Author’s Note: Interested readers can find all volumes in this series here.
With the global pandemic sparking an unprecedented financial crisis, I continue to receive messages either stating or asking, "Are these the end times?" For readers unfamiliar with the phrase "end times," it is used predominantly by evangelical Christians to describe the turbulence and devastation that will befall humanity and the earth shortly before the return of Jesus — commonly referred to as the "Second Coming."
Thus, on the Fox News website this week, I was intrigued by the headline: "Here's why Christian scholars who study end times say this is not the end of the world." The writer, Caleb Parke, a Fox News associate editor, explained:
"The Book of Revelation, the last book in the Christian Bible, is interpreted by many evangelical scholars as a description of Jesus returning to earth. At that point, it depicts believers being raptured to heaven and those left behind suffering tribulation, but Christians have varying views on this."
One of the quoted "Christian scholars" with a "varying view" is Tom Meyer, a Bible professor and author known as the "Bible Memory Man" for his unique ability to memorize entire books of the Bible, including Revelation.
Meyer believes that the current global health and financial crisis is only a "preview" of the end times, saying, "We should think of the current outbreak as a preview of things to come, the slightest taste of what life will be like during the Great Tribulation as recorded in the Book of Revelation."
During these tumultuous times, non-Bible readers might consider flipping through the prophetic, symbolic, and apocalyptic Book of Revelation while "socially isolating." (And there is plenty of action with dragons, plagues, pestilence, beasts, and judgments.)
Revelation is meaningful to me because in 1983, I visited the mountain top cave on the Greek island of Patmos, where the Jewish apostle John—forced into exile by the Romans—received these stunning "revelations" from Jesus. I can attest that the breathtaking cliff-side water view is conducive to receiving heavenly messages.
John, in the "third person," begins the Book writing: "The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ" (Revelation 1:1-2).
Seven verses later, John's writing becomes more personal when he explains the reasons why he is in exile: "I, John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus" (Revelation 1:9).
Warning Label: Revelation's "end times" symbolism is vivid, complicated, violent, and although beautifully written, its passages convey the wrath and fury of God.
Yet, Revelation is hopeful when Jesus says three times in the last chapter, "Look, I am coming soon! Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy written in this scroll" (Revelation 22:7).
"Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End" (Revelation 22:12-13).
And a few verses later, Jesus speaks his last words ending the Book of Revelation and the Bible with this passage: "He who testifies to these things says, "'Yes, I am coming soon.' "Amen. Come, Lord Jesus. The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God's people. Amen" (Revelation 22: 20-21).
As expected, Book of Revelation interpretations have consistently generated over 1,900 years of scholarly and religious debate. The truth is no one knows precisely what the Book means and when (or even if) "end times" will commence.
Circling back to Bible expert Tom Meyer, discussing Revelation in the Fox News piece, he says: "Global pandemics, like we are all currently suffering through, are a wake-up call to the world to get right with God now through Jesus, the Jewish Messiah."
But how exactly do you "get right with God now through Jesus" if you don't believe in Him, read the Bible or go to church? Jesus has the answer in the Book of Revelations:
"Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me" (Revelation 3:20).
And to that, I say, "Amen."
Now, my "door" is open to your comments.
Today I am especially interested in the possible connection between the current crisis and "end times."
This week Drudge Report linked to the Times of Israel about the devastating swarm of locusts leaving Africa and heading to the Middle East during the Jewish holiday of Passover, but skipping over Israel.
Slightly suspect, I did a little research and saw this Weather.com headline, "Unbelievably Large Swarm of Locusts Threatens Middle East." The report included the following paragraph:
"Experts say that the swarm is projected to go as far east as Pakistan in the coming months. It will begin descending upon the Middle East in the next month, coinciding with the Jewish holiday of Passover, which celebrates, among other things, the Biblical ten plagues in Egypt, one of which was locusts."
Moreover, there was a link to Locust Watch — a Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations listing countries impacted by the crop-eating swarms — and Israel was not listed.
Check out the plague of locusts in Exodus 10.
More reasons to read the Bible!