Building a Library: The Book of Revelation

From his wealth of experience, our brother has given us valuable suggestions for study helps on this often-neglected book.

The Revelation is an unveiling, not an obscuring. It is the great unveiling of the glories of Christ, “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto Him” (Rev 1:1). In the four Gospels, the Son is revealing the Father: “The only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared (fully revealed) Him” (John 1:18); “Neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and He to whomsoever the Son will reveal Him” (Matt 11:27). In the Revelation, God reveals the glories of the Son. No wonder this book has been called, “The Crown-Jewel of Biblical Prophecy.” Daniel is the Revelation of the Antichrist. This is the Revelation of Jesus Christ.

The Glory of His Manhood

The true meaning of the title “Son of Man” is revealed. To the churches, He is the Man in the Glory (Rev 1:13). To all creation, He is the Man in dominion (14:14). To Israel, He is the Son of Man who is the Man of war (19:11).

The Glory of His Lowliness

The lowly name of Jesus has a prominent place in this book. “The testimony of Jesus” is linked to His willing sacrifice (1:9), and to our motive for obedience (12:17). “The faith of Jesus” is the secret of the saints faithfulness (14:12). “The martyrs of Jesus” will have power as witnesses (17:6), and they “were beheaded for the witness of Jesus” (Rev 20:4). The final statement of the Lord from Heaven is, “I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, and the bright and morning star” (22:16). This is only the second time He ever called Himself Jesus, and both times it is from Heaven (Acts 9:5).

The Glory of His Sonship

To the church of Thyatira, He is the Son of God, not the Son of Mary. He is the Beginning (Originator), but He is “unoriginated”, He never began. Father and Son in this book are Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and End. To both is ascribed the title of eternity, “Is, was and is to come.” He is eternally the Son in position, relationship, and character.

The Glory of His Sacrifice

The eternal worth of His sacrifice as the Lamb who was slain is the theme of eternal worship (5:6-9). The “Blood of the Lamb” is a major theme of this book (7:14; 12:11).

The Glory of His Resurrection

“I am He that liveth (the eternally living One), and was dead (I became dead) and behold I am alive forevermore” (1:18).

The Glory of His Unfading Beauty

Compare the incomparable beauty of the bridegroom in Songs 5:10-16 with the moral beauty of the Lord in Revelation 1:12-18. “Yea He is altogether lovely, this is my Beloved.”

The Glory of His Reign

The blood of the Lamb is linked with the Throne of the Lamb (22:3). He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords (19:16). The New Jerusalem “has the Glory of God and her light is like unto a stone most precious” (21:11). We are then told that the Light of the city is the Lamb (21:23). Samuel Rutherford was right, “The Lamb is all the glory of Immanuels land.” So Christ is the Living One to reign, the Lamb to cleanse, and the Lion to conquer.”

My introduction to the study of the Book of Revelation was based on an interpretive method that obscured its meaning. From my own reading, I came to believe that this is a book of symbols, similes, and metaphors. According to this method, words such as sun, moon, and stars in passages such as Revelation 6:12-17 must be spiritualized to mean angels, the church, and Israel. The reason for this figurative interpretation was explained by the first verse, “He sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant.” I was wrong.

There are similes in Revelation, but they are easily identified by the comparative words “like” or “as.” There are symbols, but they are explained in the context: “The seven stars are the angels the seven lampstands are the churches” (1:20). The strongest proof that we must interpret literally is the way the New Testament interprets Old Testament prophecies. The plain sense of the words must be accepted unless the context gives powerful evidence that symbols are being employed. Revelation 1:19 is the key to the interpretation of this great gem of prophetic truth: “The things which thou hast seen” are the glories John saw in the vision (1:9-20). “The things which are” cover the messages to the seven churches (2:1-3:22). “The things which shall be hereafter” are the events of chapters 4 through 22. We should ever remember as we read this book that these things “must shortly come to pass.” “Must,” tells of a logical necessity. The world is ripe for divine judgment. “Shortly” means without delay. This is the great truth of imminence. “For the time is at hand” (1:3) likely refers to the mystery of the seven churches. Date-setting is wrong, but coming events cast their shadows before them.

Commentaries on Revelation

My library contains as many as 70 volumes on the Revelation and the Seven Churches of chapters 1 to 3. Revelation in the John Ritchie series of “What the Bible Teaches,” by James Allen, is in my judgment the most valuable commentary on Revelation I have read. Many earlier writers had a lack of reference works. One advantage of a recently written commentary is the wealth of written material that can be researched. Our brother has done this with great skill and clarity, and has produced an excellent work. Full agreement is not possible, nor may it be necessary in a work on prophetic subjects, but fair treatment has been given to opposing views. Notes on Revelation by Jim Flanigan is a booklet of 118 pages published by Gospel Tract Publications of Glasgow, Scotland. This booklet is brief, readable, and very helpful. “The Visions of John the Divine” by Wm. Hoste, originally published by John Ritchie, is accurate and valuable, and follows the literal interpretation.

“Lectures on the Book of the Revelation” by Wm. Kelly, is published by G. Morrish. This is a standard work with an original translation that has been held in great respect for many years.

“The Revelation,” Volumes I, II and III is written by Wm. J. Hynes. These three booklets of 100 pages each cover all of the Book of Revelation. Brother Hynes has emphasized that the study of prophecy should produce godliness in us. Welch Publishing Co. Burlington, ON. Contact Paul Glenney for availability.

“From Now to Eternity” by John Heading is a verse-by-verse exposition of Revelation that makes a valuable reference work. Walterick Publishers published it in 1996. The Moody Press first published “Exploring Revelation” by John Phillips in 1974. It has much value. “The Book of the Revelation” by Wm. R. Newell is an old work, published by Moody Press in 1935, but there have been several later editions. It is a very clear and concise exposition that follows a pre-millennial interpretation.

“The Revelation of Jesus Christ” by John F. Walvoord is a 1966 publication of Moody Press, but it has been reprinted several times. This work is thorough, yet very readable, and is true to what we believe to be a correct interpretation.

“Revelation” by Charles C. Ryrie, Moody Press, is a valuable work of 120 pages. “Interpreting Revelation” Merrill C. Tenney, Eerdmans Publishing, Grand Rapids, MI. is helpful as is “A Revelation of Jesus Christ” by J. B. Smith, the author of the Greek-English Concordance. With painstaking care the author has studied every word of the original text and has given us a valuable tool of interpretation. It is published by the Mennonite Publishing House of Scottsdale, Arizona (1961).

Commentaries on the Seven Churches- A List of Authors:

Hector Alves; (the best in my judgment), R. K. Campbell, Edward Dennett, G. Campbell Morgan, Sir William Ramsay (archeological background), and F. A. Tatford have all written helpful works.

Related Subjects:

Any student of Scripture who desires to understand the meaning and history of dispensational interpretation should read at least the first three chapters of “Things to Come” by J. D. Pentecost. Availability may be a problem. This work was first published by the Dunham Publishing Co. of Findlay, Ohio, in 1958. A more recent work by the same author, “Thy Kingdom Come,” was published in 1990 by Victor Books, a division of Scripture Press Publications.