Applying Revelation

Triumph of the Lamb: A Commentary on Revelation Dennis Johnson’s commentary on Revelation (Triumph of the Lamb) is one of my favorites because it is scholarly yet readable, detailed yet clear, and expositional yet practical.  In chapter 15 Johnson asks and answers the application question: “What should this book [Revelation] do to us?”  Here are his answers summarized and edited:

1) Revelation helps us see our situation in its true perspective.  We are living between two worlds: the first heaven and earth, which are destined for destruction; and the new creation, to which we already belong as God’s holy city, the bride now being beautified for her Husband.  Jesus’ Revelation to the churches through John is given to help us navigate the paradoxes built into the ‘betweenness’ of our situation.  Revelation is also brutally frank in revealing the call to follow Christ as a call to suffering and even death.  More than this, Jesus shows us that his victory over the enemy has blazed the trail for our victory.

2) Revelation helps us see our enemies in their true colors.  Revelation calls the church, Jesus’ witness, to exercise wise discernment, lest we be taken in by an impressive image that masks an ugly and empty reality.  The enemies include the beast (the power of government), the false prophet (religious deception), and the harlot (the idolatrous allure of material affluence and social acceptance).

3) Revelation helps us see our Champion in his true glory.  Whenever Revelation works on us as God intends it to, we trust, love, and fear Jesus more.  The purpose of its graphic portrayals of the dragon’s heavy artillery is not to haunt us with nightmares or keep us awake with night sweats.  It is to direct our eyes and hearts away from ourselves, to focus instead on Christ, the seed of the woman who crushed the ancient serpent’s head and now sits on God’s throne.  He is the lion of Judah, the slain Lamb, the captain of heaven’s armies, the faithful witness, the husband who lives his bride, etc.

4) Revelation helps us see ourselves in our true beauty.  Jesus loves his church.  Of course he is not blind to her blemishes, nor will he leave them untreated to mar his brides complexion when our wedding day arrives.  But Revelation shows us the lengths to which the Lamb has gone and will go to make us the holy city in whom he will dwell forever.  Christ loves his church and binds himself to her with bonds that no enemy from without and no failure of ours from within can sever.”

5) Revelation helps us endure suffering, stay pure, and bear witness to Christ.  The first century churches that John was writing to faced suffering and even martyrdom.  He wrote to encourage them to press on through suffering.  He also wrote to warn us of the devil’s appealing power and alluring guise, helping us fight spiritual seduction.  Finally, Revelation keeps us from withdrawing into a religious ghetto and keeping the gospel a secret.   The church is called to be Jesus’ witnesses, fearless in engaging the culture because we are confident in his care for as long as our mission on earth lasts.

This is an excellent summary of how Revelation applies to us, affects us, and encourages us in the Christian faith.  I recommend reading this entire excellent chapter of this excellent book: Triumph of the Lamb by Dennis Johnson.

rev shane lems
covenant presbyterian church (OPC)
hammond, wi

6 thoughts on “Applying Revelation”

  1. Great points! I appreciated this book when I was preaching through Revelation recently. I appreciate Johnson’s work on the book of Acts also, which I have been regularly consulting for my current series through that book: The Message of Acts in the History of Redemption (P&R, 1997);
    on Westminster Bookstore at [accessed 19 AUG 2014];
    and on Amazon at [accessed 19 AUG 2014].


  2. I love his notes in the ESV Study Bible for it but I’m definitely picking this up. I read on a bible commentary site (bestcommentaries dot com) that D. A. Carson had one on Revelation in the works. Do you know anything about that?


    1. Thanks for the comments, Ruben. I’ve not heard about a Carson commentary on Revelation. Not to be too cynical, but there are already quite a few good commentaries on Revelation…but Carson is a good scholar too so maybe one more would be OK. Thanks again! shane


    2. I believe he does as he has had doctoral students doing work in Rev for years and that could signal Carson himself concentrating on that book. It looks like Carson will eventually have covered all of the Johannine corpus and the General Epistles. Perhaps his Rev comm will replace PE Hughes in Pillar as Hughes’ work was not widely received.


  3. This was the first non dispensational revelation commentary I read. At the time I was pursuing other eschatologies since a straight forward reading of the Bible seemed not to get to the doctrine of the rapture or over literal reading of prophecy.


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