A new reading of the Book of Revelation that draws its interpretive principles from the work’s historical context.
Revelation has proven one of the most confounding sections of the Bible, resisting a consensus analysis for thousands of years. Debut author Wells argues, though, that Revelation was never intended to be an unsolvable mystery, but the articulation of a message from and about Jesus Christ. To properly excavate that message, he says, one must understand the text in light of its historical design, using the perspective of a first-century writer addressing a first-century audience, which was occupied by first-century concerns. That basic rule grounds Wells’ entire exegetical approach; for example, he asserts that each of the seven letters in Revelation specifically addresses a particular church’s congregation with a message from Jesus, making an understanding of each group’s needs the only secure path to textual clarity. He then assesses all of the famous seven sets of seven—letters, bowls, seals, trumpets, and so forth—by the same standard. Throughout the text, Wells attempts, with painstaking care and thoroughness, to apply his ideas to the symbolism of Revelation, and he unearths deep, if oblique, references to the Old Testament. Overall, he ably offers an alternative to the two prevailing schools of interpretive thought, which either reduces Revelation to an anticipatory history of the church or sees it as a prophecy regarding the end of time and the judgment to come. Instead, Wells sees it in a different way: as a source of hope for a downtrodden and oppressed people, who may one day find the freedom to follow Jesus. Ultimately, he says, the meaning of Revelation is contingent upon the moral station of those who heard it—for those who threw their lot in with wickedness, it was a warning, and to those ready to embrace Jesus, a promise of hope: “The first-century readers would certainly have understood it to mean that God was going to judge the Roman Empire and that he was going to establish his indestructible kingdom,” he writes. “That coming spelled certain doom to the world’s most powerful empire, but it also offered a certain future for those who had been oppressed by that Roman juggernaut.”
A historically astute approach to unearthing the meaning of the Bible.