Revelation, Four Views: A Parallel Commentary

By Steve Greggm, ed.
Nashville : Thomas Nelson (1997). 528 Pages.

Reviewed by Dr. James Rosscup
9.2 (Fall 1998) : 231-233

Here is work closely akin to the book edited by Marvin Pate (Four Views on the Book of Revelation). In this case, the editor combines the four major ways for interpreting the Revelation by selecting summaries out of writers for the four views in four columns laid side by side in each two-page spread. He works his way through the Revelation, dealing with a few verses at a time.

The four approaches chosen are the preterist (postmillennial, today Christian Reconstruction), historical (all through history), futurist (Rev 4:1–22:5 mostly features what is yet to occur), and idealist view (principles of righteousness and evil have their application at any time).

Gregg directs the Great Commission School, also Good News Underground, which is an evangelistic ministry providing literature. He admits years of flip-flopping from one view to another and just giving his students arguments for different views (1). He does not want to divulge his own present view, which he says has kept changing (4).

The work has an advantage of giving a quick comparison of views on specific sets of verses, often even showing diverse explanations of writers who contend for one of the four overall positions. At times it is clear and fair, at times it does not provide for a given view the best evidence available. It is an energetic project, but varies in representing the approaches. Overall, it offers great convenience in glancing at views pulled together, at least parts of them, that the editor chose to incorporate.

Some generalized inaccuracies occur, as on p. 2: “Futurist interpreters usually apply everything after chapter four to a relatively brief period before the return of Christ.” In reality, they see only chaps. 4:1–19:10 this way, for Christ comes in chap. 19, chap. 20 is after His coming, and 21:1–22:5 pictures descriptions of the New Jerusalem even after chap. 20. Also, some details such as the references to Christ’s death (5:9-10) and His birth (12:2, 4-5) go back to His first advent.

At the outset, Gregg has a two-page Foreword by Robert Clouse, who edited The Meaning of the Millennium: Four Views (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity, 1977). Gregg then provides an introduction to the Book of Revelation, also a survey of the four major views (28-49). Commentary on Revelation 1–3 is his own, because he sees much agreement here among the views, though he points out occasions when the four differ, such as with “the time is near” (1:1-2) or Christ’s coming (1:7). But in Revelation 4–19 he deals in short sets of verses and presents the four-column format with the four views. For chaps. 20–22 he switches to a three-view consideration, presenting the postmillennial, amillennial, and premillennial positions. His 3-page bibliography (6-8) does not include Robert L. Thomas’s detailed exegetical case for a premillennial view (Revelation 1–7 and Revelation 8– 22 [Moody, 1992 and 1995]).

As in commentaries in general, this work handles some points well, others weakly and generally, as with the fuzzy statements that do not define the one who “overcomes” (2:7, p. 65). However, Gregg has a good, quick review of explanations on the “white stone” in 2:17. He is weak on what it means not to be blotted from the book in 3:5 and has surface-type remarks about being kept from the hour of trial in 3:10 that do not represent the pretribulational rapture position’s better arguments. The views of the 24 elders (human or angelic) among futurist interpreters are given without better arguments for either view. Sometimes the work gives space to a view that is by no means among the better examples representing a system. For instance, the book cites a Henry Morris view that the 24 elders are the 24 ancestors of Christ, Adam to Pharez, which Morris alone holds (87). Going with this is the idea that the elder who speaks to John is the OT Judah (95).

At Rev 6:1, differences in viewpoints increase. Even among futurists, the rider on the white horse can be Christ, Antichrist, or a military trend. Historicists say this pictures Roman imperialism from the death of Domitian (A.D. 96) to A.D. 180, preterists hold it to be symbolic of warfare and its results, and the spiritualist (idealist) view sees Christ and the preaching of the gospel. How to interpret the 144,000 also varies—all believers, Jewish Christians, racial Jews who are saved during a future tribulation time, etc. Great diversity of explanation appears on seals, trumpets, and bowls as well, also on the 42 months, mystery Babylon, the woman of chap. 12, the two witnesses, 666, the bride and those invited, the thousand years, the binding of Satan, and the coming to life in 20:4, to name a few.

Gregg provides indexes of Scripture, subjects, and authors.

As a help to teachers, pastors, students and laypeople, the work can be of benefit along with Pate’s work on Four Views (see separate review below). Whereas Pate has four scholars write many pages each to contend for their approaches, each covering the entire book, Gregg dips in to differing representatives of four positions on countless details that are bits of the picture as he comes to them in the Revelation. Gregg pulls out citations that vary, some carefully and others by strange conjecture, whereas Pate’s work has the sustained mind of a given scholar advocating his view. On the other hand, Gregg’s work shows comparisons on far more of the details. So, both books can make contributions in study of the issues.

For those who already know a position well, the two books will be of more help. For beginners or those not far along in grasping any position well, trying to deal with the books at such an early point might put them “more at sea” than before, because they have no clear-cut, solid reference points to help them evaluate arguments wisely. They may be diverted on some flimsy basis without being aware of how unwise that direction is.