The end is coming. That's probably about the only solid statement which you can get authentic Christians to agree on regarding the end times. Eschatology is one of the most fascinating studies to a broad base of Christians. But to anyone who has read the book of Revelation it becomes pretty clear, fairly early that there is lots of room for confusion. For starters, Revelation is written in an apocalyptic style which means among other things that it is packed with symbolism. Dragons, Hills, crowns, beasts, harlots, churches, stars, angels, seals, scrolls, bowls and trumpets and more arcane symbols are woven throughout the book of Revelation. (Incidentally it's "Revelation" not "Revelations" That final "s" tends to irk some people.)
However we are meant to understand the book of Revelation (Rev 1:3) which is one major reason for encouraging its study. The key to understanding Revelation is missed by many Christians however because the key involves something that most Christians know far too little about. They key to revelation is the Old Testament. The rich symbolism of Revelation looks back to the Prophetic books of the Old Testament which use many of the same symbols in ways that explain their meanings.
Briefly we can understand the end times as follows.
At a time when people just plain don't expect (Luke 12:40), Jesus will return with a trumpet blast (1 Thess 4:16-17) and a loud command. This will result in all the Christians who have died being resurrected simultaneously and in a moment later(1 Cor 15:52) any Christian still alive will be transformed to be like Jesus (1 John 3:2) and we will rise to meet him in the air. When the Church is removed from the earth so also will the Holy Spirit be removed. It is the Holy Spirit which has kept Satan from having free reign on the earth completely. When the Spirit is removed the person known as "The Anti-Christ" will be revealed.(2 Thessalonians 2:2-7)
The Antichrist will be a person of significant power and influence; and he will draft and sign a seven year peace treaty (Daniel 9:27) with Israel. Perhaps due to the mass exodus of millions of Christians the antichrist will rise to position of world leader. Either at the rapture itself or more than likely at the signing of the peace treaty, a seven year clock will begin counting down to the end of the world.
For the first three years things will go moderately well for Israel. However God will begin judging the earth. At the midpoint of the seven year tribulation period the antichrist will suddenly and violently turn against Israel(Daniel 9:27) . Throughout the whole seven years the most awful judgements imaginable will fall on the people of the earth. During this time many thousands perhaps will become Christians. (Revelation 7:9) These will be systematically put to death â€“ presumably by beheading for failing to worship the antichrist. (Revelation 6:9)
When the seven years is finally up every wicked person will be put to death at the Battle of Armageddon (Revelation 19:19). Jesus will descend in a show of his true Glory and he will take up the throne of King David and he will rule the planet for 1000 years. During this time, Satan will be kept in chains (Rev 20:1-2), unable to tempt the earth. The resurrected saints will live on earth at this time (Revelation 20:4), as also there will be believers who somehow never died during the seven year tribulation. This last group will marry and have children for 1000 years repopulating the earth in the very presence of Jesus.
It may be hard to imagine but some who are born and live during this time will reject the Jesus they can see every day. And when the 1000 years are over, Satan will be released (Revelation 20:7) from his prison. He will immediately begin leading the unbelievers into open rebellion against God (Revelation 20:8) The Rebels will be destroyed in fire.(Revelation 20:9)
Judgement day will follow (Revelation 20:11), and every single soul will be judged to determine their reward or their punishment. Those who believe and are faithful will receive eternal life and greater rewards yet. Those who disbelieve and are wicked will receive increasing grades of judgement in hell.
And God will create a new heavens and a new earth in which we will live (Revelation 20:1). When all is finished and Jesus rules finally over absolutely everything, Jesus the Son will remove the crown of David from his head and will offer it to His father so that God the father will be over all things (1 Corinthians 15:28).
Prophecy exists to do more than excite our imagination. It certainly accomplishes that and it's a thrilling subject to study. The purposes of prophecy are multiple. In times of suffering, prophecy helps us look to a better time. In times of comfort, prophecy can help shake Christians out of complacency and back to a state of alert as we stop living for the day and start living for the future that is coming.
"Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.
Questions For Personal Study
- Are you excited or anxious about the return of Jesus?
- Revelation speaks of many who will be put to death for their faith in Jesus. Do you think you would be able to die for Jesus? Why or why not?
- What fascinates you about eschatology?
- Using a concordance or Bible search program find and learn as much as you can about the antichrist.
- Read 1 Thessalonians. How much did you learn about the return of Jesus?
- Do you truly expect Jesus to come back today or this week, or "soon"?
- Are you expecting rewards when Christ returns? Explain. If not, than what needs to change?