Monday, November 14, 2016

When Will The World End Come?

1 As I (John) watched, the Lamb (Jesus) broke the first of the seven seals on the scroll. Then I heard one of the four living beings say with a voice like thunder, “Come!” Revelation 6:1 (NLT)

The heavenly praise and worship described in Revelation chapters 4 and 5 are preparation for God’s coming wrath described in Revelation chapters 6 through 19. God is VERY patient, gracious, and loving, but God is also holy (see e.g., Exodus 34:6-7; Joshua 24:19-20; Nahum 1:3). God must judge sin!

Both Jews and Christians believe history has a definite beginning point at God’s creation and end at consummation when the Messiah comes. However, Christians believe the Messiah has already come with the arrival of Jesus, the Lamb of God (see Matthew 1:16; Mark 1:1; John 1:1-5, 14, 18, 29-36; John 4:25-26; John 20:31). At the end of our age, Christians believe Jesus the Messiah will return. Thus, Christians confess two comings of Jesus the Messiah. However, most Jews believe the Messiah has not yet come, but the Messiah will come at the end of the age (consummation).

Both Jews and Christians believe prior to the Messiah’s coming there will be a period identified in Jewish sources and the New Testament as the “Messianic woes,” the “Great Tribulation,” or the “birth pains of the Messianic age” (see Daniel 11:36-12:13; Matthew 24:1-22; Mark 13:1-20; Luke 21:5-24). Wars, earthquakes, disobedience, famine, anarchy, lawlessness, and social disorder will characterize this troubling period (see e.g., 1 Timothy 4:1-5; 2 Timothy 3:1-9; 2 Peter 3:3). Also during this troubling period, God’s people – Jews and Christians – will suffer persecution, mistreatment, and even death because of the Word of God and their faithful testimony. However, the Old Testament and New Testament encourage God’s people to remain faithful and steadfast because God will vindicate the world for their unjust suffering and mistreatment (see e.g., Revelation 6:9-11; Revelation 16:6; Revelation 18:20; Revelation 19:2).

In Revelation chapters 6 through 19, John gives a vision of three sets of judgments: seven seals (Revelation 6:1-8:2), seven trumpets (Revelation 8:3-11:19), and seven bowls (Revelation 15:1-18:24). Many biblical scholars call these three sets of judgments from John’s vision as “Messianic woes,” the “Great Tribulation,” or the “birth pains of the Messianic age” identified in Jewish sources and the New Testament. These troubling events are necessary for the Messiah coming. Revelation does not give a specific date when these troubling events will occur or the Messiah coming. In fact, Jesus warns against speculating and calculating His second coming as the Messiah because God the Father alone will determine the Messiah coming (see e.g., Matthew 24:36; Mark 13:32-37; Acts 1:6-7; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-2). Since God’s people never know when the Messiah will come, each generation must live in expectancy of His soon return (see Revelation 16:15; Revelation 22:7, 18-20). 

Throughout out generations, some people have argued that John’s timing and vision of the Messiah’s coming were inaccurate or fabricated because John warned the Messiah’s coming will happen “soon” (see e.g., Revelation 22:7, 12, 20). However, we must never forget to the Lord “a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day” (see Psalm 90:4; 2 Peter 3:8). The true and living God is not slow in keeping His promise, as some understand slowness (see Hebrews 10:35-37; 2 Peter 3:9). Instead, God is patient because He does not want anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). God’s promises are always sure (see e.g., Deuteronomy 7:9; 2 Samuel 22:31; Habakkuk 2:3; 1 Corinthians 1:9), and His promises find complete fulfillment in Jesus (2 Corinthians 1:20)! Even more, God does love the world, and He wants no one to perish (see John 3:16; Luke 15).

Many suggestions have been offered to explain the relationship between the three major series of judgments (seals, trumpets, and bowls) found in Revelation chapters 6 through 19. Some biblical commentators characterize these three major judgments as a chronological sequence of future events. However, some biblical commentators see these three major judgments as a recapitulation or repetition of one another with increasing intensity. In other words, these three major judgments are one set of judgment with three versions. Each set of seven judgments adds additional intensity. Most biblical commentators find that these three major judgments cover the same period of human history that leads the Messiah coming. The major point is that the intensity of these judgments increases with each series. The seal judgments affect “a fourth of the earth” (Revelation 6:8), the trumpet judgments affects “a third of the earth” (Revelation 8:7, 8, 11, 12), and the bowls judgment complete the wrath of God (Revelation 16:17).

Moreover, most biblical scholars see a parallel of the three major series of judgments (seals, trumpets, and bowls)  to Jesus’ teaching of His future return found in the Synoptic Gospels (see Matthew 24:1-22; Mark 13:1-20; Luke 21:5-24). Jesus’ teaching of His return at Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 are parallel but not identical because each Gospel provides different but some similar details on the Messiah coming. Prior to the Messiah’s coming (Parousia), Jesus said there will be wars and rumors of wars, famines, and earthquakes in various places, persecution, many false prophets, lawlessness, and love of many will grow cold, but the Gospel (Good News) will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. Even more, biblical scholars see a parallel of the three major series of judgments from Revelation chapters 6 through 19 with the plagues of Egypt from the Old Testament (see Exodus chapters 7 through 11). The three sets of judgment echo the plagues of Egypt.

The trumpet judgments are an expansion of the seventh seal and the bowls judgments are an expansion of the seventh trumpet. However, three interludes separate the three judgments: Revelation 7:1-17; Revelation 10:1-11:14; and Revelation 14:6-20). The interludes are the pastoral portions of Revelation to give a break in God’s wrath and to give God’s people hope and comfort. In the interludes, John encourages God’s people to be faithful. John’s recurring themes to God’s people in the three major judgments is continuing faithfulness and dedication in God because our fate is secure in the Messiah!

Loyd, Melton, Ph.D., Senior Professor of New Testament (Due West, SC: Erskine Theological Seminary, 2016).
Mounce, Robert H. The Book of Revelation (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1998).
Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary –New Testament (Victor Books, 1989).

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