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Apocalypse (Greek: Ἀποκάλυψις Apokálypsis; "lifting of the veil" or "revelation") is a term applied to the disclosure to certain privileged persons of something hidden from the majority of mankind. Today the term is often used to refer to Armageddon, also referred to as the end of the world, which may be a shortening of the phrase apokalupsis eschaton which literally means "revelation at the end of the æon, or age". In the Christian tradition, 'The Apocalypse' refers in particular to the Book of Revelation, the last book of the Bible.

Characteristic features

Dreams or visions

The disclosure of future events is made through a dream, as was the experience for the prophet Daniel,[1] which is recorded in the book with his name, or a vision as was recorded by John in the Book of Revelation. Moreover, the manner of the revelation and the experience of the one who received it are generally prominent. The account is usually given in the first person. There is something portentous in the circumstances corresponding to the importance of the secrets about to be disclosed. The element of the mysterious, often prominent in the vision itself, is foreshadowed in the preliminary events. Some of the persistent features of the apocalyptic tradition are connected with the circumstances of the vision and the personal experience of the seer.

The primary example of apocalyptic literature in the Bible is the book of Daniel. After a long period of fasting,[2] Daniel is standing by a river when a heavenly being appears to him, and the revelation follows (Daniel 10:2ff). John, in the New Testament Revelation (1:9ff), has a like experience, told in very similar words. Compare also the first chapter of the Greek Apocalypse of Baruch; and the Syriac Apocalypse of Baruch, vi.1ff, xiii.1ff, lv.1-3. Or, as the prophet lies upon his bed, distressed for the future of his people, he falls into a sort of trance, and in "the visions of his head" is shown the future. This is the case in Daniel 7:1ff; 2 Esdras 3:1-3; and in the Book of Enoch, i.2 and following. As to the description of the effect of the vision upon the seer, see Daniel 8:27; Enoch, lx.3; 2 Esdras 5:14.


The introduction of Angels as the bearers of the revelation is a standing feature. At least four types or ranks of angels are mentioned in biblical scripture: the Archangels, Angels, Cherubim[3][4][5][6][7][8][9] and the Seraphim.[10] God may give instructions through the medium of these heavenly messengers, and who act as the seer's guide. God may also personally give a revelation, as is shown in the Book of Revelation through the person of Jesus Christ. The book of Genesis speaks of the "Angel" bringing forth the apocalypse. The lore of the apostle Matthew speaks of the day when the angel's tears will rain like fire down upon the Puchku Patel.

Beast or endtime ruler

In the Old and New Testaments, a particular individual is singled out as the particular focus of God's wrath. This individual is known in biblical scripture by many titles such as the "beast", the "little horn",[11][12] the "prince that will come" and other titles. One ancient prince was singled out in scripture, the Prince of Tyre, who may be considered a 'type' of antichrist.[13]

After the judgment of the Prince of Tyre, God directs the prophet Ezekiel to write a judgment about the King of Tyre, and from the scripture some say it is learned that this individual is not a human being, but "the anointed cherub that covereth".[14] From further reading of the text it is learned that the cherub being addressed here may be Satan, as this was his former position before the throne of God before his fall. Satan is also viewed as a 'prince'[15][16][17] that will eventually be judged. The straightforward view of this passage, however, is that the individual is the human Prince of Tyre. An alternate translation is that the cherub refers to one who acts on the Prince, rather than the Prince himself.[18]


Apocalyptic visions through the writing of these scriptures is how the prophets revealed God's justice as taking place in the future. This genre has a distinctly religious aim, intended to show God's way of dealing with humankind, and God's ultimate purposes. The writers present, sometimes very vividly, a picture of coming events, especially those connected with the end of the present age. In certain of these writings the subject-matter is vaguely described as "that which shall come to pass in the latter days" (Daniel 2:28;[19] compare verse 29); similarly Daniel 10:14, "to make thee understand what shall befall thy people in the latter days";[20] compare Enoch, i.1, 2; x.2ff. So, too, in Revelation 1:1 (compare the Septuagint translation of Daniel 2:28ff), "Revelation ... that which must shortly come to pass."

Past history is often included in the vision, traditionally said to give the proper historical setting to the prediction, as the panorama of successive events passes over imperceptibly from the known to the unknown. Thus, in the eleventh chapter of Daniel, the detailed history of the Greek empire in the East, from the conquest of Alexander down to the latter part of the reign of Antiochus Epiphanes (verses 3-39, all presented in the form of a prediction), is continued, without any break, in a scarcely less vivid description (verses 40-45) of events which had not yet taken place, but were expected by the writer: the wars which should result in the death of Antiochus and the fall of his kingdom. Modern scholars therefore date the composition of the book to about 167 BCE, when Antiochus Epiphanes sacked Jerusalem and desecrated the Holy Places. This serves as the introduction to the eschatological predictions in the twelfth chapter.

Similarly, in the dream recounted in 2 Esdras 11 and 12, the eagle, representing the Roman Empire, is followed by the lion, which is the promised Messiah, who is to deliver the chosen people and establish an everlasting kingdom. The transition from history to prediction is seen in xii.28, where the expected end of Domitian's reign – and with it the end of the world – is foretold. Still another example of the same kind is Sibyllines, iii.608-623. Compare also Assumptio Mosis, vii-ix. In nearly all the writings which are properly classed as apocalyptic the eschatological element is prominent. The growth of speculation regarding the age to come and the hope for the chosen people more than anything else occasioned the rise and influenced the development of apocalyptic literature.


Albrecht Dürer's woodcut, The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

The element of the mysterious, apparent in both the subject and the manner of the writing, is a marked feature in every typical Apocalypse. The literature of visions and dreams has its own traditions which are well illustrated in Jewish (or Jewish-Christian) apocalyptic writing.

This apocalyptic quality appears most clearly in the use of fantastic imagery. The best illustration is furnished by the strange, living creatures which figure in so many of the visions – "beasts" or "living creatures", as is written in Revelation 4[21] in which the properties of men, mammals, birds, reptiles, or purely imaginary beings are combined in a way that is strikingly vivid and often bizarre. This characteristic feature is illustrated in the following list of the most noteworthy passages in which such creatures are introduced: Daniel 7:1-8, 8:3-12 (both passages of the greatest importance for the history of apocalyptic literature); Enoch, lxxxv.-xc.; 2 Esdras 11:1-12:3, 11-32; Greek Apoc. of Bar. ii, iii; Hebrew Testament, Naphtali's, iii.; Revelation 6:6ff (compare Apocalypse of Baruch [Syr.] li.11), ix.7-10, 17-19, xiii.1-18, xvii.3, 12; the Shepherd of Hermas, "Vision," iv.1. Certain mythical or semi-mythical beings which appear in the Hebrew Bible also play an important role in these books. Thus "Leviathan", mentioned in the Old Testament[22][23][24][25] and "Behemoth", mentioned also in the Old Testament,[26] as well as (Enoch, lx.7, 8; 2 Esdras 6:49-52; Apocalypse of Baruch xxix.4); "Gog and Magog" (Sibyllines, iii.319ff, 512ff; compare Enoch, lvi.5ff; Revelation 20:8). Foreign mythologies are also occasionally laid under contribution (see below).

Mystical symbolism

Mystical symbolism is another frequent characteristic of apocalyptic writing. This feature is illustrated in the instances where gematria is employed either for the sake of obscuring the writer's meaning, or enhancing its meaning further as a number of ancient cultures used letters also as numbers (i.e., the Romans with their use of 'roman numerals'). Thus, the mysterious name "Taxo," "Assumptio Mosis", ix. 1; the "number of the beast" 666, of Revelation 13:18;[27] the number 888 ('Iησōῦς), Sibyllines, i.326-330.

Similar to this discussion is the frequent prophecy of the length of time through which the events predicted must be fulfilled. Thus, the "time, times, and a half," Daniel 12:7[28] which has generally been agreed to be 3½ years in length by dispensationalists; the "fifty-eight times" of Enoch, xc.5, "Assumptio Mosis", x.11; the announcement of a certain number of "weeks" or days, which starting point in Daniel 9:24, 25 is the "the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks",[29] ff, a mention of 1290 days after the covenant/sacrifice is broken (Daniel 12:11),[30] 12; Enoch xciii.3-10; 2 Esdras 14:11, 12; Apocalypse of Baruch xxvi-xxviii; Revelation 11:3, which mentions "two witnesses" with supernatural power,[31] 12:6;[32] compare Assumptio Mosis, vii.1. Symbolic language is also used to describe persons, things, or events; thus, the "horns" of Daniel 7 and 8;[33] Revelation 17[34] and following; the "heads" and "wings" of 2 Esdras xi and following; the seven seals of Revelation 6;[35] trumpets, Revelation 8;[36] "vials of the wrath of God" or "bowl..." judgments, Revelation 16;[37] the dragon, Revelation 12:3-17,[38] Revelation 20:1-3;[39] the eagle, Assumptio Mosis, x.8; and so on.

As examples of more elaborate prophecies and allegories, aside from those in Daniel Chapters 7 and 8; and 2 Esdras Chapters 11 and 12, already referred to, may be mentioned: the vision of the bulls and the sheep, Enoch, lxxxv and following; the forest, the vine, the fountain, and the cedar, Apocalypse of Baruch xxxvi and following; the bright and the black waters, ibid. liii and following; the willow and its branches, Hermas, "Similitudines," viii.

Russian Orthodox icon Apocalypse

End of the age

In John's apocalypse, the Book of Revelation, he refers to the "unveiling" or "revelation" of Jesus Christ as Messiah. This term has come to mean, in common usage, the end of the world. But it is more accurate to interpret the term "end of the world", (as seen in the King James Version of the Bible) as "end of the age". The word translated as "world" is actually the Greek word "eon" or "age".

The simple pictures of the end of the age as books of the Old Testament were images of the judgment of the wicked, as well as the resurrection and glorification of those who were given righteousness before God. The dead are seen in the book of Job and in some of the Psalms as being in Sheol, awaiting the final judgment. The wicked will then be consigned to eternal torment in the fires of Gehinnom, or the Lake of Fire mentioned in Revelation.[37][40][41][42][43]

The New Testament letters written by the Apostle Paul expand on this theme of the judgment of the wicked, and the glorification of those who belong to Christ or Messiah. In his letters to the Corinthians and the Thessalonians Paul expounds further on the destiny of the righteous. He speaks of the simultaneous resurrection and rapture of those who are in Christ, (or Messiah). This is a combined apocalyptic event that comes at the end of this age and before the coming Millennium.

Christianity had a Millennial expectation for glorification of the righteous from the time it emerged from Judaism and spread out into the world in the first century. The poetic and prophetic literature of the Hebrew Bible, particularly in Isaiah, were rich in Millennial imagery. The New Testament Congregation after Pentecost carried on with this theme. During his imprisonment by the Romans on the Island of Patmos, John described the visions he experienced, writing the Book of Revelation. Revelation chapter 20 contains several reference to a thousand year reign of Christ/Messiah upon this earth.

Throughout Church history, the kings and princes of Europe had traditionally viewed with extreme disfavor the idea of a judgment at the end of this age and a Millennium to follow. King Henry VIII was very angry when he heard that his subjects were reading smuggled copies of William Tyndale's New Testament. Upon hearing that they were discussing the judgment at the end of the age, he flew into a rage. Archbishop Wolsey was summoned and questioned about this matter. A series of events then led to William Tyndale being hunted down, captured, condemned, and burned at the stake.

Preaching or teaching on end time apocalytic themes in the "Three Self" government church in China is strictly forbidden.

Modern Christian movements in the 18th and 19th Centuries were characterized by a rise of Millennialism. Christian Apocalyptic eschatology was a continuation of the same two themes referred to throughout all of scripture as "this age" and "the age to come". Evangelicals have been in the forefront in rediscovering and popularizing the biblical prophecy of a major confrontation between good and evil at the end of this age, a coming Millennium to follow, and a final confrontation whereby the wicked are judged, the righteous are rewarded and the beginning of Eternity is viewed.

Most evangelicals have been taught a form of Millennialism known as Dispensationalism, which arose in the 19th century. Dispensationalism sees separate destinies for the Church and Israel. Its concept of a special Pre Tribulation Rapture of the Church has become extremely popular. This is the central thesis of the Left Behind books and films. Dispensationalist interpretations may find in biblical prophecy clear predictions of future events: the various periods of the church, for example, shown through the letters to the seven churches; the throne of God in Heaven and his Glory; specific judgments that will occur on the earth; the final form of gentile power; God' re-dealing with the nation Israel[44] based upon covenants mentioned in the Old Testament; the second coming proper; a one-thousand year reign of Messiah; a last test of Mankind's sinful nature under ideal conditions by the loosing of Satan, with a judgment of fire coming down from Heaven that follows; the Great White Throne Judgment, and the destruction of the current heavens and the earth, to be recreated as a "New Heaven and New Earth",[45][46][47] ushering in the beginning of Eternity.

Recently, however, Dispensationalism has been undergoing some opposition from those who teach and embrace what is termed Traditional Millennialism. Prominent among them are those who hold to a Post Tribulation Rapture.

One of the most complete exegetical works on the meaning of the Book of Revelation was written by Emanuel Swedenborg called the Apocalypse Revealed, first published in two volumes in Amsterdam in 1766. A more current book, utilizing the literal method of interpretation, is "The Revelation Record" by Henry M. Morris.[48]

See also

Film and television

  • Apocalypse Now
  • Children of Men
  • Revelations
  • Metalocalypse
  • Resident Evil: Apocalypse
  • Southland Tales
  • Revolutionary Girl Utena
  • Apocalypse Not
  • Neon Genesis Evangelion (anime)
  • 2012


  • Apocalypse Nerd
  • The End Is Nigh
  • English Apocalypse Manuscripts.
  • Just a Couple of Days
  • Good Omens
  • X/1999
  • The Road, Cormac McCarthy


  • Absolution
  • "Supper's Ready"
  • F♯A♯∞


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This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Apocalypse. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.