From the Archives: TIME Covers the End of the World

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NewsFeed has been watching the predicted impending Rapture, scheduled for Saturday evening. But the truth is TIME has had its eye on the End of Days for quite a while. Through the years, we’ve provided lots of coverage of those who say they’ve got a lock on when the world goes belly up. Here are a few examples:

Atom Blasting (March 9, 1931):

Predicting the end of the world has been immemorially the privilege and pastime of religious fanatics and charlatans. In modern times such predictions have been the province of loose-spoken scientists and the sensational Press. The cry of modern world-enders is that if anyone ever succeeds in exploding one atom of Matter, the whole universe will go off like a bunch of firecrackers. Last week, when Hearst newsmen discovered that two brave young German scientists plan shortly to try to crack an atom and convert it into radiation, the doomsday story was given another twirl. “A colossal catastrophe might ensue,” declared the New York American. “Will this planet, twirling peacefully a million years, be blown to smithereens?”

Witnessing the End (July 18, 1969):

The Witnesses have what they believe is Scriptural proof that the end is coming. For one thing, their interpretation of Biblical chronology reveals that Adam and Eve were created in the autumn of 4026 B.C., or 5,994 years ago. Linking 6,000 years to the six days of God’s creation, they believe it fitting that there be a sabbath-like rest thereafter, beginning in 1975—though Witnesses cautiously avoid a flat prediction linked to that year. What is more, Christ’s promise that “this generation will not pass away till all these things take place” means that the generation alive in 1914, when the last days began, will see Armageddon. As they eye the thinning ranks of that generation, Jehovah’s Witnesses are well aware the time limit is running out.

Apocalypse Now? (February 11, 1991):

It is no great surprise that the gulf conflict would give rise to so much spiritual hand wringing. As TIME senior writer Otto Friedrich observed in his meditation on history, The End of the World, solemn predictions of earth’s final days have accompanied natural and man-made catastrophes down through the ages, from the sack of Rome to the Nazi Holocaust. This century’s military technology has given new power to those primordial fears and illusions, wrote Friedrich in his book. Thus the most chilling uncertainty of the gulf war is whether Saddam, in an act of cynical desperation, might launch a few surviving Scuds armed with biological, chemical or nuclear warheads.

Apocalypse, With And Without God (March 22, 1993):

As for the U.S., there are a handful of people who believe Koresh’s loony speculations about the end of the world. But not a decade ago, tens of millions of Americans, including many who should have known better, were in the grip of a national anxiety attack about nuclear apocalypse. Jonathan Schell’s panicked anticipation of nuclear destruction, modestly titled The Fate of the Earth, was rapturously received. The Day After, a re-creation of the End, was the TV event of the year. Psychologists were dispatched to help kids deal with its anticipated psychological fallout. Hundreds of thousands took to observing “Ground Zero Week,” which featured the loving re-creation of every detail of the apocalypse — in the weird expectation that rehearsing the End would prevent it. Those who refused to join the hysteria were diagnosed as suffering from “nuclearism” or “psychic numbing.”

The End: How It Got That Way (July 1, 2002):

Calamity is the mother of end-of-the-world prophecy. This is true as millions of Americans, many rattled into an End Times frame of mind by Sept. 11, line up to buy the latest installment in the Left Behind series, The Remnant. It was true when the first prophecies of the End appeared in the Hebrew Bible in response to a great national catastrophe in 586 B.C. And it was true in between, when an Irish preacher changed the course of American religious thought by bringing a stark apocalyptic vision to a nation that was reeling from the Civil War, its own fratricidal foretaste of Armageddon.

(LIST: Top 10 End of the World Prophecies)

(PHOTOS: Cinematic Visions of the Apocalypse)