Apokalypsis


(Spectrumbot) #1

Apokalypsis.

The opening word of Revelation is a mouthful (Revelation 1:1). A proper grasp of the meaning of this word promises a huge payoff with respect to understanding the message of the book.

Let us cross out some popular options, that is, what apokalypsis does not mean.

First, ‘apokalypsis’ does not mean catastrophe. We have had “Apocalypse Now” in movies and literature. These modern representations of calamity and doom are a far cry from what Revelation has in mind.

Second, ‘apokalypsis’ is not a synonym for eschatology. ‘Eschatology’ has to do with the last days. The meaning and orientation of the word ‘eschatology’ can be extracted from the word itself: it refers to the study of what lies furthest away, whether in time or space. Apokalypsis does not have the end-time connotation even though it includes visions of the end.

Third, ‘apokalypsis’ should not be regarded as a term for literary genre. Determination of genre (the kind of literature we are reading) is meant to give readers a head start, but this has not been of much help in the case of Revelation. Other ‘apocalypses’ are pseudonymous; Revelation is not (1:1, 9). The book shares characteristics with books that are called ‘apocalypses,’ such as otherworldly journeys, a guiding angel, and the demise of Satan, but the distinctives of Revelation make it a breed apart.

Fourth, in further note on genre, ‘apokalypsis’ should not be branded as ‘crisis literature.’ This is the commonly held view for the situation in which apocalypses arise, but it does not work for Revelation. (One scholar solves the problem by saying that there was a crisis, but the recipients of the book did not know it.)

This must suffice for what apokalypsis does not mean.

What, then, does it mean?

Fortunately, the word matches the content of the book. If we begin with the word, we find that it is a composite of the preposition apo and the verb kalypto. This verb means to cover something up, to hide, conceal, or ‘keep secret.’ Now put apo in front of kalypto, and what do we get? We get ‘un-covering’ and, as we have in English, revelation. Apokalypsis is the reversal of kalypsis. What one party in the cosmic conflict tries to conceal, hide, obfuscate, and keep secret, is in this book uncovered and exposed. In contrast to eschatology, apokalypsis is as interested in the present as in the future; its forte is not prediction but uncovering.

If we look at the content of the book, we are treated to one exposé after another, in seals, trumpets, and bowls — and much in between. What the opening word announces, the book delivers. Title and content match.

This view of apokalypsis is also a contrast to the notion of apocalypses as crisis literature. A deeper layer now rises into view. Revelation is not generated by a crisis but by the kind of person God is (1:1). We owe this insight in part to the close connection between Revelation and the Book of Daniel. Daniel is also a book of revelation, and the revelation has its roots in God’s character and disposition. When crunch time comes for Daniel and his friends in connection with King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream, Daniel tells the king that “there is a God in heaven who reveals [anakalyptōn] mysteries” (Daniel 2:28). Indeed, God is “the Revealer” (ho anakalyptōn) (Daniel 2:29, LXX, translation mine). ‘Making known’ is so characteristic of God as to make God ‘the Known-Maker’ (ho anakalyptōn).

People who pride themselves on intellectual and philosophical prowess should not fall for the temptation to look down on books like Daniel and Revelation. These books have undeservedly gotten a bad reputation, but they are among the most sophisticated books in the Bible. In fact, chapter 2 in Daniel has the greatest concentration of epistemic terms in the Old Testament. ‘Epistemic’ is a fancy word for knowledge: these are books that expand the horizon of what is knowable.

Apokalypsis introduces a book that opens things because of the kind of person God is (1:1-3). To open things is precisely what this book does — open door (3:7, 8), open heaven (4:1), open scroll (5:6), open baby scroll (10:2, 8), open temple (11:19; 15:5), and open book (20:12). ‘Open’ is the opposite of ‘closed,’ and it is the counterpoint to concealment. With the open door comes an invitation to come up at the beginning (4:1) and a second invitation to come home at the end (22:17). This is yet another reason why we might choose to rename Revelation as The Book of Transparency.

For what is the modus operandi of the heavenly government? Is it not access (4:1), transparency (4:6; 15:2; 21:18, 21), and participation (20:4)? Secrecy is banished. The ‘openness of God,’ to use a phrase familiar to many, does not here refer to God’s alleged ignorance of things still in the future but to God’s policy of access. This contrasts with the other side in the cosmic conflict, whose entire operation is predicated on falsehood and secrecy. Apokalypsis is now a term that shatters theological and political conventions.

For this assertation, let me attempt a couple of take-home points.

First, theology. From Augustine onwards, the Christian theological tradition embraced the notion that God’s ways are inscrutable. Augustine called it “most hidden” (occultissima), a word denoting concealment that is every bit the opposite of what Revelation brings to view. As Paula Fredriksen summarizes the Augustinian view, God “owes man no explanation.” Moreover, true piety forbids the believer “to question why God does what he does.” Luther and Calvin both had similar convictions. This is not the stance of Revelation. In this book, hiddenness is a false note in the heavenly symphony. From this follows another take-home point: Questions are not unwelcome or a threat to genuine piety. Revelation respects and empowers the believer.

Second, the politics. God’s apokalypsis is proof of an authority that is committed to transparency. The heavenly authority grants what earthly authorities often deny, even authorities that profess commitment to openness. Already in 1998, the late senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, in a book entitled Secrecy, decried the mushrooming of secrecy in the governing institutions of the United States. This tendency has accelerated by orders of magnitude since that time — and not limited to the period when the government authorized ‘secret renditions’ and ‘enhanced interrogation techniques.’ Democracy and the rule of law are rendered meaningless unless there is transparency. “Everything secret degenerates, even the administration of justice; nothing is safe that does not show how it can bear discussion and publicity,” Lord Acton wrote more than a century ago. Belief in the legitimacy of secrecy runs deep in political philosophy from Plato to Putin to the Pope, with Machiavelli hovering somewhere near the middle. “Secrecy is the first essential in the affairs of the State,” said Cardinal Richelieu (in office from 1624-1642 as the First Minister of King Louis XIII of France). Secrecy is truly at the heart of the crisis of governance in our time, facilitated by how easy it is to create false profiles on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, and from there spew out fake news on an industrial scale.

In Revelation, we are brought face to face with heaven’s policy of candor and a government that throws itself open to scrutiny. In this conception of government, there is participation on the part of intelligent beings, from the four living beings “in the middle of the throne” (4:6) to the redeemed who come alive to “reign with Christ for a thousand years” (20:4). A government of God and a government of “We the People” need not be as far apart as many think. J. M. Roberts says that the “democratic theory that all governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed…was epoch-making.” It surely was. Alexander Hamilton wondered in Federalist No. 1 “whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force.” Abraham Lincoln waxed wistful that “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

The report-card for such a government in this world does not look great. Secrecy is one of the factors that dooms it. Consent on the part of the governed is fatally compromised by secrecy — and its demise is assured even if “the people” were to approve it. Contrast this to the politics of heaven, and the prospect that a government “under God” will be a “government of the people, by the people, for the people” brightens greatly. This is one more thing to take away from Daniel and Revelation, the two most political and world-aware books in the Bible.

Apokalypsis is the opposite of secrecy.

Sigve K. Tonstad is Research Professor of Biblical Interpretation at Loma Linda University.

Photo by Alexander Rumpel on Unsplash

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/9329

Revelation: Our Options for Interpretation
(Barry Casey) #2

Thank you, Sigve, for your emphasis on revealing, transparency, and access in Revelation.


(2nd Opinion) #3

Wow, that was a fresh take. Thank you!


(Frankmer7) #4

I appreciate your thoughts. While I agree that the very nature of the book is to reveal what is concealed, about God and about the recipients’ own life situations, I wonder if this emphasis on openness is a fully representative picture of God. I think of Job. When storming the gates of heaven with his questions about his suffering, he received no sufficient answers in the end…other than who are you to question? Tantamount to, you wouldn’t understand if I answered you.

Doesn’t the experience of suffering that we all encounter in this world involve an element of this in our experience with God? We ask why, and receive no answers, whether its over personal pain, tsunamis that kill thousands, or genocide that kills millions, such as the Holocaust. We ask God where he was and why he didn’t intervene, and are met with silence. We search for meaning and encounter what seems like randomness. Even Jesus acknowledged such.

We read a book like Revelation, and indeed the entire NT, and see a picture of Jesus coming soon…and its been 2000 years. We ask why, and there are no good answers beyond our human speculations…or, Adventist attempts to concoct an IJ out of Revelation that tries to explain an 1810 year delay…and still counting.

God’s ways in this age are, to me, not all open. That may be due to our limited intellect and vision. It also may be that there is an element of his sovereignity that we, as enlightenment and democratically conditioned modern/post-modern Westerners, are simply not comfortable with. Indeed, Paul said in Romans in the context of God’s inexplicable equal inclusion of Gentiles in his new covenant people, “Who are you, O man, to talk back to God?” (Rom. 9:20)

His ways were beyond their thinking and even questioning. And, his hiddenness and sovereign choices can sometimes be well beyond ours.

Thanks…

Frank


(Steve Mga) #5

Sigve –
What a GREAT discussion and overview of Revelation. Revealing Jesus,
the Father and their great interest in Humans as Children of God, and
their desires that ALL of Their children will imitate them even in times of
crisis when Earthly Empires say “Worship US!”
Thank You.


(Patrick Travis) #6

14 The secret of the Lord is for those who fear Him,
And He will make them know His covenant. Ps.25:14.

God unveils to those of His choosing…they “fear/awe Him” in a righteous way and accept as Savior who this book first of all reveals. The Lamb slain from the foundation of the world for forgiveness of sins to those who receive and love Him.


#7

I appreciate your focus on the transparency aspect of God’s character and God’s government. I think the core of Great Controversy theology is about the character of God Nice beginning to our quarter of studies.

Blessings,

Catherine


#8

A list of the world’s most democratic countries was reported in today’s press here in Australia. Twenty countries were listed as full democracies, including New Zealand (#4) and Australia (#9). The next group of 55 countries, identified as flawed democracies, placed the US at #25. A major problem, it seems, is the excessive secrecy, or lack of openness. No doubt Julian Assange could testify to this. How magnificent that God’s government is so open!


(Patrick Travis) #9

The USA was meant to be purposefully a Democratic Republic and not a pure democracy. I suggest heaven is not a democracy either…though it seems Satan wanted it to be and desired to Usurp the King by the will/desires of created beings though a coup.
Pure democracies are unsafe and unstable.


#10

For me, the Cosmic Conflict, or Great Controversy, and the painfully long delay of it’s resolution is most meaningful when we understand the character of GOD is ultimately LOVE. While Justice and Sovereignty are part of His character as well, the supreme element over those, is LOVE. Jesus demonstrated this in the Gospels. His love does not eliminate His justice & His sovereignty, but the potential of His love to recover the lost must be so thoroughly rejected that only His sovereignty and justice remain to resolve that choice. Thus He is waiting for every soul to have the opportunity to respond to His Love.

“That he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life.”(Luke1:74 KJV)

“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise [of salvation & judgment], as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”(2Peter3:9 KJV)

The Great Controversy is ultimately about a self-limiting GOD who restrained His own will to create Free Will for man. The entire Bible is a record of his confrontation of the one who is the father of all lies and who goes about seeking whom he may devour.

Within that limiting context, He has done everything in His power to bring ALL men to the knowledge of Himself, the only true God, worthy of all praise and worship, sending His Son to reveal Himself.

“He that hath seen me hath seen the Father”(John14:9 KJV)

If the Great Controversy is to resolve for eternity the ‘ignorance and pain of evil’, replacing it with the ‘knowledge and power of His Love’, then evil and its results must be so thoroughly demonstrated that all who are saved will for eternity reject it. The lack of trust in God, demonstrated in the ‘garden fall’, must for eternity be replaced with a ‘Trust in God’ that can never be shaken.

Thank God that he has revealed Himself to us in the Loving Son and the sacrifice He has made for us. And thankfully He inspired His servants to record their experience of His Love and Care so that future generations would know The Truthful One.

I look forward to Eden Restored as Revelation promises.

“And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life.”(1John5:20 KJV)

“And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away”(Revelation21:1 KJV)

“And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.”(Revelation21:4 KJV)

“And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it. And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof.”(Revelation21:22,23 KJV)


Timeout: “The Smoke of Their Torment”
(Patrick Travis) #11

T,
It seems there is always difficulty by we mere mortals when we discuss the attributes of God. We speak of/call on and praise His justice, often when there is a particular filtered interest. We/some speak of His grace primarily in relation to forgiveness not law. Love is often disassociated from law. Judgment often considered unworthy of Him.
I would suggest the importance of the “classical” Protestant teaching of JBF “alone” rightly combines them all.
It was love in both content and action that caused God to do what he felt/states what was Love’s meaning. Just/Righteousness actions of obedience to His own being that would allow forgiveness to lost humanity that when prompted of the Spirit would respond to the gift of His Son, crucified for our sins, by faith in the gift.
Paul describes the concreteness of law as outlining an aspect of love in Rom. 13:9. So, the law as described here is an aspect of love. Our problem is, we remain not in all respects loving or we would be sinless.
Titus 2:11,12 describes grace as having both a forgiving aspect and a teaching aspect towards holiness. It is not either or.
My point is God’s plan of love in Christ’s dying for us incorporates all of His attributes. Those simply wanting Christ’s death to be an example of forgiveness/love while avoiding the legal aspects of Christ, who had no sin, dying for our sins miss the point. Those thinking that we somehow through the Spirit become sinlessly perfect miss the point that for all times in the present age by “the deeds of the law” non shall be considered righteous or just.
“JBF alone” rightly understood satisfies every aspect of God’s Justice and Love in our behalf.
Why does time linger? To each generation he is not desirous that any should perish but repent and find the grace of forgiveness (Justification) and the new life of growth “towards” holiness (Sanctification) in the Son as convicted of the Sprit who testifies of the Son and not Himself. In Christ, we who are called and forgiven are reckoned righteous all the while we are growing…but yet sinners.
God’s attributes can’t be divided. They all are the attributes that make Him LOVE in His very Spirit being.
Regards,
Pat


(Patrick Travis) #12

My comments were made to challenge the ongoing thought “powers” in the SDA church presently.
You have disciples of Andreason and Graham Maxwell.
Both discard the classical Protestant view of JBF “alone.” To those who will hear, let them hear the present cause of the SDA dilemma…I suggest.


(Robert Beggs) #13

I loved this article.

There are some necessary differences between earthly and heavenly governments. We humans have limited capabilities (even if we all work together), are all fallible, sinful mortals, and live on a sinful planet where “power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Eve was not tempted by appetite (Gen. 3:5). There are several power-laden, sensitive jobs: president, legislator, judge, doctor, police officer, and others; that we should never entrust to mere humans, were not for the lack of angelic applicants. Even angels might be insufficient, even Lucifer was corrupted by power.

As I once told a British friend, the U.S. constitution is based on the Christian belief, “There is none righteous”. We have an incredible number of checks and balances that, while absolutely necessary, now threaten to paralyze us. I’m not sure there is a solution. Fortunately, God has promised to straighten it all out in the end.

Governments do need to keep some secrets: passwords, names of people who would be endangered, etc. Even God has some (Dan. 8:26, 12:4, Matt. 24:36, Rev. 10:4). But ours has kept way too many, some of which would merely reveal the shortcomings of those in power. I think they should tell us what they’re not telling us. With modern text editors, it would be easy to change all occurrences of someone’s name to “Person-1”, etc., etc. This would be much easier to read and more reassuring, than pages half covered with black-out.

As for the heavenly government, only an eternal, all-knowing, all-wise, righteous, merciful, all-loving, self-sacrificing God, can possibly be entrusted with universal, absolute power; and, not risk being corrupted by it. Worthy is the Lamb (Rev. 5:11).


#14

Yes, I agree, Pat. The spectrum of Adventist “thought powers” runs from M.L. Andreason and Herb Douglass to Graham Maxwell, and it all ends up in the same LGT ditch, it appears to me.

This is very subtle (and involves much more), but “to those who will hear,” it seems blatant.


#15

Perhaps that should give the “thought powers” of the Seventh-day Adventist Church nightmares.

Interesting that Sigve brought up “epistemic” and “the horizon of what is knowable.”

Some of us are reasonably familiar with what the term “openness of God” means in West Coast Adventist academia.

I find myself seriously doubting that what Richard Rice has proposed regarding the epistemic limits of God has now been abandoned.

Richard Rice: Another consequence of this conviction concerns God's knowledge.

As an aspect of his experience, God’s knowledge of the world is also dynamic rather than static.

Instead of perceiving the entire course of human existence in one timeless moment, God comes to know events as they take place.

He learns something from what transpires.

We call this position the `open view of God" because it regards God as receptive to new experiences and as flexible in the way he works toward his objectives in the world.

Since it sees God as dependent on the world in certain respects, the open view of God differs from much conventional theology.

Yet we believe that this dependence does not detract from God’s greatness, it only enhances it.

Therefore, I find it confusing, at best, that Sigve would invoke the phrase “openness of God” in this context, and with the qualifier “alleged ignorance,” because what Richard Rice wrought in 1980 has spread across Christendom, and I don’t think Adventists could, or want to, walk it back at this point.

The term “open theism” was introduced in 1980 with theologian Richard Rice’s book The Openness of God: The Relationship of Divine Foreknowledge and Human Free Will . The broader articulation of open theism was given in 1994, when five essays were published by Evangelical scholars (including Rice) under the title The Openness of God .

Recent theologians of note espousing this view include: Clark Pinnock (deceased as of 2010), Greg Boyd, Thomas Jay Oord, John E. Sanders, Dallas Willard, Jürgen Moltmann, Richard Rice, C. Peter Wagner, John Polkinghorne, Hendrikus Berkhof, Adrio Konig, Harry Boer, Bethany Sollereder, Matt Parkins, Thomas Finger (Mennonite), W. Norris Clarke (Roman Catholic), Brian Hebblethwaite, Robert Ellis, Kenneth Archer (Pentecostal) Barry Callen (Church of God), Henry Knight III, Gordon Olson, and Winkie Pratney.

A significant, growing number of philosophers of religion affirm it: Peter Van Inwagen, Richard Swinburne (Orthodox), William Hasker, David Basinger, Nicholas Wolterstorff, Dean Zimmerman, Timothy O’Connor, James D. Rissler, Keith DeRose, Richard E. Creel, Robin Collins (philosopher/theologian/physicist), J. R. Lucas, Vincent Brümmer, (Roman Catholic), Richard Purtill, Alan Rhoda, Jeffrey Koperski, Dale Tuggy, and Keith Ward. Biblical scholars Terence E. Fretheim, Karen Winslow, and John Goldingayaffirm it. Others include writers Madeleine L’Engle and Paul C. Borgman, mathematician D.J. Bartholomew and biochemist/theologian Arthur Peacocke.[38]

Perhaps, in the spirit of apokalypsis, Sigve would care to clarify whether he is abandoning Rice’s theology, or merely using the phrase “openness of God” in a somewhat confusing (to me) way.

I think that imagining that one can logically deduce the things that are “impossible for God to know” is one of the most epistemically, spiritually and socially damaging ideas to spring forth from “West Coast” Adventism.

Adventists are shrinking the horizons of what God can know, while imaging they are “expanding their epistemic horizons” though placing an extrabiblical LGT overlay on Bible prophecy.

Flying to the sun on waxen wings never ends well.


Timeout: Revelation and the Crisis of Historicism
Timeout: From Daniel to Revelation
(Patrick Travis) #16

Your on a roll today. Picking on all the “sacred LL”,in the eyes of some, Folks.
Just my view, that while Graham’s brother Merwin was a perfectionist and “LGT”, Graham was a different cloth. His view was more akin To moral influence but he didnt like the term and dissociated from it.
. He is not here to defend himself so in fairness I feel he just rejected God’s need to do anything but exhibit his character of love to allow for forgiveness. He would be closer to universalism than limited last generation, I suggest.
As far as Rice, one of my Profs at RTS John Frame wrote an objective book regarding Rice, Sanders and other “Open Theist” entitled “No Other God.”
Good read, recognizing no one is perfect. I would suggest he fairly appraises their view and offers a biblical & philosophical response.
Regards


#17

Not fun. I might manage to exit before I get banned.

Merwyn was on the faculty of Union College the year I was there.

My future husband graduated there, and when future hubby told Merwyn he was marrying me, Merwyn said in his unique accent, “She’s a lucky gull.”

When I say Graham Maxwell’s storytelling is an iteration of LGT, I’m meaning it’s a metaphorical fraternal, rather than an identical twin. But I’ll split the difference with you, Pat.

But Graham did say that God CREATED the world to win the Great Controversy, even if human beings were not saved in the process. That’s a deal breaker to me, but your mileage may very.

He doesn’t need to be here to defend himself, because I’m not attacking him personally, just dealing with what he actually said. And, as I said, I’ll take people’s word for it that he was a kind Christian gentleman.

I think the epistemological matrix of our thinking has been dismantled, and clear thinking is no longer possible.

There’s a prominent prophetic word for that in the Book of Revelation


(Patrick Travis) #18

I mean with Graham, one is entitled to call their own theology what they choose. Though many appraise more as a “neo-moral influence” mixed with great controversy overtones.
No, I think ones published works are fair game…after all critiques are the only way to appraise and improve!
I associate LGT with a perfectionist and to their view of the GC. I may be wrong but dont see that aspect in Graham.
Hey, we all have little nuances. I have a few issues with Frames book…but not as many as with Rice’s.
This should never be about animus. My view having been at RTS is that their appraisals of opposing views is much more objective and cerebral than animus. Much more gracious than, I suggest, Calvinist are afforded.
Off to some friends for the seasonal national pastime. Sadly, I saw the first! :rofl:
Regards,
Pat


#19

Of course,

But neither is small talk appropriate when we are collectively approaching the event horizon of a world-swallowing black hole.

Just my opinion.

Enjoy the seasonal national pastime.

Signing off…


#20

Crazy. Self-focused. Winning at all costs: Trumpian.