Actually, it’s a no-brainer. Being cautious about our own “end” (cessation or demise) rather than fretting about the world’s apocalypse is but the more pragmatic option. In all likelihood, our own end will come first than that of the world or the universe.
Let’s first qualify the word “end” and why we’re quite queasy about it. On a positive or lighter connotation, it could mean a goal, an objective, or a destination. But, for our purposes, it may signify “death, cessation, demise, complete halt” or, in sciencespeak, the “lowest state of entropy.”
Thus, end could mean death, destruction, or cessation of our individual selves, our world, or our universe.
Death, or end of life, has always been a silent specter and has caused us queasiness for many reasons: we do not know what lies ahead or beyond; it is painful to leave (especially our loved ones); we like to cling to what is than to what will be; and we’re anxious to be reduced to insignificance, meaninglessness, or nothingness.
We’re undoubtedly scared of doomsday scenarios. At the early stage of the Covid-19 pandemic, various end-of-the-world interpretations based on past predictions surfaced, like:
Nostradamus (1551): “There will be a twin year (2020) from which will rise a queen (corona) who will come from the east (China) and who will spread a plague (virus) in the darkness of night, on a country will 7 hills and will transform the twilight of men into dust (death) to destroy and ruin the world. It will be the end of the world economy as you know it.”
Dean Koontz, “The Eyes of Darkness” (1981): The thriller novel describes a killer virus named “Wuhan 400” after the Chinese city it originated from. One character says, “they call the stuff ‘Wuhan 400’ because it was developed at their RDNA labs outside of the city of Wuhan, and it was the four-hundredth viable strain of man-made microorganisms created at that research center.”
Sylvia Browne, “End of Days: Predictions and Prophecies about the End of the World” (2008): “In around 2020 a severe pneumonia-like illness will spread throughout the globe attacking the lungs and the bronchial tubes and all known treatments…Almost more baffling than the illness will be the fact that it will suddenly vanish as quickly as it arrived, attack again ten years later and vanish completely.”
Even some contemporary scientists proffered theoretical speculations:
Stephen Hawking, “A Smooth Exit from Eternal Inflation” (2018): “Our universe will eventually fade into darkness as the stars run out of energy.”
Henry Gee, “Humans Are Doomed to Go Extinct” (2021 Scientific American article): The paleontologist and climate scientist said the human population is set not just for shrinkage but collapse. “The signs are already there for those willing to see them. When the habitat becomes degraded such that there are fewer resources to go around; when fertility starts to decline; when the birth rate sinks below the death rate; and when genetic resources are limited—the only way is down
Other scientists theorize that our universe, which started with a “big bang” some 13.7 billion years ago, will end not with a whimper but with a bang, a big rip, a big crunch, or a big freeze: “Then one day, the last star in the cosmos will burn up, afterwards the universe will change into a lightless place of emptiness; gigantic black holes will consume all remaining matter before finally evaporating themselves into a final act of destruction. Space will expand until even the faint light from the evaporating gravity monsters is too dispersed to interact, and the activity of the cosmos will come to a complete halt.” (“The Simply Space”, July 2022).
But with the universe’s end, still others believe the death or collapse of a star leads to its rebirth, and that black holes after all aren’t completely “black” or absent of any activity.
Sir Roger Penrose, 91, English mathematician and Nobel laureate in Physics, theorizes with his “conformal cyclic cosmology” that our universe will again return to a state of low entropy as it approaches its final days of expanding into eventual nothingness, leaving behind a cold, dark, featureless abyss.
“Black holes, the vacuum cleaners of our universe, spend their cosmic lifetimes working to scrub entropy from the universe. As the universe nears the end of wits expansion, the remainder of its black holes will evaporate or gobble one another up. During this period, the universe would begin to revert back into a similar state it was in at the big bang. This will usher in the new aeon…and is ready to trigger the next ‘big bang.” he said in “An Alternate theory of the Big Bang” (Jaime Trosper, futurism.com).
Is this going to happen soon? Certainly not! With our 13.7-billion-year-old universe—it keeps expanding (according to scientists, it will take about 6,300 years to get to the nearest star, Proxima Centauri)—and with the closest black hole to Earth some 1,500 light years away, the end of our universe remains not only speculative but extremely remote.
Let’s segue into what the Bible provides regarding the end-times. The Holy Scriptures exhorts us to be watchful for the “Lord’s coming,” for which “no one knows except the Father.”
Mark 13:33-37 says: “Be alert and watch for you do not know when the time will come. When a man goes abroad and leaves his home, he puts his servants in charge, giving to each one some responsibility and he orders the doorkeeper to stay awake. So stay awake, for you do not know when the Lord of the house will come, in the evening or at midnight, when the cock crows or before dawn. If he comes suddenly, do not let him catch you asleep. And what I say to you all: watch.”
In the same vein, Matthew 24:36-41 reads: “But as for that day and that hour, no one knows when it will come, not even the angels of God nor the son, but only the Father. At the coming of the Son of Man, it will be just as it was in the time of Noah. In those days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, and merrying until the day when Noah went into the ark. Yet they did not know what would happen until the flood came and swept them away. So will it be at the coming of the Son of Man. Of two men in the field, one will be taken and the other left. Of two women grinding wheat together at the mill, one will be taken and the other left.”
Indicatively so, even the Bible is quite evasive as to “when” is the coming of the Lord. What is quite clear, as provided by the Scriptures, is the exigency or divine mandate for us to “prepare” for such end-time. I am reminded of my friend’s analogy of one’s death: “When your time is up, it’s like your teacher telling you, ‘Pass your paper, finished or unfinished’.”
End-goal in life
Between the world’s end and our own, it is but apt and reasonable to be more cautious or vigilant of our own end or death. The words of the Scriptures are not intended to scare us but, appropriately so, for us to be mindful of our end-goal in life.
The “end” is nothing to be afraid of. As Seneca of old pointed out, “Endings lead to new beginnings.”
From the theological perspective, death is not analogous with physical death, but with spiritual death, which is understood as separation from God because of sin (mortal and unrepented).
Hence, it behooves us not to worry or be afraid about our physical death but our spiritual separation from God. We ought not worry about the cosmological end of the universe but our end-goal or purpose in life. As Dr. Stephen Covey’s No, 2 Habit, in his book “The 7 habits of Highly Effective People,” says: “Begin with the END in mind.”
Let’s live our life with our “end” in mind. After all, our life, by God’s purpose and design, is but “one, true, good, and beautiful.”
Bob Acebedo writes a column at the weekly OpinYon (https://opinyon.net) – Ed.
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