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Bible Commentaries

John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible
Revelation 1

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-20


The Vision of the Son of Man

St. John addresses 'the seven churches which are in Asia,' telling them of a vision of Christ, who bade him, write in a book what he saw and send it to them.

1-3. Introduction, describing the book as an 'apocalypse,' the Gk. word which signifies 'unveiling' or 'revelation.' This does not mean here the unveiling of Christ at His Coming, as in 1 Corinthians 1:7; 2 Thessalonians 1:7; 1 Peter 1:7, 1 Peter 1:13; 1 Peter 4:13, but the Revelation given by Christ. The book is, at the same time, a prophecy (cp. Revelation 1:3), because divinely communicated, and because of its exhortations which must be kept. It is, also, in the form of a letter: cp. Revelation 1:4; Revelation 22:21. Notice in this section the threefold arrangement of ideas, so common in the book.

1. Of] i.e. Christ is the real author. Shortly] the events were in the near future.

2. Record] RV 'witness.' Word of God] i.e. the revelation which God gave to Jesus Christ (Revelation 1:1). Testimony of Jesus] i.e. the witness which Jesus bore, the word of God which Jesus communicated: cp. Revelation 6:9; Revelation 12:17; Revelation 19:10.

And of all] RV 'even of all.'

3. Readeth] i.e. aloud, before the congregation. Prophecy] The writer is a prophet, i.e. his utterances proceed from the illumination of the Holy Spirit: cp. Revelation 22:7, Revelation 22:10; Acts 13:1; 1 Corinthians 12:28; 1 Corinthians 13:2; 1 Corinthians 14:3; Ephesians 4:11. An Apostle could be a prophet: cp. Ephesians 3:3.

4-8. Salutation, which sounds the keynote of the book, by proclaiming to the distressed Church the eternal power of God, the omnipresent and penetrating energy of the Spirit, and the redeeming Lordship of Christ, who will return to overcome His enemies.

4. John] We know of no John, except the Apostle, who had authority to address seven Churches. Seven] the number which signifies completeness. These seven Churches stand also for the whole Church of Christ. Asia] i.e. the Roman province of that name, which was the western part of what is now called Asia Minor. It included Mysia, Lydia, Caria, part of Phrygia, and islands off the coast.

Which is, etc.] i.e. the Eternal: cp. Exodus 3:14.

Seven Spirits] i.e. the Holy Spirit in His complete working: cp. Revelation 4:5; Revelation 5:6.

5. Witness] cp. Revelation 1:2, Revelation 3:14; Psalms 89:37; John 18:37. First begotten] RV 'firstborn,' i.e. the first of the dead to enter life: cp. Colossians 1:18; Psalms 89:27. Washed] RV 'loosed,' i.e. as the Redeemer of slaves. In his own] RV 'by his.'

6. Kings] RV 'to be a kingdom,' i.e. a society under His kingship: cp. Exodus 19:6; 1 Peter 2:9. Priests] to offer spiritual sacrifices: cp. Hebrews 13:15. 1 Peter 2:5. Unto God, etc.] i.e. belonging to God and engaged in His service. RV'unto his God and Father'; spoken of Christ in His humanity: cp. Revelation 3:2, (RV) 12; Matthew 27:46; John 20:17. For doxologies addressed to Christ, cp. Romans 16:27; 2 Timothy 4:18; Hebrews 13:21; 1 Peter 4:11.

7. Behold, etc.] from Daniel 7:13. Cometh] i.e. at the Judgment: cp. Matthew 24:30; Matthew 26:64. Every eye, etc.] from Zechariah 12:10 : cp. John 19:37. Kindreds, etc.] RV 'the tribes of the earth': contrasted with the 'saints,' the people of Christ.

Wail because of]RV 'mourn over.'

8. Alpha and Omega] RV 'the Alpha and the Omega'; i.e. the Eternal One: cp. Revelation 2:16; Isaiah 44:6. In Revelation 22:13 the title is applied to Christ. Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the Gk. alphabet. Lord] RV 'Lord God.' The Almighty] i.e. He who rules over all. The Gk. word is the LXX rendering of 'God of hosts,' i.e. God of the universe: cp. Amos 4:13.

9-20. The vision John received of Christ in glory. Christ is described in language which is drawn from the OT., especially from Daniel, and which is to be understood figuratively of the majesty and power of Christ. He is revealed as present, though unseen by men, in the midst of the Churches. His triumph after suffering and His present care are to nerve them to endure their tribulation victoriously.

9. Companion] RV 'partaker with you.'

Tribulation, etc.] RV 'the tribulation and kingdom and patience,' Patience] i.e. brave endurance. Of Jesus Christ] RV 'which are in Jesus.' Tribulation, kingdom, and patience are all found in union with Christ, and as such are to St. John the characteristic elements of the life of the Church. Patmos] a small, bare volcanic island in the Agean Sea, about 15 m. from Ephesus. For the word of God, etc.] i.e. probably he had been banished in punishment for his Christian preaching. 'It was the common practice to send exiles to the most rocky and desolate islands.'

10. Spirit] RV 'Spirit.' John was in a prophetic trance: cp. Acts 10:10. 2 Corinthians 12:2. Lord's day] the earliest known use of the term for 'Sunday': cp. Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2.

As of a trumpet] Archbp. Benson pointed out ('The Apocalypse') that this voice is that of the herald angel who called St. John to his work. This has been obscured by the false reading in Revelation 1:11. The angel's trumpet-voice is recorded again in Revelation 4:1. The angel directs St. John by his voice from afar in the first part of Bev.(cp. Revelation 10:4, Revelation 10:8; Revelation 11:1; Revelation 14:13), but after Revelation 17:1 accompanies him. 'As an ang of the Presence (cp. Revelation 8:2; Revelation 15:1, Revelation 15:5.), he is called Christ's angel and God's angel (cp. Revelation 1:1; Revelation 22:6), and his voice has been “out of heaven.” 'This angel speaks in Revelation 19:9; Revelation 21:5, Revelation 21:9, is referred to in Revelation 21:15; Revelation 22:1, and speaks again in Revelation 22:6, Revelation 22:10.

Other voices to be noted are, the 'great voice' of the Almighty (Revelation 11:12; Revelation 16:17; Revelation 21:3, Revelation 21:5.); the voice of Christ, 'as the voice of many waters' (Revelation 1:15, Revelation 1:17., Revelation 14:2; Revelation 16:15; Revelation 19:6; Revelation 22:7, Revelation 22:12-15, Revelation 22:16, Revelation 22:20); the voice of the living creatures, 'as a voice of thunder' (Revelation 6:1; Revelation 19:6); the voice of the elders, 'as the voice of harpers harping with their harps' (Revelation 5:8; Revelation 14:2); and the voice of the saints before God's throne, 'as it were the voice of a great multitude' (Revelation 7:9; Revelation 19:1, Revelation 19:6).

11. I.. last: and] RV omits.

12. Candlesticks] see on v.

20. 13. The Son] RV 'a son': see on Revelation 14:14, Daniel 7:13. To the foot] i.e. of kingly or priestly dignity. Girdle] cp. Daniel 10:5.

14. White] denoting the purity and majesty of God: cp. Daniel 7:9.

15. Fine] RV 'burnished': cp. Ezekiel 1:7; Daniel 10:6. Waters] cp. Ezekiel 1:24;

16. Stars] see on Revelation 1:20. sword] A comparison with Isaiah 11:4; 2 Thessalonians 2:8 shows that this probably signifies that Christ has but to 'speak the word' and His enemies will be destroyed. He has absolute authority.

18. I am he that, etc.] RV 'and the Living one; and I was dead'; 'Living,' i.e. eternally, both before and after the Incarnation: cp. John 1:1, John 1:4, and OT. phrase 'living God.' The persecuted need not fear death, for Christ had died. Hell and of death] RV 'death and of Hades.' 'Hades' = OT. 'Sheol,' the world of the dead, not the place of punishment: cp. Isaiah 14:9; (RM) Isaiah 38:10; (RM) Matthew 16:18. He has the 'keys' because the time and manner of the death of each person are under His control. To think of this would give heart to the persecuted.

19. Hast seen] RV 'sawest,' i.e. this vision.

Which are] i.e. the state of the Churches.

Be] RV 'come to pass.'

20, The mystery] i.e. concerning the mystery; 'mystery' = a hidden thing now revealed. Stars] i.e. lights in heaven.

Candlesticks] lights on earth. The Churches are represented by candlesticks (or 'lamp-stands'), because they are made to shed the-light of truth and goodness derived from Christ, the light of the world, upon the world around them. The flame is supported by the oil of the Holy Spirit: cp. Exodus 25:31; Zechariah 4:2; Matthew 5:14.

Angels] Each letter is addressed to the 'angel,' and the 'angel' is praised or blamed for the state of the Church. Many have thought 'angel' here = 'bishop,' but such a meaning is unknown elsewhere. Its' angel' is to each 'church' as the 'star' is to the 'lamp,' i.e. its heavenly counterpart. The angel, therefore, is a heavenly existence, corresponding to the Church on earth, but nearer to God. We need not suppose that each Church literally has such a being in connexion with it. St. John was writing in symbols, and using symbols which he found ready made. Translated from symbolic language into prose, 'angel' here probably means 'that perfect ideal which the Church imperfectly fulfils.'

 


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Bibliography Information
Dummelow, John. "Commentary on Revelation 1:4". "John Dummelow's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcb/revelation-1.html. 1909.

Lectionary Calendar
Thursday, December 12th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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