Most established Christian churches reject the idea that anyone can predict the apocalypse, whether in 2012 or on any other date. They see the apocalyptic imagery of the Bible as symbolic rather than literal. In many cases, the language and prophecies of the scriptures relate to events happening at the time those passages were penned. The period during which the scriptures were written was, like our own time, fraught with ominous political and religious upheaval.
The Roman Catholic Church does not accept 2012 as the end. As Bishop and theologian Kenneth E. Untener put it in an article about the millennial controversies, "apocalyptic language is symbolic and cannot be plumbed for secret clues that simply aren't there."
Some Christians are critical of all end-time predictions. Rapture theology, they assert, devalues a respect for and reverence toward nature. Believing they have only a short time left on Earth, followers of rapture theology tend to regard God's creation as disposable. The doctrine may generate an escapist attitude in believers, who focus intently on an end that may never come [source: Roberts].
The evolutionary biologist and noted atheist Richard Dawkins dismisses the notion of a predictable end arriving in 2012 as nonsense and labels believers in a biblical apocalypse "gullible idiots." Science, he says, suggests only that humans may someday become extinct, "the fate of almost all species that have ever lived" [source: Quinn]. It may be that we will reach our end before the world does, just as the Mayans experienced catastrophic decline long before their calendar reached its last day.
One aspect of the 2012 phenomenon is easy to predict: For some, it will pay off handsomely. Predictions of the end sell books and generate interest. Authors Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins hit pay dirt with their "Left Behind" series of best-selling novels. Scores of books and videos deal directly with 2012 prophecies.
The only thing the Bible says concretely about the end of the world is fairly clear. St. Matthew's Gospel records Jesus saying that "about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven."