Writing the Apocalypse: Using Biblical Elements


From the start of my latest project, I wanted to write a believable story about the end of the world.  I also wanted to incorporate Biblical prophesy from the book of Revelation.  However, in doing research into what Christians believe the Bible says about the end I found the views and opinions about it to be as varied as the many denominations that exist in the present age.

First of all, let me preface this post with the caveat that I don’t have all the answers about what the Bible says about the end, and please, if you want to comment, respect the beliefs of the people who comment, Christians or not.  I have several friends of EVERY background (people of and not of faith) and love them all regardless of whether or not they believe as I do.  My novel is a work of fiction.  I really don’t want to get into any discussions about “is there a God?” and all of those kinds of arguments because that is not what this post is about.  This post is simply a catalog of all of the Biblical events that have made their way into my novel.  I am in no way a theologian, just a simple Christian who sees his world through the lens of my beliefs (as anyone does), and feel that if things are to play out as the Bible states, the following would be some things that might happen:

1.  Absence of a Pre-Tribulation Rapture – Tim LaHaye’s books are best sellers.  Christians everywhere want to believe that Jesus is going to take us all out of this world, calling us to fly up to happy heaven so that we will not have to suffer the “great tribulation” prophesied in the book of Revelation.  I am one of those few Christians who have not fallen in line with this extra-Biblical idea.  One thing that I have always done is to take the Bible at face value and to read it as is without trying to place my culture on the text.  The pre-tribulation rapture idea began in 1830 with a woman named Margaret MacDonald who supposedly had a prophetic revelation at a tent revival meeting in Scotland.  Her “vision” stated that there would be two separate returns of Jesus with the first one secretly taking a few elect people away to heaven and then the judgement later after the tribulation period.  One of the attendees of this meeting was none other than C.I. Scofield, the writer of the Scofield Bible.  He fed this idea to an unwary and at first skeptical Christian public who over the years have made it the mainstream view on end times prophesy.  If you want to see the straight Biblical word-for-word on the fallacy behind this idea, read this amazing article by Roger Jimenez who picks it to pieces scripture by scripture.

How this plays in my novel: Jesus and also Paul stated that in the end there would be a great falling away from the faith (Matt. 24, 2 Thess. 2:3).  The “great falling away” in my novel are the Christians who thought that the rapture would come and take them away to happy heaven.  When it didn’t happen and the really bad stuff started happening, they gave up on their faith completely.  The ones who remain are the ones who have an unshakeable faith, or like my hero in the novel who is a Christian not by any convincing of persons, but by simply reading the text of the Bible.

2.  “Real Wrath of God Type Stuff “- The book of Revelation is full of all kinds of horrors.  Have you ever just sat down and read it?  It’s pretty scary stuff.  I decided that rather than write ten books like the silly Left Behind series, I would condense all of the “biblical events” into the span of 7 months rather than 7 years.  The first thing that happens in the Revelation account would be the four horsemen (namely War, Pestilence, Famine and Death) which have already happened at the time the novel begins in the form of World War 3.   I have worked the following 7 trumpet and 7 bowl judgments into the novel in a way that is unobtrusive.  For example, in one scene a huge meteor crashes into the sea causing 5 of the other trumpet judgments to happen as a result.  The characters only witness it fly overhead and disappear over the horizon.  They feel a 5 magnitude quake ten minutes later, but then the debris causes a cloud that blocks out a third of the sunlight.  This also causes several other atmospheric problems that mix with things the humans had already done to the atmosphere through pollution and war.

How this plays in my novel: The events that happen to the earth are secondary to the real drama of surviving in that kind of a world.  Some of the “plagues” that fall upon the earth are due to man’s own doing in damaging the environment beyond a certain tipping point, while others are natural disasters, and some are downright miracles.  If this were a novel about destruction on a biblical scale, then it would become a very boring novel very quickly.  The novel is driven by the characters.   Some of them are not trustworthy, some of them are secret heroes, and some of them are unexpected martyrs.  It is my one desire to insure that the reader not only falls in love with my characters, but that they have their heart twist when one of them unexpectedly gives up their life for their friends or for their faith.  The biblical events are simply a backdrop and nothing more.

3.  Tribulation – The word “tribulation” is used 22 times in the Bible.  Each time it is used it is referring to a persecution by the world or a government system on the believer in Christ (see Matthew 13:21, Romans 8:35, 2 Corinthians 1:4, Revelation 1:9 for a few references). World wide persecution of Christians or any other faith is plausible if one looks at history.  We have several examples such as Emperor Nero lighting Christians on fire to light his garden (who some theologians feel was the Antichrist mentioned in Revelation), the deplorable crusades where millions of Muslims were killed in the name of Christ, and Nazi Germany where millions of innocent Jews were murdered.  Human history is full of stories of those who were hunted simply for the things they believed.   It is estimated that every 5 minutes a Christian is killed for their faith somewhere in the world.  How many other people of faith are killed for their beliefs?

How this plays in my novel: I don’t want to give too much away here, but the world government that arises in my novel is one that on the surface seems like a sort of all inclusive form of American Christianity.  It is a shiny happy utopia set in what is left of the Middle East and it is overseen by a powerful figure who is more like Rick Warren in appearance than the sinister guy in the Left Behind series.  It is like this: A chief characteristic of Satan is that he is supposed to be the chief of all liars, the ultimate deceiver and has had millennia to plan his domination of the planet.  Do you really think his ultimate regime would be out in the open as blatantly evil?  Babylon is going to be the greatest place on earth to live.  EVERYONE is going to want to live there and will do ANYTHING to stay living there.  Think more “lotus eaters” and less “1984”.

Have you ever tried to write a novel or a short story with Biblical or religious prophecy as a backdrop?  Have you ever considered it?  What are some of the problems with using this in a novel or short story?  Sound off.

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4 thoughts on “Writing the Apocalypse: Using Biblical Elements

  1. Fascinating stuff that caught my eye. I, too, am against the non-Biblical pretrib view. But you might want to re-check your history of it. For example, Scofield was born in 1843 and couldn’t have been at a meeting in 1830. The most accurate documentation I’ve found on pretrib rapture history is from the pen of journalist and historian Dave MacPherson and I have his highly endorsed, accurate and greatly detailed work titled THE RAPTURE PLOT obtainable at Armageddon Books etc. – 300 readable pages for about the cost of a couple of Happy Meals. Pretrib authors can always get kudos from fellow pretribbers. But MacPherson has commendations from many evangelical scholars who don’t have an axe to grind either for or against pretrib, which says a lot. The one pretrib promoter who constantly muddies up facts (either carelessly or deliberately) is Thomas Ice who is LaHaye’s publicist and defender; Google “Thomas Ice (Bloopers)” and “Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty” for some shocks! Lord bless, you are the wave of the future!

  2. Not yet with a religious prophecy as the background, but I’m at the editing stage of a novel with a scientific prophecy dictating many people’s actions or lack thereof. This novel also includes events with heavy religious implications, and because of these many start to believe the end is most nigh indeed. It was difficult to imagine honest stages of reactions to these events for people of different faiths (and those without faith), and what would happen around the world once the initial shock wore off. I’m not sure I’ve done the best job of it – these events set off part of the story, they aren’t the focus of it, so I might not have given it all the attention it deserves. I think as well, trying to envision a likely scenario when large scale, unprecedented religious events and mass media/communication meet is an interesting challenge.
    The main (and I suppose fairly obvious) concern in using religion in this way in stories, I think, is that the content is going to be offensive. I didn’t really think about it while writing, and I’m not setting out to offend anyone (the events came first, my realisation of the religious implications later). But considering the nature of religion, I’m sure someone would be offended whatever I say. I suppose all that can be done is to finish the story so it’s told in the best way possible, and try not to worry about it too much.
    I’m really looking forward to reading your novel, it sounds fantastic – already holding out for the unsuspecting martyrs, I’m a sucker for them :)

  3. My mother, author of cyclingrandma at wordpress sends me your Tolkien based articles, which I’ve enjoyed. I’m working on a novel based on the life of Abraham, assuming the premise that all wisdom traditions, East as well as West, originated in Abraham’s revelation (which built upon the original tradition of Adam.)

    I’m about 100 pages in. I’d be happy to share what I’ve done so far if you’re interested.

    Be blessed!

    Jacob Winkler

    http://www.glorytothehighest.com

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