Book Note: Mystery of the Book of Revelation (Cameron Afzal)

A nice surprise showed up in my mailbox. Ron Afzal has published his book on Revelation with Mellon Press. It is a new study of Revelation from the perspective of social and communal memory studies. The book is called The Mystery of the Book of Revelation: Reenvisioning the End of Time. Because it is published by a small press, it is not cheap. So look for it in libraries or ask your library to order it.

If you think that the message of the book of Revelation has been resolved - you are certain that it is an early Christian apocalypse about the future yet-to-come, a reality-not-yet-lived - then this book is for you. Afzal reassesses Revelation from the viewpoint of a biblical historian ensconced within literary and social memory theories. Thus he shows a concept of parallel times - how the prophecies of John of Patmos recast the past in terms of John's perceptions of the present experiences of the early Christian communities in Asia Minor. The eschatology in Revelation is not about an unfulfilled and virtual future, but is about the intended audience's present experiences.

Reading John's eschatology in this way raises many important issues for me, not the least of which is the significance of the often-overlooked mystical dimension of apocalyptic literature. Apocalyptic literature is not just about the cataclysmic future. It is about the seer's involvement with heavenly mysteries and worship in the present, and his relaying of that to the faithful in the present, as a reminder that although in this world they are suffering, they are not of this world. Along with the seer, they have been transported into the heavenly world, and worship before God's throne. The seer's visions are reminders, reassurances that all is well. God is in control, and their life with him forever is blessed and secure.

This is a condensation of a short preface I wrote for Ron's book (pp. i-iii).