The End Is Near: Terminal Hysteria or Blessed Hope? By Wallace Henley , Special to CP

It has begun – “it” being the end  of the world. Of people, time, cluttered closets, the IRS, the fiscal cliff,  final exams, leftover Thanksgiving turkey. The end of everything.

We won’t even need Obamacare.

Some interpretations of an old Mayan calendar seem to predict the finale of  something or other on December 21. Is it a “baktun”-cycle that terminates, or  the whole world?

Hysterics everywhere are going with the latter. One man in China has built  himself an ark, a big boat on which he hopes to ride out the end. Another  Chinese craftsman’s ark is actually a 13-foot steel sphere in which he will  survive the end whether by land or sea safe as a pit in a big round olive.

Some anxious folk are trekking to the French Pyrenees, where a UFO is parked  up in the mountains waiting to waft the wise into safe space. Unless, of course,  they collide with planet Niburu, which others believe will zip out of its  concealment on the backside of the sun and crash into earth. Then again the  alien lifeboat could get caught in the gullet of that huge black hole some Mayan  calendar buffs predict will swallow us all.

Meanwhile, New Agers and other spiritists are booking hotel rooms near  Chichen Itza, the Mexican site of Mayan ruins. I’ve been there, and fascinating  as it is, between the air-sucking heat, nosy iguanas, and squadrons of flying  pests I wished for the end too.

It’s not all bad, however. Yoga enthusiasts are fluffing up their mats and  getting ready to join a global mind-meld to launch a new age. One hopes it will  be better than the “Age of Aquarius” we stepped into in the 1970s, as proclaimed  in the popular musical, “Hair.”

At least the end of the world means there will be no possibility for the  return of leisure suits.

Maya scholar Geoffrey Braswell says the folderol about the Mayan calendar  “tells us more about ourselves, particularly in the Western world, than it does  about the ancient Maya.”

He’s right. The craziness shows at least three things. First, the way people  view the “end” reveals much about their personal worldview. The fearful see the  end of the world as cataclysm. Their angst is over termination, hence the  terminal hysteria. Cynics scorn them as disaster-mongers. Skeptics are  withholding judgment until December 22, and, if they are still here, will  declare their opinion then.

Second, the current craziness shows that when there is no coherent and  credible belief system, confusion and wackiness abound. Squirrels take the  shortest route to the nut. If it seems this way, they dart off here. If it  appears the crunchy is in that direction, they quickly shift that way. There’s a  lot of squirrely darting around with regard to the Mayan calendar.

Third, the Mayan tempest reveals the extent to which many in the West have  abandoned the Bible and its revelation. There they might find the coherence and  stability that provide peace, and  even joyful anticipation of the “end.”

However, even among Christians and others who look to the Bible for their  understanding of the future and end of the world, there’s a lot of wackiness.  The key to unlocking the biblical end-game is found in the Greek words inspired  in the New Testament, and their Hebrew counterparts in the Old.

In biblical Greek, “end” does not refer to “termination” so much as “telos,”  the arrival at purpose. (Matthew 24:14) However, reaching the goal of history  doesn’t come through a global mind-meld, but through the “Parousia,” the arrival  of the “summation of all things,” like the resolution of a chord that brings the  whole composition into symphonic wholeness. (Ephesians 1:10) “Apokatastasis  panton” is another Greek term, meaning a restoration of all things to their  original mint condition. (Acts 3:21) “Palin genesia” is a restart, a new  beginning. (Matthew 19:28)

Put it all together, and the “end” doesn’t ignite terminal hysteria, but the  “blessed hope,” as Paul writes in Titus 2:13. History is moving toward an  encounter with Christ, and restoration of the pristine purity of a world under  the Kingdom of righteousness, peace, and Spirit-given joy. (Romans 14:17)

The only people who need to quake are those not registered as citizens in the  Kingdom of Heaven. (Revelation 13:8) However, the Bible sounds a positive note  even for those not “ready” for the end. History is not winding down, but winding  up, and this era of the great “wind-up” is the “day of opportunity” for people  to gain their heavenly citizenship through Christ. (2 Corinthians 6:2)

So, with respect to the end of the world, we are faced with terminal  hysteria, skeptical scorn, cynical indifference, or blessed hope.

I think I will go with blessed hope.