Sort of like study Bibles, there is no shortage of books on Revelation. Unfortunately, I think most of the ones out there, and in fact most of the teaching on prophecy in general, does more to confuse people than it does to help them. Lots of Christians are scared of Revelation, when we should be excited about it. I place some of the blame for that on authors and teachers who talk about Revelation as though you need a PhD or an angelic visitation to really understand it.
Given all this, Vern Poythress’s book The Returning King is a breath of fresh air. Here is a 200-page book on Revelation that gives a great overview and even a section-by-section commentary without getting bogged down in the details or trying to exhaustively explain every possible interpretation of every passage. This book helps clear away all the cultural baggage (on our end, not the Bible’s!) that makes Revelation so difficult for many of us, corrects false assumptions, and helps us to see the book for what it is: a breathtaking view of the triumph of God in history.
Poythress starts with an important assertion: Revelation is written for “servants of Jesus,” meaning its message is accessible to all believers, not just experts. Likewise, it is also applicable to all Christians in all times, not just those in the first century or at the end of the age. Right out of the gate, he gives the reader confidence that God’s word in Revelation is for him, and that with prayer and careful study he can understand it. He gives overviews of some of the different approaches, but the book is not taken over by “these guys say this, but those guys say that.” He offers a great outline before starting his commentary, showing the overall pattern of the book as well as smaller patterns within the components of the overall. The commentary is substantial enough to give an overview of each section, but brief enough to keep the reader moving.
Revelation, my NT professor told us, is a book about Christ; it’s like reading the Transfiguration for 22 chapters. When I had this book unpacked in a seminary class, I felt like I’d been stumbling around in a dark room and someone turned on the light. This book does the same thing. If you’re intimidated by Revelation, pick this up and work through it. You’ll be richly rewarded.