It is wonderful that Scot McKnight is inviting others to collaborate with him on certain writing projects. Scot wrote the popular book called Tov with his daughter and he has brought folks in on a variety of projects. In this particular case, Scot teams up with Cody Matchett. Such apprenticeship, especially by an established scholar, is most encouraging.
In lieu of a typical book review, I like to depart at times from that format and list a handful of insights or implications that I appreciated most from my reading. Here we go…
*Years ago, I remember thinking if the blessing at the beginning of Revelation (1:3) is true, then the book can’t be too difficult to understand. It didn’t make sense that Revelation would be impossible to understand and at the same time say, “Blessed is the one who reads, and those who hear the words of the prophecy and keep the things which are written in it; for the time is near.” (Emphasis mine) Frankly, it would be cruel if God instructed us to obey a book that is beyond our comprehension.
The authors do a terrific job of showcasing that Revelation’s meaning is clear and that its message is indeed life-giving. I should add that Revelation being “clear” is not at odds with the need to read carefully, something the authors greatly help us with.
*I regularly call our country “speculation nation.” We live in a toxic time where many of us drink a deadly cocktail of ignorance and arrogance. We may not know much, but others better listen to us!
Revelation for the Rest of Us consistently and winsomely reminds us to steer away from speculation. And speculation is big business for the book of Revelation! Instead, McKnight and Matchett model an attractive form of attentively listening to the text and locating the gems that are hiding in plain sight.
*If one appreciates the history of the church, then one can’t help but be a bit suspicious that a certain dispensational reading of Revelation is correct. What about Catholic, Orthodox, and many Protestant denominations who disagree? What about the recency of dispensationalism? Dallas Theological Seminary is one of the seminaries I attended. Even there it was admitted that dispensational was recent.
Revelation for the Rest of Us should cause many to reconsider whether a dispensational reading is accurate.
*Speaking of history there are several terrific insights from both the ancient context and some from the more recent past. These do a good job of illuminating Revelation. For example, there is Tacitus talking about Nero and from the more recent past, Howard Thurman reflecting insightfully reflecting on Negro spirituals.
*There are helpful reflections on how to apply the book of Revelation in the most practical ways imaginable. The authors help us to understand the big picture of this book which offers great motivation to apply it to the details of our life. Lives, as the authors say so well, embodied as dissident disciples.
*What are you expecting from reading the book of Revelation? A decoder ring to tell you how various symbols point to things in our own day? If that approach has led you to a veritable cul-de-sac, then Revelation for the Rest of Us will offers much clarity and sanity.
David George Moore is that author most recently of Stuck in the Present: How History Frees and Forms Christians.