‘The Book of Revelation: the Seen and the Unseen’ by Bernard Bell

In his New Testament Commentary Survey, D.A. Carson writes this: “Of the writing of books on Revelation there is no end: most generations produce far too many.” But among those published in the last 50 years or so, there are quite a number that can greatly help us when grappling with this crucial final book of the New Testament. One of them is Bernard Bell’s The Book of Revelation: the Seen and the Unseen, which you can download and read for free HERE.

This superb commentary comprises the transcripts of 37 sermons preached by Bernard Bell at Peninsula Bible Church Cupertino, the church of which he is a pastor. His commentary is one of the key texts that I’m using as a resource to teach through the Book of Revelation in a men’s Bible study group. It’s one of the most thoughtful and perceptive commentaries at a popular level I have yet encountered. It’s clarity and readability is aided by Bernard’s elegant writing style. It’s no doubt also helped by the fact that what Bernard wrote in this commentary was actually preached by him.

Here are a few quotations taken from the first three chapters to introduce this commentary:

“The revelation is an apocalypse, from the Greek word for revelation. An apocalypse is an uncovering or revealing of things that are otherwise hidden. This revelation concerns what must soon take place. Most people assume therefore that the revelation is of a detailed timetable concerning future events, the events at the end of time. I’m sorry to disappoint you, but there is no such detailed timetable in the book. The revelation does indeed concern the events that will soon take place, but we won’t understand those events unless we first understand the present. A characteristic of apocalyptic is that the revelation concerns not just what will happen in the unseen future, but what is happening right now in unseen realms.”

“In the vision of Revelation there are only two colonies. The colony of hell on earth is peopled by “the citizens of the earth.” They live in Babylon, they worship the beast, and they bear the mark of the beast. The colony of heaven on earth is peopled by the faithful witnesses, who worship God, who bear the seal of the Lamb, and whose city is the New Jerusalem.”

“Over the past four years I have thought a great deal about the topic of worship. My primary textbook has been the Book of Revelation. Nothing has done more to stimulate my thinking about, and understanding of, worship than this book. How can this be, you ask? Isn’t Revelation all about the Great Tribulation, the Rapture, the Millennium, and Armageddon? No, Revelation is all about worship. More accurately, this book is all about God and about his Christ; about the one seated upon the throne, and the Lamb enthroned beside him. Everyone in the book worships; everyone that is except the Trinity in heaven, Father, Son and Spirit; and the counterfeit trinity on earth, dragon, beast and false prophet. Not everyone worships correctly, but everyone worships. It’s not a question of who are the worshipers and who the non-worshipers, but of who are the true worshipers and who are the false worshipers. It’s the same today. Everyone worships someone or something.”

“The Book of Revelation has helped me grow in my longing for the coming of Jesus. Seven times Jesus says, “I am coming” (erchomai). Another three times he uses a different verb, “I will come” (hēxō) to say the same thing. . . . . In the prologue John concludes his doxology addressed to Jesus with the excited cry, “Look, he is coming” (1:7). At the end of the prologue Jesus says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” To which John answers, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus” (22:20). It seems that the whole book is designed to so reorient our vision that at the end we cry out, “Maranatha, Come Lord.””

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