Apocalypse (4)1 Apocalyptic Times

The word “apocalyptic” is often used rather loosely, when we speak about catastrophic or overwhelming events which might remind us of things described in the last book of the Bible. In fact, hardly anything which happens to us today has this apocalyptic signature – what (forcefully) disrupts our more or less placid life is hardly “apocalyptic”, even if nowadays we use the word for such events. When we look more precisely, we must acknowledge that only what happens when the heavens begin to make their presence felt can be called “apocalyptic”, that is: when our own human world and our world of earth is being shaken up by as yet unknown, “revealing” forces.

This is what the “Apocalypse to John” is about, when after an introduction and a first vision it describes a series of events triggered off by the opening of seven seals, by the sounding of seven trumpets and the pouring out of seven bowls of wrath. We have already looked at this apocalyptic process by focusing on the Writer, on the Book and on the so-called “Second Coming”. Let’s here look at what we can find out about the process itself.

An important moment in the course of the unfolding apocalypse has come when the 24 elders who sit on their thrones before God, at the beginning of the Third Throne Vision, when the 7th Trumpet has sounded, state that He “has begun to reign” (11:17). Now, the forces of adversary in earnest show themselves in battles of various kinds: the heavenly dragon and the beast rising out of the sea as well as the beast rising out of the land. Another such moment comes when, after the pouring out of the seven bowls and the sacking of Babylon, at the beginning of the Sixth Throne Vision, the voice of a great multitude resumes with another Hallelujah, crying that “The Lord our God the Almighty reigns” (19:6). Now the die is really cast, and the White Rider and his armies begin to mop up the forces of evil, who with Death and Hades eventually all end up in the “lake of fire that burns with sulphur” (19:20, 20:2, 10 and 14).

Decisive moments of the apocalyptic process happen when the Godhead takes steps to overcome the forces of evil, of adversary, which have taken over parts of the world. What goes before, through seals and early trumpets, is all in preparation of such final apocalyptic confrontations.

We can look at one of Rudolf Steiner’s “Anthroposophical Leading Thoughts”2 for help, to understand more about the stages of overcoming cosmic adversaries. In the aphorism numbered 112 in this series, he states that the Divine Spiritual in cosmos manifests itself in the following stages:

1. By way of its innate, very own, Being;

2. By way of the Revelation of its Being;

3. By way of Activity, when the Being has drawn back from revealing;

4. By its manifestations itself, when the Divine is not anymore present in the “universe of manifestations”, but only in its forms.

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