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The Coming Armageddon: I Need Some Suggestions!

As many of you know, my next trade book is tentatively titled: Expecting Armageddon: The book of Revelation and the Imminent End of the World, to be published by Simon & Schuster.  I would like some help from interested lay folk in the reading public with a certain aspect of it, and would love to hear your suggestions.

First let me say that I have not begun any serious research for it yet.  My plan is to get going in a hard-hitting, all-out kind of way in the early summer, depending on how quickly the book I’m working on now (the scholarly monograph on otherworldly journeys) gets written.   I simply have too many things on my research-plate just now.   Plus, that was the schedule I had originally planned: start on Armageddon in the summer and crunch as hard and for as long as I can and need to before getting down to writing it.  Usually it takes me about a year to do the research on these things.

BUT, what I always like to do – and this is why I like to get an advanced contract on my trade books – is to think about it, well in advance of when I actually start doing the research.  That way, when I can start plowing in, I know exactly where I want to start and what I anticipate the hot spots to be to go to first.   My ideas always develop (and change) in the course of doing the serious reading and thinking, of course.  But I never, ever want to jump in feet first without putting a lot of thought into it even before starting.

The original idea for the book was to explain why in some conservative religious circles now, and for well over a century, there has been an avid expectation that the world was going to end soon in fulfilment of biblical prophecies, especially as found in the book of Revelation.  I myself was deeply committed to this view as a late-teenager and into my twenties.

I eventually came to realize that this was a complete misinterpretation of Revelation and the Bible as a whole.  I also came to reflect on the fact that just about every generation of Christians since the time of Paul till today has had stalwart interpreters of the Bible who were convinced, and could prove (!), that the prophecies were all coming true in their own day and were soon to be fulfilled.  The end is near.  The Final Battle approaches.  Armageddon is about to strike.

And so I had to ask myself: were all the millions of people thinking this in every generation demonstrably wrong, but we in our generation just happen to be right?   Well, aren’t we grand?!

In any event, the book was going to trace the history of the interpretation of Revelation that took it to be a prediction of the end coming soon (in the lifetime of the interpreter), and then show how this view has been debunked by scholars of Revelation, who for a long time have known that actually that’s not what the book is about.

That strikes me as unusually interesting.  And it strikes a lot of religious people as interesting.  And it strikes a lot of used-to-be-religious people as interesting.  But I’m not sure that it strikes *most* of the human beings in the universe as particularly interesting.  Maybe marginally interesting?  But not, well, really interesting.

And so then as I was thinking about it I suddenly thought back – duh – to …

To see the rest of this post, all you need do is join the blog.  Won’t cost much at all, and every nickel you pay goes to charities helping those in need.  You get tons for your money and you do some good for the world.  So why not?

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Comments

  1. Avatar
    mjordan20149  November 12, 2019

    “Good Omens” on Amazon Prime is a kind of apocalyptic parody-an angel and a demon become friends and try to prevent the apocalypse form happening. It’s pretty funny. Cloud Atlas is a book about living (if one can call it that) in a world polluted by industrial waste. Kind of post apocalyptic…

  2. Avatar
    Camtimothy  November 12, 2019

    Sure. Pretty easy to do, but will take a little time to compile! Titles only or would brief synopsis be helpful?

    • Bart
      Bart  November 13, 2019

      Synoptsis would be great.

      • Avatar
        lovingigor  December 2, 2019

        George Orwell comes to mind, “1984” and “Animal Farm”. Isaac Asimov also with his law of robotics. In the age of robotics is it possible that we create robots that will have enough intelligence to see that humans are a disaster and begin to cull us from the planet? Will R2D2 wipe us out?

        I believe that we are facing a catastrophe. The climate is changing even if some people say it is a Chinese hoax. We may have passed the point of no return. Mankind is twiddling their thumbs and tut tuning. There already are droughts, shortages of water, and there may be huge famines and disease. It all remains to be seen. I do know that there are too many people on the planet. They are getting the way of each other. They are even encroaching on my existence with noise and bothersome actions. There is no shortage of stupidity in West Texas.

  3. Avatar
    robgrayson  November 12, 2019

    On climate change, earlier this year I read The Great Derangement, a non-fiction book by Amitav Ghosh. Very well researched, thoughtfully written and realistically sober without at all veering into sensationalism. Might be worth a look.

  4. Avatar
    smfoster  November 12, 2019

    The Day After, 1983. Nuclear holocaust. A made-for-tv movie.
    The Day After Tomorrow, 2004. Climate disaster.

  5. Avatar
    P-Max  November 12, 2019

    May not be in your synopsis , but I would be interested in reading about the perspective of Jews and Arabs in Israel

  6. Avatar
    ddecker54  November 12, 2019

    There are more than a few novels written about what would happen if/when some (typically rogue) nation successfully launches an EMP (ElectroMagnetic Pulse) over the US. I’ve read “One Second After by William Forschten – the genre seems to be dominated by him and a Bobby Akart, and it was an interesting (not enthralling) read. I mention this because there is a small but vocal faction of the Republican party that is convinced that EMP is a very real threat – so much so that it is actually specifically called out in their platform. Newt Gingrich is particularly vociferous and influential in this regard (which means, for me at least, we probably needn’t worry about it). Anyway, it deals with the consequences of a world within which nothing works anymore; no electricity, no heat, no automobiles (since engines are run by computers these days), no medicine, no A/C, no ……you get the picture. Humans wind up turning on each other.

  7. Avatar
    APOCALYPSE  November 12, 2019

    I would like to read some of the influences of this subject on politicians in US such as President Reagan (Striking it is for me as in Europe religious Apocalypticism has been almost irrelevant in politics as far as I know).
    The classic movie for the people of my age always has been WarGames (1983) connecting nuclear fear and Artificial Intelligence development within the context of the Cold War.
    Climate change has a lot of catastrophe movies like The Day After Tomorrow (2004).
    Another ground worth considering are the Apocalypses caused by the IA, a genre with films like Terminator and the recent I Am Mother (2019).

  8. Avatar
    lmabe10  November 12, 2019

    It’s not about climate change or nuclear war, but Seveneves by Neal Stephenson offers an exceptional look at how the world might react to the sudden revelation (pun intended) that the world is going to be destroyed and how we might make plans to avoid extinction. I found the first half of the novel particularly enthralling (there are two distinct halves to the book).

    The movie Interstellar invokes climate change as a catalyst for impending doom.

  9. Avatar
    BrianAPS  November 12, 2019

    I’ve always found the poem “Darkness” by Lord Byron to be quite moving, especially the contrast of all of humanity descending into selfish chaos with the lone, loyal dog who fends off beasts and cannibals from his master’s corpse and dies “licking the hand which answer’d not with a caress.” I believe it was written against the backdrop of a mini climate crisis in 1816 brought about by the eruption of Mount Tambora.

    You mentioned the recent shift to climate change, but I am wondering how ill-equipped we are at conceptualizing the threat of a slow-moving disaster that takes place on the scale of decades when we’ve been conditioned through the ages by these apocalyptic depictions of sudden, dramatic, cataclysmic disaster.

  10. Avatar
    gbsinkers  November 12, 2019

    “The Late Great Planet Earth” book and movie by Hal Lindsey and his ongoing TV show. You’ve mentioned him before but he had me convinced back int he 70s that ~1997 was going to be the end. It actually gave me pause about having children. “Doomsday Preppers” a TV show from 2011 to 2014. I saw one episode of this program and the people who called themselves “preppers” scared me more than any possible apocalypse! My favorite though would be “Interstellar”, a movie featuring Matthew McConaughy. The storyline from IMDB: “Earth’s future has been riddled by disasters, famines, and droughts. There is only one way to ensure mankind’s survival: Interstellar travel. A newly discovered wormhole in the far reaches of our solar system allows a team of astronauts to go where no man has gone before, a planet that may have the right environment to sustain human life.” Lastly, and something you alluded to in your post, certain Christians believe climate change/global warming is a hoax because according to them humans by their actions cannot bring about an apocalypse, only God can do that. They also point to Genesis 1:28 where God says to fill the earth and subdue it as proof that we don’t have to worry about what we do to the planet. Looking forward to see what others will suggest!

  11. Avatar
    Stephen  November 12, 2019

    The single best “End Times” novel I’ve ever read is WE ALL FALL DOWN by BRIAN CALDWELL, What distinguishes it from the schlocky Left Behind stuff is that while it accepts the Christian End Times mythology it is told from the point of view of the “have nots”. The book is dark and profane and occasionally brutal without a trace of facile Christian triumphalism. This is what the “Last Days” would really be like. (Needless to say this one didn’t sell like the Left Behind series. One secondary source of entertainment is reading the Amazon reviews from the Left Behind fans who stumbled upon this book.)

    https://www.amazon.com/All-Fall-Down-Brian-Caldwell/dp/0978602447/ref=sr_1_23?keywords=we+all+fall+down&qid=1573566880&s=books&sr=1-23

  12. Avatar
    RICHWEN90  November 12, 2019

    Well, there’s “The Population Bomb”– this book gets a lot right but the timeline is frequently criticized. For instance aquifers are being depleted but not at the rate given in the book. And there’s Malthus. Sometimes gloomy extrapolations based on current trends fail to take into consideration human adaptability and inventiveness. It seems that there is a genre of secular catastrophe with a long history. And then you have Norse mythologies in which it is assumed that the cosmos is kind of cyclic and undergoes absolute destruction followed by renewal, endlessly repeating. Is that sort of thing really apocalyptic? In fact, it looks as though a book could be written entirely on the subject of the relationships between a specific Christian form of apocalyptic thinking and all of the other forms that exist and have existed. And THAT book would probably have to be enormous, and scholarly. You could write that book, or narrow your focus to anticipations of the events in Revelations. I guess I’m saying that if I was undertaking what you are contemplating, I’d be overwhelmed at this stage. I’m so glad YOU are doing it!!

  13. Avatar
    Randybessinger  November 12, 2019

    I would say that one of the current end of the world scenarios is AI. Of course Human caused climate change is one as well. The terminator moves are AI based.

  14. Avatar
    James  November 12, 2019

    Nicholas Guyatt, “Have a Nice Doomsday: Why Millions of Americans Are Looking Forward to the End of the World” (Harper Perennial, 2007).

  15. Avatar
    godspell  November 12, 2019

    The list is endless, but some of the most powerful end of the world scenarios I know of in Science Fiction come from Octavia Butler. In a sense, she specialized in post-apocalyptic scenarios.

    Her ‘Lilith’s Brood’ trilogy is about a world devastated by nuclear war that is then colonized by a space-faring race of aliens who harvest DNA–they rescue the few survivors and partly regenerate the earth (for purposes that are only later revealed) and what follows is–interesting. Also unsettling.

    More to the point, being African American, she was raised in a very religious family (Her parents were Baptists, her adult religious views were–idiosyncratic), and you can see elements of the Old and New Testament in her work.

    She wrote two novels (Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents) about a new religion being formed during the aftermath of a complete social breakdown in America. This new faith is based on the notion that humankind must go to the stars in order to survive, but the woman who founds it comes into conflict with her brother, the leader of a Christian megachurch. With Butler, not only are there no simple answers–there are no simple questions.

    Stephen King’s The Stand I’m sure you are already familiar with, but what strikes me more and more about it is that Boulder is the Kingdom, Vegas is Gehenna, and King was very well aware of that. Man knows his bible.

    • Avatar
      godspell  November 13, 2019

      You wouldn’t possibly find time to read/view everything in this rather expansive subgenre, but I have a personal fondness for Donald E. Westlake’s “Humans.” Not evailable at present, so you’d have to find a physical copy. It’s offbrand for him, since he was known primarily as a mystery writer. In a sense, it is a mystery.

      An angel has been tasked with causing humanity to end the world. God is tired of our nonsense, wants an end to it, plenty of inhabited planets elsewhere for Him to watch. The angel finds a group of humans, and manipulates them to the end of bringing about the destruction of earth. It has to be their choice–these are the rules. But once the plot is uncovered, a demon is tasked with saving earth, because–well, here’s a quote—

      //The instant I saw it there, sitting with the woman, I knew what it was. The stench of God was all over it, like dried roots, like stored apples. Laughing! And a servant.

      I am not a servant. We are not servants. He Who We Serve is not our master but our lover. We act from our will, no others. Could this…thing say as much? Or any of its swooping, tending, message-bearing ilk?

      And did its master really think he could sweep away this compost heap without the knowledge of He Who We Serve? We love this world! How it seethes, how it struggles, how it howls in pain, what colors there are in its agony! It is our greatest joy, the human race. We cannot see it removed, like game pieces from a table at the end of the day, simply because he’s bored.

      Don’t be afraid, you wretched vermin. We will save you.//

      Mainly told from the POV of the humans themselves (who are mainly exceptionally good people) but with recurrent first-person interludes from the angel, Ananayel, and the demon, X.

      God gets no lines. The mystery is, perhaps, what does God really want? Even the angels don’t know.

  16. Avatar
    mwbaugh  November 12, 2019

    A very popular form of apocalyptic literature these days is the zombie apocalypse. Night of the Living Dead, Zombieland, Sean of the Dead, etc. might be fruitful. Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke, Lucifer’s Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, and Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett all offer unique takes on the subject.

    One apocalyptic pop culture series that I’m personally curious about is Left Behind, by Jenkins and LaHaye. I’m not so much curious about what the books say and more about how they captured so much attention. I tried reading the first and never could make it through. My impression was that it was bad theology disguised as fiction or bad fiction posing as theology. Either way, the writing was terrible, and yet the series was incredibly popular.

    • Avatar
      Yakobo  November 18, 2019

      More attention needs to be given to this question. I’ve thought of Nelson Darby and others who propagated this still popular “pre-trip rapture” eschatology as master marketeers. As has been said, “A lot of people believe they are going to heaven; they just don’t want to have to die in order to get there.” Voila! There is an enduring answer that generation after generation never gets disconfirmed. Although from friends who read the Left Behind series I’ve heard the real heroes of the story are among the ones left behind, such that the would be macho Christians are now preferring “mid-trib” and “post-trib, pre-millinnial” versions of this eschatology.

  17. Avatar
    dgdelta  November 12, 2019

    Add Mad Max to your list of movies.

    I’ve always assumed that the whole concept of heaven was to give serfdom and slaves something to look forward to without actually improving their earthly conditions.

    Now, evangelicals looking forward eagerly to the end of times strikes me as euphoric joy at being part of the ‘in crowd’ and expecting grand things in the next world. It makes one feel powerful, I presume.

  18. Avatar
    ShonaG  November 12, 2019

    ‘Snowpiercer’ – apocalyptic but also about how good vrs evil is always about killing the poorest in society. Blanket bombing of Uk by Germans and blanket bombing of Germany by UK targeted the poor. In ‘Snowpiercer’ the uprising of the poor is orchestrated by those in control to replace but also continue the current system. Set on a train in a frozen world.
    On something different nobody talks about ‘American Evangelism’ not being christian, there is no rapture in Christianity. There are billions of Christians very few of them are American evangelical. Yet Hollywood uses their ideology to represent Christianity.

  19. Avatar
    ShonaG  November 12, 2019

    Apocalypse is also egalitarian instead of the poorest suffering everybody is, kind of like Trump and Brexit and I voted Brexit it is the middle classes & academia that are suffering not the poor if you have nothing you can’t have less. I’d look at how society was becoming more unequal or persecuting certain groups.

  20. Avatar
    droval  November 12, 2019

    Not exactly nuclear, but Avengers Infinity War would be a fun one. The bad guy is basically Malthus, wants to kill half the universe and succeeds, and everything feels like a kind of Apocalypse. Also, he is the most powerful being in the universe, believes he must save the universe from overpopulation, and in the process sacrifices his daughter on the top of a mountain.

    Watchmen is maybe more in line with what you are looking for. The “bad guy” is an utilitarian that blows up New York to simulate an alien threat to get the US and URSS to work together. Maybe it’s better to read the graphic novel, it has a continuous sense of impending doom on every detail, like in the watch at the start of every chapter, marking one minute closer to midnight, worrying news in the background, etc.

    If I can think of something else, I will add it in another comment. I grew up a Seventh day Adventist myself, so the Apocalypse was very present all the time, and this book has me excited already 🙂

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