Understanding Apocalyptic Language


If you look up “apocalyptic” in the dictionary, you will find that it means “describing or prophesying the complete destruction of the world.” But if you read the fine print, you will see that the word comes from the Greek word apokaluptikos, which has nothing to do with the destruction of the world, but simply means to uncover or reveal. How did we get from uncovering or revealing to the destruction of the world? Well, it’s because so much of the Bible’s apocalyptic language seems on the surface to be talking about the end of the world—language such as we find in the Olivet Discourse, where Jesus talks about the sun and moon going out and the stars falling from heaven (Mat 24.29). The question is, what is the Bible unveiling or revealing to us through that kind of language? And why use that kind of language to do it? We get a clue when we realize that God uses that sort of language a handful of times in the Old Testament, and it never once refers to the end of the world, but rather to the end of some nation’s world. The key to understanding apocalyptic language, like so much else in the Bible, is coming to the New Testament from the Old, instead of parachute dropping into the New Testament and asking, “What does it mean to me?”Matthew80-OlivetDiscourse3-Understanding_Apocalyptic_Language-2014-02-23.mp3

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