I. Flying Horses, or Helicopters? The Form of a Text Apocalypsis means "unveiling"/"revelation," not "catastrophe."
It is not reporting, secret messages, or mere prediction (e.g., "The Omega Code"), but ...
... a genre with specific literary devices
... borrowing images intertextually from earlier apocalyptic
... to offer words of warning and comfort
... to both comfortable and persecuted believers
... in particular historical contexts
... in the present, not just the future ("Pale Rider").
II. The Effect of a Text Texts don't just "mean things"; they do things. Apocalyptic changes its readers.
Apocalyptic brings God's future judgment into the present (Dan. 5:26-28).
Apocalyptic unites God's judgments eschatologically.
Apocalyptic offers an ethic: "Watch" (Mark 13:32-37).
III. The Imagery of a Text
Apocalyptic literature arises before and in Israel's exile.
NT writers use apocalyptic to tell their story of Jesus Christ.
Interpretation can be
literal ("mounted on a donkey", Matt. 21),
figural ("let the reader understand", Mark 13:14), or
allegorical ("thrown in the fire", John 15:6).
Imagery is fundamental to the genre.
Old Testament images:
Images in Revelation:
Sun, moon, and stars tell the times (Joel 2)
The sky vanishes (Rev. 6:12-14, 12:8)
Numbers tell the times (Dan. 7:25, 12:7; 9:20-26)
Times of opposition (Rev. 11:3, 12:6, 12:14, 13:15)
The fourth beast rises and falls (Dan. 7); a ram and a goat (Dan. 8, esp. 8:19)
The dragon, beast, false prophet rise and fall (Rev. 12-13)
Israel is persecuted: the Abomination of Desolation (Dan. 10-11, 12:1)
Great tribulation (Rev. 6, Rev. 7:14)
Resurrection and rescue (Dan. 12)
The sealed servants of God (Rev. 7); resurrection (20:4)
The king delivers Israel from Babylon (Zech. 9)
The Son of Man comes to judge the world (Rev. 11:15-18 etc.)
Disaster brings mourning in Jerusalem (Zech. 12)
Mourning for the pierced one (Rev. 1:7)
Messiah restores Israel (Zech. 13-14)
Jesus reigns in the Millennium (Rev. 20:1-6), then in the New Jerusalem (21:1-22:5)
Summary: God will deliver Israel through its present trials
Summary: Jesus will deliver the Church through its present trials
IV. Add It Up? Visions of God's Endgame
Later Christians disagree on whether and how to harmonize and interpret texts.
Premillennialism: Jesus' coming (parousia) brings the Millennium.
Ancient premillennialism revives in modernity: Dispensational timelines (J.N. Darby, illustrated by Clarence Larkin) sequentialize Rapture/Tribulation, Return, Millennium, Apostasy, Judgment, and New Jerusalem.
Postmillennialism: The Millennium precedes the parousia.
The world improves as the Church spreads.
Jesus makes a "soft landing" in a smooth transition to the Millennium.
Medieval postmillennialism (Joachim of Fiore) returns in modernity (R.J. Rushdoony).
Amillennialism: No literal Millennium.
Augustine, following Tyconius: Millennium and Tribulation are the whole Church age.
Reformers: The medieval papacy is the final apostasy (Rev. 20:7).
Apocalyptic intertextuality resists synchronization.
Allegorizing can de-Judaize apocalyptic symbols and unmoor apocalyptic from the history it refers to.
Harmonizing can modernize apocalyptic time.
techniques can sideline the New Testament's Christological transformation of apocalyptic.
A critical question: does an interpretation make the texts do the wrong thing?