Apocalypticism is enthusiasm about what will happen at the end of the world.

Etymology of Apocalypse

Online Etymology Dictionary
Late 14th century, "revelation, disclosure," from Church Latin, apocalypsis "revelation," from Greek apokalyptein "uncover," from apo- "from" + kalyptein "to cover, conceal" (see Calypso). The Christian end-of-the-world story is part of the revelation in John of Patmos' book "Apokalypsis" (a title rendered into English as "Apocalypse" circa 1230 and "Revelations" by Wyclif circa 1380).

Etymology of Revelation

Online Etymology Dictionary--"reveal"
Late 14th century, from Old French reveler (14c.), from Latin revelare "reveal, uncover, disclose," lit. "unveil," from re- "opposite of" + velare "to cover, veil," from velum "a veil" ... Revealed religion, as opposed to natural religion, is attested from 1719.
Online Etymology Dictionary--"revelation"
Circa 1300, "disclosure of information to man by a divine or supernatural agency," from Old French revelacion, from Latin revelationem (nominative case, revelatio), from revelatus, past participle of revelare (see reveal). General meaning "disclosure of facts" is attested from late 14th century; meaning "striking disclosure" is from 1862. As the name of the last book of the New Testament (Revelation of St. John), it is first attested circa 1400 ...; as simply Revelations, it is first recorded 1690s.

Apocalyptic terminology

- Millenarianism
- Millenialism
- Chiliasm

The Scriptures

Old Testament Apocalypticism

New Testament Apocalypticism

Mt 10:23
"When they persecute you in one town, flee to another. Amen, I say to you, you will not finish the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes."
NAB footnote: "Before the Son of Man comes:" since the coming of the Son of Man at the end of the age had not taken place when this gospel was written, much less during the mission of the Twelve during Jesus’ ministry, Matthew cannot have meant the coming to refer to the parousia. It is difficult to know what he understood it to be: perhaps the “proleptic parousia” of Mt 28:16–20, or the destruction of the temple in A.D. 70, viewed as a coming of Jesus in judgment on unbelieving Israel.

The "left behind" are the survivors

Old Testament

Isaiah 4:2-3

2 On that day,
The branch of the LORD will be beauty and glory,
and the fruit of the land will be honor and splendor
for the survivors of Israel.

3 Everyone who remains in Zion,
everyone left in Jerusalem
Will be called holy:
everyone inscribed for life in Jerusalem.

New Testament

Paul speaks twice of a "faithful remnant" preserved by grace. The word for "remnant" in Romans 9:27 literally means "the ones left behind." Those left behind are the lucky ones!

The same verb appears in a different form in Romans 11:3: "Lord, they have killed your prophets and torn down your altars; I am the only one left, and they are trying to kill me."

"We who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air" (1 Thess. 4:17; emphasis added).

ἔπειτα ἡμεῖς οἱ ζῶντες οἱ περιλειπόμενοι

λείπω is the root of ὑπόλειμμα and περιλειπόμενοι.

I believe this is the proper interpretation of the gospel parable, which says that some will be taken by the enemy and some left behind. The "Left Behind" novels and movies, based on an idiosyncratic interpretation of the Rapture get this exactly backwards!

τῶν λοιπῶν
The "left behind," the rest, the remainder.

How should we prepare for the end of the world?

In view of the Church's dogmatic Adventism, "what must we do to gain eternal life?"

  • Repent of our personal sins and believe the Good News.
This is how we "accept Jesus Christ as our personal Lord and Savior." Jesus is "the Way, the Truth, and the Life." When he reveals that He will come in glory to judge the living and the dead, He reveals that He is the Good Shepherd who personally guards and guides each member of the flock.
  • Make amends to those whom we have hurt.
  • Obey God's commandments and the precepts of the Church.
  • Cultivate the natural and supernatural virtues that make us fit to take our place in the Communion of Saints
  • Love God with our whole hearts, our whole minds, and all our strength and love our neighbor as ourselves.
  • Spend today in God's service. There is a proverbial saying to the effect that yesterday is gone, tomorrow may not come, so today is the day to live life to the full (Latin proverb: "Carpe diem," "Seize the day!").

"But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness,
and all these things will be given you besides.
Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.
Sufficient for a day is its own evil” (Mt 6:33).

"Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me" (Mt 16:24).

God is not going to grade us on how accurate a map of the future we have drawn from reading the Scriptures. No calendar specifying the sequence of future catastrophes has any saving value.

Trying to calculate the amount of time left before the Eschaton, the End of Everything, is a waste of the time God has given us. God does not expect us to follow hand-drawn maps of a future that has not yet arrived; He expects us to pick up our cross and follow Jesus here and now. If God decides that we are to see Jesus coming in Glory, He will provide what we need at that moment--just as He has provided and will provide what we need at every moment in our lives.

At the end of the Gospel of John, Jesus reveals to Peter that he will be murdered for the sake of the gospel. When Peter asks Jesus what is going to happen to the Beloved Disciple, Jesus replies, "What concern is it of yours? You follow me" (Jn 21:22).

None of us knows whether we will be alive to see the End of Everything. We do know that, in any event, we will come to the end of our lives, one way or the other. The gifts and tasks that God has given to other Christians in other ages, past, present, or future, is none of our business. At the end of our lives, we will face God's judgment of how we have lived our own lives. It is none of our business how other Christians will or will not be put to the test. God will ask us, "What did you do with what I gave you?"

What should those Catholics who believe that "the end is near" do differently from other Catholics? Nothing whatsoever. The ordinary life of a good Catholic prepares each one of us for death and judgment. Except for a few privileged mystics to whom God gave a special, personal revelation about when and how they would die, the rest of us know "neither the day nor the hour" nor the month nor the year of our death. "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us now and at the hour of our death. Amen!"

The earth can shake, the sky come down,
The mountains all fall to the ground,
But I will fear none of these things:
Shelter me, Lord, underneath your wings.[1]

Once burned, twice wary

I was baptized in the Spirit in Peter Kreeft's seminar on "Modern Man" at Boston College in January of 1971; I was present when Tommy Dilorenzo prayed over him for the Baptism in the Spirit at the Cenacle in Chestnut Hill and joined the next Life in the Spirit Seminar sponsored by that prayer group. I was a member of the pastoral team that started the Boston College Charismatic prayer group in 1971. I lived in the Cleveland Hill Christian Community in 1971-1972 and in Marian House in 1972-1973.

In the fall of 1972, I became convinced that the End Times were upon us and that the "signs in the sky" would appear on Friday, October 13th, around 8:30 PM (if I remember correctly--I might also have picked Thursday, October 12, Eastern Standard Time). I was delighted with the thought that once the End of Everything was underway, I wouldn't have to finish my term papers but could start preaching the gospel full-time. My fall-back date was November 13 or thereabouts.

I told only one person of my premonitions, in a very vague way. When he asked me what I had been predicting after my dates came and went without any worldwide signs and wonders of any sort, I mumbled and changed the subject as soon as I could.

I will now write down the three hardest words for a man to say: "I was wrong." (I have a cassette tape entitled, "Man Talk," and I periodically practice saying these words when no one is listening. They may yet come in handy again.)

The date I picked was not the end of the world. Nor was my stupendous error in judgment the end of the world. It was what folks in some Twelve Step Programs call "Another F[ree] Growth Opportunity" (AFGO), except that they don't say "Free." I pretty much got out of the game of predicting when the world will end, although I couldn't shake my superstitions about 1984 until 1985 rolled around.

I believe it was Gordy Henry, a man who suffered from Down Syndrome, who told me at Daybreak in 1979, "I am a slow learner--but I learn!" I think I've learned from my mistakes; I hope and pray it is the right lesson.

A Kierkegaardian Postscript

One of my favorite titles is Concluding Unscientific Postscript by Sören Kierkegaard, sub-titled "The Subjective Truth", and published under the pseudonym, Johannes Climacus.

In this postscript, I hazard a guess that I could never prove. It is not a Church teaching but just a personal opinion that you may take with as much salt as your doctor allows in your diet.

I think the apocalyptic mentality is fueled by the joy of knowing something that other people do not know. There is a special kind of pleasure in possessing knowledge known only to a few and hidden from the many. You can hear and feel the exultation of the preachers who say, "We know how this story ends. We've looked in the back of the book. We win!"

The certitude that Jesus is the Victor King and that all who remain faithful to Him will share in His victory is an essential ingredient in the faith. The joy of those who are saved is indeed a "blessed assurance" that can carry us through the darkest times we can imagine: earthquake, fire, flood, famine, pestilence, war, persecution, and disaster. That joy is our birthright. It is a free, unmerited gift from God that is lavished upon us when we are "born again." We should guard this joy as carefully as a sacred fire and never let it be extinguished by any evil that comes to us or to those whom we love.

At the same time, Jesus commands us not to be anxious about tomorrow. If we serve Him well in our state in life, we will enter into the joy of our Master. He will say to us, "Well done, good and faithful servants!"

I think the desire to know all of the details of the End Times is a kind of spiritual drunkenness. Having tasted the joy of Jesus' victory, we become thirsty for more than we have received at present. We want to know things that make no difference to us in our present state. We need to hear what Jesus said to Peter: "What is that to you? I want you to follow Me."

"I'll be living the life I should when I get advance notice on Monday evening that the Second Coming of Jesus is on Wednesday, and I don't need to change my Tuesday schedule."[2]

The end of the world will be glorious. It is something to look forward to with joy, because when Jesus is finished with His work of salvation, "every tear will be wiped away" and all of our sorrows will turn to joy. "All will be well, and all manner of things will be well again, I know" (Julian of Norwich). As we "wait in joyful hope" for that great day, we must not let apocalyptic enthusiasm rob us of our peace of mind and heart. This is the great apocalyptic prayer of the Church that we say at every Mass:

Deliver us, Lord, from every evil,
and grant us peace in our day.
In your mercy
keep us free from sin
and protect us from all anxiety
as we wait in joyful hope
for the coming of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Harold Camping (2011)

Mayan Calendar (2012)

What is slated to happen on or near 21 December 2012 is the completion of the current Long Count cycle of the Mayan calendar. It is not the end of the calendar, any more than 2000 was the end of the Gregorian calendar. Just as we use twenty-four hours in a day, seven days in a week, approximately 30 days in a month, twelve months in a year, ten years in a decade, ten decades in a century, and ten centuries in a millenium, so the Mayans had a series of cyclic groups in their calendar. When we reach 31 December 2012, the old year "dies" and a new year is "born." The fact that our one year's calendar ends does not foreshadow the end of the world. It's just time to buy a new calendar.

Misinterpretation of the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar is the basis for a popular belief that a cataclysm will take place on December 21, 2012. December 21, 2012 is simply the day that the calendar will go to the next b'ak'tun, at Long Count The date on which the calendar will go to the next piktun (a complete series of 20 b'ak'tuns), at Long Count, will be on October 13, 4772.
Sandra Noble, executive director of the Mesoamerican research organization Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, Inc.(FAMSI), notes that "for the ancient Maya, it was a huge celebration to make it to the end of a whole cycle". She considers the portrayal of December 2012 as a doomsday or cosmic-shift event to be "a complete fabrication and a chance for a lot of people to cash in."
  • Bizarro comic: A Mayan stone carver says, "I only had enough room to go up to 2012." His friend replies, "Ha! That'll freak somebody out someday."

End Time Prayers

The end of the world is coming for me in my lifetime. I know neither the day nor the hour. I will face judgment with perfect justice. God will ask me what I did with what He gave me. I will not be judged on how accurately I predicted the time and sequence of events associated with the Second Coming of God the Son. I will be judged on how well I loved and served Him with the life He gave me.

Apocalyptic Prologue for any prayer

"Dear Jesus, I am feeling anxious and fearful about the end of my life and the end of the world. I have been buried with you in Baptism; I hope to rise with you after my death, whether it comes today, at the end of the whole world, or at any time between now and then. In your will is my peace. I rely on Your mercy and love. Be it done unto me according to your will."

A few failed predictions

"Rapture prediction for April 23 just latest of kooky doomsday calls"

● 1997: Author Richard Noone predicted in his book, “Ice: The Ultimate Disaster,” that on May 5, 2000, the planets would align and cause melting ice to strike the Earth’s Equator.

● 2000: Y2K fears were rampant that the end of one century and start of the next would lead to computer mayhem, affecting electricity and even causing airplanes to drop from the sky.

● April 2007: Evangelical Christian leader Pat Robertson set that month and year as the end of the world. It is one of several times that Robertson warned about the end.

● September 2009: The Large Hadron Collider fired up, leading to the speculation that the world’s biggest atom smasher could create a black hole that would swallow Earth.

● October 2015: Chris McMann, the leader of the eBible Fellowship group in Philadelphia, warned that a fire would end the world. When it failed to happen, McMann expressed shock.


  1. "Shelter Me" by Julie and Buddy Miller. Sung by Buddy Miller.
  2. John Diller, The Station of the Cross on Facebook, 5 March 2011.