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Jesus’ mastery kindles John’s mystery

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Revelation: New Covenant Commentary Series
Gordon D. Fee

Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2011
332 pages




“What does it mean for God and his Christ to be the one and only sovereign(s) in a universe in which others compete for sovereignty and worship; and what does it mean for contemporary people of God to be a countercultural alternative in such a world?”

Someone once said collecting apocalyptic books is good, because when the world ends we can burn them for warmth. Gordon Fee’s would be at the fire too – fueling the faithful’s courage, not their flames.

With “little concern for anything except to help people hear it for the word of God that it is,” Fee (Regent College, Vancouver) delivers a solid, readable, concise commentary on John’s Revelation. Using the text of the 2011 edition of the New International Version (which he was involved in translating), Fee not only illumines the text in light of the early church’s suffering and endurance, but leads the modern reader into worship.

Fee’s narrative, almost conversational, style makes this one of the few commentaries I would recommend reading cover to cover. At the same time, its organization, headings, and font shifts enable the reader to easily locate comments on a particular verse; each biblical passage is set in italics, and phrases from Revelation appear in boldface throughout his comments.

Fee challenges us not to ignore John’s interpretation of his visions in favour of our own. Absent are references to popular, recent inventions such as a secret rapture or a rebuilt Babylon. On the Millennium, rather than offering divisive speculation, Fee rejoices in its purpose: “a final word of comfort to those who are yet to be martyred for their devotion to Christ… to assure the martyrs that they are not forgotten in the divine scheme of things.”

Fee allows Scripture to interpret Scripture, drawing attention to John’s Old Testament themes and allusions as he crafted this climax of prophecy. Pivoting on the key theme of encouragement for the spiritual battle, Fee’s interpretation includes a healthy dose of mystery, for John’s “imagery points to a much greater reality than what is presently known, or knowable.”

Newcomers lukewarm to Revelation may want to begin with more explicit teaching on interpretation from a book such as Darrell W. Johnson’s Discipleship on the Edge or Robert A. Lowery’s Revelation’s Rhapsody. Those who already know their 10 horns from their 7 trumpets, but are tired of all the noise, will find Fee’s Revelation a refreshing voice.

—Angeline Schellenberg

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