Hamilton, James M. Jr. Revelation: The Spirit Speaks to the Churches. Preaching the Word. Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway, 2012. 457 pp. $34.99.
The apostle Paul once wrote to young Timothy, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Tim 3:16). While we may nod our heads in agreement with this verse, many in ministry have abandoned preaching of the book of Revelation to those more inclined to controversy. Just the notion of preaching through the book of Revelation tends to bring to mind the wild-eyed preacher pronouncing judgment and warning his hearers of the danger of the mark of the Beast.
In Revelation: The Spirit Speaks to the Churches, James Hamilton (Associate Professor of Biblical Theology at Southern Seminary) presents a compelling alternative by modeling for the reader an expositional sermon series through the book of Revelation. Rather than striving to identify the Anti-Christ (or the Beast, False Prophet, or Great Harlot) in modern society – a practice that is all too common and equally unhelpful – Hamilton pores through the text, seeking to reveal God’s primary message to the churches to whom it was first penned.
“God wants us to know the glory of his mercy and his justice, and that is what we see in Revelation: history culminates in climactic demonstrations of the glory of God in salvation through judgment” (18).
Revelation, then, is not about the Anti-Christ, the Beast, the False Prophet, or the Great Harlot. Neither is it primarily about the Two Witnesses, the Sealed 144,000, the Seven Seals, Seven Bowls, or Seven Trumpets. The Four Horsemen and the number 666 all play minor, bit-roles in the Apocalypse. Revelation is focused on presenting the mercy and justice of God as He brings to a head all of the wrongs of the world and pours out his righteous judgment upon them all. His enemies shall be judged, and his redeemed shall be vindicated. Revelation is about the glory and majesty of Christ.
This is a collection of expositional sermons through the book of Revelation. As such, it is not a technical commentary that extensively interacts with the text in its original language. Neither is it a pastoral commentary that provides helps for crafting sermons out of the text. That simply is not the intent of this series. That does not diminish the value of such a series, but those seeking a technical series will be disappointed.
In commentaries written in this manner, one may often find the footnotes (or, in this case, endnotes) to be as helpful as the sermon transcript itself. Many times, the author chooses to interact with the original languages and reveal his studies in this manner. Hamilton, at times, presents the reader with a helpful interaction with commentaries and languages, but at others leaves his readers longing for more – more interaction with the Greek, more discussion on contested doctrinal emphases, more sources to point someone desiring to study further.
This commentary is well-done, and an extremely helpful work in an extremely needed arena. Hamilton has the skill to combine scholarly acumen with pastoral wisdom. For those desirous of an example of preaching through Revelation, this commentary is highly recommended.
James M. Hamilton Jr., Revelation: The Spirit Speaks to the Churches
I received this book free from the publisher through the Crossway book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.