How can a millennial fight depression

ApocalypseForever end time

This is the revelation of Jesus Christ that God gave him to show his servants what must happen soon. (Rev 1,11)

People are suffering, people are dying. And our ecosystems are collapsing. We are at the beginning of a mass extinction. (Greta Thunberg)

Blessed is he who reads and they hear the words of prophecy and keep what is written in them; because the time is at hand. (Rev 1,3)

May 30th is the end of the world / we will not live long, we will not live long / May 30th is the end of the world / we will not live, we will not live long (Golgowsky Quartet - May 30th is the end of the world)

Doomsday moods

Chants: We are here, we are loud because you are stealing our future ...

On Fridays there is a doom and gloom. Associated with the hope that this downfall can still be averted. That drives the "Fridays for Future" movement onto the streets.

Is the end of the world at hand? "Climate strike" by Fridays for Future in Berlin (dpa / Zentralbild / Jens Büttner)

Humanity without a future. It is not the first time that the end of the world has been prophesied. Countless preachers and prophets have been predicting the end for centuries - people shouldn't fundamentally change their behavior. The initiator of "Fridays for Future", Greta Thunberg, calls on people to turn back - like many before her. But the Swede is not referring to a prophetic gift, but to scientific facts.

The idea that the world could one day - or soon go under - this idea is deeply rooted in Western thought and culture. This also has to do with the Bible, more precisely: the last book of the New Testament. The Revelation of John, better known as the Apocalypse. She prophesies the end of the world, the last battle of good against evil.

Then the seven angels got ready to blow the seven trumpets. (Rev 8,6)

"The world will perish in terrible events"

"The last book of the Bible is aimed at describing God's judgment of the world," explains Jens Schröter, Professor of New Testament at Humboldt University Berlin:

"The world will perish in terrible events, which are told there in several visions."

Jens Schröter is Professor of New Testament at Humboldt University Berlin (private)

The first angel blew his trumpet. Then hail and fire, mixed with blood, fell on the land. It burned a third of the land, a third of the trees, and all the green grass. (Rev 8,7)

Schröter: "And at the end there is the vision of a new heaven and a new earth and a new Jerusalem. So the view of this book is that the present world must pass and that a new world must take its place."

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth have passed away, and the sea is no more either. (Rev 21,1)

After the end of the world it goes on - an aspect that is mostly forgotten today when the apocalypse is mentioned.

"Paradise on the ruins"

Schröter: "If today the apocalypse is commonly spoken of as a horror event - or something is referred to in films or something as an apocalypse that describes the terrible downfall, then that is of course something much more abbreviated than what Jewish and Christian literature include means these so-called apocalyptic writings. "

Namely, the certainty that evil will be defeated and a new, better world will emerge.

And we sing in the nuclear shelter / Hurray, this world is going down / Hurray, this world is going down / Paradise on the rubble (K.I.Z with Henning May - Hurray, the world is going down)

The singer Henning May (imago / VIADATA)

"Paradise on the ruins" - the band K.I.Z and the singer Henning May sum up how the Bible describes the apocalypse: You don't have to fear it, you can hope for it.

An early Christian prophet or seer

The word "apocalypse" comes from the Greek and means "unveiling", "revelation" or "revelation". That is why the last book of the Bible is also called "Revelation of John". The author, who calls himself John, claims to reveal God's plan for humanity.

On the day of the Lord, I was seized by the Spirit and heard a voice behind me, loud as a trumpet. (Rev 1,10)

However, not much is known about this Johannes, explains Jens Schröter:

"Apparently an early Christian prophet or seer who wrote down the visions here in this way. And that the name John is an authentic name is quite likely."

Research agrees that this John is neither the apostle John, a companion of Jesus, nor the author of the Gospel of John. The last John of the Bible wrote Revelation probably on the Greek island of Patmos. He is therefore also called John of Patmos.

Horror scenarios should give hope

When he wrote the text has not been conclusively clarified - probably sometime around the year 100. During these years, the young Christian communities in the Roman Empire were persecuted. The daily persecution - that is the reason for the text. Revelation is intended to give consolation and confidence to the persecuted: good will prevail in the end.

The sun turned black as a mourning robe and the whole moon turned like blood. The stars of the sky fell to the earth - like a fig tree sheds its unripe fruit when it is shaken by the storm wind. The sky has been pulled away like a book rolled up; and all the mountains and islands were removed from their place. (Rev 6,12-14)

Schröter: "These horror scenarios are not intended to create fear or to discourage people. On the contrary."

Can horror scenarios encourage courage? (picture alliance / dpa / Maximilian Schönherr)

There will be no more death, no grief, no lament, no hardship. Because what was before is gone. (Rev 21,4)

Apocalyptic literature

The style and content of the Book of Revelation is by no means unique. There are many similar Jewish and Christian writings - some of the Jewish ones a few hundred years older. Johannes takes them as an example.

Schröter: "This kind of literature aims to portray that the end of the story will end with God winning the victory. In such a way that he destroys evil and puts something good in its place. That he punishes sinners and reward the righteous. "

See, I am coming soon and with me I will bring the reward and I will give everyone what corresponds to his work. (Rev 12,21)

The Revelation of John is the oldest known apocalyptic text of Christianity. And it's the only apocalyptic script in the New Testament. Even in the Old Testament, the Hebrew Bible of Judaism, there is only one script that can be counted as apocalyptic literature: the book of Daniel.

The Revelation of John was controversial for a long time

But there are many more apocalyptic writings from the centuries around the turn of the times. Only these scriptures were not included in the Bible. The evangelical theologian Jens Schröter explains that it was almost the same with the Revelation of John:

"The Revelation of John is one of those writings of the New Testament that was controversial for a long time. So it was not just clear from the beginning that the Revelation of John would belong to the New Testament."

If the Church Fathers had also sorted out Revelation back then, our culture would probably look different today.

Schröter: "The Revelation of John is one of the most intensely received books in the Bible. It has often been depicted in the fine arts. So, for example, this image of Christ as the victorious, we have had in Christianity from early on."

The often painted motif of Christ as a lamb is particularly formative in the Revelation of John. Just like the four apocalyptic horsemen. For centuries they have been spreading fear and horror in painting, music, literature and film - including computer games.

Woodcut by Albrecht Dürer from 1498 depicting the apocalyptic horseman. (picture alliance / dpa)

So the Revelation of John not only shaped Christian art, but also Western culture as a whole. For example through the "number of the beast", 666. It is supposed to stand for the devil, the antichrist. The 666 also comes from Revelation. Just like the "alpha and omega" that we speak of when something is very important: the "alpha and omega".

I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end. (Rev 21,13)

Also from Revelation: the "book with seven seals", which we speak of when we do not understand something.

Schröter: "There are very, very diverse references, because it is such an intensive book that works with incredibly impressive and powerful linguistic images."

Apocalypse as pop culture

The strongest linguistic image is probably the term apocalypse itself - for example when Francis Ford Coppola interprets the Vietnam War as an apocalypse, in the title of his anti-war film "Apocalypse Now". In the most famous scene, US war helicopters attack a Vietnamese village - for Richard Wagner's "Ride of the Valkyries". The deadly helicopters as modern apocalyptic horsemen.

In Francis Ford Coppola's "Apocalypse Now" helicopters attack a village to the sound of Wagner. (dpa / United Archives)

And I heard, as it were, the noise of thunder. One of the four beasts saying, 'Come and see.' And I saw, and behold a white horse (Johnny Cash - The man comes around)

And anyway, how many films would never have been made if the Book of Revelation hadn't made it into the Bible - how many songs would never have been written?

There's a man going around taking names / And he decides who to free and who to blame / Everybody won't be treated all the same / There will be a golden ladder reaching down / When the man comes around (Johnny Cash - The man comes around)

In one of his last pieces, Johnny Cash also deals with the Revelation of John. He sings about the Last Judgment, the "Kingdom of Alpha and Omega". And Armageddon - the place where Revelation says the final battle will be fought.

Johnny Cash and his wife June Carter in Nashville in 2002 (AP Archives)

At the beginning and the end of the song, Cash also quotes verbatim from the Revelation of John:

And I heard a voice in the midst of the four beasts. And I looked and behold, a pale horse. And his name that sat on him was Death. And Hell followed with him. (Johnny Cash - The man comes around)

"And I heard the voice of the fourth creature calling. And there I saw, and behold, a pale horse; and the one sitting on him is called death; and hell followed him." (Rev 6,7-8)

Wars, crises and diseases

The Revelation of John influenced the Western worldview. For centuries people have lived in the knowledge that everything can be over at any time - because that is what is prophesied at the end of the Bible. Again and again, wars, crises and diseases were interpreted as signs of the impending apocalypse. And not only through "end times sects" or individual confused people.

On the contrary: Apocalyptic expectations are common property, popular culture - pervade today's mass movements. They are directed either against the "fall of the West". Or rehearse the "uprising against extinction" of humanity.

A banner in the protest camp of the Extinction Rebellion movement in front of the Chancellery in Berlin (Deutschlandradio / Sebastian Engelbrecht)

"I can well imagine that through the intensive reception of apocalyptic images and texts something like this has entered the consciousness. So that one may have to reckon with an end of the world", says Jens Schröter, New Testament scholar at Humboldt University Berlin.

A world without end-time expectations?

Of course, the possibility of the end of the world is not only sketched out in the last book of the Bible. Many other passages in the Bible are also shaped by such expectations. And many other cultures also know apocalyptic stories of the end times and the end of the world - from the Teutons to the Aztecs.

But the revelation of John just unfolded a very special culture and consciousness-shaping power. Because of the power of images and words - and certainly also because it was placed so prominently at the end of the Bible.

Schröter: "If things had turned out differently in the end and the Revelation of John had not been included in the New Testament, some things in Christian history would certainly look different. And that would probably also be the Christian view of history, of the theology of history in something else Let the light shine. That's the way it is, but historical processes also have such contingencies and conditions. "

"No instructions for fundamentalists"

Because it has become part of the Bible, the Revelation of John can also be used politically. And that for centuries - by fundamentalist preachers, but also by secular rulers. They use the mobilization potential of Revelation for their own purposes: They give earthly wars and conflicts a salvation-historical dimension and stylize them as the final battle of good against evil, as described in the last book of the Bible.

Jens Schröter rejects such political and religious interpretations of Revelation:

"With these writings - as with other writings - you have to note that they belong in a certain historical context. And that they are also writings in terms of the way they are presented - that is, their literary genres - that are very closely related to work in symbolic language. And which must therefore also be considered in its intellectual history, in its religious history and also in its linguistic context. So there is no - to put it bluntly - no instruction for fundamentalists to calculate the end of the world today or now that To proclaim the fight of the good against the bad. "

The National Socialists also made use of the Revelation of John. Some fueled the Nazi propaganda of final struggle and national redemption by proclaiming a "Thousand Years Reich". Also a motif from Revelation.

"May 30th is the end of the world"

On the one hand, John's revelation has often been interpreted with deadly seriousness, with fundamentalist zeal. On the other hand, there is a lot of mischief done with the apocalypse: You don't take it seriously, but make fun of it.

"Tomorrow last day" - just what morning? (imago images / CHROMORANGE)

Like the Golgowsky Quartet in 1954:

May 30th is the end of the world / we will not live long, we will not live long / May 30th is the end of the world / we will not live, we will not live long

But this German number one hit could also have a serious background. There are very different interpretations as to which May 30th the song could mean.

Air strikes or comets as an apocalypse?

First, May 30, 1942, twelve years before the song was written. On the night of May 30th to May 31st, the British Air Force carried out particularly heavy attacks on the city of Cologne. The bombs destroyed thousands of buildings and hundreds of people died.

This apparently cheerful song could indicate that innumerable worlds have perished in the history of mankind - in catastrophes, strokes of fate, wars and crimes. However, it is not some supernatural evil that is responsible for all these end of the world. It's mostly people.

Even though it has been calculated so often, searched in the scriptures and interpreted in the stars: The one supernatural end of the world never happened.

The apocalypse fails

This is indicated by another possible interpretation of the hit song "The end of the world is on May 30th": It refers to May 1910.

Halley's Comet occasionally passes the earth - here a telescope image from 2009 (picture alliance / Photoshot)

In that month, Halley's Comet approached Earth - and in part caused panic and hysteria, like so many comets before and after it. But then what happened: nothing. The earth just kept spinning.

Because all the apocalyptic expectations and movements have one thing in common - whether in antiquity, in the Middle Ages or in our time: They were disappointed. The end of the world did not come - no matter how precisely it was calculated.

Maybe it's more what the Golgowsky Quartet's hit makes fun of. The end times continue, but the apocalypse is canceled.

This program was produced at the beginning of March 2020 and therefore does not explicitly address the current developments in the context of the corona pandemic.