No book has been the subject of more fanciful interpretations than the book of Revelation. Various interpreters throughout the ages have wrestled with how to understand the many foreign and vivid images. It is no wonder then, that so few have gone on to explain to the average Christian what it might mean for their lives. As such, the discussion of the book of Revelation has been dominated by proper interpretive method at the expense of practical and contemporary significance. Revelation was after all written to seven churches and it is for the church today.
With a desire to let the text speak for itself and using a level headed approach, James Hamilton Jr. has written the newest commentary in Crossway’s Preaching the Word series titled Revelation: The Spirit Speaks to the Churches. Hamilton is associate professor of biblical theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and pastor of preaching at Kenwood Baptist Church in Louisville, KY.
The structure of the book is simple. Having preached through Revelation twice, Hamilton’s commentary is both the fruit of experience and a desire to bring the truth and relevance of Revelation, amidst its hard to interpret sections, to the everyday life of the contemporary believer. Each chapter is written in the form of a sermon with introduction, main point, a preview of the chapter, the overall context of the section in the book of Revelation, the body of the commentary and then a conclusion to bring it all together.
Because Hamilton is concerned with the practical application of the book, he does not get wrapped up in the academic discussion of the various views of Revelation, though he does mention them by name at points. Hamilton’s position is historic premillennialism but he does not explicitly push this. He sees the 70th week of Daniel as the present church age, and the future millennial kingdom as a period of time that does not necessarily have to be a literal 1,000 years. He sees overlap in the seal, trumpet and bowl judgments such that they are describing different angles of the same thing rather than offering a sequential description of different judgments. Hamilton touches on many of the points of tension in the various views of Revelation without succumbing to a debate mentality. Perhaps the only point of debate that he does not mention is the idea expressed by pretribulationalists that the Rapture of the church happens before 4:1. Hamilton’s silence on this speaks to his disagreement with this view (I, myself would agree), but it would have been nice to see the reasons for his disagreement.
At the heart of the book is a pastoral desire to bring the message of Revelation to bear on the life of the believer. Hamilton steers clear of newspaper interpretations of the book that seek to read into Scripture what is happening in current world events. Much of the referents in Revelation would have been speaking to the seven churches’ historical situation since the book was written to them and their situation. However, though Revelation was written to seven churches it is for the church today. Hamilton rightly contends that all of Revelation is for the New Testament believer and thus speaks to the Church’s situation throughout time until Christ returns. Throughout his explanation of the text, Hamilton weaves practical application into each and every chapter, and is constantly driving at the spiritual life of the believer. Hamilton expresses a deep desire for Revelation to speak to the heart and mind of the believer.
Though this commentary is focused on the practical aspects of Revelation, Hamilton shows he has done his homework and is up to date with current scholarship. He displays his grasp and knowledge of the Old Testament by ably demonstrating the OT roots to much of Revelation. Hamilton also draws from biblical theology in his seeing Revelation as the culmination of redemptive revelation within history.
At the end of the day, Revelation shows that Christ the King will ultimately triumph over sin and Satan, and His inaugurated kingdom will overcome the world and rule for eternity. I highly recommend Hamilton’s Revelation: The Spirit Speaks to the Churches as it will be both informative and devotional.
Craig Hurst received his BA in Church Ministries from Clearwater Christian College and is pursuing the MA in theology at Calvary Baptist Theological Seminary in Lansdale, PA. He currently lives outside of Grand Rapids, MI and attends Grace Community Church, where he serves as a volunteer youth worker (along with his wife), and teaches some elective classes. He blogs at Theology for the Road.