The Last Disciple by Sigmund Brouwer and Hank Hanegraaff. I didn't like this book at all. I felt that they were trying too hard to show how much of the history that they knew in it. It basically just felt like they were trying to hard. First of all, explaning all the different Roman times made it confusing. Secondly, I felt that they delved a little too far into the depravity of the Roman Empire. I would not recommend this book and I didn't enjoy it at all.
I didn't realize before reading The Last Disciple that this series was essentially written to offer an alternate perspective on The Left Behind series. This is a view that I lean towards based on my understanding of Scripture, and The Last Disciple offered further insight into how this view fits with the book of Revelation. Primarily, however, this suspenseful read encouraged me to be bolder in my faith and to recognize how blessed I am to be able to worship freely. I would highly recommend this book for greater insight on early Christianity and for a strengthening of one's faith. However, I would warn readers of two things: (1) this book is at times very hard to read because of the horrors of Nero's reign that are portrayed (it is definitely not suitable for children or young teens) and (2) the story ends abruptly, meaning you will need to the read the next two books to find any kind of conclusion (I am currently halfway through the second book).
Tyndale has put new covers on this series and re-published them. I didn't read them the first time around, but decided to give it a try this time around. I sat down to read the first book, The Last Disciple, last night, and wonder now why I waited so long to read these books.
The authors go with the idea that the Tribulation talked about in the book of Revelation has already happened in the first century when Nero was emperor. I don't agree with that premise, but I still enjoyed the book. The authors did a great job describing what happened and may have happened during that time period. I was pulled into the story and could almost see the streets of Rome and Jerusalem and other places they described.
The book was also sobering as it described what kind of person Nero was and how he persecuted the Christians. Although this would be classified as Historical Fiction, books like this should be a warning to Christians to be more careful about who they vote for, even in local elections, as this country is fast heading down the road to being anti-Christian.
I liked the characters in the book, and am looking forward to reading more about them in the next book in the series.
Set in first-century Rome, The Last Disciple weaves together the stories of Gallus Sergius Vitas, a man within the inner circle of Emperor Nero, with the lives of Christians who are experiencing ever-greater persecution for their beliefs. Vitas has committed to serve justice equally for all, and is no longer able to stand by as Nero carries out horrific acts against Christian believers, or while other Roman rulers plunder and steal to their own benefit. Vitas sets out to Jerusalem to investigate the rule of Judea under Florus, the Roman procurator, and ends up witnessing first-hand the mistreatment of the Jews when Florus uses the Roman army to cover up his own abuses. When Vitas returns to Rome to give his report, it is discovered that he has married a Christian, a sect Nero has become increasingly focused on wiping out. Meanwhile, a divine prophecy has emerged from Jesus' last disciple, John, concerning a revelation he received, a revelation that appears to threaten Nero's reign. Nero's closest allies become consumed with deciphering the meaning of the prophecy, while events unfold that place Vitas' very life at risk, along with the lives of those he most holds dear.
Sigmund Brouwer and Hank Hanegraaff have woven a riveting tale, one that has been painted with vivid imagery and haunting details. The characters are well-fleshed out, with much to admire in such persons as Vitas or Sophia or the last disciple, John, but also characters who are so sinister that I shudder to imagine that they actually existed. The historical setting of Rome under the rule of Emperor Nero, combined with his ruthless persecution of Christians, makes for a compelling read, equally entertaining and disturbing at the same time. As I read, I was envisioning the Christians being mauled in the arena by animals or being hung in the city streets and lit on fire, and I found my own faith stirred and inspired by the experiences of the Christians who lived so courageously at that time. I loved the richness that this book brings to details of the Bible, and I am amazed that they were able to take passages of the Bible and debates about prophecies foretold by Jesus in the gospels or by his disciple John in the book of Revelation, and weave these elements into a tale of gripping suspense. Although not all readers may resonate with the stance on prophecy and end times that this book takes, I think that it serves as an excellent alternative to books like the Left Behind series, and it is sure to make you think. Regardless of your beliefs, the book is extremely well-written, fast paced and entertaining, and will give you a greater appreciation for what Christians experienced at the time of the writing of the book of Revelation. The conclusion is powerful and literally had me racing to the last page.
I highly recommend this book and award it 5 out of 5 stars. I can't wait to read the second book in the series!
Book has been provided courtesy of the publisher, Tyndale, for the purposes of this unbiased review.
The post-script of this book compares it to the Left Behind Series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, and with good reason. Both are based on the prophecies in the book of Revelation, and offer very different interpretations. While Left Behind tells the story of Revelation literally in the near future, the Last Disciple offers a more symbolic understanding nearly 2000 years ago.
That being said, the story line spins itself out by following ex-soldier Gallus Sergius Vitas as he pursues rumors and unrest throughout the Roman Empire at Nero's bidding. On the way he picks up a variety of allies, stumbles onto multiple intrigues, and manages to increase his number of enemies in the quest to find out the truth behind the movement of Christ-followers.
I am giving this book four stars for its fresh take on eschatology, the effort made by the authors to turn-out high quality writing, and the promise of a new Christian series that I can enjoy repeatedly. An obvious amount of thought and research was spent collecting details, facts, and figures to provide the setting. As a prolific reader (500+ books/year), this novel has a higher level of quality and enjoyability than many others I have stumbled across.
An adventure tale of sorts, the novel was interesting and well written enough for me to finish it in a single sitting, but not quite compelling enough to have me begging for the sequel. Some of the plot-line conclusions were easily discernible from the first introduction, but the confusion I had in deciphering the latin-based chaptering (despite the table in the front of the book) was enough to keep me guessing. There is a fair amount of gore, including accurate descriptions of torture and cruelty to Christians pervasive in the Roman Empire during this period. For these scenes alone, if the novel was filmed as written, it would probably receive a heavy PG-13 for disturbing depictions of suicide, infanticide, and torture. No sex, no language, and because the violent scenes are in words and not pictures, they manage to add to the context and drama of the plot while not significantly making a realistic visual impact.
This was a very dark novel. I cannot recall any major humorous moments; the only light parts are where the characters' faith shine through the despair and bloodshed. If this is what the authors intended, then they succeeded.
I would recommend this novel to readers who are comfortable with 'heavy' literature, readers who enjoy ancient Rome, and readers who enjoy wondering about the prophecies in Revelation.