Forget what the doomsayers of all that toxic End Times “Rapture” theology say. Apocalyptic literature in the Bible is about hope, not about Jesus doing a 180 and slaughtering people as some interpretations of Revelation have it.
Apocalyptic storytelling was a genre in Biblical times, a genre in the same way we read romance novels and detective novels and Western fiction and various genres in our times. It was a way of helping people in Biblical times understand that God was in control in and ultimately would prevail over evil and the despair that those of Christian faith were suffering. Which is what I believe and most Christians believe, notwithstanding the preaching of those who see everybody from Obama to Dick Cheney as the Antichrist.
Although, now that I think of it . . . well, never mind Dick Cheney. . .
The following is from the book Unmasking Apocalyptic Texts: A Guide to Preaching and Teaching. Author is Dorothy Jonaitis, a Dominican sister of the Congregation of Our Lady of the Scared Heart in Grand Rapids, a member of the Society of Bible Literature, an assistant prof at the Institute of Religious and Pastoral Studies at the University of Dallas. She holds a Doctor of Ministry in preaching from the Aquinas Institute of Theology. A woman Catholic preacher, of sorts.
“Apocalyptic thought assists you in picturing the Advent/Christmas/Epiphany cycle within a much wider context than any of us regularly think about. In our secular world, with its unbridled consumerism, there is a danger of losing the real meaning of Christmas. The broader context helps you visit the creche with an expectation of the Christ who will return. It assists to experience walking grace throughout the season where lights burn brightly, a grace that moves one along the path toward the reign of God. This grace is like a constant Emmaus walk (see Luke 24:13-35). If you imagine walking gracefully through the season, it will encourage you to pay attention because God might just have a special grace on the road of your Emmaus journey, where hearts are quickened, not only in the breaking of the bread, but also in the symbols of the church celebrations. . . .
“Within the contexts of apocalyptic literature, you read of wars and famines, earthquakes and people fleeing. This may feel like a rude intrustion upon the music and dancing, the lights and mistletoe, the candles and branches. It will not be a disturbance if you remember that the final coming has three aspects:
1. The end of the cosmos as anticipated in all these destructions of evil,
2. The crumbling of the religious system, symbolized by the Temple’s destruction,
3. The destruction of the individual’s world in death.
“Advent’s message that God alone promises and sends the Messiah parallels the bilbical apocalyptic message that the goodness of God is the only reliable source of security. That message is, indeed, cause for hope. It surpasses the security. That message is, indeed, cause for hope. It surpasses the security promised by high-paying jobs, big homes, healthy children, and three-car garages. That message rings true in the ears of those who have very little of the world’s goods. It keeps them from despair. . . .
“Paul reminds the people of God that they are saved by hope, even though hope cannot be seen. If people expect to see that future of hope, then what they see is not hope. Paul charges the faithful of God to hope for what they do not see, waiting in patience for that time of ultimate revelation (Rom 8:24-25). In the end, then, the preacher or teacher of the Advent cycle reminds people to live in hope and offers them the opportunity of practicing this perspective in daily life.”