In Their Own Words: Patterson answers questions about Revelation commentary

FORT WORTH, Texas (SWBTS) – B&H Academic released the Revelation volume in the New American Commentary series, written by Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary president Paige Patterson, Sept. 1. The following is an edited interview with Patterson about the commentary. To watch the video interview, which has additional questions and answers, visit swbts.edu/intheirownwords.

 
Q: What is unique about your approach to Revelation?
 
A: “Actually, I would suppose that there is not anything that unique about it except for the fact that my particular viewpoint is not popular today. Almost the entire world has gone away from the pretribulation, premillennial view … that Christ returns prior to the tribulation, and then, taking away his church, He returns again at the conclusion of the tribulation to establish a kingdom. So perhaps, the commentary is unique in that regard.
 
“There are other features of it that people will find. I do not know that a commentary has ever been written by a committed hunter. … Anybody that has ever read the book of the Revelation knows that it is full of the appearance of animals. As I read the various other commentators, I concluded that they must never have seen an animal. At least, they must not have experienced one very closely. And, so we have corrected some of the false starts that I think are present in other commentaries regarding animals. ...
 
“One of the most unique things about the commentary … is that I take chapter 12 to be definitive. What you do with chapter 12 determines what you will do not only with chapter 12, but the entire book. … It ends up affecting your entire hermeneutical approach to the Bible. So we have in chapter 12 a radiant woman. If we identify her correctly, we have an index to what the entire book of Revelation is all about.”
 
Q: What did it take to compose this commentary on Revelation?
 
A: “Over the process of writing this particular commentary, I've read more than 150 commentaries on the book of Revelation from every conceivable perspective. However, you can't stop there, because every book written on eschatology enters into it. So there are books like Russell's famous composition on apocalyptic literature, which is something you're going to have to read if you're going to deal with the Apocalypse. You may agree or you may disagree, but you better be aware of it. So the bibliography at the end of the book is voluminous, but even so it represents not more than about a fourth of what I had to grapple with. So there is a great deal of reading that has to be involved in it. Then you have to be able to find the way, with the help of the Lord, to condense all of that and put it in written form."
 
Q: How does the book of Revelation use the Old Testament?
 
A: “When a person comes to read the book of Revelation, it will be a new book to him, unless he has a thorough familiarity with the Old Testament. And if he has a thorough familiarity with the Old Testament, then so many things are made much easier. … The book has heavy dependence upon Ezekiel, upon Daniel, upon Isaiah, upon Deuteronomy, and also other books of the Old Testament. Whoever wrote it, which I believe to be John the beloved disciple, was obviously a man steeped in the Old Testament. He tended to think about any subject in terms of the Old Testament.
 
Q: Why should pastors preach through the book of Revelation?
 
A: "If you really want to build a crowd, then preach through the Apocalypse. People will come. And if they have a notion that the pastor knows what he is talking about, they will come in larger numbers than ever before. And to preach through the Apocalypse helps his people to avoid the speculation that is so prominent today on every hand. … It enables him to approach (this speculation) through a book of the Bible and the exposition of it, which helps his people to discriminate between that which is prophetic study on the one hand and what is pure speculation, and oftentimes wild speculation, on the other.
 
“The beautiful part about teaching the book of Revelation is that everybody thinks that it is about the end times, when in fact it is full of theology and particularly is that true of Christology. So it magnifies Christ and presents Him in a way that he is not seen fully in any other book of the Bible. And so I believe if one is interested in preaching Christ, he ought to be interested in preaching the Apocalypse."
 
Q: What advice would you give a pastor for preaching through Revelation?
 
A: "The first advice I would give him is to not think of it as a difficult book. If he wants to preach a difficult book, he should try the Song of Solomon or Ecclesiastes and see how he fares with a really tough book of the Bible.
 
“But, the second thing I would say to a man is that, if he plans to preach through the Apocalypse, he is going to have to do more than he would normally do in the study. … When W.A. Criswell, my pastor, preached through the book of Revelation over a three-and-a-half year period, he took six full months off in order to prepare those sermons. Now, I don't think the average pastor needs to do that, but he probably does need to take a month or so where he immerses himself in the book, in the commentaries, in the Greek New Testament. ... It is a hard book in the sense that it demands hard work, but it is a wonderful book in the terms of the dividends that study like that pays.”
 
Q: What have you learned from your work on this commentary?
 
A: “In the process of working on the book for many, many years, I would say that it has dramatically affected my confidence that the world is not out of control. … It is not banging off the walls of history as it runs down the hall. It is guided to the climax that God has in mind.
 
“Not only that, but the more I have read and studied the Apocalypse, the more confident I have become that the center of the message of Christianity is not the end times. Perhaps that is a strange thing to say in a book that is predominantly about the end times, but it is clear enough in the book of Revelation that, while there is information to be gained about the end times, information in the book (of Revelation) is primarily about Jesus, the Lamb of God, and His overcoming all of sin and death.”

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