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Apocalypse

Apocalypse

In apocalyptic visions, prophets see ahead to the end time. Humankind's salvation lies in the future, and the meaning of the present is obscured in the chaos of survival on the Earth's plane. In apocalyptic thought, humankind's destiny is viewed as steadily unfolding according to a great design of God. The present is a time of trial and tribulation, and its meaning will only be made clear in the last days before the final judgment occurs. Placing the ultimate revelation of God at the end time seems to imply a history for God, as well as for his creationor at least an evolution, or transformation, from one sphere of activity to another.

In the Jewish tradition, apocalyptic thought presupposes a universal history in which the Divine Author of that history will reveal and manifest his secrets in a dramatic end time that with finality will establish the God of Israel as the one true God. The "end of days" (acharit ha-yamin ) is bound up with the coming of the Messiah, but before his appearance governments will become increasingly corrupt, religious schools will become heretical, the wisdom of the scribes and teachers will become blasphemous, young people will shame their elders, and members of families will turn upon one another. Then, just prior to the arrival of the Messiah, the righteous of Israel shall defeat the armies of evil that have gathered under the banner of Gog and Magog, and the exiles shall return to the Holy Land. The world will be at peace and all people will recognize the one true God. With the advent of the Messiah will come the great Day of Judgment in which the dead shall rise from their graves to begin a new life. During the period known as the World to Come (Olam Haba ), the righteous will join the Messiah in partaking of a great banquet in which all foods, even those previously judged impure, shall be declared kosher. All the many nations of the world will communicate in one language; the Angel of Death will be slain by God; trees and crops will produce fresh harvests each month; the warmth of the sun shall heal the sick; and the righteous will be nourished forever by the radiance of God.

To most orthodox Christians, the profound meaning of the New Testament is that Jesus Christ (c. 6 b.c.e.c. 30 c.e.) will one day return in the Last Days and his Second Coming will prompt the resurrection of the dead and the Final Judgment. The heart of the gospels is eschatological, or end-oriented. The essential theme of Jesus and the apostles is that the last stage of history, the end time, was being entered into with his appearance. In Matthew 24:344, Jesus speaks to his disciples at great length concerning false Messiahs and prophets who will deceive many people with their rumors about the end of the world. He makes reference to the prophet Daniel and his warnings concerning the end times and the Antichrist, and he admonishes the disciples not to chase after false teachers who will produce great miracles and signs to trick God's chosen ones. No one knows when the Son of Man shall appear again coming on the clouds of heaven, Jesus tells them, not even the angels.

As in Jewish apocalyptic tradition, Christians also recognize that there must come the terrible time when the Antichrist, summoning great powers of evil, will triumph for a period over the righteous believers and that there will be one last awful clash between the forces of good under the banner of Christ and his angels and the minions of evil under the banner of Satan. Before that final battle in the valley of Armageddon, the faithful may look for various signs to alert them that the end time, the Apocalypse, has begun. Drawing upon the apocalyptic traditions of his Jewish background, John the Revelator, presents in Revelation, the last book in the New Testament, a guidebook for the Christian on what to expect during the Apocalypse, the time of Tribulation. Specifically, the book was written for the members of the churches of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea in order to prepare them for what John believed to be a fast-approaching time of persecution and the return of Jesus Christ.

The first of Seven Seals to be opened (Revelation 6:12) by the Lamb (Christ) discloses a conquering king astride a white horse, the first of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Scholars disagree whether this triumphant king represents Christ returning to do battle with Satan or the Antichrist emerging to summon the forces of evil to oppose Christ and his angelic army. The Second Seal (6:34) reveals the red horse, representing civil war; the third, the black horse, symbolizing famine (6:56); the fourth, the pale horse, representing the suffering that follows war and famine. The Fifth Seal to be opened by the Lamb yields a vision of the persecution of the Church throughout history and during the Last Days. When the Sixth Seal is revealed, it displays the coming signs of a great Day of Wrath at hand when there will be Earthly upheavals, a darkened sun, stars falling from the heavens, mountains and islands removed, and more strife and revolution throughout the nations. The Seventh and final Seal releases seven trumpets that sound the triumphant blast signaling the approach of the final and everlasting victory of Christ over the kingdoms of the world.

But rising out of the abyss to block Christ's triumph at Armageddon is a monstrous army of demons, some resembling locusts and scorpions, others a repulsive mixture of humans, horses, and lions. These demons are soon joined by 200,000 serpentine-leonine horsemen capable of belching fire, smoke, and brimstone. Led by Satan, the once-trusted angel who led the rebellion against God in Heaven, the Prince of the World sets his legions upon the faithful to make their lives as miserable as possible in the end time. To make matters even more complex for those who serve God, the Antichrist appears on the scene pretending to be the Lamb, the Messiah. John the Revelator is told that this man, this beast in lamb's clothing, can be recognized by a name, the letters of which, when regarded as numbers, total 666.

Although the term "Antichrist" is frequently used by those Christians who adhere to the New Testament book of Revelation as a literal guide to the end of days which they feel is here, the word is nowhere to be found within its text. Traditionally, it was believed for many centuries that the apostle John, the one especially loved by Jesus, was the author of Revelation. Contemporary scholarship generally disputes that St. John was the lonely visionary on the Island of Patmos who foresaw the time of great tribulation. It is, however, likely that the apostle John is the first to mention the Antichrist. In 1 John 2:18, he declares that the "enemy of Christ" has manifested and that many false teachers have infiltrated the Christian ranks. In verse 22, John names as the Antichrist anyone who would deny Jesus as the Christ and the Father and the Son as the Antichrist, and in 2 John verse 7 he declares that there are many deceivers already at work among the faithful.

According to Revelation, Christ and his angelic armies of light destroy the forces of darkness at Armageddon in the final battle of good versus evil. Babylon, the False Prophet, and the Beast (the Antichrist) are dispatched to their doom, and Satan, the Dragon, is bound in a pit for a thousand years. With Satan imprisoned and chained, the Millennium, the Thousand Years of peace and harmony, begins.

Although Christ's Second Coming is said to be mentioned over 300 times in the New Testament, the only references to the Millennium are found in Revelation 20:27. Christian scholars disagree whether or not there will be an initial resurrection of the just at the advent of the Millennium and a second one a thousand years later immediately prior to the Final Day of Judgment. While many Christian theologians link Christ's Second Coming, the Resurrection, and Judgment Day all occurring after the defeat of Satan and the beginning of the thousand years of peace and harmony, others maintain that the resurrection of the dead and the final judgment of God will not take place until after the Millennium has come to a close.

For some rather incomprehensible reason, Satan is released from the pit at the conclusion of the Millennium; and true to his nature, he makes a furious attempt to regain his earthly kingdom. His former allies, the Beast (the Antichrist), the False Prophet, and the hordes of Babylon, were destroyed at Armageddon, but there were some demons who escaped annihilation at the great battle who stand ready to serve their master. In addition to these evil creatures, Satan summons Gog and his armies of the Magog nations to join them in attacking the saints and the righteous followers of God. Although the vast multitude of vile and wicked servants of evil and grotesque monsters quickly surround the godly men and women, God's patience with the rebellious angel has come to an end. Fire blasts down from heaven, engulfing and destroying the satanic legions and the armies of Gog and Magog. Satan himself is sent to spend the rest of eternity in a lake of fire.


And now (Revelation 20:1115) comes the Final Judgment, the time when God shall judge the secrets of all men and women (Romans 2:16). This Judgment will be complete. Every person from every age and nation will be there. And there shall only be classes: the Saved and the Lost. The Book of Life will have the names of the Saved. For those whose names do not appear on those heavenly records, there is the final doom: to be sentenced to join Satan and his angels in the place where the fire is never quenched. When the Judgment has been completed, the first heaven and Earth shall pass away and a new heaven and new Earth shall be established for those Saved to occupy with their glorified, incorruptible, spiritual bodies.


Delving Deeper

Abanes, Richard. End-Time Visions. Nashville, Tenn.: Broadman & Holman, 1998.

Cohn, Norman. The Pursuit of the Millennium. New York: Oxford University Press, 1970.

Goetz, William R. Apocalypse Next. Camp Hill, Penn.: Horizon Books, 1996.

Shaw, Eva. Eve of Destruction: Prophecies, Theories and Preparations for the End of the World. Chicago: Contemporary Books, 1995.

Unterman, Alan. Dictionary of Jewish Lore and Legend. New York: Thames and Hudson, 1991.

Wheeler, John Jr. Earth's Two-Minute Warning: Today's Bible-Predicted Signs of the End Times. North Canton, Ohio: Leader Co., 1996.

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"Apocalypse." Gale Encyclopedia of the Unusual and Unexplained. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 Jul. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"Apocalypse." Gale Encyclopedia of the Unusual and Unexplained. . Encyclopedia.com. (July 23, 2017). http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/apocalypse

"Apocalypse." Gale Encyclopedia of the Unusual and Unexplained. . Retrieved July 23, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/science/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/apocalypse

Apocalypse

Apocalypse

The word apocalypse has many meanings. In religious usage, it identifies the last book of the Christian Bible, the Revelation of John; a genre of ancient Judeo-Christian visionary literature; or doomsday, the destruction of the world at the end of time prophesied by the Apocalypse. In more popular usage, it identifies any catastrophic or violent event, such as the Vietnam War (e.g., the movie Apocalypse Now ). Apocalypticism is the religious belief system that interprets human history from its origins to the present as signs of the imminent end of the world. It is one feature of Christian eschatology, the branch of theology dealing with the state of the soul after death, purgatory, hell, and heaven.

The adjective apocalyptic also has many meanings, from attitudes characteristic of apocalypticism (e.g., the world is so evil it will soon be destroyed), to features of literary apocalypses (e.g., the seven-headed dragon of Apoc. 12), to cultural references to apocalyptic expectations (e.g., the movie Armageddon ), to exaggerated fears of a crisis (e.g., the apocalyptic reaction to the Y2K "bug").

Apocalypticism is a feature of all three monotheistic religions. The Book of Daniel describes the Hebrew prophet's vision of the end, and messianism has regularly flared up in Jewish diaspora communities, as when Sabbatai Sevi (16261676) predicted the end of the world. In the twentieth century apocalypticism influenced responses to the Holocaust and supported religious Zionism. In Islam, the resurrection, day of judgment, and salvation are apocalyptic features of orthodox belief as evident in the Koran, and apocalypticism influenced expectations of an Islamic messiah in Sunni belief, Iranian Shi'ism, and the Bahá'í faith. Apocalypticism, however, is most common in Christianity, probably because of the continuing influence of the biblical Apocalypse, which has informed not only the eschatology of Christianity but also its art, literature, and worship. Its rich, otherworldly symbolism and prophecies of the end of time are well-known and include the Four Horsemen, Lamb of God, Whore of Babylon, Mark of the Beast (666), Armageddon, Last Judgment, and New Jerusalem.

Apocalyptic belief has been associated with heretical and extremist movements throughout history. For example, the Fraticelli, Franciscan dissidents of the fourteenth century, accused Pope John XXII of being the Antichrist; Thomas Müntzer, an apocalyptic preacher, was a leader in the German Peasants' War of 1525; the American Millerites left crops unplanted, expecting Christ to return in 1844; and David Koresh, leader of the Branch Davidians before the conflagration that destroyed their Waco compound in 1993, claimed to be the Lamb of the Apocalypse. Nevertheless, there is nothing necessarily unorthodox or radical about apocalypticism, which the theologian Ernst Kaseman has called "the mother of all Christian theology" (1969, p. 40). The sermons of Jesus (e.g., Matt. 24) and the theology of Paul are filled with apocalyptic prophecies, and Peter identified Pentecostthe traditional foundation of the Christian churchas a sign of the end of time (Acts 2). Furthermore, the creed followed by many Christian faiths promises the return of Christ in majesty to judge the living and the dead, and many Protestant denominations, such as Baptists and Adventists, have strong apocalyptic roots that support a conservative theology.

The expectation that Antichrist will appear in the last days to deceive and persecute the faithful is based on apocalyptic interpretations, and during the Middle Ages and Renaissance this belief informed drama, poetry, manuscript illustrations, and paintings, from the twelfth-century Latin Play of Antichrist to Luca Signorelli's compelling fresco at Orvietto Cathedral (1498). The twentieth century, with its numerous wars and social upheavals, has thinly disguised the figure of Antichrist and integrated other apocalyptic images into its literature (e.g., William Butler Yeats's poem "The Second Coming") and popular culture (e.g., the movie The Omen ). Apocalyptic notions also pervade religious polemic; during the debates of the Reformation, for example, Protestants and Catholics identified each other as Antichrists, a term still used by some fundamentalists attacking the papacy.

Another expectation derived from the Apocalypse is the millennium, the thousand-year period of peace and justice during which the Dragon is imprisoned in the abyss before the end of time. More generally, the term millennium refers to any idealized period in the future. Communism, for example, has been described as a millenarian movement because of its promise of a classless society; like the Russian Revolution of 1917, millenarian movements have often been associated with violence of the sort that occurred during the Brazilian slave revolts in the 1580s. The Center for Millennium Studies at Boston University maintains a database of contemporary millenarian movements.

These social movements indicate the tremendous influence of the Apocalypse and the ways in which religious apocalypticism has been secularized. Secular apocalypticism is manifest in popular appropriations of physics that, in one way or another, predict the extermination of life, with references to entropy and the infinite expansion of the universe until it fizzles into nothingness or recoils into a primal contraction. It is also evident in environmentalist forecasts of the extinction of species and the greenhouse effect, in predictions of famine and hunger arising from the exponential increase in world population, and in responses to the devastations of the worldwide AIDS epidemic. Modern secular apocalypticism was particularly strong during the cold war in predictions of nuclear destruction, as evident in Ronald Reagan's references to Armageddon in the 1980s and popular culture (e.g., the movie Dr. Strangelove and the ABC television film The Day After ).

Although the term apocalypse brings to mind images of destruction and violence, and although the sociologist Michael Barkun has linked millennarian hopes to various forms of disaster, the biblical Apocalypse includes many promises of peace and assurances of rewards for the faithful, including a millennium ushered in by Jesusa far cry from dire predictions of bloody revolution and disaster. For Christians, the apocalypse need not be negative, because the New Jerusalem follows the destruction of an evil world, and life in heaven follows death. In an increasingly secular world, however, the apocalypse summons lurid visions of individual or mass death.

See also: AIDS; Extinction; Nuclear Destruction

Bibliography

AHR Forum. "Millenniums." American Historical Review 104 (1999):15121628.

Barkun, Michael. Disaster and the Millennium. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1974.

Emmerson, Richard K., and Bernard McGinn, eds. The Apocalypse in the Middle Ages. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1992.

Funk, Robert W., ed. "Apocalypticism." Special issue of Journal for Theology and the Church 6 (1969).

McGinn, Bernard, John J. Collins, and Stephen J. Stein, eds. The Encyclopedia of Apocalypticism. New York: Continuum, 1998.

O'Leary, Stephen D. Arguing the Apocalypse: A Theory of Millennial Rhetoric. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.

Patrides, C. A., and Joseph Wittreich, eds. The Apocalypse in English Renaissance Thought and Literature: Patterns, Antecedents, and Repercussions. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1984.

Strozier, Charles B., and Michael Flynn. The Year 2000: Essays on the End. New York: New York University Press, 1997.

RICHARD K. EMMERSON

Apparitions

See Ghosts.

Appropriate Death

See Good Death, The.

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apocalypse

apocalypse (əpŏk´əlĬps) [Gr.,=uncovering], genre represented in early Jewish and in Christian literature in which the secrets of the heavenly world or of the world to come are revealed by angelic mediation within a narrative framework. The genre seems to have arisen in Palestine in the 3d cent. BC, perhaps as a protest against an oppressive and dominant establishment, either Gentile or apostate Jewish. The writing is characterized by otherworldly journeys, visions, animal imagery derived from the common fund of ancient Middle Eastern mythological imagery, and number symbolism. Apocalyptic eschatology is marked by the conviction that God will intervene decisively in the present evil age and vindicate his suffering elect over their oppressors, raising the dead, consigning the wicked to eternal destruction, and establishing a new creation. In the Bible, apocalyptic elements are present in the books of Ezekiel, Isaiah, Joel, Zechariah, and Daniel. The collection known as the Pseudepigrapha contains a number of early Jewish apocalypses, including 1 Enoch, 4 Ezra, and 2 Baruch. In the New Testament the book of Revelation is often called the Apocalypse.

See C. Rowland, The Open Heaven (1982); E. Weber, Apocalypses (1999).

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Apocalypse

Apocalypse, Apocalyptic (Gk., ‘revelation’). Jewish and Christian literature of revelations, making known the features of a heavenly or future time or world, or, in general, things hidden from present knowledge; hence ‘apocalyptic books’ or literature.

In Christianity, the controlling example is the Book of Revelation, although apocalyptic words are attributed to Jesus: thus Mark 13 is often referred to as ‘The Markan Apocalypse’. Because apocalyptic is often concerned with catastrophic events, e.g. the end of the world, it lends itself to such titles as Apocalypse Now, a film exploring the Vietnam War on the basis of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness.

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"Apocalypse." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. . Encyclopedia.com. 23 Jul. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Apocalypse

28. Apocalypse

  1. behemoth king of animals whose flesh will provide feast for chosen when Messiah comes. [Jew. Tradition: Leach, 132]
  2. Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse four riders symbolizing pestilence, war, famine, and death. [N.T.: Revelation 6:18]
  3. Gog and Magog giant leaders in ultimate battle against Gods people. [N.T.: Revelation 20:8]
  4. Götterdämmerung day of great battle between Teutonic gods and forces of evil. [Ger. Folklore: Leach, 461]
  5. leviathan sea monster; symbol of apocalypse. [Jew. Tradition: Leach, 67]
  6. Revelation final book of the New Testament discussing the coming of the worlds end. [N.T.: Revelation]

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apocalypse

a·poc·a·lypse / əˈpäkəˌlips/ • n. (often the Apocalypse) the complete final destruction of the world, esp. as described in the biblical book of Revelation. ∎  an event involving destruction or damage on an awesome or catastrophic scale: a stock market apocalypse. ∎  (the Apocalypse) (esp. in the Vulgate Bible) the book of Revelation.

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Apocalypse

Apocalypse the complete final destruction of the world, especially as described in the biblical book of Revelation. The word is recorded from Old English, and comes ultimately, via Old French and ecclesiastical Latin, from Greek apokaluptein ‘uncover, reveal’.

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Apocalypse

Apocalypse Revelation of St. John the Divine. XIII. — (O)F. apocalypse — ecclL. apocalypsis — Gr. apokálupsis, f. apokalúptein uncover, disclose.
So apocalyptic, apocalyptical XVII.

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apocalypse

apocalypseapse, collapse, craps, elapse, lapse, perhaps, schnapps •prolapse • synapse • Lesseps •quadriceps •biceps, triceps •forceps •traipse, trapes •jackanapes • Pepys •Chips, eclipse, ellipse, thrips •Phillips • apocalypse •amidships, midships •cripes, Stars and Stripes •copse • Cheops • Pelops • Cyclops •triceratops • corpse • Stopes •oops, whoops •turps • mumps • goosebumps

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