Apocalyptic Literature

jordantmoody —  November 10, 2012 — 1 Comment

As a result of my seminary class I am taking online I have been studying apocalyptic literature. Here are a few of my thoughts. I thought they were interesting maybe you will too.

What is a definition of apocalyptic literature?

The word apocalypse is a Greek word meaning “revelation” and is typically focused around the book of Revelation.[1] However, the name can resound with any type of writing that corresponds with a literature that reveals certain mysteries about heaven and earth, angels and demons, and the world to come. The difficulty with apocalyptic literature and the general traits of an apocalypse is our physical senses need physical perceptions to comprehend. “Apocalypic language may use symbols as metaphors for the purpose of referring to concrete objects or events as well as abstract ideas.”[2]  Nothing highlights man’s limits then reading apocalyptic literature. Explaining unseen realities to primarily seeing beings is challenging. This is the nature of the genre, it challenges the reader to perceive beyond ones senses but draws on physical symbols and images describing forms above our perceptions allow. Visions, ethics, and powerful symbolism are all characteristics of apocalyptic literature. Revelation characterizes these divisions well. Revelation is literally about a vision received from John. Chapters 2 and 3 are ethically challenging the churches in Asia Minor. Revelation is filled with symbolism based soley on visions or illustrations of the churches of Asia Minor as relating to the seven golden lampstands.

What’s the purpose and reason of apocalyptic literature?

I feel an important thought to keep in mind in dealing with apocalyptic literature is the nature and purpose of the literature. All literature is written with intention and when relating to God’s inspired Word nothing is neutral. God purposefully enshrouds this literature in mystery all the while giving hope to the suffering.[1]

God’s mysteries are purposeful. He requires us to trust his wisdom and sovereignty. We know he will change the future for his glory. We know he will not let us go and will hold us and keep us until he returns and we see His face. Until that time, we will suffer in this world for it is ruled by Satan. But the situation will change in the future. Apocalyptic literature is purposeful because he reveals to us his complexity and control as it supersedes our understanding. We are small and insignificant and yet he involves our simple and finite minds in his plan of redemption. He does it to give us hope.

The hope he gives through apocalyptic literature is empowering. God reveals His glory to his people. This glory will one day come to His people one day and we must look forward to that day in the future where he will consummate our glorification.[2] Apocalyptic literature gives us hope for the future because we know simply that God wins in the end. Through suffering, trials, and temptations we know that God will come again to take us home to be with him some day. Press on for God wins and as a result of his grace we win.




I'm a Pastor/Teaching Elder at Hope Fellowship Church in New Ipswich, NH.

One response to Apocalyptic Literature


    Good stuff! Perhaps all of prophecy and apocalyptic revelation can be boiled down to what you said at the end of the post: “God wins!” This truly gives us hope. I’d be interested to hear more about what you see as symbolic and what you see as literal within the genre at the end of your study. This is something I really don’t understand a whole lot about and sometimes wonder how anyone makes sense of any of it!

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