Over the last few weeks we've started to take a look at the 'End Times' traditions of several different religions. Zoroastrian proponents hold a unique place in the development of End Time themes. While it was not the first major religion to suggest monotheism, it does seem to be the literary source for a number of other spiritual scenarios, according to Mary Boyce in her work Zoroastrians, p. 29,
"Zoroaster was thus the first to teach the doctrines of an individual judgment, Heaven and Hell, the future resurrection of the body, the general Last Judgment, and life everlasting for the reunited soul and body. These doctrines were to become familiar articles of faith to much of mankind, through borrowings by Judaism, Christianity and Islam; yet it is in Zoroastrianism itself that they have their fullest logical coherence ..."
Like the Hindu scriptures prior to the end all people will worship greed and be of false religion. According to the texts they become fat of body and hungry of soul. Following this period the texts speak of a great battle and huge fire at the end of time.
The general framework of Zoroastrian prophecies suggest the end of the world will come about when a comet strikes the earth. Its "fire and halo" will melt metals and minerals and will burn up the world. The resulting boiling flood of metal will flow over the earth like a river. The righteous, as well as the wicked souls released from hell, will pass through it. The wicked will be purified, while the pious will feel like they're passing through warm milk. These images conjure up lines from Revelation, when the beast and the false prophet were "thrown alive into the fiery lake of burning sulphur" (19:20), and "then Death and Hades were thrown into the burning lake. . . and anybody whose name could not be found written in the book of life was thrown into the burning lake" (20:14-15).
In his hymns, Zarathushtra tells us of a World Savior (Saoshyant) who is to come and stop the cruelty of the bloodthirsty and wicked ones. He will renew the world and end death in what they call Frashegird, (literally 'making wonderful') which refers to the renovation of the universe, the last judgment. Saoshyant will purify religion, but only after a great battle.
All wolves assemble in one place to be merged into a single great Wolf. In response Saoshyant will muster an army and the two will compete. As we will later see, the Wolf is also used as an image in the final battle of Norse mythology. In that saga, after a long and terrible fight, the Wolf swallows Odin whole. But in the Zoroastrian tradition men with their various weapons finally overcome the Wolf, and "for one parsang around, poison from that demon will envelop the earth and plants and they will burn. Out of that a demon will scamper the form of a black locust, and it will go into the demon of the serpent, and in that will be its habitation. . . "
"Those demons will thus fall from this earth to Hell, just as a stone when it falls or is thrown into water, quickly sinks to the bottom of the water."
And this conjures images of Rev. 18:21, and the angel throwing the millstone into the sea.
After this great battle it will not be necessary for Saoshyant to perform any additional action, and mankind, in the likeness of a body of 40 years of age, will all be immortal, deathless and ageless, without feeling or decay.
"All people will be upholders of Religion; they will be loving and benevolent to one another. All people living after that will not die."
"There will be a thousand times as many foods and tastes as there are now. He who believes will eat, and he who does not believe will not eat."
"And the people's work will be this, to behold the Great Spirit and to pay homage, and to do for the other lords all which seem to themselves very peaceful. Everyone will love others like himself."
"And man and woman will have desire for one another, and they will enjoy it and consummate it but there will be no birth from them."
"And the principal kinds of plants will be restored, and there will be no diminution of them, but every place (will be) like the spring, resembling a garden in which (there are) all (kinds of) plants and flowers; and with the wisdom of this world it is not possible to comprehend and know its wondrousness and worthiness and pleasantness and purity."
(From Pahlavi Rivayat, Ch. 48. based on translation of A.V. Williams, 1990.)
The victorious Saoshyant and his helpers make the world wonderful.
Zoroastrians do not call this the end of the world but name it renovation, because it is from this time that all good, all knowing and Ahura Mazda, the Lord of Wisdom will succeed.
Practicing Zoroastrians today have divided the last period into four lesser periods, each symbolized by a metal. Gold for the period when the religion was revealed to Zoroaster, silver for the period when king Gashtasb was converted, steel for the Sassanian period and iron for the present age when religion is declining and Soshyant as yet has to come.
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