What happens at the end of the world?
One of the greatest weights, and most profound wonderings, of human beings are what is going to happen at the end of the world — to Christians, this is is equivocated by the end of the Age, revealed to us by God through Prophets throughout history. Most of the eschatological data that we have comes from the Book of Revelation, or the Apocalypse of John; however there are other additional pieces of information from the rest of the Bible that can be used to shed new light, and corroborate, what we know about the Apocalypse.
From the Prophet Isaiah, we find the use of fire and flame as a means of God’s judgment which is reminiscent of what happens in Revelation. There are also a few other pieces of Old Testament Scripture that point towards the judgment of the final days, which many Christians have labelled as the Rapture, or the transportation of Christians to Heaven at Second Coming of Christ. Prior to and following this period, there is great calamity on Earth, consequences of the prophetic events that come with the changing of the world from old to new. There will be many characters on the scene that are readily recognizable from Scripture, however require discernment to find their real-life counterparts. In fact Christian scholars have debated over the interpretation of all of the characters and meanings/chronology of the events since the beginning. Nevertheless this is the world that we [will] find ourselves in — perhaps a modicum of acceptance rather than intellectualism should be called for as comparable with other mysteries of God.
The prophetic characters that are present in Revelation are Angels, the four living creatures, the two witnesses, the mother of God, the Great Dragon, the Anti-Christ, and the Prostitute of Babylon.
The events can be summarized as shown below:
First seal is opened: The White Horse is set free, it’s rider armed with a bow and a crown. His role is conqueror. (6:1)
Second seal is opened: The Red Horse is set free, it’s rider armed with a great sword. His role is to take peace from the earth and to assist in men killing men. (6:3)
Third Seal is opened: The Black Horse is set free, it’s rider armed with a pair of scales. His role is the execution of pre-arranged values for what he is inventorying. (6:5)
Fourth Seal is opened: The Pale Horse is set free, it’s rider armed with sword, famine, death, and the allegiance of the beasts of the earth. His role is to bring death — a possible correlation exists here for the depiction of fire as a means of judgment of God. (6:7)
Fifth seal is opened: The souls that were martyred in the name of God and for the sake of Jesus of Nazareth are set free. They are granted white robes and told that they should wait until the martyrdom of Christianity is complete. (6:9)
Sixth seal is opened: The Great Earthquake comes to the Earth, the Sun becomes black and the Moon becomes red. The stars fall to earth. Note the similarities between later described events regarding the stars falling to earth as well as themes of darkness and blood. (6:12)
At this point it is prophecized that all the kings and great men and the strong and the rich and the free (those that are able and have an upper position in society) hide in the caves and rocks of the mountains.
The Sealing of the 144,000 is described afterward. These 144,000 are given to be from every tribe of the sons of Israel, from every nation from all tribes and from all tongues. They are also described to have come out of great tribulation, and are given white robes and set free, similarly to the souls under the altar. (7:1)
Seventh Seal is opened: There is silence in Heaven for a time period given as a half hour. (8:1)
First Trumpet is sounded: Hail and fire, mixed with blood, are thrown to the Earth — one third of the earth is burned up along with a third of all the trees and all the green grass. Again fire is the similar element to other descriptions.(8:6)
Second Trumpet is Sounded: Something like a mountain is thrown into the sea and a third of the sea becomes blood. With this, a third of the creatures in the sea die, and a third of the ships on the sea are destroyed. (8:8)
Third Trumpet is sounded: The star Wormwood falls on the seas, and a third of the seas become wormwood (bitter), causing many men to die from the waters. (8:10)
Fourth Trumpet is sounded: A Third of the Sun, Moon, and stars are darkened so that the day is a third less and the night is affected the same way.
Fifth Trumpet is sounded: The key to the pit where he is chained is given to “the star that fell from Heaven”. With it’s opening, plagues of deadly locusts are set free only to hurt the men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads, referred to in earlier descriptions beginning in 7:1. Their role is to torment these men for five months with a disease that is not fatal but causes those afflicted with it to wish it were. The locusts are described as having crowns, faces like men, hair like women, teeth like lions, and armed for battle. Their king is the angel of the abyss earlier described, named Abaddon or Greek Apollyon. (9:1)
Sixth Trumpet is sounded: Four angels that are bound at the Euphrates River are set free. Their role is to kill a third of mankind. A description of armies with the size of two hundred million is given. The horsemen described here are given breastplates of fire, heads of the horses are like lions, and the mouths breathe fire, smoke, and brimstone. This is reminiscent of other fire motifs used in descriptions; however, the fire and smoke and brimstone are described as three separate plagues. (9:13)
At this point, an Angel is prophecized to come out of Heaven comes to expedite the events that are to follow. He has a little scroll, which is given to John in his vision. He interacts with the world through thunder and by sealing up what the thunder says. (10) Afterwards two witnesses are prophecized to prophesy themselves for 260 days, described as the two olive trees and lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. Their powers are defense against those who wish to harm them with fire, to stop the rain from falling, to turn water into blood, and to bring any plague they wish when they wish. They are prophecized to be killed by the beast after their 260 days are finished. (11:1)
Seventh Trumpet is sounded: Judgment finally comes to the people of the world, for the dead to be judged, and for Christians to be rewarded by God. The temple of Heaven is opened to Earth. (11:15)
At this point, the famous woman clothed with the sun and the moon under her feet, with her crown made of twelve stars, is described, and she is pregnant. The great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns and a crown of seven diadems, sweeps away a third of the stars of heaven — this is reminiscent of earlier descriptions of the stars. The woman flees to the wilderness for 1260 days.
Now war is described to take place in Heaven, explicitly between the Archangel Michael and the host of Heaven against the dragon referred to as synonymous with Satan and the devil and his Angels. Satan is defeated, and on the Earth he attempts to kill the woman. (12) A beast in the sea with ten horns and seven heads with a blasphemous name on each head comes out of the sea, resembling a leopard in this way with feet like a bear and a mouth like a lion, is given power by Satan. One head has a fatal wound that is healed. Both are given power to exercise their authority for 42 months, slandering and blaspheming God, and waging war against Gods holy people. A second beast comes out of the earth, described has having two horns and speaking like a dragon, with all the power of the first beast. It also performs great signs and deceives the inhabitants of the Earth — this is where the mark and number of the beast is mentioned.
Descriptions of the Lamb and the 144,000 mentioned earlier are given, and three angels come to proclaim the final gospel and warnings to the people of the Earth. Those who bear the mark of the beast are warned, and those who die in service of the Lord are blessed. Then the earth is harvested, described as Angels with sickles and fire. Now there are seven angels with seven bowls of God’s wrath which are to be poured out over the earth.
First Bowl: Ugly and painful sores break out on the people who have the mark of the beast. (16:1)
Second Bowl: The sea turns to blood and every living thing in the sea dies. (16:3)
Third Bowl: Rivers and springs of water become blood. (16:4)
Fourth Bowl: Sun scorches people with fire. (16:8)
Fifth Bowl: Darkness covers the throne and the kingdom of the beast. (17:1)
Sixth Bowl: Euphrates River dries up. Demonic spirits perform signs to gather an army to battle the army of Heaven. (16:12)
Seventh Bowl: There is a tremendous earthquake, thunder, and lightning. Islands and mountains are destroyed, and the sky hurls huge hailstones on the people. (16:17)
Now the prostitute of Babylon is described, having the name written on her forehead: “BABYLON THE GREAT THE MOTHER OF PROSTITUTES AND OF THE ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.” The woman is described as drunk on the blood of God’s holy people. At the time, five of the kings of the hills/heads have fallen, one is, and the other has not yet come. Final woes for Babylon and praises against Babylon are given against Babylon, similar to earlier descriptions.
Finally, Heaven is opened, and a white horse’s rider whose rider is called Faithful and True, with blazing eyes, many crowns, and the name of the Word of God, followed by the armies of Heaven, defeats the beast and the false prophet and their army. They are thrown into the fiery lake of burning sulphur, and the rest are killed with the Word of God. Satan, who is bound for 1000 years while Christ reigns, is released from his prison and march against the people of God. They are defeated and thrown into the lake of burning sulphur but separate from the beast and the false prophet. The dead are now judged, and those whose names are not found written in the book of life are also thrown into the lake of burning sulphur similar to Satan, the beast, and the false prophet. There is a new Heaven and a new Earth, described in wondrous majesty.
Christian scholars debate over the timeline over which these events take place, or have already taken place. The two key points that are returned to most often are which events have taken place and which are yet to come, and similarly what stage of the history of mankind are we currently in? I would personally love to do a full research paper correlating the events that are described multiple times, as I propose that several events are re-written in the Book of Revelation. For example, the breaking of the First Seal and the sounding of the First Trumpet are thought to be synonymous events happening simultaneously chronologically. This style of description is present at other times in the revelations of the Word of God, notably Genesis. Further study of what the current history of mankind shares with the prophetic events at the end of the Age is a good starting point for those interested in the field of eschatology.
The other key point is that no matter how much scholarly study, prophecy, or illumination one receives, no one will ever know when these events take place. Only God knows the appointed time for the changing of the world (the end of the world we know), and scholarly recourse may be completely in vain. Still, the information contained within the Book of Revelation and within this article offer a glimpse at the mystical prophecy that is inherent in the Bible, and a unique field of study for what has not yet occurred as a pose to the majority of Biblical prophecies which have already occurred.