Q&A with Tim Chester on Revelation in For You Commentary Series

Tim Chester is the author of the Revelation volume in the For You commentary series. Dr. Chester (Ph.D., University of Wales) is a pastor with Grace Church, Boroughbridge, UK, and a faculty member of Crosslands Training.

Revelation commentary by Tim Chester

He is an author or coauthor of over forty books, including A Meal with JesusReforming Joy; and, with Michael Reeves, Why the Reformation Still Matters. See Dr. Chester’s Amazon author page here.

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1. What previous research and/or personal interests led you to this project and helped prepare you to write this commentary on Revelation?

Revelation For You has really be a labour of love. The book of Revelation is one of my favourite Bible books and I’ve been working on it for over 15 years. In fact the commission to write Revelation for You was probably the kick up the backside I needed to get my ideas down on paper.

I’ve always wanted to do more research and more thinking so there was a danger I would end up never producing anything. Interestingly this delay wasn’t into order to get the book of Revelation itself nailed; it was to get an understanding of our global world so I could bring the two together.

The problem, of course, is that our world is a big topic to ‘grasp’! Hopefully, though, I’ve given people the resources to help them look at their world through the lens provided by the book of Revelation. I believe Revelation really is a book for our times.

2. Who is the intended audience for this commentary? Would it benefit pastors? professors? students? lay Christians in the local church?

My primary concern has been to explain the book of Revelation in a way that helps Christians live responsibility in our global world with all the threats that poses as well as all the seductions it brings.

I hope, too, it will provide pastors with a model of how to handle Revelation in a way that brings it to life for ordinary people so that it inspires them to live for Christ. I don’t want people to think of Revelation as a ‘difficult’ book. Yes, it’s hard to pin down every detail, but the big picture is clear, compelling and exciting.

3. What is unique about this commentary? What contribution does it make to studies of Revelation?

People often focus on the apocalyptic nature of the book of Revelation and clearly John is drawing on that tradition. But I want to stress two other key features.

First, the book is a letter. It opens the standard way a letter does (1:4) and the seven so-called ‘letters’ within chapters 2-3 are actually called ‘words’ by John. So we need to read it like we would read any other New Testament letter. That is, it speaks first of all to the concerns of the first readers, surrounded by the seductions and threats of the Roman empire. But this doesn’t invalid its relevance to us, any more than the fact we don’t live in first-century Corinth makes reading 1 & 2 Corinthians a waste of time. Quite the opposite. Thinking about the first readers actually makes it easier to see its relevance to us.

Second, the book of Revelation is in the prophetic tradition. That’s how John himself describes it 1:3. Plus it’s rammed with Old Testament allusions. Essentially what I think John is doing is taking the Old Testament critique of imperial power and economic injustice and repurposing it for his day in a way that that mandates us to do the same in our day.

4. What section or passage of this commentary was particularly memorable to research and write? Why?

That’s a tough question to answer because I’ve been working and reworking the material for so long. In many ways, I feel like I’ve layered it up. What has been a joy, though, has been to present the book of Revelation to lots of different groups of people and to see them get excited by the vision it presents and to work with them on how it impacts our lives today.

5. What personally edified you in writing this commentary, increasing your affections for Christ?

Again, it’s hard to pick out moments. But let me say this. I’ve been working on this book while planting churches. And the book of Revelation has shaped my vision of church and church planting as much as anything else. (And perhaps church planting has given me a particular insight into the book of Revelation.)

John’s reader are in small, embattled communities in the midst of empire. Yet he gives them a big vision of victory through suffering. That’s what I’ve needed to see again and again to keep going. Revelation has enabled me to see my small, fragile church plant from the perspective of heaven and it’s an inspiring perspective!

6. Besides your commentary, what are your top recommended books (commentaries or otherwise) on Revelation?

My top recommendation is Richard Bauckham’s The Theology of the Book of Revelation (CUP). As for commentaries, Greg Beale’s is the stand out work (NIGTC). It is big – even the shortened version weighs in it at over 550 pages!

But if I could have only one book on Revelation on my shelves it would be Beale. One older, and perhaps neglected option, that I’ve found helpful is C. B. Caird’s contribution to the Black’s New Testament Commentaries series.

7. What is next for you? What project are you currently working on? How can people follow your work and ministry?

I have a book on the sacraments coming out from Crossway in January 2020 called Truth We Can Touch.

It avoids the debates over who we baptise and instead looks at how baptism and communion are to shape our lives as Christians as well as exploring why the physicality of water, bread and wine are important. In July 2020 I have a book on John Stott coming out in Crossway’s Theologians of the Christian Life series.

Then in September I have a book called Enjoying Church being published by the Good Book Company – a follow-up to my book Enjoying God.

Get Tim Chester’s Revelation commentary

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Daniel Isaiah Joseph

Daniel's seminary degree is in Exegetical Theology. He was a pastor for 10 years. As a professor, he has taught Bible and theology courses at two Christian universities. Please see his About page for details.

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