Apocalyptic literature reveals through cataclysmic imagery. Film communicates the weight of traumatic events by showing someone’s vision of their outer world going out of focus, while sounds become dulled and life is experienced in slow motion. Similarly, apocalyptic literature conveys the indescribable judgement of God through hyperbolic descriptions. For example, when Jeremiah envisions God’s judgment on Jerusalem and describes the earth as “formless and empty”, this is literary technique to describe the chaos that comes with God’s judgement. Certainly, the world will not go back to pre-creation form. Rather the imagery intends to convey that the judgement of God will be so extreme it will be experienced as world-changing, in a bad way.
Another powerful image Jeremiah uses to convey the judgement of God on Israel is bringing together two images which likely stir memories from the Exodus: “He advances like the clouds, his chariots come like a whirlwind.” When God delivered His people from the chariots of Egypt, God led them to Sinai and made His gracious presence known through a moving cloud. This time, God will move against HIs people to punish.
Still, like we saw many times in the book of Isaiah, when God judges Israel, there remains hope that God “will not destroy you completely” (Jeremiah 5:18). Even when God judges His people, it is never the end for them, but rather an opportunity to purify, rectify, and empower them to be faithful to God once again.