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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

"The Heart of Revelation" (J. Scott Duvall)

TITLE: The Heart of Revelation: Understanding the 10 Essential Themes of the Bible's Final Book
AUTHOR: J. Scott Duvall
PUBLISHER: Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2016, (224 pages).

The book of Revelation is the last book of the New Testament. Filled with metaphors, images, and symbols, it is also one of the most challenging books of the Bible to interpret. What is Revelation all about? Why is it in the Bible? Who are the original audiences? What are the circumstances surrounding its writing? These questions continue to be asked through the centuries, even today. In fact, interest in this last book of the Bible remains very high. Many scholars and theologians have written on it. Many pastors and preachers have preached it over the pulpit. Many teachers have debated and shared the various perspectives for eager students. Still, the fascination remains.
  • What are the seals of the scrolls?
  • How do we understand the 144000 saved?
  • The horses, the wars, and the dragons, what do they all mean?
Author and professor, J. Scott Duvall is Professor of New Testament at Ouachita Baptist University. He shows us that there are three ways to reading Revelation. The first way is to read it once and then leave Revelation alone. The second way is to be obsessed by it to the point that one becomes paranoid about all things last days. He recommends the third way, which is to read in context, the understand the themes, and to practice the present with care to avoid the extremes of the two earlier ways. He points out ten themes to understand Revelation.

  1. God
  2. Worship
  3. The People of God
  4. The Holy Spirit
  5. Our Enemies
  6. The Mission
  7. Jesus Christ
  8. The Judgment
  9. The New Creation
  10. Perseverance
Each of these themes are described in a chapter. In the introduction, he shows us the context, the genre, the way to interpret, and the need to observe certain interpretive keys. Keys like learning what the letter means to the original audiences; that we should not always take it literally; and we need to focus on the main theological themes contained inside. A good way to visualize a big picture is to ask the question: "Who are the good guys and bad guys?"

Calling Revelation as the "most God-centered book in the whole Bible," Duvall kicks off with the conviction that Revelation is about God. It is about God who is Almighty, Faithful, and in control. He has a Master plan and He eventually wins. Victory is a no-brainer. From this, our response is none other than worship. There are many images of how the celestial creatures worship God. While worship is more than singing, the interesting thing is that worship in Revelation has lots of singing in it. Without worship, we are easily distracted and easy pickings for the world of idols. With worship, not only are we responding to the Person of God, the Almighty, we are ushered into the joy of the Lord which is our strength. The People of God are called to God. Revelation shows us the reality of struggle and suffering. It also teaches us the need to stay faithful amid trials and tribulations. We are persecuted but not forsaken. The themes of togetherness and community are strong. On the Holy Spirit, remember the many references to the movement of the Spirit, such as the seven spirits, the words of the Spirit to the churches, and so on? These represent God's comforting presence. Then there are the Enemies, represented by the dragons, the false teachers, and the persecutors. Underneath these forces of darkness are the clutches of sin. This spiritual war is real and will come. Yet, Revelation promises not only deliverance but blessings for the warriors for God. The Mission is also a strong theme in Revelation. Right from the start, God's desire to save the world continues in Revelation. If we have the mindset of mission, we will know that the spiritual forces of evil will always want to thwart our efforts to spread the gospel far and wide. We see the vision of Jesus Christ, prominent in Revelation. He will be the Judge for the whole world. He will bring forth the New City of Jerusalem. He will make all things new. The people of God are called to persevere on until Jesus comes again.

This is one of the simplest and clearest books about how to read Revelation. Using ten basic biblical themes, we can connect intuitively to the rest of the Bible as these themes are repeated throughout the Old and the New Testament. There is no need for us to fear this last book of the Bible. With the guidelines established by Duvall, readers can take heart that this book is essentially a book of hope. It brings together all the doctrines of the Christian faith. Rather than going verse by verse in expounding the book, Duvall's thematic structure allows us to see Revelation from a big picture perspective. In fact, I would say that both traditional and Duvall's methods can be used side by side. Begin with Duvall's ten themes. Gradually, as we ease into the book, use our conventional resources to help us go through chapter by chapter, theme by theme, and if needed, verse by verse. It is also suitable for small group Bible studies. I recommend this book for any Bible study group that is interested in studying the book of Revelation.

Rating: 4.5 stars of 5.


This book is provided to me courtesy of Baker Books and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions offered above are mine unless otherwise stated or implied.

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