There are two equal but opposite errors we tend to make when we come to the book of Revelation. One is being obsessed with it. This is the doomsday prophet approach. You eagerly watch the news and try to decode the events of today according to all the prophetic images. Of course, in this scenario, politics always looms large, and the conclusion is always that we are living in the very last days. The second error is to avoid the book altogether. We stay away from it in our teaching, or preaching, or our personal Bible study. Sure, we are open to learning something here or there from someone else, but what can you really get out of a book that’s so cryptic and weird? Safer to stick to the books we are confident interpreting.
Into this atmosphere enters Nancy Guthrie’s new book, Blessed: Experiencing the Promise of the Book of Revelation (Crossway, 2022). Nancy is the perfect person to write a book like this. In the last couple decades she has led a renaissance of women getting serious about studying their Bibles. Her books and public teaching are always excellent. Her “Help Me Teach the Bible” podcast has been one of the most helpful resources for pastors and lay leaders in the church. And my wife has benefitted greatly from her involvement in Simeon Trust teaching workshops for women. She’s not an academic, but she’s also not serving up fluff either—not by a long shot. She knows her Bible very well and is earnest about pursuing the Lord. This makes Blessed both approachable and stimulating to just about any church member. I’m a pastor and I absolutely loved this book.
The title of the book is very fitting. In Revelation 1:3 we read, “Blessed is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and blessed are those who hear, and who keep what is written in it, for the time is near.” For those of us who have tended to avoid the book of Revelation, Guthrie points out that we are forfeiting a wonderful blessing God has promised to us in the introduction to the book itself. The title also refers to six other statements within the book of Revelation that begin with the word “blessed.” Most Bible readers know the number 7 features prominently in the book (7 seals, 7 trumpets, 7 bowls, etc). What many do not know, and what I myself did not know until I read Nancy’s book, was that there are also seven pronouncements in Revelation that all begin with “Blessed is the one…” or “Blessed are those…”
This book is an easy-to-read commentary, moving section by section through the book of Revelation. You will certainly know Revelation better and feel more comfortable with it if you work your way through this book. At times it will zoom in on some important details and at others it will zoom out to help you see the bigger picture in ways the more academic commentaries do not. At its heart is Nancy’s insight that our greatest challenge with this book isn’t what we think it is. She writes, “We begin our study of this book thinking that our biggest challenge is going to be understanding it. And it isn’t. The biggest challenge is opening ourselves up to the adjustments in our lives that this book calls for. Yet this biggest challenge is also what promises the greatest blessing.”
Furthermore, she provides a helpful correction to those who are tempted to use Revelation as a way to obsess over current events or to predict the future:
“Revelation wasn’t written to entertain, or to set out a timeline for the future, or to satisfy our curiosity about when Christ will return. Revelation was written to fortify Christians to live in the world, enduring its harsh treatment and alienation, with a firm confidence that this world is not all there is, and that, in fact, what may seem like defeat is going to give way to victory.”
Blessed is the Revelation resource the church has needed for years. On one extreme, there are plenty of academic commentaries my church members will never touch. On the other, there are also plenty of popular level books on Revelation I hope they never touch. But Blessed is an accessible, level-headed, biblically rich study that threads the needle perfectly between the two errors I mentioned above. I think this book is now the go-to resource for everyday church members who want to grow in their understanding of the most confusing and intimidating book in the Bible.
John Davis is the pastor of Columbia Christian Church in Columbia, KY. He is the author of God-Centered Christianity: The Bible’s Antidote for Self-Centered Religion and Seeing the Unseen God.
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