Apocalypse, Apologetics, End times, Main, z164
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The Aztecs and the End of the World

Aztec pyramid of Tenochtilian Credit: Maunus/Public Domain

Did you know that terrible things were supposed to happen to the Earth on December 21, 2012? Some people believed that prophecies from the ancient Aztecs, in Mexico, predicted the end of our time in history, on that day. The Aztecs lived in central Mexico, around Mexico City.

They are often confused with the Mayans, who lived south of them, in southern Mexico and Central America. The two groups, Aztecs and Mayans, spoke different languages and lived in different places, but references to ancient prophecies are mixed up and assigned to both groups. I will refer to the Aztecs here.

Until that day, December 21, 2012, the idea that the Aztecs predicted the end of the world was popular with New-Age believers. It’s called “The 2012 Phenomenon” and it mostly disappeared after that day.

I remember people talking about the end of the world, back in 2012.

The ancestral Aztecs migrated into central Mexico, apparently from the north, and conquered the region. Their language is Nahuatl and they are sometimes called the Nahua people. One group migrated south and settled in a large peninsula by the Pacific Ocean. They named the region ‘the home of the Nahua people’ and we know the name as Nicarauwa or Nicaragua. Their region gave it’s name to the larger country. Now you know.

In the north, they are related to the Ute people, who gave their name to the State of Utah, and the Shoshones, who traveled as far north as Canada. That might be too much nerdiness for you, but my point is that these ancient people were numerous, they spread over a huge area, and they had a long history. Today, they are mostly forgotten, except for the Aztecs.

When the Spaniards conquered Mexico, they destroyed most of the Aztec books, but some writings are preserved in stone. The result is, we know a little bit, but not much, about these interesting people. We know that they had a terrible religion, with thousands of human sacrifices. We also know that they expected the end of the world, or the end of our time in history, right about now.

We mostly know the big picture items of the Aztec religion, and we know they expected the end. The technical term for beliefs about the future, and the end is ‘eschatology.’ The Aztecs and their neighbors had long-count calendars that traced history and predicted the future, and we know something about those calendars today. History and the future are divided into five periods of time, called ‘Suns’ and this era today is the Fifth Sun, the last era. These five suns might correspond to five thousand years.

The Aztecs were like every other culture, they had a religion with a creation, followed by times when a god intervened in human history, and an end. Also, they probably had a flood story. Every culture, including Aboriginals in Australia, has a story about a great flood that almost destroyed the world.

All major religions also have eschatology, beliefs about the end. Buddhists for example, believed the end would come after five thousand years. For Christians and Jews, and possibly Muslims, it is interesting that the beginning of ancient civilizations was about three thousand years B.C or B.C.E. and we are now living about two thousand A.D. or C.E., which is five thousand years later.

So, what does all this mean to us? Are all religions the same?

No, and we don’t need to revive human sacrifice.

All ancient cultures seem to share some common beliefs. The first chapters of the Bible describe a time at the beginning, when there were not many people, and they all had common ideas about God. It’s as if we all came from the same place.

This is not a new puzzle for us to solve. People have known about this for thousands of years that our common ideas point back to one starting place. About two thousand years ago we were told: “What may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made” (Romans 1: 19 and 20).

Jesus did not start some strange new thing; He called us back to something that we had lost. That is very clear in the Bible. In my experience, many people follow Jesus today because He takes them back to something that the ancestors knew. They are happy to come home.

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: “Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.”

Revelation 7: 9-10

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