On Preaching Revelation

I am nearing the end of preaching through the book of Revelation, and it has been something of a revelation. First of all, it is far easier to preach than most preachers think it is. Reformed preachers have neglected this book wrongfully. The book is a tremendous encouragement to Christians living in a world where the wrong seems oft so strong. Christians have blinkers on, and they can only see the trouble that is right before them. Revelation lifts them out of that blinkered existence to see how it all turns out. Seeing the end of the story has a profound effect on how we live in the meanwhile.

To compare and contrast with other sections of the canon, I find preaching through any of Paul’s letters to be absolutely exhausting. Paul’s thought is so dense, that unless you take a Puritan-speed approach, you have to decided constantly what you are going to leave out. With Revelation, that is unnecessary. Instead, you help people to understand the imagery. I have found that applying the text of Revelation is generally fairly easy, as well. The application of the main point of Revelation (see point 5 below) is that since Jesus Christ is going to win, we should live as people who are on the winning side (not to mention that we should be on the winning side!).

Part of the joy of preaching Revelation has been helping people realize that Revelation is actually much simpler than most people think it is. Now, if you are a dispensational premillenial interpreter, then Revelation is exceedingly complex indeed. However, for your average, run of the mill Amillenial interpreter, Revelation is governed by very simple principles. 1. The Old Testament controls all the imagery, since the imagery comes from the Old Testament. 2. According to Revelation 1:1, Revelation communicates through the use of symbols (see Beale’s commentary on this point). 3. Therefore, the default interpretive mode should be symbolic, not literal. 4. The reason why Revelation shouldn’t become a wax nose is principle number 1. 5. The main point of Revelation is that Jesus Christ is going to win. 6. Any attempt to apply the text to only one sector of the Christian church, or only one era of the Christian church is doomed to fail. This makes overly preterist or overly futurist views untenable. The text needs to apply to the first-century readers, to the church in the interim, to us, and to the final days. This doesn’t mean that we understand the meaning of the text to be so all-inclusive all of the time. However, it does mean that we should be reluctant to limit the meaning of the text to one time period.

Fortunately for Reformed preachers, there are plenty of excellent resources out there to help understand the text. Pride of place goes to Beale’s magnificent volume. It is the first port of call, especially because no one explores the Old Testament allusions as thoroughly and helpfully as he does. I have then found Dennis Johnson, Vern Poythress, James Resseguie, Craig Koester, James Hamilton, Paul Gardner, Derek Thomas, Doug Kelly, Michael Wilcock, and Steve Wilmshurst to be the most helpful after Beale for preaching purposes. There is no excuse for Reformed pastors neglecting this important book. It ties together all the threads of biblical revelation. It is much easier than most think it is. There are plenty of resources out there to help. To any pastors who have been holding back, jump in!

14 Comments

  1. Andrew Barnes said,

    January 25, 2016 at 2:15 pm

    How dare you not mention “More Than Conquerors” Hendriksen

  2. greenbaggins said,

    January 25, 2016 at 2:16 pm

    Andrew, it is a good book, but I found the others more helpful.

  3. Richard Cronin said,

    January 25, 2016 at 6:50 pm

    Any update on your book on Catholicism..sorry to bother you about it but I’m really curious to know if you kept at it! I liked your thinking when you were writing about it last year.

  4. Kevin said,

    January 25, 2016 at 8:14 pm

    Lane, for those Reformed looking for a serious new look at Eschatology from a Historic perspective, Tim Kauffmam has put in seroius work, I think a culmination of many years of study. He has a thesis that involves 2 strikes of the stone in Daniel 2. In this theory, he debunks Taylor Marshall and the RC that Rome receives an earthly kingdom of Christ from the fourth beast ( the Roman Empire). He proves, imho, the saints receive the spiritual kingdom, and Roman Catholicism is the antichrist that received an earthly dominion, ” given to wear out the saints” He has arrived at the date for the writing of Revelation applying drawing the parralel of Danielic chronology in John. His article ” The Rise of Roman Catholicism ” is a must read for any Reformed Pastor. Without getting into to much deatail, I invite any Reformed Pastor or believer to ” Out of His Mouth” Whitehorse blog” Tim Kauffman. Anyone who wants a serious new look at Reformed Eschatology should visit. Imho, he is the the most knowledgable modern expert in the Historist camp. Blessings Kevin

  5. roberty bob said,

    January 25, 2016 at 8:36 pm

    Jesus Christ [the Lamb who was Slain] reveals himself as the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and ruler of the kings of the earth. The crucified one who died as one accursed is not an outcast criminal and leader of a lost cause as most people would have supposed, for he has been vindicated and is deemed worthy to open the scroll in order to take executive action against apostate Jerusalem. The bulk of the Revelation portrays the ultimate covenant judgement of which Moses warned [3 sets of 7] and of which Jesus foretold in his Olivet Discourse, culminating in the utter overthrow of the city which shed the blood of the prophets and of the Christ. The saints sing The Hallelujah Chorus at Jerusalem’s overthrow! The New Jerusalem is then revealed and the Triumph of the Lamb is celebrated.

    The 7 churches are exhorted to overcome through the Blood of the Lamb, so that they may have the right to enter the New Jerusalem and live forever in the light of the Lord.

    Saints of all ages take heart from the Revelation in the knowledge that we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

  6. greenbaggins said,

    January 26, 2016 at 10:30 am

    Richard, now that Gregg Allison has finished his book on the subject (and he based his work on the seminal work of Leonardo di Chirico), I do not feel the need to write a book on Roman Catholicism. While I could perhaps provide a more explicitly confessionally Reformed and presuppositional approach to the subject, it would overlap too much with what Allison says. I am content to refer people to his book. I have therefore switched gears in order to work on Ezekiel.

  7. Kevin said,

    January 27, 2016 at 8:34 am

    Lane, would you be open to do a review here on Allisons book. I read it, and I thought it was one of the best books ever written on Roman Catholicism. You walk away from that book and realize Roman Catholicism is not another denomination, its another religion. Thanks K

  8. greenbaggins said,

    January 27, 2016 at 10:21 am

    I might be able to do that at some point, Kevin. I have a LOT of more pressing projects at the moment, but we’ll see. I’ll have a considerably lighter plate in about a month or so.

  9. Richard Cronin said,

    January 27, 2016 at 6:06 pm

    Thanks lane.

  10. David Waltz said,

    January 31, 2016 at 5:32 pm

    Hello Lane,

    Interesting post. The following in particular ‘caught my eye’:

    “The Old Testament controls all the imagery, since the imagery comes from the Old Testament.”

    I think it is a mistake to ignore the probable influence of Jewish apocalyptic intertestamental literature on the Book of Revelation. I also believe that Reformed preterists have made an solid case for the need to keep in mind the contemporay history of the later apostolic age.

    Lastly, I recently read a doctoral dissertation concerning the Book of Revelation and Jesus Christ that I could not put down. A PDF copy is available online: HERE.

    Grace and peace,

    David

  11. February 2, 2016 at 6:23 pm

    […] the Presbyterian Church in America and is pastor of Lebanon Presbyterian Church in Winnsboro, S.C. This article appeared on his blog and is used with […]

  12. February 23, 2016 at 4:41 pm

    I enjoyed reading this post and would like to listen to the sermon series. Is it available online somewhere?

    thank you,
    Larry

  13. greenbaggins said,

    February 23, 2016 at 6:21 pm

    The sermons are on sermon audio dot com. Just search for my name (Lane Keister), and you will find them.

  14. February 23, 2016 at 6:40 pm

    Thanks Lane.

    As long as I’ve been a member of PB you would think I could’ve gone there and figured that out. Easier to just ask I guess. So thanks, I am really looking forward to listening.

    Larry


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