In A Canticle For Leibowitz, there is plenty of talk concerning the Apocalypse. The nuclear holocaust which creates an atmosphere of mass chaos, book burnings, killings, and mutants; the wandering Jew who waits for Christ’s second coming, apparently unable to die; and finally a second nuclear holocaust which appears to do away with many things save some marine life, a certain mutant who represents the new creation, and of course, the wandering Jew has to still be around. There is a number of views of the end times in which this scenario by Miller could either be explained with hope still intact, or left a confused mess where no one knows if Christ is even coming anymore. This paper looks at three views and attempts to see if there is any view left in which Christ might still be the hope for humanity when it appears that it would be ideal for Him to come again and He is nowhere to be found.
There are three main perspectives on the subject of the eschaton. One view is called Pre-millennialism which tends to take depictions of the end of the world both literally and linearly. Much of it is based on the first portion of Revelation 20 where it would appear that Christ literally returns and sets up an earthly kingdom which is established for 1000 years before the Great White Throne Judgment.
The actual circumstances of what will happen vary because different people focus on different events, but the general timelines tends to be similar. There is the year of church age, followed by the tribulation, which is then followed by a millennial reign of Christ, which is then followed by Satan being loosed for a short while, and finally comes the great white throne judgment. Some believe the judgments are predominantly natural events which will occur by the just hand of God, yet others believe it will be it will be a mixture of nature and humanity itself which leads to destruction, but not complete destruction, for man will not be the cause of the world’s destruction. This is where a Pre-millennialist view of a literal Revelation gets confusing, because when something can no longer be literal, it then is a symbol for something else which then does not allow for a completely literal meaning. This is worth mentioning because a key element of their definition of prophecy is that people, who have the ability, are predicting and knowing future events as was revealed to them by God. That is when a number of predictions come about, sometimes having to do with nuclear warfare.
Another group is the A-millennialists, sometimes called Realized-millennialists, or Non-millennialists. This groups tends to consider, more, the historical setting in which Revelation was written and proposes the imagery within to be, for the most part, strictly imagery. Also, as their name would imply, they do not believe in a visual, literal, 1000 year reign of Christ, but they believe that Christ’s reign began upon His ascension into heaven and will be fully manifest in his second coming. When speaking of the first resurrection of which Revelation chapter 20 speaks, Augustine would seem to think that this dying and rising referred to one’s baptism and the second resurrection would be the final, bodily resurrection. Richard Bauckham does not appear to want to quell this possible significance by suggesting that the martyrs are the only ones involved in this story of first resurrection. To him, establishing the theme of the martyrs is key, but he also thinks that Revelation portrays all faithful Christians as martyrs in that Christians, should they remain faithful and pit themselves against the beast, may provoke conflict so severe, it may culminate in physical death. This would tend to be an example of a more symbolic and theological bent over a literal one.
Finally, the last breed appears to be a dying one. Post-millennialism took a decent leap in the 17th and 18th centuries with a man named Daniel Whitby...