Order of Contents
Intro: What is the Prophetic View of Idealism?
Idealism is the view that the prophecies of the Revelation generally do not have historic referents (or have very few, such as the first and second comings of Christ), but are to be understood symbolically and spiritually (thus drawing spiritual ‘ideals’ from the book). Idealism is most often conjoined with an Amillennial outlook.
This view has become more popular in Reformed circles during the 1900’s. See B.B. Warfield’s 4 page article below for the best, short, evangelical defense of this view. Liberals have also often taken this view of Revelation. While Liberalism (unbelief) is highly not-recommended, some of their material can be helpful, and hence some of their has been provided below.
Regarding the interpretation of Revelation, we recommend a cross between Historicism and Idealism.
Warfield, B.B. – ‘The Apocalypse’ 4 pp. from his Selected Shorter Writings, vol. 2, pp. 651-54
“B.B. Warfield’s short article below is probably the most helpful three page piece on the structure of the book ever written.” – Rev. Nick Batzig at FeedingonChrist.com We will add though, that Warfield’s argument for Idealism is not incapable of critique.
Milligan, William- Revelation in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary
Milligan (1821-1893) had some liberal tendencies, but has a lot of good things to say. This is the less detailed of his two works on the Revelation (for the other, see below).
“In ordinary circumstances one who undertakes to comment upon a book of the New Testament may be justly expected to make every effort to explain each successive clause and each difficult expression of the book on which he writes. My aim in the following Commentary is rather to catch the general import and object of the Revelation of St. John considered as a whole… It seemed well, therefore, to treat the book in its sections and paragraphs rather than verse by verse; and this is the course pursued in the following pages… An examination of the words and clauses of the book, conducted upon a plan different from that here adopted, and much more minute in its character, will be found in the Author’s Commentary on the Apocalypse, in the Commentary upon the books of the New Testament edited by Professor Schaff… The principles upon which the Author has proceeded have been fully discussed in his Baird Lectures.”
The chapters of this work first appeared serially in the Dutch, Christian weekly periodical that Kuyper edited, which had a popular audience. This is the last work that Kuyper wrote, he having started it when he was 76 years old.
Kuyper’s method of interpretation is given in the Foreword (see especially the 6 points). He critiques a liberal preterism, but partially draws upon both idealism and historicism. He views the episodes of the Apocalypse as cycling through periods of the Church repetitively, though not chronologically. The general types “at no time refer exclusively to a particular event.” The various numbers and figures of the book are interpreted symbolically.
“This work ably sets forth the amillennial interpretation of this prophecy.” – Cyril J. Barber
Metzger, Bruce – Breaking the Code, Understanding the Book of Revelation Buy (Abingdon Press, 1993) ToC
Metzger is a liberal scholar, but has some good things to say.
Poythress, Vern – The Returning King Buy
Williams, Isaac – The Apocalypse, with Notes & Reflections (1873) 530 pp.
Williams was an Oxford scholar.
** “Considering the High Church School to which he belongs, this author is marvelously rich in exposition. The whole is tinged with the medieval spirit.” – Spurgeon
Milligan, William – The Revelation of St. John in A Popular Commentary on the New Testament, ed. Philip Schaff (1879)
Milligan (1821-1893) had some liberal tendencies, but has a lot of good things to say. This is the more detailed of his two works on the Revelation.
Hoeksema, Herman – Behold He Cometh! An Exposition of the Book of Revelation Buy (1969)
“A carefully worded, amillennial exposition.” – Cyril J. Barber
The Book of Revelation Buy (1974) 350 pp. in New Century Bible
Beasley-Murray was a professor of New Testament at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, KY, and formerly principal of Spurgeon’s College, London.
“When first published, this volume… was widely praised as a standard commentary on the Apocalypse. In this new edition, now based on the text of the NIV and Nestle-Aland, Mounce has revised and expanded his work to reflect more than twenty additional years of mature thought on Revelation and to bring his work up to date with the latest scholarship… Mounce here engages seriously with the various approaches to interpretation and with the conventions common to apocalyptic literature. In affirming more directly his own reading of the Apocalypse, Mounce steers a middle course between an extreme literalism and a highly imaginative subjectivism, believing this to be the way the ancient text spoke to the first-century churches to whom it was addressed – and the way it still speaks to us today.” – Jacket
Commentaries on the Greek
Swete, H.B. – The Apocalypse of St. John, the Greek Text with Introduction, Notes & Indices (1906)
Swete (1835–1917) was an English Biblical scholar and professor at Cambridge, following B.F. Westcott. He was a liberal.
“A masterful exposition of the Greek text… Amillennial.” – Cyril J. Barber
Charles, R.H. – A Critical & Exegetical Commentary on the Revelation of St. John, vol. 1, 2 (1920) in International Critical Commentary
Charles (1855–1931) was an Irish Biblical scholar who is known for his works on the pseudopigraphia. The ICC series is liberal.
“This work and Swete’s exemplary treatment vie for supremacy [for commentaries on Revelation]. Exegetical. Amillennial.” – Cyril J. Barber
Beale, G.K. – The Book of Revelation: a Commentary on the Greek Text in The New International Greek Testament Commentary (Eerdmans, 1999) 1,305 pp. ToC