Normally one would not welcome Armageddon with rejoicing, but in this instance ….     My book is published today:  Armageddon: What the Bible Really Says about the End.  Now this is a book that has, in some sense, been in the works for 50 years, since the first time I started pondering the Apocalypse of John as a 17 year old, about to head off to Moody Bible Institute and realizing I better read the final book of the NT — even though I was scared of it — before taking the first-year Entrance Exam on the Bible possibly whiffing on a question about Revelation.j

It took me a while to start figuring out the book — say, grad school — and about five years ago, as I began to study it really intensely, I changed my views of it.  Hence the book.

For reasons I explain in it, of all the books I’ve written I think this is the one most relevant for our world at large.  And not because I think the apocalypse will hit next month.  Though, given the state of things, maybe it will.

I explain the book and its relevance a *bit* in the Preface:


Many early Christians opposed the book of Revelation and argued it should not be included in the New Testament. The author, they insisted, was not an apostle and the book presented unacceptable views of the future of earth and the people who will inherit it. In the end, of course, they lost the argument. Once the book was widely accepted as Scripture, the followers of Jesus had to figure out how to make sense of it.

Over the long course of Christian history, many readers of the Bible have opted simply not to delve into its mysteries. Even today, most find the book of Revelation bizarre and unapproachable. Those who do read it usually fall into two camps. Since the end of the nineteenth century, most evangelical Christians have taken the book as a blueprint for events soon to come. These readers are convinced that the book’s prophecies are now, at last, being fulfilled. God has begun to intervene in history through a series of foreordained disasters. At a final confrontation of the powers of good and evil, the Battle of Armageddon, Christ will appear from heaven to destroy his enemies. But true believers in Jesus will survive and thrive in a glorious utopia—a city of gold with gates of pearl, from which they will rule the world for all time.

On the other side of the interpretive spectrum, liberal Christian scholars argue the book does not provide a literal description of divinely ordained catastrophes. It is instead a metaphorical narrative meant to provide a message of hope for those who suffer now, much as Christ himself suffered when he was among us. In this view, Revelation seeks to show that while evil is pervasive and misery rampant, the Ruler of all will eventually make right everything that is wrong. The book does not describe the imminent end of history as we know it; it celebrates God as the ultimate source of hope for all who follow him.

I have held both these views at different times in my life, and I now think they are both wrong.

I began my study of Revelation as a teenager in the mid-1970s. As a committed evangelical Christian, I considered every word of the Bible inspired and true, and I heartily embraced a literal reading of the prophecies of Revelation, convinced they showed beyond any doubt that Jesus was soon to return from heaven, and then there would be hell to pay, at least for those who, unlike me, were not true believers.

After some years, as I engaged in a more rigorous study of the Bible, I came to see the difficulties with this view and began to explore the book of Revelation from a more historical perspective. I realized why it was important to understand the work in its own context in relation to other ancient Jewish and Christian books collectively called “apocalypses.” These are endlessly fascinating works that narrate visions of things to come in order to show how the awful realities of earth can be explained by the truths of heaven, with the goal of providing comfort.

This is how I taught the book when I began my university career, as a graphic but nonliteral proclamation of hope for those who are suffering. All will be well in the end. Good will triumph. God will prevail. And he will “wipe away every tear” (Revelation 21:4).

I eventually had to abandon this understanding of the book. It was difficult for me to do so, just as earlier in life it had been hard to give up on the idea that Revelation was predicting our future. In this book, I show why I think both views are flawed. In the first part I explain how a “futuristic” understanding of the book as a blueprint for what is yet to come evolved and why this reading is almost certainly wrong—even though it continues to be the view of evangelical Christians and of American culture at large.

In the second part, I show why I also don’t think Revelation provides a comforting message for the vast majority of those who suffer in this life. The overwhelming emphasis of Revelation is not about hope but about the wrath and vengeance of God against those who have incurred his displeasure. For the author of Revelation, that entails the vast majority of those who have ever lived, including, perhaps surprisingly, a number of committed Christians. The largest section of Revelation describes God inflicting horrible suffering on the planet: war, starvation, disease, drought, earthquake, torture, and death. The catastrophes end with the Battle of Armageddon, where Christ destroys all the armies of earth and calls on the scavengers of the sky to gorge themselves on their flesh. This is the climax of the history of earth.

But it is not the end of all things. After the slaughter there will be a final judgment, when God’s faithful followers, his “slaves,” will be saved; everyone else who has ever lived will be brought back to life and then thrown, while still alive, into a lake of burning sulfur. Afterward, God will reward his obedient slaves by giving them a glorious new city of gold with gates of pearl. That is indeed a happy ending for some, but not because God loves them deeply—at least the book never says so. The saved are God’s minions who do what he demands. The love of God—for anyone or anything—is never mentioned in the book of Revelation, not once.

At the end of this book, I consider why Revelation was nearly excluded from the New Testament and ponder whether the ancient Christian opponents of the book may in fact have had some valid insights. In particular, I compare the views of its author, John of Patmos, with the teachings of Jesus. John certainly considered himself follower of Jesus—a particularly ardent follower. But are his views actually consistent with those of his Lord? Would Jesus have accepted John’s celebration of violence, quest for vengeance, passion for glory, and hope for world domination? Did he not instead urge his followers to pursue love, non-retaliation, poverty, and service?

Different readers, of course, will answer these questions differently. I would simply urge anyone who wants to pursue them to read, or reread, Revelation to see what it actually says. That is what I have tried to do here.

My book is not, however, meant simply to provide a better interpretation of the Apocalypse of John. I also explain how a literal reading has created disastrous problems, including personal and psychological damage of myriads around us: family members, friends, and neighbors. But there is more than that. The expectation—or, rather, hope—for imminent Armageddon has affected our world in ways you might not expect, involving carnage, US foreign policy, and the welfare of our planet.

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2023-03-22T15:22:32-04:00March 21st, 2023|Book Discussions, Revelation of John|

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  1. dabizi March 21, 2023 at 8:14 am

    I am glad you are writing this to expose the depraved lunacy of Revelation. I was raised in the JW cult for much of my childhood… JWs embrace the apocolyptic vision of Revelation as “Good News” and hope for Armageddon when most of the world, including most Christians, will die. Revelation’s description of how they will die is repulsive and evil: people burning alive, giant hail raining down causing head injuries and death, starvation and plague causing sepsis and death. As a child i could not help but think it was immoral to revel in so much suffering and death. One day an “Elder” chastised the congregation for hoping for Armageddon to come soon because “billions and bilions will die.” He cautioned those who might have their eye on taking over a certain house overlooking the ridge after its current occupants die (he was probably thinking of his own dark thoughts). Sickening!

    I can understand why people become atheists. But most atheists go too far, and Einstein was spot on: “I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist whose fervor is mostly due to a painful act of liberation from the fetters of religious indoctrination received in youth.”

  2. MeridaGOround March 21, 2023 at 8:22 am


    • BDEhrman March 21, 2023 at 8:16 pm

      Sorry ’bout that. Just to go Amazon and you’ll find it!

  3. TomTerrific March 21, 2023 at 8:51 am

    Amazon says my copy will arrive tomorrow, the 22d.

  4. RonaldTaska March 21, 2023 at 1:57 pm

    Wow! Congratulations! You are one of the most productive people I have ever known and you have had an incredible influence on my religious journey which, in so many ways, is very similar to your journey with much less scholarly education, especially the foreign language part, but I think I have, at last, mastered the basic issues and wound up very close to where you have wound up except that the incredible creation of this amazing universe leaves me still wondering where it all came from. Surely, not from NOTHING. That just doesn’t make sense. Of course, God coming from NOTHING makes even less sense. Thanks so much for your amazing contributions in trade books, textbooks, courses, and, of course, this website of which I have read every entry. And, in addition, you seem to be a very good and decent man.

    • BDEhrman March 24, 2023 at 5:00 pm

      Thanks. I really appreciate it, especially coming from you.

      My view is that lots of reality doesn’t make sense. Quantum physics, e.g. Or, well, in my case, my toaster.

  5. mwbaugh March 21, 2023 at 3:33 pm

    Looking forward to reading this with much anticipation.

  6. James Williams March 21, 2023 at 4:59 pm

    Dear Dr Ehrman,
    When will the Kindle edition be out?
    Thanking you,

    • BDEhrman March 24, 2023 at 1:27 pm

      Sorry to be late responding. I believe it wsa released at the same time as the book.

  7. curtiswolf69 March 21, 2023 at 6:15 pm

    Reading it now. So far quite intriguing!

  8. Judith March 21, 2023 at 7:07 pm

    Let’s tell Terry Gross (Fresh Air) to have Professor Ehrman back for his new book! ([email protected] or 818-700-1233)..

    • BDEhrman March 24, 2023 at 1:28 pm

      I’m recording with her on March 30! Not sure when it will be released.

  9. Devichan March 22, 2023 at 2:58 am

    Just finished the first part. Dr. Ehrman, I was entering my senior year in high school in 1988 (in Raleigh no less!) and I remember that “88 Reasons” book. I had just found my own faith in Neopaganism and asking other teens “So you’re okay with me suffering forever because of a mistake?” taught me who my friends were. I’m looking forward to listening more to my copy and hearing more of your thoughts.

  10. Moshe March 22, 2023 at 5:12 am

    Since I pre-ordered as you suggested, my copy arrived on the 21st and I immediately started reading it. I can already tell that it’s up to your usual high standard.


  11. Hormiga March 22, 2023 at 7:59 am

    > from which they will rule the world for all time

    What does that even mean?

    The world will be empty of people, most of the former inhabitants being either in Heaven or (mostly) Hell. And, assuming that there actually were somebody to rule, how would the rule be implemented? By United States Marines?

    If the Army and the Navy
    Ever look on Heaven’s scenes;
    They will find the streets are guarded
    By United States Marines.

    • BDEhrman March 24, 2023 at 1:45 pm

      It’s one of the amazing ironies of Revelation, which I talk about in my book. At the last judgment everyone but the Christiains get destroyed and then in the next chapter the Christians are said to rule everyone else — kings, peoples, etc.! Ok then.

      • AngeloB March 29, 2023 at 4:13 am

        That doesn’t make any sense at all!

  12. Hormiga March 22, 2023 at 8:37 am

    Are you aware of any attempts to create a psychological profile of the author of Revelation? In the US at least, law enforcement sometimes profiles suspects based on their writings.

    • BDEhrman March 24, 2023 at 1:50 pm

      It’s much harder with someone living in an entirely different time and world from ours, since we necessarily apply our modern psychological notions to ancient people whose understandings of reality were so different from ours, that there’s no way to verify what we suspect (e.g., that he was an epileptic who had visions, or was using hallucinatory drugs, or was schizophrenic, or was teh victim of abuse, etc.)

  13. RuthE March 22, 2023 at 3:57 pm

    Let’s see…The WHO voting in May to dictate all nations’ response to future pandemics, Central Bank Digital Currency coming–not this year, maybe next–so the things we buy and sell can be controlled based on Social Credit scores (like outlawing gas stoves, gas cars, washing machines, food that is too fattening or meat, which they want to make scarce–see the short World Economic Forum video on that), neural implants, outlawing certain types of speech, control of the Press by the government, gathering the data of every person on earth through social media, which is then turned over by Big Tech to the government, and on ad infinitum.
    Klaus Schwab’s buddy Yuval Harari saying, “Covid is critical because this is what convinces people to accept total biometric surveillance. If we want to stop this epidemic we need not just to monitor people — we need to monitor what’s happening under the skin.” And, “We need to be able to hack human beings.”
    What’s happening today is beyond what anyone could have imagined when we first read Revelation or The Late Great Planet Earth. It’s far more sophisicated than we ever dreamed or could portray in those dorky 70s (or even 90s) prophecy movies.

  14. SnowFire March 23, 2023 at 12:20 am

    I’m enjoying the book!
    One typo I found, though, if it can be fixed for e-books / any future printings: In Chapter 5, “Interpretation”, on the dating of the Book of Daniel:
    “…the Jewish people at the time of the book’s writing (in the 160s CE) were experiencing…”
    Should be 160s BCE, not CE.
    (This is in the Google Play ebook edition, if it matters.)

  15. rezubler March 23, 2023 at 8:27 am


    Just finished the book. It is very well written for consumption by non-scholars and I am sure your publisher will be happy with the sales! Thank you!

  16. Okgo5555 March 23, 2023 at 9:37 am

    Congrats Bart,

    Got the book 3x over (audible, Amazon, and Barnes and Noble). I loved it! I understand your position on Revelation’s theology standing in opposition to the teaching and ethics of Jesus (and possibly his followers as well).

    I was thinking: What about Revelation as a *merely* cathartic fantasy of retribution?

    So, is there an ancient genre that would line up with a work that acts as an expression of anger that would not be taken literally or as a call to action? I’m thinking of how a bullied or abused child might fantasize about wiping out their abuser as a coping mechanism without ever having the literal intent- or even nerves- to ever do it? If any of that were plausible or reasonable understanding of Revelation, would it be appropriate to pass moral or ethical judgement on that person’s expression of those feelings (in this case, John of Patmos)?

    • BDEhrman March 24, 2023 at 4:31 pm

      Most apocalypses can be seen that way, I suppose. God will avenge his people, they don’t do it themselves. We don’t know what John’s intents or inner thoughts or psychological struggles were. All we have are his words. And I think they do indeed lend themselves to moral evaluation.

      • Okgo5555 March 25, 2023 at 11:29 am

        Now, it could be my very “conservative” (i despise how that term has been co-opted), churchy, (sometimes) vitriolic upbringing, but dramatically violent stuff in Apocolypses always landed with me as the kind of things you fantasize about as a victim (percieved or otherwise).

        Growing up, I would write down or day dream about being able to cuss-out, or violently respond to the stronger, coercive forces (abusive adults) around me. It would have felt *REALLY GOOD* to corner my spiritually manipulative Youth Director in a dramatic, public Perry Mason style moment. Fantasizing about finally knocking a physically abusive parent out cold to finally stand up for myself was a way to cope with my unwillingness or inability to actually do so or even desire to do so in reality.

        So, maybe i have this space in my head for fictional violence-as-coping-mechanism that can be hard to relate to for some people? Maybe i’m totally off-base? 💁‍♂️

        Even if I am off, it never occured to me that I could be for the reasons listed above.

        To be clear, I am an ardent passivist and decidely non-violent actor in the world.

  17. LeBeck March 23, 2023 at 12:56 pm

    My copy arrived exactly on March 21st! I spent yesterday trying to slowly read it so I would not finish it quickly (because then I just have to start waiting for another Bart Erhman book!). It’s just wonderful and I’m now ordering copies for friends.

  18. RAhmed March 23, 2023 at 2:21 pm

    I received my copy of the book today. Congratulations on another published book! Thank you for listing me in the acknowledgements section! I noticed you had to tone down your sentence about the “plight of the Palestinians”. I imagine the original wording would have been a bit too controversial. So far I have only skimmed it, but I’m looking forward to reading this again in its final form. I went ahead and got two more copies for friends of mine, one who has had a few conspiracy theories of his own based on his understanding of Revelation. It will be interesting to hear his opinion on it!

    Also, what kind of feedback have you gotten from the conservative Christian community on this so far?

    • BDEhrman March 24, 2023 at 4:37 pm

      Nothing so far. But I’m bracing myself….

    • sLiu March 28, 2023 at 1:57 pm

      ” feedback have you gotten from the conservative Christian community”
      I doubt most of the folks are triune God lifers

  19. MichaelBurke March 23, 2023 at 4:45 pm


  20. fragmentp52 March 24, 2023 at 5:08 pm

    Hello Bart. I hope all is well. Here is an early review of the book which may interest you :

    • BDEhrman March 26, 2023 at 11:20 am

      Many thanks! And, well… Sigh…. This person doesn’t understand the difference between a trade book for a general audience and an academic treatment. But yes, for those who want serious academic arguments at every point with lots of footnotes to the scholarship then it can indeed be incredibly frustrating ot read a trade book. But a trade book that is written like that is not a trade book, it’s an academic book, and never the twain shall meet….

      • fragmentp52 March 26, 2023 at 8:07 pm

        Hello Bart. You’re most welcome. I guess it’s impossible to get the balance right for every reader. No doubt there will be folks who will find Armageddon too scholarly.

        May I ask an off topic question ? It’s sort of flippant, but maybe it isn’t. Do you consider the Trinity to be a kind of polytheism on the sly ?

        Thank you.

        • BDEhrman March 29, 2023 at 7:09 pm

          I don’t think I’d put it that way, no. The ones who came up with the view were on the contrary insistent on monotheism, and that was precisely the problem….

          • fragmentp52 March 29, 2023 at 9:54 pm

            Thank you Bart. I’m no expert , and perhaps it’s an ill informed position to take, but it feels like the church fathers backed themselves into a theological corner with the trinity, and had to retrofit an explanation to reconcile everything. I would suggest the same thing happened with the resurrection and the virgin birth. A series of post hoc explanations to explain the bizarre or inexplicable.

            Thank you.

  21. dankoh March 24, 2023 at 8:44 pm

    I had pre-ordered my copy and it was waiting for me this morning when we got back from Auckland. I’m reading it now between jetlag naps. Looks good! (And thanks for mentioning me in the Acknowledgements.)

    • rrogers April 1, 2023 at 4:29 pm

      Dan, I just ordered your recent book and look forward to reading it. Bart, I’ve just finished, Armageddon, and think it may be your best trade book. On May 21, 2011, I stood on Tel Megiddo and awaited Harold Camping’s reported Rapture. I have a picture somewhere with my arms raised pleadingly to heaven. My colleagues and I, as snarky agnostics, had no real expectations. But the moment–even though the location has no connection to the world-wide event and my childhood premillennial-dispensational fundamentalism was only a distant memory (knowing Lindsey, Van Impe and Walvoord personally in my youth)–seemed somehow weighty for me. I look forward to your Rapture lecture and will be leading book-club discussions on your new book at several churches and senior centers, if for no other reason than old-man therapy.

      • dankoh April 2, 2023 at 8:00 pm

        Great! If you could post even a small review on Amazon, that would help me a lot. (It doesn’t matter if you bought it there.)disabledupes{66d39ae34d36acc407cd53622786672d}disabledupes

  22. Redhash March 25, 2023 at 4:16 am

    I am almost finished with the book, it’s fantastic by the way. One of my favorite parts you asked is “How would Christians receive Revelation if it “DID NOT” become canon. I’ve asked this as well, in fact I wondered how Christians today would have justified The Apocalypse of Peter (let’s say hypothetically it became canon over Revelation). If you can justify Revelation, you can most likely justify The Apocalypse of Peter.

    It wouldn’t be difficult as well. They would just simply say it’s “symbolic” and not literal. All those poor fellas hanging over the flames on hooks by their genitals is “just a metaphor” for being a prisoner to their sexual appetite and desire, etc.. Etc..

    It’s amusing though, considering it’s not canon any Christian can read the Apocalypse of Peter with disgust and horror! I would imagine, if the books were “swapped” Christians would read John’s Apocalypse and have the same response of disgust and dread.

  23. kt March 25, 2023 at 7:48 am

    Congratulations on the publication of your book. I’m sure that it will be an important contribution into the fundamentalist environment in the US, which seems to plague parts of the American society.

    Personally, I find it impossible to take the book of Revelation literally. One ends up with too many loose ends and it simply doesn’t make sense. It just becomes somewhat absurd to me.

    My previous favorite exegetical interpretation, although, perhaps, I did not fully believe in it, of the apocalyptic imagery in the book of Revelation was a historical and symbolic account of the conflict between the early Christian community and the Roman Empire where its imagery and symbolism was in light of the historical events of the time and to remain faithful to Christ’s victory over the Roman Empire, in order to establish a perfect world.
    I lost the belief in this idea as well. It just don’t plays out for me as I thought it did years ago.


    • kt March 25, 2023 at 7:49 am


      If, and only if, there is something to this book, after reading it many times, it appears to be a message of spiritual transformation and the realization of humanity’s divine nature, in which Christ plays a role as a “way”. I think it seems to serves as a symbolic guide for the soul’s journey towards enlightenment and spiritual growth. The concept of the seven churches, centers, or chakras or whatever, seems to be commonly used in the ancient world, is well-suited to the book’s themes. The opening of the chakras by the Lion of Judah, rather than a guru as in some Hindu traditions, also aligns with known concepts in the ancient world. Furthermore, the latter part of the book (chapter12-22) is well-suited to modern Jungian concepts and the idea shared by other religious ideas of spiritual transformation into a “New Jerusalem” and a brand “New Heaven”,,,, state. It might be an eisegesis interpretation, but I really think it plays out well for me at least.

      When my constantly to high workload permits, I will definitely read your book and perhaps/I hope that it provides me with perspectives that I have not yet encountered. On my level,that is not unlikely.

      Good luck with the sale of your book !

  24. curtiswolf69 March 27, 2023 at 9:33 am

    Do you think that the prevalence of violence and domination in Revelation had to do at least in part with the fact that both of these were commonplace in the ancient world. Much of what I have read in ancient history consists of some country invading another country and enslaving its population. It’s actually remarkable that Jesus’ thinking was so different. John just saw things the way that was the norm at the time. What do you think?

    • BDEhrman March 29, 2023 at 7:15 pm

      Yup, I thihnk the followers of Jesus in the decades after his death *generally* moved back to adopt Roman and Greek values and perspectives ; the book I’m working on now on Jesus’ ethics will be arguing that with respect to his ethical teachings.

  25. rivercrowman March 30, 2023 at 8:45 am

    Started reading Armageddon yesterday. Your superb writing style hasn’t changed. Thanks for writing it!

  26. WSchilling April 1, 2023 at 2:57 pm

    Two items: 1. I was also reading “A Brief History of Spain” by Jeremy Black when my copy of Armageddon arrived. Interestingly according to Black, “In his ‘Book of Prophecies,’ compiled before his fourth voyage to the Caribbean, in 1502, Columbus argued that the end of the world would occur in 155 years, and that his own discoveries had been foretold in the Bible.” 2. Armageddon ends “For those of us who choose to follow Jesus – whatever religious tradition we call our own – our understanding of Jesus will almost certainly affect how we model our lives.” Are you a “follower of Jesus?”

    • BDEhrman April 2, 2023 at 6:53 pm

      Yes, I consider myself a Christian Atheist. I don’t follow him strictly (I haven’t sold everything or taken up my cross), but I do try to model my relations with others on his teachings.

  27. thepauldasilva April 2, 2023 at 7:32 am

    Hi Bart, I’m having trouble finding it in the Kindle store. Do you know if it is meant to be available there yet? Very keen to read it.

    • BDEhrman April 2, 2023 at 8:22 pm

      I don’t know. It’s on Kindle in Amazon.

  28. Sblake1 April 12, 2023 at 10:47 am

    Dr. Ehrman – I have a question about Rev 10:6 – This verse is the inspiration for Oliver Messiaen’s remarkable “Quartet for the End of Time.” And (supposedly) his French bible included the translation that included the word “time.” The NRSV reads – “… there will be no more delay.” But the Greek clearly contains the word “chronos” which I understand to mean chronological time. So when it is stated that “the word ‘time’ does not appear” which I heard a presenter state, that seems to me incorrect. How did the NRSV come to translate this phrase this way without using the word “time?” And what is the relationship between “chronos” time and “kairos” time? Thank you…

    • BDEhrman April 17, 2023 at 7:40 pm

      Yes, chronos refers to chronological time; the verse literally says, “there will no longe be any time.” My hunch is that the translators didn’t want readers to think that “time” as a phenomenon was being cancelled but that the end was soon. Kairos more commonly means something like “suitable moment” or “right time” for something.

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