My answer to the question asked in the title of this post is BOTH! I realize some enjoy reading more than others do, but most people do some reading.

Earlier this week I was reminded that I need to be reading both new and old books. We’re calling one of the Bible studies I am currently leading “An Overview of the Book of Revelation.” To prepare for this study I ordered a couple of newer books about Revelation that I have found useful.

In preparing for this week’s discussion I remembered a set of commentaries on the New Testament I have that I had not yet consulted in our overview. The set was written by William Barclay and is entitled THE DAILY STUDY BIBLE SERIES.

In just the introduction to his commentary on Revelation I found both the first and last paragraphs powerful and worthy of sharing with those in my overview. I want to share them with you as well.

On page one Barclay writes, “When a student of the New Testament embarks upon the study of the Revelation he [sic] feels himself projected into a new and a different world. Here is something quite unlike the rest of the New Testament. Not only is Revelation different; it is also notoriously difficult for a modern mind to understand. The result is that the Revelation has sometimes been abandoned as quite unintelligible, and it has sometimes become the playground of religious eccentrics, who use it to map out celestial timetables of what is to come, or who find in it evidence for their own eccentricities.”

Twenty-four pages later he concludes his introduction, “No one can shut his [sic] eyes to the difficulty of the Revelation. It is the most difficult book in the Bible; but it is infinitely worth studying for it contains the blazing faith of the Christian Church in the days when life was agony, when men expected the end of the heavens and the earth as they knew them, and when they still believed that beyond the terror there was glory, and that above the raging of men was the power of Almighty God” (p. 24).

Barclay wrote the FOREWARD to THE DAILY STUDY BIBLE SERIES at the end of 1958 and it was first published in Scotland in 1959. My set of the series was given to me almost 50 years ago.

I’m still reading new books on Revelation (my newest was published in 2019) and doing my best to better understand this last book of the Bible. Even for those who are not particularly interested in Revelation, I recommend the first and last paragraphs of Barclay’s introduction. After some 70 years I think what he wrote is still worth reading.


Those of us who have read (or tried to read) the book of Revelation would agree that we don’t completely understand it. The last book of the Bible is unique to the New Testament and presents a real challenge to readers.

When it comes to Revelation many Christians seem to take one of two extremes: they either obsess with it trying to use it to predict what is going to happen or totally ignore it.

As I have prepared to lead a Bible study overview of the book of Revelation I have come to better understand why some Christians avoid the book. Here are some selected quotes from a few New Testament scholars and authors that probably contribute to avoiding it:

For most church members, the book of Revelation is a closed book. They avoid it, thinking it too mysterious for them to understand” (BREAKING THE CODE: UNDERSTANDING THE BOOK OF REVELATION by Bruce Metzger, p. 9).

“The average Christian fights shy of the book of Revelation. It seems to him well-nigh incomprehensible. He is perhaps skeptical of some fanciful interpretations he has heard, and he cannot easily accustom himself to the bizarre imagery” (WHAT CHRIST THINKS OF THE CHURCH by John R.W. Stott, p. 11).

 “. . . a great deal of what has been written about it, especially at the popular level, tends to obscure its meaning rather than to help the reader understand it” (REVELATION by Gordon Fee, p. ix).

“When turning to the book of Revelation from the rest of the New Testament, one feels as if he or she were entering a foreign country” (HOW TO READ THE BIBLE FOR ALL ITS WORTH by Fee and Stuart, p. 231).

“People are endlessly curious about the biblical book of Revelation. Yet when they actually sit down to read Revelation they often feel it intimidating and difficult” (THE RAPTURE EXPOSED by Barbara Rossing, p. 81).

Author Chuck Colclasure makes a gentle and important observation that softens these discouraging quotes, “Rather than being intended to frighten and horrify us with its startling imagery, the true purpose of the Book of Revelation is to provide hope, comfort, and encouragement to those who continue to trust in God, even during the most difficult of times—perhaps especially during the most difficult times” (THE OVERCOMERS: Discovering Hope in the Book of Revelation, Preface to the Second Edition).

I hope we all can agree that the book of Revelation is not an easy read. Yet as followers of Jesus and those who want to understand Revelation, let’s read it without obsessing over it. And as we do I hope we all will keep in mind this crucial advice from Fee and Stuart (HOW TO READ THE BIBLE FOR ALL ITS WORTH, p.231), “It seems necessary to say at the outset that no one should approach the Revelation without a proper degree of humility!”

For those who are interested in reading a solid and thoughtful basic book about Revelation I recommend BREAKING THE CODE: UNDERSTANDING THE BOOK OF REVELATION by Bruce Metzger.

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The End Times, The Book of Revelation, And Jesus’ Second Coming

This week I am wrapping up my Amarillo High School New Testament Bible Class and we have spent the last few days on the Book of Revelation. In order to give a meaningful and helpful overview I had to revisit several of my books and notes on this important and controversial last book of the Bible.

Apart from my favorite commentaries on Revelation, the reading I did that had the greatest impact upon me was a Christianity Today article from February of 1987. That article is more than 32 years old and is still as relevant today as it was then!

It was written by Kenneth S. Kantzer, a biblical scholar and editor of Christianity Today at the time. Three things he wrote in that two page article convicted, challenged, and encouraged me about the subject of the title of this post.

He began the tenth paragraph of his editorial with this observation: “Too often . . . Christians have allowed eschatology to divide them.” Of course, he was right then, and what he wrote then is still true today. Discussions about the end times, the book of Revelation, and Jesus’ second coming divide Christians today.

Too many of us are over confident and rigid about our understanding, interpretation, and position when it comes to the Bible’s teaching about these things. I admit I used to be one of those. I still believe what I teach about eschatology, but after all these years of reading, learning, and teaching I am less arrogant and overbearing when I discuss the end times, the book of Revelation, and Jesus’ second coming.

In going through my file of papers on the book of Revelation it was the title of Kantzer’s article that got my attention and then his closing point that most encouraged and challenged me. The title of the article is quite simple: “Agreement Is Not Required.” I only wish he had added one word and made it “Total Agreement Is Not Required.”

In the final part of the article, entitled “A plea for unity,” Kantzer suggests the greatest strength of all the different millennial views “is their common allegiance to Jesus Christ as the Lord of history.” Then he continues, “God has a goal for this planet as well as for individuals. Human life is neither aimless nor determined by evil powers that can destroy us. God is sovereign. History has meaning. And God is working through it to achieve the goals from which he has never deviated.” I hope all Christians can agree on these powerful affirmations regardless of their specific positions, interpretations, and understandings of Jesus’ Second Coming, the Book of Revelation, and the End Times.

Continue to read about, study, and discuss these important subjects; and do so with commitment, humility, respect, and grace.

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