Jesus christ: the world is already ending!
who’s responsible, says Jesus Christ.
RACHEL We continue our broadcast from the Valley of Kedron, and we’re speaking with Jesus Christ today about matters that the specialists call “eschatological”. Our special guest told us yesterday that he did not know the date of the final judgment, but he did know what questions the judge would ask us. Today we want to go further into the subject of what will happen after that judgment.
JESUS And what do you hope will happen, Rachel?
RACHEL You know that better than anybody. After the final judgment the last trumpet will sound, the curtain will come down, and …
RACHEL And everything ends, and we leave. But let’s be serious, Jesus – when is the world going to end?
JESUS In my day I thought it would end very soon, that my generation would see the end of the ages, that I myself would see it … But I was wrong. I thought that the candle was going out, but it’s still burning.
RACHEL Jesus, if you were wrong two thousand years ago, by now you must have more information, new data, you really should know…
JESUS Well yes, now I do, and I don’t think I’m wrong now…
RACHEL Then you’ll tell us the date of the final cataclysm? Apocalypse now?
JESUS Yes, I’ll tell you when the end of the world will be. I’m going to tell you right now.
RACHEL Wait, wait! Studios, … studios…. Put on some special music,… because Jesus is going to announce to us the date of the end of the world. We have an incredible scoop. Yes, give us some impressive background music,… No, man, not that, better something from Star Wars, … Yes, that’s good. … Are you ready? Tell us now, Mr Jesus Christ, we’re all listening. Everyone who’s listening to Emisoras Latinas, please pay attention. In these very moments Jesus Christ will reveal to us when the world will end….
JESUS Truly, truly I tell you that the end will come soon.
RACHEL Soon, soon … Could you give us the exact date, or do you just want to scare us?
JESUS After everything I have seen in these days, I’m the one who is scared. So many dead rivers, so many droughts in season and out, so many deforested hillsides, so much land covered with ashes, so many of God’s creatures dying for lack of food. And all the things you’ve told me about yourself the sky torn so that the sun burns more fiercely, ice caps melting, hurricanes that devours cities like beasts, incurable illnesses, wars fought over water rights, …
RACHEL Yes, yes, continue with that musical background, … it fits well.
JESUS Avarice will do away with all the trees of the planet, and the sea will swallow the cities. The waters will become as bitter as absinthe, and nobody will be able to drink them. Smoky clouds will rob the days of their brilliance, and the greed that poisoned the air will come like a thief and rob all God’s creatures of life, … And then will come the end.
RACHEL But when … when will it be? We have our audience hanging on your words, dying to know. Tell us the date that God has set for the end.
JESUS God doesn’t set the date, Rachel. You are the ones who are putting an end to the world. If you don’t change, if to serve the god money you continue to rip out the pages of the Book of Life one by one, the end will come soon. And you will be the ones who set the date.
RACHEL With that apocalyptic … or rather eschatological warning, we bring today’s program to an end. This is Rachel Perez from Jerusalem. On the Internet you can find us at www.emisoraslatinas.net.
ANNOUNCER Another God is Possible. Exclusive interviews with Jesus Christ in his second coming to Earth. A production of María and José Ignacio López Vigil, with the support of the Syd Forum and Christian Aid.
*More information about this polemical topic…*
Jesus was mistaken, and the early communities were also
The gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke include a series of discourses of Jesus concerning the catastrophic end about to come upon the world. Such discourses are called “eschatological” (end-time) or “apocalyptic” (revelation of the end) and were quite common in the prophetic tradition in which Jesus was brought up.
Jesus really believed that the end of the unjust world in which he lived was imminent, and this would mean the end of Rome’s reign and the arrival of God’s Kingdom. The way Jesus proclaimed the gospel and challenged the authorities, the haste he expressed in many of his sayings, and his impassioned impatience indicate that Jesus really thought that the hour was near and that he himself would see the end.
Jesus was wrong, but his impatience and sense of urgency were passed on to the Christians of the first century, who were expectantly awaiting the day when the world would end, confident that they would be alive for it. They also were wrong. Paul had to calm people’s expectations on several occasions (2 Thessalonians 2,1-7 and 3,6-12), even though he also was convinced that the final day was very close (1 Thessalonians 4,13-18).
Those were times of terrible persecutions for the Christians, and the communities hoped anxiously for the day of their final liberation. It was in this context that those gospel discourses were written, and this was the context also of the last book of the Bible, the Apocalypse, whose aim was to console Christians who were suffering under Rome’s imperial power. Some exegetes consider the Apocalypse the “most political book” of the New Testament, since it announces the end of the powerful Roman empire – even if it does so by expressing the criticisms, judgments and “analyses” of that stage of history in a dense forest of symbols, which are sometimes beautiful and sometimes incomprehensible.
A catastrophe, a feast, a birth
The images with which Jesus spoke about the end of the world in the gospels came from the prophetic tradition. The prophets spoke of God’s wrath against the unjust on the final day. They spoke of wars, disasters and untold tribulations. About 200 years before Jesus they began to use cosmic images – stars falling from heaven, earthquakes – symbols that Jesus also used since in his time they were the customary ways of describing the tremendous commotion of the final ages (Isaiah 63,1-6; Jeremiah 6, 11-19; Daniel 9,21-27 and 12,1-13; Joel 2,1-11; Amos 5,14-20).
In speaking of the end-times, the prophets also used positive images to show that all that was good in the world would remain and would be transformed into a new heaven and a new earth where justice would dwell. Jesus often referred to the final day as a great banquet and a wonderful feast. Many prophetic texts describe the end with images of joy and celebration (Isaiah 60,1-22 and 62,1-12; Amos 9,11-15; Micah 4,1-5; Zephaniah 3,14-20).
The end of the world was also compared to the birth of a child. In order for a new being to be born there is a need for love, time, patience, hope, and at the decisive moment, effort and great pain. The image of childbirth was used by the prophets (Isaiah 66,5-16), as well as by Jesus (John 16,19-23) and later on by Paul (Romans 8,18-27).
An ethics so that the world doesn’t end
In today’s program Jesus shows how frightened he himself is, but not only that, for he weaves together images taken from the Apocalypse to try to frighten other people. From such fear he hopes that a new ethics will arise. He agrees with the work of his fellow Jew, the German philosopher Hans Jonas, who is today at the center of the ecological debate. Jonas’s book, The Imperative of Responsibility: In Search of Ethics for the Ecological Age (University of Chicago, 1984), is an indispensable reference work.
Jonas’s reflections on responsibility start off from the fact that human beings are the only living creatures with true responsibility. His reflections draw on the tragedy of the Holocaust. His conference “The Concept of God after Auschwitz” is perhaps the most important Jewish theological reflection on the Nazi phenomenon.
What does Hans Jonas say? We make use of a summary of his thought that was done by the Catalonian philosopher Ramón Alcoberro.
Science and technology have profoundly modified the relations between human beings and the world. For the people of ancient times, human power was limited, whereas the world was infinite. Jonas gives the example of the Greek city: it was a civilized enclave in the middle of a threatening wilderness, forests and jungles. Jonas points out that today the situation has been reversed: nature is limited and has to be preserved in natural parks, which are totally surrounded by human civilization and technology. Today nature is weak and its existence is threatened. Human beings therefore have the moral obligation to protect nature, and that duty increases to the degree that we understand how easy it is to destroy life.
According to Jonas, the ethical imperative of our time is this: work in such a way that the effects of your action are compatible with the continuation of authentic human existence on earth. Doing good today means taking technology into consideration. Taking seriously the reality of technology, we must recognize that our starting criterion can no longer be one of “dominion”, nor can it yet be one of “community”, since the world community is still a illusion.
Not everything is possible: the prophecy of misfortune
Hans Jonas is a sworn enemy of utopias, which have fostered the idea that in the world everything is possible and nothing is written in stone. Experiences like the atomic bomb, the horrible pollution of the environment, and the Holocaust demonstrate that a utopia can morally end up being a justification for wholesale murder and the destruction of the planet. Utopias tell people: “You can do it, and as long as you can, you should do it.” Responsibility requires that we calculate the risks involved, and when there is a possibility that something can fail, it is better not to do it.
The ethical imperative proposed by Jonas is based on fear, or to use his words, on the “heuristics of alarm” – respect mixed with fear. It is fear of the irreversible consequences of progress (such as genetic manipulation or destruction of the habitat) that obliges us to act responsibly. And the motor that impels us to act is the threat that hangs over all future life.
Fear is a negative sentiment, but something positive can come out of such negativity: awareness that the planet is in danger and that this danger is due to the power of human beings, who possess a technology that has become anonymous and autonomous. We must pay more attention to the prophecies of misfortune than to those of utopian bliss, and we must act accordingly, taking very seriously the threat that looms over the future of humankind, a threat that urges us to act responsibly.
The earth is alive, but very sick
To act with ecological responsibility we need information. After centuries of thinking in terms of a generalized, linear kind of “progress”, we human beings are learning the error of thinking in such one-dimensional fashion. We now know that natural resources can be exhausted, and we realize that we are all passengers on the same ship and that we’ll all be saved or we’ll all drown together. Now we know that we are an integral part of the Life that inhabits the Earth, that our planet is a living system that regulates its own temperature and defends itself in a thousand ways to keep itself alive, just as we human beings do. The Gaia theory, which considers the Earth to be a living system, has taught us this, but we still have a hard time understanding it.
We also realize today that our predatory and profligate human species has made the Earth seriously ill. The most dangerous fever that our planet suffers today is global warming mixed with global darkening, both processes the result of the irrational use of fossil fuels and other chemical substances. We know today that solar radiation, the principal source of energy keeping us alive, reaches us more and more weakened by the chemicals in the atmosphere. We know that the contamination produced by our factories and vehicles is irreversibly warming the planet, a process that will harm all forms of Life. However, we are still reluctant to understand the consequences of this tragic news.
We recommend a book called The Revenge of Gaia: Earth’s Climate Crisis and the Fate of Humanity (Basic Books, 2007); it is the most recent work of the scientist who first developed the Gaia theory, James Lovelock. Reading Lovelock is a hair-raising experience (the “heuristics of fear”) that encourages us toward a new ethics. It moves us toward new attitudes, decisions and struggles that will help us prevent this world, our world, our civilization, from collapsing as a result of the Earth’s negative reaction to the irresponsible way in which the species to which we belong is treating Life.
The clock of the end of the world
In 1947 a group of atomic scientists, including Albert Einstein, imagined a symbolic clock that would mark the hours, minutes and seconds that separate humankind from the end of the world. At that time the scientists believed that the “end” would arrive in the form of a disastrous nuclear war. When the scientists decided to use this clock symbol (1947), the United States had already, in 1945, dropped atomic bombs on the civilian population of two Japanese cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, causing more than 300,000 immediate deaths. The aim of the clock was to awaken the conscience of humankind and help people realize that the Apocalypse would not come from God, but would be provoked by human beings themselves, who now possessed such lethal weapons of war.
The concern of the scientists was justified. In 1985 the U.S., the Soviet Union, and other countries involved in the nuclear arms race had an arsenal of 55,000 nuclear weapons on the planet, most of them more powerful than those that had killed a quarter of a million Japanese.
The Clock of the Final Judgment can be found today in the University of Chicago, and until recently the time it told was 11.53 PM, that is, 7 minutes from midnight and the “end of the world”. In the year 2007 the hands of the clock were moved forward two minutes. The nuclear threat has lessened, even though the U.S. and Russia still have 27,000 nuclear warheads after negotiating reductions, but the scientists decided to advance the hands on the clock anyway. They did so not so much because of any imminent nuclear catastrophe, but because of the coming climate change, which has contributed to hurricanes like Mitch and Katrina, to catastrophic tsunamis, to heat waves, tornados, flooding, melting of the polar ice caps, etc.
By means of that clock and through congresses, laws, books, speeches, radio and TV programs, and a thousand other ways, the most clear-minded people of our time are alerting us: if we don’t do something and do it soon, then the Earth and humankind will be on the verge of environmental catastrophe, one in which Gaia could simply do away with the human species, which has been the worst plague that it has had to put up with in its long history of 4.5 billion years.