Home > Bible Study, Christian Authors, eschatology, Revelation > Continuing through Revelation with James M. Boice

Continuing through Revelation with James M. Boice


Continuing in Seven Churches, Four Horsemen, One Lord, here are some highlights from Boice’s commentary.

Revelation 2 and 3 follow the standard overview regarding this generally narrative section:  the history and situation of each of the seven churches, and highlighting their strengths and weaknesses. The church at Ephesus, with the instruction to remember and repent, prompts a great summary about Paradise regained:

Ever since Adam and Eve lost Paradise because of their sin, sinners have tried to build their own paradise on earth.  Cain tried it first by constructing the city of Enoch in the land of Nod.  Some tried to do it at Babel by building a tower that they hoped would reach to heaven.  The Greeks tried to make Athens a paradise.  The Romans tried to do it in Rome.  We do it too, supposing that we can have our own paradise here on earth–even in our churches.  But the cities of men are doomed to destruction.  They will all fall away.  The only true paradise is in heaven, where it has been prepared only for those who love God.  For they alone are able to overcome, “by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony.” (Rev. 12:11)

Smyrna is noted as one of the two (out of seven) cities that still exist:  the modern-day Turkish city Izmir, and the home of Polycarp, the twelfth martyr in Smyrna—and one of the original Revelation 2 readers.

The exhortation to Thyatira (Rev. 2:24-25) (any other burden) has a reference to Acts 15:28-29 –the early church history and instructions that went out to the Gentile churches.  Here is presented again that same general advice:  Live free in Christ, but do not compromise with the idolatry or sexual immorality of the surrounding culture.  Verse 28 has a later reference in this same book (Revelation 22:16), where Jesus identifies Himself as “the bright morning star” – a likely allusion to Numbers 24:14-20 , the ‘star’ that would arise out of Jacob to crush God’s enemies.  Here in Revelation 2, this is applied to the saints who have already been promised to rule with Jesus on the basis of Psalm 2.

One of Sardis’ early bishops, Melito, is the first known commentator on the book of Revelation.  Boice, while teaching on the church in Sardis, also makes reference to 2 Timothy 3:5 (see this previous post) with application to the current-day church (now 20 years ago, a situation worsened another 20 years):

… here is the shocking thing.  Having described this evil worldly culture by its vices, Paul further describes its members in verse 5 as ‘having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power.’  This cannot be referring to pagans.  Paul would never have described the pagans of his day as having ‘an appearance of godliness.’  …. it must be describing the church.  In other words, the problem that Paul saw is not that the world will be wicked in the final days before Christ’s return but that the church will be like the world—as it is today.  The church will be indistinguishable from the world and will be equally corrupt—at least when you look beneath the surface.

In Revelation 4 and 5, Boice addresses the subject of worship, including songs in our worship.  Another interesting point is God’s throne–mentioned about 40 times in Revelation, and in 19 of the 22 chapters (all except chapters 2, 8 and 9).  Regarding the emerald rainbow description in Revelation 4:3, a quote from William Hendriksen notes a biblical reference:

the only biblical significance of the rainbow is that it was the sign of the covenant that God made with Noah following the great flood of Genesis 6-9.  It signifies a covenant of grace, and its reappearance in Revelation–coming at the very end of the Bible, as it did at the beginning–indicates that God is eternally the same.  He is and always has been a covenant-making, covenant-keeping God.

Another great quote from Hendriksen is shared in Revelation 5, in reference to John’s tears in verse 4    :

You will understand the meaning of these tears if you constantly bear in mind that in this beautiful vision the opening of the scroll by breaking the seals indicates the execution of God’s plan.  When the scroll is opened and the seals are broken, then the universe is governed in the interests of the church.  Then, God’s glorious, redemptive purpose is being realized; his plan is being carried out and the contents of the scroll come to pass in the history of the universe.  But if the scroll is not opened it means that there will be no protection for God’s children in the hours of bitter trial; no judgments upon a persecuting world, no ultimate triumph for believers, no new heaven and earth, no future inheritance.

In Revelation 6 commentary, Boice considers the identity of the rider on the white horse (the first of the seven seals).  After describing the two common views – the rider is Jesus Christ, or the rider is the antiChrist – Boice selected a third option, that the rider “merely represents the spirit of conquest or militarism that leads to the evils that are symbolized by the riders that follow him.”  His view on the seals overall is that they describe the general characteristics of this age (the last 2,000 years).  In exposition of the rest of the seals, Boice provides interesting commentary on the martyrs, including a section on Foxe’s Book of Martyrs and stories from the Huguenot martyrs of the 18th century.

Boice was able to complete all of Revelation 6, all verses – all of the seals, so exposition of everything up through the end of Revelation 6 and the question of the ‘end times’ events being symbolic or literal (he opted for the literal, the fuller meaning of these descriptions—relating what we already have experience with, the destructive power of even individual earthquakes and one volcanic eruption (such as Mount St. Helens in 1980).  Then the book abruptly ends, with brief end comments from Philip Ryken.

As shown in the afterword, this book is Ryken’s tribute to his predecessor, James Montgomery Boice. This commentary on the first six chapters of Revelation is readable and instructive, and the tribute ends on the positive note, of Boice’s last days with his congregation as God was preparing him for the worship of heaven.  This work, including Ryken’s ending tribute, is an enjoyable read, very informative with many anecdotes and treatments of several doctrinal truths.

  1. alf cengia
    July 3, 2020 at 8:59 am

    Thanks Lynda. What a pity we don’t have his thoughts on the entire book. I wonder if any of his understanding of it has now changed.

    • July 3, 2020 at 12:37 pm

      Thanks for the comment, Alf, and yes, I too wish we had a full book commentary from him. Certainly, all of us will have some changed understanding when we get there. He now understands the age of the earth correctly, maybe other things as well.

  2. July 4, 2020 at 6:49 am

    Hi Lynda, I’m planning on reading your article when I get time to concentrate…… but may I ask you a quick question? ………. Would you please direct me to the general historical source/stream/vein (more or less) of John Macarthur’s Pre-Millenialism viewpoints? …. i.e. surely it has its roots somewhere before the early 1900’s, right?
    I am listening to his latest sermon and am curious. Thanks!

    • July 4, 2020 at 1:07 pm

      Hi Robert,

      MacArthur’s dispensational premillennialism comes from Revised Dispensationalism, the historical stream of American fundamentalism from the early 20th century, popularized with the Scofield Bible and early 20th century Arminian dispensationalism. His father was a radio evangelical preacher, and MacArthur in his earlier years was 4-point Calvinist; he changed to 5-point Calvinism in the early 1990s.

      The non-dispensational part of MacArthur’s premillennialism — non-pre-trib rapture, the future for Israel — goes back to Reformed teaching since the Reformation and especially prominent in the 19th century “classic premillennialism” of the Bonars, McCheyne, J.C. Ryle, Spurgeon, etc. — the future regathering of Israel in unbelief, and the restoration of ethnic Israel at the time of Christ’s Second Coming. This part is often supposed as unique to dispensationalism, but is also established in the historic premillennial tradition.

      • July 4, 2020 at 1:51 pm

        Thanks a lot, Lynda! …. that’s weird about the Scofield Bible part, but I am relieved to hear about the part that goes back to those 19th century names you mentioned. I think it makes my brain hurt to try to figure out how all these pieces fit together (which I have seen you discussing, explaining, organizing, and documenting on your website) but at least it gives me some context and somewhere to start keeping it on the back burner so to speak.

      • July 4, 2020 at 1:55 pm

        Sure, Robert, you’re welcome. Yes, it’s an interesting and detailed study, lots of sub-topics, and takes a while to go through and put it all together.

  3. July 4, 2020 at 2:00 pm

    … now, just read the article. Nice work, Lynda.

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