The Apocalypse Was Closer Than I Thought…

A visit to the isle of Patmos sparked thoughts about the Apocalypse (Revelation) the apostle John wrote there—and how God wants us to respond to it.

My wife and I just visited Patmos in the Aegean Sea. This tranquil little island just off the coast of Turkey is quite different from its hard-partying counterparts like Mykonos or Kos. But it also has a most intriguing past. It was on this island that the apostle John was in exile toward the end of the first century, when Jesus Christ gave him the mysterious visions compiled in the book of Revelation.

According to tradition (with no factual support) John received the revelations while living in a small cave on a mountainside. The grotto is known as the Cave of the Apocalypse.

We see a sign

We decided we would visit the cave, now covered by an Orthodox monastery. As we left Skala, the main village and port of the island, we came to a road sign that said in Greek and Latin letters: Apocalypse 2.2 km.

I joked to my wife: “Wow, the Apocalypse is closer than we thought!”

Later I pondered what I had said in jest and thought there might be more truth in it than I had intended.

Two meanings of Apocalypse

The word apocalypse means revelation, but in modern culture Apocalypse has come to be synonymous with the end of the world—a cataclysmic end with asteroids, tsunamis, displays of demonic power and world war.

It’s true that such things are predicted for the time just before the return of Christ. The Bible also predicts that most people on earth, even many followers of traditional Christianity, are going to be surprised when all this happens.

Truly the Apocalypse is closer than they think.

Why will people be surprised by the Apocalypse?

The Bible gives a number of reasons why people will be surprised by what English translations call the “end of the world” or the “end of the age.” (That is, it will be the end of the world as we know it—the planet won’t cease to exist nor will human life. But that’s an encouraging subject for another day.)

1. Distractions.

Jesus, the One who revealed the Revelation to John, warns: “But take heed to yourselves, lest your hearts be weighed down with carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life, and that Day come on you unexpectedly” (Luke 21:34).

Many people will be so caught up with the rush of daily life—the joys, the pleasures (some right and some wrong), the challenges and pains—that they won’t pay attention to the warning signs of impending disaster. These people won’t have much if any time for God and the things of God. They won’t study the Bible. They’ll be so occupied with their day-to-day existence, they won’t lift their eyes to see any farther.

2. Deceptions.

Jesus also warned that there would be a great deal of spiritual deception occurring before the end of this age: “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand.

“Therefore if they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it” (Matthew 24:23-26).

Many people, even people who do read the Bible, will be deceived by misleading miracles. They won’t understand or will have forgotten that God said in advance He would allow such things at the time of the end to verify who are the true disciples of Christ, those fully committed to the instructions of God and obedience to Him.

Such true disciples walk by faith, by belief in the Word and the promises of God, not by what their eyes seem to show—even flashy miracles that will lead many astray so that they will be surprised by the end of the age and the return of Christ.

3. Disrespect.

The apostle Peter warned of an attitude of contempt for God and His Word that will blind many to the cataclysmic end of the world as we know it: “Scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation’” (2 Peter 3:3-4).

“Are you kidding? You still believe in that discredited book, those old myths?” Many people mock those who believe the Bible today. The revealed Word of God is treated as merely a collection of old legends and stories. The Bible and the God who inspired it are labeled as mythical, misogynistic, racist, cruel and inconsequential.

A lack of respect for God and His Word will blind many people on earth to the prophesied end on the horizon. They will refuse, without even a fair hearing, the one source that could save them from what the Bible calls “the wrath to come.”

Will I be surprised by the Apocalypse?

That’s a question each of us must answer. And it’s not an answer that can be given once (“no, I won’t”) and then forgotten. Avoiding spiritual distractions, deceptions and disrespect will take constant attention and effort all the way to the time when the prophecies of the book of Revelation are fulfilled.

That’s the reason why, for most people in the world, the Apocalypse really is closer than they think.

Read more about the Apocalypse and what God reveals to us in our section on “Revelation.”

About the Author

Joel Meeker

Joel Meeker

Joel Meeker is a pastor, writer, editor and administrator. He serves as regional director for the French-speaking regions of the Church of God, a Worldwide Association, and as chairman of its Board of Directors.

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