Understanding the book of Revelation
For the last 2000 years Christians have agreed that Jesus will return a second time, but not all agree that Revelation is all about the second coming. Whether the visions in Revelation have been, and being, or have yet to be fulfilled is a matter of debate, but the spirit of the last chapter is something all Christians can agree upon … “Come, Lord Jesus!” (Revelation 22:20)
There are four different approaches to the book of Revelation.
1. Historicist .. The book of Revelation is prophecy about church history from the time of John to the end of the world. This view of Revelation presents a symbolic description of historical events throughout church history.
2. Preterist .. The book of Revelation is prophecy that was fulfilled primarily in the first century AD, though the final chapters of Revelation describe future events to occur at the end of time. They contend that the return of Jesus described in Revelation 19 was spiritual and occurred in AD 70.
3. Futurist .. Revelation is prophecy primarily about the future end of the world. In the futurist view, Revelation is a prophecy yet to occur. The Revelation prophecy describes the end of the time and the years leading immediately to the end.
4. Idealist .. Revelation is a non-historical and non-prophetic drama about spiritual realities. This view originated among ancient Alexandrian theologians who spiritualized and allegorized biblical texts.
Following is a list of Terms associated with the Book of Revelation
666 … Number of the beast, spelled out in Rev. 13:18 as six hundred sixty-six.
Greek and Hebrew did not have written numbers. Instead, either they spelled out the number, or they wrote out the number using the letters in the alphabet. For example, the first letter of the alphabet might represent the number one. In Hebrew the number for Nero’s name can be written as 666. Nero reigned from AD 54 – 68. He was the first emperor to engage in specific persecution of Christians. 666 indicated total imperfection.
144,000 .. Group of believers who endure the great tribulation (Rev. 7:14). Some believe that these persons are literally 144,000 Jews (12,000 from each tribe) who embrace Jesus Christ as their Lord. Others suggest that the terms “Israel” and “twelve tribes” refer to Christians. Therefore, the number would point to God’s people, multiplied by 1,000, is the full number of those who belong to God.
Abomination of Desolation .. An event that desecrates the temple in Jerusalem and is a signal to Jesus’ followers that soon Jerusalem will be ruined. Matthew 24:15 appears to refer to the destruction of the temple in AD 70 by the Romans, or Roman plans to set up a statue of the Emperor in the temple in AD 40 or some event in the future.
Antichrist .. Anyone who denies what the apostles taught about Jesus Christ (1 John 2:18 – 22; 4:3; 2 John 1: 7 ). Specifically, the antichrist is a Satanic counterfeit of Jesus Christ, described as “lawless” and as a “beast” (2 Thessalonians 2:3-8; Revelation 13:1-18; 17:3-17). The antichrist could be a specific person who rises to power during a time of tribulation or a symbol (group or team) of false teachers and leaders who will arise when the end of the age draws near.
Armageddon .. The city of Megiddo was located between the Plain of Jezreel and Israel’s western coast. Deborah, Gideon, Saul, Ahaziah, and Josiah fought decisive battles near Megiddo .. largely because the area around Megiddo is broad and flat. So the valley of Megiddo became the symbol of a point of decisive conflict. Many view the reference to Armageddon as a symbol of an ultimate conflict between spiritual forces of good and evil.
Beasts .. (there are two) .. Symbolic creatures described in Revelation 11:7 and 13:1-18.
The first beast: This creature rises from the sea and has ten horns and seven heads. The seven heads seem to point to Rome, the city known for its seven hills. The beast claims blasphemous names for itself .. much like Domitian, emperor from AD 81 until 96, who demanded that he be addressed as “Lord and God.” One of the horns seems to have died but then returned to life .. much like the false rumor that emerged after the death of Nero that he had come back to life.
The second beast: This creature rises from the earth with horns like a lamb and a voice like a dragon .. in other words, a satanic parody of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God. Some understand this creature as a literal leader who will encourage people to worship the first beast. Others view the second beast as a symbol of any religion in any time period that focuses worshipers on anything other than Jesus Christ.
Final Judgement .. The event described in Re. 20:11-15, when God resurrects all people, judges them from the great white throne, and delivers them to their eternal destinies.
Letters to the Seven Churches .. John’s message to the seven churches, Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. The messages review the churches’ histories, give warnings and commands, and prepare for what is about to unfold.
Mark of the Beast .. Indication of a person’s allegiance to the teachings of the antichrist (Revelation 13:16-17). The people of God receive a similar mark, indicating their loyalty to Jesus (Revelation 7:3-9; 9:4; 14:1; 22:4). Some believe that the mark of the beast will be an actual mark, required by the antichrist. Other see it as a reference to someone’s actions or beliefs .. seeming to be the symbolic meaning referenced in Exodus 13:9 -16.
The Millennium .. Chapter 20 of Revelation references to a reign of Christ that lasts 1000 years. There are three basic views .. Premillennialism, Amillennialism and Postmillennialism. Premillennialism holds that Christ will return before the millennium. Jesus will rule the world and begin an age of peace and security. The Historic view says the tribulation may last for seven years and the church will endure to greet Christ when he comes. The Dispensational view holds that the church will not endure the great tribulation. Christ will remove the church before that time or at some point before the worst experiences of the tribulation. Amillennialism holds the view that the millennium is not a literal one thousand years. It refers to the period now in progress in which the gospel is spreading throughout the world and Christ is ruling at the right hand of God the Father. Postmillennialism speaks to a period of great peace and security when the gospel has spread throughout the world and Christ reigns spiritually, through His people. After this time of 1000 years or so, Christ will return to end history.
Witnesses, two .. Two beings described in Rev. 11:1-14 who speak the truth about God before being killed and then resurrected. Some believe that these two witnesses are two people who will appear during the tribulation, near the end of time. Others view them as two biblical prophets that have been resurrected to proclaim God’s truth during the tribulation. Others see the two witnesses as symbols of the Law and the Prophets sent to testify about Jesus, but only to be killed and then resurrected. The resurrection of the two witnesses would point to a time of final vindication where God demonstrates that the Law and the Prophets did indeed testify about Jesus Christ.
Revelation Chapter by Chapter
Revelation 1 .. Near, soon, and quickly are taken literally. The words in this chapter refer to the whole of the “last days” or to the quickness with which Jesus will return. Christ is always at hand, near and quick to save his people.
Revelation 2 .. The Seven Churches of Asia Minor. The prophecy begins with the seven churches, which were actual churches in John’s day and may also symbolize the types of churches present in the last days.
Revelation 3 .. The Seven Churches symbolism. The words speak to the seven churches, which might symbolize tendencies in the church that can occur in every age. There are several views of the meaning of the Seven Churches.
Revelation 4 .. God on His Throne. God’s courtroom in the heavenly temple is the setting. The Judge on his throne is about to hold court. God offers a viewpoint of the important truths that are about to take place.
Revelation 5 .. The Scroll. The scroll is God’s bill of divorce against unfaithful Israel. It is either the title deep to the earth or God’s prophetic message in Revelation. God’s reviling of his salvation plan for all time.
Revelation 6 .. The Seals. The seals describe the Roman war with the Jews which led to the destruction of Jerusalem ( AD 70 ). The seals describe the great tribulation with each opened seal leading to a greater tragedy upon the earth.
Revelation 7 .. The 144,000. The 144,000 is a symbolic number that represents the church. Thoughts are that it might be the Jewish Christians who escaped the destruction of Jerusalem in the last days. Other view are that this number is the true spiritual Israel; the church on earth.
Revelation 8 .. The Trumpets. The trumpets are a vision of the Roman war with the Jews in the first century AD and extend the seals’ description in further detail. Many believe the trumpets describe the events of the tribulation in the last days.
Revelation 9 .. The Four Angels at the Euphrates. The four angels mentioned could represent the four armies of the Orient that will march against Israel in the last days. They will cross the Euphrates as a signal of war. Another thought is that the four angels represent the judgement of God that comes on evil when there is no more restraint.
Revelation 10 .. The Little Scroll. The little scroll represents the divine plan for the end of the ages, showing that the Word of God is both sweet and bitter to God’s prophets and messengers.
Revelation 11 .. The Temple. The measuring of the temple refers to the nation of Israel and the temple that will be rebuilt in the last days. Israel has been restored but still awaits the rebuilding of her faith. This faith will center on the new temple and will eventually lead some Jews to faith in Christ. The trampling of the court signifies the way the unbelieving world corrupts the church.
Revelation 12 .. The Persecuted Woman. The woman is faithful Israel that gave birth to Christ (the Child). The Dragon is Satan behind the coming Antichrist. The Antichrist will attack Israel, but the church will escape the destruction of Jerusalem by the heeding of Jesus’ words and fleeing to the desert hills.
Revelation 13 .. 666. It is the number of the future Antichrist .. someone who will be like Nero back from the dead. The number is the letters in the name “Nero Caesar” add up to. Another thought might be it is the number of imperfection and human evil that leads to idol worship.
Revelation 14 .. The Son of Man with the Sharp Sickle. It is a vision of the coming of Christ to gather and preserve his church from the judgment that was to befall Jerusalem. A vision of the coming harvest at the end of the age when Christ will separate the wicked for judgment. A vision of last judgment and the coming of Christ at the end of the age.
Revelation 15 .. The Song of Moses and of the Lamb. The song of salvation from the last-days persecution of the Antichrist and resulting judgment of God. Believers may experience persecution but they will not have to endure God’s wrath.
Revelation 16 .. The Fifth Bowl. The bowl is the coming judgment upon the revived Roman Empire that will happen in the last days. The bowl shows what will happen and does happen to those who steadfastly oppose God and the judgment of darkness that will come.
Revelation 17 .. The Great Prostitute. The prostitute is the symbol of a false religious system, a new world religious order. The religious coalition will have political influence tied to the power of the Antichrist who is the head of the alliance (ten horns) of ten nations in Europe in the last days. The corrupt religion that has allied itself with political power in order to dominate. God warns us of such religions and to be on guard to the evil they could bring.
Revelation 18 .. The Fall of Babylon. The Destruction of the coming world religious, political and economic system under the control of the Antichrist and the False Prophet. The destruction of Babylon reveals that God’s judgment is complete and final. All world religious and economic powers that oppose God are destined to fail.
Revelation 19 .. The Marriage of the Lamb and His Bride. The entire church is the bride of Christ whose marriage is announced and celebrated. This chapter refers to events near the end of the world and history. The prophets announced the wedding. Jesus comes and betroths his bride (the church), paying the dowry of the cross. When Jesus comes again, he will offer his bride a wedding feast.
Revelation 20 .. The Millennium. The millennium is the future, physical reign of Jesus Christ on earth. Christ’s present and spiritual reign in the lives of his people.
Revelation 21 .. The New Creation. The new creation will come when Christ comes again and ushers in the age to come. Christians live now as citizens of the New Jerusalem.
Revelation 22 .. The Salvation and Healing of the Nations. It will continue until the great tribulation when the Antichrist will temporarily prevail. Christ is his second coming will triumph and usher in the final salvation and healing of all the faithful. In God’s world, he is always seeking and saving the lost. Christ will bring all things right when he returns.
The spirit of the last chapter call’s .. “Come, Lord Jesus!”
(Revelation 22:20) The End Of Days
John’s Revelation proclaims the Lord will return and bring judgment to all mankind.
Look, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him and al the peoples on the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen. (Revelation 1:7)
The two men dressed in white spoke to the apostles at the moment of Jesus’ ascension saying:
This same Jesus who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven. (Acts 1:11)
Also in the book of Acts we hear Peter speak these words while standing in Solomon’s Colonnade:
He must reign in heaven until the time comes for God to restore all things. (Acts 3:21)
Jesus discussed several apocalyptic events in Matthew 24 with his disciples in a passage called the Olivet Discourse. He spoke of the coming destruction of the Jerusalem temple, which happened when the Roman troop’s devastated the city and demolished the temple in A.D. 70. As we study the discourse it is hard to determine if Jesus was referencing His coming in judgment against Jerusalem, or the End of Days, or some other future occurrence.
The language used in the book of Revelation is vulnerable to speculative apocalyptic interpretation making the text only interpretable by God himself. Regardless of the intellect applied by many valued and knowledgeable scholars, no one can accurately interpret the passages written in Revelation. For people to offer undisputable witness that they have the true interpretation of the apocalyptic scriptures is borderline heresy. Revelation is END OF DAY code written by God to be interpreted by God. No one knows Gods mind. We can speculate and guess, but we do so at the prospect of deceiving fellow Believers. To purposely deceive for any reason is a sin and jeopardizes one’s own salvation.
With caution in mind, let us speculate and look a little closer at a few of Jesus words recorded in Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21, and several passages in The Book of Revelation.
Our record of Christ teachings begin with the Olivet Discourse.
At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other. (Matthew 24:30-31)
The gospel of Luke also contains prophecy teachings.
There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near. (Luke 21:25-28)
If we look back a few hundred years and pay attention to what the prophets of old said, we can see their statements where similar to what Jesus was describing. The reoccurring theme is that God will punish those who oppose his kingdom. Scripture does not tell us who will be on the receiving end of God’s wrath. One theory could be he takes his wrath out of his own rebellious people, or maybe it will be the nations imprisoning the land of Israel and enslaving her people through the centuries. Whatever that situation is, the story will end the same way, God’s wrath against evil will be avenged.
It is of interest that Jesus teaching is similar to those described by Daniel when he references a dream he had about four beasts.
In my vision at night I looked, and there before me was one like a son of man, coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was led into his presence. He was given authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshiped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away, and his kingdom is one that will never be destroyed. (Daniel 7:13-14)
This passage specifically references Christ’s return and the implementation of His kingdom.
There are other startling prophecies that bring a sense of divine recollection. Example being the judgment against Babylon in Isaiah.
Wail, for the day of the LORD is near; it will come like Destruction from the Almighty. Because of this, all hands will go limp, every man’s heart will melt. Terror will seize them, pain and anguish will grip them, they will writhe like a woman in labor. They will look aghast at each other, their faces aflame. See, the day of the LORD is coming a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger to make the land desolate and destroy the sinners within it. The stars of heaven and their constellations will not show their light. The rising sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light. I will punish the world for its evil, the wicked for their sins. (Isaiah 13:6-11)
We can see many different images here.
1. Apocalyptic imagery
2. Unrelenting judgment
3. Fierce punishment
We can also see apocalyptic imagery in Zephaniah’s prophecy against Judah. The scripture brings images of terrifying doom.
The great day of the LORD is near, near and coming quickly. Listen! The cry on the day of the Lord will be bitter, the shouting of the warrior there. That day will be a day of wrath, a day of distress and anguish, a day of trouble and ruin, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and blackness, a day of trumpet and battle cry. In the fire of his jealousy the whole world will be consumed, for he will make a sudden end of all who live on the earth. (Zephaniah 1:14-16, 18)
The intensity of these verse’s are bitter and terrifying. As we can recall, when God brought Judah to her knees in captivity, he didn’t consume the whole world in fire. So the passage was obvious not to be taken literally, but Zephaniahs vivid description is humbling. Lets look at a few additional verses.
I will sweep away everything from the face of the earth, declares the LORD. I will sweep away both men and animals. I will sweep away the birds of the air and the fish of the sea. The wicked will have only heaps of rubble when I cut off man from the face of the earth, declares the LORD. (Zephaniah 1:2-3)
We see a great difference in Judah’s local destruction to Zephaniah’s extermination of all living things. It is obvious that Zephaniahs prophecy must have implications far beyond the immediate generation and begs us to examine if whether there is a secondary prophecy that should be in consideration.
When we examine these to writers and compare them to the complex nature seen in Matthew 24, we see that Jesus is likely referring to events that will take place both in the near future in Jerusalem and also at the End Of Days.
Question: Are we living In the “last days”?
Peter, Paul, James, and several Hebrew writer’s all refer to their own generation as being in “the last days”.
Some in the 21st Century are tempted to believe that our generation, today, is living in the times of “the last days.”
Its possible we are living “the last days”, but no more so than any of the other generations living after the advent of Christ. Only Jesus appearance will usher in the “last days”, not one day before. But one thing remains constant. The “Day of the Lord” and the “day of Christ” is predictable because they will happen at the same time. The same day which will “come like a thief in the night” (1 Thessalonians 5:2) is the same as “the day of Christ” that Paul spoke about in Philippians 2:16. This is simply the day when God will judge man through Jesus Christ.
Jesus was very clear about there being a day to end all days. He refers to “that day” five times. Let’s look at one example:
On “that day” which will close on you like a trap, if your hearts are “weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life. For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man”. (Luke 21:34-36)
There is great significance in what Jesus has just said. He is gives us the key to unlock Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21. Jesus has pointed us to “that day” when those who live on the face of the earth will stand before the Son of Man. If there is a final Judgment for everyone to face, there is also a more immediate, national judgment which is to be centered on Jerusalem.
Jesus continues to describe the events surrounding that special judgment.
First in Matthew:
So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel, let the reader understand-then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let no one on the roof of his house go down to take anything out of the house. Let no one in the field go back to get his cloak. (Matthew 24:15-18)
Centuries earlier Daniel had written about those who would desecrate the temple.
His armed forces will rise up to desecrate the temple fortress and will abolish the daily sacrifice. Then they will set up the abomination that causes desolation. (Daniel 11:31)
If we look closely we can see Daniel’s words were fulfilled years earlier in the person of Antiochus IV in 168 B.C. when he desecrated the temple by sacrificing a pig on the altar. (Even though many do not consider this prior event a prophecy fulfillment being it takes place years before. It seems more appropriate that another event needs to happen for this prophecy can be deemed fulfilled.)
There is no way we could possible miss what Jesus has in mind by Luke’s account.
When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. (Luke 21:20-24)
These events seem to be those which occurred forty years later when the great mammoth stones of the temple were toppled down on top of each other by the Roman army.
There are many details found in Luke’s parallel account of Matthew’s gospel is one of particular significance.
Matthews comment about the rooftops was made within his Olivet Discourse narrative in Chapter 24 of his gospel.
Luke also records those same words from Jesus, he doesn’t present them in his narrative of the discourse in Chapter 21.
Luke records Jesus words in an earlier chapter. (Don’t go down into the house. Get out quickly.) If we look closer to the two narratives we can see the context is completely different in these two sources. This detail tends to confirm that there are two different judgments under consideration in Matthew.
This also raises additional interest in the “house-top” verses that appear in Matthew’s gospel.
Now, one might wonder how “house-top’s” relates to Jerusalem’s destruction. And in Luke’s gospel, how does it relate to Christ’s appearing. How do we determine which of the two events Jesus was talking about. Was he referencing the destruction of Jerusalem or the destruction of the wicked at the final Judgment? It is clear, both! And if we tie the “rooftops” into the mix we can see that the events would appear to happen suddenly at the same time.
The disciples questions prompted Jesus extensive dialogue in the Olivet Discourse. Their questions we probably prompted by Jesus’ discussion about the destruction of the Jerusalem temple, the signs of Christs return and what are the signs of the End of the Age.
Matthew’s account seems to suggest that the disciples were curious about the signs that would accompany all of these prophecies Christ’s was teaching them.
Apocolyptist vs Futurists
Apocolyptist believe the Olivet Discourse and Revelation depict the events of A.D. 70 exclusively, where the Futurists believe these two texts predict events yet to come at the end of time. These two prophetic theory’s seem not to have taken into account how prophecy works. Prophecy is incarnate. Prophecy is the untouchable which you can touch.
This presents a question? Was Jesus God or man? He was both, simultaneously. This is also the same when it comes to prophecy. It is both present and future. When we try to make sense of the Olivet Discourse we tend to focus on the extremes.
Do we focus our attention on the Lord’s coming in judgment against Jerusalem and ignore the futuristic events of a much greater coming. Or do we fixate our attention on a future earthly reign and miss the heavenly reign which already has begun and will never end. Either case, prophecy is extremely challenging.
Like the disciples, we all want to know about the timing. When will “that day” come? Please have been searching for the answer for over 2000 years.
If we’re talking about Jerusalem’s destruction, Jesus said: ‘ I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. (Matthew 24:34)
But if we’re talking about the final Judgment, then Jesus says: ‘ No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. (Matthew 24:36)
And if this is the case, then Jesus continues in Luke: ‘ Watch out that you are not deceived. For many will come in my name, claiming … The time is near. Do not follow them. When you hear of wars and revolutions, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away.’ (Luke 21:8-9)
In todays world all it takes is for there to be some catastrophic event and, instantly, well-meaning end time prophets tell us with absolute certainty the End of the World is immanent. So, what does this say about the phenomenon of end-times prophecies. They occur year in and year out, dozens of times a year in some cases with predictable regularity. But to our amazement, nothing happens. The world didn’t end with the rise of communism, nor the institution of the United Nations, nor the latest earthquake, nor the newest volcano eruption.
Have we so quickly forgotten what Jesus said? “No one knows!”
Paul reminds us of Jesus words:
Now brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. (1 Thessalonians 5:1-2)
Jesus’ mentions wars, rumors of wars, earthquakes, famines, and pestilence. These are not meant to signal his imminent appearing or the destruction of Jerusalem, it means quite the opposite. He is telling us that these are false signs. All these events are common occurrences which happen regularly and are just a part of the fabric of time on earth. Christ return will be accompanied by never before experienced wonders. Maybe the appropriate statement should be, accompanied by never before experienced horrors. In the meantime, we wait.
Whenever that day comes, what we know for certain is that everything will happen in rapid succession.
Listen to Jesus’ words:
When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on the left. (Matthew 25:31-46)
Jesus speaks about .. 1) his coming 2) the gathering of all nations 3) the dividing of the sheep and the goats (Judgment)
We must understand, in terms of timing, when one event happens, they all happen. All three events will occur within the scope of ” that day”.
Last Stop … End of the World
Some will have difficulty grasping the coming reality of the “End of the World”, but we must remember that Jesus said to make ourselves ready for that day.
It is crucial to remember that Jesus said to make ourselves ready.
We Pretty much expect the world will go on forever, even without us. The earth doesn’t stop turning when someone dies, and the sun will always rise somewhere on the globe. So for all the vast ocean sunsets, or snow-capped mountain peaks, it is unimaginable to think that one day it will all just disappear. Yet, this is precisely what the Scriptures tells us will happen. When Christ’s returns, it will be a catastrophic day.
The Old Testament prophecy has abundance language which seems to point to a time when the earth will be totally destroyed. See Isaiah:
Lift your eyes to the heavens, look at the earth beneath; the heavens will vanish like smoke, the earth will wear out like a garment. (Isaiah 51:6)
Peter leaves us in no doubt about what will happen to this present universe at the coming of the Lord.
Peter explains that God doesn’t operate in terms of human time.
With the Lord, a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day. (2 Peter 3:8)
Peter repeats what Paul had told the Thessalonians about the Day of the Lord coming “like a thief”. The Thessalonians had forgotten the people at the time of Noah who where warned about the Flood. In Noah’s day it was water which God used to destroy. Peter was informing the people that fire would consume the heavens and the earth. Peter describes the indescribable.
The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. (2 Peter 3:10)
Other apocalyptic literature has described that God will wipe the earth clean of all living things, but this is the first time we have heard it mentioned that all elements will be destroyed. What is Peter saying when he uses the term Elements? Elements are the protons and neutrons and the sub-atomic particles that are fundamental to life. Included would be chemical elements, from actinium to zirconium, or the Periodic Tables. The carbon, hydrogen, and oxygen without which there would be no universe. These very elements, says Peter, “will melt in the heat.”
How complete will the destruction be? There is nothing so large or distant; or nothing so small that has been created will survive the destruction. No earth, no seas, no clouds, no starts. No air, no light, no heat. The end of all Creation.
Thus, this might raise an insurmountable problem for the end-time theory that assumes the continuing existence of the earth for any purpose following the Lord’s appearing. For when Jesus appears the earth will witness not only the Day of Resurrection and the Day of Judgment, but it will also be the day the whole universe will be utterly and completely destroyed. So there will be nothing left for the apocalyptic battles, or the earthly kingdom reign, or “heaven on earth.” If there is no longer an earth, how can any of these things happen?
The same way man’s history is “dust to dust,” we can see all that is elemental “dust” will be fully and finally destroyed. The Creation itself will have come full cycle, from nothing back to nothing.
Let us note how the psalmist’s spoke of a comparison between a temporal earth and its eternal Creator?
In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment. Like clothing you will change them and they will be discarded. But you remain the same, and your years will never end. (Psalm 102:25-27)
It is understandable if the prospect of God’s judgment strikes fear in any heart.
We only need to remember John’s own reaction when he received the visions contained in what we now know as the Book of Revelation.
John relays what it was like to see “the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Living One.”
I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: ‘Do not be afraid.’ (Revelation 1:17-18)
So what did he see?
I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lakes of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. (Revelation 20:11-15)
The Judgment scene before the “great white throne” gives us a visual confirmation of what some any of the other scriptures have indicated. After the heavens and earth have been dispatched into nothingness, all that remains are the resurrected souls of the dead being judged according to their deeds.
But what is the significance of the “books.” Perhaps they were meant to be innumerable volumes in which the deeds, both good and bad, of all mankind are recorded. John did say that the dead would be judged by their deeds that were recorded in the books. Is there a list of all the saved written in a book of life, and how long has the list existed. From very beginning or from the “last day”.
This brings forward the matter of predestination (Gods choosing) or prescience (Gods knowing). If the answer is predestination, then what does John mean when he tells us in the vision he saw each person been judged according to what he had done. This leave’s us questioning the nature of the final judgment.
But John’s judgement scene does speak well of God’s mercy and grace. As sinners, we deserve nothing better than the lake of fire. But for the saved in Christ, those names have not been blotted out in the book of life. Because of Christ, our sins have been blotted out.
There are many question, but few answers There are simply no end to the question running through our minds of all things about the ‘End Times’. Maybe we should just pay attention to Paul’s fitting words …”No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.” (1 Corinthians 2-9)