Are you tired of all the “end of the world” talk yet?
Recently, you might have been feeling lucky to be alive upon waking up on December 22nd – the day after the supposed Mayan Apocalypse of December 21st, 2012.
Or perhaps you were glad that the United States government narrowly escaped having to call Bruce Willis and Ben Affleck to fly into outer space and save us from being hit by an asteroid a few weeks ago (Armageddon anyone?).
Well buckle up, because there’s one more end of the world prophecy floating around out there…
The Saint Malachy Prophecy
In the late 16th century there was a prophecy published that supposedly contained what The Prophecy of the Popes; this prophecy was supposedly linked to an Irish Bishop, Saint Malachy, who lived in the 12th century.
Here’s the deal:
- The prophecy contains a list of the names of 112 popes, beginning with Pope Celestine II who reigned over the church in the 12th century.
- The list ends with a pope by the mysterious name of Petrus Romanus, “Peter the Roman.”
- When you count out all the popes, Pope Benedict XVI is supposed to be the last pope before “Peter the Roman” is elected
- When “Peter the Roman” is the pope, Rome will be destroyed and the Apocalypse will begin
- So basically, the prophecy states that the next pope elected will be the last pope the Catholic Church will ever have and the world will end during his pontificate.
This is definitely not a teaching of the Catholic Church. It’s true that plenty of saints have been granted visions, and God is constantly revealing things to his prophets and apostles all through the Bible.
However, there are two big obstacles that stand in the way of being able to label this “prophecy” as anything close to legit.
The Historical Facts
First, while the prophecy is supposed to have been written down by Saint Malachy in the 12th century, it was never spoken of even once before it surprisingly appeared out of nowhere at the very end of the 16th century. For a prophecy that supposedly predicts the Apocalypse in great detail, that’s an amazing fact! Would a true prophecy really go more than 400 years without being mentioned even a single time? I don’t think so.
Second, while the prophecy proves to be rather accurate about all the popes before the 16th century, it is extremely vague and inaccurate for the popes who came after.
Basically what that means is this:
- The “prophecy” was written at the end of the 16th century
- So, whoever originally wrote it could simply look at the history of who had been pope, and be extremely accurate up to his own day
- For the list of the popes who would come after, it was just an elaborate and imaginative prediction of what would happen
The Scriptural Facts
If all the evidence so far hasn’t convinced you, perhaps we should just look at what Jesus had to say about this sort of thing. For that, we turn to the Gospel of Matthew:
“Heaven and earth will pass away, by my words will not pass away. But about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father” (Matthew 24:35-36).
In this chapter, Jesus is speaking to his disciples about the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem and the end of the world; these particular verses are specifically about the end of the world, and what does Jesus say? Nobody knows! Jesus says that no one knows, not the angels who are in heaven, and not even Himself in His own human knowledge (don’t forget Jesus was one person with both a human nature, and a Divine nature). Knowing when the world will end is a purely divine privilege, something known only to the Holy Trinity – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Now this isn’t to say that we shouldn’t care about the end or the world; in the Gospels, Jesus is constantly telling His disciples to “be watchful,” and to always be ready for His return. However, expecting Jesus to come back and living a faithful life with the hope of His return is far different than marking your calendar and planning an end of the world party.
“The grace of the Lord Jesus be with all the saints. Amen” (Revelation 22:21).