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Signs of the End Times

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"Till Armageddon, no Shalam, no Shalom.
Then the father hen will call his chickens home.
The wise men will bow down before the throne.
And at his feet they'll cast their golden crown.
When the man comes around."
Johnny Cash, "When the Man Comes Around"

How do we know that the End of the World as We Know It is approaching? By the warning signs that precede it, of course. Whether The Stars Are Going Out or a beast with seven heads rises out of the ocean, or just dogs and cats living together, everyone knows that something bad is about to happen. It's a sign of the end.

Works that want to make biblical allusions will often use things from the Book of Revelation, although not always literally.

Supertrope to The Stars Are Going Out and Crack in the Sky. Subtrope to Portent of Doom. May overlap with Bad Moon Rising, Comet of Doom or Natural Disaster Cascade.

Compare Just Before the End. See also Apocalypse How, Caught Up in the Rapture and The End of the World as We Know It. For signs as in sandwich boards and posters, see The End Is Nigh.

Not to be confused with Sign of the Apocalypse, a stock phrase used for humor. Also not to be confused with Jumping the Shark.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Fullmetal Alchemist, shortly before Father enacts his plan, all of the people who've opened the Gate suddenly drop through the floor, triggering a solid Oh, Crap! from the entire cast. Of course, his plan is ultimately foiled, but he got a nice Apocalypse Wow in anyway.

    Comic Books 
  • Doom Patrol:
    • As reality begins to merge with Orqwith -
    • In Barcelona, when the Cult of the Unwritten Book starts to summon the Decreator -
      • A bus full of teenagers was possessed by the Unquiet Face and driven through the Corridor of Hallucinations
      • The Needle Children, who cannot be seen through glass, laid pointless siege to an old folks' home in the suburbs.
      • At 11:30 there was an outbreak of spirit skywriting which continued for an hour and a half.
      • At midnight the word 'harmony' disappeared from the vocabulary of everyone in the city.
      • At 12:30 the Embryo Stains invaded the marrow of a nightclub owner and forced him to compose terrifying poetry.
      • Everything blue became temporarily invisible.
      • The rain forgot how to fall.
    • When Shadowy Mr. Evans appears (his apocalypse is local and sex-based):
      • A bunch of men lick a street lamp erotically.
      • A couple paints maps of the Soviet Union and the USA on their bodies before having sex.
      • Dozens of people park their cars in the middle of football fields and start having sex in them at the same time.
      • A group of college professors specializing in the XVIII-Century German literature go on suicide/gang-rape spree.
      • Local doctors and nurses surgically create new sexual organs on bodies of comatose patients.
      • A woman in a dog costume chases a man in drag.
  • This was a very popular trope in early Vertigo Comics. In The Sandman (1989), Doctor Destiny's hold over Dream's gem leads to a wave of cruelty, hallucinations, and general nightmares sweeping over the global consciousness as the fate of the Dreaming lies in the balance.
  • Alan Moore uses similar nightmare scenes during the "Love and Death" arc in Swamp Thing. Anton Arcane's unholy resurrection leads to a "shockwave of nightmare", affecting people and animals around the area and spreading:
    • A man approaches a homeless drunk in an alleyway, and pulls out a book of matches...
    • A woman approaches her husband with a cast iron skillet...
    • A cat climbs into a sleeping baby's crib, claws bared...
    • A guard dog attacks its owner...
    • A cow gives birth to something that screams like a woman and then dies...
    • In Arkham Aslyum, Jason Woodrue, the Floronic Man, starts screaming maniacally, and the Joker has stopped smiling...
    • This wave of supernatural evil even attracts the attention of the Monitor (this page was not included when DC printed the arc in trade paperback).
  • In the Fantastic Four storyline "The Coming of Galactus", fire and floating stones in the sky are actually illusions generated by the Watcher to try to conceal Earth from the oncoming apocalypse, but the Silver Surfer sees through them, and his presence ushers the eponymous coming of Galactus.
  • One DC Comics story sees reality itself beginning to unwind. One of the signs of this is that Batman can no longer solve any of the Riddler's puzzles, proving that something has gone terribly, terribly wrong.
  • Last but definitely not least, the sky turning red heralded a Crisis that could mean the end of all reality.
  • During Infinite Crisis, Golden Age Superman hypothesizes if the death of his world's Batman was a warning sign of the first Crisis. Probably worth noting Kal-L is not exactly in his right mind during this point, and Golden Age Batman died in 1979 our world, a good six years before the Crisis kicked off.
  • The Flash: In the last issue before Flashpoint, an alternate reality version of Barry Allen tells Barry that sudden, inexplicable deaths are a signifier of a Time Crash. He's wrong on the cause of the one they're tussling over, though. That's just Reverse-Flash murdering people For Science!.

    Fan Fiction 
  • Empath: The Luckiest Smurf: In "The Castle at the Crossroads", the multi-colored sky that appears over the entire Smurf Forest (caused by Castle Captor's appearance) is thought to be a sign of the end of the world by Tapper, a Christian Smurf who is looking forward for the Lord's coming.
  • Purple Days: The Red Comet serves as this, as it transmits a signal that awakens the Others and the White Walkers, beginning the end of the world. The return of magic is a mere side effect of its passing. In the final loop, characters who spend more time with King Joffrey, like his Silver Knights, become capable of sensing what he calls 'the Song of Existence', a sort of metaphysical manifestation of the will of the living world battling against the opposing, dark force he calls 'the Silence', represented by the Red Comet.

    Film — Live Action 
  • Ghostbusters films does this twice:
    • Ghostbusters (1984):
      Winston Zeddemore: Do you remember something in the Bible about the last days, when the dead would rise from the grave?
      Ray Stantz: I remember Revelations 7:12. "And I looked as he opened the 6th seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake. And the sun became as black as sack cloth, and the moon became as blood."
      Winston Zeddemore: And the seas boiled and the skies fell.
      Ray Stantz: Judgment Day.
      Winston Zeddemore: Judgment Day.
      Ray Stantz: Every religion has its myth about the end of the world.
      Winston Zeddemore: Myth? Ray, has it ever occurred to you that maybe the reason we've been so busy lately is 'cause the dead have been rising from the grave?

      Peter Venkman: Or you could accept the fact that this city is headed for a disaster of biblical proportions.
      Mayor: What do you mean, biblical?
      Ray Stantz: What he means is Old Testament biblical, Mr. Mayor. Real wrath-of-God-type stuff. Fire and brimstone coming from the sky! Rivers and seas boiling!
      Egon Spengler: Forty years of darkness! Earthquakes! Volcanoes!
      Winston Zeddemore: The dead rising from the grave!
      Peter Venkman: Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria!
  • The Seventh Sign. A man is breaking the seven seals of the Apocalypse, causing the warning signs of the Apocalypse to occur.
  • The Core had:
    • People with pacemakers all dying due to localised electromagnetic pulses.
    • Birds mass suiciding because their directional sense was off, causing them to fly top speed into buildings.
    • The ozone layer developing holes that let through unfiltered sunlight hot enough to melt the Golden Gate Bridge.
  • Jurassic World Dominion. As Franklin Webb tracks the plague of super locusts devouring crops across the globe, his co-worker in the CIA offhandedly points out how they're threatening life on a biblical scale by disrupting the food chain. He points out it's only a matter of time before the "other plagues" follow suit, "darkness, rain of fire" the works. Towards the climax, both "plagues" come to pass with a Big Blackout followed by the super locusts (which the Big Bad tries to burn only for them to escape) falling from the sky in a rain of fire.
  • Nightfall (2000): The Watchers teach that when wind from the desert that goes on for days, a rain of suns fall from the sky, and during Twilight (only Beta is in the sky), it will be swallowed whole and the world will end.

  • In Piers Anthony's Being a Green Mother, plague, earthquakes, floods, and volcanic eruptions are all the result of singing the Llano of Chaos, which ends all living things within weeks of it being sung. Although one could argue that these are less signs of the end and more the cause.
  • In the novel The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon, reports of talking chickens are mentioned as a sign of the end times, or at least of the coming of Messiah.
  • Good Omens has a lot of these, as it's a book about the lead up to the End of Days.
  • In the "present" (23rd century) of Pastwatch: The Redemption of Christopher Columbus, the world has already gone through an apocalypse that has reduced the population to 700,000,000 people and necessitated great efforts to replenish the earth to what it formerly was. An example of this is what spurs those on the Columbus Project to make the decision to change the past and obliterate their entire post-Columbus history and those who existed in it in favor of repairing the past and creating what turns out to be a better future. It turns out that despite their optimism and everything they've done, there are more people than the planet can support, North America is in the midst of a famine, crop production is going down, and no matter what is done, everything's going to go to shit, another Ice Age will come, and humanity will be plunged into the Stone Ages.
  • C. S. Lewis' The Last Battle where all the signs of Revelation begin to happen, albeit in Narnia.
  • A classic example is William Butler Yeats' The Second Coming, a poem that predicts the birth of the Antichrist.
  • Arcia Chronicles and Reflections of Eterna by the same author have a lot of these but they are mostly ignored by Normal People.
  • John Hodgman's That is All is dedicated to making this trope as weird as possible. Ray Kurzweil acquiring a kayboard arm (not the kind you're thinking of), the Blood Wave and the Rise of The Ancient and Unspeakable Ones are all signs of the Apocalypse.
  • The first sign in Tailchaser's Song is that cats from various places are suddenly disappearing and some cats are even found torn to pieces. Later on, prey animals begin deserting areas. When the apocalypse starts nearing closer, very weird things start happening. Mothers give birth to deformed and sickly kittens, lights start appearing in the skies, and random distant cries can be heard. When Blind Night (an eclipse) nears, the moon opens its Eye sooner than expected and turns blood red.

    Live Action TV 
  • In CarnivĂ le, Brother Justin says that the depression and all the traits of the Crapsack World in which the show takes place are surely signs of the apocalypse. He isn't wrong, but what he isn't aware of at that point is that he's the one who's bringing it.
  • Angel's "Apocalypse Nowish" does this-there are birds crashing into buildings, snakes coming out of plumbing, rats everywhere, and eventually, all the locations of the phone calls they get about these things, when laid out on a map, make an ancient symbol of destruction, with Connor's birthplace-slash-the place where the Beast rises smack in the middle.
  • In the first season finale of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Miss Calender knows the Hellmouth is about to open based on locally occurring portents; a family's swimming pool begins to boil (with them in it), a cat gives birth to a litter of snakes and a baby is born with his eyes facing inward. Buffy notes that there's been more vampires than usual, and later finds one of the sinks in the girls' bathroom has blood coming from the faucets.
  • Charmed (2018)
    • When the weakest of men reaches ill gotten glory.
    • The Movements great sages fall.
    • With the blossoming of death, comes the awakening of the source of all evil and than we fall.
  • Millennium (1996) eventually shifted from a straight-up "serial killer" series to the idea that the general rise in the tide of human cruelty was tied into the upcoming apocalypse, sharing equal time between investigation of hideous murders and investigation of strange phenomena.
    • They also had an episode with literal signs of the end times, revolving around a Russian who sabotaged Chernobyl (sometimes translated as "Wormwood", the name of a poison star in the Book of Revelation) and who might just be the anti-Christ. Even though the anti-Christ isn't in the Book of Revelation. The episode instead conflates the anti-Christ with the Beast, including him surviving a fatal head wound and his helicopter having the serial number 666. Curiously, for a show about the coming end of days, he never reappeared.

  • The Watchtower, a magazine published by Jehovah's Witnesses, has numerous features on how current events line up with predictions in The Bible.
  • Other religious examples such as Chick Tracts, or the late Plain Truth note .
  • A secular example would be Fortean Times, which explores these strange world-views and catalogues many, many, examples of people convinced the world is about to end.

  • From "Earth Died Screaming" from Bone Machine by Tom Waits:
    There was thunder
    There was lightning
    Then the stars went out
    And the moon fell from the sky
    It rained mackerel
    It rained trout
    And the great day of wrath has come
    And here's mud in your big red eye
    The poker's in the fire
    And the locusts take the sky
  • "Seven Swans" (the song, not the album) by Sufjan Stevens is rife with apocalyptic imagery:
    We saw the dragon move down. / My father burned into coal.

    Myth, Legend, and Oral Tradition 
  • In Finnish folk tale Velisurmaaja (Brother-killer) the fratricidal protagonist declared he will go far away. When asked by his mother or sister when he will return, he replies (according to the version recorded in Kanteletar): "when the crow turns white, when the goose turns black, when a stone rolls on water, when a feather sinks to the bottom, when sun shines in midnight, when the moon burns hot, when stars dance in the sky". Many versions include assorted Christian elements like the Last Judgement, raining fire, blaring horns of heaven, and the return of Christ.
  • In Norse Mythology the coming of Ragnarök is to be foreshadowed by a three year long winter and wolves eating the sun and the moon.
  • The fairy-tale of Chicken Little, who when a leaf dropped on his head in autumn took it as the sky falling down and was convinced the world was ending.
  • Increasingly unhinged right-wing fundamentalist preacher John Hagee makes a big thing about "The Four Blood Moons", arguing that the Bible foretells a time when four eclipses of the moon will happen in quick sucession, heralding the commencement of the End Times, unless the world renounces its evil ways and turns from liberalism, socialism, feminism, unjust criticism of God's holy state of Israel, and other manifestations of godlessness, and returns to the ordained path of the LORD, as defined by people like John Hagee. Apparently the Bible was written four thousand years ago to predict what is happening right now. note 

  • In Islam, Signs of the End are categorized into Major and Minor: minor signs are quite vague and subject to interpretation regarding what they refer to. However, major signs, like the emergence of the Antichrist (in Arabic "Dajjal") are unambiguous. There are many minor signs but only ten major ones.
  • Christianity:
    • The biblical Book of Revelation is crammed with them from start to finish, including plagues, world wars, stars falling to earth, the Number of the Beast, Demon Lords and Archdevils showing up... it would be easier to list the signs that don't appear. Unsurprisingly, this is one of the original Trope Makers if not the Ur-Example.
    • The early 2015 craze among some Christian denominations concerning the "Four Blood Moons", a sequence of lunar eclipses coinciding with major Jewish religious festivals, leading excitable people to conclude God is about to initiate the Last Days.
    • Despite the occasional Christian groups claiming to know when the world will end, most Christians consider trying to predict the end times to be an exercise in futility, due to Jesus Himself being on record as "sighing deeply" and saying, "Why does this generation ask for a sign? Truly I tell you, no sign will be given to it." (Mark 8:12) In another verse, He explicitly states that the coming of The End will be a major surprise for everyone, that "concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. (Matthew 24:36)" In other words, even Jesus Himself doesn't know when the world is going to end.
  • Hinduism has the Kali Yuga, the end of each 64,000 year cycle of the world, where the world has degenerated so much that it has no option other than to collapse into destruction so that it can then be reborn after a period of dormanc. One school of thought within the Hindu faith is that we are currently in the last days of the planet, as can be seen by growing instability both in the planet itself and in the human societies that live in it; pessimists have said the Kali Yuga will arrive as early as 2025.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons: The sourcebook Elder Evils makes heavy use of this. The book introduces nine Eldritch Abominations whose appearance is proceeded by the signs of upcoming apocalypse, which range from simply unnerving to as devastating as the actions of the being itself.
    • The coming of Atropus, the World Born Dead, is heralded by a global increase in strength for necromancy, making it easier to raise the dead, but also harder to control them. Eventually, everyone who dies will be revived regardless of how they died.
    • Father Llymic is hurt by light, so his coming is heralded by the sun (as well as all magical and mundane light) dimming, until it goes out completely and the Father arises.
    • As the Hulks of Zoretha begin to stir, the moon turns red and intelligent beings become increasingly hateful and violent, eventually drowning the world in wars and riots once the Hulks fully awake.
    • The Leviathan's waking is marked by violent weather, earthquakes, unnatural rains, and increasingly common sea monster attacks.
    • As Pandorym comes closer to freedom, an increasingly complex and visible sigil appears in the sky, and it becomes increasingly difficult to contact the gods or summon extraplanar beings; neither of which are a direct result of Pandorym, but rather the Gods of the world trying to quarantine it in the Material Realm (which the book acknowledges won't work).
    • As Sertrous returns to life, the earth vomits forth torrents of snakes. This begins with of normal snakes, but as the sign grows they're joined by serpentine monsters such as hydras and nagas. As his resurrection becomes imminent, the serpents grow more and more deformed — some have multiple heads, others are inside out, and others still are simply masses of coils with no ending or beginning.
    • As Ragnorra approaches, healing, both natural and magical, becomes more effective, but twists those that are healed. Meanwhile, all forms of life thrive out of control, causing plagues of vermin, fungus and disease to spread wildly. Also, undead grow weaker, start to spontaneously self-destruct unless they seek shelter underground.
    • The coming of Kyuss is marked by the vermin of the world entering frenzies of breeding and activity, steadily growing more numerous, larger and more monstrous.
    • Zargon's return is marked by strange weather similar to the Leviathan but also includes rains of slime that pollute bodies of water and cause exposed creatures to turn into ooze monsters under Zargon's control. The other weather effects are cause by the gods getting worried about Zargon.
    • The is also a selection of signs for game masters who want to create their own Evils including the night sky turning alien and strange which causes arcane magic to be more difficult to use, disastrous flooding or droughts, disease running rampant, and living things starting to grow, reproduce, and die unnaturally fast, followed by people losing the ability to sleep, and finally getting so charged with life energy that they messily explode.
  • In Nomine: Seven specific events must happen, in sequence, before Armageddon will begin. The prophecy is fairly well-known to most celestials, although the details are prone to much argument. When each condition is met, the Archangel Gabriel will instantly know it and will be compelled to sound a long, mournful note on her trumpet, which will echo through the Symphony and tell all celestials that the Day of Doom is one step closer. Over the course of The Final Trumpet, these signs start happening one after the other:
    • First, a Great City Is Emptied of the Children of Heaven. This occurs in the prequel adventure, Fall of the Malakim, where the Demon Princes Kobal and Malphas kill off every angel and former angel in Los Angeles.
    • Second, the Holiest Man on Earth Dies by Hands Not Mortal. A particularly pious accountant in Tehran, the holiest mortal alive at present, is killed by a demon of Malphas.
    • Third, the Mortal Tyrant Harvests a Million Souls. An African warlord, sponsored by Baal for this purpose, creates a humanitarian crisis that kills well over the required number of mortals.
    • Fourth, an Ancient Evil Breaks Its Bonds. At first, this seems to be fulfilled by the awakening of the world serpent Jormungandr; the players can prevent this by getting Thor to kill the monster, but this is only a ruse to cover Malphas' release of Magog, Prince of Cruelty, from his prison beneath the Sahara.
    • Fifth, in Unity, War Is Embraced. The Archangels and the Princes gather in their councils and agree, unanimously, that it shall be war. This is assumed to be the final Trumpet blown in the canonical continuity.
    • Sixth, at the Changing of the Year, All the Continents Are at War. Demonic — and some angelic — manipulation sows chaos and paranoia around the world, until war erupts between every nation on Earth that doesn't degenerate into a burning, anarchic mess. Often, demons rampage openly on Earth, killing anything they can find.
    • Seventh and Finally, the Champions Battle Amidst the Flames and One is Vanquished. Michael and Baal face each other in single combat on the plains of Ha-Megiddo, one wins, one loses, and the Last Battle begins.
  • Warhammer 40,000 has the ringing of a mysterious clock in the last Christian church. During the unification of Terra, the man who would later become the God-Emperor of Man set out to purge anything that would challenge his vision of a secularist science-based mankind. Among those things is the last Christian church, maintained by a single elderly preacher. The Emperor, under a disguise, attempts to peacefully convert the priest. After getting utterly defeated in the ensuing philosophical debate, the Emperor storms off and orders the church to be burned down. The clock begins chiming, as it is prophesied to do when the end of man begins.

    Video Games 
  • In 7th Legion, there is a prophesy about the signs that the Chosen, those humans who had left Earth long ago, were returning to reconquer it. The first was a night without darkness (the lights from the ships filling the sky). The second is a day without light (those same ships blot out the sun with their numbers). The final sign is the rain of fire (landing craft entering the atmosphere).
  • In the Dark Souls games, the rise of the undead curse and the coming of hollows is invariably a sign that the First Flame is weakening and the Age of Fire is close to ending, meaning that if someone isn't stuffed into it soon, Bad Stuff will happen. Dark Souls III goes even further: if the Flame is on the edge of death, past Lords of Cinder will be revived, and the Unkindled will rise from their graves.
    The Fire fades, and the Lords go without thrones...
  • Diablo III starts with one of these. The star that falls upon Tristram at the beginning of the game is mentioned in the Prophecy of the End Days as a sign that the end has begun.
  • Notably averted in Final Fantasy VII Rebirth: As Red XIII points out to Aerith, the lack of any end times signs makes most people assume the planet is fine, when it's actually barely hanging on.
  • God of War (2018): The death of Baldur marks the beginning of Fimbulwinter, the three-year winter preceding Ragnarok. However, due to Kratos and Atreus' presence, Baldur's death ends up happening one hundred years earlier than prophesied, potentially derailing the whole of Ragnarok. The Stinger shows Atreus having a dream that at the end of Fimbulwinter, him and Kratos will be confronted by Thor.
  • Goodbye Volcano High: The steadily approaching asteroid has a large electromagnetic field that triggers interruptions in communication devices and rolling blackouts across Pangea. As it gets closer, the blackouts become more frequent, and a permanent aurora borealis appearing in the sky triggers Apocalypse Anarchy and kickstarts the story's Darkest Hour.
  • Max Payne touches upon this trope in reference to a book he finds in Lupino's nightclub, Ragna Rock.
    I was surprised to find that somebody had been passing time reading. The paperback was entitled "The Age of Murder and Storm." The blurb on the back mentioned Norse mythos and Ragnarok, the end of the Viking world with a terrible winter that covered the earth in ice, when vile crimes were rampant and all humanity lost. I could see how somebody impressionable might get it into their head that we were at the end of time. I was also beginning to see what the nightclub and its owner were all about.
  • In Riven, the titular Age is unstable, and what was once a single island has broken into five pieces. Atrus has to keep editing the Descriptive Book so it doesn't collapse while you're there, and Gehn has been monitoring the islands' decay from inside, to the point that his Golden Dome power plant has the phrase "The end of this world is near", written and repeated in D'ni along its perimeter.
  • The Secret World: Richard Sonnac wastes no time in establishing a certain event you stumble upon during one mission, Lilith's reappearance, is a definite sign of the end-times. He's dead bloody serious about it, and immediately gets you on the case. Your contacts for the other factions don't make it explicit, but their reactions still imply it (the Dragon reports the Child waking up crying and birds divebombing windows, and the Illuminati reports alarms going off that your contact didn't even know existed and her bosses contacting her directly for the first time).
  • Total War: Attila has a mechanic to warn the players of the incoming apocalypse that will befell on the game. Starting with the birth and rise of Attila himself and going with the many climate catastrophies that happened at the time, until it finishes with the sack and fall of Rome itself.
  • Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines runneth over with all kinds of approaching apocalypse signs. Turns out, most of them are fake or just misinterpreted. A few of them are real and Gehena really is about to begin within a week, but it has nothing to do with this story.

  • The Sword Interval: The presence of monsters on Earth means the end is nigh, as foretold by the Hierophant. And it gradually gets worse until the civilization finally succumbs to the ever-growing hordes, or the Harbinger calls down the apocalypse prematurely.
    • And it is revealed that previous incarnations of the world underwent the same.

    Web Original 
  • Treknologic: Mike's trivial prowess and vaults of Quatloos signified the Mike-pocalypse.
  • In Gamer Poop, Cicero's penis is so big that it's apparently a sign of the end times. Played for Laughs, of course.
  • SCP Foundation: The Burning of the Wanderer's Library is generally considered the worst that can happen. Whether it actually is literally leading to the end of the world or is more just a shit hit the fan indicator varies.

    Western Animation 
  • Danger Mouse: In "Gremlin Alert" the shadowy shroud enveloping London portends the End Times. What could be worse? According to Colonel K, it's the cancellation of the third test.

Alternative Title(s): Sign Of The End Times