I recently wrote about whether the book of Revelation and other apocalyptic literature (Daniel, Matthew 24) etc predict current events that we are seeing now. I guess my answer was “yes and no.” No, in the sense most people understand the prophecy to be working. We are not meant to find chapters in the Bible and say “look this is all about Coronavirus” or “wow clearly Daniel saw Russia’s attack on Ukraine.”
Yes -because we are meant to apply Daniel, Matthew 24 and Revelation to our context. All of those Bible passages are relevant and so in that sense, Daniel, John and Jesus were talking about things that are happening now. You see, as I’ve persistently defined it:
Revelation gives us God’s view of the whole of history from the perspective of the end. This is so that we can know how to live in our time now.
This means that I believe apocalyptic literature does point us to The end of the world when Christ will return, when judgement day will happen and when the creation as we know it will be burnt up. I believe in a literal end of the ages, a literal, physical return of Jesus, a literal judgement day and a literal new creation which we will live in after a literal, bodily resurrection.
However, the way that the literature works is that it also helps us to understand ends of worlds. You see, that perspective, that language of cosmic destruction and a world ending enables us to see God’s perspective when it feels like our world is ending.
When the Roman legions marched into Jerusalem and destroyed The Temple, it would have felt to onlookers like the end of their world. Everything was descending into chaos. All that they had worked for, all their dreams and hopes were shattered. A few hundred years later and the descendants of the legions watched as Rome was sacked by invading Barbarians and the Empire collapsed. For them, it was the end of their world. It was as though the sun, moon and stars were falling from the sky. And remember that the imagery of stars and planets was often applied to human rulers.
Britain boasted of an empire on which the sun never set. It wasn’t as some have mistakenly assumed that they thought the empire would last for ever. Rather, think of how its successor, The Commonwealth stretches round the globe from Canada to Australia. There was never a point in the day when the sun wasn’t shining over part of the empire and later the commonwealth. The Empire of course did end. Politically, economically, morally, it simply couldn’t survive beyond the end of the Second World War. As the flag was taken down in different places, it would have seemed to those looking on like they were witnessing the end of an age, the end of a world.
We have seen the end of other Empires. The Soviet Union collapsed in the 1990s. American dominion seems to be coming to an end now. Other powers will rise and fall. That of course is one of the major points of Daniel and Revelation. These empires come and go but Christ’s kingdom lasts for ever,
We may not see the end of the world in our life times but we are likely to see the end of a world. Right now, I think we may be seeing such an end. I’ve mentioned that we seem to be leaving behind an era of relative peace and prosperity. For many of us, it felt like a world was ending when we went into lockdown. People in Ukraine are currently living in fear that their world is about to end. So, Revelation gives us hope as we face the end of worlds.
Indeed, there may be times when you feel like your own world is ending. Perhaps that crushing moment will come when the person you’ve fallen in love with turns you down, perhaps it will be when that job interview ends in rejection. Whether it’s the break up of a relationship, broken dreams and ambitions or lost health, there are things that hit us that seem devastating and world ending. So, it’s important to remember that as these worlds die that the Lamb is still on the throne and that his kingdom, his new world will last for ever.