When Americans hear the word "apocalypse," they think of massive, global, cosmic, discontinuity. Maybe they think of the Francis Ford Coppola movie, "Apocalypse Now."
There are two ways of dealing with "apocalypse." There are "Futurists" and there are "Preterists."
There is no ambiguity about these verses. Futurists need to come to grips with them and be able to respond effectively to atheists like Bertrand Russell, who said:
Our concept of "the Second Coming" must come from the Bible, not Hollywood.
This essay was prompted by a question about Romans 8:19, which says:
The creation waits eagerly for the " apocalypse " of the sons of God.
Let's look first at the phrase " waits eagerly ." The same Greek word is used by Paul in Galatians 5:
It seems Paul is drawing a contrast between those who are attempting to become righteous in God's eyes by following Jewish ceremonies and traditions rather than by faith in Christ. He says (throughout the letter to Galatians, and his other letters as well) that Christians have a better hope.
Why, then, does Paul say that he "eagerly awaits" this hope? Why is this righteousness not a present reality? What is the relationship between Paul's eagerly waiting for circumcision to be replaced and the creation's eagerly waiting for the "apocalypse " of the sons of God? Could it be that both were eagerly waiting for something that happened when the Jewish temple was destroyed in AD70?
If you look at the way the word "apocalypse " is used in the New Testament, you get the feeling that we've been misled by Hollywood and the theologians of "the Rapture." You'll get the impression that "apocalypse" means "understanding" inside us, not global catastrophe outside us.
Here is every occurrence of the word "apocalypse" in the New Testament:
A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.
But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God;
For the earnest expectation of the creature waiteth for the manifestation of the sons of God.
Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began,
So that ye come behind in no gift; waiting for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ:
Now, brethren, if I come unto you speaking with tongues, what shall I profit you, except I shall speak to you either by revelation, or by knowledge, or by prophesying, or by doctrine?
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, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.
It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory *. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord.
And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.
For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.
And I went up by revelation, 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.
That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give unto you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him:
How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words,
And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels,
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 of Jesus Christ:
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 of Jesus Christ;
But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy.
The Revelation 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:
These events set in motion the most extraordinary cultural revolution in human history: the growth of Christianity.
As far as Romans 8 goes, if Paul were to travel through time to our present day, he would say that "the sons of God" have been manifested. Christians have made
extraordinary progress in Christianizing the planet. He would see 3 or 4 billion human beings living in peace and prosperity, enjoying a higher standard of living than any king in
the pre-parousia world. The world before Christ was a world where half of all people died violent deaths, and the rest struggled
to survive. I think he would also see a tremendous lack of gratitude and sound doctrine in our day. People too infrequently thank Jesus for our abundance, too many complain about our
wealth and wait to be "raptured," and too many so-called Christians enjoy their swank mega-churches while hundreds of millions
of human beings are still starving. The Preterist says that there was an apocalypse in A.D. 70, but we must all agree that "apocalypse" -- the unveiling of Jesus Christ --
is presently an ongoing phenomenon, rooted in an extraordinary complex of events in the past: