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April 1976 · Vol. 5 No. 2 · pp. 33–34 

Book Review

A Commentary on the Revelation of John

George E. Ladd. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1972. 308 pages.

Reviewed by D. Edmond Hiebert

Dr. Ladd, professor of New Testament Theology and Exegesis at Fuller Theological Seminary, has produced his first New Testament commentary on the difficult book of Revelation. It is geared to the level of the intelligent lay reader; highly technical discussions have been avoided and little Greek has been included in the text. It is a competent, scholarly treatment of a difficult book, one from which the reader will gain much benefit. It reflects the author’s wide acquaintance with prophetic and apocalyptic literature, although Ladd seldom quotes directly the views of other scholars.

He espouses a premillennial and posttribulational rapture interpretation of the Revelation. He accepts the book as true prophecy and holds that Revelation “goes far beyond any known historical situation in the first century” (p. 9). Ladd seeks to preserve meaning for its first readers by seeking to strike a balance between the preterist and the futurist views. He is not a “literalist,” and freely interprets symbolically, but he does accept a literal meaning when the context seems to demand it.

His seven page introduction is disappointingly meager. There is no adequate discussion of authorship and date, while the four major methods of interpretation are given only outline presentation. For a scholarly discussion of introductory problems the reader will need to turn elsewhere.

Aside from the Prologue (1:1-8) and Epilogue (22:6-21), Ladd divides Revelation into four major visions. He states (p. 14) that each vision is introduced by the invitation “come and see,” but these words occur only for his last two divisions (17:1; 21:9). Ladd’s general divisions follow those advanced by Dr. Tenney, who used the expression “in the spirit” (1:10; 4:2; 17:3; 21:1) as the key to the structure of Revelation, but no mention is made of his work.

Following the first three chapters, Ladd accepts that the seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven bowls offer the structural framework of the book, and well shows that the seven trumpets unfold the seventh seal and the seven bowls in turn unfold the seventh trumpet. Interspersed in this framework are various interludes to round out the picture. But unlike most futurists, Ladd holds that the first six seals picture “the forces that will be operative throughout history by which the redemptive and judicial purposes of God will be forwarded” (p. 96).

Ladd heavily stresses the fluidity of apocalyptic language to explain various apparent logical difficulties in the book, insisting that apocalyptic language is not concerned with strict logical accuracy but aims at painting a symbolic message. He resorts to this feature to seek to erase a distinction between Israel and the Church (p. 250). He acknowledges, “To be sure, the word ‘Israel’ is never used of the church, unless it is so used in Gal. 6:16; but the exegesis of this verse is disputed,” and in support of his view he observes that {34} the church is Abraham’s seed. But that is quite a different thing from the claim that the church is Israel (p. 116).

Ladd’s view that the church is on earth during the whole great tribulation period causes him difficulty with 3:10 and he interprets the Greek ek (out of) simply to promise that the church will not be harmed and not suffer “God’s wrath” during that time (p. 62). Ladd readily symbolizes numbers used in Revelation. He holds that the “forty-two months” in 13:5 denote the entire period of suffering of the church, although it does relate to the final great tribulation period (p. 180). He makes the 1000 years of ch. 20 refer to an earthly kingdom but refuses to take it as denoting a literal time period (p. 262). As to the nature and purpose of this earthly kingdom he says little. Concerning the incarceration of Satan during this time, he accepts the amillennial view that not all of his activities and powers are nullified (p. 262).

The brief annotations to his bibliography are helpful. But of his twenty-one entries only two present the futurist position upon which his own exposition is largely built.

For Ladd the thrust of the entire book of Revelation relates to the consummation of the Christian Church. He does not seek to develop any teaching concerning Israel’s relation to the great tribulation or the future earthly messianic reign of Messiah.

D. Edmond Hiebert
Professor of New Testament
Mennonite Brethren Biblical Seminary
Fresno, California

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