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The end of the world as we know it

To consider different ideas about the end of the world.

by Helen Bryant

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To consider different ideas about the end of the world.

Preparation and materials

  • YouTube has several short articles about the end of the world. Check copyright.


  1. I wonder if you have done everything you want to do? If you’re 12, I guess not. Even if you’re much older, 40, 60, or 80, I imagine there are some things that are still unfinished: the places that you haven’t seen, people you haven’t met, things you haven’t achieved.

    If you knew that the world was going to end at a particular time, would you try to do all of those things? How would you prepare yourself?
  2. There are different ideas about how the world will end, and they can be separated into religious and secular opinions. Let’s look at the secular ideas first.

    I’m sure most of you have seen a film such as Deep Impact or Armageddon, where a massive meteorite is heading directly for the Earth, and will destroy the planet.

    In the film The Day after Tomorrow huge climate change alters all life on Earth.

    Ideas such as these are known as ELEs (pronounced Ellies). The initials stand for ‘extinction level events’. ELEs include mega tsunamis; world-wide crop failure leading to mass famine; a disease similar to the Plague; or even a super volcano. Some scientists think that the volcano that lies dormant beneath Yellowstone Park in the USA is overdue to erupt, and when it does all life on Earth will change.

    Other scientists have looked at the sun and its lifetime, and estimated that 5 billion years from now the sun will begin to die, become a giant star and then cool to nothing.

    These are all possibilities that are caused by natural events, that is, events stemming from the nature of creation, but what about the involvement of human beings?

    Climate change is occurring – could our behaviour lead to the next ice age, or cause the planet to warm up and seas to rise? Or will we be faced with a nuclear war, and the destruction of all life?
  3. What do religions say about Armageddon – the end of the world?

    The three monotheistic religions – Christianity, Islam and Judaism – all say that the end of the world involves each of us being judged by God.

    You may have heard that the ‘Rapture’ was supposed to have taken place on 21 May 2011. (The word ‘Rapture’ refers to the view that Christians will be lifted up from this earth and united with Christ at his second coming to this earth. Non-Christians will be left behind.) The date 21 May 2011 was arrived at by a small American group who believe in the Rapture. According to this group, the end of the world will now occur on 21 October 2011!

    If, however, that day comes and goes with no ending in sight, there is still that Mayan prophecy which says that the world will end on 21 December 2011.

    I guess we had all better make sure we’ve done as much as we can!

Time for reflection

If the world were to end tomorrow, what would you do today?
Which relationships would you make right?
Who would you tell you loved?
Who would you thank?
How would you prepare?

We thank you, God, that no one knows when the world will end
but we recognize the need to put right
some of the things in our lives of which we are ashamed.
And, today, we will do all we can to make this a good day!



‘The end of the world as we know it’ by R.E.M. (widely available to download)

Publication date: September 2011   (Vol.13 No.9)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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