Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Victory Through the Lamb

Victory Through the Lamb: A Guide to Revelation in Plain LanguageVictory Through the Lamb: A Guide to Revelation in Plain Language by Mark Wilson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

There are many, many bad books on the “End Times” in general and the book of Revelation in particular.  Many.  Like, A LOT!  That has often left me jaded and cynical about works that cover this topic, especially if I am unfamiliar with the author or the publisher.  So, being unfamiliar with Mark Wilson and Weaver Book Company, I entered the reading of Victory Through the Lamb with some baggage and just itching for a screaming match with an inanimate object and the chance to audibly argue with the author like a) I know him and b) he is in the room.

Fortunately, for all who are within earshot of me while I read and for my overall mental health, this did not occur.  And this was not due to some new found self-discipline and graciousness on my part.  Victory Through the Lamb just never had any moments that would usually make me pull my hair out, so to speak.  In fact, it is quite a good book.

Wilson makes some critical points about the study of Revelation.  His identifying the theme of Revelation as victory, victory through suffering specifically, is a far better interpretation that much of what you hear today.  Wilson shows Revelation to be much more than a macabre riddle about future catastrophe.  It was written to give hope to its immediate audience and its future audience and, when read correctly, that is exactly what it does.

“Approaching Revelation as a kind of biblical crystal ball for reading current events in the media was not John’s intention. Rather it was to help Christians get through the daily struggles of life that they were facing.”

Another issue Victory Through the Lamb highlights is the fact that Revelation was written to particular churches at a particular time.  We miss much of what God would teach us here when we do not acknowledge that the entirety of the Revelation was given to these churches to encourage them in their daily struggles, encourage them in the grace they have been shown, and rebuke them in their areas of spiritual lack.

“Revelation was written to real Christians in seven actual cities in today’s western Turkey. And all 22 chapters of the book were meant to instruct them how to have victory through the Lamb in the midst of trials and tribulation.”

Wilson also highlights the need to have a working knowledge of the Old Testament in order to properly understand and interpret the Revelation given to John.  Many people have asked that we do a Bible study on Revelation and my usual response is that we will, as soon as we study the rest of the Bible.  That is not simply a way to dodge teaching a tough topic but it is the proper prerequisite for studying this difficult book.

“Today another particular challenge encountered by many Christians is that they lack a basic knowledge of the Old Testament.”

But not only was this written to encourage Christians in 1st Century Asia Minor, this work was written to encourage believers through all ages—even today.  It is hard in a country of such affluence to think about suffering but with worldwide media and especially with the events of this summer, it should be clear that even 21st Century Christians are suffering and will continue to suffer.  The Book of Revelation should be a place to find hope and comfort.

“Why is this topic so important for Christians today? Because many have been misled into thinking that tribulation is a future reality from which we will miraculously escape through the rapture. Instead, I believe that Revelation teaches that we are in the tribulation right now. Since Jesus’ ascension, the devil, through his earthly representatives, has been bringing tribulation against the people of God.
Both Revelation and church history confirm this.”

There were a few moments in the book that were a bit out there for me.  Whether it be a flashback to days teaching at ORU when the author had an almost-out-of-body “in the Spirit” episode or non-sequiturs to make dubious theological propositions (“The universal nature of the Lamb’s redemption is breathtaking—no one is excluded from the possibility of salvation”-chapter 2), or arguments that I haven’t heard before (John wrote revelation pre-70 AD and, upon release, composed his Gospel and Epistles in the 70’s-early 90’s) and a a pre-mil position that sees Nero as the beast;  there were definitely times I was scratching my head.  But those were pretty few and far between…and not always a negative, either!

Also, footnotes or endnotes (although I don’t like endnotes, but I was reading an ebook so either would be fine!) would have been quite helpful.  For example, a statement like this should have some citation: “Scholars have noted the similarities between the details of the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24:4–10; Mark 13: 5–13; Luke 21:8–17) and the first six seals.”  What scholars?  What works?  This happened too often and limits the appeal of the work for serious study because of the lack of ability to research statements like this. Footnotes would have helped me understand context, look up sources, and know that positions the author is presenting are not novel creations of his own but are rooted in the history of the Church.  For a work covering this topic at this length to only have 37 footnotes is vastly insufficient.

This is a work about victory and hope.  This is a work that avoids needless speculation and seeks to put the Revelation in the context of Scripture as a whole and the immediate context of a letter to the seven churches.  It has been said that what God revealed through John has been concealed by commentatoras and, to the glory of God, this work does not add to the truth of that ….  This is a work that sees Revelation as a revelation, one to be understood and to bring glory to God by adding to the hope of those called to suffer with him.

From the perspective of Revelation a mystery is not something to be hidden from God’s people. While perhaps concealed in the past, it is now revealed in Christ. This is one of the ironies about Revelation and its arcane use by Christians today. Its visions have become notoriously mysterious, and its contents seemingly impenetrable. But that was not Jesus’ (or John’s) original intention. It was meant to be understood by the audience in the Seven Churches.

And I would add, this is a work to be understood by believers today.  Victory Through the Lamb will aid in that.  I am not sure you could ask for much more!

I received a review copy of this book through Cross Focused Reviews.

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