Apocalypse Now?

MY GRANDMOTHER, WHO USED TO DRAG my brothers and I to church every Sunday, was a hardcore fanatic of the book of Revelation. She loved to hear about the apostle John, in exile on the island of Patmos, seeing visions of the tribulation leading up to the apocalypse and the rapture of mankind unto the Lord.

She even used to hold a Revelation study meeting at her house, which, incidentally, I was also dragged to.

All I remember is that the study of end times, or eschatology as it’s called, was more complicated than I cared to think about. There was always some earthquake or worldwide plague or seven-headed dragon rising out of the brimstone to terrorize humanity, and all I could think was, “that couldn’t really happen.”
Only now am I beginning to notice that events in our time eerily resemble the very words spoken by not only John, but by many other prophets, including Jesus himself.

For instance, in Matthew 24, Jesus speaks to his disciples of the last days saying “For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.”

You can argue that the world has always been at war in one place or another, but there is no doubt that we are living in an era stricken with war and strife.

Another example can be found in Revelation 16:12 in which the apostle John writes “And the sixth angel poured out his vial upon the great river Euphrates; and the water thereof was dried up, that the way of the kings of the east might be prepared.”

Now because it can neither be proven nor denied that a higher power will cause these things to happen, whether a literal vial is poured out over the land, or God sweeps his visible hand across the Earth is irrelevant.

What is relevant is the outcome.

The Euphrates River is already one of the most dammed rivers in the world. Beginning in the 1970s, Turkey launched the Southeastern Anatolia Project or GAP, a massive venture consisting of 22 large dams and 19 hydroelectric plants along the river designed to improve living standards in southern Turkey.

While only five of these dams have been constructed so far, it has been estimated that full development of the project could eventually reduce the Euphrates’ flow by 60 percent.

Iraq, under the regime of Saddam Hussein, also engaged in an ambitious project after the gulf war to obstruct and divert much of the river in order to dry up the country’s southern marshlands. Without the river as a natural defense, many of the region’s inhabitants, including a large number of Hussein’s opponents, were conveniently displaced.

If this doesn’t get you thinking, consider a passage in Isaiah 11:15 that reads “He [The Lord] will break it [the Euphrates River] up into seven streams so that men can cross over in sandals.”

Following that, I find it interesting that Iraq has seven operational dams, making streams out of one torrent and contributing to a major reduction in the river’s output (the city of Hit in Iraq used to receive 3.597 million liters of river water per year before 1970 where now it only receives 872,000 liters). Indeed there are now places along the river where one could actually cross it on foot.

John continues in Revelation 16:3 writing “And the second angel poured out his vial upon the sea; and it became as the blood of a dead man: and every living soul died in the sea. And the third angel poured out his vial upon the rivers and fountains of waters; and they became blood.”

Even as a child, I thought it incredible and a little preposterous that all the seas in the world could be turned into blood. But even if you don’t believe in the Bible, imagine what a man in John’s time might have seen in a vision like this one. First of all, he probably only saw one sea—the Dead Sea perhaps—and second, what he described as blood could very well have been water that only looked like blood.

Along the coasts of our nations, agricultural runoff, wastewater and desalination plants are causing a life-threatening epidemic called red tide, or algae bloom. A mass accumulation of phytoplankton may, from time to time, show up in seaports where an unnatural rise in temperature is accompanied by a high level of nutrients such as phosphorous and nitrogen, both key ingredients in agricultural fertilizer. Algae bloom is often toxic and sometimes red-tinted, hence the name red tide.

Along the Red Sea, there are more than 18 large-scale desalination plants to filter its infamously salty water for drinking and farming. These facilities are coupled with even more hydroelectric plants expelling waste and warm water. Such operations, along with the rise in agriculture and urban development, are all factors that create fertile environments for red tide. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) these oxygen and nutrient deprived dead zones are doubling every 10 years, killing marine life, infecting humans, and corroding even ships.

With only as much information as I can fit into a single column — and believe me, there’s much more — I am startled by these and other prophecies. But even some of the most devout Christians would ignore these developments, expecting the signs to be clearer and irrefutable, perhaps hoping that unbelievers will come crying their woes as they suddenly realize their time is short.

But whether or not these manifestations are the product of obvious divine intervention or taking place in a single moment, they are taking place. And I guess I should be scared, but I keep hoping for someone to tell me these things are just coincidence.

Ben Keller is a senior majoring in mass communication and journalism with an emphasis in print journalism.

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