What Is the Apocalypse? 10 Things Christians Should Know
The Apocalypse? What does that word mean? According to Dictionary.com, it means “revelation, disclosure, uncover, reveal.” I found the title page to my mother’s 1982, Holman Bible Publishers, King James Version, it reads: “THE REVELATION TO JOHN (The Apocalypse)." Or in today’s vernacular, an account the Lord Jesus Christ gave of Himself to the Church and events that will occur at the end of this age.
We hear “The Book of Revelation” and our minds race to the last days. End of the age—coupled with doom, gloom, and disaster. Jesus instructed all believers to read, hear, and heed the words of this uncovering. But Jude, half-brother of Jesus, adds a very interesting verse:
“And about these also Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying, ‘Behold, the Lord came with many thousands of His holy ones, to execute judgment upon all…’” (Jude 1:14-15a NAS).
If we consult biblical timelines, we know Adam lived around 4,000 B.C. The seventh generation from Adam would put Enoch living sometime around 3,300 B.C. Before the flood. And, according to Jude, Enoch was already prophesying about the Apocalypse—over 5,300 years ago.
Before we dive into the apocalypse it is appropriate to note the different interpretive approaches and views of the millennium:
Different Interpretations of the Apocalypse in Revelation
- Preterists hold that Revelation describes events that would "soon take place" for John and his first-century readers.
- Futurists typically interpret Revelations chapters 4-22 as referring to historical events in the distant future for John and the churches of Asia Minor, including a final crisis period followed by Jesus' return to establish his kingdom on earth, judge evil, and usher in the new creation.
- Historicists interpret 6:1-20:6 as a prophetic outline of the major historical developments from John's day (6:1) until Jesus' return (19:11) often focusing on Western church history. Few today follow this.
- Idealists believe that Revelation symbolically depicts the ongoing conflict between the forces of God and of Satan throughout the church age. Idealists are reticent to identify John's symbols with particular past or future historical events, though many idealists affirm that Jesus will return to establish His eternal kingdom in the new creation.
Eclecticism or Mixed views - many readers argue for a mixed approach that combines key insights from futurism, preterism, and idealism. Preterists are probably correct that the whole book, not simply chapters. 1-3, addresses the circumstances and concerns of John's first-century readers. Idealists rightly affirm that Revelation has ongoing relevance throughout history and that John's symbolic visions may have multiple fulfillments. Futurists correctly stress that Jesus will return to judge evil, save people, and establish God's everlasting kingdom.
The "millennium" is the thousand-year period in Revelation 20:1-6. Interpretations are divided over this as well.
- Premillennialists believe that Jesus will return before (pre-) the millennium to defeat and destroy the beast and false prophet (19:11-21). Then Satan will be "bound" for a thousand years (20:2), during which time some believers (martyrs and perhaps others) will receive resurrection bodies and will reign with Christ on earth over the descendants of those surviving the battle of Armageddon (20:4; cf. 16:16).
- Postmillennialists (affirmed by most historicists and preterists) believe Jesus will return after (post-) a literal or symbolic millennium. Most modern postmillennialists (like amillennialists) understand a symbolic thousand-year period to be coextensive with the church age, while others understand the millennium to come at the end of the church age after the church's gospel proclamation brings about the nations' conversion and a golden age of God's blessing.
- Amillennialists (affirmed by idealists and some preterists and historicists) view the millennium as a symbolic time frame between Jesus' ascension and his return when deceased believers reign in heaven with Jesus. Amillennialism is sometimes called "inaugurated" or "realized millennialism" to clarify the nature and timing of the millennium. (They believe Satan was bound through Jesus' death and resurrection and that he is prevented from deceiving the nations or hindering the spreading of the gospel during the church age. He will be released temporarily for his onslaught against the church, upon which Christ will return to judge his enemies and vindicate his people).
Amid these many interpretive approaches, Revelation's central message is clear: God sovereignly rules history and will complete his plans to judge and save through Jesus, the slain Lamb and returning King.
Major Approaches to Interpreting Revalation is an adapted excerpt from the NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible edited by D. A. Carson and published by Zondervan (pages 2276-2277).
Here are 10 things Christians should know and ask about the apocalypse:
1. Both the Old and New Testaments Describe Apocalyptic Events
“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17 NAS).
In 2019, some within the church believe the Old Testament is irrelevant. These naysayers think the Old Covenant is of no consequence because we’re under the New Covenant. But in Matthew 5, Jesus invalidates this conclusion. Enoch walked with God three hundred sixty-five years… And Hebrews 11:5 tells us, “…and he was not found because God took him up...” Gone in a moment. Raptured. Fast-forward to 852 B.C. Elijah prophesied during the reign of Israel’s King Ahab. What do these two prophets have in common besides their faith in God?
“…there appeared a chariot of fire and horses of fire which separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind to heaven” (2 Kings 2:11 NAS). Another prophet MIA. Raptured.
2. The Holy Spirit Restrains
“For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way” (2 Thessalonians 2:7 NAS).
Forty days after Jesus’ resurrection, He and His disciples were talking and a cloud swept Him into the heavens. Two men dressed in white told them He would return in the same manner as they watched Him go. Jesus was raptured.
Paul tells of being caught up to the third heaven and was allowed to hear “…inexpressible words, which man is not allowed to speak” (2 Corinthians 12:2-4). Paul was raptured. Revelation 4:2 tells us John heard words from heaven, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after these things.” John was raptured. That’s three.
The Holy Spirit of God, the one who restrains will be taken out of the way before the Day of the Lord occurs. Where does God’s Spirit reside today? In the soul of every believer—He’s the down payment of our inheritance. When the Holy Spirit is removed from this world, dear one, every believer—the Church—the body of Christ—goes up with this indwelling part of God…And thus, we shall always be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17 NAS).
Approximately three and one-half years after that event, Revelation 11 tells us the two witnesses, who’ve testified, together with the 144,000 young Jewish men for 1,260 days, will be killed. And as they lay dead in the streets of Jerusalem, Scripture tells us the breath of life from God will come into them. They will stand, while the world watches as a loud voice from heaven says, “Come up here.” These two witnesses will also be raptured.
3. What Daniel Tells Us about the Apocalypse
“And from the time that the regular sacrifice is abolished and the abomination of desolation is set up, there will be 1,290 days…But as for you, Daniel, go your way to the end; then you will enter into rest and rise again for your allotted portion at the end of the age” (Daniel 12:11,13 NAS).
Rabbis have told Israel the Book of Daniel is about dreams and don’t teach from this Old Testament prophet. Daniel lived his faith when taken captive to Babylon as a teen, and God blessed his faithfulness. Had the Jewish Rabbis understood Daniel’s prophecies, they would have known about their return from captivity, when and where Jesus would be born, and that Jerusalem would be destroyed in 70 A.D. (Daniel 9:20-27 NAS).
The Angel Gabriel appeared to Daniel telling him about the 70 weeks decreed and how his people would be desolate. Educated by the angel, Daniel knew about the coming kings and the abomination of desolation and the time of his appearance (Daniel 11:32-35). Gabriel introduced Daniel to the great prince, Michael, who stands guard over Israel. (Daniel 10:21). But he promised, “…at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued.” He told Daniel about this dreadful three and one-half years. Then God sealed up Daniel’s words until the end of time, but we have come to understand Daniel’s words.
4. Will There Be a New Temple in Jerusalem?
“And he will make a firm covenant with the many for one week, but in the middle of the week he will put a stop to sacrifice and grain offering; and on the wing of abominations will come one who makes desolate, even until a complete destruction, one that is decreed, is poured out on the one who makes desolate” (Daniel 9:27 NAS).
By reasoning together, this Old Testament scripture, tells us five things will happen:
- A covenant of peace will be signed with Israel.
- A Tribulation Temple will be built in Jerusalem.
- Jewish sacrifices will be stopped after 3 ½ years.
- One week is referred to as seven biblical years.
- God decrees the one who makes desolate will be destroyed.
In order to reinstate the sacrificial system, there must be a temple. There has not been a temple or sacrifice since 70 A.D. To put this sacrificial system in place, the ashes of a red heifer are required to cleanse the site. March 6, 2019, Rabbi Ariel reported there are two possible red heifer candidates. (Numbers 19:2-10)
5. When the Rapture Will Occur
“In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also” (Matthew 14:2-3 NAS).
Here one minute, gone the next. No warning. The church will be gone. The dead in Christ will rise first, then those who are alive and have been washed in the blood will be snatched up together with them to meet the Lord in the air. Stop and think about this event—regardless of what you’re doing, if you belong to Jesus, you’ll be gone in a Nano-second. Caught up together. Transformed. Raptured to meet the Lord in the air. “And so, shall we ever be with the Lord.” Think of the fall-out . . . the consequential chaos this brings on earth.
Five raptures have occurred, as referenced in Section 1 and 2 above. We aren’t given the date and time God will rapture the church, but we are told it will come like a thief in the night. No one but God knows the time. We are to be ready. Waiting . . . always looking to Christ. Listening for the shout and the trumpet.
After an engagement, Jewish tradition requires the groom to go to his father’s house to prepare a place for his bride. In the middle of the night, when the father approves, the groom and friends go to the bride’s house to bring her to the wedding. As they go, they call, “Behold, the bridegroom cometh.” Could this be the shout we will hear?
6. What Happens to the Church in the Rapture?
“If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives a mark on his forehead or upon is hand, he also will drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is mixed in full strength in the cup of His anger; and he will be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb” (Revelation 14:9-10 NAS).
Are there preachers who refuse to preach about sin and the blood of Jesus Christ? Are there church members who have never experienced the mercy and grace of God? Church members, who’ve never repented and asked forgiveness of their sins? Are there regular attenders who’ve never heard: “For God so loved the world He gave His only Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16 NAS)?
Churches will be packed the Sunday after the rapture. But services will be like a funeral rather than a celebration. Grief and fear will saturate the sanctuary. Remember, how folks rushed to church following 9/11, but a few months later those same folks had slipped back into the normality of their lives. Yes, there will be church after the rapture…but not a church preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ. ‘Til reality sinks in.
From the moment two witnesses preach in Jerusalem, those left behind can begin the countdown . . . in 1,290 days these two witnesses will be murdered, then raptured 3 ½ days later— when worship and the object of worship changes.
7. Will People Be Saved during the Tribulation?
“All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain. If anyone has an ear, let him hear” (Revelation 13:8-9 NAS).
The short answer is yes. But those trusting Jesus will pay with their lives. The scene abruptly changes between the sixth and seventh trumpets; the Anti-Christ will be killed. He descends to the abyss, is restored to life, and puts to death the two witnesses (Interpreters throughout church history have debated whether these witnesses refer to individual prophets or symbolize the church. -D.A. Carson, NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible). Then he marches into the Temple blaspheming the name of the Lord God and His Son Jesus and declares himself to be god and demands all worship him.
God has granted him authority to reign for forty-two months, and together with the false prophet, a statute will be erected. You must bow before the statute, take the mark of this beast, the number 666, on your forehead or in your hand if you want to buy or sell anything. If you refuse you will be beheaded. But those losing their life will be given white robes and hidden under the altar until their number is completed (Revelation 6:9-11).
8. What Changes Does the Apocalypse Bring to Earth?
“Then I looked, and I heard an eagle flying in midheaven, saying with a loud voice, ‘Woe, woe, woe to those who dwell on the earth, because of the remaining blasts of the trumpet of the three angels who are about to sound” (Revelation 8:13 NAS).
With the breaking of the sixth seal (Revelation 6:12-17) the sun turns black and the moon becomes like blood. Stars fall from the sky and we see the first great earthquake. All men great and small know the wrath of God and the wrath of the Lamb have come. They ask the mountains to fall on and hide them. The angel of Revelation 8:5 throws a censer of fire to earth and we have a second earthquake. A third of the earth is burned up, a third of the sea becomes blood, a third of the sea creatures die, and a third of the ships are destroyed. A third of the rivers and springs become bitter, and a third of the sun, moon, and stars are darkened. The 5th trumpet and first woe bring on five months of locust who sting like scorpions. Men beg to die but can’t.
The 6th trumpet releases the four angels who’ve been bound at the Euphrates River. An army of two hundred million horsemen kill a third of mankind. And Revelation 9:20-21 tells us the rest of mankind not killed by these plagues did not repent. Stop and think—two great earthquakes, a third of the earth burned up, a third of the sea, rivers, and springs ruined, and then the locust and the army of two hundred million. The earth borders catastrophe and the bowl judgments are still to come.
9. The Occurrence of the Third and Fourth Earthquake and Hail Storm
“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever” (Revelation 11:15 NAS).
Within the hour the two witnesses are raptured, a third great earthquake destroys a tenth of Jerusalem. Seven thousand people are killed and those left alive are terrified and give glory to the God of heaven. Could these glorifiers of God be the Jews Jesus warns to flee when they see the Abomination of Desolation in the temple?
Revelation 11:15-19 immediately takes us back to heaven where we see Jesus beginning to reign on earth. Twenty-four elders surround the Throne saying, Jesus reigns and it’s time to reward His bond-servants and those who fear His name and to destroy those who destroy the earth. The temple of God in heaven is opened, and the ark of the covenant appears in His temple. And there is a fourth earthquake and a great hailstorm.
10. God Finishes What He Begins He Wastes Nothing
“I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues which are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his part from the tree of life and from the holy city, which are written in this book” (Revelation 22:18-19 NAS).
The bowl judgments that follow are hideous and swift (Revelation 16). Those still alive refuse to repent of their deeds, and as the 7th angel pours out his bowl on the air, a loud voice comes from the temple in heaven, “It is done.” And a final 5th great earthquake, like no other, shakes the whole earth. Islands vanish and mountains disappear. Hailstones weighing one hundred pounds each fall from heaven, but men still blasphemed God.
In Revelation 19:11-16 heaven opens and King Jesus accompanied by His armies of angels and the armies clothed in fine linen following our King of Kings and Lord of Lords. The battle is brief as He strikes the nations with the sword from His mouth.
The earth is transformed into a broad plain with Jerusalem as it’s center. There is no sea, but a clear river flows from the temple where Jesus will rule and reign for 1,000 years to fulfill God’s covenant with Abraham and his descendants.
The last words of this Apocalypse are found in Revelation 21 and 22, words I pray will bring you hope, confidence, strength, and joy. Our God is Sovereign over the universe. His Word is Truth.
Wife, mother, and Mimi, freelance artist and photographer, DiAne Gates writes for children, young adults, and non-fiction for adults through her blogs, http://dianegates.wordpress.com/ and www.floridagirlturnedtexan.wordpress.com. She also facilitates a GriefShare support group. DiAne’s award winning, ROPED, first in her western adventure series released July of 2015, and the second book, TWISTED, released by Pelican Book Group July 14, 2017. Third book in this series, UNTIED, is her WIP. You can find DiAne on Facebook.
Photo credit: ©GettyImages/Javier_Art_Photography