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Bible Commentaries

Abbott's Illustrated New Testament

Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4
Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8
Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12
Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16
Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19 Chapter 20
Chapter 21 Chapter 22

Book Overview - Revelation

by John & Jacob Abbott


AS is the case with almost every point connected with the origin and history of the sacred writings, the authorship of the Apocalypse, and the time and place at which it was written, have been the subjects of repeated and protracted discussions. It has, however, been the generally-received opinion, from very early times, that this book was written by the evangelist John, upon the Island of Patmos, whither he had been sent in exile, in the latter part of his life, after he had attained to a great age. With this supposition, various allusions contained in the book itself, particularly Revelation 1:1,4,9, correspond.

The book narrates a series of visions which have been almost universally supposed to prefigure events which were to take place in the then future history of the church, and of the world. There is, perhaps, no book in the New Testament which is more clear and intelligible, and on which commentators are better agreed, in respect to its direct and immediate meaning; but the attempts which have been made to determine the historical events, which are to be considered as represented by its various symbols, have resulted in a vast variety of conflicting opinions. The commentators of each successive age have compared the symbolical visions with that portion of the series of historical events which had taken place before their own day, and they have generally allowed the imagination to assist the judgment in tracing the resemblances. They have also, probably, erred in attempting to find too much prophetical meaning in the book; by giving sometimes a prophetic interpretation to details in the description of the various symbols, which were, in fact, only intended, like many of the circumstances in our Savior's parables as incidents to give completeness and expression to the narrative or description, and not to convey, by themselves, any special spiritual or prophetic meaning. The consequence is, that a great number of systems have been advanced for connecting these prophecies with the subsequent events of history. In these labors a vast amount of learned research and ingenuity has been expended, and, as it would seem much of it expended in vain; for they have produced, on the whole, no very satisfactory results; and, indeed, we may safely suppose that, when divine predictions, given for the express purpose of authenticating revelation, shall be fulfilled, the correspondence of the event with the prediction will not be one which it will require minute and labored ingenuity to show.

Under these circumstances, it would seem to be most judicious, in reading this portion of the sacred volume, to content ourselves with seeking to understand the immediate signification of the language, and the general nature of the events prefigured by the several symbolical images, without being too solicitous to identify the historical events to which they respectively refer; and, above all, not to attempt predictions of our own, based upon any calculation which we may make by the use of elements deduced from these symbols. We must be content to leave it with Jehovah to develop the events of futurity in his own way.

In the mean time, while the prophetic meaning of this book remains involved in great obscurity, it has exerted, and will still continue to exert, a great spiritual influence upon mankind. There is a certain moral expression in its symbolical descriptions, difficult, perhaps, to analyze, but evident and very decided in its effects. The solemn grandeur of its imagery and diction; its obscure delineations of the future, mysterious but sublime; its repeated assurances of almighty protection for those who accept the redemption purchased by the Son of God, and its dread denunciations of judgment against those who reject it; its alluring promises on the one hand, and its calm but awful warnings and threatenings on the other,--all conspire to give this book an influence on the human soul second perhaps to that of no other portion of the word of God. It comes most appropriately at the close of the sacred volume, to seal, with its obscure and mysterious, but yet expressive, sanctions, the great truths which revelation announces to mankind.

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, December 2nd, 2020
the First Week of Advent
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