You’ve probably heard the terms “Armageddon,” “apocalypse,” “time of the end” or several others in reference to the world ending. It’s an idea many wonder about, which is why it’s a common theme in books, movies, TV shows and more.
Thinking about the actual end of the world is scary, no doubt about it. But it doesn’t have to be!
While we can’t predict the future, we can learn from the Bible some of the major themes to expect when this time arrives. Most importantly, we learn that God wants to save us and redeem us. He will be the ultimate victor, and those who put their faith in Him will share in that victory over evil—forever.
The world we live in now is overrun by selfishness, imbalance, and imperfection. But God has never wanted us to be afraid. He wants us to learn to trust in Him, accepting His peace, protection and guidance. That remains true, even when all things will come to a head—because we already know how the story will end!
But even so, eschatology, or the study of the end times, is a weighty subject to think about. So let’s break things down and look at the different facets of what the Bible describes as the “End Times.”
- “Eschatology”—what does that mean?
- The Judgment (and what that really means)
- The Investigative Judgment
- The Final Judgment
- The Time of Trouble
- The Second Coming
- The Millennium
- God’s Final Victory Over Evil
After going through these things, you’ll get a foundational view of this significant time in future history. So let’s get started.
Eschatology—what does that mean?
The term “eschatology” refers to the final part of earth’s history. It often includes the discussion of death, resurrection, judgment, the Second Coming, the fate of earth and humanity, and more.
But it doesn’t have to sound so negative, because ultimately, it’s not. Eschatology is also the study of what Jesus Christ will do to end the cosmic conflict of “good vs. evil.” It’s the study of how He ultimately saves us and restores us.
The word “eschatology” comes from two Greek words that mean “last” (ἔσχατος or eschatos) and “study” (-λογία or logia ).
It’s quite literally the “study of the last things.”
But keep in mind that this is referring to the “last things” of this sinful world…not of this earth as a planet, or of humanity as God’s children. The only things ending forever are sin, Satan, or the Devil, and his followers that reject God.
The term “eschatology” isn’t used in the Bible, but the future events this study refers to are covered throughout Scripture. It’s important to study these teachings so we can know where to place our focus and our faith.
If there’s one take away from reading this, may it be that God doesn’t want you to fear these “End Times?” Even while the events and details in the Bible can get intense, it’s important to remember that God is fighting against evil—selfishness, hatred, greed, etc. If we hold onto God and what He asks us to put our minds on (Philippians 4:8), He promises that He will be our refuge and strength (Psalm 46:1).
God’s promises can bring hope and certainty as we’re reminded that ultimately, He wins. And He has promised to be with us all the way until the end (Matthew 28:20).
Eschatology starts (and ends) with what God has done and is doing for all of us through His Son, Jesus Christ.
God’s love for humanity meant that Jesus (God the Son) was sent to Earth at the time predicted by prophecy to pay the penalty for our sin, redeem and adopt us humans as God’s children (Galatians 4:4-5).
Eternal life is a gift. You can’t qualify yourself for eternal life. It is given by God to all who accept Him (John 3:16, Ephesians 2:9).
Jesus offers us eternal life through his sacrifice when he died to take the penalty of sin for us. If we accept Jesus and start a new life with him, we will be resurrected when He comes back to take those in a relationship with Him to Heaven (1 Corinthians 15:52).
God sent Jesus to save us from eternal death, and from having to live in a sinful world forever. The grand finale for this plan is the reign of Jesus after His Second Coming. It will be clear who chooses Jesus and who doesn’t. Jesus is indeed the grand hope of humanity when we study eschatology, and we can take comfort in this as we study to understand how things will unfold in the End Times.
In the meantime, as we wait for Jesus to come back, we can find peace of mind in the fact that the Holy Spirit, working in our hearts, confirms we are God’s children—His heirs (Romans 8:16-17).
Jesus wants to save us. He wants us to come through the End Times without worry or fear, even if things are chaotic around us (2 Peter 3:9; Isaiah 41:13; Matthew 24:6).
We can know that as we wait for God to take us to Heaven, He loves, cares for us and gives us a sense of positive expectation and hope as we wait for deliverance from the pain and suffering in this world (Romans 8:14-25).
Now let’s look at the different categories of things that will happen during the End Times. The Bible gives us some key details as to what we can expect.
Learn more about the hope we have in Jesus as we look forward to the end of sin and suffering. Check out our free online Bible studies!
The Judgment (and what that really means)
We’ve already established that God doesn’t want anyone to be afraid. He wants to be reconciled to every one of His children. But He also respects our freedom of choice, and if any person does not want to be saved, He will honor that decision.
That is essentially what the Final Judgment is about. It’s God looking at everyone’s hearts to reveal where their allegiance truly lies.
This is indeed a major theme of the End Times, because all of these events are the result of the world gradually being left to its own devices, and decisions will become clearer about who is for God and who is against Him (2 Thessalonians 2:1-10; Revelation 7:1-3).
Some of the events related to the Final Judgment are already set in motion.
The Investigative Judgment
Right now, Jesus has a very important job in heaven: He represents each one of us before God the Father. Since He died for our sins instead of us, He is the one that acts as our holy Mediator.
Part of understanding what the Bible says about End Times can be found within a prophecy revealed in Daniel 8. In this chapter, a prophetic period of 2300 days is mentioned. This period is fulfilled around the year 1844.
There’s a part of the End Times timeline that actually takes place in heaven and starts in the year 1844. It kicks off in fulfilment of the prophetic period of 2300 days mentioned in Daniel 8.
What happens in Heaven at this point is beautiful: Jesus moves into what is called the Most Holy Place in the heavenly sanctuary (Daniel 8:14). He reviews the name of every human being that ever was and will be. And cancels out the record of sins for those who believe in Him.
The sacrifice of Jesus on the cross means He can choose to blot out these sins, replacing them with His perfect record (Romans 5:8). That’s how we become reconciled to God and become able to spend eternity with Him.
The Bible says Jesus intercedes for us, and He is our advocate. Because He dearly loves his children.
That’s why this part of the judgment can be great news to us!
It’s why Jesus told His disciples, “Therefore, everyone who acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge him before my Father in heaven” (Matthew 10:32, CSB).
Hebrews 7:25 says Jesus “is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because He always lives to intercede for them” (NKJV). The same chapter says Jesus represents us as our High Priest in heaven.
In Old Testament times, the High Priest presented sacrifices on behalf of the Israelites before God, atoning for their sin. In this role, Jesus represents those who love Him before God.
Hebrews 10:10 says, “And by that will we have been made sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once and for all.”
Jesus sacrificed Himself to redeem us. The only reason for “investigation” here is to confirm all the names of believers before God the Father.
What about the Final Judgment?
The word “judgment” is often associated with negative feelings. It may sound harsh of God to judge people—especially when that judgment yields eternal consequences (whether good or bad).
But looking more closely at God’s judgment, it’s actually a very positive thing! This is nothing like flawed human judgment, which can often be unfair, leaving people feeling misunderstood. God knows every human being because He made each one of us. He knows us through and through.
And to be a truly just God, in the end, He can’t let evil continue to bring sadness, suffering and grief to the world (Revelation 21:4, 2 Timothy 1:10, Revelation 20:10). So He will save those that claim Jesus as their savior. Those who choose otherwise will receive the fate they selected, even though God will have given them every chance to reconcile.
That’s why, during the Judgement, the record books of Heaven are opened and reviewed (Revelation 20:11-15). God wants it to be abundantly clear what everyone’s own choice is.
That’s why there’s more that has to happen before the Final Judgment of the entire human race. Everyone’s true allegiances are being discovered.
The “Time of Trouble” on earth, nearing the “Time of the End”
Before God judges the world, the book of Daniel describes “a time of trouble, such as never has occurred since nations first came into existence” (Daniel 12:1). This reflects the vivid description of wars, persecutions, earthquakes and other disasters talked about in Matthew 24, Luke 21 and Mark 13.
But even as we read about this distressing time, we can remember that even while the world is in chaos, we can claim hope and assurance that Jesus’ return is near.
This “Time of Trouble,” as far as the End Times are concerned, is a short but intense period that takes place soon before the Second Coming of Jesus. In many ways, it’s like a last chance God gives the world, so they can see the true effects of sin.
God wants everyone to have every last opportunity to repent, confess, and accept Him as Savior. And then to receive His grace and forgiveness.
But there will be a point in which the destiny of every human (and every angel that sided with the Devil) will be established. At this moment every person will have had the chance to choose to live with God or reject Him (Revelation 22:11).
To understand what is often referred to as the “close of probation,” it can be helpful to consider the concept on an individual, person-by-person level first. There comes a time when individuals reap what they sow. Their decisions have ultimately been made.
In Matthew 12:31, Jesus said, “every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.”
This may seem strange at first, as we are told in 1 John 1:9 that God is “faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” when we confess our wrongdoings.
The sin against the Holy Spirit doesn’t mean God doesn’t want to forgive. Instead, it reflects what happens if we habitually choose to ignore Him working on our hearts through the Holy Spirit.
If we continually reject the Spirit over time, He has to respect that choice and withdraw. At that point, on a personal level, one would basically seal their fate all by themselves.
Our “probation” closes because of our decision to reject God, or even become hostile toward His Spirit and His followers. And we suffer the consequences of losing our connection with Him and the eternal life He promises.
This closing of each person’s probation, based on their choice to follow God or to reject Him, will eventually happen on a worldwide scale. The Scriptures speak about the End Times, comparing it to the time of Noah:
In Matthew 24:37-39, Jesus says:
“For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man” (ESV).
Although people in the time of Noah obviously had a lot of time to make the decision to join him in the ark prior to the flood coming, that window—that “probation”—closed when the door of the ark closed. Then the flood came as described in Genesis 7.
In the apostle John’s vision of the end of the world he sees four angels commanded by God to hold back destructive winds (Revelation 7:1). It is clear that even at the end of history, God is merciful and wants to wait as long as possible to allow people a chance to find salvation in Him
But just like in the time of Noah, there will come a time, close to the coming of Jesus, when people will simply follow the tracks they have chosen in life.
In Revelation 22:11, the apostle John is in the middle of a vision about the end of the world. An angel says: “Let the one who does wrong continue to do wrong; let the vile person continue to be vile; let the one who does right continue to do right; and let the holy person continue to be holy.”
At this point, those who have rejected the Holy Spirit’s influence throughout life, are so hardened that the Holy Spirit must withdraw.
This will be a very difficult time for those who have chosen to follow God as they will likely face persecution by those who have rejected Him. They will also be witness to the destruction the rest of the world brings upon itself.
In Matthew 24, Jesus tells his followers they will be hated and even killed for His sake (verse 9). Jesus talks about a “great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now” (verse 21). All this madness is described as “birthpangs” (verse 8) by Jesus. Birthpangs here are a comparison to the extreme physical pain of a mother about to give birth. Just as this extreme pain comes directly before the joy of a baby, this tumultuous period directly precedes the joy of the Second Coming.
The apostle John also talks about this time of serious persecution in which a beast (a symbol for a very powerful, destructive entity) attempts to force everyone to worship him (Revelation 13:12).
During this Time of Trouble, powerful forces on earth will unite, attempting to force everyone to follow a counterfeit system of worship. Those who don’t obey will face persecution (Revelation 13:11-17).
There will also come a point in which plagues break out and evil is unleashed on earth (Revelation 6:8) to such an extent that God’s followers cry out, “How long O Lord?” (Revelation 6:10).
Even if this will be a difficult period, it is not one that God’s followers need to fear. God has promised to never leave those who call on Him! Jesus expressed this at the end of His Great Commission when He said,
“…And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20, NKJV).
Additionally, Luke 21:28 says “Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift your heads, because your redemption draws near” (NKJV).
Even though it’s called a “Time of Trouble,” there’s still every reason to have hope and even comfort in Christ, even when things look their worst.
At the end of Daniel 12:1, we can claim the promise that “at that time [God’s] people shall be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book” (NKJV).
Why must there be a Time of Trouble?
The Bible says Satan is “a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44). From the start of humanity, the Devil has worked to separate humans from God.
Despite God rescuing the Israelites from the Red Sea (Exodus 14), establishing covenants with them (Exodus 19-24), providing for them in the desert (Deuteronomy 1:30, 32; 32:10-14) and sending his own Son to die for them (John 3:16), people are prone to forget God’s faithfulness and keep believing lies from Satan.
It wasn’t just the Israelites in the wilderness who seemed to forget all about God’s faithfulness to them, and to take matters into their own hands. Daniel 1 tells the sad story of how, centuries later, the Jews (people of Judah) were taken into captivity in Babylon after they had neglected to follow God’s leading—even after living for generations in the Promised Land.
When Jesus came to earth, His own people had him crucified (John 19:6, 18).
People have continued to reject God despite the forgiveness, patience and grace he extends.
But God loves us unconditionally and longs for us to willingly return to Him. So He gives us every chance possible. This is why 2 Peter 3:9 says God is patient with us, “not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance.”
But as we’ve seen above, if we continue to reject this patience and grace, there comes a time when God must withdraw. And “trouble” abounds.
God finally allows the world to see the full destructive potential of sin. As people witness this final show of evil they take their sides, standing firm on their decision of either accepting Jesus Christ as their Savior, or not. The full extent of evil’s potential is revealed. God is vindicated. The case is closed.
The Second Coming
The Second Coming is the focus of biblical eschatology. It’s what the events we’ve talked about so far are leading up to.
Not only is Jesus coming back, He’s coming back soon (John 14; Revelation 22:20)—meaning it could be any time. We don’t know when.
So it’s important to understand what the Bible is saying here. Life is fleeting—we never know when things can change drastically, or even end completely. It’s important to be connected with God and to have accepted Him as our Savior.
There’s a sense of urgency when it comes to making a decision of in whom we place our allegiance. And ultimately, if you “confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9).
That’s how we prepare for the Second Coming of Jesus, which is spoken about in various Bible prophecies, most of which are reaching their final fulfilment.
Here are some of the highlights:
- It will be preceded by extreme deterioration of the world through moral decay, war, natural disasters and very distinctive natural phenomena (Matthew 24:6-12, 29, 37-39; Mark 13:8, 24-25; Luke 21:10-11; 2 Timothy 3:1–5).
- God’s gospel will be preached all around the world (Matthew 24:14, Mark 13:10).
- False Messiahs will rise up in random places (Mark 13:22; Luke 21:8).
- It will be literal. Jesus will physically return to earth (Matthew 24:30; Mark 13:26; Luke 21:27; John 14:1-3; Titus 2:13; Revelation 14:14-20).
- It will be global. The Second Coming won’t be a secret that only a lucky few will notice. It will be a worldwide event (Revelation 1:7).
- The righteous dead will be resurrected and taken to heaven with the righteous who are still living) 1 Corinthians 15:51–54; 1 Thessalonians 4:13–18; Hebrews 9:28).
- The unrighteous will resurrect after the Millennium to receive the fate they have chosen, and then will die permanently (2 Thessalonians 1:7–10).
- We don’t know the exact time of the Second Coming, so we should be ready at all times (Matthew 24:36, 42-44; Mark 13:32-37; 1 Thessalonians 5:1–6).
Is the Second Coming the same as The Secret Rapture?
There is a belief that there will be a moment, close to the end of time, when many are suddenly taken up to Heaven, leaving the rest of the population to continue their lives on a broken and chaotic earth.
Some Bible texts speak to the sudden nature of the Second Coming and the need to always be ready for the return of Jesus.
Some point to Luke 17:26-37. In verse 36, Jesus says, “Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left.”
Here it is vital to keep reading. In verse 37, Jesus’ disciples wanted more details.
“And they answered and said unto him, Where, Lord?” They were asking about what happens to those left behind.
Jesus answers: “He said to them, ‘Where the corpse is, there also the vultures will be gathered’” (CSB).
So Jesus was saying the bodies of those not taken to heaven will be left for vultures to eat. As in, they won’t be alive.
The Second Coming of Jesus will not happen in secret. It will come as a surprise to many, but it will not be unnoticed.
Check out what 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17 has to say:
“For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air” (NKJV).
It will be a beautiful, exciting moment. And we’re talking graves being opened from around the world, and people from all over the place as well. This will be a global phenomenon. And that means those people would have still been on earth, and not taken to heaven already.
We are also told that “every eye shall see Him” (Revelation 1:7) and that “all the tribes of the earth” will witness the “Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory” (Matthew 24:30).
When does the Second Coming happen?
Every so often it seems, someone else makes the headlines claiming to know the date of the Second Coming of Jesus or the end of the world.
Years before the Seventh-day Adventist Church was founded, thousands, led by a preacher named William Miller, believed Jesus was going to come on October 22, 1844 (note: Miller did not set the date itself, but his followers did).
When Jesus did not come, those who had expected Him on that date were devastated and ridiculed in what has become known as “The Great Disappointment.”
But a group of people (many of whom later formed the early Adventist Church) dove right back into their Bibles to study where they went wrong. They were drawn to the Bible’s teaching that says nobody but God the Father knows when the Second Coming will be (Matthew 24:36).
Rather than be discouraged, these Christians found renewed faith knowing that the Bible still taught that Jesus is still coming soon. He said so Himself (Revelation 22:12).
Today, we can encourage ourselves with the same truth.
Many signs the coming of Jesus is near (Luke 21:31) are now commonplace: war, natural disasters, and religious persecution (Luke 21:8-18), to name a few.
While some of the signs the Bible talks about could have already happened, or could even be happening today, it’s important to remember these things could happen quickly, slowly, one after the other, or years in between. We are told the signs so we can recognize that God’s plan is underway.
But it’s not for us to know when the Second Coming is. Our focus should be on making sure our hearts are ready when it does happen, and sharing the hope of the gospel in the meantime.
The Bible even tells us what happens right after the Second Coming. The Millennium is a thousand-year period that begins after Jesus brings His believers to heaven, and before what’s referred to as the “second resurrection.”
This will be a time of loving reconciliation and reconnection between God and those who have chosen Him. As those who have been saved live with God in Heaven, they will have the opportunity to see how and why God has judged humanity.
Revelation 20:4 says those who are with God will be given the authority to judge. This means they will be able to review God’s judgements and see, once and for all, that God is fair.
During the Millennium, those who rejected Jesus will remain in their graves. The record of their lives will be reviewed in heaven and they will be judged.
Only Satan and his angels remain alive on earth during this time.
A couple significant things will then happen at the end of the Millennium.
First, God’s city, the New Jerusalem, will come down from heaven and be established on planet Earth (Revelation 21:1).
Second, those who rejected Jesus will be brought to life again to receive their judgment (Revelation 20:5).
God’s Final Victory Over Evil
As Satan and those loyal to him attempt to attack God and His people at the end of the Millennium, their insurrection will fail. They will be permanently destroyed (Revelation 20:10).
God’s people will then live with Him in peace forever, knowing that evil has been conquered.
But everyone won’t stay in heaven. God will cleanse our sin-sick earth with fire, then recreate it in its originally perfect state. The earth promised to humanity will be restored, and we will live in the New Jerusalem (2 Peter 3:13; Revelation 21:1) that will be established upon it.
Life from this point on will be more than we could ever dream of. Better than we could ever even begin to imagine. Think of the lion playing with the lamb. No more tears. We will live with God, and the whole universe is our playground. The pain and suffering that hurts life on earth will be a thing of the past (Revelation 21:4).
“What no eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no human heart has conceived—God has prepared these things for those who love Him” (1 Corinthians 2:9, CSB).
To even begin to grasp the magnitude of the promise of God, it’s important to study eschatology and learn the context for the end of the earth as we know it. It helps to understand what the Bible says about how world events will unfold in the run-up to the Second Coming of Jesus. Knowing these biblical teachings prepares our hearts and minds, and allows us to help others as well.
We can all have hope that Jesus and His Holy Spirit will guide us, even during times of chaos.
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