By Mark Wilson. Wooster, Ohio; Weaver Book Company, 223 pp. $17.99.
I first became acquainted with the author, Mark Wilson, through his book Biblical Turkey: A Guide to the Jewish and Christian Sites of Asia Minor (2010). Mark has lived in Turkey since 2004 and has led numerous tours for church, university and seminary groups. He serves as the founder and director of the Asia Minor Research Center in Antalya, Turkey. In view of his experience of living and working in Turkey, Mark is well equipped to bring fresh cultural background and insight to the study of Revelation.
The book is divided into twelve chapters, each containing an account of a Christian martyr, Mark’s own translation and comments on the biblical text. Of the 223 pages of the book, 142 pages (64%) are devoted to actual commentary.
In the prologue Wilson declares the premise of his book: “Christians have and always will suffer tribulation until Jesus returns at his second coming” (p. 10). He believes that the pre-tribulation view “is not the teaching of Scripture or the experience of the church.” He supports his post-tribulation interpretation from Jesus’ words in John 16:33, “In the world you will have tribulation.” It seems that Wilson confuses the “wrath of God” which is characteristic of the tribulation (Rev. 16:16-17) with the suffering and persecution that Jesus promised the church (John 15:18-25; 16:1-4). One wonders why the author feels compelled to bring this controversial matter to the forefront when the book of Revelation doesn’t even mention the rapture.
Wilson interprets Revelation as describing the experience of the church during the tribulation, but seeks to distinguish between “tribulation and wrath” in Revelation. He argues that the church will go through tribulation both now and in the eschaton, but only unbelievers will experience God’s wrath (p. 74). This appears to contradict the fact that the series of divine judgments described in Revelation are cosmic and universal.
Wilson states that he is premillennial, but explains that he does not believe that “the saints will reign for a thousand years on this present old earth and offer sacrifices again in a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem” (p. 13). Instead he argues that the “thousand years” is to be interpreted “symbolically” and refers to a series of events whose culmination is the rule and reign of the saints in the New Jerusalem on a new heaven and new earth for eternity” (v. 13).
As for the tribulation, Wilson believes that Revelation teaches that we are in the tribulation right now. “Since Jesus’ ascension, the devil, through his earthly representatives, has been bringing tribulation against the people of God.” Wilson fails to distinguish between the persecution and suffering that Jesus promised his disciples (John 15:18-25) from the eschatological tribulation He spoke of in his Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24:9-31; Rev. 6-18).
Regarding the seven churches, Wilson says that the number “seven” symbolizes “fullness and perfection.” He concludes that the seven churches represent “all the churches of Asia” in John’s day and also “the types of churches that have existed during the past two millennia throughout the world” (p. 32). Wilson wants to show that the letters to the seven churches are relevant for today, but it would be better to see the relevance in terms of application rather than to interpret the churches as types that have existed throughout church history.
Wilson interprets much of Revelation in light of the contemporary culture in which John lived. He believes that the sum of Nero’s letters in Hebrew is 6-6-6 and that the book should be dated soon after his death (p. 123). His case for identifying “Babylon the Great, mother of whores” (17:5) as referring to Dea Roma, the patron goddess of Rome, is quite convincing. I found his comments on Revelation 17-18 to be very helpful. This is the kind of cultural background that I was looking for when I picked up this book.
Mark Wilson has provided a readable and helpful survey of the Book of Revelation with accompanying stories of faithful saints and martyrs. His book will help readers become acquainted with the flow of Revelation and provide them with relevant application. My concerns about the book are based on what I view as questionable hermeneutics and eschatology. Readers with a post-tribulational perspective will find Victory through the Lamb both convincing and edifying.