Theology Book Review

The Symbols Speak: An Exposition of the Revelation

by Lillie McCutcheon
Reviewed date: 2022 Nov 30
192 pages
cover art

Church of God (Anderson) eschatology
The Symbols Speak lays out the Church of God (Anderson, Indiana) teaching on Revelation and the end times. Or at least, the sort of teaching that was broadly accepted within the movement in the first half of the 20th century. My limited study of the movement's history leads me to think the earlier teachings were more specific about certain dates, and that the emphasis on Revelation has gotten considerably less in the latter half of the 20th century and into the 21st.

In brief
The vision laid out here is amillennial, not premillennial or postmillennial. It sees the church as the spiritual Israel, so there is no role for the nation of Israel or the Jewish people. The Roman Catholic Church is the beast of Revelation. Protestantism is the image of the beast. Official church membership is the mark of the beast. The number of the beast refers to the Pope. The dragon is communism. The Battle of Armageddon is spiritual, not literal or material. The millennial reign of Christ is the church age, not a literal thousand year kingdom on Earth. The end times are near, but McCutcheon puts no date on it.

My reaction
I'm predisposed to agree with amillennial interpretations of Revelation, and I also see no further role for Israel, so on that point I didn't need much convincing. I am skeptical about identifying the Roman Catholic Church as the beast of Revelation, but was surprised to find myself much more amenable to the idea after reading McCutcheon's reasoning.

I also am surprised to find myself holding an open mind when she identifies Protestantism as the second beast (or the image of the beast). Her explanation that Protestant churches have often recreated the same structures and false teachings of the Roman Catholic Church is convincing. If one accepts the Roman Catholic Church as the beast, it's easy to take the logical next step and consider Protestant churches as the image of the beast.

On the other hand, I'm not at all convinced by her explanation that the number of the beast refers to the Pope because his title Vicarius Filii Dei adds up to 666 when the letters are converted to Roman numerals and added up. I'm unconvinced for two reasons: first, Vicarius Filii Dei is not one of the Pope's titles. Second, this smacks of numerology. Instead of counting up Roman numerals to get 666 we should look at what 666 as a number represents.

Because this is the year 2022 and the Soviet Union has been gone for thirty years, some of McCutcheon's work seems dated. She interprets a lot of things as symbols of Communism. For example, the three unclean spirits she labels as Communism, Catholicism (the Roman Catholic Church), and Confederacy (that is, ecumenical Protestantism.) The threat of Communism seems far removed these days. The Soviet Union is gone, China is communist only in name. I don't buy it.

The following are my unorganized notes

Not Millennial (that is, not Pre- or Post-millennial)

Nothing for Israel, the church is the spiritual Israel

Roman Catholic Church is the beast
Protestantism is the second beast (or sometimes, the image of the beast—that is, Protestants recreating the same structures, institutions, and false doctrines and practices as the Catholics)
Official church membership is the mark of the beast
Number of the beast = vicarius filii dei = the pope. And also Caesar. But that isn’t one of the pope’s titles!

p91 silent building of Solomon’s temple is a shadow-type of Christ building his church because “the Spirit silently performs his work in the souls of men.” I think McCutcheon is just making things up.

p105 Much emphasis upon a new spiritual temple, which is the church. Emphatically not a physical temple in Jerusalem. There is no further role for Israel or the Jewish people, orJerusalem, or a physical temple.

p114 and following. The woman, the mother of prostitutes who is labeled Babylon the Great is, you guessed it, the Roman Catholic Church. The Protestant churches are her harlot children. (118)

p123 “The same Holy Spirit that breathed into the nostrils of clay so that Eve became a living soul, breathed into the spiritual bride of Christ as a mighty wind on the day of Pentecost, and the church became a living bride.” My thoughts: this is why marriage of one man and one woman is not a secondary issue: it is foundational to the gospel, it’s the illustration of what God is doing. It’s not something we can tinker with and redefine.

p129 The millennial reign of Christ is the church age. There will be no material earthly kingdom.

p139 The dragon (Satan) released after the thousand years is the USSR and/or Communism.

p146 No further long reign of darkness is expected. Communism will have only a little time, then Christ will return.

p150 The Battle of Armageddon is spiritual, not literal. Armageddon is a symbol that harkens back to the historical battle when the Jews fought against the Greeks and restored the kingdom. (That is, Judas Macabee against the army or Antiochus Epiphanes, establishing the Hasmonean dynasty). The spiritual battle of Armageddon is when the church will defeat the forces of evil.

The three unclean spirits are: Communism, Catholicism, and Confederacy (that is, ecumenical Protestantism) “Communism is his counterfeit for God; Catholicism is the counterfeit for the church; and confederacy is the devil’s counterfeit for Christian unity.” (161)

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