Revealing Revelation By Brother David J. Miles

 A book review by Tecwyn Morgan 

EZEKIEL THE PROPHET was privileged to see the glory of God in a detailed vision of the cherubic chariot in all its magnificence. Daniel, also in Babylon, had dreams and visions in which the glory of God was sometimes represented, contrasted with the bestiality of human government in the kingdom of men. But none of the Old Testament prophets saw anything to compare with the prolonged visions given to the Apostle John in Patmos. These came from the Lord Jesus Christ and again what he saw was full of visual detail, given without much explanation. The promised blessing is for those who read, hear and keep the words of this revelation. What exactly did John see and why does the detail matter? It is tempting to approach the Apocalypse as though it was a cryptic crossword, where the clues are hidden in the words of the book, and those words need to be deciphered. But it was a visual prophecy and, just like the king’s dream in Daniel chapter 2, getting the images in our mind is crucial to a proper understanding. There have been many attempts in the past to depict these images, notably in murals, engravings or illuminated manuscripts. Sister Ray Walker successfully used pen and ink sketches to capture the two centres of activity – the events in heaven and their outcomes on earth. More usually the illustrations which accompany an exposition of the Apocalypse are limited to an artist’s impression of the beasts and the woman riding the scarlet beast.

Visualising the images

Brother David Miles has set out to redress the balance in this beautifully-presented book Revealing Revelation, the first word of the title being the key. What he wants to do is to help the reader visualise the images as a vital preliminary to understanding them. David does not set out to explain Revelation – there have been many attempts to do that already within our community. Brother David specialises in the visual arts and has examined the text of the fourteen images he portrays with meticulous care before making a judgement about the best way to set up a situation and then photograph it. In doing so he effectively draws the reader into something like the experience shared by the Apostle John. This book will appeal to readers for very different reasons. People who like nicely produced books will love the way this large-format book has been professionally produced – by Sister Rebecca Miles (David’s daughter-in-law). Leave it on the coffee table and you can be sure to start a discussion about the Apocalypse. Readers who find Revelation hard going, but who would like to get the message into their minds, will be intrigued by this book, because David does much more than present the images in glorious detail. He explains how he went about the task and compares his photographs with lots of earlier depictions in places like Bulgaria, Russia, Romania and Macedonia, as well as in published literature and artwork. How, for example, did he put together the image of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse, which was so appealing that it was hijacked by protesters at a London rally! This book explains the lengths that David went to: spending a day photographing horses at a Spanish Riding School, until he had got images of horses at the right angles, with the right demeanour, and with their riders in appropriate positions. When it came to finding someone who would pose for Death riding on the pale horse, or the harlot sitting upon the beast, imagine how tricky it was to find a volunteer from among the ecclesial members – but brave souls volunteered and can be readily identified, thanks to the quality of these striking images!

Looking again

If you are already fully conversant with Revelation and have seen David’s images, on the web or on exhibition, what can this book do for you? It can help to fire your imagination and bring you closer to the experience of the Apostle John. For, looking carefully at the accompanying scriptural text and examining the images, both those David has produced and earlier images which are shown, can help with a more detailed scrutiny of the text. For example, when the fourth horse appears – the pale one – what does this mean? “His name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him” (Revelation 6:8). How could “Hell” (Greek, hades ) follow with him? Were there four horses or five, and why is that bit of information given? What would it have looked like when John viewed it, and what does it mean? See how a little detail like that draws you into the account and makes you think, using both parts of your brain to get a fuller picture. You may come to a different conclusion from the one that Brother David depicts; the point is that you have been encouraged to look afresh at the revelation the Lord gave to John. This lovely book is quite a departure from the usual expositional material produced by the CMPA. It is more expensive than our usual productions, which are themselves much cheaper than similar religious books published elsewhere. It should have a wider appeal too, for it is targeted to include readers who find detailed exposition hard going. And it will be marketed to non-Christadelphian readers also, many of whom have been very appreciative of David’s helpful images. There is a good introductory offer and a helpful suggestion that this book could be read in conjunction with Brother Roberts’ Thirteen Lectures on the Apocalypse , but you could use it in conjunction with other available works. Revealing Revelation does not attempt to explain what the various visions mean, although there are a few helpful pointers. Its aim is to draw you into the visions and to give you an experience of God’s purpose as it works unfailingly towards the grand climax when “the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God” (Revelation 21:3).

This review was first published in The Christadelphian for December 2016