Is the world coming to an end?

MASERU — It’s there on a billboard in Lakeside, Maseru.

The message is clear, this world as we know it, will come crashing down on  May 21, 2011.

The earth will be turned into a ball of fire, shortly after the righteous have been taken away “home”.

The billboard occupies pride of place along a major road near Lakeside in Maseru.

It looks like the people behind it, whom we failed to identify, strategically placed it there for maximum impact.

And it is having real impact, judging by the fierce debates taking place in public transport in Maseru.

It is also generating fear among the people.

“Judgment Day — 21 May 2011,” says the billboard in bold letters.

“God says all people around the world should repent. Because he has set a day in which he will judge the world,” Acts 17:30, 31, says the board.

The billboard has triggered fierce debates about the end of the world.

In a country where 90 percent of the 1.8 million people are said to be Christian according to the Christian Council of Lesotho, this should not be surprising.

Discussions about the end of the world are also quite common in Lesotho.

Only two weeks ago, 10 students, nine boys and a girl, vanished from their schools in Maputsoe.

They left a note informing their parents that they had gone into the wilderness “to meet Jesus”.

The students were from Sacred Heart High School and Holy Family High School.

In the one-page letter written in the local Sesotho language, the children said they were going to meet Jesus because “the end of the world” was at hand.

The students had a custom of meeting regularly for prayer sessions where the subject of the end received maximum attention.

A missionary with the Jehovah’s Witnesses in Lesotho, Per-Ola Nygren, said “the end of the world” did not mean the physical destruction of the earth.

“What we believe is what is written in the Bible. When the Bible talks about the end of the world we don’t believe it is the physical end of earth.

“It talks about the day of judgment and the destruction of ungodly men.

“We believe that God will take action and only destroy evil and wicked people.

“We just do not know the day God will take action but we believe it is not far off according to Bible prophecies,” Nygren said.

Nygren said God does not wish to destroy human life and is therefore giving each one of us an opportunity to repent.

“He is giving us time to teach each other about Him so that we can repent from our sins,” he said.

Nygren said the removal of the wicked will result in peace on earth.

Reverend Bongani Ntshangase of the African Methodist Episcopal was blunt in his condemnation of peddlers of the May 2011 “end of the world” message.

Reverend Ntshangase said the message appeared to have been meant as a scare tactic against the people.

He said this approach was wrong.

Reverend Ntshangase said the date of the end of the world was only known by God.

“The Bible says that day is only known to God. Not angels, not the priest or even the Son (Jesus Christ) himself knows about that day.

“People who say that the world is coming to an end next year are wrong. They are just scaring people. It is wrong to scare people.

“Jesus says that we should teach the Good Word. Faithful Christians should not be scared by such deceitful messages,” Reverend Ntshangase said.

He said the Bible warns of false prophets who would peddle lies about the end of the world.

“Jesus said there would be a time when many false teachers would rise. He said people would change the Word of God and it is happening. We now have many churches emerging with some writing their own Bibles,” he said.

Reverend Ntshangase said Jesus “will come like a thief” to exact vengeance on the wicked.

He said the 10 students who disappeared in Maputsoe could have been lured into evil deeds, adding their statement that they were to meet Jesus was founded on a wrong premise.

“No one can see Jesus while we are still in this flesh. Those children need serious prayer.

“Satan is out to get these young children. He is recruiting young people. They are vulnerable because they are looking for money and riches,” Reverend Ntshangase said.

Reverend Lefa Monaheng of the Zoe Bible Church also said no one knows about the Day of Judgment but God.

“It is not true that the world is going to end in 2011. It is not true that someone knows about the Judgment Day. It is only known to God.

“Even Jesus His son does not know about it. He (Jesus) also said it that no one knows except his Father,” Reverend Monaheng said.

There are various shades of understanding on the end of the world teaching.

Other religious groups say the end will not come in May 2012 but on December 21, 2012.

The scary message about the end is also being connected with the ancient Mayan calendar which ends on December 21, 2012.

The Mayans were an indigenous people of ancient Mexico.

“The Mayan calendar runs out on December 2012 and it has been suggested that they knew something we don’t.

“This is the basis of what has been called the Mayan calendar 2012 prophecy,” says one website.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration has however dismissed such predictions.

“The story started with claims that Nibiru, a supposed planet discovered by the Sumerians, is headed toward Earth.

“This catastrophe was initially predicted for May 2003, but when nothing happened the doomsday date was moved forward to December 2012.

“Then these two fables were linked to the end of one of the cycles in the ancient Mayan calendar at the winter solstice in 2012 — hence the predicted doomsday date of December 21, 2012,” Nasa says.

“If Nibiru or Planet X were real and headed for an encounter with the Earth in 2012, astronomers would have been tracking it for at least the past decade, and it would be visible by now to the naked eye,” says the US agency.

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