Apocalypse now (and later)

I’m still here.  And if you’re reading this, I’m guessing you are too.  Obviously, the world hasn’t ended as some feared it might.  True, the day isn’t over yet.  But so far, no “Mayan Apocalypse.”  I hope you’re not disappointed.

It’s not entirely clear to me how the idea grew to such popularity.  We certainly shouldn’t blame the Mayans.  I’ll admit to a teensy-weensy bit of anxiety back when Y2K was all the buzz, but this time, I was so confident of the outcome that I dared to write this post in advance.  (If I had been wrong, who would have known?)

Let’s step back a bit.  What do you think of when you hear the word “apocalypse”?  Doomsday?  Disaster?  Calamity?  The end of the world?  If, for whatever reason, people are looking for a story of apocalypse, the Bible has one to tell.

But it’s not the Hollywood version.

Biblically, the word “apocalypse” means none of the things above.  Consider, for example, how the Book of Revelation begins: “The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place” (Rev 1:1, NIV).  “Revelation”–the word is apokalupsis, from the verb apokalupto, to remove the cover from something.

Christmas is only a few days away, and I’m reminded of the story of Simeon, a righteous man to whom the Holy Spirit had promised: You will not die before you see God’s Messiah.  It was the Spirit that led Simeon to the temple when Joseph and Mary brought their firstborn for the rite of consecration.

When the old man saw Jesus, his spirit came alive.  He took the baby in his arms, and praised God:

Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace.  For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.  (Luke 2:29-32, NIV)

“A light for revelation to the Gentiles.”  Yes, apocalypse.  A light to shine in dark places, to uncover the truth of God’s salvation.  The end of the world?  Only in this sense: it’s the beginning of the end of the reign of sin, a signpost to a new heaven and a new earth in which we will know creation as it was meant to be.

Apocalypse.  No alien invasion, no dark comet.  Just the light of God’s revelation.  God will keep uncovering the truth until all is accomplished, until all is made new.