Sunday, August 31, 2008

End of Days?

It happens every once in awhile that I sit down to watch some TV, nothing special is on my agenda, and a show or movie catches my attention and ends up drawing me in to watch the whole thing. It happened yesterday with Arnold Schwarzenegger's 1999 apocalyptic tome "End of Days" on the 'Encore' movie network. First you need to understand that I grew up in the whole Schwarzenegger-Sylvester Stallone-Bruce Willis-Harrison Ford-Clint Eastwood era of movie watching, and I simply enjoy most of these guys action adventures. They have probably delivered more memorable one-liners than any group in the history of cinema, and their films have come during the era when special effects have allowed almost anything to happen and seem realistic. The plot of "End of Days" finds Schwarzenegger as an ex-cop turned private security specialist, providing security along with his partner played by Kevin Pollack for a wealthy Wall Street financier played by Gabriel Byrne. Problem is that Byrne's character's body becomes taken over by Satan himself, whose goal is to mate with a chosen human woman in the final hour before the end of the Millenium. That chosen woman is played by the beautiful Robin Tunney, and the film also is highlighted by one of the final appearances (the last in a major film) by veteran actor Rod Steiger. As the rest of the world prepares to celebrate the coming of the year 2000, the officials of the Church are trying to track down and stop the mating process of Satan and his chosen concubine, which per the story line will result in the birth of a child who will usher in a 'hell on earth' scenario. Schwarzenegger is the unbelieving, pragmatic dupe whose own wife and daughter were brutally murdered a few years earlier, who has descended into a battle with alcoholism in the aftermath, and who is just moving through life using his particular 'skill set' in providing private security services. He finally is forced to realize that he is providing those services for the Dark Prince himself, and begins a mission to protect Tunney from becoming the devil's mate that she was born to become. In the end, it is only through Arnold's own personal revelation, his own belief and faith, and his own self-sacrifice that he can finally hope to overcome evil and save the woman and the world. Around all of the outstanding special effects, and there are many here that still hold up great even a decade later, and a bit of a typically overblown Arnold story, there are outstanding themes and lessons to be learned. First, the idea of the 'end of days', the 'end times', 'Armageddon', the 'apocalypse' is addressed in dramatic form. It has been addressed better and more believably in other places, but this pop version of the story returns the idea to the front of your consciousness. If you are an unbeliever, little but being smacked on the head with a board by God Himself will wake you up. But to believers, we know that it will happen, it's just a matter of time and exact details. The fact is that God gave us a primer, he provided us clues, in the Bible's final book. Of course, no one knows when the exact end of time will come, that is God's information alone. But he just as obviously wanted man to know that the time was coming, and wanted us to have final opportunities to come to love and accept him before any final judgement. The Book of the Apocalypse, or the Revelation of St. John, provides much that points to things happening in today's world that should give one pause. The book provides basically that there will be seven cycles of events that will lead to the return of Jesus Christ and the end of days on earth as we have known them. Some of the signs are generic, and could apply to any time in Earth's history: false prophets have always existed, there have always been wars and rumors of war, famine, earthquakes and other natural disasters. But what is revealed to St. John is that these things will become more and more frequent, and more and more devastating, as the end approaches. To say that this has not been happening, for whatever reason that they may be happening, is to simply deny reality. Another sign was that the Gospel would reach all corners of the world thanks to instant communications. This sign was not completely possible until recent years with the development of the internet, high-speed travel, and other modern realities that allow the Word to spread to every corner of the globe. The signs include the return as well of a restored Roman Empire, the return of Hebrew as a language, and the rebuilding of the Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount in Israel. Rome is reborn in the EU, Hebrew was a dead language until the nation of Israel restored it's teaching, and now some are planning to construct the Temple as well. You see this actually happening, you will know that the time is coming. And then there is the famous 'Mark of the Beast' most widely known under the number '666', and the fact that all will be required to accept this to buy and sell and move about somewhat freely. It has not been until today's coming technologies of microscopic bio-chips and other ID technologies, the development of cards replacing currency, bar code technology, and other inventions that has made this final piece of the puzzle clearer. You can argue all you want about any of these 'signs' individually, but it is the combination of them that signals the coming of the End Times. I have faith, and personally believe that all these things will happen. Whether they happen in my lifetime or not is not for me to say. But I would say to you that if you are intelligent, and if you have any established Christian belief that you take seriously, then you need to keep your eyes, ears, and heart open for the signs as they come closer and closer together, signalling the "End of Days". As is always the case, the title of this entry is a link to more information on the topic, this one taking you to a YouTube free internet film series on the topic.

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