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Eschatology ( pronunciation (help·info); from the Greek ἔσχατος/ἐσχάτη/ἔσχατον, eschatos/eschatē/eschaton meaning "last" and -logy meaning "the study of", first used in English around 1550.) is a part of theology, philosophy, and futurology concerned with what are believed to be the final events in history, or the ultimate destiny of humanity, commonly referred to as the end of the world. The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as "concerned with ‘the four last things: death, judgement, heaven, and hell’".
While in mysticism the phrase refers metaphorically to the end of ordinary reality and reunion with the Divine, in many traditional religions it is taught as an actual future event prophesied in sacred texts or folklore. More broadly, eschatology may encompass related concepts such as the Messiah or Messianic Age, the end time, and the end of days.
History is often seen as being divided into "ages" (Gk. aeons), an age being a period of time when certain realities are present. An age may come to an end and be replaced by a new age where different realities are present. This transition from one age to another is often the subject of eschatological discussion. So, instead of "the end of the world" we may speak of "the end of the age" and be referring to the end of "life as we know it" and the beginning of a new reality. Indeed, most apocalyptic literature (and movies) do not deal with the "end of time" but rather with the end of a certain period of time, the end of life as it is now, and the beginning of a new period of time. It is usually a crisis that brings an end to current reality and ushers in a new way of living / thinking / being. This crisis may take the form of the intervention of a deity in history, a war, a change in the environment or the reaching of a new level of consciousness. If a better world results, we say it is "utopian". If a worse, it is "dystopian." Eschatologies vary as to their degree of optimism or pessimism about the future (indeed, the same future may be utopian for some and dystopic for others - "heaven and hell" for example).
Most modern eschatology and apocalypticism, both religious and secular, involves the violent disruption or destruction of the world, whereas Christian and Jewish eschatologies view the end times as the consummation or perfection of God's creation of the world. For example, according to ancient Hebrew belief, life takes a linear (and not cyclical) path; the world began with God and is constantly headed toward God’s final goal for creation.
Eschatology has also been a belief shared, sometimes theorized on, by philosophers. Saint Augustine stressed the allegorical method of interpretation. He was greatly influenced by Origen. He was followed by Ibn al-Nafis and Hegel with their philosophy of history, and, some (such as the author Albert Camus in 'The Rebel') have argued, Karl Marx.
More recently, many involved in futures studies and transhumanism have noted the accelerating rate of scientific progress and anticipate a technological singularity in the 21st century that would profoundly and unpredictably change the course of human history, and resulting in Homo sapiens no longer being the dominant life form on earth, if the species survives at all. The time estimate for the occurrence of the technological singularity has been approximated to be about the year 2030. The statistical methodology for inferring a single or multiple near-simultaneous technological singularities has been criticised for being quasi-empirical at best, using questionable statistical methodology. Part of the argument can be categorized as rationalist, not merely empirical, as the conclusions are nearly tautological, similar to early rationalist arguments for evolution by natural selection.
In Bahá'í belief, creation does not have a beginning nor end. Instead the eschatology of other religions is viewed as symbolic. In Bahá'í belief, human time is marked by a series of progressive revelations in which successive messengers or prophets come from God. The coming of each of these messengers is seen as the day of judgement to the adherents of the previous religion, who may choose to accept the new messenger and enter the 'heaven' of belief, or denounce the new messenger and enter the 'hell' of denial. In this view the terms heaven and hell are seen as symbolic terms for the person's spiritual progress and their nearness to or distance from God. In Bahá'í belief, the coming of Bahá'u'lláh, the founder of the Bahá'í Faith, signals the fulfilment of previous eschatological expectations of Islam, Christianity and other major religions.
The Brahma Kumaris believe that the old world will come to an end, at the end of the cycle, through extensive destructive events which will wipe out the whole population of the old world. The end of the cycle is referred to as "the end". At the end of the old cycle, a new cycle begins. When the new cycle begins, divine human beings will take birth on earth and the population at the beginning of the new cycle would be very small. The new cycle begins with the Golden Age and vices will not exist in the new world. At the end of the old world, the vices would have increased to such an intolerable state, at the end of Kaliyug or the Iron Age, and the old world has to be wiped out because Man would not be able to endure the weak state and the unhappiness that comes with it. The time for their existence has to end so that a new kind of population can come and live on earth.
Some forms of Buddhism hold belief in cycles in which life span of human beings changes according to human nature. In Cakkavati sutta the Buddha explained the relationship between life span of human being and behaviour. As per this sutta, In the past unskillful behavior was unknown among the human race. As a result, people lived for an immensely long time — 80,000 years — endowed with great beauty, wealth, pleasure, and strength. Over the course of time, though, they began behaving in various unskillful ways. This caused the human life span gradually to shorten, to the point where it now stands at 100 years, with human beauty, wealth, pleasure, and strength decreasing proportionately. In the future, as morality continues to degenerate, human life will continue to shorten to the point were the normal life span is 10 years, with people reaching sexual maturity at five.
Ultimately, conditions will deteriorate to the point of a "sword-interval," in which swords appear in the hands of all human beings, and they hunt one another like game. A few people, however, will take shelter in the wilderness to escape the carnage, and when the slaughter is over, they will come out of hiding and resolve to take up a life of skillful and virtuous action again. With the recovery of virtue, the human life span will gradually increase again until it reaches 80,000 years, with people attaining sexual maturity at 500.
According to Tibetan Buddhist literature, the age of first Buddha was 1,000,000 years and height was 100 cubits while 28th Buddha, Siddhartha Gautam (563BC–483BC) lived 80 years and his height was 20 cubits.
Christian eschatology is concerned with death, an intermediate state, Heaven, hell, the return of Jesus, the resurrection of the dead, a rapture, a great tribulation, the Millennium, end of the world, the last judgment, a new heaven and a new earth, and the ultimate consummation of all of God's purposes. Eschatological passages are found in many places, esp. Isaiah, Daniel, Matthew 24 !, and the Book of Revelation, but Revelation often occupies a central place in Christian eschatology.
The second coming of Christ is the central event in Christian eschatology. Most Christians believe that death and suffering will continue to exist until Christ's return. Needless to say, there are various views concerning the order and significance of other eschatological events.
The book of Revelation is at the core of Christian eschatology. The study of Revelation is usually divided into four approaches. In the Futurist approach, Revelation is chiefly seen as referring to events which as yet have not come to pass, but which will come to pass at the end of the age, and the end of the world. This is the approach which most applies to eschatological studies. In the Preterist approach, Revelation chiefly refers to the events of the first century, such as the struggle of Christianity to survive the persecutions of the Roman Empire, the fall of Jerusalem in 70 AD, and the desecration of the temple in the same year. In the Historicist approach, Revelation provides us with a broad view of history, and passages in Revelation are identified with major historical people and events. In the Idealist (or Spiritualist or Symbolic) approach, the events of Revelation are neither past nor future, but are purely symbolic, dealing with the ongoing struggle and ultimate triumph of good over evil.
Contemporary Hindu eschatology is linked in the Vaishnavite tradition to the figure of Kalki, or the tenth and last avatar of Vishnu before the age draws to a close, and Shiva simultaneously dissolves and regenerates the universe.
Most Hindus believe that we are living in the Kali Yuga, the last of four periods (Yuga) that make up the current age. Each period has seen a successive degeneration in the moral order and character of human beings, to the point that in the Kali Yuga quarrel and hypocrisy are prevalent. Often, the invocation of Kali Yuga denotes a certain helplessness in the face of the horrors and suffering of the human condition and a nostalgia for a golden past or a future salvation.
However, Hindu conceptions of time, like those found in other non-Western traditions, are cyclical in that one age may end but another will always begin. As such, the cycle of birth, growth, decay, death, and renewal at the individual level finds its echo in the cosmic order of all things, yet affected by the vagaries of the comings and goings of divine interventions in the Vaishnavite belief.
Most Hindus believe that Shiva will destroy the world at the end of the kalpa. Some Shaivites hold the view that he is incessantly destroying and creating the world.
Islamic eschatology is documented in the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, regarding the Signs of the Day of Judgment. The Prophet's sayings on the subject have been traditionally divided into Major and Minor Signs. He spoke about several Minor Signs of the approach of the Day of Judgment, including:
Regarding the Major Signs, a Companion of the Prophet narrated: "Once we were sitting together and talking amongst ourselves when the Prophet appeared. He asked us what it was we were discussing. We said it was the Day of Judgment. He said: 'It will not be called until ten signs have appeared: Smoke, Dajjal [the Antichrist], the creature (that will wound the people), the rising of the sun in the West, the Second Coming of Jesus, the emergence of Gog and Magog, and three sinkings (or cavings in of the earth): one in the East, another in the West and a third in the Arabian Peninsula.'"