Christopher Rowland has argued (The Open Heaven, 1982; The Mystery of God, 2009) that the essential element of apocalyptic is ‘the disclosure of heavenly knowledge’. It is an unveiling where the heavens are opened and transcendent mystery is divinely disclosed. Apocalyptic literature is full of secrets, visions, ascents, angels, the glory of the heavenly tabernacle and throne room.

Visiting the Ethiopian Orthodox Church in Nairobi a couple of weeks ago it was very interesting to see how apocalyptic their spirituality is. Mystery is key. There is literally a thick red curtain veiling the Mystery of Holy Communion. Like apocalyptic it is all very visual. Bold, graphic images of dragons being trampled by angels. Key figures are Enoch (who ascended into heaven), Stephen (pictured at the moment of his martyrdom gazing into the opened heaven), St Yared (who ascended to the heavenly Jerusalem to receive the liturgy of the church from the angels) and St Teklehaimanot (who was given 6 wings like the living creatures around the throne of God). The placement of the icons high on the walls gives you the very experience of looking upward into heaven.

While there were things that troubled us about the experience (as one apprentice commented later, they could do with reading less Enoch and more Hebrews and seeing that there is now access through Christ) there was also much to learn from the lack of concern for this-worldly ‘relevance’ and a confident upward look to the apocalyptic, transcendent, risen, conquering, coming Lord Jesus.





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