9 Questions about the Apocalypse Answered by the Bible

On Sunday, April 10th, 2016, the National Geographic Channel presented its second installment of the series entitled The Story of God: The Story of Us hosted by Morgan Freeman. Thus far, the series has been both fascinating and well made. Thus far, the series has not been what I feared it would be: an attack on the Christian worldview. However, the second episode did purport a favored worldview according to Freeman—that of the Buddhist worldview.[1]

The second episode dealt with the issue of the apocalypse. The term apocalypse refers to an unveiling. Ultimately, the apocalypse is understood to describe those events that will take place at the end of days. Freeman evaluated the apocalypse from several different worldviews: Jewish, Christian, Muslim,[2] Mayan, and Buddhist. From his episode, I was left with nine questions pertaining to the apocalypse, that is the end of days. What does the Bible say concerning these issues?

  1. Did the Jews of Jesus’ day expect a human Messiah who would redeem the land?

Yoram Hazony, an expert in the politics and religion of Judaism, said that in Judaism, “Jews invented the Messiah. But, it’s not the same Messiah that everyone thinks about because when Christians think of the Messiah, they think of someone who is divine. What we have for a Messiah is a man, a king of this earth who will bring peace among the nations. He will not be divine.”[3] Students of the Bible should not be surprised by Hazony’s comments. In fact, Jews of Jesus’ day were not by and large expecting a divine Messiah either. However, does this correspond with the writings of the Hebrew Bible? In fact—no. Let us say two things concerning this issue.

First, it should be noted that Jesus (Yeshua) of Nazareth fulfilled over 350 prophecies found in the Hebrew Bible.[4] One must also consider Isaiah 53 which most explicitly refers to one like Jesus of Nazareth. The disciples on several occasions desired Jesus to bring about the new kingdom on earth in a militaristic campaign, yet Jesus refused (e.g. Thomas’ misunderstanding in John 11:16). Jesus even met the timeframe given in the 70 Weeks Prophecy in the book of Daniel (Daniel 9:24-27). So, if Jesus is not the Messiah, there won’t be a Messiah.

Second, it should be noted that the Hebrew Bible[5] calls for a Messiah who is divine-like. For instance, consider Daniel’s presentation of the Son of Man. Daniel writes, “behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed” (Daniel 7:13-14).[6] Much more could be said concerning this issue, but we must digress.

  1. Will the Jewish Temple be rebuilt?

Yes. Yoram Hazony also notes that orthodox Jews desire the rebuilding of the Temple but they are not yet ready.[7] The Bible makes reference to the idea that the Temple would be rebuilt at the end of days. The prophet Ezekiel (Ezekiel chapters 40-48) provides an idea about an eschatological temple that would be built at the end of days—a third Temple if you will. This view is also held in Haggai 2:1-9 as well as the apocalyptic work 1 Enoch 90:29; 91:3. For premillennialists like myself, there is an anticipation that Christ will return and establish a millennial reign upon earth. It will be from this new temple that Christ will rule and reign for a period of time. During this period, there will be peace on earth—a fulfillment to Yoram Hazony’s objection.

  1. Did the “Mark of the Beast” refer to Nero?

During the show, Kim Haines-Eitzen noted that the Mark of the Beast referenced the Caesar Nero. The mark of the beast, as it is popularly known, is the number 666. It was noted on Freeman’s show that Hebrew and Greek letters hold numerical values. This is, in fact, true. The use of letters as numbers is known as gematria. Gematria is “the use of the total numerical value of the letters of a Hebrew word to arrive at a hidden meaning of the word.”[8] As previously noted, it was said that the number 666, or 616 in some ancient texts, could refer to Nero. This is also true. Yet, Nero was dead by the time John wrote his apocalypse. Thus, this seems to refer to some future political leader—a leader who will lead a global campaign against Christ and his followers. Thus, the antichrist is a political leader of some sorts. Perhaps, the antichrist is the leader of what is often thought to be the new world order (NWO), a global governmental organization that is thought to be developed at the end of time.

Paige Patterson also notes concerning the mark of the beast in Revelation 13:18 the following: “Here the text makes clear that this second beast is indeed one human being. But just as six falls short of the ideal number “seven,” this false prophet who deceives the whole earth in this way is hopelessly compromised; and the repetition of the “six” in its trifold form 666 is clearly intended to underscore the intrinsic evil bound up in this individual. At this point some of the saints are killed, others taken into captivity, and all the earth is forced into an economic circumstance allowing only those faithfully serving the purposes of the beast to enact trade. Thus, the pressure and tribulation descending on the saints afflicts them in every conceivable way. The unholy trinity of the dragon, the political beast, and the false prophet are now fully revealed to John and through him to his readers.”[9]

  1. Is it possible to know the exact date of the end of time?

No. Jesus said that no one knows the coming of the Son of Man, except the Father alone (Matt. 24:36; Luke 10:22). Therefore, it is useless to speculate.

  1. Will the end come?

Most certainly! Not only is the end predicted in Revelation, the end is also predicted by Jesus and Peter. Simon Peter notes that “But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed” (2 Peter 3:8-10). The end will most certainly come. The end of the universe is something not only accepted by faithful believers, but also scientists. The universe will eventually run out of usable energy. The day of the Lord is a certainty. While this may cause dread for many, for the believer the day will ultimately lead to great good and peace.

  1. Should we anticipate the end?

Yes and no. Yes, we should anticipate the end in that we look for Christ to return at any moment. We do not want to be caught unaware (Luke 12:35-40; 12:41-48). This level of anticipation helps us to remain grounded and faithful to the task that Christ has given to us. Yet, we should not be overwhelmed with eschatology in making the end-times our primary focus.

  1. Where should we expect the final battle to take place?

The Middle East will be the area where the final showdown will take place. The epic Battle of Armageddon is slated to take place at the valley of Megiddo.[10] For more information concerning the Battle of Armageddon, see Revelation 16:16 and following.

  1. Is the end-time linear or circular?

This may seem like a bizarre topic for the apocalypse. However, the documentary mentioned the idea of linear vs. circular time. The issue of God and time is a most difficult issue. For me, God continually exists atemporally (beyond the scope of time) and temporally (working in time). While God is atemporal in that he can see all points of time equally, he created time (as we know time) when he created the universe. This issue deserves much more focus than what we can provide in this particular article. However, one should note that the universe had a beginning. If the universe had a beginning and we operate in a sequential time-order, then we should expect a linear end to come to the universe.

  1. What does the apocalypse tell us about God?

According to some ideologies, right and wrong are not judged. One pays for their sins in the next life. Yet, the payment of right and wrong in the next life involves the idea of objective morality. Objective morality points directly to the existence of God himself. The fact that an apocalypse is going to take place assures us that God is holy. God will right the wrongs that take place here on earth. Evildoers will not escape.

Many people relish in their own deceptiveness. People like this feel that they can pull the wool over other individuals’ eyes. When they get away with great acts of immorality, they feel nearly invincible. Such people become wise in their own eyes. Yet, God is not mocked. You can fool some of the people, some of the time, or even most of the people for a brief time. However, you can never fool God any time. The apocalypse demonstrates most vividly that “the eyes of the LORD are in every place, keeping watch on the evil and the good” (Proverbs 15:3). Pay day is coming someday. That day may be closer than any of us thinks.

 

© April 11, 2016. Brian Chilton.

Notes

[1] Freeman’s favorability of this worldview is seen from his emphasis of the Buddhist worldview to the pastor in New Orleans and also due to his generally favorable commentary throughout the episode concerning the worldview, especially towards the end of the broadcast.

[2] While we will not address much of the Islamic section of Freeman’s second episode, I do think he and Maajid Nawaz  did well to describe the difference between Islam and Islamism–Islam representing the religion and Islamism representing the small, radicalized versions of Islam.

[3] Yoram Hazony, interviewed by Morgan Freeman, “Apocalypse (Season 1, Episode 2),” The Story of God: The Story of Us, on National Geographic Channel (2016).

[4] A good chart of these prophecies and their fulfillments is found at http://www.accordingtothescriptures.org/prophecy/353prophecies.html.

[5] The Hebrew Bible and the Old Testament are one and the same.

[6] Unless otherwise noted, all quoted Scripture comes from the English Standard Version (Wheaton: Crossway, 2001).

[7] Hazony, interview, The Story of God: The Story of Us.

[8] Alan Cairns, Dictionary of Theological Terms (Belfast; Greenville, SC: Ambassador Emerald International, 2002), 192.

[9] Paige Patterson, Revelation, ed. E. Ray Clendenen, vol. 39, The New American Commentary (Nashville, TN: B&H, 2012), 282.

[10] Armaggedon literally translates to “har-mountain; Megiddo” or the mountain of Megiddo.

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