The Book of Revelation is the final book in the New Testament and details the Second Coming of Christ, the final defeat of Satan and the end of the world as it is known today. The book is filled with detailed symbolism, strange events and stranger monsters. Some of the best known and least understood images of the Bible are found in Revelation including the infamous Mark of the Beast, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and the Second Coming of Christ. It is in Revelation that Jesus is called the Alpha and Omega, one of His best known epithets, and in Revelation that the character of the anti-Christ is introduced.For all that bits and pieces of the Book of Revelation are famous beyond compare, the fact of the matter is that no one really understands what precisely the book says. Revelation is written in prophetic language and is rife with symbolism. Christians have been debating what exactly happens at the end of the ages for centuries. Run an internet search for “who is the anti-Christ” or read any debate about what the various kingdoms are in Revelation to prove it. There will be almost as many answers as there are Christians. In fact, some people hold that the bulk of Revelation does not take place in the future at all. Instead, they believe it either has already happened or is in the process of happening.
Given how much of Revelation is debated and how fiercely those debates often are, it is somewhat unfair to compare the emotional and poetic language of the book to the cold, concise specificity of scientific theory. That said, there is no reason why the various events in Revelation could not be evaluated for their scientific likelihood. The events, however, would have to be specific happenings that deal primarily with the physical world and effect material bodies such as the Earth and the Sun. Revelation focuses largely on the way human society and culture will change and what will happen to swaths of the population rather than the actual destruction of the Earth. Cultural change is nearly impossible to predict, so putting those elements of Revelation under the microscope is rather pointless. The effect of the apocalypse on the physical world, however, is fair game as science already has a sound idea about the ultimate fate of the Blue Planet.
In Revelation 6, the details of the first six of the seven seals are revealed. When the sixth seal is opened, “there was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. The heavens receded like a scroll being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.” The language is poetic and dripping with symbolism, as is to be expected from Revelation. There are, however, several scientific realities buried in these two verses.
The Sun turning black and the moon turning red are both more than possible. They are actually common astrological phenomena. The Sun turns black when it is blocked by the moon in a solar eclipse. The moon turns red, the so called blood moon, during a lunar eclipse when the Earth’s shadow falls on the near side of the moon. Both of these events happen somewhere on Earth several times a year. As for “the heavens reced[ing],” the strange sounding event is not only possible, it is likely to occur when the Earth as a planet is in its death throes.
When the Sun runs out of hydrogen to burn in 4 to 5 billion years, the star will expand. When this happens, its increased gravity will strip the atmosphere from the Earth. The heavens will literally recede into the swelling Sun.
Revelation 8 has some similarly possible events hidden among the lyrical language. In Revelation 8, the first four of the seven trumpets are sounded. When the second and third trumpets are sounded, “something huge like a mountain, all ablaze, was thrown into the sea…and a great star, blazing like a torch, fell from the sky…a third of the waters turned bitter, and many people died from the waters that had become bitter.” Both the blazing mountain and falling star are frighteningly plausible ends for Earth. A meteorite the size of a mountain would bring untold billions of lifeforms to a screeching halt and spark off a new mass extinction. In that instance, Revelation actually underestimates the damage such a space rock would do. Far more than a third of life would be affected. As for the falling star, Wormwood, some people theorize that Wormwood is actually a comet. In that case, Earth could be even worse off. While asteroids tend to land glancing blows on the Earth, a comet would quite possible slam into the planet head on. This would lead to a bigger explosion, bigger crater and far more dust and deadly gas released into the atmosphere. To make matters worse, a comet would slam into the Earth at a much higher speed than an asteroid. Not only are comets usually traveling at least three times faster than an asteroid, the gas and ice that forms a comet’s famous tail actual acts like a thruster. If Wormwood were a comet, it would only continue to build momentum when it entered the Solar System. A direct impact could release more than 300 times the energy of the asteroid impact that wiped out the dinosaurs. Catastrophic does not even begin to cover the consequences.
The few lifeforms that survived would then have to deal with everything ranging from global cooling to acid rain from all the gases released into the atmosphere. Water sources would become poisoned, just as Revelation predicted, though “many people” would be a painfully low death toll for a direct hit by a comet. “Most living things” would probably be a more accurate casualty list.
Revelation is filled with poetic and symbolic language that makes interpretation difficult and comparison with scientific predictions of doomsday nearly impossible. That does not mean, however, that there are not scientifically plausible scenarios in Revelation. It simply means that the book is concerned with far more than simply the physical future of Earth.