And I saw heaven opened,
and behold, a white horse…
It’s perhaps telling that the eschatological ‘records’ of the three Abrahamic religions refer only to themselves; you have the Muslims teaming up with the Christians to defeat the Jews, and you have the Jewish Messiah appearing at the end of days to take on the enemies of Israel. No mention at all of any of the other faiths, and what this reiterates to me is the political intent behind the holy books of the three Abrahamic faiths (Who Wrote the Bible? by Richard Friedman is an excellent academic source on the authorship of the Christian Bible, and I’m sure there are similar studies on the Tanakh and the Quran). Not that I’m gonna fight to the death with those who believe their particular holy book to be the true and unabridged Word of God; I can co-exist with those people, and even respect them and their beliefs. The beliefs of people of faith, after all, should not be easily upset by those of us who believe differently. And hey – they all teach tolerance and respect, right? So allow me my little blasphemous meditation.
Last week we heard about the can of shit-kicking that the Christians and the Muslims were gonna open on the Jews, so this week, let’s see what the Jews are gonna pull outta their own bag in the End of Days.
“Wail, for the Day of the Lord is near; it will come like destruction from the Almighty.”
In Judaism, the end times is referred to as the ‘Day of the Lord’, or ‘Hour of the Lord’. Sources on Armageddon in the Jewish tradition are from the Tanakh, or Hebrew Bible. The Jewish prophetic texts were believed to be written between the 9th and 5th centuries BC, and together they relate something like the following:
In the End of Days God will return the Jews to the land of Israel (we can probably assume this is an event that has already happened). Having had their country returned to them, the Jewish Messiah reappears, a descendant of the House of David, and he builds the Third Temple (bear in mind this entails the destruction of the Haram e-Sharif , enough to start a holy war in itself) restoring the pre-eminence of the Jews in Jerusalem. This is the spark that sets off the Final War, in Jewish eschatology the War of Gog and Magog (a concept which also appears in Islamic eschatology as Yajuj and Majuj). Gog is a leader in the End Times, Magog his country, and these are the forces which will invade Israel in the final days and which Israel will defeat with the direct aid of God. The Messiah leads the good Jews against the forces of evil (read Christians and Muslims) and Israel prevails. All the nations of the earth recognise the one true God, the God of Israel, and God creates a new heaven on earth.
Oh yeah – and he also resurrects the dead. Why? Fuck knows. The Book of Daniel says that God resurrects both the righteous and the wicked, the righteous so that they may be rewarded and the wicked so that they may receive eternal punishment and damnation. Wild, huh? So what, do the righteous get to watch on as the wicked are subjected to God’s eternal wrath? That’ll be a show.
As I said, the fact that the three biggies are all busy bashing each other in the End of Days is a tad on the selfish side. What about all the others? What about the Sikhs and the Hindus, the Buddhists and the Jains? The Taoists? Lets take a look…
The End of Days in Buddhism is a long, drawn-out and torturous affair. No war, no biblical plagues and torments. Just a long, slow, dying…
It goes like this: around five thousand years after the death of the Buddha, and a long period of “greed, lust, poverty, ill will, violence, murder, impiety, physical weakness, sexual depravity and societal collapse”, seven suns will appear and slowly burn the earth to a crispy crisp. Some scholars put this after the year 4600, so we got some time.
Later, a new golden age will be ushered in, when Maitreya Buddha will return, bringing back the teaching of dharma and delivering enlightenment.
Kalki, the final incarnation of the god Vishnu, will return in the End Times (Kali Yuga, a time of great tribulations) in which virtue has disappeared and when the teachings of the Dharma have vanished. Seated on a white horse and with a blazing sword in his hand, he comes back and slays the wicked and the godless. The defeat of the wicked will usher in the Satya Yuga, an age in which the dharma is re-established and goodness and virtue restored.
In Scandinavian mythology, Ragnarok is the cataclysmic end of all, the worlds of men and gods both. In the stories, Ragnarok is preceded by the Great Winter, a winter the likes of which the world has never seen, which will last the length of three normal winters and cause widespread chaos and moral collapse due to the destruction of the world’s food supply. Jormungand, a massive serpent who dwells in the bottom of the oceans is released, and he leaps onto the land spilling the oceans all over the earth. Then the ship Naglfar is set forth, a ship made of all the toenails and fingernails of dead men and women (gnarly) and captained by none other than Loki himself. After a whole load of other ballistic shit (wolves, fire-giants and flaming swords), the gods themselves go to war and slaughter each other, and it all ends with the earth sinking into the sea and disappearing. All that’s left is a gaping void, Creation and all of its fruits disappearing for eternity, as if it all had never existed.
As a writer, Ragnarok contains all the elements of good story, and given the choice, I’d quite like to see some fire-giants and Loki on his toenail-boat when the End of Days comes about. As a human being with a natural and instinctive dislike of pain and discomfort, I’ll take the Buddhist apocalypse please: just a long, slow and boring end, and while we’re waiting for it to come around, we, the older and wiser ones, can sit back on our porches and watch the depravity and societal collapse unfold around us. If the maniacs will let us be, of course.
O, for a quiet death.
‘The Apocalypse in Religion: The Different Traditions, Part One’, by Ultan Banan. Header image by Taton Moïse. Please note: flash fiction, nonfiction and all other content is the sole work of Black Tarn. Ask before republishing.