What Does Revelation Say About the End Times?

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 25:6-9 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 justly.  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.

20 thoughts on “What Does Revelation Say About the End Times?

  1. Agreement with the thing mentioning that it seems like everyone today is more concerned with trying to figure out and plan out what will happen in the future of Revelation, but what we really need to do is look at the book in its time. There are many things in this modern age that we don’t look at in the proper context and this book is not the only one. If we are going to try to figure out the big picture we need to look at the whole picture, not just the part that we want to see, and if we do that things will get a lot clearer than we think.

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  2. Like Curtis said that there are many things that we do look at in a different context. I think that mostly this year people talk about the end of the world times because its 2012. There are movies and shows that are previewing peoples opinions on the end of the world. If we focus really wants in the Bible then we could have a more clear understanding. If we just focus more on the present time.

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  3. There are, of course, lots of things in the book of Revelation hard to understand. It is therefore ironic that we spend most of our time discussing those and hardly any on one of the clearest and easiest-to-understand parts of the book: the parts when John says that what he was describing was going to happen soon. So adamant are his declarations on this point in the opening and closing chapters, we should be required to admit that if we don’t think his prophecies were fulfilled in the first century then we really don’t believe them at all.

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    • Good point, Mike. I think we discuss the “hard to understand parts” simply because that is what scholarship does, we major on the minor points, fretting over the obscure portions because we think people have exhausted the obvious parts by now. I am not sure that is a bad thing, but I think it was helpful for me to take the time to think about these major theological points everyone can agree on.

      I will say that the obscure part sell more books than the clear. Perhaps I am being cynical, but a book on the Christology will not sell nearly as well as a book claiming to name the antichrist and prove that the mark of the beast is fluoride in the water. Paranoid conspiracy junk is always a big seller.

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  4. There’s theologians that study the bible and what to make an epic discovery. I don’t remember this because I was far too young to remember (3 years old) but they whole idea that the world was coming to an end in the year 2000. There are many theories people thought the world was going to end. Those theories ended up being in movies and showing us how they thought the world was going to end. To many people focus on the future that they don’t enjoy the present time. Just like Proverbs 27:1 says that we don’t know what a day may bring us. When we look at the book of Revelations, we need to read it as what was present at the time and look at the whole picture.

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  5. My overall understanding of the book of Revelation is very little. It’s a book with a lot of questions about literal versus figurative. However, there is one thing that is certain, and it is described above. That is, there will persecution for those that follow Christ, i.e. those who won’t worship the beast. However, those are the very people that will be allowed to spend an eternity with Christ in heaven. Those that suffered through the persecution will be with God in the end. There will be a separation between those who belong to him and those who don’t. This is metaphorically described in the comparison of the wheat and the weeds. The book of Revelation is highly confusing, at least for me. However, I think that there can be comfort found in the fact that we know, regardless of persecution, those who put their faith in God, even during persecution, are the ones who will stand eternal in the end.

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  6. I have never really looked into Revelation; I feel that it is one of those books that people do not really talk about. I can not remember the last time I was in church and the pastor said ‘turn to Revelation’. I agree that when most people think about the book of Revelation they think about the return of Christ as well as what goes on with all of the nonbelievers left on earth. The beginning of the end times for the believer will be a hard and difficult time, full of persecution. But after the rapture, it will be a horrible time for the nonbeliever, full of pain and suffering, and then for eternity. I think that when looking into the end times the most important thing that we can get out of it is that just will be served to those who persecuted Christs’ believers. As well as, God has already won, we have nothing to fear any longer; no matter what may happen to us. If we believe and have faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, we get to worship Him for all eternity.

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    • Megan,
      I agree that the book of Revelation is not one that many people talk about. It is pretty rare to even hear a sermon be based on Revelation. When most people think of Revelation, I think a lot of people think of the coming of Christ and what happens to the nonbelievers. It is odd how many people have never actually read Revelation and based much of their theories and “facts” on the Left Behind series. My dad (for example) was obsessed with the series for years and for a long time my only basis for the Book of Revelation was fiction from the books and the movies my dad told me about. I had to read it myself and even though I made some (not many) connections, it was still just an odd book to turn to on a normal Tuesday morning. It is written very differently than many of the other books of the Bible. I find it very interesting.

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  7. You say that “The most general teaching of Revelation concerning personal eschatology is that the righteous are to be rewarded and the unrighteous are to be condemned.”

    Do you think it is also fair to summarize the book as, “Jesus wins”? Just curious of your thoughts. Maybe this is too simple from me.

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    • That is very simple, yes, but it is not wrong. I will admit to having used that phrase quite a few times over the years!

      As with any two-word summary of a biblical book, what “Jesus wins” means can balloon to a 300 page book.

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  8. Revelation talks about the end times, the return of Christ and the kingdom to come. It is interesting to think about what happens to individuals after death and what judgement wait for believers and unbelievers. In Revelation is that for a person, if you are righteous you are reward and the unrighteous are condemned. I like how Revelation talks about how the wheat will be in the barn where it belongs. We are people that should desire to be with God and living for God. People that do not want to live for him, will be like weeds thrown on a fire. People that disobey will not have an eternity with Him. There is a time that we need to decide whether or not you will worship the beast or God. What ever you decide you will spend an eternity with them. Judgement is based on God. He is a just judge. Our souls are in God’s hand. “ He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. 12 Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables. Though seeing, they do not see; though hearing, they do not hear or understand.” Matthew 13:11-13.

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  9. Revelations is a book that I have never really read through as a newer Christian and have only heard different people talk about what it all talks about. After reading through most of the book, I have found it very interesting along with very similar to what I have been told it to be. I have always known that the book of Revelation was about when Christ returns to earth and deals with the non-believers. Then once Christ returns then we already know that He has won and we will never have anything else to fear from then on, no matter what happens to us humans after. After the rapture, it will be great for us believers but not so much for the non-believers. The non-believers will be full of pain and suffering for eternity.

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  10. I agree that there is a lot of emphasis put around a timeline of the end of times, when really Revelation should just speak for itself and the end times will happen as they are supposed to. Honestly, Christians should not have to worry about the end times because we will A) already be dead and have gone to Heaven or B) will go to Heaven when Christ returns. Often times Christians forget that they will not be present for most of the end time events that are described in Revelation. I also agree that God will judge justly when it comes to the judgement of all people. Again, Christians should have no fear of this times because they believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of their sins and the paying the penalty that every individual deserves. There is a lot of emphasis put of the judgement of the saints when really all that believers need to do is believe is Jesus Christ and that He is their Lord and Savior and they will be saved (Acts 16:31). This concept was hard for the Jewish-Christian community because they were so accustom to sacrificing animals for the cleansing from their sins and all the rituals of the priest in order to become right with God. Therefore, the book of Revelation must have been viewed differently for them because they were process what faith now looked like for them, let alone understanding the visions of John and the judgement from the Lord.

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  11. I will admit that I am one of those people who attempt to read Revelation for the sake of constructing a timeline of events.. I like to see things organized and with a clear understanding of what to expect. Whereas,this book is different from the other New Testament books because it is so full of symbolism and imagery As mentioned in the original post, the general theme of the book of Revelation is to reiterate “that the righteous are to be rewarded and the unrighteous are to be condemned” (Long 2018). It is easy to forget about this historical context surrounding this book because of the societal consensus that it is focused on future events. P.Long emphasized the necessity of reading Revelation through the context of the Hebrew Bible and Second Temple Jewish expectations. A lot of believers today only read what is explicitly written in the modern Bible; few people outside of professional Christians or theologians look at extra-biblical sources to gain an understanding of the biblical text. As mentioned in the post, it is important to remember that no matter how this book is interpreted the application is the same- God is a just judge.

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  12. No where in Revelation will we find a timeline or a date of when things will begin to happen. As humans, regardless of whether we admit it or not, that drives us insane. We want to know when things will happen as opposed to not knowing. We want to try to predict when God will bring about the end times. Even now as this Corona virus is spreading across the nation, we think to ourselves that this is the beginning. It is tough to argue because Revelation speaks about the beginning of sorrows as being “the beginning of sorrows” literally what it entitles. But that is merely the beginning. Revelation speaks more about just this time, it speaks about everything that will happen once this begins, and it is unexplainable. We try to do our best to decode Revelation, but what we fail to realize is that that will never happen. We chose a losing battle. God will bring about the end when the end is ready to be brought. If this is the beginning, then we need to be enduring and wait for God to call us home.

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  13. It’s pretty clear that the book of Revelation gives details on end times, or Eschatology. But what does it say exactly and what can we expect to happen when Jesus does return? To start, Chapter 4 verse 1 tells us that a rapture will happen. “Because you have kept my word about patient endurance, I will keep you from the hour of trial that is coming on the whole world, to try those who dwell on the earth.” (Rev 3:10) Another example later shortly after in the book says “After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” (Rev 4:1) This tells us that in John’s dream, he looked and saw a door to heaven.” This is likely similar to what will happen in the rapture. We may walk through the gates to heaven. The rapture is the first event that will happen. The second event will the tribulation. “for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” (Rev 6:17) Creation will be judged. Next, the final battle (Armageddon) will take place, “And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Armageddon” (Rev 16:16) The fourth event will be the second coming of Christ. The fifth event that John states will be the new millennium of Jesus for a thousand years. The last two events will be the final battle between Satan and the Lord, which will end with Satan being thrown into the lake of fire. The last thing that Revelation tells us is that there will be a new heaven and a new Earth.

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  14. The book of Revelation has always been a rather intriguing book as it’s almost surrounded by mystery. Like most books, we read it to understand them, but Revelation you can’t just read it through once to understand what it is saying. The End Times, or eschatology, is a topic that many are interested in and still can’t grasp it. That’s why the of book of Revelation needs to be read over and studied in chunks rather than straight through like a fictional story book. Each chapter in Revelation has meaning and it can be applied to some of our world today as our world repeats history in a sense. We see all these world events happening around us, but they are not clearly end times scale. We know that there will be beasts and that there will be a mark, but it’s not one that we from a picture in the Bible, so we have to be aware of our surroundings so that we don’t fall into Satan’s traps.

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