Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Revelation - an outline

I always find it helpful to have an overview of a book of Scripture before diving into the details. The challenge with Revelation is that I don't think you will work one out before you have worked through the text. I suppose at best you can make a starting point and as you go through amend your outline in the light of your new understanding of the text.

Here is my current attempt, this after preaching through the text twice.

1:1-20 - Introduction
              This chapter introduces the whole book, giving us the key theme that this book is a revelation 'of Jesus Christ' v. 1.
2:1-3:22 - The seven letters
               This text, like other New Testament books touches down in a particular time and place, it was in the first instance to these seven churches.
4:1-5:14 - A vision of God's purposes achieved
               These chapters give the assurance to churches under pressure, which is elaborated in the following chapters.
6:1-8:5 - The seven seals
8:6-11:19 - The seven trumpets
12:1-14:20 - Scenes of cosmic conflict over God's purposes
15:1-16:21 - The seven bowls
                  I think the three sets of seven are repeating the same story. The first two sets have an interlude at the end, which reflects chapters 12 to 14. God's purposes will be achieved, not matter what opposition rises against them.
17:1-20:15 - Scenes of judgment and celebration at God's judgment
21:1-22:21 - In the presence of God, the hope of God's people

I know some of these are quite big portions, but we'll break them down as we go through. The main thing here is to note the deliberate parallels in the sets of seven (seals, trumpets and bowls). The text is not recording three successive stages of history or salvation, but the one event, the one salvation of our God. The three fold repetition gives us great assurance that the matter is certain and fixed by our God for his glory.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Revelation - books

If it is true that of the writing of books there is no end, this seems especially true of Revelation.

I'm not going to mention all the books I have, just one or two ...

John Richardson 'Revelation Unwrapped: Revealing the blessing of John's Vision' MPA books, 1996.
This is a superb book, only 82 pages, but each one of them is solid gold. A brief book gives an overview, and with Revelation I think too many people get lost in the details. If you decide to buy only one book on Revelation, buy this one.

Michael Wilcock 'The Message of Revelation' IVP The Bible Speaks Today series, 1975/1989.
Another very good book, longer than Richardson, but now comes with a study guide. Very helpful on the shape and structure of the book.

Philip Edgcumbe Hughes 'The Book of Revelation: A Commentary' IVP 1990.
Hughes offers his own translation of Revelation aiming to make clear what he sees as the meaning of the text, this is very helpful. Hughes seeks to unpack the symbolism of Revelation that we might better see how such a text works.

Eugene H Peterson 'Reversed Thunder' Harper Collins 1988.
This is not a commentary on the text and should not be approached in that way. However, this is a wonderful, rolling meditation on the themes arising from Revelation and may be a good guide as to how we are to respond to this text. I'm a great Peterson fan so this is another highly recommended book.

Stephen S Smalley 'The Revelation to John: A Commentary on the Greek Text of teh Apocalypse' SPCK 2005.
I was amazed to pick this up very cheap in a sale in Dec 2007 and it would be my recommended commentary on the Greek text. The Greek of Revelation is challenging and if you are trying to use the Greek you will need a good text, this one is recommended.

I have Charles in the old ICC series from 1920, 2 volumes and I have two of the three volumes by Aune in the Word Biblical Commentary series. These are helpful on the Greek of the text, but I think loose there focus on the whole by following too many side roads. If you use the Greek books like these will be essential, but you really need something shorter to keep you on track.

Thursday, 26 August 2010


Over the next fews weeks I though I would post on Revelation. I hope this doesn't see you all run for the hills!

No, I'm not claiming in any of my posts to have all the answers to all the questions arising from this wonderful book. However, the more often we read it together and share our thoughts the more clearly we may see some of the things God would say to us in these words.

So, stick with it and please join in - leave a comment and others may respond and our community of readers may grow.