Lessons for Times of Political, Economic and Societal Turmoil from the Third Century Church

“To be sweet in the mouth is the reward of the preaching of the speaker, and is most pleasant to the hearers; but it is most bitter both to those that announce it, and to those that persevere in its commandments through suffering.” -Bishop Victorinus of Pettau, The Commentary on the Apocalypse by the Blessed John

During the third century AD, a time of tremendous social upheaval when famine, plagues, and existential threats to the empire were the reality of the day, a bishop who suffered through three persecutions wrote a commentary on the book of Revelation. His hope: to encourage his churches to be faithful witnesses.

Revelation is a tremendously practical book. While it is difficult to interpret, its application is clear. Christians are called to a faithful witness of Christ in the world during tumultuous political, economic, and societal trials. That witness is as much verbal in gospel proclamation as it is in defending the faith and combatting injustice. All three point to the Christian act of worshipping Jesus who, as Bishop Victorinus declares in 260AD, “is, because He endures continually; He was, because with the Father He made all things, and has at this time taken a beginning from the Virgin; He is to come, because assuredly He will come to judgment.

One thousand eight hundred years later, Victorinus still teaches us about what it means to be faithful in tumultuous times.

Table of Contents

  1. It’s About Jesus
  2. The Audience I
  3. The Audience II
  4. The Gospel
  5. The Scroll
  6. The Four Horsemen
  7. The Great Tribulation
  8. The Great Rest and Judgement
  9. The Four Angels and Conspiracies
  10. The Proclamation
  11. The Confession
  12. It’s Still about Jesus
  13. The Mark of the Beast
  14. The Retribution on Sinners
  15. The Final Judgment
  16. Recapitulating Victorinus
  17. The Antichrist Revealed
  18. Recapitulating Victorinus Again
  19. He is Coming
  20. The Thousand Years
  21. The Glorification
  22. The Completion
  23. This is the Faithful Life

Endorsements

In addition to being a valuable contribution to historical scholarship, this readable summary of St. Victorinus’ Commentary on the Apocalypse challenges some conventional modern-day expositions of Revelation which verge on sensationalism and “newspaper exegesis.” Dr. Cooper’s fine study is a much-needed reminder of John’s timeless message: hope in the future reign of Christ in the new heaven and new earth; and a call to faithful witness and perseverance, even in times of distress and persecution.   

Ronald P. Hesselgrave, Author of The Supper: New Creation, Hospitality and Hope in Christ 

About the Author

Dr. Cooper earned a PhD in Intercultural Studies with a focus on religious movements and a minor in theology from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He currently serves as a missiologist for a missions agency where he focuses on missiological research and equipping missionaries for effective cultural engagement. He has thirty years of missions experience, including ten years as a pioneer church planter in Romania after the fall of communism and has equipped church planters and leaders in Africa, Europe, North America, South America, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. He has written and contributed to more than 30 books and academic articles and has presented conference lectures at the London School of Economics, University of Bordeaux, Loyola University, Baylor University, and many others. His recent book, Ephesiology: The Study of the Ephesian Movement is a best seller at William Carey Publishing.

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