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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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  1. Avatar
    Nathan  November 12, 2019

    The movie The Book of Eli is very interesting. It is post nuclear apocalypse.

    I think the Terminator series has put its mark on our culture. Linda Hamilton in T2 is fantastic in her fervour of the coming apocalypse

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    CarlGregg  November 12, 2019

    “The Bet: Paul Ehrlich, Julian Simon, and Our Gamble over Earth’s Future” by Paul Sabin (Yale University Press, 2014)

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    mdostal1  November 12, 2019

    This example is not “great literature”, but I love Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman’ Good Omens (now an Amazon movie) precisely because it lampoons a subject that I believe is ridiculous and not to be taken seriously (Armageddon, the rapture, etc.). Humankind has the capacity to destroy itself without any help from God. I like the direction you want to take with your new book and it sounds like it will be a great read.

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    FocusMyView  November 12, 2019

    Zombies. Any media will do.
    Civilization under attack from the unintelligent hordes.
    The Singularity.
    We are truly doomed to become pets of our AI overlords, the first truly intelligent species in existence.
    The end of individually happy people.

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    AstaKask  November 12, 2019

    Good Omens, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman. I guarantee it’s the best humorous take out there.

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    elioxe  November 12, 2019

    I did a book for Berkley in 2010 on how different groups have envisioned the End. I was asked to write it on a tight schedule. (I knew it was out of my field) It;s still in print and might give you a few ideas and some background on less well-known groups. I did put in footnotes and a bibliography and ranged far beyond Revelations.and Daniel, although I mentioned both, I wish I’d had longer to write it but I’d probably still be researching. There are a huge number of them and more popping up every day. Can’t wait to read your take, Sharan

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    Apocryphile  November 12, 2019

    If you have never seen the original Matrix (1999), I would rate this as a must-see dystopian sci-fi film.

    Beyond that, there are a ton of movies, mostly on the schlocky side –

    – The Book of Eli (2010) – (side note: the Bible plays a prominent part in this one!)
    – I am Legend (2007) – (biological armageddon)
    – The Day after Tomorrow (2004) – (climate change)
    – Escape from New York (1981) – (nuclear war)
    – Planet of the Apes (1968) and Beneath the Planet of the Apes (1970) – (nuclear war)
    – Forbidden Planet (1956)

    • Avatar
      Apocryphile  May 8, 2020

      I don’t know if you’re back to watching end-of-the-world movies yet, but I would suggest one more if it hasn’t already been mentioned. I think Soylent Green is a must-watch (just caught it on TV again by chance the other night). Prescient in so many ways, not the least of which is that almost everyone wears protective masks when venturing out of doors. A classic apocalyptic sci-fi film.

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    Cathach  November 12, 2019

    I’m sure you haven’t forgotten it, but I’ll just mention the “zombie apocalypse” genre that seems only recently to have petered out. Of course, the name of the genre itself spells out the connection.

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    Salmonguy  November 12, 2019

    Consider the Evangelical position of Israel, Russia (Gog and Magog) and the formation of the EU. A lot of my Christian friends believe the end is also near with all the so called players in the Middle East now. My friends believe the world will soon be destroyed and God will rebuilt it. To them worrying about climate change, social inequality, starvation ect. Is seen as counterproductive to God’s aims.

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    Danyowell  November 12, 2019

    Annihilation and Ex Machina (both written/directed by Alex Garland) are amazing meditations on humanity pondering post-humanity.

    One of my all-time favorite movies is Andrzej Żuławski’s 1981 masterpiece Possession. It’s a largely allegorical fever-dream of a movie following a couple’s divorce as it leads to the literal end of the world. I’ve always read the couple’s relationship to be analogous to religious belief, and the story’s progress into madness and chaos is really about the societal affect of the absence of faith, but you might like it as one of the most stark examples of peak-Hollywood-horror-era religious alarmism (It also has two of the best performances ever in it).

    If you do watch it, be sure to give it a second go sometime soon-after. I think you’ll like it, and it really needs more than one viewing.

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    Pattylt  November 12, 2019

    Climate change…Disney’s Wall-E. It’s not subtle, it’s very much the point!

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    brasmuss  November 12, 2019

    Hi Dr. Ehrman, glad to be of service! I think for non-fiction works that relate to your topic of the End Times, you need look no further than the Pulitzer Prize-winning “The Sixth Extinction” by Elizabeth Kolbert. She also is the author of “Field Notes from a Catastrophe: Man, Nature, and Climate Change.” I think those would be a good place to start for non-fiction. As for more recent works of fiction, two works that really stand out to me that have had great popular success are Stephen King’s “The Stand” and Margaret Atwood’s “Oryx and Crake.” In both cases, bioengineering kickstarts Armageddon, if you will. In “The Stand,” a bioengineered “super flu” escapes a secret government lab and wipes out over 95% of the human population, leading to a ‘last stand’ between good and evil. And a nuclear bomb plays a big part in the ending of the book! In “Oryx and Crake,” a “mad scientist” type bioengineers ways to sterilize the current human population and create a new, “better” dominant life form on earth. Because CRISPR-cas9 is in the news so much these days (and the first human trials have begun using CRISPR to treat human diseases), you could argue these fictional scenarios of bioengineering are not far off from the present (if at all). These books, of course, are descendants of “Frankenstein” and other greats in the genre you are looking at. Hope that helps!

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    fishician  November 12, 2019

    If you want a light-hearted take on the end, with a happy ending, remember the animated film WALL-E? Earth’s environment had become so bad humanity had to flee in spaceships. Kind of like they were RAPTURED! Of course, eventually WALL-E causes them to return to earth where they are able to once again re-cultivate a paradise (Eden?). In fact, the alien robot WALL-E encountered was deliberately named EVE after the Biblical figure, as the mate to lonely WALL-E. On a more serious note, back in 1983 the TV movie The Day After depicted nuclear holocaust here in America in a very gripping way, garnered huge number of viewers at the time, and unlike WALL-E, ended pessimistically, or at least very sadly.

  14. Lev
    Lev  November 12, 2019

    Here are my suggestions.

    When the Wind Blows (1986 film) – about a rural English couple’s attempt to survive a nearby nuclear attack and maintain a sense of normality in the subsequent fallout.

    An Inconvenient Truth (2006 film) – an illustrated talk on climate by Al Gore, aimed at alerting the public to an increasing “planetary emergency” due to global warming.

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    Hormiga  November 12, 2019

    You have to read “A Canticle for Leibowitz” if you haven’t yet. Beyond that, the Singularity themes — tons around and I’ll see if I can compile a short list, but “Marooned in Real Time” by Vernor Vinge comes immediately to mind. Kind of a hard science “Left Behind.”


    Edit: Oh, and, Greg Bear’s “Blood Music.”


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    RJTINGEY  November 12, 2019

    How about one or more films about pandemics? Is this a modern version of the end times in Revelation? Contagion, Outbreak?

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    D-men  November 12, 2019

    Factfulness from Hans Rosling, Ten Reasons We’re Wrong about the world – and why things are better than you think.

    In Europe, this is a very popular book. I think you know it as well but in case you don’t, this is a very good book(in general as well). It is not direct related to apocalyptic thinking but it does explain the pessimism and thinking that it is going worse and worse.

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    christopherfisher  November 12, 2019

    The environmental Green movement is definitely apocalyptic. 12 years to live, apparently. In “non-fiction” the Population Bomb is a good book categorizing the same hysteria in the 80s. See the book The Bet, on Erlich’s famous bet against Julian Simon.

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    Pegill7  November 12, 2019

    The 1959 version of the movie “On the Beach.” Very scary in that the calendar in the 1959 version shows October 1962, exactly the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis. One of the last scenes shows a banner from a revival meeting which reads, “It’s not too late,” but of course it is.

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    skyhookt  November 12, 2019

    I haven’t given thought yet to what you ask for, but I must offer this personal observation: many of my conservative Evangelical and Catholic friends agree without reservation that because man was given dominion over the earth and the end is near, we needn’t give a fig about our environment. They will say with a straight face that all the planet’s resources are there for our near-term plundering, even if we end up with a Soylent Green style devastated environment. They think I’ve become a kooky leftist because I would rather we not cut down the entire Brazilian rain forest.

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