What Does the World Believe About the End of the World?

christianity comparative religion eschatology hinduism islam neo-paganism wicca

We make movies, write books, sing songs, and have conversations about how we believe the world will end. Ever since the beginning of time predictions have been made as to a day and time in which the world will come to an end. Most of the various faith groups found around the world have some belief regarding how the world will end and what will hasten its arrival. So, why should I care about the end of the world or what anyone believes about it?


The word “eschatology” comes from the Greek word eschatos, meanings “last.” What do these religions believe about the last days? What do they believe to be the ultimate resolution of the Earth? Will there be resolution? What does morality have to do with it all? As a Christian, are my beliefs about the end important?

Wicca & Neo-Paganism

The Wiccan religion is nature-orientated and focuses on the sacredness of the Earth. Wiccan conversations around eschatology bring up thoughts surrounding severe weather problems, environmental degradation, and natural disasters as warnings of the future destruction of life on Earth. Examples of this include hurricanes hitting the Southeast, extreme winter weather in the Northeast, tornadoes, and flooding in the Midwest, as well as mudslides and wildfires in the West. Environmental concerns are naturally high for a religion that views the Earth as its god. Wiccans believe continued human mistreatment of the Earth will result in the Earth retaliating with disaster. This view of eschatology drives one to care about issues such as reversing climate change and protecting the Earth. If the Earth is destroyed, is there any hope for resolution? Why believe in something that is not assured to exist tomorrow?

Hinduism

Hinduism does not teach of a final day when the world will come to end. Hinduism teaches that time is not linear but circular. There are multiple cycles of time that can be thousands of years long, all of which end in Doomsday. Each of these cycles has four ages. At the end of the fourth age is when a Doomsday will occur, and a new cycle will begin. Many believe Vishnu to be reincarnated as Kalki. It is said that Kalki will come riding in on a white horse with a sword during the end times. Inequities, injustice, and misfortunes are expected to be present in the fourth age of each world cycle. Many Hindus believe we are currently in the fourth stage of the cycle. While Hinduism does not teach of a complete end of the world, many Hindus do speak of a Doomsday that will be the end of one cycle and the start of a new cycle. There is no judgment day to bring justice to the injustice. Is resolution achieved in this view?

Buddhism

Similar to other South Asian religions, Buddhism teaches the universe goes through various cycles of being. Buddhist scripture talks about a cycle of birth and death of the universe for which no starting point can be discerned. Early accounts predicted that Buddhism would endure for 500 years after the Buddha’s death. When this did not prove to be true, new predictions were made about the number of years after the Buddha’s death. When one Earth cycle ends, a new Buddha will come to exist and instruct the new Earth. The word Buddha means, “awakened one.” Similar to Hinduism, the end of a cycle is marked by a lack of morality. During the end of a cycle, the knowledge of dharma, universal truths taught by the buddha of the cycle, will cease to exist. Like Hinduism, there is no final end of the world, but cycles of humanity that begin and end. The same question presents itself, is resolution achieved?


Christianity

Christians await the second coming of Jesus to completely fulfill the Kingdom of God where a Christian’s hope becomes more than something that is merely in front of them but rather something they get to experience. While most Christians believe no one on earth can know when Jesus will return, there is a sign known as a millennium which is revealed in Revelation 20. There are three major views on how the millennium takes place: Premillennialism, Postmillennialism, and Amillennialism. The millennium is a 1000-year reign of Christ. The Premillennialist view believes Christ comes physically and bodily to earth and reigns on the earth for 1000 years. The Postmillennialist believes God will come reign on Earth after the 1000 years have passed. The one thousand years are more symbolic to the Postmillennialist. Amillennialists believe the millennium has already begun and Christ is currently reigning in heaven. Regardless of one’s view on the millennium, most Christians believe in the second coming of Jesus and the last judgment where deeds are weighed up; however deeds do not decide one’s final fate, faith in Christ alone is what determines one’s fate. Ultimately, the end of the world, according to the Christian view, is when Jesus Christ is our concluding reality where justice is perfect and suffering and evil cease to exist.

Islam

Islam, like many other religions, teaches moral decay as a sign of the end times. The Anti-Christ will come during the end times with an Arabic word for disbelief written on his forehead and being blinded in the right eye. Muslims believe in the second coming of Jesus who they believe to be a prophet. Jesus will arrive in a place near Tel Aviv and conquer the Anti-Christ. Some sources suggest that by merely being in the presence of Jesus, the Anti-Christ will melt away. Following this, a period of peace will be instilled by Jesus. After this period of peace, an angel called Israfil will blow a trumpet to signal the Day of Judgement and all creatures in heaven and earth will become unconscious. After 40 years, the trumpet will be blown again by Israfil and everyone will wake up. Each person will individually be called to judgment by God. A person’s deeds are placed on a scale for weighing. Good deeds are put in one pan and evil deeds are put in another. If the good deeds outweigh the evil, the individual is sent to paradise. If the evil outweighs the good, they are sent to hell. However, scripture suggests hell is more of a purgatory. There is a chance for intercession from God, the prophets, and others who passed the bridge safely. The Quran uses graphic language to describe what both heaven and hell will be like. In the end, judgment is up to God alone to determine one’s fate on the day of judgment.


Moral Decay and the End of Days

Even after a brief survey of basic eschatological beliefs, one can hardly miss the recurring theme of moral decay hastening end times in most religions. Oxford Languages defines morality as, “principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior.” Moral decay is an abandonment of the existing beliefs of what is right and wrong or good and bad.

This idea is evidenced in modernity. Many have argued the fall of multiple empires is marked by a time of moral decay. The Babylonian Empire, Roman Empire, Inca Civilization, etc. are all examples.

Naturally, when a society deviates from a standardized view of right and wrong to relative views of right and wrong, chaos is rampant. How are we to live and work together when your idea of right and wrong and just and unjust are different than mine? It’s certainly not an easy task. Maybe the unwillingness to abide by one standard of morality is a driving force in the decline of a civilization.

So, why do many religions believe moral decay to be a sign of incoming doomsday? Personal experience and history show us the importance of objective morality in answering this question. Empires and the world prove to be unstable when it is up to individuals to decide what is good and what is evil. What benefits the majority or what benefits an individual cannot be the way we define morality.


As Christians, scripture tells us that rather than abiding in the wisdom of God, we as humans will place our own thoughts as the moral authority during the end of times. 2 Timothy 3:1-5 says, “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. 2 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, 4 treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.”

While I do not think we as Christians need to obsess over seeking out the signs of the end of the world, I do think we are called to know the signs and be aware. Matthew 24:44 says, “So you also must be ready because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.” For Christians, we look forward to the apocalypse as a time when God sets out to reveal things as they are in both Christian communities and the entire world, bringing justice to the injustice and ending suffering once and for all for those who have confessed faith in Him. Revelation is not just about recreating the world as the city of God but exposing the power behind structures as diabolical and oppressive.

At some point in life, we all must wrestle with the question, “Are pain, injustice, violence, and suffering our ultimate realities?” Surely, there is hope for a future beyond the afflictions of this life. Who or what are we putting our hope in? What does the end look like for you? Does your belief system give a resolution to the evil and injustice we all face on this Earth?

For Christians, it is important to know what we believe about the last days because the connection between the return of Christ and the viability of Christian belief is strong. The Christian faith celebrates resurrection, not resignation. We live in a broken world that is promised by God to be revitalized, not left to accept evil and suffering as an ultimate reality. As Jesus endured the suffering of the cross, He knew the promise of His Father. He knew His resurrection was promised. He knew the resolution was coming. Let us cling to the hope of the promise of the return of Jesus as we live in the tension of the kingdom of God here but not yet on this Earth.

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