There are always many questions about when and how the end times will come. Although no one can say exactly what it will be like, the early followers of Jesus felt that they understood what would happen. Many of the followers of Jesus had apocalyptic views on the end times. After analyzing and reviewing over Erhman and the bible, readers can understand the different views and why they believed so strongly about it. Upon examining first and second Thessalonians, Mark and Revelation, readers can see the different and similar aspects of the beliefs for the end times. In this piece, we will look into what the different groups of apocalyptic followers believed would happen in the end times.
Paul spent a lot of his time trying to teach the Thessalonians that there “Pagans were false gods”, and that there was only hope for salvation through Jesus. They believed that Jesus’ death and resurrection made their “relationship with God right”, therefore they took Paul’s message literally and thought that Jesus would soon return to the world (Ehrman, pg.211). After Paul left, he was sent word from Timothy who came to bring them “good news of faith and love”, that the people were concerned about the end times because some member of the church had “died before the return” (Ehrman, pg.210). Paul had to reassure them that when Jesus came back, those who died will be raised first therefore “they should live to please God.” However Paul did believe that he and some others would be “alive at this time” (Ehrman, pg. 212).
Paul and many early followers claimed that the “end was near”, they stood firmly in their apocalyptic views and that God’s “kingdom was imminent” (Ehrman, pg. 334). Revelations is one of the “most commonly known account” about the end of the world (Ehrman, pg. 337). In the first section, John describes his vision of Christ while in the second section, seven letters are addressed and written to the “seven churches in Asia Minor” that describe the churches and suggests for a “behavior change” (Ehrman, pg. 336). The last section focuses on the major catastrophes that occur on Earth and the “final battle between Jesus” and “all enemies of God.” (Ehrman, pg. 347) Many churches in Asia Minor were going through time of persecution and so Revelations was written in order to offer an explanation as to why they were going through this and to give “hope to an imminent end” while encouraging them to remain faithful because the “one who is righteous will live by faith” (Ehrman, pg. 340) Revelation also gives some symbolism of end times such as the “number 666” and the reference to the emperor Nero (Ehrman, pg. 340). It also includes violent occurrences along with triumphant movements suggesting that “creation itself will be set free.”
In the gospel of Mark “ends in a very abrupt way”, in which readers learn that Jesus has been raised and that the women do not say anything because “they were afraid” (Ehrman, pg. 71). This ending suggests that Mark’s message to the people, was that the end times were near and that the “suffering of his community” would not “last any longer” (Ehrman, pg. 74). Much like the Thessalonians and Paul, Mark’s audience was aimed at “converted pagans” and therefore to the gentile group who had a very “apocalyptic view of the end times” (Ehrman, pg. 74).
In 2 Thessalonians, it is stated that the Lord will not come until the “day of rebellion” does, where an evil one who believes he is higher and any god will take a seat and declare himself God. It is said that this evil being also called the “lawless one” is already planning is evil works and will strike when he is ready. However Jesus will destroy him and win over Satan. The author begs that the people are not afraid or alarmed by what is to come and to be ready for the day the Lord comes. Thessalonians were dealing with a lot of suffering and infliction during this time and so they were told that “God would repay with affliction” to those “who afflict you” (Ehrman, pg. 202)
In these passages, it is easy to see that the early apocalyptic believers all thought that the end times were coming soon. They all believed that it would happen in their lifetime and even Paul thought that this would happen before his eyes. However as time as gone on, we know that the end times are yet to come. These passages still show readers what was expected by the earlier Christians, such as events of devastation and a battle that Christ must fight. All of these books do however offer encouragement and reassurance to their readers. They all also contain bizarre symbolic visions that are interpreted by the prophet. All apocalypses also contain violent repetitions that cause people to believe that it violates the literal sense of the text. The apocalyptic worldview will also include a winning or triumphant ending in order to encourage their audiences to stay faithful. With all this knowledge, we have a better understanding of what to expect when Jesus returns.