Sunday, August 31, 2008

End of Days?

Every once in awhile, 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.

That very thing happened yesterday with Arnold Schwarzenegger's 1999 apocalyptic themed movie "End of Days", which I watched on the 'Encore' movie network.

I grew up in the whole Schwarzenegger-Sylvester Stallone-Bruce Willis-Harrison Ford-Clint Eastwood era of movie watching. I simply enjoy watching these actors performances in most of their action adventures.

This group of actors has delivered more memorable one-liners than any collective group in the history of cinema. 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 portraying an ex-cop turned private security specialist. He is providing security along with his partner, played by Kevin Pollack, for a wealthy Wall Street financier played by Gabriel Byrne.

Problems begin when Byrne's character's body is taken over by Satan himself. It is the devil's goal to mate with a chosen human woman in the final hour before the end of the Millennium.

That chosen woman is played by the beautiful Robin Tunney. The film is also highlighted by one of the final appearances (the last in a major film) from veteran actor Rod Steiger.

As the rest of the world prepares to celebrate the coming of the year 2000, officials of the Church are trying to track down and stop the mating process of Satan and his chosen concubine. Per the story line, this would result in the birth of a child who will usher in a 'hell on earth' scenario.

Schwarzenegger's character is an unbelieving, pragmatic dupe whose own wife and daughter were brutally murdered a few years earlier. He has descended into a battle with alcoholism in the aftermath, and is now just moving through life using his particular 'skill set' to provide private security services.

He finally is forced to realize that in this case, he is providing those services for the Dark Prince himself. Thus begins his mission: to protect Tunney from becoming the devil's mate, something which she was apparently 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, as well as a bit of a typically overblown storyline, there are outstanding themes and lessons to be learned.

First, the idea of those 'end of days' as a central theme. 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 more than being smacked on the head with a board by God Almighty Himself is likely to wake you up. But to believers, we know that it will happen. It is simply a matter of time and exact details.

The fact is that God gave us a primer to that time. He provided us clues, in the Bible's final book. No one actually 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. He wanted us to have final opportunities to come to love and accept him before any final judgment.

The Book of the Apocalypse, or the Revelation of St. John, provides some interesting information that points to things happening in today's world which should give us pause. The book provides 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 strike regularly across human history.

But what is revealed to St. John is that these things will become more and more frequent. They will prove more and more devastating as the end approaches. To say that this has not been happening in our real world of recent years, 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. The development of the Internet, high-speed travel, and other modern realities allow the Word to spread to every corner of the globe.

The signs also include the return 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.

To many, a figurative Rome has indeed become reborn in the form of the European Union. Hebrew was a dead language until the birth of the nation of Israel, which restored it's formal teaching. Now some are actually planning to re-construct the Jewish Temple. When you see this one 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 number in some way in order to buy and sell and move about freely.

Today's developing technologies are making this possible. Microscopic bio-chips and other ID implant technologies. The development of cards replacing currency. Bar code technology. These and other inventions have clarified how this might ultimately be carried out.

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. Watch for the signs as they come closer and closer together, signalling the beginning of that "End of Days" scenario.

And as for the film itself, check it out. Schwarzenegger provides yet another action-packed performance. This time, there is even a little more for you to consider as you watch the fictional drama unfold.

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