Q&A: Characteristics of the Book of Revelation

Characteristics of the Book of Revelation

How is apocalyptic literature similar to and different from typical biblical prophecy?

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Answer

Yes. Apocalyptic literature has a number of characteristics. In recent years, that's been sharpened by scholars. The first characteristic is that it takes place typically in a narrative framework. There is a story that is told. Within that story, within that narrative, we have an angel or some type of heavenly being communicating content. So you have a narrative framework, you have a heavenly being, and part of this content that is being delivered to a human — for example, Daniel — is a transcendent reality. So there's a spatial dimension: heavenlies, throne room visions, that sort of thing, angels. There's also a temporal dimension as well: latter days, eschatology, end of days, cataclysmic events. So it all takes place in a narrative, communicated by a celestial being, such as an angel, to a human that's delivered. The content is vertical and horizontal, to put it like that.

Answer by Dr. Ben Gladd

Dr. Benjamin Gladd is Assistant Professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, MS.