By Not Known
For some, Daniel 7-12 can be very exciting as it deals with some not-so-simple views into apocalyptic literature. For others, these chapters can be confusing and even disturbing. As Christians who love our Bible, we can’t avoid these passages of Scripture. What do they mean and how do we understand them today?
Apocalyptic literature is a genre that has some very specific characteristics. As Robert H. Mounce pointed out, apocalyptic writings claim to reveal God’s purpose in history. These writings try to explain why the Jews, who consider themselves God’s people, are part of an oppressed nation suffering under ungodly political institutions. Such literature was usually written to provide consolation and encouragement to a group of people under severe oppression from foreign powers. In the words of New International Commentary on the NT: “A major role of the apocalypse is to explain why the righteous suffer and why the kingdom of God has been delayed. (In the Old Testament), the writings of the prophets dealt primarily with the nation’s ethical obligations at the time. Apocalyptic literature focuses on a period of time yet future when God would intervene to judge the world and establish righteousness.”
Since such literature also usually deals with the powers of good and evil, there will always be the element of conflicts and clashes. The victor will rule and peace will prevail. There is also a sense of urgency and immediacy. Choices have to be made and wrong choices will naturally lead to consequences. Readers and hearers, based on their prior understanding and good judgement, would have to decide quickly who they pay allegiance to.
Of course there are other elements connected to apocalyptic literature. Others have tried to compare apocalyptic literature with the book of Revelation. Although there may be some similarities, there are also differences. Revelation in many ways is really giving us fresh perspectives to the Old Testament. Moreover, Revelation transforms Israel into the church which includes Gentiles and all believers of the Lord Jesus Christ. As such, some will point out that there are contradictions between the two. On the other hand, most apocalyptic literature was written under pseudonyms while John wrote Revelation. John clearly wanted his writings to be pastoral and meant for it to encourage his readers. People at that time were familiar with apocalyptic writings, although such writings are not easily within our comprehension today.
The key questions are: how do we understand apocalyptic literature, and how do we interpret its meaning for our application today?
Firstly, we should not read too much into such literature and try to second-guess their indirect meanings and purposes. Secondly, let us focus on what we already know and how it exhorts us to live our lives today. Thirdly, God is sovereign and what He has revealed is already in His word and is sufficient for us to have a meaningful relationship with Him.