Apocalyptic vs. Prophetic Characteristics in Revelation

Eight Characteristics of Apocalyptic Writing


A line drawn in the sand between two opposing forces. – God vs, Satan, Light vs. Darkness, the Lamb vs. the Beast

Also includes an element of time: Present evil age vs. the coming reign of God

  • Pessimism
  • Doom & gloom – all is lost – we have been forsaken and left for dead
  • Determinism
  • The idea that God has already made up His mind about how history will unfold.
    • End is known before the beginning
    • Just get in line and let everything play out
  • Imagery
  • Apocalyptic literature is loaded with imagery
  • Revelation loaded with imagery
    • Glorified Christ
    • Beasts rising from pits
    • Blood flowing from horses’ reins
    • Angels dumping bowls of fire onto the earth
  • Images have great meaning – but are not to be taken literally.
  • Numerology
  • Numbers, numbers and more numbers
  • Numbers have meaning beyond their numerical value
    • 7= wholeness, completeness
    • = incompleteness
    • 666 = the name of the beast
    • 12, 24, 144,000 = the people of God
  • Recapitulation
  • Going over the same subject repeatedly with variation
  • Revelation revisits the same theme at least five times
  • Suffering
  • Apocalyptic literature is always written when things are going bad
    • It’s a cry from the bottom of the pile
    • A speech of pain
  • Suffering of the seven churches birthed Revelation
  • Pseudonymous
  • Writer uses someone else’s name
    • Someone who lived in the past
    • Someone with a lot of credibility

Six Characteristics of Prophetic Literature

  1. God as Creator
  2. The prophets connected the God of the beginning with the God of the ending.
    1. The God we see in Revelation makes all things new.
    1. He finishes what He started.
  • God as Covenant Maker
  • Prophets knew that God works in and through His people
    • Through a lineage of failed kings, God will bring His Messiah.
  • Prophets are optimistic
    • They always have hope because salvation comes from God
  • A New Israel/People of God
  • The prophets – and John too – celebrate God’s intent to create for Himself a people who worship Him in spirit and in truth.
  • An Ideal King/Messiah
  • God would establish a ruler to lead His people
    • Righteous and holy
    • The Spirit of the Lord would rest on Him
    • He would rule in wisdom and power
  • A Rebuilt Temple
  • The prophets always looked forward to a rebuilding of the Temple in Jerusalem.
    • Because that is all they knew.
  • Acts 7:48
  • “…the Most High does not live in houses made by human hands.”
  • Revelation 21:22 – John describes a new Jerusalem with no temple
  • The End of Evil
  • The prophets imagined a day when evil would no longer exist.
    • Evil destroyed
      • Lambs lie down with lions
      • Cows graze with bears
  • Apocalyptic writers looked for the end of history
  • Prophetic writers looked for the end of evil within history.

Finally – we can’t ignore that John wrote his revelation in the form of a letter to the seven churches.

  • He opens (1:4-7) and concludes (22:21) as he would a letter.

This is a further reminder to read it in context first.

Taken from Answers for Chicken Little: A No-Nonsense Look at the Book of Revelation by Dan Boone

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