Book Reviews

Revelation

J. Scott Duvall Grand Rapids, MI 2015
  1. Scott Duvall is professor of New Testament and J. C. and Mae Fuller Chair of Biblical Studies at Ouachita Baptist University. Duvall seeks to help readers understand Revelation “with emphasis on both historical and literary contexts,” focusing on “the book’s messages of warning, hope, and comfort, remembering that Jesus is Lord” (back cover). This review will be limited to illustrating the function of the commentary from one selection and assessing its interpretive approach.

Duvall’s approach to the interpretation of the book of Revelation needs attention. He states, “Revelation answers the most basic of all questions: Who is Lord of the universe? The Roman emperor claimed lordship by extending his power through local rulers, taxation, the military, trade guilds, temples, and various symbols like statues and coins. But Revelation was written to reassure Jesus’s disciples that God is on his throne and that Jesus, not Caesar, is Lord of all” (p. 4). He goes on to say, “Revelation proclaims hope—hope made possible by Christ’s victory, hope that brings comfort to the faithful who are now suffering, hope that calls for repentance from those who are compromising and hope that one day God will judge evil and live among his people in a new heaven and new earth” (p. 5). All of this is certainly beneficial, but Duvall’s interpretive approach leaves one wanting. After briefly presenting the four major approaches to interpreting Revelation—preterist, historicist, futurist, and idealist—he opts for an “eclectic” interpretive hermeneutic. According to him, this “approach combines the strengths of several [interpretive] approaches” (p. 7). In reality this is a weakness. Duvall picks and chooses what he alone feels are the strengths to be drawn from the four major approaches. It is difficult to accept an eclectic view of any area of Scripture, especially when one is dealing with a book as controversial and difficult as the book of Revelation. Duvall’s views are sometimes unclear and therefore confusing as to their place in the overall interpretation.

For instance, in Duvall’s dealings with Revelation 3:10, a controversial and yet vital passage for any approach, especially a dispensational, futurist view, he seems to favor the view that believers will not be delivered or “raptured” from the tribulation described in Revelation 6–19. Also, his views on the millennial reign of Christ are not clear. He seems to favor a millennial reign and a general resurrection of believers at the end of the tribulation period. However, he does not discuss the different views or what the extent of the period is. This may be due to the brevity of the commentary series and its objectives.

The section on Revelation 4:1–11, “God on His Throne as the Sovereign Creator,” demonstrates the usefulness of the commentary. The Big Idea is “The heavenly beings worship God as the sovereign Creator and Ruler of the universe” (p. 82). “The throne image unites Revelation 4–5 as a grand assurance to God’s people that he will accomplish his plans for creation” (ibid.). The Key Themes of this section are: (1) “God is firmly seated on his throne as the sovereign Ruler of the universe”; (2) “God’s eternal greatness stands in contrast to the temporary, counterfeit powers of earthly pagan rulers”; (3) “God alone is worthy of worship as the holy, powerful, eternal Creator”; and (4) “The chief activity of heaven is worship” (p. 83). An outline of Revelation 4 is included on page 82. Theological Insights deal with the sovereignty of God. Duvall states, “Divine sovereignty stands as the primary theological theme of Revelation 4–5. . . . What could possibly encourage the churches more than to see God on his throne surrounded by angelic worshipers?” (p. 85). A helpful cutout on “The Throne in Revelation” is provided on page 84. Duvall then suggests four possibilities under the heading Teaching the Text: (1) “God is holy, sovereign, eternal Creator who alone is worthy of worship” (p. 85); (2) “True worship is God-centered” (ibid.); (3) “Worship changes us” (p. 86); and (4) “We can overcome on earth when we have a clear vision of the realities of heaven” (ibid.). Five suggestions are given for Illustrating the Text: (1) “Only God, the Creator and Ruler of the universe, is worthy of worship,” illustrated by current news stories; (2) “Worship happens in surprising places,” illustrated by a sports story involving the Arkansas Razorbacks and Louisiana State Tigers; (3) “What is life without worship?” illustrated by a quote from Eugene Peterson’s Reversed Thunder; (4) “True worship is more significant than the activity of politicians,” illustrated by a story about Will Campbell, “a theological gadfly and civil-rights activist”; and (5) “Worship is ‘good for nothing,’ ” illustrated by saying “worship is not ‘good for’ anything, serving no end or purpose outside itself” (pp. 86–87).

As previous reviews have noted, this commentary series fulfills its objectives. However, Duvall’s is truly an eclectic approach to the text, and therein is its weakness. I do not recommend this particular volume, because it does not, and maybe cannot, go deep enough to help the reader communicate several important issues.

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