What Are the End Times?
A look at the major interpretations of biblical visions of the 'end of days.'
Hollywood's depiction of the "end of the world" has been portrayed as a nuclear winter, an asteroid striking the earth or a cataclysmic natural disaster. In Christian theology, the subject of End Times has to do with the question of God's control over and what the last days--the End Times--will be like. One of the recurring questions asked of Christ sought clues, or signs, of when the end would come and what it would look like. The "Left Behind" series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins presents a fictionalized depiction of how things could play out using one of the major interpretations of the End Times. Here is a brief look at the major interpretations of what the Bible tells us about the end of time.
There are three major views of the end times, with many variations. These views are something like the accounts of witnesses to an accident that are all different because they describe the same event from different perspectives. In eschatology-the study of end times--those perspectives come from different ways of interpreting the Bible and historical events.
The Bible contains a great deal of prophecy that relates to the people of Israel, the coming of a Messiah, or other events. One of the wonders of the Bible is that God has revealed himself both very clearly and very mysteriously. What some scholars see clearly as the prediction of future events, others see as strong symbolic language to warn or encourage people, and still others see as layers of meaning that combine both a present and future purpose.
Revelation is a good example of these perspectives. John was in exile for his preaching when he wrote Revelation and the church was suffering persecution. There are differences of opinion about exactly when John wrote Revelation and how to interpret its symbolism. Some see John's vision as a prediction of future events. Some see it as a highly symbolic picture of God's ultimate control suitable for any reader at any time. Still others see the symbolism in Revelation as a more obscure way for John to communicate during a time of severe persecution-a kind of secret message.