What is the apocalypse? It is important to know?
The Word “Apocalypse”
What does the word apocalypse mean? It’s translated literally from Greek, and means “a disclosure of knowledge” like a lifting of the veil or the revelation of something previously unknown or unseen. In religious contexts it is usually a disclosure of something that is or was hidden, but the Bible tells us “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law” (Deut 29:29), so the Lord God has not kept us in the dark. He reveals those things we must know in order to be saved (John 3:16; Acts 4:12), and as Amos the Prophet says “the Lord God does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets” (Amos 3:7). We don’t have to sit around in the dark, wondering what’s going to happen next. God has revealed those things we need to know but somethings are simply none of our business. For example, we have no way to know when the Day of the Lord will be. We can’t set dates or try to “figure it out” because Jesus said it is not for us to know (Acts 1:7), so what is the apocalypse so many people are asking about? Is it important for us to know? Does it affect our salvation?
The Book of Revelation
The Book of Revelation has often been referred to as “the Apocalypse” and that is true in a sense because the name of the book itself, Revelation, is an unveiling or revealing of something previously hidden, which is what apocalypse means. The Apostle John certainly didn’t understand everything that he wrote down in this book, but one this is clear. It is not the Apostle John who revealed this or it isn’t John’s Book of Revelation, but it actually says, “The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show to his servants the things that must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who bore witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near” (Rev 1:1-3). There are at least two things we should notice. One is when these “things must soon take place” and one is “the time is near.” If this was soon to take place and the time was near, and this was written around 2,000 years ago, shouldn’t many of these things have already happened? Yes, many of the things in the Book of Revelation have occurred already but some things are yet to unfold in history (Rev 21, 22).
Sadly, too many Christians get into disagreements over who the “beast” is and when the antichrist comes to power, but instead of focusing so much on things that are not completely knowable, why not focus on the things in the Book of Revelation that we do know, such as whoever reads and keeps these words will be blessed, so there is a blessing on anyone who reads this book, but only if they “keep what is written in it.” No one knows the day of Jesus’ return, even though many false prophets, teachers, and pastors have set dates, so we shouldn’t try to predict or guess about things that we cannot know for sure. Speculation only leads to error or worse, conflict with other believers over what they believe and especially if it’s different from what they believe. All this does is create debates and tension over things which we have no way of knowing with 100% certainty. It is better to focus on those things we do know rather than guess about things we’re not certain about because we or others are likely to be wrong. The essentials of the faith are clearly knowable (John 3:16; Acts 4:12), but “the secret things belong to the Lord” and not us. If God had intended for us to know all these things, He would have revealed them plainly in Scripture. Because He didn’t, we must accept the fact that it’s not for us to know everything. God knows, and that’s all that matters.
The Book of Revelation isn’t the only book that refers to apocalyptic events. The Prophet Isaiah, Daniel, Zechariah, and Ezekiel and a few others bring to light things that will take place just prior to Jesus’ return. In writing about the end of the age, Isaiah wrote, “Behold, the Lord will empty the earth and make it desolate, and he will twist its surface and scatter its inhabitants” (Isaiah 24:1) because God will finally avenge all those who have rejected Jesus Christ all their lives, “The earth lies defiled under its inhabitants; for they have transgressed the laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant” (Isaiah 24:5), and because mankind has rejected God, “a curse devours the earth, and its inhabitants suffer for their guilt; therefore the inhabitants of the earth are scorched, and few men are left” (Isaiah 24:6) and even though human history looks bleak near the end of this age, God has not forsaken His own (Rev 21:3; 22:4), and this includes His own people, Israel, of which Ezekiel the Prophet writes, “I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant with them. And I will set them in their land and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in their midst forevermore. My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Then the nations will know that I am the Lord who sanctifies Israel, when my sanctuary is in their midst forevermore” (Ezk 37:26-28).
It is certainly not essential to our salvation to know all that there is about the end of the age, the Book of Revelation or the apocalypse. What is clear is that everyone needs to be brought to repentance, where they forsake and turn away from their sins. Then, they must put their trust in Christ, and only then will they be saved. Don’t get hung up on all the different views of the end times, just focus on what you do know and what the Bible makes clear. For all the other things that are yet cloudy, we await the Day of the Lord when He will reveal all of these things to us and sweep away every last mystery there is.