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Apocalypse In Revelation Essay

1289 words - 5 pages

The end. Absolute in its finality, the end provides at once both a tempting and alluring topic of discussion. Attributable to this fact is the popularity of literary works which discuss the resolution of humanity. Examples of so called apocalyptic literature predate the Old Testament, however, the most controversial biblical example is John’s The Book of Revelation. The work is controversial because it falls to the subjective application of qualifying elements to determine Revelation’s in- or exclusion from the apocalyptic genre. Notwithstanding, while “revelation” is a translation of the word “apocalypse,” this fact does not appear to be enough for Northrop Frye or David Chilton to classify the text as definitively apocalyptic. Chilton argues that Revelation represents such a significant divergence form earlier apocalyptic works that it is beyond inclusion in the genre, whereas Frye perceived the final book as nothing more than a succinct end to the biblical story. In this way, both fail to recognize a third option, that of Bernard McGinn, who instead suggests that The Book of Revelation represents an evolution in the apocalyptic genre.
In his work, Apocalypse in the Middle Ages, Bernard McGinn cites several important elements of early apocalyptic literature and discusses how they are or are not incorporated into John’s Revelation. In line with traditional apocalyptic texts, McGinn notes the imminent punishment of the wicked and salvation of the righteous. This element derives from the trying state which authors of the time found themselves by acknowledging “pessimism about the present aeon” and offsetting it by being “profoundly optimistic about the aeon to come” (McGinn, 8). This can be seen in chapter sixteen of The Book of Revelation where John writes “The first angel went and poured out his bowl on the earth. Festering and ugly sores broke out on those who had the mark of the beast or worshiped his image.” This is the first of seven punishments to befall those who turned their backs from God, while in chapter twenty John witnesses “those who had not worshiped the beast or its image nor had accepted its mark on their foreheads or hands. They came to life and reigned with Christ for a thousand years.” In this way, Revelation assures all of their just compensation.
He continues by addressing the issue of pseudonymity, noting that John’s “abandonment” there of “breaks with the Jewish apocalyptic tradition” (McGinn, 11). Further, he acknowledges that “no Hebrew prophet... had gone up to heaven” (McGinn, 7) yet John writes “a door opened in heaven, and the first voice that I heard, a voice as of a trumpet speaking with me, one saying, Come up hither, and I will show thee the things which must come to pass hereafter” (Rev 4:1). This is a significant change not only for apocalyptic literature but for all of Christianity. It sets the precedent for prophets to go to and experience heaven first hand, allowing for a multitude of visions and...

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