What is Apocalypticism?

Just to give a little background on the subject.

One definition of ‘Apocalypticism’ is really this kind of ideology, theology or worldview that flourished within post-Exilic Jewish culture (Christianity eventually picked up this worldview). The Apocalyptic worldview usually tends to distinguish between two ‘ages’: this age, dominated by Evil, and the age to come, in which God will reign unopposed.

From Apocalypticism’s point of view, the world is currently dominated by evil powers. Now there is a constant struggle between these evil forces and the forces of good, and evil - which is seen as not just a problem inside human hearts or within society, but a cosmic force much larger than humans, though still inferior to the God of Israel - generally seems to have the upper hand. (Some have even called Apocalypticism ‘pessimistic’, in that it seemed to view the condition of this world as progressing from bad to worse.) Human beings are caught in this cosmic struggle and take sides as either the righteous or the wicked.

However, God - who is in ultimate control of history - will in the imminent future (a key concept in Apocalypticism is to have hope - even in a hopeless situation - because everything will happen, and will happen soon) intervene in a cataclysmic way by triumphing over evil in a final massive battle and establish His dominion over all creation. Some important figure (or figures) sent by God, say an anointed priest or prophet or king or warrior or all of the above, will in some scenarios play a key role in this final triumph. At the wake of God’s victory, the righteous will be separated from the wicked (the dead may also be raised and face such categorization), and the forces of evil which had heretofore dominated the world and their leader (Satan, Belial, Beelzebul, the Spirit of Falsehood, or some other name for this figure) will either be obliterated or be put into eternal torment, as those wicked humans who had aligned themselves with them. The righteous meanwhile will eternally enjoy the benefits of God’s new creation or kingdom or paradise. The basic idea is, that this world (full of evil and suffering) is not God’s last word in His creative discourse; He has prepared a new and better world where sin, death, suffering and injustice have no place.

And then His [God’s] kingdom shall appear throughout all His creation,
and then Satan shall be no more,
and sorrow shall depart with him.

For the Heavenly One will arise from His royal throne,
and He will go forth from His holy habitation
with indignation and wrath on account of His sons.

And the earth shall tremble: to its confines shall it be shaken:
and the high mountains shall be made low
and the hills shall be shaken and fall. …

  • Testament of Moses 10
    The ideology seems to address the seeming disparity between the idea of reward for righteousness and the fact that bad things happen and that many righteous people in the world suffer. Why do the wicked prosper while the righteous ones are left in agony? This is also an issue with close relevance for Jews of the period after the Exile: why did and do they suffer repeated trials and tribulations if they were indeed the faithful remnant, the chosen nation? It’s basically the issue of theodicy: ‘if God is good and just, why does He permit evil to exist?’

Apocalypticism kind of tries to answer the question by postulating that everything is happening according to God’s master plan: He allows evil forces to dominate the world and oppress the righteous because that’s simply part of His scenario. Apocalypticism has an almost deterministic view of history: it pictures the course of events as though written on a scroll, on which the events of the past, present and future are recorded in detail. It’s like a script for a play: the ending is assured (and might even be revealed - more on this later), but everything must be acted out. In fact, there is some sort of interplay between heavenly events and earthly events: events on earth are caused or influenced by events in heaven. Anyways, the Apocalyptic worldview believes that evil will not have the upper hand forever: God will crack down hard upon the rulers of this world when the time is ripe, and that time will not take too long in arriving.

If you think this all sounds familiar, you are right: Jewish Apocalypticism is one of the bedrocks of Christianity. :wink:

Then Ilúvatar spoke, and he said: ‘Mighty are the Ainur, and mightiest among them is Melkor; but that he may know, and all the Ainur, that I am Ilúvatar, those things that ye have sung, I will show them forth, that ye may see what ye have done. And thou, Melkor, shalt see that no theme may be played that hath not its uttermost source in me, nor can any alter the music in my despite. For he that attempteth this shall prove but mine instrument in the devising of things more wonderful, which he himself hath not imagined.’

  • J.R.R. Tolkien, The Silmarillion

Breaking off here for now.

I’m hoping to hear more, Patrick, as you have time.

Sounds like Zoroastrianism, which seems to have influenced Judaism. God has many ways of bringing His people to the truth.


DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.