If the wise man were writing Ecclesiastes today he might say, “Of the writing of books on Revelation there seems to be no end.” Certainly, Revelation has served as supposed “proof” for virtually every unbiblical, bizarre and outlandish view imaginable. It’s been well said that John saw no creature anywhere near as bizarre as some of the commentaries on the book he wrote. Here are a few recommendations that may prove helpful to those wishing to study the book more thoroughly.
The first 6 works will be by members of churches of Christ, with the last 4 coming from evangelical sources. Of course, mentioning a book does not mean endorsement of everything in the book.
- “Revelation – Through First Century Glasses,” W. B. West, Jr. (edited by Bob Prichard and published by Gospel Advocate, 1997). Brother West taught the book of Revelation for many years and was deeply appreciated for his careful handling of the text. While he did not complete his long-anticipated commentary before his death, this work has its place in serving as the “distilled essence” of his study.
- “The Message of the New Testament – Revelation 1 & 2, by Frank Pack (The Way of Life Series, 1984). These are 2 small paperback volumes, but don’t let their brevity fool you. They are well worth having! The author says much in a little; one would be hard pressed to find a wasted sentence. This makes it especially helpful to busy students needing to get to the heart of things quickly.
- “Revelation, An Introduction and Commentary,” by Homer Hailey (Baker Book House, 1978, 478 pages). A helpful commentary particularly useful with Old Testament allusions and historical background. One will greatly appreciate the author’s respect for Scripture in how he handles the text.
- “The Book of Revelation” and “Then Cometh the End” (1998 and 1999 Spiritual Sword Lectureship Books, 600 and 480 pages respectively, Jim Laws, ed.). Two very helpful works that deal both with the text and various doctrinal issues and themes related to Revelation. Extremely useful for preachers for preaching ideas, and helpful for Bible Class teachers too.
- “Revelation 1-11 and 12-22 in Truth For Today Commentaries (2 Volumes), by David Roper (Resource Publications, 2008 and 2010). For over-all user help, this definitely is a top choice. The text is handled thoughtfully and well. There are many excellent sermon suggestions. Photographs and illustrations abound. At over 1000 pages in length, and in a helpful format, there’s much to commend. Thoughtful Christians will be rewarded by consulting it.
- “Conquering With Christ: A Commentary on the Book of Revelation,” by Ian Fair (Leafwood Publications, 2000, 490 pages). The most academically oriented of the commentaries mentioned so far, the volume is strong on a number of theological issues, sane in its treatment of the text and interacts well with current scholarship. The author’s treatment of introductory issues alone makes it worth owning.
Now, for some helpful volumes from those outside churches of Christ.
- Priority of place probably should be given to G.K. Beale, “New International Greek Commentary on the New Testament – Revelation” (Erdmans, 1999, 1245 pages). Massive (also makes a fine dumbbell for workouts) and pretty expensive (preachers might have to sell a child to buy it) with excellent help on OT allusions. Knowledge of Greek proves helpful in owning this work, as the title suggests. It leaves few stones left unturned.
- David Aune, “Revelation,” in Word Biblical Commentary (Word Publishing, 3 volumes, 1997-1998). Even more lengthy than Beale’s work, Aune is useful, particularly by comparing it with Beale. Many have observed that the format of the Word series leaves much to be desired, which I believe is true. It is less user-friendly.
- “Revelation – Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament,” by Grant Osborne (Baker, 2002, 869 pages). If I had to choose only two commentaries from those outside of churches of Christ on the book of Revelation, I’d choose Beale and this one. A very thoughtful and well-written commentary. Full of depth and devotion.
- “Revelation,” by Craig Keener (NIVAC series, 2002, 576 pages). Significantly more substantive than some volumes in this series, Keener is especially helpful on historical and background issues. He is well known as a writer of commentaries and typically writes by the pound!
As has often been said, “The word of God sure does shed a lot of light on commentaries.” Commentaries must never take precedence over THE BOOK, but the work of others can help us better know and understand what’s in the book. May God richly bless us in the study of His will!