The aforementioned 'prophetic words of apocalypse' can easily apply to the world of today, at least more in the case of countries confronting serious problems, as the national pessimism index indicates, than those that have hope for a better tomorrow for themselves and their children. There have been thousands of apocalyptic predictions, many of them part of the Judeo-Christian tradition's fringe (fanatic or heretical) elements, though the institution does not discourage such predictions that bring attention and money to churches. End-of-the-world prophecies have also come from Eastern religions and Islam, as well as indigenous religions of Latin America.
Apocalyptic prophecies become especially popular during periods of extreme conditions such as the Black Death that produced a great deal of doomsday talk and acceptance of such prophecies, given that a large percentage of the population died of a horrible disease. Wars and economic hard times also trigger the popularity of apocalyptic prophecies, given that the level of pessimism among the general population rises sharply amid such conditions.
Is apocalyptic prophecy a case of freedom of religion and speech, or is it a case of exploitation thus tyranny imposed by opportunists on the more vulnerable elements of society? There are those who argued that anyone who embraces prophecies of apocalypse must be the same people who believe that Santa Claus delivers gifts to children world over; an ignorant, superstitious, mentally disturbed, drug addict, and/or deeply religious person that has surrendered to resignation about life; and/or people who are prone to conspiracy theories that seem to be more fulfilling as part of faith to many people than all the science in the world.
It is unfortunate that people disrupt their lives and in some extreme cases hand over part of their possessions to others, not always to religious institutions, because they are convinced that the world is coming to an end at a specific time. I suppose there is a certain logic to such thinking, given that all life is finite, that the earth will at some point cease to sustain life, that the solar system will also cease to function as it does currently in sustaining life on earth.
To accept the prophecy of apocalypse may mean hastening death by individual or mass suicide, or some other act of violence as we have seen with 'Chiliastic cults' that accept deliverance by the messiah. Usually, a divinely inspired person advances the notion that the world is coming to the end at a precise date and time, while others follow the prophecy. Therefore, it is the followers who lend legitimacy to the beneficiary of divine revelation. If everyone ignored the prophecy, the way people ignore inter-planetary travel that may take place in the distant future, apocalypse would be meaningless in their lives. Believers, however, accept apocalypse because of its moral dimension, something that is absent let us say in the idea of inter-planetary travel. The moral dimension along with the recognition of life's finiteness are the catalysts to apocalyptic prophecies having an audience throughout the age in all societies.
The world is most definitely coming to an end, but what if every person on the planet, even in a single country accepted the Mayan calendar date, for example, and just stopped functioning as fully human, surrendering instead body and mind to resignation, to say nothing of engaging in 'cultist-type' activities? What if the day came that all people stood still with resignation about life, and the darkness of nothingness prevailed in the world?
Some would argue that if every person was immersed in apocalyptic thinking the world could be a more humane place. But does apocalyptic thinking and behavior do anything to alter human nature toward a higher moral plane, or is it a reflection of atomistic mode concealed behind religion and/or some form of pseudo-science? Do apocalyptic prophecies offer anything other than tyranny of the human mind to people, do they offer anything that is redemptive, morally uplifting, contribute to human edification and creativity, permit self-reflection and self-realization?