“When you expect the world to end at any moment, you know there is no need to hurry. You take your time, you do your work well.”
― Thomas Merton
The Greek word ‘apokalupsis‘ simply means revelation, but thanks to the Revelation of St. John the Divine, commonly known as the Apocalypse of John, the English word has come to mean the end of the world, or what is actually called Armageddon in the Revelation of St. John. But long before the Revelation was written, the Apocalypse of Jesus was set down in the gospels:
As Jesus sat upon the mount of Olives, his disciples came to him privately, asking him to tell them when all the things he spoke of would happen, and what signs there would be of the coming of the Son of Man and of the end of the world. Jesus answered:
Take care that no man deceives you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am the messiah, and many shall be deceived. You will hear of wars and rumours of war. Do not be troubled, for all these things must come to pass before the end arrives. Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines, pestilence, and earthquakes, in different places. These are the beginning of our sorrows.
The people will deliver you up to be persecuted, and will murder you themselves. You will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. Many will be hurt, and betray and hate one another. False prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall grow cold. But if you endure unto the end, you will be saved. The gospel of the kingdom will be preached all over the world in all nations, and then the end will come.
When you see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place, then let the people of Judaea flee into the mountains. Those who go up to the rooftops should not come down to take anything out of their houses. Those working in the fields should not go back for their clothes.
Woe to pregnant women, and to those who are nursing babies in those days! Pray that you do not flee in the winter, nor on the sabbath day. For there will great tribulation, such as was not seen since the beginning of the world, nor ever shall be again. If those days were not brought to an end, there would be no living things saved. But for the sake of the chosen, those days will be shortened.
If any man tells you the messiah is here, do not believe it. False messiahs and false prophets shall arise and show great signs and wonders. If possible, they will deceive chosen. If they say that the messiah is in the desert, don’t go to look for him there. If they say he is in the secret chambers, don’t believe it. For where ever there is a carcase, vultures will gather.
Immediately after the tribulations of those days, the sun will be darkened, the moon will not give light, the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. The coming of the Son of Man will be like lightning coming out of the east, and shining to the west. All the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a sound like a great trumpet, and they shall gather together his chosen from the four winds, from one end of the earth to the other.
When a fig tree’s branches is still tender, and put forth leaves, you know that summer is near. Likewise, when you see all these things, know that the end is near, at the very doors. This generation shall not pass until all these things are fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.
But no man knows the day and hour, not even the angels of heaven, but Yahweh only. As it was in the days of Noah, so the end will be. For in the days before the flood, people were eating, drinking, and marrying until the day that Noah entered the ark, and knew nothing until the flood came and took them all away. So shall the coming of the Son of Man be. Two will be in the field; one shall be taken, and the other left. Two women shall be grinding flour, one shall be taken, and the other left.
Watch therefore, for you don’t know what hour your Lord will come. But know this: if the man of the house had known which hour the thief would come in, he would have watched, and would not have allowed his house to be robbed. Therefore be ready: for in an hour you wouldn’t think, the Son of Man will come.
Jesus predicts troubles, persecution, and the eventual preaching of his message throughout the world. He warns his followers to flee Jerusalem when they see an unspecified abomination in the place of the temple. Some scholars believe this is refers to the statue of Jupiter installed by emperor Hadrian in the temple around 130 AD, but that event occurred long after the gospels were written.
At the end of the tribulation, Jesus describes the coming of the cosmic judge, the Son of Man, who he believed would establish the kingdom of heaven on earth. He then admonishes his disciple to be prepared, because though no man knows the exact day and hour that the Son of Man will arrive, he is certain it will come within the lifetimes of the current generation.
Clearly Jesus was wrong about the time of arrival of the kingdom of heaven on earth, and I personally find it highly improbable that the kingdom will be ushered in by an angelic being who comes walking through the clouds. Where does that leave us?
- Jesus believed that there would be a future kingdom where everyone followed the golden rule.
- He believed that a significant number of people could be ready for such a kingdom within a single lifetime.
- He had a vision that his message would be spread throughout the entire world.
- Though the visions of Peter and Paul of his resurrection certainly aided in ensuring that Jesus’s message survived, the message itself continues to inspire us today.
- We are now living in a time when it seems possible that we may actually be able to bring about the kingdom of heaven on earth.