Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher at no cost for the purposes of review. However, the review is the result and response of my own reading of the book and was not influenced in any way by the publisher or any person associated with the book.
For the pastor there exists an almost innate draw towards collecting books, especially commentaries. Such a quest has the propensity to overtake the pastor’s bedside table, the pastor’s office, and the pastor’s home. However, what lacks are solid and sufficient commentaries for the everyday Christian. Most of what is available for them often lacks depth and comprehensiveness, often times leaving the Christian unchallenged in his or her own growth. Bridging that gap is the Reformed Expository Commentary which recently released its version on Revelation.
The series is just as it is titled. It is reformed, it is expository, and it is a commentary. Covering the Old and New Testaments, each volume divides the biblical book into preaching section so that each chapter covers that section much like a sermon would except in written form. Full of examples, appropriate exegesis, and applications, each chapter is an exposition that is clear and easy to follow while highlighting major aspects of the text. Because they have chosen this sermon-like format, the series is readable for all Christians of every level of biblical understanding.
However, in contemplating the use of this series, it is important to know that it is very reformed in its theology (especially in terms of eschatology). This comes into play more in certain volumes than others, and because of the nature of what the book of Revelation is, you can expect it to impact the commentary. In fact, author Richard Phillips makes this point very clear from the very first chapter noting that some rely solely on a the literal-historical-grammatical hermeneutic he defends his choice to interpret Revelation according to its symbolism. Unfortunately, in his description and defense of this, he seems to misrepresent both positions by seeming to indicate that those who hold to a literal-historical-grammatical hermeneutic fail to capture the symbolism while minimizing how much emphasis those following the reformed tradition put on the symbolism, which in the commentary borders on the allegorical side.
This method of interpretation is perhaps the biggest drawback of this book. While at times my own personal preference is to see some explanations of certain aspects, in this type of commentary it is simply not feasible to cover every aspect. Instead, the author has done a very good job at trying to be as thorough as possible without being too technical. That’s why this series as a whole is advantageous to all Christians.
However, when it comes to the Reformed Expository Commentary on Revelation, we have to ask several questions. First, would I purchase this commentary for myself? Yes. It’s one of the few commentaries that I have followed along in purchasing each volume as it is released, and I like the hardcover edition because the covers are extraordinarily beautiful, so they sit well on the shelf. However, aside from that, there is value and points to be learned from it. I personally like to use this particular series with my devotions at times because it works well for dwelling on the text. However, would I recommend this to all Christians? No because of the reformed doctrinal positions (although I do often recommend other volumes where this doesn’t come into play as much).
The series is an important contribution to the modern commentary development because it fills a gap by being accessible to all and exemplifying expositional preaching and study. In that regard, we can be thankful for it, but it needs to be read with discernment and understanding of the reformed position.