Scot McKnight with Cody Matchett
Zondervan, 336 pages | Published February 28, 2023
Faced with the complex and violent imagery of the book of Revelation, church leaders often choose to remain silent. This silence allows for voices from the extremes to dominate with sophomoric speculations that distort the gospel and sully the Christian witness.
Scot McKnight and Cody Matchett are familiar with these distortions, having been taught them themselves; they challenge popular misconceptions, including the dubious origins of the rapture and spectacular failures of predictive “prophecy” read off the pages of Revelation.
Instead, McKnight suggests that Revelation calls Christians to be “dissident disciples.” Dissidents – standing against corruption, abuse and sin in the ecclesial and civil contexts – and disciples – followers of Christ who is on the throne, crucially, as a lamb who was slain. McKnight uses this phrase to create an easily followed clear and persuasive interpretive thread.
McKnight offers familiar critiques of American culture and Christianity, including economic exploitation, militarism and oppression, as well as a critique of evangelicalism. To those outside the evangelical church, these chapters simply reinforce what is already believed. The stronger chapters deal specifically with the text of Revelation.
Rather than a verse-by-verse commentary with pedantic scholarly digressions, McKnight approaches Revelation topically and thematically, eschewing the trees for the forest. The strength of this approach is readability, both of McKnight and Revelation. Just a chapter or two of McKnight opens up an understanding of Revelation as a whole; I kept wanting to set McKnight down and read Revelation — to my mind the highest praise a commentary can receive! The downside, of course, is that there are many specific questions that a reader may bring to McKnight and receive no answer, though he points readers to a variety of traditional commentaries.
To truly write “for the rest of us,” McKnight takes a conversational tone which, at times, reads like an adult trying to be cool in front of teenagers but, on the whole, achieves the goal of accessibility. Theological terminology is defined, references are generally popular, and sentence structure is simple. Unsurprisingly, theologically-minded readers will undoubtedly want more, while others may still find the book unnecessarily complicated. Yet, Revelation for the Rest of Us remains the most accessible scholarly work I know of on this complicated topic.
Those interested in tackling Revelation from the pulpit would do well to read Revelation for the Rest of Us, while Bible study groups may find this to be an excellent resource to read together. The most popular interpretations of Revelation are grounded in fear. The deep irony is that silence from the rest of us, which enables these perverse interpretations to take root, is similarly grounded in fear: fear of not having answers, not understanding, or of being embarrassed by the strangeness of the world of Revelation. McKnight and Matchett show us how to read Revelation without fear, and in so doing rediscover the gospel of the lamb who was slain, a call to follow this lamb even in the midst of Babylon, now and unto the age.
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