The Last Disciple, along with The Last Christian this past summer, which I discovered, along with the mold in her room last week. Hannegraff and Brouwer wrote it (along with The Last Sacrifice )in response to the popular "Left Behind" series.
Slavery, licentiousness, greed, corruption, politics and jealously all play a part in the drama, along with the zealousness of the early church. Nero, is of course the bad guy, not only that, he becomes the Beast in Revelation. (Diana Waring uses a phrase in her history recounts, "he (meaning whatever evil bad guy was in charge during the time being discussed, be it Nero, Hitler, Mao, etc,) was one of the Beasts found throughout history." I've found that thought to be valuable, especially as my kids and I discuss history). The Last Disciple is a compelling story, well told, but surprisingly similar to Francine River's Mark of the Lion trilogy. Both feature a Barbarian gladiator who earn their freedom, spoiled rich patrician's daughter, child left to freeze to death but rescued by saintly, unmarried Christian Jewess, etc. Parallel characters and a familiar story line. It's been several years since I've read the River's books, but it was familiar enough to get me thinking about the many similarities.
Hannegraff's story rests on two fundamental ideas - 1) That Revelation was written prior to the sack of Jerusalem; and 2) That Nero was the Beast of John's Apocalypse.
This stands in sharp contrast to the LaHaye/Jenkins series which purports that the Revelation is yet to come. Hannegraff is a preterism rather than futurist interpretation.
What is preterism? It is the school of Biblical interpretation that holds that all or nearly all Biblical prophecies were fulfilled within the lifetime of the generation of Jesus, culminating in the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in 70AD. Lots of folks hold dearly to their eschatology, and while I'm all about gaining a deeper understanding of the life and times of Jesus, or the fall of Jerusalem, or the Bible, I am a committed pan-terminist, firmly believing that, if you've committed your life to Jesus, it will all pan out (sadly, I can't take credit for this term. It belongs to my irl friend Sharon Stone, "the one who keeps her clothes on!").
My big, a-ha, take-away from this book is the understanding that without the Temple, the Jews have no place to offer sacrifice for their sins. Those who reject Jesus as Son of God are both without Messiah and without the Temple, lost and wandering without expiation for transgressions. Though I've read it tons of times before, it hit me like a ton of bricks.. I am still pondering the ramifications.