What have you heard about what the Bible says will happen at the end of the world? regardless of whether you’re a Christian or not, I’m sure that you have, in some manner, heard about what the Book of Revelation says about the future "end times". You may have heard of a singular world government, microchips, Armageddon (NOT starring Bruce Willis), an anti-Christ, people vanishing and leaving the world in chaotic tribulation, and much more. What if most everything you’d heard was wrong?
About a year ago, I was at a party and the subject of Revelation came up. There was some tongue-in-cheek mockery of common beliefs, and being a Christian, I was happy to converse on the subject – at least, what little I could definitively say about it… which wasn’t much at all.
I was raised in a church (and family) that believed that there would be a literal anti-Christ who would rise to power through government, that there would be a literal "mark of the beast", that there would be 7 years of tribulation and in the in middle of that Christians would vanish in a rapture… leaving only non-believers left on Earth to go through plagues and horrible things. I grew up being told these things, by teachers, pastors, and my parents, yet once I started questioning things, most of these ideas never seemed to hold up. We’ll take the simple idea of a "mark of the beast". The way I was raised to believe explains that this is an actual, physical mark on the hand or forehead. Originally it may have been believed to be a tattooed barcode, but now the common belief (and one held by my parents) is that it will be a microchip. What confused me is the logic of that. The Bible says that nobody will be able to buy or sell without this mark, so the microchip is akin to an ID and credit card information. This is what I had been taught, yet I thought "…but, we have ID and credit cards now – what does putting it in a chip under the skin truly signify beyond convenience?" Likewise, the idea of a rapture taking Christians and leaving non-believers didn’t make sense to me, because if billions of people disappeared from Earth in an instant… wouldn’t just about every other person left (non-Christians) kind of get the point that maybe these Christians knew something?
So, back to the party. I talked about how, as Christians, we are encouraged to use the minds God gave us, and to never be lazy, so I admitted that I’d had my doubts about most of these generally accepted ideas… but that I’d not yet really looked into it. The next day I put an end to that.
(I’m doing this without an extended entry, because some folks are lazy and won’t keep reading, otherwise)
As I began researching the ideas of how to define the Book of Revelation, I came across a small, but consistent, minority that offered ideas completely different from what I’d always heard – yet in line with what the Bible actually says. My mind was blown. The basic gist is that the book is not to be taken "literally". Why the quotes? Revelation is the most raped and violated book in the Bible, because it isn’t generally taken as it is. There are some extremists who may say that there is a literal dragon that will come out of the water and that there will be monsters with lots of horns and heads, but most modern Christians pick and choose which symbols they’d like to interpret as literal. My parents would scoff at the idea of a literal dragon coming up from the water, yet would fear for my soul if I mentioned there not being a literal mark of the beast. The Bible speaks in a very specific type of language. Throughout its text, things are mentioned in a symbolic way: lamb of God, salt of the Earth, the light, etc.. Yet, in spite of the fact that the Bible is so very clear about what Revelation is, so many people miss it. So, what is it about, than?
After reading and studying off and on for almost a year, I have concluded the truth of the Book of Revelation is the ultimate culmination and "until we meet again" farewell from God. It is a book that talks about the difficulties of a Christian life in an un-Christian world. It warns of false teaching and encourages us Christians to stay strong. How many times have you heard someone mention the book in the Bible, which apparently is all about doom, instead be described as a book of hope and encouragement?! My friends, if you are a Christian and have always avoided Revelation because it’s "weird" or "confusing", I really hope that you’ll take it upon yourself to study and look into it. I do believe that Revelation talks about a literal Judgement Day, in which all of humanity stands before God to face their eternal fate, so don’t believe that I’m "symbolizing away" the truth. I’m simply looking at what the words of the book say, without injecting my need for a modern-time explanation. This is a book written for men of all times… not just those of us who know what microchips are :). Now that I understand it, it’s become my favorite part of the Bible…
and not because it’s a horror story of the destruction of the world,
but because it’s a story of loving encouragement and warning from a
I’m not a theologian, I haven’t spent years studying Latin and Hebrew texts, so (as always) I hope you won’t just take my word for it. Study and seek knowledge for yourself on the matter, and I believe you’ll come to the same awareness that I have, myself. To help out, here are a couple of links for starters:
Understanding Revelation – This is a simple, one (long) page explanation that touches on all of the various points of the most common misconceptions about Revelation. It’s a fantastic overview of what I believe, so check it out.
A Study of Revelation – This one is much more thorough, and is the study I originally came across that opened my eyes. I can’t support every topic that is mentioned (I’m unsure about the constant mention of the Catholic church, specifically), and other topics on this site aren’t in line with what I believe, but for detailed explanation of each verse, I haven’t found anything more comprehensive. I personally recommend watching/listening to each study, because I think the words come across much better in person.