Apocalyptic forms of writing gave encouragement and hope in times of crisis and danger. This type of writing appeared before Jesus was born (eg. Daniel 7). The most important task of apocalyptic literature was to convince readers that God is more powerful than any forces of evil. God’s goodness will prevail in the end, no matter how bad the present situation. The term ‘apocalytpic’ means ‘unveiling what is hidden’. God’s salvation is promised. The perseverance of good people will be rewarded.
Vivid use of imagery and symbolism is a feature of apocalyptic literature. Jewish people reading the Book of Revelation would recognise an abundance of Old Testament imagery. Colourful word pictures, symbols and symbolic numbers are used to reflect on ‘the last things’, when time will be fulfilled. The images are not meant to be taken literally. The focus is on God’s promises of eternal life and goodness.
“Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; the first heaven and the first earth had disappeared now, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the holy city, and the new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, as beautiful as a bride all dressed for her husband. Then I heard a loud voice call from the throne, ‘You see this city? Here God lives among men and women. He will make his home among them; they shall be his people, and he will be their God; his name is God-with-them. He will wipe away all tears from their eyes; there will be no more death, and no more mourning or sadness. The world of the past has gone.” (Revelation 21:1-4)