By Steve Kindle
If this post piques your interest, I have two things for you. One, a link at the bottom of the page will take you to a video I created on apocalyptic theology; and two, I will be interviewing on my new Podcast in January the foremost expert on
all things apocalyptic, Dr. John J. Collins.
The initial episode is out and can be heard here:
https://faithontheedge.org/podcasts/ SUBSCRIBE and you will automatically receive all episodes.
The Lord said in his heart, “I will never again curse the ground because of humankind, for the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth; nor will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done. As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.” Genesis 8:21-22 A promise God made to God’s self following the flood.
One of the great mistakes casual Bible readers make is believing that the Bible speaks with one voice. Actually, there are many voices that often compete with one another for priority of place. The list is long, but take one prominent example of how the writer of Ecclesiastes disputes the theology of Deuteronomy. There are consequences for how we live depending on which voice we follow. This could not be more consequential than in the choice between the prophetic witness to God’s role in history, or the apocalyptic understanding. The contrast is stark. Is God content to work within the historical process of the world as it is (the prophetic view), or is God’s only recourse to end the injustices of the world only through totally destroying it and miraculously bringing in the reign of God (the apocalyptic view)?
The prophetic view is clearly on display in Isaiah, especially chapters 40-66. God is teaching Israel how to become “a light to the nations,” that will be such a powerful witness to the glory that is Yahweh that all the nations of the world will flow to Zion (Jerusalem) and God will bring shalom, the wholeness of life, to all the world.
During the Intertestamental period (400 years between Malachai and John the Baptist) we are told that no prophets arose in Israel. What did arise was the apocryphal movement. You?
Israel was well aware of the prophets’ view that God would ultimately overcome all of Israel’s enemies and reign from Jerusalem. However, nothing like that seemed remotely possible because ever since their temple was destroyed and they suffered captivity in Babylonia, they endured the rule of one conquering nation after another. Disillusionment with the prophetic vision set in. But, they wondered, did this mean that God failed Israel? In order to create a viable alternative to the prophet’s optimism, apocalyptic writers claimed that it only appears that God is failing. Actually, if one were to look at the world from God’s perspective (apocalyptic writers were often taken up to heaven and given the heavenly view), it is clear that God is preparing to destroy the creation and bring in the reign of God by force.
Apocalyptic arises in times of great tension with the world as it is. It is a yearning for the world as it could be. The anxiety of the Intertestamental period was matched following World War II. The general Cold War conditions, the awareness that hydrogen bombs could end human life for good, the looming conflict between the USSR and the USA had the world on edge. Apocalyptic writings flourished with the publication of “The Late Great Planet Earth,” end-time preaching escalated, the founding of Israel in 1948 was seen as the fulfillment of prophecy and the beginning of the end, and “Bible” churches with these teachings abounded.
The bottom line is this: those with the apocalyptic worldview detest the world as it is and yearn for it to be destroyed. Those with the prophetic worldview love the world and want to be partners with God in bringing it in line with God’s intentions for it. I’m with the prophets.