Sunday, 24 January 2016

The Theology of Revelation, by Richard Bauckham

There are many commentaries on the Apocalypse, perhaps too many. This book, however, is not a commentary on the Revelation, but a thematic exploration of the theology of the Apocalypse. It does not simply look at the eschatology of Revelation, but considers what it has to say about Christology and the Holy Spirit.

On the debate about whether Revelation is a prophecy or an apocalypse, Bauckham argues that the two categories cannot be rigidly distinguished. He accepts the value of preterist interpretation, arguing that it is vital to understand the book in the light of its first-century context. An approach that tries to use Revelation as predicting future history, whether historicist or futurist will fail to grasp that context. However, to a large extent, our author moves beyond a preterist interpretation and seems to advocate something of a Symbolist-Idealist approach.

I don't think Richard Bauckham is a Postmillennialist, but he offers room for optimism. He sees the conversion of the nations in the vision and also the triumph of the Kingdom of God as a present reality. However, there is something of a tension in his thought here, as he sees the cosmic struggle in Revelation as an ongoing conflict through the ages. Thus, Christians throughout history will be threatened by the evil powers of this world. Yet if the triumph of the Kingdom of God is a present reality, should we not see a progressive defeat of the powers of evil in the world and increasing Christianization of the world? I would question the usefulness of his universalizing of the narrative of Revelation.

I think this is a very useful and insightful book that takes a somewhat different approach to the study of the Apocalypse.

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