The Apocalypse in Early Christianity

The Apocalypse in Early Christianity

Kimberley Smith

The Colorado Historian: An Undergraduate Journal, University of Colorado at Boulder, Spring (2011)


The earliest Christian writings of apocalyptic eschatology presented equally powerful and disconcerting images of the annihilation of the earth, the degeneration of humanity into chaos and darkness, and the slaying of the sinful at the feet of the holy and righteous. According to these teachings, God unleashes his infinite wrath upon mankind, ensuring an eternal punishment in blood and fire for those condemned unbelievers and a timeless paradise for the few worthy of God?s praise. Although these doctrines predicted the End of Days and the coming Judgment, they also served as clear reflections of contemporary events and beliefs.

Subsequently, singular and sometimes completely divergent views of the apocalypse emerged as the Christian church continued to develop and as a variety of Christian communities were established, as can be seen in the writings of the Gnostics in the Nag Hammadi codices and of the Essenes in the Dead Sea Scrolls, in the words of Jesus himself in the New Testament gospels, and in several other apocalyptic writings. These writings and interpretations of apocalyptic scenarios, clear reflections of the values and beliefs of the time, are centered on the total obliteration of the earth, the social order, and God?s ultimate intervention in human history.

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