Revelation, by Alun Ebenezer (Darlington England: Evangelical Press, 2012) 224 pp., paper $15.29
In a back cover endorsement, Alistair Begg recommends first reading the introduction and the conclusion of this little commentary on Revelation. Good advice for, by doing so the reader will understand the author’s approach to interpreting this important New Testament book. Ebenezer clearly lays out the four major approaches to its interpretation: preterist, futurist, historicist and idealist (pp. 215-218). He also offers a short overview of positions held by postmillennial, premillennial and amillennial theologians (pp. 218-221). Ebenezer identifies himself as an amillennialist (p. 221) and, thus, aligns himself most closely to the idealist method which sees Revelation dealing with principles in which God has governed the earth throughout history. However, he believes elements of all four approaches are necessary. He writes:
Revelation was written to seven specific churches at a specific time in history to help them in their situation, but is also intended for the church throughout time. The book is all about the history of the world from the first coming to the second coming of Christ; however, it does not refer to specific events and people but rather applies principles of how we should interpret God’s action in history: i.e. the symbols in the book are not restricted to a particular event or disaster or war in history, but shed light on all events and disasters and wars in history (p. 14).
Given the author’s idealistic approach and amillennial bias, the reader is prepared to expect symbolic, rather than literal, interpretation of Revelation. This is true throughout the volume. For example:
p. 62 – The 24 elders are the twelve apostles plus the twelve tribes of Israel.
p. 72-79 – The seven seals reveal the history of the world and the church from Christ’s ascension to His second coming.
pp. 76, 114 – Specific details and numbers are ignored or given figurative meaning (e.g. p. 102).
p. 92 – The trumpet judgments are not to be taken literally.
p. 104 – The beast is the antichristian world which will kill the church.
p. 119 – The beast of the sea is what Satan does. The beast of the earth is how Satan thinks.
p. 134 – Numbers have symbolic meaning.
pp. 148-149 – Armageddon is a spiritual, not a physical, war that has been waged since Adam and Eve.
pp. 185-195 – Revelation 20:1-6 covers the whole of human history, not end time events.
pp. 192 – The battle of 20:7-10 is the same as chapter 16 and 19 and describes Armageddon.
p. 202 – The New Jerusalem and the details of Revelation 21-22 do not describe heaven and eternal life, but the church.
Revelation is more of a devotional study from an amillennial perspective than an exegetical commentary on the book. Ebenezer draws helpful principles, makes valuable application, and provides useful illustrations throughout. These are all beneficial, and evangelical interpreters from any perspective will profit. Those in disagreement with both the author’s amillennialism and idealistic approach, as I am, will nevertheless gain insight into how these schools of interpretation handle the last book in the Bible.
Reviewed by Gary E. Gilley, Pastor-teacher, Southern View Chapel