Revelation: Four Views

Revelation: Four Views: A Parallel Commentary [Hardcover]

Steve Gregg (Editor)

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Revelation : Four Views: A Parallel Commentary
Reviewed by Dr. Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr
(American Vision’s Biblical Worldview, November 1997)

When I first entered the pastorate in 1977, I was an enthusiastic minister of the gospel desiring above all faithfully to promote an understanding of God’s holy Word among God’s worshiping people. By the grace of God I still am today. But in my glad-to-be-graduated exuberance thirty years ago I had more youthful zeal than practical knowledge. As I began teaching an adult Sunday School class, I thought it appropriate to ask the class what they might like to study. To my dismay, the overwhelming majority wanted to study the Book of Revelation. Simply put: I was not ready. But I quickly conjured up the wisdom necessary for the appropriate response: I declined the invitation.

The Book of Revelation, by all accounts, is the most difficult book in Scripture. I knew basically what Revelation meant back in 1977, having been briefly introduced to a sound view of the book in a general eschatology course taught by Greg L. Bahnsen: "Eschatology and History." I was not, however, ready for the detailed work necessary to teach such a course. And to complicate matters, very few genuinely helpful publications were on the market in 1977. Jay Adams’ The Time is at Hand was available, but it was a very brief introduction to the subject.

Times have changed. Now we are discovering an ever-increasing number of sound materials on Revelation. In fact, over the years with every new convert hounding me for a study of Revelation, I have personally been digging more deeply into John’s rich mine of apocalyptic treasure: I wrote my doctoral dissertation on Revelation (1988), published two books on Revelation (The Beast of Revelation and Before Jerusalem Fell, 1989), included a brief commentary on Revelation in He Shall Have Dominion (chapter 17, 1992), have taught college-level courses on Revelation (two this year, one for Christ College and one for Trinity Bible College and Seminary), and have produced numerous conference tapes on John’s glorious and mystifying book. In fact, Gary DeMar, Ralph Barker, and I produced a four-part video discussion of Revelation (see advertisement on page 3). I have also just recently finished a work for Zondervan edited by Marvin Pate: Four Views of the Book of Revelation (due in Spring, 1998).

I am not the only one promoting Revelation studies from a non-dispensational, pro-preterist perspective. David Chilton’s Days of Vengeance (despite some flights of fancy, use of astrology, and high liturgy) is an extremely insightful commentary. Baker Book House republished The Message from Patmos (1921, 1989), written by Gordon Clark’s father, David Clark.

But now we have one of the most helpful studies on Revelation that I have seen. Steve Gregg, director of the Great Commission School in Oregon, has produced a valuable and enlightening contribution to Revelation studies: Revelation: Four Views: A Parallel Commentary. Gregg’s work is not a typical "four views" book. This is a "parallel commentary" wherein Gregg proceeds section-by-section through Revelation, offering interpretations in parallel columns from four different perspectives: Historicist, Preterist, Futurist, Spiritual (i.e., Idealist). Now with one open book the student can compare the four major approaches to Revelation in a convenient, condensed, accessible format.

Gregg’s work is as fair as it is helpful. In each column he not only provides the perspective of each viewpoint, but intersperses his condensation of the material with fully footnoted quotations from leading advocates of the four views. Gregg is so careful and accurate he even relates the exact make of the helicopters that Lindsey believes appear in Revelation: They are Cobra helicopters (183). He even details the chemical composition of the "brimstone" Lindsey suggests for Revelation 9: "immense clouds of radioactive fallout and debris, while brimstone is simply melted earth and building materials" (196). If you are interested in Revelation and can only purchase one book on the matter, this is it. I highly recommend it for its utility, fairness, and clarity. Gregg even received enthusiastic endorsements from writers as liberal as Clark Pinnock and as dispensational as Homer Kent (of Grace Theological Seminary). If you want an introduction to Revelation studies or if you want a basic guide for a small group Bible study, this is the book for you. (But you’ll have to get your own, I’m keeping mine!)

As a preterist I have had my views held up to scorn and ridicule by dispensational populists (e.g., Hal Lindsey, Thomas Ice). I have also encountered more scholarly misconstruction or partial treatment of my preterist views in various places (e.g., Robert Thomas’ commentary published by Moody Press). Gregg represents a new breed of Revelation commentator: He offers a fair, unbiased, and dispassionate presentation of preterism, as well as the other three views. Such an approach is most welcome in the highly charged debate! Gregg lives up to his desire: "My object has not been to advocate any position above another, so I hope that my own opinion will not be evident" (4).

The actual parallel treatment of Revelation does not begin until Revelation 4, where the apocalyptic drama actually begins. And the parallel format ends with Revelation 20. In the Letters to the Seven Churches and in the New Creation section Gregg provides a standard singular approach to commentary. These are sections where the debate does not rage as vigorously, where the distinctive interpretive perspectives are not so obvious.

As a good commentator, Gregg provides a helpful bibliography of Revelation studies. I was delighted to see he not only suggests but uses some of my works in his commentary. His bibliography includes works as academic as those by Caird, Beckwith, and Alford; as serious as those by Chilton, Walvoord, and Morris; and as popular and simplistic as those by Lindsey, Lindsey, and Lindsey. Revelation: Four Views is a good basic starter to your Revelation library ‘ and Gregg directs you into other important works for expanding your library.

I was most delighted to read Gregg’s presentation of the introductory matters regarding Revelation. He deals carefully and honestly with the question of Revelation’s dating. None of this "as everybody knows" stuff. He considers the evidence and finds supportive of an early date for Revelation, He provides most helpful insights into Revelation’s true backdrop: the Old Testament history of Israel and the prophets of God. His summary of millennial positions is also equitable, basic, and clear. I found the parallel format extremely helpful for quickly locating opposing view point positions. I not only deem the book helpful for a personal one-time study of Revelation but for frequent reference. Gregg’s work has earned a place in my library many years to come.

This is a terrific book! The author has researched a vast array of commentaries and commentators on the book of Revelation and given us a summary of four different ways of interpreting the book, straight from the mouths of proponents of the various views.
It is obvious that in such a work he cannot be exhaustive. Furthermore, he doesn't really try to prove any one position but simply tries to let the advocates of the various positions state their views.
As a pastor I find this book valuable. Although I obviously have more time to study the bible than most I don't have all the time in the world. I don't have the time to wade through a dozen or more commentaries in preparing to teach on the book of Revelation. However, I have the responsibility to teach accurately and to fairly represent different views which are found within Christendom.
This is where the book shows its greatest strength. Full time scholars will wade through all of the commentaries, but pastors and bible teachers whose time is more limited can turn to this book as a reference on the differing views.
One of the things you will find is that there are four broad categories of approach to the book of Revelation - the historicist, preterist, futurist and idealist. And you will also find that within those categories there are differing angles which are taken on particular passages. This could be discouraging to some because it may make you come away thinking that the task of understanding the book of Revelation is hopeless.
On the other hand, maybe God has a purpose in this confusion. I believe it was Pascal who said something along the lines of this - God did not give us the bible to tickle our intellects but to tranform our our lives. I probably butchered the quote, but the point is that maybe God gave us Revelation in the form it is in to help us understand His greatness and our smallness. Maybe the book of Revelation has received so many different interpretations because God doesn't want us to figure it out or become experts, He wants to humble us and reduce us to awe and wonder at His power which is so richly displayed in the book of Revelation.
All of this is not to say that we can or should be agnostic when it comes to interpreting the book of Revelation. I have a definite opinion on the book and am prepared to argue it. However, this book has tempered my argumentative spirit. It has helped me to see where those I disagree with are coming from and shown me where those opponents have pointed out legitimate weaknesses in my own position. Most importantly though, it helps me embrace those brothers I disagree with as we eagerly await the return of Christ.

61 of 64 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The impossible, accomplished! February 24, 2005
I did not think it could be done. How could anyone write, presenting varying views that are opposed to each other and remain unbiased? Steve Gregg has done just that.

I became a Christian reading a famous book about revelation written from the dispensational perspective. I became so well versed in this view that I could teach the book of Revelation without notes. After attending a Bible College that was exclusively dispensational, a pastor who embraced the historic premillennial view challenged me to learn about other views on the subject. I resisted, like the know-it-all 26 year old I was at the time, but I did follow my pastor's advice and began reading.

I have since evolved through historic premillennialism and am now a humble amillennialist. (I say humble because I know that better men than me have differing opinions on eschatology.)

When I read Steve Gregg's masterpiece, I was stunned to see that he faithfully and charitably presented an unbiased look at the varying views of Revelation. THIS IS A MUST READ for any and all students of eschatology-especially those who are unread in views other than their own. BRAVO!