home page links quotes statistics mission statement success stories resources Lighter Side Authors! Search Page
Posted June 6, 2006

Book: The Revelation to John: A Commentary on the Greek Text of the Apocalypse
Author: Stephen S. Smalley
Inter Varsity Press, Downers Groove, IL. 2006. Pp. 633

An Excerpt from the Jacket:

In this detailed commentary on the Greek text of Revelation, Stephen Smalley provides a fresh contribution to the scholarly study of this captivating but often perplexing book of the Bible. In doing so, he demonstrates that the Apocalypse speaks directly to any situation in any age and offers a portrait of God's loving justice that is relevant to our own society.

Smalley interprets the dense and colorful imagery of Revelation with careful balance. He takes seriously the historical context of the Johannine community from which, he argues, the Apocalypse, Epistles and Gospel of John arose. In doing so, he makes the case for the literary shape of Revelation as a creative and coherent drama.

An Excerpt from the Book:

The Situation

The Apocalypse was written essentially as a testimony to God's plan in Christ for his world, and to disclose by means of a series of visions the fulfillment of his salvific purposes, through his judgement, both in history and in eternity. Earlier commentators commonly held the view that this message was intended to encourage the congregations of Asia, and the Church in general, because its members were facing external persecution and oppression. The explanation by Beckwith is typical.

In a time of crisis, the Church was entering a period of crucial conflict between the forces of evil, epitomized by Rome, and the forces of good, found in the vindicated Lord of the Church. To meet this situation, Beckwith argues, the writer exhorts his hearers to be steadfast in faith; and he fortifies their courage by 'revealing the ultimate destruction of the powers of evil, and the perfect consummation of the Christian hope in the establishment of the kingdom of God. Kiddle adopts a similar approach, when he identifies the Apocalypse as a call for endurance, amid a storm of opposition from Rome intensified by devotion to the imperial cult. The followers of Jesus in John's day, Kiddle maintains, needed to direct their faith and hope towards the worship of Christ, and not of Caesar, even if this involved martyrdom on the way.

Such an understanding of the purpose of Revelation is less than adequate, since it makes a number of unwarranted assumptions. First, it presupposes that external persecution was the sole reason for the composition o the Apocalypse, and it will be suggested that this was not the case. Second, this approach assumes a late, Domitianic date for the origin of Revelation, whereas it is possible to argue that the book came to birth much earlier. Third, it is important in the course of interpreting the Apocalypse not to restrict the identity of 'Rome', or indeed 'Babylon'. John sees both of these in general, not civic or imperial terms; for they are representative concepts, and images which stand for unrighteous opposition to God in any society or system at any time.

It is true that Revelation appeared in an age of conflict, and of imperial opposition to the Christian Church. The persecution and martyrdom of believers during the reign of Nero, and the cruelty of Domitian himself during the reign of Vespasian, even before he became Emperor probably formed a backcloth to John's witness, and determined to some extent the hopeful and supportive nature of his testimony. Nevertheless, external opposition to Christianity derived from Judaism, as well as the Roman state; and it is in any case likely that the problems which directly confronted the churches of John's time, and shaped the contents of Revelation, arose from within his community, and not merely from beyond it.

Table of Contents:

Revelation to John
Prologue: The Oracle is disclosed

Act 1
Creation and Salvation through Judgment
Scene 1: Seven Oracles
Interval: Adoration in Heaven's court: God and His Christ
Scene 2: Seven Seals
Interval: The Church protected
Scene 3: Seven Trumpets
Interval: God's Sovereignty

Act 2
Salvation through judgement, and new creation
Scene 4: Seven signs
Interval: A new Exodus
Scene 5: Seven Bowls
Interval: The Fall of Babylon
Scene 6: Seven Visions
Interval: Prelude to the final scene
Scene 7: Seven prophecies


The Oracle is complete