A revealing. A revelation. An unveiling.
The “Apocalypse” is the Revelation of Yeshua Messiah. It is given to Him directly from the Almighty Father. He passes it on to St. John via an angel (malachim). It comes with a blessing to those who read it, those who heed it, and those who keep it.
For the time is at hand.
1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: 2 Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw. 3 Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.
Word meaning changes with time — and place. The word “apocalypse” comes from the Greek and means simply “to reveal” or “a revealing”. That’s it.
Yet even the esteemed Oxford (OED online) has this to say:
- The complete final destruction of the world, as described in the biblical book of Revelation: (especially in the Vulgate Bible) the book of Revelation. An event involving destruction or damage on a catastrophic scale:
The Oxford comes to its senses and confirms that etymologically—and still to this very day—its meaning, in Greek, is “uncover“:
Origin: Old English, via Old French and ecclesiastical Latin from Greek apokalupsis, from apokaluptein uncover, reveal; from apo-un– + kaluptein to cover.
Across the pond, the Merriam-Webster fares little better:
1a: one of the Jewish and Christian writings of 200 BC to AD 150 marked by pseudonymity, symbolic imagery, and the expectation of an imminent cosmic cataclysm in which God destroys the ruling powers of evil and raises the righteous to life in a messianic kingdom
2a: something viewed as a prophetic revelation
It, too, backtracks to the word’s origin:
Middle English, revelation, Revelation, from Anglo-French apocalipse, from Late Latin apocalypsis, from Greek apokalypsis, from apokalyptein to uncover, from apo- + kalyptein to cover — more at hell.
More at hell. Really? I’ll pass.
First Known Use: 13th century
That’s astounding. No doubt the Greek word apokalypse predates the 13th century. But it’s Anglo-French adoption into generalised usage—to mean “the end of the world”—began in the 13th century, apparently. This predates the Gutenberg printing press. Word got out.
Yet the synonyms, of apocalypse, don’t fill me with the same dread — they don’t pass muster (or cut the mustard … or should that be pass the mustard?):
Synonyms: disaster, calamity, cataclysm, catastrophe, debacle (also débâcle), tragedy
Now these are, supposedly, from two of the finest dictionaries of the English language. Perhaps I need to let my pedantry go and acknowledge that most (English-speaking) people will think of a cosmic cataclysm when they hear, today, the word “apocalypse”: and perhaps even many (or most) speakers of Greek.
Where the West fails, the East comes to our aid. The Jewish Encyclopaedia begins its entry with:
An “Apocalypse,” in the terminology of early Jewish and Christian literature, is a revelation of hidden things given by God to some one of his chosen saints or (still oftener) the written account of such a revelation. The word is derived from the Greek ἀπōκάλυψις, “uncovering,” “disclosure”; a noun which does not appear at all in classical Greek, and in the later profane writers is not employed in any way that corresponds to the use above mentioned; it seems to have originated among Greek-speaking Jews, and then passed from them to the Christians, who developed it still further.
[Apostolic era Jews were, apparently, familiar with apocalyptic literature, it was commonplace at the time — a bit like today.]
The Jewish Encyclopedia then qualifies this statement with a modern interpretation (before going on to describe the characteristics of apocalyptic literature):
In recent times the designation apocalyptic literature, or apocalyptic, has commonly been used to include all the various portions of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures, whether canonical or apocryphal, in which eschatological predictions are given in the form of a revelation. That the term is at present somewhat loosely used, and often made to include what is not properly apocalyptic, is due in part to the fact that the study of this literature as a distinct class is comparatively recent.
Stating the obvious, clearly the word apocalypse has gained a life, and dread, all its own — well beyond that of the word “Revelation”. Nothing else compares with “Apocalypse”, and yet here we are as close to it as can be. The four horsemen ride as I write. In a matter of months, and the tribulation (Satan’s wrath) will be upon us—7 Trumpets (inclusive of 3 woes and 7 thunders)—and then the 7 bowls of God’s wrath, poured out on earth, one by one, at the blowing of the 7th Trumpet. It is real and it is almost here. Everything (almost) has been revealed. And what has been revealed is—clearly—coming to pass. And the great fear and trepidation I had as a child makes it that much harder to believe that it is, finally, upon us.
But do not fret, but do hang on. Be of good cheer. Pray for one another. Messiah is with you. [I should know, He has revealed himself to me. And He will to you too.] He gave us His Revelation so we would prepare. Remember the seven virgins and the oil. Make sure you have plenty of oil (i.e. full of the Holy Spirit) to make it to the 1335 days.
This post is about the word apocalypse (with a little “a”) but one cannot, particularly in the present time, do it any justice without incorporating much about the Apocalypse. Clearly, this is not (nor is it intended to be) an exhaustive “interpretation” of the Apocalypse. And Apocalypse art (and literature) is an entire field of study in itself (one for another day), and one in which there are so many internal inconsistencies (e.g. Cupid-like angels, St John on Patmos looking about 30 years old; etc.). And now, before us, life will be imitating art. Rather than looking at a tapestry, some of the world will be able to look out their window to see the Apocalypse. Others will watch it unfold on television.
Much of the following, about apocalyptic literature, is taken from a podcast by
One of the rewards of faith is the once-in-a-while lifting of the veil for a glimpse into the unseen and the unknown for a select few — to show the mortal that although things on earth seem unjust, a day is yet coming when God will reveal his wrath against the wicked and the righteous will be rewarded. God is still on the throne.
Isaiah’s vision of the Lord is an apocalypse, but the Book of Daniel is the first major literature befitting apocalyptic genre in the Bible. Furthermore, the are references to the Book of Enoch throughout the New Testament and it seems likely that the Apostles read it and that Yeshua, too, read it. The apocryphal Book of Enoch is also a good example of apocalyptic literature. Enoch, who was taken by God, may be considered the grandfather of Jewish mysticism. Enoch is given a tour of heaven by the angels: he is shown the seven heavens; the throne of glory; the heavenly chambers; where the souls of the righteous and the souls of the wicked are held; the heavenly worship services (the heavenly liturgy); the war between the forces of good and evil; and at the end a final judgement.
Other popular apocalyptic literature include mystic first and second century (and prior) literature, including Kabbalistic literature:
- The Apocalypse of Baruch [Baruch was scribe to the prophet Jeremiah]
- The Apocalypse of Adam
- The Apocalypse of Elijah
- The Apocalypse of Ezra
- The Apocalypse of Noah
- The Apocalypse of Paul
- Hekhalot rabbati: The Greater Treatise Concerning the Palaces of Heaven
Apocalyptic Literature usually begins with a protagonist (human) — and it is written in the first person, who retells (writes down) their experience in the following manner:
- starts with an ascension, a translation, or vision or dream or spiritual experience — an unveiling
- usually involves an angelic “tour” guide
- a tour
- heavenly worship services or visions
- God intervenes and serves up justice
- use of symbolic language to explain spiritual things
- instills a sense of wonder and amazement and even, despite its revelatory theme, puzzlement
- offers a word of encouragement
The Apocalypse (the Book of Revelation) is not a crystal ball nor is it a sequence of End-Times events but rather it is a mix ‘n’ mash of events out of order. But, despite that, it’s central theme is literal and not allegorical. It is written to the first century disciples. It is a Jewish book. It invokes imagery derived from the Tanakh (Old Testament or Jewish scriptures), from the Temple Service and the priestly worship, from Jewish tradition, from Jewish liturgical ceremony, from synagogue tradition, from Jewish eschatology.
- 10 Commonly Misused Expressions from British English – Anglophenia (BBC America)
- The Apocalypse Tapestry, Angers Castle – Pointurier.net.
The Apocalypse tapestry depicts the Apocalypse book as written by St John. It was made in Paris according to drawings by Hennequin of Bruges [aka Jean Bondol]. It was ordered by duke Louis I of anjou in 1373 and it took only a few years to complete it (completion date: 1382). King René of Anjou had it installed in the cathedral in the 15th century. The tapestry was originally 140x6m. Some parts were destroyed, but more than 100m are still visible today. [see Featured Image above]
- Apocalypse, Charles C Torrey – Jewish Encyclopedia (online)
Tapisserie de l’apocalypse in Angers, France [Wikimedia Commons].