The Trinity in the Book of Revelation (Studies in Christian Doctrine and Scripture), Brandon D. Smith (Foreword by Lewis Ayers). Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2022.
Summary: A Trinitarian reading of Revelation, drawing upon the insights of the pro-Nicene fathers to elucidate John’s vision both of the One God and the working of the Father, Son, and Spirit.
Discussions of Revelation often focus on the vivid imagery of the book trying to make some sense of its significance. Yet at the heart of John’s vision is the triune God acting as Father, Son, and Spirit in concert to bring about the final victory of the Lamb, the eradication of all forces of evil, and the heavenly city come down. It is this on which Brandon D. Smith focuses in this study of Revelation’s portrayal of the triune God.
His approach is to draw upon patristic resources and the pro-Nicene formulations articulating the doctrine of the Trinity to elucidate the theology of the Godhead revealed in John’s vision. Smith defends against the charge of eisegesis in arguing that the Trinitarian formulations best make sense of the unarticulated theology of the biblical text of Revelation, that they offer the best explanation of what we find in Revelation. One patristic approach that particularly frames Smith’s study is that of redoublement, the idea that we must speak of God “twice over,” first considering what the persons have in common (the divine nature) and what distinguishes them (processions or missions).
After establishing this approach, the following three chapters consider Father, Son, and Spirit. The first part of each chapter considers the pro-Nicene material and then the latter part the key texts pertaining to the member of the Godhead. Smith highlights the Father as fountainhead of the divine nature who gives revelation to Jesus, shares the throne with Jesus, and the Spirit, and receives their mediatorial work. We see the Son receiving worship, carrying out divine prerogatives, and claiming divine titles. Perhaps most interesting is the material on the Holy Spirit, focusing on the “seven spirits.” who he makes the case for being a reference not to angels but to the Holy Spirit, noting the facing of the spirits outward from the throne and joined with Father and Son in receiving worship. Drawing on patristics, we see emerging in John the triune God, one in nature, sharing in the worship of all those in the heavenly throne room, both acting singularly and indivisibly as one being and yet distinctively as three persons.
The writer concludes by arguing that this patristic-biblical reading of Revelation centered on the triune God challenges our modern readings of Revelation often devoid of a high Christology or binatarian in nature. Furthermore, he gestures toward the ways in which such a reading is of benefit to the church in reinforcing our confession of faith, in undergirding our existence as the church gathered in Christ, pardoned by the Father and united by the Spirit, by how it points us toward the one who “was, is, and is coming” and by recognizing the Trinity at the center of our reading of all of scripture.
Not only does Smith offer an interesting approach to reading Revelation, he centers our focus where I think it should be, not on the signs, but rather the triune God who gave John this vision, and who is at work through all that John sees to accomplish God’s purposes. Smith doesn’t offer a prophetic scheme or a timeline, but calls our attention to the glory of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and the glorious kingdom that is the destiny of the multitudes surrounding the throne, worshipping with the help of the Spirit the Lamb who is seated with the Father on the throne.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher.