Category Archives: Ancient Civilizations

Beyond 2012: Not the End… Yet

2012 is the most anticipated apocalyptic year of modern times, so it seems fitting that many of this year’s articles should focus on apocalyptic predictions from the bible. There has been so much attention paid to predictions that the world will either end or enter into a new age on the winter solstice of December 21, 2012, based mainly on the prophesies in the Book of Chilam Balam of Chumayel and the timing of the ancient Mayan Long Count Calendar. The prophecies in the Book of Chilam Balam of Chumayel deal mainly (and accurately) with the arrival of a new religion (Christianity) in the mid 16th century by Spanish missionaries, who were thought to be the return of the Mayan feathered serpent god Quetzalcoatl.

Mayan Long Count Calendar

The Long Count system is a count of days of a Great Cycle that starts on, which was first deciphered by an American journalist, Joseph T. Goodman in 1897. Later archeological study determined that the date was the creation date for the Maya. This creation date led the German scholar Ernst Forstemann, during the turn of the century, to interpret the end of this Great Cycle as the destruction of the world. Then, in 1966 and through the mixing of Aztec mythology, American archaeologist Michael Coe, in his book The Maya, distorted this “world destruction” by linking it to Armageddon, as described in the biblical account in the Book of Revelation.

With the assumption that the Long Count date is the date of creation for the Maya, scholars determined that the equivalent Gregorian calendar date was August 11, 3114 B.C. Given the Great Cycle spans 5,125 years, this creation date led to the next Long Count date to occur on December 21, 2012 (“Apocalypse 2012“) in our current Gregorian calendar.

The Apocalypse 2012 pop culture phenomenon really began with the publication of The Mayan Factor by Jose Arguelles in 1987, part of a New Age movement at the time. This phenomenon has been gathering momentum ever since, capturing attention in the media, scientific community and even Christian communities!

  1. The broadcasting of TV documentaries, including 2012 Apocalypse on Discovery Channel and Mayan Doomsday Prophecy on History Channel
  2. The release of apocalyptic films, such as 2012 and The Day After Tomorrow
  3. A myriad of websites dedicated to Apocalypse 2012
  4. Scientific publications indicating significant changes on Earth during this year
  5. Evangelical Christian extremists promoting Armageddon to usher in the Rapture and the Messiah’s return

It is interesting to note that some authors who have published articles and books on Apocalypse 2012 had also previously published on apocalyptic dates that have since passed (such as Y2K)!

The Great Pyramid of Giza

It is also worth noting that even the designs within and structure of The Great Pyramid, many of which have accurately aligned to significant (Judeo-Christian) events in history according to prominent researchers in the field, show no signs of December 21, 2012 being even a notable date of a future event. (This topic is one for later review.)

Society has an inherit interest in the end of the world. Whether we acknowledge it or not, there is a sense of wonder in anticipation of a possible end, so it is imperative to hold fast to the truth laid out in the holy scriptures of the Bible. The most disturbing factor with all this hype around Apocalypse 2012 is the anxiety and trepidation many people have/will have as we approach the December 21, 2012 date; some even believe the Mayan god Quetzalcoatl will make an appearance! Many will be on a heightened sense of alert and may act irrational—whether it be financially, physically, psychologically, emotionally, and/or spiritually—in expectation that their reality will drastically change on that day. The consequences for their personal lives could be grim post December 21, solely because they acted for the moment rather than planned for the remainder of their lives.

The same could be said of Christians who believe December 21, 2012 is the date when they will be Raptured and the Great Tribution period begins. A common practice among evangelical Christian extremists is to use the descriptions in the Book of Revelation to predict an imminent return of Christ by linking together the latest news broadcasts with pending fulfillment of biblical prophecies. This practice often requires searching out new material in an attempt to predict the next likely opportunity when Christ will return and the Great Tribulation will begin. With this interpretation of scripture, people are left wanting for a great event to begin the End Times: enter Apocalypse 2012.

Before getting carried away with the outrageous claims of Apocalypse 2012, we should consider what the Bible states regarding the end of the world. Prophecies permeate the books of the Bible, from the Book of Genesis through to the Book of Revelation. Many prophecies have already been fulfilled, especially those foretelling the arrival of the Messiah, Jesus Christ; many other prophecies have yet to be fulfilled and these deal with the end of this world. The end of time on Earth is one of the most prolific themes in the bible, spoken about by ancient prophets before Jesus’ birth, by Jesus Christ himself while He was on Earth, and even by the apostles after Jesus ascended. The purpose of this dominating theme is not to predict what will happen next, but to spiritually prepare believers for what is to come, demonstrate God’s all-knowing character, and, most importantly, impact believers with a sense of urgency to share the Gospel message while their time on Earth allows.

This is all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here. Romans 13:11-12 (NLT)

The books of Daniel and Revelation are the most well-known prophetic books of the Bible because of their descriptions of specific details, cataclysms and final events that will conclude the end of this world. There are many other books of the Bible that prophecy the final events on Earth, written by many different authors over hundreds of years, and these books are in perfect alignment with the books of Daniel and Revelation, all providing an unmatched prophetic quality in holy scripture to mankind.

The events described in Daniel and Revelation are what many Christians refer to as “The End Times”. The definition of End Times and the events that will occur during these times are open to considerable debate on so many fronts (some of which will be discussed in later articles).

The End Times can be categorized into the following segments.

  1. The time span between Christ’s return to heaven and the arrival of the Antichrist (present time).
  2. The time span during which the Antichrist reigns on Earth (near future), commonly referred to as the Great Tribulation.
  3. The time span associated with the return of Christ to Earth and His millennial rule after He defeats the Antichrist.

According to the prophesies in the Bible, there are specific activities and events that must occur in each of these categories, with special details given in the books of Daniel and Revelation. These specific events are direct counter arguments to the Apocalypse 2012 phenomenon; only some of them will be introduced in this article (and expanded in subsequent articles). One must be careful to note that the prophecies of the Bible are meant to be specific enough that one can confirm their accuracy after the events occur, yet vague enough that one cannot predict the precise logistics and dates associated with each event.

The books of Daniel and Revelation describe the arrival and reign of the Antichrist (translated as “instead of Christ”) with specific details that have not yet transpired, but can reasonably be visualized considering the latest advancements in society today.

Some key global developments that are required to place the Antichrist in position include the following.

  1. The world will be divided into seven regions. (Revelation 17:9-10)
  2. There will be a group of ten rulers that will form one governing group. (Revelation 17:12)
  3. The ten rulers will relinquish some of their authority for a new ruler, the Antichrist. (Revelation 17:13)
  4. There will be a high-ranking false prophet who will deceptively lead people to the Antichrist. (Revelation 13:14)
  5. The Antichrist will be given authority over all people and nations—a welcomed dictatorship. (Revelation 13:3-4)

Once the Antichrist is in this position of authority, there will be major global changes to the world’s systems.

  1. The Antichrist will subdue three of the ten rulers and become the eighth ruler of the remaining seven. (Daniel 7:24)
  2. The Antichrist will be worshiped and glorified, so that people have no desire to revere Almighty God. (Revelation 13:4)
  3. Everyone will be forced to receive a mark, as a pledge of allegiance to the Antichrist. (Revelation 13:16-17)
  4. Everyone will require this mark to buy and sell, indicating an overhaul of the world’s economic system. (Revelation 13:16-17)

More detailed discussions on these developments will be presented in later articles. However at this time, it is worth noting that there are specific trends evolving in technology, social media, security, political unrest and economic uncertainty across the world. As one follows these affairs, he/she will observe the slow progression that the world has been going and continues to go through, which will eventually lead exactly to that which was predicted in the Bible. The crucial point is this: the culmination of these developments is complex, beyond any one person’s or group’s control, will take time (maybe years, maybe decades), and all must occur before the end of the world.

Furthermore and subsequent to the reign of the Antichrist, the book of Revelation provides details on many global cataclysms, which cause massive destruction on Earth, followed by Christ’s return to rule the nations for a millennial age (the duration of which is debatable). The final apocalyptic event of “Armageddon” does not logically occur until after this millennial age, which is a topic for a later discussion! In short, Apocalypse 2012 is null and void.

We do not know when the Antichrist will take control of the world system, nor do we know when Christ will return to Earth to defeat it/him. All we know is what we observe in the gradual progression of global events that all point to the prophesies outlined in the book of Revelation.

No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Matthew 24:37-37 (NIV)

For Christians, believing that Apocalypse 2012 is the Armageddon spoken about in the book of Revelation is absolutely ridiculous. We cannot usher in the Apocalypse through our own efforts in hopes of Christ’s return. The Apocalypse of the Bible is not something that can be speeded or slowed and Christians shouldn’t be hoping that it will happen or fighting to stop it, but working together to take the gospel message of Christ to the world while time allows. God has an appointed time set for the End. He does not enjoy the suffering in this world, but He is patiently waiting so that as many as possible will come to know Him.

Some of the wise will stumble, so that they may be refined, purified and made spotless until the time of the end, for it will still come at the appointed time.  Daniel 11:35 (NIV)

As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die, O house of Israel?  Ezekiel 33:11 (NIV)

The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance. II Peter 3:9 (NIV)

Apocalypse 2012 is perhaps, whether intentional or not, a great deception in our modern age. It is a relatively recent concept introduced at the end of the 19th century, represented as ancient knowledge for our modern world, permeates the unspoken thoughts of many in society and creates a sense of mystic wonder for people seeking to find God. For many who are seeking purpose in their lives, the arrival of the December 21 date may result in a complete non-event that leads to great disappointment or it could even serve as an opportune time for a staged event that leads to further deception. When it comes to Apocalypse 2012, one thing we can say with confidence is that whatever happens this year, especially on December 21, the world will continue its gradual progression towards the End as originally predicted in the Bible. Christians, having a proper understanding of bible prophecy and their hearts set on eternity, should use the Apocalypse 2012 trend as an opportunity to share the true message of Christ with a sense of urgency during the time we have left, whether it be a few years, a few decades or even a few centuries.

The Savior’s Star Witness

The true story of Christmas celebrates the birth of the Savior of the World, Jesus Christ. When we read this Christmas story, we often gleam over the special events of His birth by simply accepting them as miracles from God. However, there is much more to this story in its fulfillment of prophecy and its message to the world.

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. Matthew 2:1-2 (KJV)

These two verses provide intriguing information regarding the events that occurred when Jesus was born. First, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem; second, these wise men saw His star; third, the wise men came to worship Him.

NGC 6960 Veil Nebula - Credit: Adam Block, Mount Lemmon SkyCenter, Univ. Arizona

Wise Men

Most scholars agree that these wise men were Magi from Persia in the east. More interesting is who these Magi were and what they practiced. They were followers of Zoroaster, rooted in the Chaldean teachings, and were wise in the skill of astrology, being able to read predictions from the stars. The Chaldeans are referenced many times throughout the Old Testament for their false teachings and practices. It was the very land of the Chaldeans, from which the LORD separated Abraham to follow Him!

I am the LORD, who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans to give you this land to take possession of it. Genesis 15:7 (NIV)

There is no question that the people and cultures of antiquity studied and worshipped the stars: the signs of the Zodiac permeated ancient cultures all over the world. The Maya were obsessed with time and were most accurate in their measurements using the stars as their guide. There are numerous megalithic structures on the earth today in perfect alignment with the celestial bodies, which testify to the fascination the ancients had in gaining wisdom from the stars.

The holy scriptures are clear that we are not to worship celestial bodies, nor use them to predict the future.

And when you look up to the sky and see the sun, the moon and the stars—all the heavenly array—do not be enticed into bowing down to them and worshiping things the LORD your God has apportioned to all the nations under heaven. Deuteronomy 4:19 (NIV)

Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. Jeremiah 10:2 (KJV)

The bible does not say that all astrological predictions are incorrect necessarily, but that we must not follow these teachings. Astrology, horoscopes, fortune-telling, they are deceptive even if they are able to predict. We should not be ignorant of those who dabble in these practices and we must be assured that the LORD’s ways supersede any stellar arrangements and only He can confound the wise.

All the counsel you have received has only worn you out! Let your astrologers come forward, those stargazers who make predictions month by month, let them save you from what is coming upon you… Each of them goes on in his error; there is not one that can save you. Isaiah 47: 13,15 (NIV)

No wise man, enchanter, magician or diviner can explain to the king the mystery he has asked about, but there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries. Daniel 2:27-28 (NIV)

The Savior’s Star

The Gospel according to Matthew provides a clear description that a new star appeared at the time of Jesus Christ’s birth in Bethlehem.  Why Christ was born at this exact moment in time and this exact place in the world is a topic to be explored later.

Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared… After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen in the east went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was. Matthew 2:7, 9 (NIV)

We do not have scientific records available from the time of Christ’s birth to corroborate what this star was and when it appeared. However, there are other historical documents that provide further description, such as the Epistle of St. Ignatius to the Ephesians in 69 A.D. St. Ignatius lived very close to the time of Christ’s birth and very likely worked under John the Apostle. In St. Ignatius’ epistle, he states:

How then was our Saviour manifested to the world? A star shone in heaven beyond all the other stars, and its light was inexpressible, and its novelty struck terror into men’s minds. All the rest of the stars, together with the sun and moon, were the chorus to this star; but that sent out its light exceedingly above them all. And men began to be troubled to think whence this new star came so unlike to all the others. Epistle of St. Ignatius to the Ephesians 4:11-12

This historic record may be a description of a supernova that exploded when Christ was born into this world. Supernovae are brightest in the first few weeks after their explosion and diminish in brightness over months, sometimes years. It is reasonable to theorize that a supernova appeared at Christ’s birth, dwarfed the light from all other stars and planets for a limited period of time, and yet was visible long enough for the wise men to find Him in Bethlehem.

Supernova 1987A "After" & "Before" - Credit: NASA

Another curious observation is that this star went ahead of the wise men and stopped over the place where Jesus was. On the surface, this seems to describe a floating bright light in the lower atmosphere that the wise men followed. However, given their wisdom with the stars, the interpretation could be comparable to a navigational tool they used based on the alignment of this star with the constellations to determine the exact location where Jesus was living.

A similar tool is used by Benjamin, son of Jacob, to find his brother Joseph, son of Jacob, in the Book of Jasher.

And he ordered them to bring before him his map of the stars, whereby Joseph knew all the times, and Joseph said unto Benjamin, I have heard that the Hebrews are acquainted with all wisdom, dost thou know anything of this? And Benjamin said, Thy servant is knowing also in all the wisdom which my father taught me, and Joseph said unto Benjamin, Look now at this instrument and understand where thy brother Joseph is in Egypt, who you said went down to Egypt. And Benjamin beheld that instrument with the map of the stars of heaven, and he was wise and looked therein to know where his brother was, and Benjamin divided the whole land of Egypt into four divisions, and he found that he who was sitting upon the throne before him was his brother Joseph, and Benjamin wondered greatly, and when Joseph saw that his brother Benjamin was so much astonished, he said unto Benjamin, What hast thou seen, and why art thou astonished? And Benjamin said unto Joseph, I can see by this that Joseph my brother sitteth here with me upon the throne, and Joseph said unto him, I am Joseph thy brother, reveal not this thing unto thy brethren. The Book of Jasher 53:18-21

Although the Book of Jasher is not part of the biblical canon, it is referred to within the biblical canon in Joshua 10:13 and II Samuel 1:18, so its validity should not be casually or entirely dismissed. The key to remember here is that the wisdom spoken of by Joseph is that taught by Jacob, son of Isaac, son of Abraham, who was called out from the Chaldeans by the LORD. Any true wisdom that exists in God’s creative works of the cosmos was passed down to Abraham; whereas the “wisdom” of the Chaldeans and other pagan practices thereafter were corruptions of the original knowledge.

Nevertheless, the holy scriptures provide all that we need to know to follow the LORD. If the wisdom of the stars was necessary for our relationship with Him, He would have ensured this knowledge was included in the scriptures that have been passed down through time. Since this wisdom has been lost with the patriarchs, any attempt we make to seek it out will only lead to distraction and deception. Therefore, we must follow His command and not be dismayed at the signs of heaven.

To Him that by wisdom made the heavens. Psalm 136:5 (NIV)

Scientifically, we know that the earth and our solar system are not the physical center of the universe. How amazing, then, is it that the earth is the spiritual center of the universe, where there may be hidden truths in the stars that can only be seen from the earth’s vantage point and only be revealed by God? This is a question to ask our Creator when we meet Him. Until then, we must follow His Word and refrain from distractions and deceptions that have corrupted His perfect work.

The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament shows his handiwork. Psalm 19:1 (AKJV)

Worship Him

We do not know the exact tools and methods the Magi used to study the stars and predict the times, but we do know they were watching and waiting for a sign. Once a bright star appeared in a particular constellation in the sky, it marked the arrival of a savior, who would provide the only way to eternal salvation for the world, and so they journeyed to Jerusalem to worship Him. Even in a pagan culture so far removed from the LORD’s ways, He was able to deliver a message to reach those in a foreign land!

For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Romans 1:20-21 (NIV)

We should not be so naïve or arrogant to dismiss the awesome works of our Creator that far surpass anything that could ever be documented in any ancient record. The bible contains everything we need to obey His commands and be united with Him. To deny that there may be other wonders in creation that He has not yet (and may never) reveal to us is to limit God to a box that we can only define with our finite minds. We should fearfully revere Him and all His handiwork. As we read the Christmas story this year, consider the star that appeared to mark the Savior’s birth as a reminder of the awesome creation of Almighty God and that the purpose of His creation is for us to worship Him and for Him to redeem humanity.

That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9 (NIV)