This first review is actually copied from my other blog. Why bother writing a new review when I have one sitting on that blog?
A few weeks ago I offered to write whatever anyone wants me to write (and the offer still stands – leave suggestions in the comments). My sister-in-law Jaime requested that I review the book The Throne, the Lamb & the Dragon. Since she even offered to buy the book and have it sent to me, how could I refuse? Free book.
So she sent me the book and I read it. And then I put off writing the review for a long time because it’s tricky. So here I go.
The sub-title of the book is “A Reader’s Guide to the Book of Revelation”. Therein lies the trickiness. The book of Revelation is the Marmite of the Bible. Most Christians either love it or hate it. They either are obsessed with interpreting every word and phrase and trying to apply the prophecies to everything around them, or they pretty much read it when they have to at church and otherwise ignore it, finding it incomprensible. I’m much more the latter group.
I’ve always had problems “getting into” Revelation because I was raised in Baptist churches that had some very definite ideas about what it all meant, and I was always a little skeptical of their interpretations. I never believed that whatever Democrat is popular this week must be the Anti-Christ. I never believed that credit cards were the number of the beast. I just wasn’t buying the paranoid theories. I mean, this book is 2000 years old, and it only started making sense now? I don’t think so.
I get the feeling that the Paul Spilsbury was plagued by the same doubts, but unlike me, he decided to go digging deeper to find out what it all meant. He analyses Revelation in light of the type of literary form used, and in light of similar documents of the time and what he comes up with is quite interesting. If I had to sum up his findings in one sentence, I’d say, “Don’t be so darned literal.”
One of the points that he makes that is likely causing the most havoc among churches is that he doesn’t necessarily believe in the Rapture. The Rapture is the belief among (mostly American) evangelicals that at some point Jesus will return and steal away all of his followers to heaven so that they don’t have to go through some really nasty hard times on earth known as The Tribulation. The way Spilsbury interprets things, there is no Great Tribulation coming because we are already living in it. And he kind of makes sense here. The Tribulation in Revelation is the period of time between the opening of the First Seal and the triumphant return of Christ. The opening of the First Seal in earth time would have been when Jesus ascended to heaven, so that makes the Tribulation now and for the last two thousand years.
I’m not going to try to make any claims about whether Spilsbury is completely right or wrong. But for me, he has made Revelation a lot more useful. It isn’t as much a puzzle about how to survive the end of the world as it is a guide to living in the world now, not much different from the other letters in the New Testament.
I think that this book is worth reading, if only for making you think. The one part that stood out to me was the section on the Mark of the Beast. That’s the whole thing where you’ll be marked with a number and without it you won’t be able to participate in any commerce. What if we stop viewing it as a literal number and a literal mark and look at it as an attitude? The true Mark of the Beast is an attitude of acceptance of evil. In order to participate in commerce in the world today, you have to be okay with accepting a certain amount of cruelty, corruption and greed. And that is far more insidious than credit cards or social security numbers. Who made your shoes? Who grew your sugar? Were they paid for their work? How much does that Wal-Mart price cut cost your soul? Who do you work for? What is their agenda? Are they really making people’s lives better or just making their wallets lighter?
I have to agree with Paul Spilsbury that a less literal interpretation of Revelation is necessary to really understand why it was written and for whom. I haven’t decided if I agree with every interpretation he makes, but I certainly didn’t see anything in this book that conflicts with what I know about who God is.