The Apocalypse

Have you noticed that every year, someone is passionately predicting that the world is about to end?  Harold Camping (remember him?), Nostradamus, the ancient Mayans, the extinct community discovered near the Dead Sea, and others find their way into various conversations about the future.  The idea of “the end of time” seems to fuel endless discussion, suspicion, and prediction.

But why?  Why are we so interested in something that may or may not happen during our lifetimes?  What is it about a final apocalypse that captures our attention and imagination?

Part of the answer may come from the contexts in which we live.  A brief look at history seems that suggest that interest in the end of the world is often heightened during times of social, religious, political, or economic difficulty.  During experiences of oppression, we have a tendency to look to the future for hope, for revenge, for escape, for deliverance, and sometimes for all four.

Many religions explore the final days of history through their sacred writings, some of which are easier to understand than others.  Historically, much of the western world has been influenced by a Judeo-Christian worldview, and to explore this topic, we need to look at the last book of the Christian Bible – Revelation.

Revelation is named after the first word in the text, the Greek term apokalupsis, from which we get the English “apocalypse”, meaning “the revelation of something previously unknown”.  In this case, it is the revelation of/from Jesus Christ about what would “soon take place”.  As mentioned above, Revelation arose out of a time of intense religious persecution.

The literary genre of Revelation is “Jewish Apocalyptic”, and some of its characteristics are vivid symbolism, figurative language, and predictive prophecy.  Apocalyptic literature is notoriously difficult to interpret, and in terms of the overall historical nature of the book of Revelation, there are four main streams of thought.

Preterist – this interpretive framework suggests that the events described in the book took place almost exclusively during the first century BCE, other than the references to Jesus’ return to earth, and to eternity.

Historicist – this view holds that the events in Revelation describe the general outline of church history, from the time of the first Apostles up to the second coming of Jesus.

Futurist – this perspective concludes that the events in Revelation have not yet occurred, and that they refer to future events that will happen during the end of time.

Idealist/Symbolic – this approach believes that the entire book of Revelation does not describe physical events but instead is an allegory of good versus evil, in which God is ultimately triumphant.

Questions to ask ourselves and others …

  1. What are your thoughts about the end of time?  Will the world “end”, and if so, what will it look like?
  2. What are your beliefs about the afterlife?
  3. Take time this week and ask your friends and co-workers about their views about how the world will end.  Don’t critique, just listen.


PS.  And remember, keep Talking about God! 🙂

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