Being a sci-fi, fantasy geek, I’ve seen quite a few movie interpretations of the end of days. There are zombies and demons, earthquakes and hurricanes, meteorites and solar flares, disease and famine and the worst yet – loss of power (no cell phones, microwave ovens, internet – what are we to do?!) Each telling of the story of the apocalypse tops the previous with terror. It’s enough to make a person wanna be good as gold. Zephaniah’s picture of God’s vengeance is no less terrifying. Darkness and gloom, battles, fire – it’s enough to make Israel want to behave, and fast.
I don’t believe the end of the world will truly be physical torture and torment for thousands of years. I don’t think there will be zombies or armies of angels. Rather, I think the torment is a description of what life can be like when we intentionally turn our backs on God. Not that God punishes us. No, it’s that life outside the presence of God is just that terrible. Empty, hopeless, terrifying. God doesn’t want that for us. God wants us to live in God’s light, and to walk in God’s presence. God wants this world to go on, and to go on in God’s light, joy, and hope.
The great day of the Lord is near, near and hastening fast; the sound of the day of the Lord is bitter, the warrior cries aloud there. That day will be a day of wrath, a day of distress and anguish, a day of ruin and devastation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of trumpet blast and battle cry against the fortified cities and against the lofty battlements. I will bring such distress upon people that they shall walk like the blind; because they have sinned against the Lord, their blood shall be poured out like dust, and their flesh like dung. Neither their silver nor their gold will be able to save them on the day of the Lord’s wrath; in the fire of his passion the whole earth shall be consumed; for a full, a terrible end he will make of all the inhabitants of the earth.