Questions regarding the world’s demise are common and there are some detailed answers in the pages of the Bible. The book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible, offers a complete response to the question, when will the world end? This book was written by the Apostle John and is the direct revelation of Jesus Christ given to John via an angel. In this vision, Jesus speaks directly to John and provides many insights into what is to come at the end of this world. After hearing from Jesus, John is called into heaven to see all the details that surround the end times. The precise answer to when this will all happen is not given, but a careful study will reveal several signs we can look for that may signal the end is near.
My goal in this writing is to simplify the basic understanding of the Book of Revelation and deliver all the important points and events as briefly as possible. My hope is that this reading will inspire you to open your Bible and study the book of Revelation for yourself so that you can fully absorb the awesome details and wonderfully complete descriptions of these events as they unfold in the pages of the Bible. My resource for this writing was “Revelation Unveiled” by Tim LaHaye, which is probably the best tool for helping the average reader understand the book of Revelation.
In the first three chapters of Revelation, Jesus spends a good deal of time explaining precisely what is wrong with the church and individual Christians, and goes into great detail discussing what is needed of every believer to continue forward into eternity with Him. Jesus addresses seven specific ancient churches that some believe are examples of the entire Christian church throughout time, right up until our present day. He makes clear that He is the path to salvation and that the Word of God is the best weapon believers have to fight the devil. Jesus also points out that He is the source of all God’s creation and He will one day judge all people. The basic understanding that can be gained from His teaching is that those churches and individual Christians that hold true to the Word of God and continue to follow Jesus will be protected and those that don’t are in deep trouble and need to change course and get pointed back toward God.
Jesus goes on to share His description of salvation by repeatedly addressing those who “overcome” which is His name for believers. He reminds believers that they will live forever in God’s paradise and that they have been saved from judgment by their faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus also reminds believers that he will rule as their king here on earth and it is their sins that have been “overcome” by Jesus’ death on the Cross. Though believers remain sinners they have been forgiven for that sin by trusting Jesus as their Lord and Savior. Jesus makes it clear that believers are eternally identified with Christ and therefore have access to the Holy City which is to come.
“ He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.” (Revelation 3:21)
After Jesus talks about the church, He shows John a door to heaven and calls him up to the throne of God. This is an awesome sight that is detailed in the fourth chapter of Revelation. Jesus sits on the throne surrounded by 24 elders that are representatives of twelve tribes of Israel from the Old Testament and the twelve apostles from the New Testament. There are also lamps representing the seven sprits of God: The Spirit of the Lord, wisdom, understanding, counsel, power, knowledge, and the Spirit of the fear of the Lord. In addition there are four living creatures – a lion, a calf, a man, and an eagle that are engaged in continuous worship of the Lord. Before the throne there is a sea of glass that may represent the calm sea of life that is granted by the Word of God. It’s hard to say precisely what this vision is describing, but it’s clear John has been brought to the center of God’s domain.
While standing at the throne of God, John sees that Jesus is holding a scroll with seven seals. Seven is God’s number of perfection and this scroll is believed to basically be the title deed to the earth. The first man, Adam, originally had title to the earth but it was lost to Satan who is currently in control of the world; but it is now made clear to John that Jesus is going to take the scroll and open the seven seals. At this point, John sees millions of angels singing praise to our Lord.
What is to follow is a description of what is known as the Tribulation period of seven years. It’s important to note that Christian believers will be spared from this horrible time in world history.
1 Thessalonians 1:10 tells believers that Jesus will rescue them from the wrath to come and in the book of Revelation we find this:
“Because you have kept the word of My perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth.” (Revelation 3:10)
The understanding of these and several other Scripture passages informs us that followers of Jesus Christ will be transported to be with the Lord before the seven year Tribulation period begins. This is commonly referred to as the rapture of the church. For Christian believers, the rapture of the church will be the end of the world as we now know it. Believers will return to the earth after the Tribulation period to a completely new and beautiful world as we will see later.
Those who do not believe before the rapture occurs, will be left behind to endure the many horrible events of the Tribulation period. As Jesus opens the seven seals of the scroll, the events of the first quarter of the Tribulation (about 21 months) are revealed to John. Satan will ride into town with promises of solving the world’s problems by building a one world government. There will be war, famine, and death followed by a great earthquake and meteors falling to the earth followed by mountains and islands moved out of their places. The good that is to come of this judgment is that 144,000 Jewish people will come to believe in Jesus and begin to evangelize the world with enormous success. Perhaps billions will be saved and become believers but they will have to endure the rest of this awful time before joining the Lord in eternity.
This description of the first 21 months of the Tribulation is pretty bad, but it gets worse. After the seven seals are opened, John witnesses the soundings of seven trumpets that denote still more judgments that will come. In apparent response to the prayers of God’s people to avenge Himself on those who blaspheme against Him, God strikes out with thunder, lightning, and another earthquake just before the first trumpet is sounded. The first trumpet brings “hail and fire mixed with blood” burning up a third of the earth. The second trumpet brings what appears to be an enormous meteor described as a mountain on fire crashing into the sea killing a third of the life in the sea as well as a third of all ships. The third trumpet brings another meteor from the sky that takes out a third of the rivers and makes some of the water undrinkable, killing many people. The fourth trumpet affects the sun, moon, and stars changing the earth to a sixteen hour night and an eight hour day.
At this point there is a pause in the action as the last three trumpets are prepared. This is the calm before the storm, because what comes next is going to be even worse. On the sounding of the fifth trumpet, the “shaft of the Abyss” is opened and smoke pours out followed by locusts with scorpion power that have faces of men and appear to be like horses prepared for battle. It is believe these are spirits and will not actually be seen by men. Their mission is to torment with their scorpion sting for five months those who do not have the seal of God on their forehead. After this, the sixth trumpet is sounded and four angels are released to kill a third of mankind. Presumably these people are those who still reject Jesus Christ and will never change from their rebellious ways.
Before the last trumpet is sounded, John is apparently taken back to the earth where he is confronted by an angel who seems to emphasize the need for John to fully consume the Word of God and to prepare himself to write the book of Revelation. We are also told in this interlude before the final trumpet sounds that two powerful witnesses of God will be on the earth at this time to warn the people of things to come. They will preach for 42 months which is the first half of the Tribulation period. At the end of this time, Satan will kill them and they will be left in the street for three days. The whole world will see them dead in the street for three days and much of the world will celebrate their demise. This party will all end on the third day when these two witnesses of God will once again come back to life and in front of the world, ascend to heaven. This is followed by another earthquake and many will turn to God as a result.
“And in that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell; seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.” (Revelation 11:13)
When the seventh trumpet is sounded, the twenty-four elders sing praise to God and announce His coming judgment, followed by more lightning and thunder signaling the final phase of judgment is about to take place.
We now come to chapter twelve of the book of Revelation and this begins the second half, or second three and a half years of the Tribulation period. Before the final judgments known as the Bowl Judgments are proclaimed, John is given several important visions of what is to come. We learn that Satan has been in heaven since the beginning of time with access to the throne of God. He is called “the accuser of our brethren.” But at the middle of the Tribulation period, after a brief war led by the archangel Michael, Satan and his fallen angles will be cast down to earth never to return to heaven. We are told that once Satan is gone, there will be cause for great rejoicing in heaven.
John’s vision also indicates the remaining Jews will hide in the desert of Jordan and an evil ruler known as the Antichrist will send an army after them to kill them, but God will intervene and the earth will swallow up that anti-Semitic army. This Antichrist will be the ruler of the one world government and is controlled by Satan but is not Satan himself. In the first three and one-half years the Jews will have an alliance with the Antichrist, but here just before the second three and one-half years he will break that deal and try to kill them. Also during this mid-Tribulation period, it is believed the Antichrist is killed and at this point Satan indwells the Antichrist to bring him back to life and replicate the miracle of the resurrection of Jesus. Therefore, in the second half of the Tribulation, the Antichrist is in fact Satan and he will be worshiped as a god as a result of the miracles he performs.
It also seems to be the case here at the mid-point of the Tribulation period that most of the believers who came to trust Jesus as a result of the 144,000 Jewish evangelists, have now been martyred for their faith. Another aspect of Satan’s power known as the False Prophet, will lead the worship of the Antichrist and those who do not worship him will be killed. Everyone will have a mark on their forehead or hand, the number 666, which will allow them to buy and sell and also mark them for all eternity as having rejected Christ.
John is then introduced to a second group of 144,000 which are believed to be the most trusted non-Jewish believers. This group is in heaven with God and will receive special rewards as a result of their exemplary service to God. It is also revealed that God will send an angel to earth at this mid-point to share the Gospel one last time with everyone on earth. John also hears warnings from other angels telling of the destruction of the false church that was in power during the first half of the Tribulation, now destroyed by the Antichrist. Another warning pronounces doom on those who worship the Antichrist. Finally John gets a warning of what is to come after the Lord returns to destroy the Antichrist and his followers.
The stage is now set for the final judgments that are to come. John now sees the Temple of the Tabernacle of God, or the Holy of Holies, and seven angels leaving with seven golden bowls full of the wrath of God. From this point forward no created being will have access to the throne of God until the end of the Tribulation. God is for the most part no longer dealing with people in mercy. From this point forward, he will deal with humans in judgment.
Then I heard a loud voice from the temple, saying to the seven angels, “Go and pour out on the earth the seven bowls of the wrath of God.” (Revelation 16:1)
The first bowl judgment delivers ugly and painful sores on those who worship the Antichrist. The second bowl judgment turns all the seas to blood and kills all living creatures in the sea. It’s hard to imagine all the creatures of the seas washing ashore dead, but this is what will happen at this time. The third bowl judgment is a kind of sequel to the one before; this judgment turns all the rivers and streams to blood, seemingly eliminating all drinking water. This will certainly cause panic and confusion. The fourth bowl judgment allows the sun to scorch people with fire. The fifth bowl judgment plunges the Antichrist’s kingdom into total darkness which causes great agony. The sixth bowl judgment dries up the mighty Euphrates River which will prompt Satan to send out demons that preform miraculous signs to seduce all the kings of the world to join together for a battle against God in the Valley of Megiddo, which is located in Palestine.
The final bowl judgment comes with lightning, thunder, and the largest earthquake ever. The capital city of the Antichrist will be Babylon and it will be destroyed and all the cities of the nations will collapse. All the mountains and islands will disappear and hundred pound hailstones will fall from the sky. This sounds like total destruction.
Chapters 17 & 18 of Revelation deliver details of the destruction of the two forms of Babylon. Chapter 17 details the destruction of religious Babylon which is the idol worshiping one- world religion that was destroyed by the Antichrist at the mid-point of the Tribulation period. Now at the end of the Tribulation, chapter 18 details the destruction of commercial Babylon, the center of the government of the Antichrist. Babylon is located in Iraq and there’s not much there now, but apparently the Antichrist will rebuild Babylon to make it the center of his kingdom. Chapter 18 describes the new Babylon’s total destruction.
The stage is now set for the return of Jesus. Once again, John sees the heavens standing open with Jesus emerging on a white horse followed by all the believers who joined Him during the rapture. He will come to destroy the armies in the Valley of Megiddo at the battle of Armageddon. Then Satan will turn his attention to the destruction of Jerusalem; Jesus will stop him and capture the Antichrist and the False Prophet and throw them into the Lake of Fire. Satan, who has left the Antichrist, is also captured but he is not thrown into the Lake of Fire at this time; instead he is chained in the Abyss for a thousand years.
Believers in Jesus will now reign with Christ as priests for a thousand years here on earth which God will renew after the destruction resulting from the Tribulation period. During this time, Believers will have eternal life but those who are born during the thousand year Kingdom period, will again have the free will to accept or reject Christ. It seems to be the case that those who do not receive Christ by the age of 100 will die.
At the end of the 1000 year Kingdom period, Satan will be released for a short time and try to once again do battle with God, this time with all the unbelievers he can gather, but they will be quickly vanquished and finally cast into the Lake of Fire to live in eternal torment.
We now come to what is known as the Great White Throne Judgment. This is where all the dead unbelievers are brought before God and given their final judgment as guilty for not worshiping God and will therefore be cast into the Lake of Fire.
Finally, God brings heaven down to earth and paves the streets with gold and joins His children in the New Jerusalem where they will remain for all eternity. Until this point, believers could only see God through His Son Jesus Christ, but in the New Jerusalem they will be able to see God face-to-face. There will be no darkness, no night, and no sun. But there will be eternal daylight simply because God is present.
“And they will reign for ever and ever” (Rev. 22:5)
I’ve left out many details because I want you to go to the Word of God and read His Words and not mine. Beyond your reading of the book of Revelation, I’d like to encourage you to get a copy of Tim LaHaye’s book, “Revelation Unveiled.” This will be a great blessing to you as you study the book of Revelation. Tim unravels much of the mystery found in the book of Revelation and documents his teaching with other Scripture, other Bible scholars, and well-researched personal study. You’ll be provided with opposing points of view and more than one possible interpretation of many passages as Tim guides you toward his personal point of view and understanding. I’ve read other works on the book of Revelation, but “Revelation Unveiled” is, in my view, the most accessible and easily digestible account of this important book.
BEHOLD, HE IS COMING WITH THE CLOUDS, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen. (Revelation 1:7)