Prominent in the Jewish faith were apocalypses and a belief in the Messiah. The two were often associated but were by no means inseparable. The apocalypses were a kind of literature which nourished in Jewish circles in the centuries immediately preceding and following the time of Christ. The word meant to uncover or to reveal. An apocalypse claimed to be a divine revelation of the future. It arose from the Jewish conception of history. The Jews believed God to be at work in the affairs of men. Indeed, they held that He controlled all history. They saw much in life which was contrary to what they conceived to be the will of God. The wicked often lorded it over the righteous. Indeed, the righteous were repeatedly overwhelmed by the unrighteous. The disobedient appeared to prosper. Moreover, misfortunes of other kinds, such as sickness, overtook the good. The Jews were concerned to reconcile these uncomfortable facts with the sovereignty of God. They held that human history is a drama which begins with the creation of man, which early sees the rebellion of man against God, and which has its culmination in the victory of God in an era in which God's wilt is fully done. It was the future steps of this process which the apocalypses professed to reveal. They were based upon a profound conviction that God must ultimately triumph. They speak of "the age to come." This would be introduced by a great catastrophe with judgement beyond which would lie a new heaven and a new earth. They deal with what is technically known as eschatology, "last" or final things, at the end of history and beyond it, such as judgement and the life of the age to come.
As an agent for God's victory some of the Jews cherished the hope of a Messiah. Various views of the Messiah were held, but all agreed that he was the "anointed" — for that is what the word meant — a king who was to reign under divine commission. In the periods of subjugation to foreign rulers the Messiah was anticipated as the deliverer from the alien and as one who would set up the ideal realm in which God's will would be perfectly done. The Greek word used to translate Messiah was the one from which the English word Christ is derived.
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