We are coming out of a pandemic. Russia invaded Ukraine. I finished reading a book about the Book of Revelation. You can’t make it up. People often call the Book of Revelation the most difficult book in the Bible. For decades, people have anxiously read it side by side with a newspaper trying to decipher who is who in the end times. I always had a sense of fear associated with the book when I was a kid. So, it may seem odd to some that Thomas Schreiner titles his book about the Book of Revelation The Joy of Hearing.
Comfort & Encouragement
In The Joy of Hearing, Schreiner clearly explains and illustrates how the Book of Revelation was not meant to be a guessing game of symbolism and current events leading to the end of the world. It was meant to be a book of comfort and encouragement to the Christians living in difficult times, which means it should be a book of comfort and encouragement to believers today as well. As evil calls believers to compromise and worship the things of the world, John encourages us to stay faithful and look forward in hope.
Schreiner writes in the introduction:
In the midst of evil, in a world in which the Christian faith is under attack, we need hope and assurance that evil will not have the last word, and Revelation teaches us that a new world is coming, that a new creation is coming, and that all will be well. God is just and holy and righteous, and those who turn against God and his Christ will suffer judgement. At the same time, we see in the book that the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ are the center of history, or the fulcrum of history, Evil has been defeated because of what Christ has accomplished.
What I really like about Schreiner’s writing is that it is accessible to everyone. The average Christian who wants to learn more will appreciate The Joy of Hearing. The writing is not overly academic, and the book is roughly 200 pages. That’s doable for everyone. Clearly, it is not a comprehensive verse-by-verse commentary. It does not cover everything there is to know regarding the Revelation. However, Schreiner expertly summarizes and focuses the readers attention on the important themes. The book can then be a stepping stone to more in-depth study.
Schreiner organizes the chapters around the main themes of Revelation, which is helpful for those new to the book. For example, chapter one is “The Deafness of Those Living on Earth.” In this chapter, Schreiner walks through how Revelation identifies those who live on earth, but refuse to hear or see “the truth about life, death, evil, and goodness.”
He then shows how throughout Revelation the “earth dwellers” have listened to the world, rather than God. They have fallen into idolatry and worshipped the beast, rather than the one true God. During that discussion, we learn of the two beasts, Babylon the Harlot, and the dragon.
John in apocalyptic colors draws the line for his readers: one is either on the side of the earth dweller, the beasts, Babylon, and Satan, or else one belongs to God. There is no neutral space; either one hears the message proclaimed by the Lord, or one is deaf to the things of God.
The Joy of Hearing
In the final chapter before the epilogue, Schreiner addresses the three views of the millennium. He calls this chapter “a kind of appendix.” At this point in the book, he has already addressed the theological themes. Yet, it is a topic that people have debated since early in Christianity.
As always, Schreiner approaches this topic humbly. He looks at the reasons that people hold to each position and their strengths and weaknesses. He comes to the conclusion that the amillennial reading is the most compelling for him, although the points he makes for premillennialism make it somewhat difficult to see how he lands there.
That being said, if you’re looking for a book that’s going to tell you who the antichrist is in current events or who Gog and Magog are in relation to Russia and China, The Joy of Hearing is not that book. Schreiner is more interested in showing us how the Book of Revelation would have encouraged the Christians living when John wrote it and how it should encourage us today. As he writes in the Epilogue:
Depsite the power and lure of evil, goodness will finally triumph, the world will be renewed, and all that is wicked will be removed. John writes to encourage the saints to hear and heed, to listen and obey, to pay attention and persevere.
You can pick up a copy here.