Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ," and--Dr. Tim LaHaye and I would like to think--the "Left Behind" series have awakened New York and Hollywood to a market they didn't seem to know existed. Note I say we revealed this market; we didn't create it.
Knowing that producers and publishers will naturally try to capitalize on the huge success of these, I realize that not every effort will match our biblical interpretation. The best we can hope for is that the productions are of sufficient quality to succeed and, thus, as I say, keep the discussion on the table longer than the usual fad. If producers rush mediocre stories with shoddy production values onto the screen, audiences will fade and networks will decide the trend has ebbed. Then they will move on to something else.
That said, there's good and bad news related to Revelations. First, and I realize this is a niggling matter, but even the title jangles in the ears of evangelicals, the base audience to which the producers claim they're trying to cater. From Sunday school we're taught that the title of the last book of the Bible is "Revelation," singular. Those who add the S are akin to those who pronounce it in "Des Moines" or "Illinois."
Of course, NBC's title doesn't have to refer to the Bible book in question. It could merely be a label for the story. But calling it Revelation or even The Revelation might have struck an initial chord with the initiated.
The good news is that the production values are good, the acting, the lighting, the camera work--all things the creators of the show can be proud of. Even Bill Pullman atypically underplays what could be a cheesy role, and, despite his experience in the raspy-voiced school of acting, turns in a credible performance as a worthy skeptic.
Unfortunately, it's clear he will become less a skeptic and more a firm believer. I say unfortunately because what he will come to believe is a mishmash of myth, silliness, and misrepresentations of Scripture. Acknowledging that not everyone agrees with my particular take on End Times prophecies, at least my interpretations are based on some commonly accepted study. Revelations seems to draw from everywhere and nowhere.
For starters, in the show we have Catholics--whose leaders have warned adherents against reading Left Behind because they don't accept the Rapture and return of Christ as we interpret it-- leading the way in deciding the End Times have come. This because of the sighting of a shadowy crucifix on an outcropping of rock and because a comatose young girl, medically brain dead, is auto-writing and quoting Scripture in Latin.
Sister Josepha, assigned to study signs of the end, decides that Jesus will return as a baby, and she "intend[s] to find him." Regardless where people stand on the interpretation of biblical prophecy, no serious student believes Jesus will return again as a baby. Scripture indicates Jesus will return not to earth but in the clouds to Rapture true believers, snatching them away before seven years of Tribulation.
Beyond that, Sister Josepha states that her intention is to "protect" Jesus, as if the Son of God would need human help, and that she wants to "forestall the confrontation" between Jesus and the antichrist...as if human beings can somehow influence the acts of God.
At one point the Sister tells Pullman's Dr. Richard Massey character that she believes "all the signs and symbols set forth in the Bible are in place for the end of days." Jesus Himself said that all the signs He predicted were not the end but rather the beginning of the end and that not even He knew the day or the hour, but only the Father knows. That says it's folly for mere humans to decide they know when the End Times will arrive.
One of the more egregious goofs, in my opinion, is the portrayal of what I assume we are to believe is the antichrist. Scripture may be complicated on a lot of issues, but it is clear that Antichrist will be so attractive and persuasive and beautiful that everyone without Christ will believe not only that he is one of the good guys, but that he is likely God incarnate.until he eventually shows his true colors. In Revelations, this character is such a villain from the beginning that no one would be fooled by him.
While evangelicals might be curious enough to give this show a chance, my fear is that as soon as they realize it is far afield from the Bible, that base audience NBC may be counting on will fade. That's too bad, because I had hoped that, because of the stellar production values, this would be popular enough to at least keep the discussion alive. Here's hoping production companies with an eye toward biblical accuracy can compete on that level too.