Apocalypse seen in recent events
By SHARON TUBBS
© St. Petersburg Times,
As many Americans look for assurance that the nation will someday be as it was before terrorists attacked on Sept. 11, some people are convinced that it never can be.
They believe the attack was a sign that the end of time is upon us, a sign that they say was predicted by biblical prophets and by French astrologer Nostradamus.
"We have seen in a most tragic way the truth of the words of the Apostle Paul who said, "But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come,' " said James Merritt, president of the Southern Baptist Convention, the nation's largest Protestant denomination.
Merritt's words, part of a release on the church's Web site, refer to the book of II Timothy. Religious believers say other scriptures in Daniel, Matthew and Revelation speak of war, peril and an antichrist who will lead the world to its ultimate destruction.
How widespread such beliefs are is uncertain. Many Christians, as well as people outside of the faith, believe that the world will, indeed, go on.
"We do not believe that this is any sign of anything," said John Brooks, a spokesman for the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, based in Chicago. "We believe that . . . the Lord Jesus Christ will help (us) through the pain of this."
Historically, turning points in time have triggered apocalyptic beliefs. As the year 2000 approached, bookstores stocked up on installments of the Left Behind series by Jerry Jenkins and Tim LaHaye. The apocalyptic fiction books remain among bestsellers in religious and secular venues.
Shortly after Tuesday's attack, bookstores saw an upsurge in sales of books about the second coming of Jesus. "We haven't sold out, but we've considerably picked up in the sales," said Bill Moore, assistant manager of Tampa Christian Supply.
At St. Petersburg's Haslam's Book Store, co-owner Ray Hinst said he was "deluged" Thursday. By midafternoon, the store had sold out of books on Nostradamus.
After terrorists crashed planes into the Pentagon and the twin towers of the World Trade Center, Internet rumors began circulating about Nostradamus' predictions. One e-mail message noted that the philosopher spoke of "towers in the new city" and the "earth-shaking fire from the center of the earth."
Proof to some in religious circles, such as pastor Joe Van Koevering of St. Petersburg's Gateway Christian Center, is Matthew 24: "You will hear of wars and rumors of wars. . . . Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom."
Van Koevering said he does not know exactly when the end will come and stressed that it could still be years yet. But he and others hope people start believing in God before it's too late.
"People should pray and be ready," said Angelos Boghadadi, a priest at St. George Coptic Orthodox Church in Tampa. "It is a sign of the beginning of the end."
- Times staff writer Sharon Ginn contributed to this report.
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