Revelation Through Old Testament Eyes (A Background and Application Commentary) Tremper Longman III, series editor Andrew T. LePeau. Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2022.
Summary: A running commentary of the book of Revelation that focuses on the Old Testament background running through the book, along with material that goes deeper on the Old Testament material relating to different themes and the structure of the book as well as its contemporary application.
There is a school of thought that tries to read the book of Revelation and relate it to the events of the present day, a trend I’ve observed for fifty years, requiring many revisions in interpretation. This commentary, part of the “Through Old Testament Eyes” series, looks back, providing a running commentary of the Old Testament texts to which many of images and metaphors allude or draw upon. There is probably no New Testament book where this kind of commentary is more necessary, and Tremper Longman III admirably fills this need.
First of all, Longman offers a running, verse-by-verse commentary, offering Old Testament background on references in the text. The commentary is scholarly but not technical, accessible for a lay reader. Just one example, from “Look, he is coming with the clouds” (Revelation 1:7). Longman recalls the ancient Near East background of cloud riding deities, particularly storm clouds, which he believes in view here (cf. Psalm 18:9; 104:3). He cites the prophesy of Isaiah against Egypt in Isaiah 19:1-2 of God coming against them on a swift cloud, and similarly toward Nineveh in Nahum 1:3. He then focuses attention on the vision recorded in Daniel 7:13, where we have God both as Ancient of Days and coming “like a son of man” on the clouds.
These commentaries also incorporate sections called “Through Old Testament Eyes,” stepping back from the text. Following the above commentary, Longman offers an extended discussion of Daniel, as the other instance of extended apocalyptic writing in scripture. He observes that parallels in both where present evil will be overcome with God’s final victory. Where Revelation differs is that it reflects the already and not yet experience of the church having witnessed the resurrection of the son of God yet awaiting his final victory.
There are a number of “What the Structure Means” articles throughout the text as well. One of the most helpful was his discussion on the Seals, Trumpets, and Bowls, noting Bauckham’s observation that “the seventh-seal opening includes the seven trumpets and the seventh trumpet includes the seven bowls.” He argues that they are not sequential, but spiraling cycles moving toward the end. He notes the interludes and the significance of the seventh in each series–silence followed by earthquakes and lightning after the seventh seal, a vision of the heavenly temple and the ark along with more lightning, thunder, and earthquakes, and after the seventh bowl all of these with a severe earthquake.
Finally the commentary offers “Going Deeper” sections connection the commentary to application. For example, on “Perseverance of the Church: Revelation 11” focuses on the faithful testimony of the two witnesses who represent the church. They are killed by the beast from the Abyss but raised by God to heaven. Later, the pregnant woman, also representing the church is pursued by Satan but twice escapes harm. Finally, in Revelation 19, we have the vision of the wedding supper of the Lamb after the fall of Babylon (Rome). Longman notes how the churches to which John wrote faced persecution, and these words have encouraged the church whenever she has faced oppression, marginalization, and adversity.
One comes away from studying this commentary aware afresh of the seamless garment that is scripture. The Old Testament illumines so much of Revelation, furnishing the stock of metaphors John draws upon in relating his visions, while uniquely expanding upon them. Rather than getting caught up in prophecy chart, Longman invites us to get caught up in the Lamb who was worthy, the victory of God, the defeat of evil, and the enduring hope this offers the people of God of John’s day and throughout the ages down to our own.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher.