A Book Review from Books At a Glance
by Matthew J. McMains
G.K. Chesterton once wrote, “And though St. John the Evangelist saw many strange monsters in his vision, he saw no creature so wild as one of his own commentators.” Unfortunately the last century has only confirmed Chesterton’s words. It seems there are two primary responses to John’s Apocalypse, one being to ignore it altogether , entertaining little hope of grasping it’s fantastical language, and two being what Chesterton observed, namely, wild-eyed obsession with cracking its code, hermeneutical precision be damned. In light of this, The Lamb Wins by Richard Bewes is a breath of fresh air.
Bewes has divided his work into six parts:
Part 1: Christ is With His Church
Part 2: God is on the Throne
Part 3: The Trumpets are Sounding
Part 4: The Victory of the Lamb
Part 5: The Overthrow of Evil
Part 6: The New Order
Bewes work moves through Revelation from beginning to end, not as a verse by verse commentary, but rather as an overview of Revelation as a whole. Thus, Bewes comments on chapters at a time, and only zooms in when such is necessary for understanding the message as a whole. The Lamb Wins is unique among works on Revelation, and thus many of its strengths might also be construed as weaknesses. In this review I will highlight the helpful aspects of Bewes’ work and then some possible weaknesses of the approach as well.
Perhaps its greatest strength, The Lamb Wins is a concise, easy read. For many, such is a welcome edition amidst the sea of complex and technical commentaries on the book of Revelation. Even so, Bewes does not shy away from the more difficult and disagreed upon portions of John’s Apocalypse. Rather, he navigates and engages them in a understandable way. One of the ways Bewes accomplishes this is through the telling of stories and illustrations. In commenting on a book full of symbols, Bewes illustrates through stories and pictures concepts that otherwise might seem just out of reach to the lay reader.
Further, While The Lamb Wins clearly falls within the stream of a certain general approach to Revelation, Bewes does a fine job of not assuming that position, and shows from the text itself why he comes to his conclusions. At the start of the work, Bewes sets for the major interpretive lines of Revelations, and rather than attempting to discredit those he may generally disagree with, he demonstrates where each have strengths and how they all can help us in our understanding of John’s Apocalypse. In starting this way, Bewes earns the trust of the reader, especially those who may be coming to the book with certain presuppositions regarding Revelation. This trust then helps the reader to let down their guard and read with an open mind and a piqued interest in what Revelation might truly reveal.
When a book this small tackles a giant such as Revelation, there will be certain inherent weaknesses. Ironically, these weaknesses can also be considered strengths, depending on one’s perspective. Thus, because The Lamb Wins is an easy and concise read, it necessarily left out some of the more indepth discussion on Revelation that some readers may miss. Difficult issues such as the 144,000 and the millennium are dealt with relatively briefly and so the reader does not come away with a full grasp of the difficulties and arguments involved. Yet if such difficulties were tackled, this would be a different book entirely, and so given the nature of the work, Bewes can hardly be faulted for lack of depth.
Perhaps one way Bewes could have allowed for a bit more discussion would have been to utilize fewer illustrations. While the stories used are helpful in illustrating the text, especially given the symbolic nature of John’s Apocalypse, fewer stories could open the door for more depth and some of the more difficult texts.
On the whole, The Lamb Wins is an excellent overview of the book of Revelation from a “parallelist” perspective. I would recommend it both for individual, as well as small group study.
Matthew J. McMains
PhD Candidate, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Buy the books
The Lamb Wins: A Guided Tour Through the Book of Revelation