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The Oxford Study Bible Study Bible supplemented with commentary from scholars of various religions.

God's Accessibility

What is more, according to these apocalypses, God is accessible to the righteous. By ascending, the visionary takes his place among the angels. Sometimes he (as a matter of historical fact, all of these visionaries were male) undergoes a physical transformation. In 2 Enoch, after the angel Michael has clothed him in heavenly garments in a ceremony reminiscent of priestly investiture, Enoch reports, “… I looked at myself, and I was like one of the glorious ones, and there was no apparent difference” (2 Enoch 9.19).

Like the righteous dead, the visionary sometimes achieves a level above that of the angels. To take another example from 2 Enoch, in the course of revealing the story of creation, God tells Enoch, “Not even to my angels have I revealed my secret” (2 Enoch 11.3). Enoch, though human, is worthy of a secret too great for the angels.

Discussion of the apocalypses has frequently emphasized the distance between God and humanity. After the destruction of the first temple and the exile, the argument goes, God comes to be seen as distant and inapproachable. This leads to the decline of prophecy and the emergence of a new form of great importance to the apocalypses: visions that need to be deciphered. The emphasis on God's dwelling place in the heavens rather than the divine presence on earth is another sign of distance, as are the angels who come to populate the heavens, standing between God and humanity, limiting humanity's access to God. But the ascent-apocalypses suggest something quite different. Rather than keeping humanity from God, the multiplication of angels there provides a means for human beings to come into contact with God, by joining the ranks of the angels, usually after death, but occasionally during life.

The apocalypses concerned primarily with apocalyptic eschatology offer one kind of hope: God is soon to bring an end to the world as we know it and to inaugurate a new world in which the righteous will find their just reward. Many of the ascent-apocalypses look forward to this new era, but they also offer a kind of daily encouragement. To live righteously is to achieve angelic heights, or even to surpass them. The righteous can expect to enjoy the company of the angels after death just as a few exceptionally righteous individuals were able to do during life.

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