There are apocalyptic books and chapters in both Old Testament and New Testament: the book of Revelation; Daniel, chapters 7-12; some chapters in Ezekiel, Zachariah, and Isaiah. There are apocalyptic passages in the Gospels: Matthew, chapter 24; Mark, chapter 13; Luke, chapter 21. Apocalyptic is the hardest biblical literature genre for interpretation. The fact that there are many variants of interpretation of Revelation and Daniel prove that. Besides biblical apocalyptic, there are some apocryphal and pseudo-epigraphical apocalyptic books. This genre was used in Jewish literature, but is not used now.
The following material is based on the books:
1. Henry A. Virkler Hermeneutics: Principles and Process of Biblical Interpretation
2. Gordon D. Fee, Douglas Stuart How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth
3. Gordon D. Fee New Testament Exegesis: A Handbook for Students and Pastors
4. George Eldon Ladd A Theology of the New Testament
Apocalyptic literature is similar to biblical prophesies. Both describe the future. Both use metaphoric and symbolic language. However, there are differences:
1. Prophesies were first spoken and then written. Apocalyptic was usually written first.
2. Prophesies are usually short. Apocalyptic is longer.
3. Apocalyptic has a tendency to contain more symbols, especially, animals and living beings.
4. Apocalyptic emphasizes dualism (Christ and angels against Satan and Antichrist) more than prophesies.
5. Apocalyptic mainly comforts and encourages the righteous remnant. Prophesies often rebuke nominal believers.
6. Apocalyptic is mainly pessimistic toward human ability to change the present situation. Prophesies emphasize the importance of people's change.
The book of Revelation consists of three genres:
The book of Revelation consists of four revelations:
1. Introduction (1:1-8)
2. The first revelation (1:9-3:22):
1) The ascended Christ (1:9-20)
2) Epistles to seven churches (2:1-3:22)
3. The second revelation (4:1-16:21):
1) The heavenly throne (4:1-11)
2) The seven seals (5:1-8:1)
3) The seven trumpets (8:2-9:21)
4) The angel with the open book (10:1-11)
5) Two witnesses (11:1-19)
6) The conflict between God and Satan (12:1-17)
7) Two beasts (13:1-18)
8) the Lambs and 144,00 redeemed people; preaching of three angels; reaping (14:1-20)
9) Seven bowls (15:1-16:21)
4. The third revelation (17:1-21:8):
1) The great Babylon (17:1-18:21)
2) God's final victory over the evil (19:1-21:8)
5. The fourth revelation - the New Jerusalem (21:9-22:5)
6. Epilogue (22:6-21)
The principles of interpretation of apocalyptic:
1. Define the source or the basis of the symbol. Is the symbol related to the Old Testament? Is it used somewhere else in Revelation? In the ancient mythology? In the modern culture? Is the symbol typical for Revelation? Is the symbol changeable in Revelation?
2. Define how the author used the symbol at this time. Does John use the symbol in its original meaning or not? Was the symbol changed and converted into a new symbol? Are there any inner keys that help to understand John's intention in using the symbol? Does John interpret the symbol himself? If so, use this interpretation for understanding other symbols. Is the symbol general or is related to something specific or some event?
3. Consider the vision as a whole. Take the vision as a whole and do not try to find all the details. The details are used either for dramatization or to supplement the whole picture to make it more clear. Do not try to make details allegories.