WHAT IS THE “APOCALYPSE?”
by Shawn Brasseaux
We hear the term quite frequently, but what is the “Apocalypse?”
“Apocalypse” is a terribly abused word. Outside of the Holy Bible, it is used to convey the idea of catastrophic destruction or devastation. The Oxford English Dictionary identifies the problem: “1 (often the Apocalypse) the complete final destruction of the world, as described in the biblical book of Revelation: ▪ (the Apocalypse) (especially in the Vulgate Bible) the book of Revelation. 2 an event involving destruction or damage on a catastrophic scale.”
Due to the common sloppy usage of the term, “Apocalypse” is greatly misunderstood. For example, people speak of a “retail apocalypse” to refer to a large number of stores permanently closing. (This is actually a gross distortion of the word.) Others talk about the “Apocalypse” as being the end of the world. Such fallacies are then fed back into the Bible, thus greatly distorting God’s Book. All will be crystal clear when we ask and answer, “For what saith the Scriptures?”
You do not find the word “apocalypse” in the English Bible, but you do find the idea. Being a Greek word, it is in the Greek Bible. For example, the first word in the Greek version of the Book of the Revelation is “apocalypsis.” Hence, in “scholarly” circles, you will find people referring to the Book of Revelation as “The Apocalypse.” “Apocalypse” is not exclusive to the Book of the Revelation though. It appears throughout the Greek New Testament. Before we read those verses, however, we want to analyze the word itself.
Strong’s Greek Dictionary has the following entry for apokalypsis: “G602 ἀποκάλυψις apokalypsis, ap-ok-al’-oop-sis; from G601; disclosure:—appearing, coming, lighten, manifestation, be revealed, revelation.” The word “apokalysis” is derived from “apokalypto,” meaning “to take off the cover; reveal; disclose.” (“Apo” is “off, away;” “kalupto” means “cover, hide.”) Our King James translators rendered apokalypsis as follows: “revelation” (12 times), “be revealed” (2 times), “to lighten” (with G1519) (1 time), “manifestation” (1 time), “coming” (1 time), and “appearing” (1 time). In total, the word appears 18 times in the Authorized Version:
- Luke 2:32: “A light to lighten [apokalypsis] the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.” (The Gentiles are in spiritual darkness, but through Jesus Christ, spiritual light will be brought to all the world. See Genesis 12:1-3 and Galatians 3:16, speaking of the future 1000-Year Reign of Christ.)
- Romans 2:5: “But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation [apokalypsis] of the righteous judgment of God;….” (This “revelation” is the Second Coming of Christ, when He pours out His wrath on His enemies. See 2 Thessalonians 1:7 and Revelation 1:1.)
- Romans 8:19: “For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation [apokalypsis] of the sons of God.” (This “manifestation” is the Rapture, when Jesus Christ appears in the clouds to return for the Church the Body of Christ, to thus take us into the third heaven and close this Dispensation of Grace. See 1 Corinthians 1:7.)
- Romans 16:25: “Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation [apokalypsis] of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began,….” (This “revelation” is Paul’s special insight into the plan of God. See 1 Corinthians 14:6; 2 Corinthians 12:1,7; Galatians 1:12; Galatians 2:2; Ephesians 3:3. Peter referred to Paul’s “wisdom” in 2 Peter 3:15-16.)
- 1 Corinthians 1:7: “So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming [apokalypsis] of our Lord Jesus Christ:….” (This “manifestation” is the Rapture, when Jesus Christ appears in the clouds to return for the Church the Body of Christ, to thus take us into the third heaven and close this Dispensation of Grace. See Romans 8:19.)
- 1 Corinthians 14:6: “Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation [apokalypsis], or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine?” (This “revelation” is Paul’s special insight into the plan of God. See Romans 16:25; 2 Corinthians 12:1,7; Galatians 1:12; Galatians 2:2; Ephesians 3:3. Peter referred to Paul’s “wisdom” in 2 Peter 3:15-16.)
- 1 Corinthians 14:26: “How is it then, brethren? when ye come together, every one of you hath a psalm, hath a doctrine, hath a tongue, hath a revelation [apokalypsis], hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.” (This is someone claiming to have a revelation from God but is not. For our purpose here, we need not concern ourselves with this verse.)
- 2 Corinthians 12:1: “It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations [apokalypsis] of the Lord.” (This “revelation” is Paul’s special insight into the plan of God. See Romans 16:25; 1 Corinthians 14:6; 2 Corinthians 12:7; Galatians 1:12; Galatians 2:2; Ephesians 3:3. Peter referred to Paul’s “wisdom” in 2 Peter 3:15-16.)
- 2 Corinthians 12:7: “And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations [apokalypsis], there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.” (This “revelation” is Paul’s special insight into the plan of God. See Romans 16:25; 1 Corinthians 14:6; 2 Corinthians 12:1; Galatians 1:12; Galatians 2:2; Ephesians 3:3. Peter referred to Paul’s “wisdom” in 2 Peter 3:15-16.)
- Galatians 1:12: “For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation [apokalypsis] of Jesus Christ.” (This “revelation” is Paul’s special insight into the plan of God. See Romans 16:25; 1 Corinthians 14:6; 2 Corinthians 12:1,7; Galatians 2:2; Ephesians 3:3. Peter referred to Paul’s “wisdom” in 2 Peter 3:15-16.)
- Galatians 2:2: “And I went up by revelation [apokalypsis], and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain.” (This “revelation” is Paul’s special insight into the plan of God. See Romans 16:25; 1 Corinthians 14:6; 2 Corinthians 12:1,7; Galatians 1:12; Ephesians 3:3. Peter referred to Paul’s “wisdom” in 2 Peter 3:15-16.)
- Ephesians 1:17: “That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation [apokalypsis] in the knowledge of him:….” (This “revelation” has to do with us reading the Bible and gaining insight. It is not to be confused with direct revelation as Paul received it.)
- Ephesians 3:3: “How that by revelation [apokalypsis] he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,….” (This “revelation” is Paul’s special insight into the plan of God. See Romans 16:25; 1 Corinthians 14:6; 2 Corinthians 12:1,7; Galatians 1:12; Galatians 2:2. Peter referred to Paul’s “wisdom” in 2 Peter 3:15-16.)
- 2 Thessalonians 1:7: “And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed [apokalypsis] from heaven with his mighty angels,….” (This “revelation” is the Second Coming of Christ, when He pours out His wrath on His enemies. See Romans 2:5 and Revelation 1:1.)
- 1 Peter 1:7: “That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing [apokalypsis] of Jesus Christ:….” (This “revelation” is the Second Coming of Christ, when He meets with Israel’s believing remnant. See 1 Peter 1:13 and 1 Peter 4:13.)
- 1 Peter 1:13: “Wherefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and hope to the end for the grace that is to be brought unto you at the revelation [apokalypsis] of Jesus Christ;….” (This “revelation” is the Second Coming of Christ, when He meets with Israel’s believing remnant. See 1 Peter 1:7 and 1 Peter 4:13.)
- 1 Peter 4:13: “But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed [apokalypsis], ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.” (This “revelation” is the Second Coming of Christ, when He meets with Israel’s believing remnant. See 1 Peter 1:7 and 1 Peter 1:13.)
- Revelation 1:1: “The Revelation [apokalypsis] of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John:….” (This “Revelation” is the Second Coming of Christ, when all the world sees Him.)
As was easily proved above, various “Apocalypses” are presented in Scripture. In order to make that material more digestible, this author took the above 18 verses, categorized them into their respective “manifestations,” and listed those “uncoverings” in chronological order below:
- The Apostle Paul’s special insight into God’s plan for the ages was a series of direct revelations to Paul by Jesus Christ Himself (Romans 16:25; 1 Corinthians 14:6; 2 Corinthians 12:1,7; Galatians 1:12; Galatians 2:2; Ephesians 3:3). These have been preserved in the Pauline epistles, Romans through Philemon.
- We gain “revelation,” or better see Jesus Christ through Bible doctrine, as we study the verses that have been revealed to the Bible writers, which words the Holy Spirit inspired and now explains to us (Ephesians 1:17; 1 Corinthians 2:9-16).
- The Rapture of the Church the Body of Christ, our resurrection as believers in Christ in the Dispensation of Grace, are described as a “manifestation” or “coming” of Christ (Romans 8:19; 1 Corinthians 1:7). Here, not only is Jesus Christ Himself manifested, but He is manifested in and through us as we receive our new glorified bodies!)
- The glorious Second Coming of Christ to Earth, future beyond our day, is both an appearance of His wrath to His enemies (Romans 2:5, 2 Thessalonians 1:7) and an exhibition of His Person to Israel’s believing remnant (1 Peter 1:7,13; 1 Peter 4:13). As its first Greek word shows, the entire Book of the Revelation is an uncovering of Jesus Christ’s glory, the presentation of all that He is through a vision given to the Apostle John (Revelation 1:1). What John saw in a prophetic vision, will be literally brought to pass after our Dispensation of Grace.
- Israel’s Messiah “lighting,” or showing Himself to, the Gentiles as per the Abrahamic Covenant (Luke 2:32; cf. Genesis 12:1-3) in the Millennium (after the Second Coming).
As you saw for yourself, friend, in the Bible, contrary to popular belief, “the Apocalypse” is not the end of the world—although in one sense it leads to the end of this present evil world system. “Apocalypse” refers to the manifestation or unveiling of Jesus Christ in some manner. It is a Greek word that simply means, “to uncover.” (I like the illustration of a total solar eclipse here. When the Moon passes between the Earth and the Sun, and temporarily blocks the sunlight, the Moon continues orbiting before “uncovering” the Sun. What was impossible to see, the Sun and its light, is now visible.)
The Bible’s “uncoverings” or “manifestations” can be in the form of divine doctrine revealed directly to Paul, the insight we gain by reading Scripture, the exhibition of Jesus Christ at the Rapture and then through us at our subsequent resurrection, His Second Coming in fiery wrath, and God showing Himself to Gentiles in the Millennium through Christ.
Usually, when people speak of “the Apocalypse” in a Bible sense, they are referring to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ (Revelation 1:1, for example). We want to take a few brief moments to elaborate on that. Today, Jesus Christ is hidden, living in the third heaven, far beyond the edges of our universe. Human eyes have not seen Him in 2,000 years! All this time, God has been silent. There have been no angelic visitations, no visions, no audible voice of God heard. The heavens have been totally quiet. One day, though, that will change. Jesus Christ’s literal face will appear one day. He will be physically present on Earth.
In the Book of the Revelation, we see the capstone of Bible prophecy. Embodied in that last piece of the prophetic puzzle, there is one concise summary of how the end-times scenario will play out. It is the culmination of everything God’s prophets have spoken since the world began. There will be at least seven years of trouble, the rule and the reign of the Antichrist—commonly called “the Tribulation period.” Jesus Christ will return to conclude those seven years—“the Second Coming of Christ” (as opposed to His First Coming to be rejected and die on Calvary’s cross). This Second Coming is “the Revelation” spoken of in the first verse of the Book of the Revelation. The door between the second heaven (outer space) and the third heaven (God’s throne) is opened for the first time in 20 centuries. Jesus Christ has returned to be the rightful heir of Earth’s governments (see Hebrews 1:1-4; Colossians 1:16-20; Revelation 11:15). This is the consummation, when God’s original goal in creation is finally brought to fulfillment.
In secular contexts, the word “apocalypse” means “disaster; catastrophe devastation.” Scripture, however, uses it in the sense of a revelation, uncovering, or unveiling of “hidden” Jesus Christ in one of the following ways: (1) in the form of divine insight committed first to the Apostle Paul, (2) at the Rapture, (3) instruction gained through reading the Scripture, (4) His manifestation at the Second Coming to appear to both save believing Israel and consume His enemies, or (5) Him showing divine truth to Gentiles via the Abrahamic Covenant in the Millennium. In all these instances, Jesus Christ is showing more and more of Himself. His wrath is being shown, His face is being seen, His wisdom is being shared, and so on.
1 Timothy 6:14-16
“That thou keep this commandment without spot, unrebukeable, until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ: Which in his times he shall shew [as in reveal!], who is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honour and power everlasting. Amen.”
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