It is not uncommon to hear doomsday prophets predict the end of the world. However, in recent days the year 2012 is receiving a lot of attention. In 2011 Hollywood produced the movie 2012. The movie predicted that on December 21, 2012, the sun and earth would line up with the black hole in the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. As a result our poles would reverse, causing catastrophic natural disasters that would destroy human civilization. Why is the date 12/21/12 generating so much interest?
Mark Hitchcock received his Ph.D. from Dallas Theological Seminary and is a scholar on end times theology. He has written several best-selling books on the topic, including a book titled, 2012: The Bible and the End of the World. In a recent interview with Mark, I asked him why there is such an interest in 2012. The content for this article comes from my interview and his book on this topic.
Belief in an end-times apocalypse exists in numerous cultures and religions. Many believe history is moving towards a climatic day of judgment. Some believe there will be a destructive end to mankind while others believe a golden age will result; still others believe the earth will go through a continued destruction and rebirth cycle.
The date of December 21, 2012 is the end of the Mayan Calendar. It is on this date the fifth and final 5,000 year cycle ends. The Mayans produced incredibly accurate calendars and were able to track the movement of the sun, moon, stars, and earth’s rotation with tremendous accuracy. They accomplished all of this without any telescopes! Many speculate that the Mayan Calendar ends on 12/21/12 because it signifies the end of the age.
Who were the Mayans?
There is little known of Mayan history although some believe the civilization dates back nearly 2,000 years. The Mayans lived in the Yucatan Peninsula in present day Mexico extending to Guatemala, Honduras, and Belize. The Mayans were once a large and thriving civilization. It is estimated that in the major city of Tikal, the population was approximately 50,000 with more than 3,000 buildings extending over a six-mile area. During their golden age around 800 A.D. scholars estimate they had a population of five to fourteen million. However, nearly a century later, the civilization mysteriously disappeared.
Several theories are presented regarding their disappearance. They include plague, climate change, wars, etc… Most believe it was due to famine from over-farming, deforestation, and depleted soils. Although we do not know the reason for their disappearance, we do know they were meticulous and precise in keeping time. The record of their time-tracking ability continues to astound historians.
The Mayans had an amazing understanding of time. They were able to carefully chart the movements of the moon, the sun, and Venus with tremendous precision. Without the aid of modern telescopes they calculated the length of the lunar month to be 29.53020 days, which is within thirty-four seconds of what we now know to be its actual length of 29.53059 days. Their solar year was 365.2450 days compared to our modern calendar which is 365.2425 days. The Mayans kept track of time for up to 26,000 years.
The Mayans did not see time as linear; rather they considered time to be cyclical and repeating. Their calendars measured these cycles. The Mayans were obsessed with time, and they created and followed several calendars. One was a solar calendar that had eighteen months consisting of twenty days with an extra five days. Another calendar tracked the movement of Venus. The third calendar dealing with the apocalypse of 2012 is called the Long Count Calendar.
The Mayan Long Count Calendar
The Long Count Calendar was used to count the world cycles which repeated over and over. According to this calendar five great cycles would pass and each great cycle lasted 5,125 years. Each great cycle would end in destruction followed by a rebirth. According to the Mayan Long Count Calendar, five great cycles would pass, forming the end of the precessional cycle of 25,625 years.
The Mayan’s believed the creation of Maya occurred on August 11, 3114 B.C. The fifth and final great cycle of 5,125 years would end on December 21, 2012. This date marks the end of the precessional cycle of the Mayan calendar, and it also coincides with the galactic alignment of the sun and earth with the back hole at the center of the Milky Way. No one knows why the Mayan calendar ends on this date. Also, no one knows what will happen when the earth and sun cross the galactic equator of the Milky Way Galaxy. Some speculate an apocalypse destroying human civilization while others predict a spiritual rebirth. Mark Hitchcock presents some of the most popular predictions.
One possibility is that on December 21, 2012, there will be a galactic alignment of the sun and the earth with the center of the Milky Way. Some speculate that catastrophic disasters will result. One of the predictions is a polar reversal. Crossing this galactic equator will cause the earth’s poles to reverse. Some theorize that this reversing of the poles will result in cataclysmic earthquakes, mass volcano eruptions, and tsunamis. Electro-magnetic storms will disrupt power and satellites. The earth will be thrust into a new ice age and other dramatic changes due to the dramatic change in the temperature of the earth. As a result of these disasters, the vast majority of earth’s population will not survive.
Another scenario resulting in the crossing of the galactic equator is that the solar flare activity of the sun will increase in 2012. This sudden increase of magnetic radiation could cause changes in the Jet stream and ocean currents. This could result in Katrina-like tidal waves across the world. Solar flares could emit solar magnetic storms that would destroy electrical grids all over the world. Without electricity the world would be thrust into an age of complete chaos.
A third possibility presented is the Planet X catastrophe. It is believed that scientists have discovered a tenth planet in our solar system known as planet X, or 2003UB313. The planet’s elliptical orbit will bring it into our solar system in 2012. The gravitational pull of this planet on earth will cause major disasters on this planet.
In contrast to many who predict a catastrophic apocalypse, some predict an unprecedented spiritual awakening that will bring in a new golden age for mankind. Many in the New Age movement believe that the Mayans anticipated that a new dawn in the spiritual evolution of mankind would occur. As a result of the galactic alignment of the earth, sun, and the center of the Milky Way, a new level of human consciousness will arise, transforming human civilization. This spiritual enlightenment will result in a new golden age, and a utopia will be ushered in.
Finally, there are those who believe it will be just another day. It is true that we do not know what will happen when the sun and earth line up with the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. However, very few scientists believe that the disaster scenarios predicted will actually occur. Most scientists believe that life on earth will continue with perhaps slight fluctuations in climate and some natural disasters; however, there will be no major differences in comparison to previous years.
Why does the Mayan calendar end in 2012? Most Mayan historians believe that the end of the calendar could be due to the sudden end of the Mayan civilization. Some New Age and other spiritual guides attempt to support a 2012 apocalypse with biblical passages, but the Bible does not present any strong support for their date of 2012. Jesus stated in regards to His return that “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Mt. 24:36) I asked Dr. Mark Hitchcock what he plans to do on 12/21/12, and he stated, “I’ll be shopping because there will be only four days left till Christmas!”
All who predicted specific dates of an apocalyptic end of mankind have been wrong. However, one book has a proven record of accurately fulfilled prophecy. That book is the Bible. The Bible contains hundreds of prophecies which have come to pass. Empires, rulers, and events were predicted often centuries before they arose. For example, Daniel predicted the rise of the Babylonian, Persian, Greek and Roman Empires centuries before the final two had appeared. There are over one hundred prophecies which Jesus fulfilled regarding Israel’s Messiah. These prophecies include the lineage of Christ, the city of his birth, the type of ministry he would have, events surrounding his crucifixion, the time of his crucifixion, and his resurrection.
With its record of fulfilled prophecy, the Bible demonstrates that it is the only source that presents us a reliable prediction of the end of the age. Christians have disagreed on the interpretation of the book of Revelation and some specific events regarding the return of Christ. For example, some hold to an event called the rapture, a moment when the church will be suddenly taken from the earth. Some believe that a rapture will not occur. However, all Christians agree that according to the Bible, Christ will one day physically return (Acts 1:10). When He does return again a second time, He will come as a conquering king. With the heavenly host, He will defeat evil, judge the living and the dead, and establish His rule upon the earth (Rev. 20-22).
When will this event occur? Jesus clearly stated that no one knows the day or the hour but that all Christians are to be prepared for His return. The return of the Lord has been the blessed hope of Christians throughout the ages. Since Bible prophecy has such a trustworthy record of fulfillment, we can be confident that the return of Christ will indeed happen.
How Should We Use this Moment?
Many await 2012 with great anticipation. How should Christians seize the moment? The hype around 2012 reveals the spiritual hunger in all men and women and the belief that human history is moving towards some kind of climax. This also reveals the great interest in prophecy. There is a great interest and belief in some coming apocalypse and the concept that history is moving in some kind of meaningful direction.
I believe that if Christians equip themselves, the topic of 2012 can be a tool that opens the door to share the gospel. I have had several interesting conversations with individuals who have brought up the issue of 2012 and the proposed coming apocalypse. This has provided an avenue to share the gospel.
For example, on a flight to Asia, I was able to discuss the issue with a young man sitting next to me. Glancing over at my book on 2012, he asked me about the topic and why many people were making a big deal about 2012. I was able to share with him about the Mayan calendar and the possible scenarios that were predicted. He expressed some skepticism mixed with some concern. I then shared with him the most reliable source of prophecy came from the Bible and that the Bible predicts a coming apocalypse. Although he stated he was not interested in the biblical apocalypse, he wanted to know why biblical prophecy should be considered reliable. I was able to share with him the numerous fulfilled prophecies in the Bible especially those regarding Christ. So although I did not get to share about the return of Christ, I was able to share with him the reliability of biblical prophecy and the gospel message.
As Christians, we are called to be wise and know the times we are living in (Mt. 24:42-44). As wise stewards and believers, we can capitalize on issues that strike the interest of the culture as use these as avenues in which the gospel can be presented (Mt. 10:16). Perhaps 2012 will be a year of spiritual awakening! If we are prepared to address the issue, perhaps there will be many open doors to share about Bible prophecy and the gospel.
© 2012 Evidence and Answers