If the last book of the Bible is an intimidating peak, unclimbed and unchallenged, The Heart of Revelation is a succession of ten handholds to expedite your ascent. If John’s apocalyptic words are a map, J. Scott Duvall has provided bearings, a sense of direction, an aerial view of the terrain. His ten essential themes are really ten arguments for a student of Scripture (every Christian, right?) to be tackling a study of the Bible’s final book:
- The Revelation proves that God is the true center of the universe — in other words, it’s not all about you! God is revealed as faithful and in control. He has a plan for the future and has made very specific promises pertaining to community. Best of all, He wins in the end.
- The Revelation will ensure that your worship (because we all worship something) is directed toward its only worthy Object. Eugene Peterson defines worship as “an act of attention to the living God who rules, speaks and reveals, creates and redeems, orders and blesses.” God alone can bear the weight of your worship, and this is the only reasonable response to His flawless character, mighty acts, and victory over evil.
- God has a lot to say about His people, and He has expressed much of it through John in the Revelation. Since he made us, He “gets” us: the fact that we all struggle, that we need His protection. God has a multicultural mission in mind that looks beyond the present and sees the brightest of futures.
- The role of God the Holy Spirt is made manifest in the Revelation. He is continuing God’s work on Earth and is the source of prophetic messages about Jesus. He “both comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable.” It is interesting that Duvall attributes the “seal of God” to the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer rather than a literal mark on the forehead.
- The Revelation reveals “the various strategies and tactics” of the enemies of God. These include accusation, deception, temptation, and persecution. With persecution of Christians today more intense even than in the early centuries of the church, there are also more Christian martyrs in our era, making it abundantly clear that God and His people are at war against evil.
- Revelation names John the beloved disciple and Antipas as Jesus’ two faithful witnesses, defining our mission as God’s people to be “faithful witnesses to Jesus and His kingdom.” Though the nations are described as vulnerable to deception and darkness, God loves all cultures and calls us to love as He does. A faithful witness obeys Gods commands and perseveres in mission, “following the Lamb wherever He goes.”
- John’s Revelation is a book about Jesus — who He is, what He has done, and what He will do. It is “theological icing on the cake” of the Jesus story provided in the four gospels. He is exalted as fully God, as the Shepherd Messiah, The Slaughtered Lamb, the Firstborn from the Dead, and The Roaring Lamb.
- In our judge-not age, the Revelation is key study material for establishing God’s right to judge, for He is unique in His ability to distinguish between good and evil. In the process of destroying evil, God, at this time, is allowing it to run its course. The Revelation shatters our sensitivity and sentimentality because it teaches that the wicked will ultimately be judged. This issue transcends doctrine and becomes very personal if we permit ourselves to consider the fate of unbelieving family and friends.
- In the Revelation, John was privileged to see The New Creation — “a New Heaven and a New Earth” — and he straightens out a lot of the faulty thinking about “going to” heaven, who will be there, what it will be like, and even what we will be doing there. Key to the New Creation will be the unmitigated presence of God. Like C.S. Lewis’s The Last Battle, the book of Revelation makes the heart long for heaven.
- Finally, the book of Revelation trains Christians to expect and to endure through suffering. Perseverance through persecution, resisting the temptation to compromise, is the key to enduring to the end. The Apostle John, with the heart of a pastor, comforts his readers with the knowledge that even if our perseverance results in death, God still holds us to Himself. The clear message of this letter is: “Say No to evil. Say Yes to Jesus. It will be worth it.”
Considering these ten major themes of the Revelation has opened my eyes to the big picture message of the book which startles, alarms, comforts, and poses important questions — and then allows the Word of God to speak for itself.
This book was provided by Baker Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group, in exchange for my review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”
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