The Apocalypse of Jesus Christ – Review
The Apocalypse of Jesus Christ: Meditations on Themes from the Book of Revelation, by David Atkinson, April 2020. Wipf and Stock, ISBN 978-1725261785, 124 pages. RRP £14
The Book of Revelation was written around AD 95, during a time of Christian persecution, under a totalitarian Roman Empire. It is composed in a poetic style termed “apocalyptic literature”, often found in the books of the Old Testament, notably Daniel and Ezekiel. Its purpose was to encourage the Christian churches in their witness and to show the demonic realities behind the Empire in which they lived. Today we too are faced with “godless empires” enticing us to put other gods in Christ’s place. These Meditations in this book started as a series of Lent talks to a “Churches Together” group, and so at the end of each chapter there is a section with prayer, reflection and discussion.
Many Christians find the Book of Revelation to be a difficult and controversial text. It has often been used by those of a fundamentalist or literalist persuasion as something akin to an astrological prediction. Some have even believed that certain political actions can hasten the Second Coming, and there has been a plethora of popular Christian literature based around these themes. However, this is not how David Atkinson understands it. He likens it more to a political cartoon illustrating ideologies and leaders, or revealing the demonic energy behind world powers. It is much more akin to the underground literature used by resistance movements, especially in its use of codes and symbols. Although it is about the corrupt power of Empire, it is also about the power of Christ’s sacrificial, self-giving love, which will ultimately defeat all evil.
David Atkinson gives an insightful commentary on each chapter of Revelation, exploring the various symbols and their meanings, and also the impacts of the visions. He repeatedly emphasises that it is not a book about the future, or something that was only relevant for first century Christians, but a message for the Church today. He draws parallels between the tribulations and catastrophes presented in the book to events in our own time, particularly human-induced climate change and environmental degradation. There is also reference to the “Domination System” of our present market economy. Christians, he says, are called to come out of this “Babylon”, which can be difficult when we are so enmeshed in the present system. However, we are called as Christ’s disciples to work towards a new vision, one which ushers in the Kingdom of God.
This is an excellent book for personal study if you want to understand Revelation from an intelligent theological viewpoint. It would also be a very good choice for use with a study group looking to link Scripture with contemporary issues.
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