The theological term for the end times is eschatology, the study of last things. This includes not only the return of Christ and the kingdom, but also “personal eschatology,” what happens to individuals after death, what judgments await the believer and the unbeliever. I think that the study of the “end times” has mutated into “what is going to happen to those people left behind after the Rapture?” While I do believe in a Rapture / Tribulation / Second Coming scheme, I think it is more helpful to see the overall themes of Revelation rather that try to get ever detail of the Tribulation lined up on a chart.
I want to let Revelation speak for itself as much as possible, and to do that the book must be read in the context of the Hebrew Bible and Second Temple Jewish expectations. John is remarkably consistent with the Judaism of his day, with the exception of identifying Jesus as the Messiah.
The most general teaching of Revelation concerning personal eschatology is that the righteous are to be rewarded and the unrighteous are to be condemned. This is consistent with the Hebrew Bible. When the messianic age begins, there is a judgment of the nations and of Israel. Not everyone participates in the messianic age, as a text like Isaiah 25:6-8 makes clear. While many will gather on Zion to participate in the inaugural banquet at the beginning of the age, Israel’s prototypical enemy Moab will be trampled in the mud (25:10-12). Jesus also described the beginning of the new age as a harvest, where the wheat will be gathered into the barn (where it belongs) and the weeds gathered and thrown on a fire (where they belong). This theme of eschatological separation is common in Jesus’ parables (Matt 13:24-30, for example).
Prior to the beginning of the eschatological age, the Hebrew Bible expects a time of persecution of the people of God. In a book like Daniel, this period of persecution will separate the true Israel from the false. The capture of Jerusalem by the Babylonians initiated a long sequence of conflict with pagan rulers which reached a climax during the reign of Antiochus IV Epiphanies. The struggles of the Maccabean period become a paradigm for future persecutions.
In Revelation, there is a persecution of those who refuse to worship the beast or take his mark. Revelation 13:7 describes this as a “war on the saints” which will result in the death of many who are followers of Christ (13:10, 20:4). This persecution is a time when a choice must be made to worship the beast (taking his mark) or to worship the Lamb. There is no middle ground, the time of great persecution is a sifting of the true followers from the false.
In Revelation 20, there is a judgment at the beginning of the Kingdom of God, or the eschatological age. John’s vision turns to a scene of thrones, thrones for those who were martyred during the tribulation, and thrones for those that endured until the end. In this vision, it is the souls of those who were faithful during the tribulation that sit upon thrones. The souls that John is seeing in these verses are those that were under the altar in 6:9 crying out to God asking to be revenged for their death at the hands of the beast and his kingdom.
With respect to the future, then, Revelation promises that God will judge with justice. Those who persecute will be judged and separated from the Kingdom of God, while those who were persecuted will be vindicated and enter into that Kingdom.
6 thoughts on “Theology of Revelation: The End Times”
Phillip, I have puzzled and continue to do so, over the mentality and level of moral/social/spiritual development going into various statements and scriptural themes of coming judgment and end times or “the age to come”.
Trying to synthesize their range and varieties (plus similarities), it seems the thinking and posture is mainly “premodern” – still us/them, good/evil (black and white dualsim), retribution oriented, mainly (and not that “modern” is the highest/best either). One “notch” up seems to be that at least, sometimes, the judging process is left to God, implying the author(s) recognized their and their groups’ inabilities to sort the “sheep from the goats” entirely. It takes a higher perspective to be able to always tell “good” from “evil”. (And I’m not meaning to try to abolish the categories altogether.) However, there doesn’t seem to be a recognition of the human/cosmic reality that very much of the time, at least in a given person, good and evil or following “truth” vs. “falsehood” is intertwined.
Maybe that’s one reason Xnty gravitated toward a “justification by faith” approach… realizing that any behavioral or even “right content of belief” standard of judgement was entirely too amorphous or unidentifiable in any size group or among groups. So even couching the issue as “followers of Christ” vs. the beast, it has to be made very concrete… either take the mark or don’t. THEN one can tell (supposedly) who is “genuine” and not to be condemned. However, short of such a clear-cut criterion (which I frankly don’t expect to ever come up), we are left with a wide range of followers of Christ (or of Jesus over against “Christ”, for some). Many within that group do NOT recognize some of the others as really followers of Christ… who’s to determine who really is? The only decent “solution” seems to be to leave it to God… which is not a helpful “here and now” concept.
Or (much better to me)… be satisfied to allow everyone who wishes to say they follow Christ to have that self-identification, and not presume they will be condemned for this or that false belief or wrong action… something a great many Christians do not do, basing it supposedly on Scripture… Is my logic making sense? (I may need to reword it some.)
Revelation is definitely one of the most admirable books of the New Testament, it catches the attention of anyone who takes the time to read that’s practically undeniable. I would say that the one thing that fascinates me most about it is the fact that it is utterly terrifying and yet at the same time incredibly inspiring. To the non believer, no matter what they believe in, whether they follow another religion or are simply an atheist, the idea of God fulfilling the final judgement on them to decide their fate for eternity is quite heavy on the mind and would definitely intimidate me. It is even somewhat scary to believers as well, with the way it talks about persecution on a scale and in a way that probably has never happened before in history. But with all of its talk about such terrifying things, Revelation is still an inspirational piece of scripture, its message of judgement leaves believers with more hope than we could ever have asked for before to keep the faith. It also provides the motivation that this generation needs to get out into the world and work harder at spreading the message of Jesus Christ. It seems no matter who you are Revelation leaves an impact on anyone who takes even a little time to simply read it.
I think we can all agree that Revelation is one of if not the most confusing book in the Bible as far as context and variety of topics. Trying to narrow down the main idea behind the book is a difficult task. But I think what you said, P. Long, is the best way to put it. Revelation, though a book that covers a wide variety of topics, stands to encourage believers. It offers hope of “all things new”, reassures us that God is in control, and reminds us to follow and worship Him, even through the hard times. Summed up into a nutshell, that is the main idea of Revelation, I think.
As discussed in class, the study of Revelation is by no means easy. One has to decide from which point of view Revelation is to be interpreted: referring to things already completed, things currently being fulfilled, or things that are yet to come. In my humble opinion, the title “Revelation” at first glance hints at “revealing” or expounding upon events that are yet to come. My belief of Revelation is one of a description of the end of the world as known today. However, just as the Flood “ended” the world at the time – God still had a plan to reconcile with His creation. The end of the world may be described in Revelation, but another reconciliation is also in place with God and His creation.
Howard Pepper, I would agree with you on how we can practically understand and apply the ideas conveyed in Revelation about good vs evil and truth vs falsehood. Though it may seem unhelpful to say “leave it up to God” to determine who is in and who is out, that is exactly what we should do. You say it well when you say, “… be satisfied to allow everyone who wishes to say they follow Christ to have that self-identification, and not presume they will be condemned for this or that false belief or wrong action…” It is important to study the Word and develop our faith, but it is never our place to claim judgment upon those who do not share our exact beliefs and practices. As you say in the original content Professor Long, “With respect to the future, then, Revelation promises that God will judge with justice. Those who persecute will be judged and separated from the Kingdom of God, while those who were persecuted will be vindicated and enter into that Kingdom.” It is God who is going to judge, condemn, and vindicate. Perhaps one of Revelation’s purposes is to remind believers of this and encourage them with it.
Please consider that the end of the world has commenced.
As is seen in Revelation 6:1-2, Jesus Christ, on October 23, 2013, partially opened, on then again on May 12, 2014, fully opened, the First Seal of the Scroll of End Time Events, thereby releasing the Rider on the White Horse, who has the Bow of Economic Sovereignty, that is the Bow Without Any Arrows, to effect coup d etats world wide, to transfer sovereignty from democratic nation states to fascist regional leaders and bodies, thus destroying the monetary authority of the world central banks, and establishing the economic authority of regional governance in the world’s ten regions, and totalitarian collectivism in mankind’s seven institutions, as is seen in Revelation 13:1-4.
The death of currencies, and also the failure of credit, that is failure of trust in the monetary policies of the world central banks to continue to provide investment gains and global economic growth on May 13, 2014, comes from the Rider on the White Horse seen in Revelation 6:2, being given a crown, that is the authority to rule over the nations, with the Bow of Economic Sovereignty, calling Interest Rates higher from 2.49%, and is exemplified in the trade lower in Ireland, EIRL, Italy, EWI, Greece, GREK, and the European Financials, EUFN, coming from the strong trade lower in the Euro, FXE, and has commenced destructionism, replacing the former inflationism, as the dynamic of economic activity.
Through the First Horseman’s endeavors, a One Euro Government, that is a fiscal, banking, and totally fascist economic union, will emerge in the Eurozone; it will be the model for policies of regional governance, and schemes of totalitarian collectivism in all of the world’s ten regions, this being foretold in Revelation 13:1-4, as well as Daniel 2:20-45.
Largely through the work on the soon to be revealed Sovereign, seen in Revelation 13:5-10, and his economic high priest, the Seignior, seen in Revelation 13:11-18, the EU’s power will become so great, that it will be the preeminent world power.
And the end of the world is confirmed with The Red Eclipse, that is the recent blood moons