December 14, 2017

A Small Arsenal on Eschatology

smallarse.jpgI’ve written in several places about my experience with questions from the students and staff I minister to. By an overwhelmingly number, most of the questions have to do with the end times, eschatology and the Book of Revelation. Predictably, these are the areas of least interest to me, so finding useful resources has been very important.

Most of these questions come from the presupposition that dispensationalism is the correct way to interpret the Bible. The questioners are almost always unfamiliar with the Bible, but have read or watched the Left Behind movies or other “end times” materials on TBN or in their churches. One of my biggest challenges is to not only answer the question, but to challenge the foundations the question rests upon, i.e. the truthfulness of dispensationalism and a literal reading of Revelation and other prophetic books.

I’ve written “A Young Person’s Guide to the Book of Revelation” here at Internet Monk, and I use it with both students and staff. You are welcome to use it, and I think it will be helpful in laying a different foundation for the discussion. It’s purposely brief, easy to read and works through some of the basic questions I encounter most often.

My purpose in this post is to briefly recommend other resources that will help you in teaching eschatology, answering dispensationalism-assuming questions and properly interpreting the book of Revelation in your own ministry.

Revelation (Concordia Commentary)I’m beginning with the “big book.” Everyone needs a detailed commentary on Revelation. Assuming that you aren’t a graduate student in theology, but an ordinary working pastor or teacher, I don’t think you will ever find a better, more complete, more pastorally applicable commentary than Louis Brighton’s Revelation in the Concordia Commentary series. This book is just over 650 pages. It is NOT full of scholarly jargon and Greek. It’s written in understandable English, uses excellent graphics and always comes back to the needs of pastors and teachers. I’ve used this book for several years, and while there are much better technical commentaries, this is a book I can open and read with anyone.

I am sure commenters will recommend others, but this commentary is among my favorite Biblical commentaries.

Message of Revelation: I Saw Heaven Opened (Bible Speaks Today)The book that turned me around in my own dispensational views of Revelation was Michael Wilcock’s Revelation commentary in John Stott and IVP’s The Bible Speaks Today series.

Wilcock has several IVP commentaries (Luke, Psalms, Judges) and I love them all. He’s a quick, bright writer. He doesn’t waste time and he knows the power of punchy, efficient prose. But he was the first Biblical commentator I ever read who used literary genre and literary criticism to take me into Revelation in something other than a literal way. This commentary does a superb job of suggesting the rewards of looking at the book as cyclical instead of linear, and as symbolic instead of actually descriptive. Without being heavy-handed and academic, he gently suggests that everything you thought might be wrong, and then helps you to see what’s visible from a new perspective.

I’ve used this book with high school students for many, many years. It’s accessible, readable and interesting. Wilcock does skip all the background and deals with the text. He sometimes writes less when you want more, but it’s a fine book. Acquire two copies.

Reversed Thunder: The Revelation of John and the Praying ImaginationRight alongside Wilcock is Eugene Peterson’s Reversed Thunder: Revelation and the Praying Imagination.

What can I say about Peterson? He’s one of the best writers in the Christian world. His prose is rich, his pastoral concerns are unsurpassed. He has literary sensibilities that approach John as a multi-sensory poet and composer. This book is a wealth of sermon ideas and a treasury of pastoral insight. I have almost everything Peterson has written in his career. From Five Stones to Eat This Book, he’s an essential writer, especially for preachers and those who reject the technocratic dictatorship being sold to our churches. If Peterson writes on a book of the Bible, secure what he’s written. Ironically, he is generally denounced by the Apple Dumpling Gang as new agey, when, in fact, he is probably the most pastorally conservative of Biblical writers working today.

The End Times Made Simple: How Could Everybody Be So Wrong about Biblical ProphecyOne last recommendation is Sam Waldron’s excellent book The End Times Made Simple. Waldron is a reformed Baptist scholar who actually wants to serve the larger church and this book simply surpasses almost anything in print in offering a comprehensive view of eschatology from the amillenial perspective. (Kim Riddlebarger’s work excepted.) There are more scholarly books, and that is the problem. The people I talk to aren’t scholars. Waldron’s book is actually readable by someone who has read the Left Behind books. It’s well written, illustrated with graphs, approaches the subject through the issues raised in Left Behind, and isn’t overwhelmed with a polemical tone even though it is a polemic.

You should not be without this book. If you have experiences similar to mine and you need one book to put in the hands of a questioning person, this is that book.

As I have said, there are many good books of eschatology and Revelation, especially scholarly books. These are the books I’ve found most helpful for my own views, and that have the best potential for presenting an alternative eschatology to the person eager to examine the subject.

Comments

  1. Darren Fox says:

    Do you adhere to any of the AD 70 distinctions as outlined by the preterists? From what I have read many of them believe that Revelation was written before AD 70. You apparently hold to the later date.

  2. I believe the book was written in the 90’s during the reign of Domitian.

    I don’t fall easily into a camp, but I’m mostly amillenial, and not preterist.

  3. Revelation Unwrapped by John Richardson is well worth a look as a short and simple commentary on the book.

  4. lee n. field says:

    Thanks a lot. I’m thousands of pages behind in what I want to read already. (Rereading Riddelbarger’s _Case for Amillenialism_, got his _Man of Sin_ on the way.)

    I’ve noticed that dispensationalists seem to be very touchy about criticism.

  5. I would recommend “Eternity Now” by Peter Hiett. While I haven’t read the entire book, I would nonetheless recommend it for what I have read. It’s quirky, but in a good way. He brings out not just the original intent (a difficult prospect in any case) but brings out the present application as well. I heard him intereviewed a couple of years ago on a Moody station here, and was quite amused at the interview, since the host was tradionally dispy. It was an odd fit, to say the least. But Hiett acquited himself quite well. It’s quite helpful!