[K:JNWTS 26/1 (May 2011): 43-44]
James L. Resseguie, The Revelation of John: A Narrative Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2009. 288pp. Paper. ISBN: 978-0-8010-3213-4. $16.95.
Over a two-year period, I recently finished preaching through the book of Revelation (http://www.sgopc.org/sermons.html). About half-way through the series, the editor of Kerux alerted me to the publication of a new commentary on Revelation by James L. Resseguie, emeritus professor of New Testament at Winebrenner Theological Seminary in Findley, Ohio. As I found this book to be very helpful, it is the intention of this review to specifically demonstrate how it assisted my sermon preparations.
Resseguie subtitles his book a Narrative Commentary. In the preface, he states that this means he approaches Revelation as an organic whole"it has a unity with a beginning, middle and end" (11). With this approach in mind, he demonstrates throughout the commentary how each passage fits into the message of the book as a whole. In the introduction, he also gives a primer on narrative analysis describing John's use of metaphors, similes, verbal threads, chiasms, inclusios, two-step progressions and other rhetorical devises. Throughout the commentary, he points out the various ways in which these narrative devices are used.
How should you use this book for your study of Revelation? My recommendation is that each week, when you begin sermon preparation, it is best to start by reading about your Revelation pericope in William Hendrickson's classic More Than Conquerors. Hendrickson's book is not only Reformed, his recapitulation approach helps put each text within that framework. Second, you can find careful verse-by-verse analysis by using exegetical commentaries on Revelation such as G. K. Beale in the New International Greek New Testament Series and Grant Osborne in the Baker Exegetical Commentary Series. Following that you may then turn to Resseguie's book to find further narrative insights into the textinsights that go beyond what the other commentaries have. At times Resseguie even interacts with works of these other commentators and builds upon their insights by applying his narrative approach.
While this commentary is not a detailed exegetical work, I especially appreciated his "linear" approach to the book. While he agrees with the recapitulation approach of Hendrickson, he believes there is more to the book of Revelation than "hitting readers over the head" with the redundant message of each of the seven visions (55). His linear method demonstrates that not only does each of the seven visions of Revelation have a similar message (recapitulation), but also that there is an intensification of that message as the book unfolds, thus leading to the final consummation at the end (linear). For example, in the vision of God on the throne in Rev. 4, we read that there were flashes of lightning, and rumblings and peals of thunder (v. 5). Later, at the end of vision of the seven seals, we again read that there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning, but with an earthquake added to the mix (8:5). Also the vision of the seven trumpets is intensified with heavy hail added to the picture (11:19). And finally, culminating the vision of the seven bowls (16:1ff.), huge hailstones are falling from the sky (v. 21). Why the intensification at the end of each vision? What does it mean? Building on the insights of others, Resseguie, in my opinion, gives the best explanation of them all. But you will have to buy the book in order to test my opinion.
The only disappointing part of the book is the handling of Rev. 20. Resseguie demonstrates his premillennial views in his description of the future, literal, thousand-year millennium on earth after Christ's return. Nevertheless, I very much appreciated the narrative insights of this commentary and overall found it very helpful to my sermon preparation. Standing alone, it is not enough for sermon preparation, but used along with other resources, it will enhance your studies and stimulate your thinking as you preach through the glorious last book of the Bible.
Robert Van Kooten