One reason for studying the book of Revelation is that this book is a continual reminder that the end of life as we know it is coming—whether the end comes through our death or the Lord’s return.
The fact that the end is coming should impact how we live our lives now. The knowledge that we are going to face God soon should be at the forefront of our minds and serve as a powerful incentive to obey God completely and consistently. Scripture gives us a timeline of events that signal that the end is coming soon.
- The Church Age (Romans 11:25)
The Church Age is that period of time from Pentecost until the Rapture during which Gentiles are invited to participate in the blessings of the Abrahamic Covenant.
In the church age, God has extended the "invitation list" to be part of God’s Kingdom beyond the Jews to include anyone who will accept His offer of salvation.
Because Israel rejected Christ, we who are Gentiles got invited to the party! Yet, God has not permanently turned His back on Israel. God will one day fulfill His promise to believing Israel of a land, a seed, and a blessing. God has one final event in mind to turn the Israelites toward Himself: the Great Tribulation. But before that final period of dealing with Israel can begin, another event must first occur.
- The Rapture of the Church (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)
The Church Age will end with an event many refer to as the Rapture of the Church. The word "rapture" comes from a Greek word harpazo which means "to snatch away."
The Rapture is the snatching away to heaven of all Christians before the beginning of the Tribulation.
- The Tribulation (Revelation 6-19)
Following the Rapture of the church is a time commonly referred to as the Tribulation. The Tribulation is the seven-year period that begins when the Antichrist signs a peace covenant with Israel and ends with Armageddon and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
The purpose of the Tribulation is two-fold: the salvation of both Jews and Gentiles and the condemnation of unbelievers.
- The Second Coming of Christ (Revelation 19:11-16)
The Second Coming of Christ is the visible return of Jesus Christ to establish His kingdom on earth.
The climax of the Tribulation will occur during the war of Armageddon during which the major powers of the world will seek to defeat Antichrist and his forces. However, as the world forces prepare to destroy one another, the heavens will suddenly open and all attention will be directed upward as the entire world watches the Second Coming of Christ.
- The Millennium (Revelation 20:1-3)
The Millennium is the thousand-year period of time during which Christ will reign on the earth, fulfilling God's promises to Abraham and his believing descendants.
God made a literal, eternal, and unconditional promise to Abraham that his descendants would one day possess a specific land and that one of his descendants would rule the entire world. The Old Testament prophets anxiously anticipated this earthly reign of Messiah (Isaiah 11:4, 6, 9).
It is impossible to place these extensive Old Testament prophecies about Christ's rule on the earth in this present age or in eternity. There must be a future time, prior to the new heaven and earth described in Revelation 21-22, when God will fulfill these promises to believing Israel. That time will be the Millennium.
- The Great White Throne Judgment (Revelation 20:11-15)
Although only Christians will enter into the Millennium (those unbelievers who survive the Tribulation will be judged at the Second Coming of Christ), there will be people born during the Millennium who will choose to follow Satan rather than Christ.
The Great White Throne Judgment is God’s final judgment against all unbelievers who have ever lived.
- Eternity Future (Revelation 21-22)
Eternity Future refers to the permanent state of believers inhabiting the new heaven and earth and unbelievers inhabiting the lake of fire.
After the Great White Throne Judgment, the present earth will be completely destroyed by fire (2 Peter 3:7, 10). Following the destruction of this present earth will be the unveiling of a new heaven and earth (Revelation 21:1-4).
It is significant that John saw both a new heaven and a new earth. Many Christians have been taught that our eternal home will be in heaven. But as we will see later in Revelation, earth not heaven will be our final destination.
Likewise, just as the new heaven and new earth are the eternal destination of believers, the lake of fire is the permanent destination of unbelievers (Revelation 20:15).
Understanding the end times should lead us to trust in Christ for our salvation so that we can escape the reality of hell and experience the reality of heaven. But understanding the end times should also impact the way we live out whatever brief time we have here on earth.