The Book of Revelation: A Commentary on the Greek Text. G. K. Beale. New International Greek Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1999. 1245 pp. plus 64 pp. of introduction.
Introduction to the Unique Strengths and Usefulness of Beale’s Commentary
Beale’s commentary on Revelation is a significant commentary on Revelation with clear Evangelical convictions. Throughout the work, he shows a significant interest in biblical theology and in John’s use of the Old Testament (OT). Due to the length of the work, Beale is able to devote many short sections to pursuing questions of interest. Many of these sections are related to the use of the OT or to specific theological points that interpreters disagree about. Beale often compares John’s use of the OT to similar (or at least enlightening) uses of the OT in Jewish literature. He often does this in sections with smaller print that occur after his main treatment of a verse. Readers with an interest in OT connections will find a wealth of information here and much that requires careful digesting.
Although Beale’s commentary is in the New International Greek Testament Commentary series, it does not usually comment on Greek points in such a way that it is inaccessible to those who do not know Greek. Many of the technical Greek points occur in sections with a smaller font. That being said, it is not an easy book to digest. It may take a while to get used to the unique features of the book, like the significance of his sections with a smaller font.
One other advantage of Beale’s work is that he provides helpful critiques of preterist interpretations of verses like Revelation 17:9-10, which refers to seven hills and seven kings. Preterists often correlate the seven hills with Rome and the seven kings with seven emperors. Beale suggests that these verses may not be all about Rome and her emperors.
Beale’s Overall Approach to the Book
In terms of Beale’s overall approach, he is a good example of an amillennialist who is at least somewhat of a futurist. Beale actually claims to be following a modified idealist approach, because he wants to leave adequate room for “a final consummation in salvation and judgment” (49). How does this view work out in his commentary?
According to him, the judgments associated with the first four seals (Rev. 6:1-8), the first six trumpets (8:6-9:21), and the first five bowls (16:1-11) began to occur after the ascension of Christ to heaven (12:5) and continue until the great day of God’s wrath (6:17). The great day of God’s wrath occurs at the end of time when Christ comes back. Consequently, the judgments associated with the end and the second coming of Christ include the sixth and seventh seals, the seventh trumpet, and the sixth and seventh bowls (146-8). Similarly, the three and a half year reign of the Beast (Rev. 13) is a symbolic time period. It begins with the ascension and exaltation of Christ (12:5-6) and continues until Christ defeats the Beast (Rev. 19). Other futurists might agree with aspects of Beale’s interpretation up to this point, but would generally associate more of Revelation with the future, that is, the final events and the second coming of Christ.
In addition, Beale’s view of the millennium clearly separates him from other futurists. Amillennialists, like Beale, have a distinctive interpretation of the millennium (20:1-6). They see the millennium as spanning the same time period when most of the judgments and the reign of the Beast occur. The millennium is a symbolic time period that begins with the exaltation of Christ. It continues until Satan is released from the abyss to gather his troops to fight against the armies of Christ. This means that Revelation 20:7-10 is a second presentation of the events of Revelation 19:17-21 (1028). Thus, the millennium is already underway. Christians already enjoy a spiritual resurrection and are ruling with Christ in heaven (996-7). In contrast to this view, other futurists see the millennium as a 1,000 reign of Christ that takes place in the future.
Some of the review above is adapted from my book:
Paul Hoskins, The Book of Revelation: A Theological and Exegetical Commentary, pp. 32-33 (those pages provide further sources and footnotes that I have omitted above).
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