This Saturday, May 21, 2011, is yet another date in a long list of days on which some have confidently predicted "the end of days" or "judgment day." We even read reports that a man in New York has disposed of his entire life savings and spent it on advertising billboards announcing this impending doomsday. This has happened many times before. It will happen again.
Inevitably, the fixed date comes and goes. Afterwards, the sun still shines, the birds still sing and many have a good laugh at those who were absolutely convinced they would be taken up in a shower of light while others are "left behind" to suffer eternal wailing and gnashing of teeth.
The Baha'is have an interesting and different take on the end times scenario. Rather than expecting a Hollywood-screenwriter's dream that will occur within 24 hours, like this coming Saturday, they instead see "the end of days" as the end of one major stage of history and the beginning of a new one. This is harder to sell to Hollywood, but easier to reconcile with basic common sense and a modest understanding of history.
Baha'is believe that this transition is happening right now and that we are living participants in it. Rather than in a 24-hour day, it will occur over a "day" of many generations. The end result will be a global worldwide civilization where the "earth is but one country, and mankind its citizens." Does this sound crazy? What about trying to tell people in the mid-1840s (a time, incidentally, when 100,000 "Millerites" across the United States expected that the "end of days" would occur) that within just 160 years we would have been to the moon and back, and that a man whose father was from Kenya would be the President of the United States.
The bottom line: I confidently predict that we will all still be here on May 22, 2011. I am also confident that our descendants will still be here on May 22, 2111. And by then, the world will look even more like this visionary picture of the future outlined in 1936 by the head of the Baha'i Faith at that time.
When the sun rises this Sunday, and you hear the melodious sounds of birds outside, would it not be inspiring to awaken with a conviction that we had all been "left behind" to build a world civilization, reflecting heaven on earth, day by day, heart to heart and generation to generation?