Prophetic Literature and Apocalyptic Literature

The Bible contains both prophetic literature and apocalyptic literature. This chart shows some of the key differences between those two genres.


Prophetic Literature

Apocalyptic Literature

examples in the Bible

Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos

Daniel 7–12, Revelation

period of biblical history when most prominent

monarchy, exile, return

intertestamental period, Christian era

situation addressed

God’s people are coming under judgment for failure to keep the covenant

God’s people are being persecuted for faithfulness, but some are turning apostate

basic message

Repent! Obey God! Keep the covenant!

Keep the faith! Persevere until the end comes!

audience addressed


the elect

mode of communication

oracles that reveal the will of God in clear, deliberate terms

visions that convey God’s plan with symbolic imagery

view of history



the “day of the Lord”

propitious moment in history; coming soon

cataclysmic end of history; coming soon

understanding of the world

basically positive; just needs to be reformed

completely negative; needs to be destroyed or replaced

cause of suffering



cure for suffering

human repentance; seek what is good; shun what is evil

divine resolution; ultimate victory of good over evil

the plan of God

to establish God’s reign within history

to establish God’s reign beyond history

content of “hope”

restoration of God’s people, to continue living in God’s world in the way that God desires

removal of God’s people to a new sphere of existence, in which God’s will is done

process of salvation

deliverance wrought by God acting within history, through historical persons

deliverance wrought by God acting at end of time, through spiritual intermediaries


fundamentally communal; nation is to enact justice, live as God’s covenant people

basically individualistic; the one who endures to the end will be saved