Religious authorities have confirmed that the Apocalypse is due to occur later this year.
They have pointed to a number of omens, including dead fish mysteriously washing up around the world and birds falling from the sky.
But experts say that the most compelling evidence of unworldly events is the success of the English cricket team.
Scholars are now attempting to pinpoint the exact date on which the Day of Judgment will fall, but have so far been unsuccessful.
Confirmation that the Rapture is almost upon humanity came yesterday. A press release by the Vatican said that the phenomena being experienced around the world could not be rationally explained.
“After exhaustive investigations, and a careful examination of the Book of Revelation, His Holiness has concluded that the times of darkness are upon us,” the release states.
“Following a period of pestilence, natural disasters and war, God will descend from the heavens in all His fiery majesty so as to smite all of those who have sinned, and to bring eternal peace to the world. This should happen on or before December 31.”
The news has caused widespread alarm, but Prime Minister John Key has urged people to stay calm.
“We have to accept that the news is a setback to hopes of a global economic recovery,” said Mr Key. “But we don’t know exactly when the Apocalypse will begin, nor how severe it will be.”
He confirmed that contingency plans were in place to ensure that if Apocalypse-related events occur this year, they do not disrupt the Rugby World Cup.
“With any major event you plan for the unexpected. We’ve got AMI Stadium ready as a backup grand final venue ready should Eden Park be swallowed up in a terrible inferno, killing thousands.
“We very much hope that He will see fit to withhold his divine fury until after the tournament has ended. We will be much better prepared as a nation for the misery and horrors to come once our team has been knocked out in the quarterfinals.”
However, religious scholars say they doubt God will strike until later in the year. They say that the recent events are merely a prelude to greater horrors to come late in 2011.
David Lonsdale, head of religious studies at the University of South Canterbury, said it was unlikely that God would vent the worst of his wrath until after the general election. Most pundits expect an election in late November.
“It can be no coincidence that He placed His anointed one on this Earth to lead the people of New Zealand, and that 2011 is also an election year,” said Mr Lonsdale.
“I am picking that this election result will be more important than many realise. It may be how He intends to decide who is holy and who is wicked. A vote for National may be more important than you think.”
But Labour leader Phil Goff has dismissed claims that a vote for Labour will consign many to eternal damnation.
“Look, that’s just a media beat-up. Sure, a vote for Labour may well mean an eternity in Hell, but that’s only part of the story. A vote for Labour is also a vote for jobs, education and housing.”
Business leaders have expressed different views about the coming crisis.
Business New Zealand Chief Executive Phil O’Reilly said that the Apocalypse would disrupt businesses and lead to extra costs.
“The worst part of it all is the uncertainty,” said Mr O’Reilly.
“If businesses know in advance the extent to which they will be torn asunder, burnt to the ground or swept away by plagues of giant rodents, then they can prepare and put in place contingency measures.
Mr O’Reilly said that the government would need to provide a lot more information about the coming holocaust.
“I have businesspeople calling me asking all sorts of questions that I just can’t answer. For example, if The Lord’s wrath should smash my business into a thousand pieces, killing everyone inside, am I insured? And what are my obligations to employees under the Holidays Act should the Apocalypse occur on a public holiday while staff are rostered to work?”
But Council of Trade Unions head Helen Kelly has welcomed the coming trials.
“After a time of disruption we will see all oppressive work practices abolished, and God’s descent from the sky will herald a worker’s paradise. Hallelujah, comrades!”