The Apocalypse, or Revelation, is at once the most misunderstood and least understood book of the New Testament. Some readers consider the book so complex and mysterious that they avoid it. Others read it but mainly emphasize the book’s passages about the end times.
Whether you have avoided the Apocalypse or have puzzled over its message to Christians today, Monsignor A. Robert Nusca’s The Christ of the Apocalypse: Contemplating the Faces of Jesus in the Book of Revelation (Emmaus Road Publishing) is sure to change your thinking about this majestic book of Scripture, and your thinking about what it means to follow Christ.
With its sound scholarship, numerous references to the writings of Church Fathers and theologians, and Monsignor Nusca’s close reading of the text, The Christ of the Apocalypse will spark the interest of theologians, scholars, and students of John’s book.
At the same time the book’s clarity, minimal use of theological jargon, and reflective questions make it readily available to general Christian readers. Reading the book quickly, however, will not reveal the treasure it holds. This is a book that makes a demand of your time, but if you give your time to reading this book you will be well rewarded. If you read this book, consider reading John’s Apocalypse first and then reading John again after reading The Christ of the Apocalypse, which you also will want to read again.
Thick with detail, elucidation of symbols, and the use of Old and New Testament passages that reveal the connection of the Christ of Revelation to the entire Bible, the book would make an excellent Bible study for small groups. It equally could serve as a central text in a college or graduate course on Revelation.
Monsignor Nusca, a priest of the Archdiocese of Toronto and a seminary professor, takes an approach to John that is different from that of others who have written about his text. His aim, Monsignor Nusca tells us, is to look closely at the depiction of Jesus Christ that emerges from the text:
“Popular approaches to the Book of Revelation have tended to overlook the remarkable portrait of Jesus Christ elaborated in this early Christian masterpiece, with the result that the Faces of Christ—along with the visions of the open heaven that the narrative sets before us—risk being overshadowed by visions of approaching judgment.”
The vision that Nusca skillfully explores in his work is what he calls John’s “lofty portrait” of Jesus Christ, which is different from that found in the writings of the other evangelists. John’s portrait, he says, “presents a complex and coherent vision of an all-powerful, glorious, radiant Christ.”
This portrait of Christ, he tells us, “synthesizes pre-Christian images of a warrior God” found in Exodus “ and the glorious, luminescent, post-Resurrection Morning Star who promises those who remain faithful a share in His own divine life.”
While not a book about the East’s understanding of the divinization or theosis, Monsignor Nusca’s comments on the text as icon and the iconographer Andrei Rublev’s icon “The Trinity” open a path to understanding what it means to be divinized through Christ.
Divinization is the end of the journey for the faithful Christian. The spiritually complacent or lukewarm, however, reach a different destination. They, John tells us, will be spit out, or vomited from the mouth of Christ, a warning, as Monsignor Nusca writes, that “It is not enough to follow Christ from a safe distance.” In the words of Origen, Nusca tells us, we must choose between spirit and fire, those choosing Christ receiving spirit and those choosing the world fire.
A discerning exegete, Monsignor Nusca also is a perceptive student of history and our times. He additionally has an acute understanding of the perils confronting the Church today, both inside and outside.
John—the disciple Jesus loves, the only apostle to remain at the foot of the Cross, the apostle given the responsibility of caring for the Mother of God—knew Jesus and understood his life and message in a way that was unlike that of any other disciple.
Reading The Christ of the Apocalypse shows you how to read John so that you more surely walk with Christ and encourages you to endure in your Christian faith to the end as you make your way through our narcissistic “era marked by the notion that there is no God, no grace, and no longer any sin.”
With his book, Monsignor Nusca reveals the love of John for Jesus, the love of Jesus for John, the love of Jesus for all mankind, the love we too can participate in if we are willing to grow closer to the Lord and walk with him and to be a living icon of him in the world. To choose this love and to endure in it is to become a living temple filled with the unapproachable light of the Holy Trinity.
If you read only one book on the Apocalypse, read this one.