I have poured a vast amount of time into studying the Apocalypse of St. John, better known as the Book of Revelation. To the modern reader, whether Christian or non, it seems confusing and bizarre. Yet it’s effects are everywhere. Whenever someone says the numbers 666, you know they are talking about something evil. However, there is an easy way to see the effects of the Revelation. Go into any store and you will likely find merchandise for two TV series, one American and one Japanese: The Walking Dead and Attack on Titan
Both of these deal with the apocalypse, albeit in different ways. Attack on Titan, a Japanese anime, deals with the Apocalypse as both an external threat in the form of Titans and an internal threat in the form of conspiracies and mysteries within the world. Most of humanity has been wiped out by the man eating Titans, and a small group survive within a massive walled off country that is governed by people who may have had something to do with the creation of the Titans.
In a way, this series is truer to the meaning of the word Apocalyspe, which means “unveiling.” The thrill in Attack on Titan is watching this mysterious world gradually unveil before your eyes as the characters struggle each step of the way. However, in Attack on Titan, you are rooting for characters who are resisting this onslaught of Titans and gradually trying to put an end to this nightmare by discovering the secret to finally put mankind back on top.
The Walking Dead on the other hand doesn’t give such hope. The world is over, zombies are everywhere and your worst enemy are other humans. The show flat out tells you that the real walking dead are the humans. The characters spend every day trying to survive and work together against foes both living and dead. It has often been described as a zombie soap opera due to the various dramatic interactions between the characters. In this reality, the Apocalypse cannot be resisted and humans simply have to do what they can to survive, even though they are the Walking Dead. In one scene, a character named Hershel Greene says that he knew the Lord promised the resurrection of the dead, he just didn’t envision it would be like this.
However, one might point out that a key difference between the Revelation of St. John and these shows is the lack of a divine presence. In Revelation, even with these horrifying events, God intervenes and creates a new heavens and new earth where even the nations and kings that were persecuting the people of God get to enter and receive healing.
However, the divine is not completely absent from many apocalyptic works. For example, in Attack on Titan the main character Eren can transform into a Titan and uses his power to give humanity its first victory over the monsters. Throughout the series, the main characters are struggling to get back to his hometown to find a power that will end the Titan reign. In any case, it is a transcendent power or ability of some sort that allows the main characters to survive and even overcome the end of the world.
What I am getting at is that these works are simply being honest. Without something transcendent or the better angels of human nature, there is no hope in the face of the apocalypse. But, as I mentioned before, the word apocalypse might bring up images of complete destruction, but it actually means “unveiling.” It unveils the plan for the end of this age and it unveils the true character of those who experience it.
Modern apocalyptic tales often unveil that humanity is too messed up to pull themselves up. Humans in Attack on Titan spend a lot of time plotting and fighting against each other, and people in the Walking Dead are too divided and selfish to unite against the undead. Thus, the only way to overcome the end of the world is to use some good aspect of humanity such as teamwork and self-sacrifice or some transcendent power such as turning into a Titan.
In the end how one views the apocalypse depends on how one views human nature and God.