I’ll go out on a limb and say “no,” the apocalypse will not happen in 2012. There are several reasons I’m almost certain. First, the Greek word apokalupsis means “to unveil, uncover, lay open what has covered up.” The first verse in the book of Revelation reads:
“The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must shortly take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John” (Rev. 1:1).
The word itself does not convey calamity but clarity. The forces of evil do not win in an end-time battle to rival all battles.
Second, “The revelation (apokalupsis) of Jesus Christ” describes “the things which must shortly take place.” The word “shortly” means what it means for us: soon, before long. The book of Revelation does not describe events that will take place in the distant future but events that were on the horizon for Revelation’s first readers because, as John is told, “the time is near” (1:3).
Greg Stier, the author of “Apocalypse: Could 2012 Be the Year of Christ’s Return?,” begins his article with Revelation 22:7: “Look,” Jesus says to John, “I am coming soon!” (Rev. 22:7). Keep in mind that this was written nearly 2000 years ago. “Coming soon” refers to a judgment coming of Jesus what was near to those who first read Revelation. This is why John could write that he was a “fellow partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and perseverance which are in Jesus” (Rev. 1:9). John persevered through the period of tribulation that Revelation describes as the church has done for 2000 years.
While citing Revelation 22:7 that Jesus said He was “coming soon,” Stier jumps two millennia in the future for the fulfillment:
[T]here are true signs of the times on a global scale from economic turmoil to military tensions to religious conflicts. The Eurozone has transformed into a financial roller coaster and the “Arab Spring” has been carried over into Winter. A crazy dictator died and now his unknown son rules the nuclear-enabled roost (AKA “North Korea”). All of this sounds like iron mixed with clay (Daniel 2:43) mixed with the plot from a Left Behind DVD to me.
So will 2012 be the year of Christ’s return?
According to Grant S. Osborne in his commentary on Revelation, the Greek word taxu “does not mean Christ is coming ‘quickly’ but ‘very soon’ (as in 1:7; 22:7).”1 It’s not that when Jesus comes it will be fast; it means, as it meant to the first readers of Revelation, that He was coming in short order to bring an end to the old covenant order.
Stier misses the point because he misses the timing and the message of Revelation. He ignores the time indicators in the first chapter (Rev. 1:1, 3, 7) and the last chapter (22:10, 7, 12, 20) of Revelation.
Revelation illustrates what was going to take happen to the nation of Israel, events described by Jesus in the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24; Mark 13; Luke 21) and by the Roman-Jewish historian Titus Flavius Josephus (A.D. 37–100) in The Jewish War, a history of Jewish revolt against Roman occupation (A.D. 66 to 70). For a study of this topic, see the books Is Jesus Coming Soon? and Last Days Madness.
Prophecy pundits for centuries have pointed to world conditions to argue for a near end of all things in their day claiming that Revelation was the basis for their views. They have a 100 percent record of being wrong. Such speculation leads the faithful to believe that imminent destruction is inevitable and nothing can be done to stop it.
While the forces of good look for an imminent end, evil forces plan for greater expansion of their influence. The problem, therefore, is with those who have the goods to change society. The forces of evil win by default.
It’s time that Christians stop with the end-time hype and speculation and get to work in taking back lost territory surrendered to the destroyers of culture. We’ve seen the harsh realities of wars, famines, earthquakes, and the like, and we are still here. The former Soviet Union was a bigger threat than Iran or North Korea. North Korea can’t even feed its people and light its cities. Yes, Iran could launch a nuclear missile, but it would be the last thing Iran ever did. The Arab Spring is turning into an Arab Winter of discontent.
- Revelation: Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Academic, 2002), 194, note 24. [↩]