A Question I Was Asked:

What Did 'Apocalyptic Writing' Set Out to Achieve?

WHY Did John Use It to Write Revelation?

Okay, now lets get the background:

The very first book in the Bible written in the Apocalyptic style was Daniel. This book was completed round about 530BC., shortly after the capture of Babylon by Cyrus the Persian in 539BC. Modern scholars tend to claim that the book is much later than that (often dating it to the second century BC) because they know it contains prophecies which were fulfilled; this is based on the Naturalistic philosophy that prophecy is simply impossible. Many such liberal scholars have also claimed that it is mostly fiction - but they are regularly losing ground as more and more archeological evidence emerges which increasingly backs up the authority of the Old Testament.

Apocalyptic literature was a new genre of prophetic/poetic writing that developed around the time of Daniel and it is quite possible that the Book of Daniel itself was one of the things that launched the new enthusiasm for apocalyptic writing!

We might ask why this form of poetic/prophetic writing suddenly became so popular, and yet even today mysterious and somewhat cloudy claims about the future are massively popular - there is nothing new here whatsoever!

Okay, so what are some of the characteristics of Apocalyptic style writing?

An apocalypse can be described as a literary report of a fearful, often violent, vision that reveals truths about the past, present and future in highly symbolic and poetical style. The writer/poet may represent himself as transported into a heavenly realm, or the vision may be unveiled— and even interpreted— by an angelic messenger. Apocalyptic exhortations are aimed at chastening and reforming their hearers with threats of punishment and rewards in the coming "end times." Yet apocalyptic writing was also concerned with giving encouragement to the oppressed. A brief apocalyptic vision can be found in Mark 13 and this is sometimes called the "Little Apocalypse" and parallel passages can be found in Matthew 24 and Luke 21.

Dr. L. Michael White said, 'Apocalyptic thinking has been called "the child of prophecy in a new idiom."'

However - strictly speaking Apocalyptic writing is not the same as prophecy, yet will include elements of prophecy. Many writers (largely, but probably not entirely, inspired by Daniel) started to write in the apocalyptic style, but we have to understand that these writings were not all inspired by God, and a few were distinctly weird. For a modern equivalent of something somewhat similar we only have to consider the 'Star Wars' and 'Star Trek' series of films and how space travel/science fiction really took off in the cinema during the 1970s; it became the vogue and, in similar fashion, apocalyptic writing became a vogue among Jews from around 600BC.

This form of writing was still popular when John came to write the Book of Revelation and John used it. To what degree it was John's personal decision to use this style, or whether the Holy Spirit was solely responsible for the style, we don't know but I tend to support the latter view. This might indeed indicate that God is prepared to preach and publish His message through the popular idioms of any day or time! The big difference between the popular apocalyptic of that time and Revelation is that (like Daniel), John's apocalyptic is inspired by God!! So whereas most apocalyptic contained weird and wonderful things and often claimed to be “prophecy” (when such writing was usually simply the product of somebody's imagination), biblical apocalyptic contained some genuine prophecy - yet this book is more than prophecy alone. .


  1. In using the apocalyptic form, John probably ensured that many people would read Revelation - this is how popular and intriguing that apocalyptic had become!!

  2. John might have avoided additional persecution on both himself and on other Christians by using a style which was already popular, and using that to mask great truths about God, the State, Heaven, Satan and Eternity within that form; believers would understand, but non-believers would just see yet another writing in the apocalyptic style and would not worry too much about it. We must understand that Revelation directly attacks humanly conceived empires which are branded as satanic!

    Would the rulers of Rome have welcomed this?

    Indeed, is it not possible that God engineered the popularity of apocalyptic during that period so that the messages of Daniel, Matthew 24 and Revelation could spread far and wide without these documents being banned by Rome?

    Robin A. Brace, 2005.

Valid HTML 4.0 Transitional