Wednesday, January 13, 2010

A Double Apocalypse

There is this double-apocalypse at the heart of Romans 1.

But first a word about that word: apocalypse. As Darrell Johnson makes clear in his book Discipleship on the Edge (which is about the NT book we call The Revelation, but which was once generally known as The Apocalypse), the word means something to us that it never meant in the first century.

To us it means catastrophe. It means end of the world. Think all the horrifying visions of the end that John was given. Think four horseman, three of which are famine, war, and death (as for the other, well, you can look it up). Apocalypse draws its meaning for us from these terrifying visions.

But in the first century the word meant something quite different. It simply meant a revealing (thus, the modern English title for John's vision, The Revelation). The verb is apokalupto, and the online NT Greek lexicon has this for its meaning: "to uncover, lay open what has been veiled or covered up, to make known, make manifest, disclose what before was unknown".

Which brings us back to Romans 1. The double-apocalypse. You find them at the very heart of the chapter, in verses 17 and 18, translated "revealed" in the ESV. Paul speaks of two revealings.
For in [the gospel] the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith."

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth . . .
That's all for now. I think in these verses we are close to the heart of Romans. 1) The gospel reveals the righteousness of God (God as the source of righteousness), and 2) the unrighteousness of man reveals (brings to light) the anger of God (which is just another aspect of his righteousness, by the way).

Bottom line: righteousness is a core concern of God, and should be for us as well. More in next post.

[The whole Reading Romans series is here.]

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