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A Happy Apocalypse

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We don’t normally use the word ‘happy’ with ‘apocalypse.’ The word ‘apocalypse’ is more likely to remind us of a violent war movie, the four horsemen of the apocalypse (conquest, war, famine, and death), or the end of the world. 

I heard the words ‘happy’ and ‘apocalypse’ together in 2012. Just before Martha and I moved back to Winnipeg, our family visited Vancouver’s First Baptist Church to hear the church’s pipe organ, and one of our favourite preachers. That Sunday, Darrell Johnson preached the first in a series of sermons on the last book in the Bible. During the sermon, he left the pulpit, walked to the baptistry, drew back a curtain—and there stood the church’s smiling moderator. The congregation burst into applause. He’d been there all along; but no one knew, until Darrell revealed him—or, according to New Testament Greek, until Darrell ‘apocalypsed’ him. And it was a happy apocalypse.

In New Testament times, the word ‘apocalypse’ meant to disclose something, to bring it to light. The opening words of the Bible’s last book are, “The apocalypse [that is, revelation] of Jesus Christ….” We, therefore, call that book Revelation. 

(By the way: click here to hear Darrell explain how to read Revelation.)

I believe we all need help knowing reality from unreality (and God is the ultimate reality, whose love created all else that’s real). Sometimes we need intellectual help. Western cultures squeeze us into an ‘immanent frame’—that is, into thinking that what is real is limited to (framed by) what we can see, touch, and examine. It’s hard to believe in God inside this frame.

Sometimes we need emotional help. Those of us who experience mood disorders like depression and bipolar disorder too often feel that we have no real connection with God. 

Sometimes we need relational help. When we’ve been bullied, abused, or stereotyped, it can be harder to believe that God is love, and that love is sustaining the universe. 

For these reasons and more, we rely on helpers to provide us with the happy apocalypse we need. We need helpers to show us the reality that we didn’t know, feel, or trust was real. 

Churches worldwide gather on Sundays because it was Sunday when God raised Jesus from the dead. Jesus’ resurrection was a happy apocalypse that changes everything. In preparation for this Sunday, who or what is ‘apocalypsing’ (revealing) God to you?

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