I understand that to many the book of Revelation can be a very difficult and frustrating study. The student may get a little bogged down and confused by all the symbolism and 1st century terminology that sometimes doesn’t make much sense to them. I was in that boat and to be quite honest there are still many portions of the letter that baffle me to this day. There are many commentaries that have been written over the years on the book of Revelation from different perspectives. There are four main methods of interpretation in regards to the book mainly the Preterist, historicist, futurist and idealist.
The recommendations I will be making are based upon my hermeneutical understanding which is a progressive idealism. With that said and to be fair, I will begin by briefly suggesting a few commentaries that are not on my list for those who would like to take a look at other positions to compare with the volumes that I am going to suggest. I think there is information in all these commentaries that may benefit the student of this letter.
- The Days of Vengeance– David Chilton (Preterist)
- Things Which Must Soon Come to Pass– Philip Mauro (Historicist)
- The Revelation of Jesus Christ– John Walvoord (Futurist)
There is no question about what my first selected recommendation is going to be. I have used this commentary extensively and I think it is the best one volume commentary available today. The commentary is from the New International Greek New Testament Commentary series written by G.K. Beale. It is without question the commentary to use if you want to understand the Amillennial interpretation of Revelation. The commentary is over 1300 pages in length and without any question one of the most thorough volume dealing with the text of this wonderful letter. The introduction alone is approximately 180 pages Beale deals with all the points of question in regards to the historical background, the dating of the book, authorship, the use of symbols and how we should interpret them. The best part of the book in my opinion is Beale’s ability to interpret symbols based upon the imagery of the Old Testament. Beale keeps going to scripture over and over again in order to interpret the symbols that John presents to us in his letter to the churches in Asia Minor. Beale also spends time dealing with the linguistics and grammar of the letter as well as some comments on textual issues when needed. I also enjoyed Beale’s ability to interact with different views that were not his own including the premillennial and Postmillenial understanding of Revelation.There are a few instances where Beale can be a little difficult to follow and he does refer to the Greek often enough but for the most part the commentary is readable. This book is worth its weight in gold and highly recommended.
My second recommendation is from the same school of interpretation but it is a definetly a far “easier” read than Beale’s. The commentary was written by Dennis Johnson of Westminster Seminary and titled “The Triumph of the Lamb”. The commentary is certainly less bulky than Beale’s and at a far better price to be sure. TOTL is approximately 380 pages long and a much more readable commentary that than of Beale. Johnson’s volume doesn’t delve as deep into the text but I find if you really want to have a good understanding without hashing out every detail, this commentary is excellent. With that said, Johnson is balanced in his approach and this commentary lacks nothing in content. The student will have a good understanding of the apocalypse by reading through this book. I believe this commentary would be very useful to a preacher desiring to go through the book since it gives plenty of application to help explain the content of this difficult but glorious letter.
My final recommendation is considered to be a classic and was the foundation for the writing of many commentaries including some of the above mentioned. The book is called More than Conquerors by William Hendricksen. It is a much smaller volume in comparison to Beale at only 224 pages, the book has some fantastic insight and in my view would serve as a good read to prepare to delve into a book such as Beale. Hendricksen presents to us the view of progressive parallelism which Beale and others later expand upon in their commentaries. There are a few areas where I had some disagreements with Hendricksen especially in his understanding of the 1st horsemen which he identifies as Christ but all in all I have no problem recommending this book especially to someone who is really looking at a preliminary view of Revelation.
There are other commentaries that I would like to take the time to view such as Robert Mounce’s commentary from the New International New Testament Commentary series which I’ve consulted online a few times and also I’m looking forward to owning the Pillar New Testament Commentary on Revelation that is being written by D.A. Carson which I feel could possibly surpass even Beale’s commentary for me.