Why is the book of Revelation called “The Apocalypse”?

By Richard D. Draper

It is because of the style or form used in this writing. John did not choose the form of the vision; God did. The form is now called apocalyptic. This genre of literature received its name from the first word of the Book of Revelation, apocalypsis. The word apocalypse comes from the Greek ποκάλυψις which means revelation or disclosure. This title is quite fitting since one of the main signatures of apocalyptic literature is that it reveals or discloses heavenly secrets to its readers. Apocalypses were first written by the Jews, although the Anchor Bible Dictionary suggests that it may be possible that there are traces of apocalypticism in Akkadian literature. A quantity of nonbiblical apocalyptic literature begins showing up in the 3rd century BC. The majority of apocalypses were written between the 3rd century BC and the 1st century AD. In the 1st century AD the early Christians identified strongly with the Jewish apocalypses and began to adopt them.

Most apocalypses contain a vision or dream had by writer of the text. This dream is often narrated by a guide who shows the writer around the celestial realm. These dreams are often eschatological and thus deal with the future and portray latter-day conditions as dualistic. Thus, during the current evil age righteousness will battle evil and win due to divine intervention that will bring in a glorious future. Both God and Satan have agents that work for them and strive to push their objectives. One characteristic of this literature is its use of symbolism which the reader is expected to interpret. The point of the whole is that God is in control of all that goes on, he has foreseen everything that is to happen, and he has prepared the way of escape for his people.


This post is an except from The Revelation of John the Apostle.