On devils, details and reading the Book of Revelation

The text of Revelation is notoriously difficult to make sense of, and this is illustrated if you compare the conclusions of commentators, even ones that are taking a broadly similar approach. It is not uncommon to find them reaching quite different conclusions on relatively important matters—but in fact careful attention to the detail of the … Continue Reading

What does Rev 4–5 tell us about the Trinity?

I am writing a commentary on the Book of Revelation, and also doing work on the contribution of Revelation to our understanding of the Trinity. I post hereby summary comments on Revelation 4 and 5, since these are the most important contributions in Revelation to our understanding of the relation between Jesus and the Father, … Continue Reading

Did John ‘see’ Jesus?

Revelation has been hugely influential on the history of Christian art. If you are in the habit of visiting church buildings that have stained glass, you won’t have to travel far to find images drawn from the book. But what is striking in the images of Jesus, based on Revelation 1, is that Jesus is … Continue Reading

When is God ‘coming on the clouds’?

Quite early on in Revelation (1.7) we find the phrase ‘I am coming with the clouds’, and it is striking that the near universal view of commentators on this verse is that it is a reference to the return of Jesus to earth, as promised in Acts 1 and elsewhere. (Note that the New Testament never uses the now-popular phrase ‘second coming’ of Jesus, since this pairs the future with his ‘first coming’ in the incarnation, whereas the NT always pairs his return with his departure, as in ‘he will return in the same way you have seen him go’ in Acts 1.11).

How soon will God act?

Unless you are a deist (even perhaps a moral therapeutic deist) then belief in the orthodox understanding of the Trinity implies an expectation that God, by his Spirit, is at work in the world and in the life of the believer. In 1 Corinthians, Paul describes the active work of the Spirit in the congregation … Continue Reading

Jesus and gender in Revelation

At the Society of Biblical Literature annual conference in Atlanta last week, I attended several papers on the Book of Revelation. The one that I have continued to think about—and which provoked most merriment when I reported it on Facebook—looked at the question of whether Jesus has breasts in Revelation 1.13 (given by Sarah Shier … Continue Reading

How to read the Book of Revelation

Yet another ‘prophecy’ about the end of the world comes and goes—but we know, like the proverbial bus, another one will be along soon. One of the reasons for this predictable yet disappointing procession is that we don’t really know how to read the Book of Revelation properly—the source of many of these failed forecasts. … Continue Reading

Numerical composition and Revelation’s unity

Last week I read a fascinating article by Mike Parsons of Baylor University on ‘Exegesis “By the Numbers”: Numerology and the New Testament.’ It gives an overview of some of the ways that numbers features in the composition of the text. Some are well-known, but a good number were new to me. For example, apart from … Continue Reading

Is Revelation a unity or a composite?

One of the most striking things about the text of Revelation is its literary variability—changes in style, vocabulary, narrative shape and characters from section to section. This is evidenced in its first chapter, most notably at the level of genre. Whilst it is generally recognised that Revelation is a mix of three major genres—of epistle, … Continue Reading