Is It Doomsday Time (Again)? We Have The Words For That

Who knows if R.E.M. had a specific date in mind when they sang their immortal chorus, “It’s the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.” Doomsday predictions happen at least every few years: the end of the world was expected on April 24, 1982, when many newspapers featured a full page ad “The Christ is Now Here!” (Spoiler alert: he wasn’t.) Edgar C. Whisenant published 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Could Be in 1988. Millions of aliens were predicted to arrive on Earth and cause its destruction on December 17, 1996. More recently, the Church of God Preparing for the Kingdom of God predicted Jesus would return June 9, 2019. (Starting to see a pattern here?)

With doomsday being such a popular topic, let’s take a look at some useful cataclysmic terminology.

(Learn some additional words that describe when people interpret events as signs of the end of the world, here.)

Rapture is derived from the Latin raptus meaning “to seize, carry off.” Defined as “ecstatic joy or delight; joyful ecstasy” and “the carrying of a person to another place or sphere of existence;” the latter tends to coincide with what many believe is the origin of the modern meaning behind the phrase The Rapture—a Biblical reference from Thessalonians 4:15-17 and the following passage:  “… and the dead in Christ shall rise first. Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.”

Armageddon is derived from the Hebrew Har Megiddon or Mount of Megiddo—a city located in central Palestine and, according to many Abrahamic religions, the site of the final battle during “end times.” The Greek translation is Harmagedōn and the Modern English variation we use today is a derivation of the Latin Armagedōn.

The doom in doomsday is from the Old English dom meaning, “law, judgement, condemnation.” In medieval England many believed that the day of the last Christian judgment would occur once the earth reached 6,000 years old.

Originally, a series of “Doomsday books” signified the opposite of our apocalyptic sense of the term—a tome somewhere between a census and and a tax audit of England under William the Conqueror. The book is one of the best records of the day-to-day life in England at the time—more a celebration of mundane vitality than a chronicle of horrific ending. One of the more recent definitions of doomsday is a bit bleaker though—Doomsday is the name of an extraterrestrial monstrosity who notoriously took the life of Superman in a 1992 comic.


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