Not surprisingly, since the dawn of Christianity as one of the three major world religions, people have tried to understand, find an explanation or even establish a timeline to the events foretold in the New Testament. In the 21st. Century such interest has not declined at all and instead has given way to speculation, and in some cases, outright lies. Terms such as millenium, tribulation, rapture, and antichrist are often used to instill fear, spread falsehood, and distort the message and vision being revealed in one book of the Bible, in the New Testament, the letter of the Revelation of John, the book of Revelation.
Some people have gone so far as to predict a date and time of when these things will occur. Others have claimed they have found through some special understanding the meaning of all there is to know about these times. Yet others, proclaim these events have already occurred in earlier times, and even cite historical facts to strengthen their positions. Furthermore, a larger number believes these events will occur in the future, and within this group, a few make prophecies of their own to fit their overall position.
One common thread is present through all these: Jesus will come again for those who love him and calls them to be ready all the time and that no one knows the day or the hour.
Jesus said, "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." Matthew 24:36
Jesus made a glorious promise to his disciples then and to those who believe in him and are his followers today: I will return. Personally, I know of people who have believed His promise and eagerly await for it today, even as they approach their departure from earth and the beginning of their journey home.
Jesus went as far as to offer what "signs" would precede his return. He called these signs "Birth Pains. The two words encapsulate an allegory, that of a woman experiencing pains before giving birth. The allegory goes further by implying the joy felt upon the arrival. To those who eagerly await his return assures them of the joy of seeing him in all his glory on this side of eternity.
The Birth Pains or signs of the beginning of the end as Jesus spoke of them are: many will rise and claim they are the Messiah; people will be deceived by these messiahs; there will be wars, famine, earthquakes, pestilence; believers in Christ will suffer persecution and be killed; believers will be witnesses of Jesus to kings; many will turn away from the faith; parents, brothers, and friends will betray one another; there will be a sharp increase in wickedness and astonishingly fearful signs from heaven.
Then Jesus replied to them: "Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name saying, "I am the Messiah", and they will deceive many. You are going to hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, because these things must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nations, and kingdom against kigdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these events are the beginning of birth pains. Matthew 24:4-8
The apostle Paul, one of the leaders of the first generation of Christians, often considered to be the most important person after Jesus in the history of Christianity, in his letters to the believers in Thessalonica offered more specific details pertaining to the return of Jesus to earth, and the implications to believers.
Paul's writings in general are directed to believers. He wrote about Jesus descending; the dead in Christ will rise first; the living will be caught up with them in the clouds to meet the Lord Jesus and be with him forever; he warned believers not to believe those who say The Day of the Lord ha already come. He added that the Day of the Lord will be preceded by rebellion; the man of lawlessness will be revealed when the one holding him back is taken out of the way; he will blatantly, openly oppose and exalt himself over God; set himself up in God's temple; be accompanied by satanic, demonic, counterfeit miracles; he will deceive those who do not love the truth. When Jesus comes, the man of lawlessness will be overthrown and destroyed.
"Then we who are still alive will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, so we will always be with the Lord. Therefore, encourage one another with these words." 1 Thessalonians 4:17
Four positions generally held by Christians the world over about End Times
The views about the end times since ages past and years gone by must be considered simply as a mean to an edifying conversation, and source of encouragement to fellow believers, and not a conclusive answer to the questions that arise from reading Revelation.
Undoubtedly, God's sovereingty will remain until the appropriate time and in accordance with his will for mankind. Believers should not spend valuable time trying to discern God's immutable plans and construct a timeline of these events, they might be proved wrong in the end.
The one certain and undeniable truth revealed to those who read, study the Book of Revelation, and keep Christ's commandments is that they will be admitted to the thrilling sightseeing tour of the New Jerusalem (Revelation 22:1) which reaffirms the fact that only those who possess the righteousness of Christ are granted admission into His heavenly, eternal realm will enjoy their glorified bodies and will become inhabitants of the Holy City. Meanwhile, the Spirit and the Church cries out: Come Jesus, come!