Revelation for the Rest of Us shows the book of Revelation is not a prophecy of what will happen in the future, but a guidebook of how to follow the Lamb in the midst of Babylon
Below is a summary of my conversation with Scot McKnight, author of Revelation for the Rest of Us: A Prophetic Call to Follow Jesus as a Dissident Disciple.* You’ll find his bio and picture below.
First I asked Scott how he came up with the title for his book. Who are “the rest of us”?
It’s people who don’t read the Book of Revelation with speculation as to who is fulfilling the prophecies today.
Being a dissident disciple
A dissident disciple is “someone who discerns what Babylon is like and they have become followers of Jesus on a level of commitment that makes them dissidents of the Empire, the Roman Empire and Babylon. It’s someone who perceives the way God wants us to live in a world that doesn’t want us to live the way God want us to.
What the problem with a speculative approach to reading the book of Revelation?
Scot explained that it’s taking the things in Revelation and trying to figure out who in the modern world is the fulfillment of those prophecies. The book wasn’t written as a prophecy, but as a description of what was going on in the world at the time with Rome having so much influence.
Revelation was written to seven churches in Asia Minor in the first century, for those seven churches. It was written about Rome, aka Babylon, not as a prophecy of what will happen in the future. It’s a critique of Rome and its sin-sickness, its idolatry, its blasphemy, its immoralities, its exploitations, its warmongering.
Follow Jesus not Rome
Revelation is concerned with the seven churches beginning to act like Rome, allowing the way of Rome influence the way they were living. John is telling them to become more faithful to follow Jesus.
I asked: What prompted you to write this book?
Scot replied: “A graduate student, Cody Matchett, asked me to teach a course on Revelation at Northern Seminary. He contributed so much to the research for the class, he was a natural co-author for the book.” It was a forty to fifty year process of reading the Bible and finally articulating his ideas about Revelation into book form.”
What is dispensationalism?
It’s a way to read the Bible, breaking it up in seven different time periods, and the different ways God deals with people in those eras. Dispensationalists believe in the Rapture. They have a strong attachment to Israel, and a big distinction between the church and Israel as the people of God.
They are really big on Americanism. They believe God is on the side of America.
Me: Did you discover new things in Revelation as you prepared the college class and wrote this book.
Scot: “It was a little bit like a swirl of freshness for me. One of the things that stood out to me was the idea of using imagination to picture what John is describing”
Using your imagination
When you hear about a red dragon, John is stimulating our imagination so we can see what he saw. It’s the same with all the imagery.
Scholars say there are from 300-600 echoes in Revelation from the Old Testament. John used the images from the Old Testament
The book of Revelation was designed to be read in each of the seven churches. It was probably more of a performance. There is definitely a cast of characters in the book of Revelation and they all play a part in the drama.
Revelation changes us
Me: How has the Book of Revelation changed you?
Scot: “It’s a book about politics. It’s about how a Christian relates to and perceives the State. It is not a bunch of predictions of who is going to do what.
“It is instead, a divine revelation about the sin-sickness at work in Rome, which John call Babylon.
“John is providing for the Christians in western Asia Minor, a template, a discipleship manual for how to discern political corruption, moral corruption, and how to live as faithful follower of Jesus, in a n Empire that is against people following Jesus.
“Revelation has made me less partisan in politics, and more discerning of corruption, and more interested in how Christians are to live with either Donald J. trump as President or Joseph Biden as President.
“I ask myself: How can the Book of Revelation help me live a faithful life of following Jesus the Lamb when whoever is President?”
Speculation has mistaught us
Scot explained that the speculation approach to the book of Revelation has taught believers that we’re going to escape because all this stuff is in the future and doesn’t have anything to do with us. As a result, we have missed the opportunity to disciple our congregations politically enough to discern Babylon and live faithfully when Babylon is breathing everywhere around us.
Me: What are some of the ways of Babylon?
Scot: “Read Rev 17, 18, and 19 and list all the major characteristics of Babylon: idolatrous , anti-God, the God of the Bible, obsessed with opulence and living in luxury, they were murderous, they persecuted the people of God, obsessed with branding and image of the Rome identity, brutally militaristic, economically exploitive of all other nations. And they were arrogant.”
Me: How do we resist Babylon today as followers of Jesus?
Scot: “Three words:
- “We need the gift of discernment, to discern the reality and presence of Babylon in our world today. Be aware of what’s going on in the world. See if any of the characteristics of Babylon are present in us.
- “We are called to be a witness. It’s someone who sees or experiences it. Then tells it. A witness is someone who witnesses to Jesus as the true Lord of the world, as the Lamb. They witness to the truth of Jesus and then they live with the consequences of what it means to speak up and speak out because they’ve stood with Jesus in Rome, or Babylon.
- “We have to worship. There are nine songs of victory and answered prayers in Revelation. They are singing that Jesus is the world’s true Lord. They are songs of dissident disciples singing the victory of the Lamb over the Dragon.”
Scot pointed out that to be connected with the church, you were separating yourself from Rome. It was a dissident act.
Worship in Revelation for the Rest of Us
Me: What is worship for you?
Scot: “Worship is 24/7, your whole life, whole body, whole life, surrendered to God, verbally testifying to that, and behaviorally living consistent with that. Worship is not just what happens on Sunday at church. Worship is the whole life.
“One way to worship is to let the nine songs in Revelation sing themselves into your life. This prevents “Babylon creep” in the church.”
The book of Revelation is about the victory of the Way of the Lamb over the way of the dragon, representing Babylon. The dragon was sLambed, overcome by the lamb.
Me: How does the book of Revelation help you follow Jesus?
Scot: “What matters is I want to be looking at my life through the lens of how the Lamb lived his life in the context of a nation that does not favor people to follow Jesus the way Jesus wants us to follow him. I want to look at my life and ask “Am I being compromised by the Babylon in our world today or in the nation, in the state of Illinois, in the cities, in the villages, in the communities, in the neighborhoods. Am I being compromised to look like Babylon, or am I trying to follow the Lamb with every step I take?”
Scot asks us to ask ourselves: Are we impressed with money and power? Are we impressed with people who don’t follow the Lamb but are very successful? Are we worshipful? Do we surrender to God?
Me: What was the effect of Constantine and the institutionalization of the church?
Scot: “Everyone wants power and control. Constantine was a military commander who was a murderous emperor. When he adopted Christianity as the religion of his empire, the church lost, because the church doesn’t work well with political and military power. It’s not designed to do that. It’s designed to lead people to God, but not through political and military coercion.
“The nationalism of today is really Constantianism.
Revelation is all about following the way of the Lamb even when we’re living in Babylon.”
Three final questions:
One: If you could talk to any Bible character other than Jesus, who would it be and what would you ask them?
“I would talk to Isaiah and ask: How did you come to the idea of the Messiah being a servant, Hebrew ʿeḇeḏ?”
Two: Is there any Bible character you especially identify with?
Is there a Bible character you’ve learned the most from?
Three: This podcast is about getting back to the original Christianity of Jesus. How would you describe Jesus’s original message of how he wanted us to live our lives?
“The language Jesus uses is “the kingdom of God.” He wants us to be ruled by God not by political leaders.”
Scot is a recognized authority on the New Testament, early Christianity, and the historical Jesus. He obtained his PhD. at the University of Nottingham in 1986 and has been a professor for almost 40 years. Scot is author or editor of some eighty-five books, with more coming out all the time. He has spoken all over the US as well as around the world.
He and his wife, Kristen, live in Libertyville, Illinois. They enjoy traveling, long walks, gardening, and cooking. They have two adult children, and two grandchildren.
Connect with Scot:
Substack, Scot’s email news: scotmcknight.substack.com/
Buy his book: Revelation for the Rest of Us: A Prophetic Call to Follow Jesus as a Dissident Disciple.*
Photo credit of lamb: Tim Marshall, unsplash.com
* Amazon affiliate link
James Early, the Jesus Mindset Coach, is a Bible teacher, speaker, and podcaster. He conducts Bible workshops online and in person. His focus is on getting back to the original Christianity of Jesus by embracing the mindset of Christ in daily life. Contact him here.
John 4:23 NLT
23 But the time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way.
John 18:37 NKJV
37 For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth.
John 5:19 NLT
19 So Jesus explained, “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself. He does only what he sees the Father doing. Whatever the Father does, the Son also does.
John 12: 50 NLT
50 I say whatever the Father tells me to say.
Revelation 3:14 NLT
14 Write this letter to the angel of the church in Laodicea. This is the message from the one who is the Amen—the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s new creation: