Where are we in the big picture of Bible prophecy?
It takes a panoramic understanding of what the Bible teaches to answer those questions. But don't be intimidate by that statement. It's not as difficult to acquire as one might think. First, let me share an example of what happens when we lack a "big picture" view of God's purposes, as he describes for us in his Word.
I will use my writing critique group to illustrate. I recently submitted an excerpt from my novel for critique. That excerpt featured two characters that had previously been introduced, but many in the group either had not read the previous chapter or had read it but forgotten. So, it was interesting to hear their questions and conclusions about who these two "mysterious" characters were and whether the result of a previously described action was literal or metaphorical (without the background knowledge, it could have been either...but it wasn't!).
The members of the group were looking at the story through the myopic lens of one small excerpt. They lacked understanding of the premise and details previously shared about those two "mysterious" characters and the "puzzling" result of an action that was fully revealed in a previous chapter. Reading The Revelation can be like that...if the rest of Bible has not been read first.
The Book of Revelation is not the entirety of Bible prophecy, but it is often read and interpreted as if it is. Reading The Revelation in a piecemeal fashion, usually creates confusion. It should be read in it's entirety, and preferably after at least one complete reading of the entire Bible first.
The Apocalypse, meaning the revealing, the unveiling, things made clear (things written about previously in other books of scripture), can never be fully understood when read as a stand-alone book. There are too many points of reference contained through-out scripture, that cannot be ignored when seeking to understand what this writer believes to be a description of the last seven years immediately preceding the Second Coming of Christ.
No one argues that in chapter nineteen, the Apocalypse describes the visible and physical return of Messiah, who comes to rescue a devastated world from a purely evil agenda.
There is a place for topical Bible-study in the lives of believers, but this can actually be detrimental if we do only topical studies and fail to cultivate a good working knowledge of the entire contents of the Bible, through daily and systematic reading.
We recommend reading every day, always picking up today where we left off yesterday. When we do this, we read our Bibles over and over and gain a comprehensive understanding of what it does and does not...say.
When we are studying a topic, and a Bible teacher limits our understanding by insisting that we apply only certain and fixed interpretations to words, verses, or passages, 1.) if we don't have the foundation of a solid knowledge of what the Bible says and does not say, then, 2.) how can we know if an interpretation actually does apply to every single instance of that word or similar passage?
So, back or our original question. Are the events of the Book of Revelation happening now? The reader will decide. But for several reasons, this writer does not believe so.
Below are only two [of many] scriptural reasons we believe that, from chapter-four on, the events of the Apocalypse are still future:
- The order of the prophetic Feasts of THE LORD tells us these events are still future
- The Seventy Weeks of Daniel tells us these events are still future
The Feasts of THE LORD, are prophetic. And the things they foretell, are prophesied in the order the feasts are observed; e.g., the Feast of Passover that predicted the sacrificial death of Jesus precedes the Feast of First Fruits that foretold his resurrection.
There is a chronological progression in the prophetic Feasts of THE LORD. Unleavened Bread falls between Passover and First Fruits. It is also chronologically prophetic. Skipping ahead, the last seven years leading up to physical and visible return of Jesus Christ are also foretold in the Feasts of THE LORD. Jeremiah calls these last seven years, The Time of Jacob's Trouble. The book, Redemption: Bible Prophecy Simplified, A Study of Hope, tells how the seven-year time-frame is calculated.
Understanding the chronological and prophetic nature of the Feasts of THE LORD, is of immense help when seeking to understand the time-frame of The Revelation.
Another reason to believe we are not living in the Apocalypse [as described in chapter four, on], relates to the prophecy of the seventy weeks of Daniel, which reveals the purposes of God for the people of Daniel (the physical Jews) and for Daniel's Holy City (physical/geological Jerusalem). The Revelation deals with all of these things.
The seventy weeks of Daniel are seventy "weeks of years," with each "week" representing seven literal years. There is little to no controversy concerning this. Sixty-nine of those seventy weeks are already historically accounted for. But there remains one week, seven years, that have not happened yet.
We believe the events described in The Revelation will occur during the as-yet-unaccounted-for seven years of Daniel's seventy weeks. The 70th year, will culminate in the physical and visible return of Jesus Christ.
The seventieth year will begin with a strong and binding treaty between the physical nation of Israel and a world leader known (among other things) as the Beast and the the Man of Sin.
In just one verse, Daniel 9:25, God's purposes are revealed to Daniel. The purposes described, are for God's entire creation but focus primarily on one race of people--Daniel's people, the Jews, and on just one geographical city, Daniel's Holy City, physical Jerusalem.
In a single verse, God's declared purposes for Daniel's people and Daniel's Holy City, encompasses a time-frame that stretches from The commandment to restore and rebuild Jerusalem [after the Babylonian captivity], to the crucifixion. That leaves only the final seven years immediately preceding Jesus' appearance, at the Battle of Armageddon.
Count backwards from the Battle of Armageddon, and we have a detailed description of what takes place between the signing of that seven-year treaty to Jesus coming on the scene and breaking up the devil's party at Armageddon.
If we are indeed living in the Apocalypse, we must believe that we will witness Jesus' visible and physical return in seven years or less. Virtually no one believes that, not even those who teach that we are presently living in the time of the Book of Revelation.
We are not living in the Apocalypse, a time when 75-80% of the human population will die from various causes. The binding seven-year treaty with physical Israel (Isaiah called it, a Covenant with Hell and Death) has not been either proposed or signed.
If the events in The Revelation (from chapter four, on), describe the events of Daniel's seventieth week, then everything from chapter four, on, must, of necessity, be future. And the exact number of days from certain events detailed in The Revelation, to the Second Coming of Christ, can be counted.
The order of the Feasts of THE LORD and the as-yet-unaccounted-for seventieth week of Daniel, are just two reasons this writer does not believe we are living in the time of the Apocalypse. The Bible contains many more reasons.
Are we living in the last days? Yes
Are we living in The Apocalypse? No.
When God's great Redemption is understood, Bible prophecy is neither complicated nor mysterious. Buy the book or read more here.