An Interview with Dr. James Hamilton on "Revelation: the Spirit Speaks to the Churches"

Dr. James M. Hamilton, author of God's Glory in Salvation Through Judgment, just came out with the newest in the Preaching the Word commentary series—Revelation: The Spirit Speaks to the Churches. If you aren't familiar with the Preaching the Word series, they serve as excellent devotional as well as sermon prep resources. Hamilton was kind of enough do to a brief Q&A with us:

Why should pastors preach on Revelation?
  1. Because all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable (2 Tim 3:16).
  2. Because a blessing is promised to those who read, hear, and keep what Revelation reveals (Rev 1:3).
  3. Because lots of people are intrigued by and eager to be taught Revelation.
What's the best way to prepare to interpret apocalyptic literature in general and Revelation in particular?

I am convinced that the best way to interpret apocalyptic literature and Revelation is by the light of other Scripture. The apocalyptic world view is the biblical world view. We need to soak ourselves in all of Scripture so that we recognize the allusions to other passages in Revelation, and often the meaning of those other passages are crucial to understanding what John is saying in Revelation.

The ancient hermeneutical rule is still the best one: Scripture is the best interpreter of Scripture.

The ancient hermeneutical rule is still the best one: Scripture is the best interpreter of Scripture.

If a pastor knows that his congregation takes a very different view of Revelation than he does, how should he go about preaching the book? Should he be trying to convert them to or away from a dispensationalist perspective and why?

As we preach through Revelation we should wrestle through the text and do our best to explain it, and there are appropriate ways to describe how our conclusions relate to the various perspectives. Again and again as I preached through the book, I found myself saying something like this: even if we disagree on how the details of this passage are to be interpreted, we can nevertheless agree on how we are to respond to this text today.

I don't think we should worry about whether someone comes down as a dispensationalist or not. We want them to heed the message of the book, and we want the text to speak for itself.

What is the relationship between the judgments that accompany the seals, trumpets, and bowls? Are these sequential or recapitulatory?

Here's my conclusion, the exposition of which can be found in the book: the opening of the seals in Revelation 6 corresponds to what Jesus describes in the Olivet Discourse in the Synoptic Gospels. In my view, this material describes all of church history between the two comings of Christ. The trumpets and bowls symbolize the climactic instance of the new-exodus plagues, pointing to the final redemption of God's people. I think that the literary structure of Revelation indicates that the trumpets and bowls are complementary depictions of the final judgments that precede the coming of Christ.


James M. Hamilton Jr.

James Hamilton gives thirty-seven sermons on the relevance of the book of Revelation, explaining the prophecies therein and their importance for all peoples.

What's with the exodus imagery in Revelation? Didn't Jesus fulfill the new exodus and return from exile in his death and resurrection? Why are we getting that imagery again in Revelation?

I would argue that we see multiple instances of the new-exodus pattern in the book of Ezra. Thus, Ezra 1–6 depicts a new-exodus at the decree issued by Cyrus, and then Ezra 7–10 depicts another new-exodus at the return authorized by Artaxerxes. The OT, then, sets a precedent for interpreting God's actions for his people in light of the exodus pattern. The NT authors follow this precedent by interpreting the redemption Jesus accomplished in light of the exodus, the church's ongoing life in light of Israel's sojourn to the land of promise, and the final redemption of God's people as the climactic exodus-style deliverance.

At the exodus from Egypt, God redeemed Israel from slavery in Egypt. At the cross, God redeemed his people from slavery to sin. At the return of Christ, God will redeem his people from bondage to corruption.

Redeemed from Egypt, God renewed Israel's experience of his presence by giving them the tabernacle, and then he took them to the land of promise where the temple would be built. Redeemed from sin, God made his people the temple of the Spirit (1 Cor 3:16), and we sojourn toward the new Jerusalem (Heb 12:22). Redeemed from bondage to corruption, God's dwelling will be with men (Rev 21:3), and God and the Lamb will be the temple (21:22) when the new Jerusalem comes down from God out of heaven (21:10).

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