It’s the End of the World?

Descendants of the Mayan people were first evangelized by Spanish missionaries in the 16th century.   Once a great civilization prior to the arrival of the Spanish, the collapse of the Maya remains an enigma to anthropologists.... which partly explains the fanciful theorizing regarding the Mayan calendar among New Age movement enthusiasts.

Once a great civilization centuries before the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century, the collapse of the Maya remains an enigma to anthropologists. The “Mayan mystery” partly explains the contemporary fascination with and speculation about their ancient calendar system.

Head for the hills, folks! THE END IS NEAR! The Georgia rock band, R.E.M., wrote “It’s the End of the World as We Know it (And I Feel Fine)” in 1988. Whenever I hear threats of impending apocalypse, I always hum that song. But seriously, should a Christian be concerned when we hear doomsday talk?

At the time of this blog posting, the fascination has been with the end of the Mayan calendar on December 21, 2012. Much has been made of potential cataclysm on this date, but the fact is that it really is not a big deal. On that date, the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar will need to flip over to the next b’ak’tun, according to Mayan mythology. Anthropologists who study Mayan culture contend that linking the idea of universal catastrophe with the end of the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar is simply speculation, having absolutely zero correspondence to historical Mayan thought. However, this does not dissuade popular New Age theorists from “cashing-in” on all of the fuss.

Historic Bruton Parish Episcopal Church in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia.  What mysteries of the Mayan calendar supposedly lie beneath the courtyard?

Historic Bruton Parish Episcopal Church in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. What mysteries of the Mayan calendar supposedly lie beneath the courtyard?

Little old Williamsburg, Virginia has had its share of Mayan-calendar-type doomsday speculation. In 1991, Marsha Middleton, a New Age mystic from New Mexico, tried unsuccessfully to unearth a supposed vault in the courtyard of historic Bruton Parish Church in Colonial Williamsburg. I grew up at Bruton Parish Episcopal Church and knew several of the church leaders back then. To say the least, they were bewildered when this woman and her friends sought to dig up part of the churchyard in search of documents written by Sir Francis Bacon that would lead the world into “world peace”. Ms. Middleton’s claim was that the vault had to be recovered before the end of millennium in the year 2000.  She even claimed to have seen an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary to prove the urgency.

Leaders of the church of my upbringing conducted their own dig and could not find anything. But, of course, Ms. Middleton’s group argued that they were digging in the wrong place, yada, yada. Perhaps she read her Mayan calendar incorrectly, but the supposed terrible calamity of the end of the millennium did not happen, or at least I missed it somehow, in spite of the other excitement about that oh-so horrible, world-changing Y2K bug that broke one of my alarm clocks…. Yawn….Mmmm….

According to folks I know at Bruton Parish, Ms. Middleton thankfully has not come back in recent years.

What can we learn from the future naysayers like the Mayan calendar alarmists and Ms. Middleton? The Bible is pretty clear. Date setting is something with which we are not to be preoccupied. Matthew 24:36ff argues that even the Son of God does not know the date for the End Times. Instead, a Christian should be always in a state of readiness for the Second Coming of our Lord, which could happen at any date according to the Father’s timetable. We need to prepare our hearts and diligently seek Him, so that He might find us as good stewards over all He has entrusted to us.

What a sobering responsibility. This does not mean that we should be spending our energies building cabins in the mountains to escape the terrors of Armageddon or stockpiling tons of canned goods, much less digging up church courtyards. It means that we should examine ourselves and ask the Lord to purify our sinful hearts. We must be wary of the temptation to gloat over prophecy speculations and ignore the deceitfulness of the human will and mind that so easily entangles us.

Thankfully, God’s Word in the Bible gives us all that we need to be concerned about the ultimate future. Unfortunately, a lot of “spiritual” sounding talk from End Times advocates may sometimes confuse the Christian, so we must be on-guard and do our biblical homework. While we may profit to some degree from mythology and other worldviews, we must take end-of-the-world claims with a healthy dose of skepticism and hold them up to the clear light of Holy Scripture.

Additional Resources:

More information on Marsha Middleton’s claims about the Bruton vault can be found at her website. If I can only get her and her friends to dig up the dirt that clogs up the culvert in my driveway, that would be great.

R.E.M. official video of “It’s the End of the World”. All skateboarders should wear protective gear.

About Clarke Morledge

Clarke Morledge -- Computer Network Engineer, College of William and Mary... I hiked the Mount of the Holy Cross, one of the famous Colorado Fourteeners, with some friends in July, 2012. My buddy, Mike Scott, snapped this photo of me on the summit. View all posts by Clarke Morledge

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