The View from Above
Is there a part of Scripture timelier to read than Revelation?
Our newsfeed is full of alarming reports and troubling scenarios. Over the last two years, a global pandemic has rattled the world. Deep and painful divisions in society are evident. Trust in elected officials might be at an all-time low in the West, while poverty and violence grind down the populations in many other countries. As for the church, we are growing concerned about the infringements on our freedom to speak biblical truth, about the spread of godless ideologies, and about perversions of the gospel. There is outright persecution of Christians in numerous places. One might be tempted to say that the future doesn’t look bright.
But what we see and read online is often only the view from here, the view from below. The eyes of our hearts are being trained to take the earthly view of things—which tends to be pessimistic. This is what makes Revelation so refreshing. As it sketches world history, past and present, it gives us ‘the view from above.’ This book unveils God’s perspective on all these events and it affirms God’s good purpose for the church. Revelation shows the progressive unfolding and fulfillment of God’s promises toward that glorious day when the resurrected and ascended Jesus Christ will come again in victory.
The final book of the Bible is something akin to a ‘running commentary’ on what is happening in our world right now. Revelation is a timely read, but it is a difficult read. Chapter by chapter, we can be overwhelmed by the other-worldly imagery of this book, by its strange events and perplexing numbers.
This makes the publishing of The View from Above very welcome. In his book, Rev Jan DeGelder unfolds the meaning of Revelation’s cosmic drama in a clear and faithful way. It is a drama marked by hostility, apostasy, judgment, and violence—yet God’s Revelation to John is also dominated by the reality of the hope which is available through the Lamb who was slain.
In The View from Above, DeGelder guides us through all the stunning scenes and deafening noise of Revelation. His writing is marked by keen attention to textual detail and the warmth of a pastor’s heart, seeking to encourage Christ’s people with biblical truth. Where a passage has a range of interpretations—and few biblical books have seen as many wildly divergent interpretations as Revelation!—DeGelder acknowledges the various options. Yet he doesn’t get unduly distracted or speculate on things that are less than clear. Instead, he presses on to emphasize Revelation’s crystal-clear message for the church.
One of the many remarkable aspects of Revelation is how it is so saturated with the Old Testament. It includes no explicitly signalled quotations, but every chapter, and sometimes almost every verse in a given chapter, echoes the Old Testament Scriptures. If I may be permitted one critique of The View from Above, it is that the Old Testament’s centrality to Revelation is understated. DeGelder doesn’t ignore the obvious allusions, but he could have further explored this feature of Revelation with much profit.
Why does it matter? This background in the Old Testament is more than a theoretical point of interest. Instead, this confirms how God’s plan of judgment and salvation for these end times is rooted in his unchanging purpose since the beginning. It’s a plan that he has been revealing for millennia, through Moses, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Zechariah, and many more.
This book can be used in a variety of ways. First, it would be a useful resource for anyone who is studying the book of Revelation. While it is not a verse-by-verse commentary, DeGelder’s treatment of each passage is thorough and is generally inclusive of all the key details. I think ‘The View from Above’ might also be beneficial for use in personal devotions. It is written in an uplifting tone, and each chapter has a number of sub-sections which could be read separately as part a (longer) time of devotion. Finally, DeGelder’s book lends itself to group Bible study, for he has included a short set of discussion questions for each of his chapters. If a group can commit to considering its thirty-four chapters over a couple years, it would be well worth the effort.
Like the book of Revelation itself, DeGelder’s volume inspires hope and confidence. If anything, Revelation shows that persecution, pestilence, and peril are not unique to our time and place. We are not the first Christians to be distressed and troubled, and unless Christ returns soon, we will not be the last. But as God’s plan for this world and his church continues to unfold, we may be cheered with the certainty of Christ’s triumph.
When we take ‘the view from above’ on our life, this world, and the church, Revelation encourages us to long for and live for the great day of the Lord.
The View from Above: An Exposition of God’s Revelation to John
Fergus, Ontario: The Study, 2021
Paperback, 435 pages