Reflections on Writing a Commentary on Revelation (part 2)

St_John_the_Evangelist_at_Patmos_(Tobias_Verhaecht)Here are a few more of my reflections related to writing a commentary on Revelation.

3. The ethical teaching of Revelation. One of the unexpected benefits of wrestling with Revelation was that I became more familiar with the ethical teaching of the book. John’s warnings about the temptations of Babylon (Rev. 17-18) challenged me to think about the difficulties of avoiding compromises with Babylon. The challenge to “come out of her” is not as easy as it seems (18:4). This becomes apparent in the seven letter to the seven churches. The ethical teachings of the seven letters of Revelation 2-3 are consistently reinforced by the rest of the book. In fact, it is not possible to appreciate the full force of the seven letters without the remainder of the book. I now appreciate the importance of exhortations like Revelation 14:12, which says, “Here is the perseverance of the saints, who are keeping the commandments of God and their faith in Jesus.” Perseverance, obedience, and faith are all emphases of Revelation, and of the Gospel of John.

4. Connections to the Old Testament and typology. Beginning with my PhD studies, I have been interested in the New Testament’s many connections to the Old Testament. One of the things that drew me to the book of Revelation was the opportunity to learn from its many uses of the Old Testament. What could I learn from John’s work about how to interpret the Old Testament and about how the fulfillment of Old Testament expectations?

Among the many things that I learned, here is one that I found to be interesting. Revelation has interesting examples of typology. Some of John’s allusions to the Old Testament point us to passages that do not appear to be predictive at all or to predictions that were already fulfilled in past historical events. For an example of the first type of Old Testament passage, several of Revelation’s trumpet and bowl plagues allude to plagues of the Exodus (Exod. 7-11). These are relatively straightforward instances of typology. The second type of passage is more interesting. An example of the second type of passage occurs when Revelation relates the fall of the Great Harlot, Babylon, to Jeremiah’s prediction of the fall of Babylon in Jeremiah 25 and 51. Jeremiah’s predictions were already fulfilled in the fall of historical Babylon in 539 B.C. Even so, Jeremiah’s predictions contribute to the type or pattern for the destruction of Revelation’s Harlot, Babylon the Great. John makes this connection clear through allusions to Jeremiah 25 and 51. Similarly, the 3½ years of the Beast’s persecution of the people of God is the antitype to the persecution of the little horn that Daniel predicts in Daniel 7-8. Daniel’s prediction was initially fulfilled in 167-164 B.C. (by Antiochus Epiphanes), but it also becomes a type for the Beast’s persecution of the people of God (see my excursus in chapter 7). I had not previously noticed Old Testament predictions that were both direct prophecies and typological.

Here is a second example of an interesting instance of typology. I had not previously noticed the many connections to Queen Jezebel in Revelation. For specific instances of Jezebel typology in Revelation, see 2:20; 16:16; 17:6; 17:16; 18:23; and 19:2. Jezebel is probably one OT type that contributes to the overall portrait of the Harlot in Revelation 17-18. Just like Queen Jezebel, the Harlot’s flesh is eaten (by the Beast rather than by dogs) (Rev. 17:16; 1 Kgs. 21:23; 2 Kgs. 9:36).

5. Greek language and style. I had read a lot about the oddities of Revelation’s Greek. I found it to be challenging to work with some of those oddities. I am very grateful that David Mathewson’s Greek handbook on Revelation came out before I finished my commentary. I was able to compare some of my conclusions to his and to realize that neither one of us probably has all of the answers. Like G. K. Beale, I did notice that connections to the Old Testament helped to explain some of John’s odd constructions (like Rev. 13:10, 14:19). But others, like Revelation 20:4, are simply difficult constructions that are challenging to figure out. I plan to do some blog posts on the Greek of Revelation, including Revelation 20:4.

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