The eschatological hope of apocalypticism centers on God's renewal of the cosmos, nature, and humanity, thus establishing perfect shalom and joy. The renewal is physical and material, not symbolic and ethereal. It ushers in a marvelous world beyond anything that humans have ever known (see, e.g., Zech 14:6–7; Isa 25:8; 26:19). Heretofore, few indeed have glimpsed God's resurrected world (see 2 Kgs 2:11–12), and even prophets have struggled to accept a vision of Sheol's defeat (2 Kgs 2:16–18).
Within the Hebrew Bible, Daniel (especially chapters 2, 7–12) is the primary “apocalypse,” a type of writing attested more fully in the wider Jewish and Christian world of Hellenistic and Greco-Roman times. The book of Daniel includes a visionary, with angels’ help, grappling with the “Beyond.” The seer (Daniel) explores a superior reality, parallel to human experience, which is on a collision course with history. The writings of the book have little to do with the tried and true. Rather, Daniel's apocalyptic imagination exposes transpersonal evil, uncovers primal conflicts of existence, and evokes humanity's awe before God.
The visions of Daniel 7–12 disclose a heavenly world and an imminent culmination to history. They contain pulsing images on a mythic scale; they predict the ultimate triumph of good over evil. A steady increase of worldwide evil is inevitable, according to the visions, but there will follow an end-time triumph of God over its forces. God is about to intervene in history, destroying the dehumanizing spirit embedded within the world's empires. When that happens, God will overthrow wholesale all imperial systems of control, establish an everlasting dominion on earth, and reward the faithful.
Beyond Daniel, the First Testament also contains an assortment of texts enlivened by an apocalyptic imagination but lacking the standardized features of the Hellenistic apocalypses. These texts exhibit apocalyptic thinking and may be designated as early apocalyptic or “protoapocalyptic” literature. They presuppose a cognitive grid for interpreting the world where the contested reign of God verges on manifesting itself in open power, ushering in a transformation of embodied existence. Radical additions to several prophetic books fall under the rubric “protoapocalyptic” (e.g., Ezekiel 38–9; Isaiah 24–7), as do the entire books of Haggai, Zechariah, Joel, and Malachi.