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The “Title” of the Book describes its character. It is not “The Revelation of St. John the Divine,” as the heading in our Bibles would have us believe, but it is
“THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST.”
The word “Revelation” in the Greek is “APOCALUPSIS.” Hence the title “THE APOCALYPSE,” by which it is often called. It is from the verb “APOCALUPTO,” to unveil; from “APO,” away from; and “KALUMMA,” a veil. Hence “Apocalupsis” means a taking away of a veil, as when a statue is unveiled, that what is behind the veil may be seen. It is not so much a revelation or unveiling of the Person of Christ, though it discloses His High Priestly and Kingly glory, as it is the unveiling of those events that shall precede and accompany His return to the earth. This is seen from the fact that what is revealed in the Book, was given unto Jesus Christ, by God the Father, to show unto His Servants the “things which must shortly come to pass.”
When Jesus was asked just before His death, when the things that He had prophesied against Jerusalem should come to pass (Mark 13:1-31), He replied in verse 32, “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in Heaven, neither (NOT YET) the Son, but the FATHER.” But after His Ascension He received from the Father the information that the Disciples asked for, and before the close of the first century, while at least one of those Disciples was still living, the beloved John, He sent an angel messenger to impart to him, and through him to the Churches, the information that is “unveiled” in this Book of Revelation. Thus we see that the canon of Scripture would be incomplete without this message from Jesus to His Church after His return to Heaven.
While the Apostle John is the writer of the Book he is not the author or composer. The Author was the Lord Jesus Himself. The Apostle was only a “scribe” or “amanuensis.” Twice he declares that the contents of the Book were revealed to him by an angel. Revelation 1:1; Revelation 22:8. The fact that the style of the Book differs so strikingly from the other writings of John, as the Gospel and Epistles, is the strongest kind of evidence that John did not compose the Book, but that it was dictated or visualized to him. In its subject matter, and in the majesty and sublimity of its language, which is in harmony with its contents, the Book of Revelation differs from all other books, and is incomparably above them, thus revealing its Divine Authorship. In fact it is the only portion of the New Testament to which Jesus gives His endorsement, and affixes His signature, saying at its close--“I JESUS have sent Mine Angel to testify unto you these things in the Churches.” Revelation 22:16.
The Book of Revelation then is not a compilation of Jewish “Apocalyptic Literature,” intermixed with “Heathen Visions Christianized,” thus being a “patchwork” of Jewish and Heathen Folklore, but it is the Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto Him, to show unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass. This He sent by His ANGEL. Who this Angel was we are not told, but when John fell down to worship him, he said, “See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book.” Revelation 22:8-9. He must therefore have been one of the old prophets raised for the purpose.
The Book is a PROPHETIC Book. It is not a history. It does not record the past, but reveals the future. It makes this claim in the Title--“Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of THIS PROPHECY,” Revelation 1:3; and four times in the concluding chapter. Revelation 22:7; Revelation 22:10; Revelation 22:18-19. It is the summing up and consummation of all prophecy. In it all unfulfilled prophecy is fulfilled. It is the “finality” in prophecy until Jesus comes back. There has been no “new revelation” since it was written; and all those who claim to have received new and later “revelations” are impostors and false prophets. There is no place for “additions” or “subtractions” in the Book. It opens with a “blessing” promised the reader and ends with a “curse” upon those who “ADD UNTO” or “TAKE FROM” it. Revelation 1:3; Revelation 22:18-19.
Nothing is said about understanding the Book, but blessed is he that “readeth,” or if too illiterate to read, blessed are they that “hear,” that is, listen to its reading. The reference here is doubtless to the “reader” and “hearers” of the Scripture as read in the Synagogue in the Apostle’s day. That the Book should be shunned by many because of its mysterious character is no wonder. It is one of the “devices” of Satan to get people to neglect a Book that foretells his casting as “Prince of the Powers of the Air,” and the “God of This Age,” out of the Heavenlies; of his imprisonment in the “Bottomless Pit” for 1000 years; and his final casting into the Lake of Fire. While Satan hates all Scripture in general, he hates the books of Genesis and Revelation in particular. Therefore he attacks the authenticity of Genesis, and seeks to have Revelation neglected.
The Book is not only a “Prophetic” book, it is a “SYMBOLIC” book, that is, it is written largely in “symbolic” language, that is the meaning of the statement in the Title--“He sent and ’SIGNIFIED’ it by His Angel unto His Servant John.” The word “signified” means given in “signs” and “symbols” and should be pronounced “SIGN´-IFIED.” There are more “signs” and “symbols” in the Book of Revelation than in any other book in the Bible, but they are either explained there or in some other part of the Scriptures. No one can understand the Book of Revelation who does not understand the Book of Daniel. The Prophet Daniel was told to “seal up” the words of his prophecy until the “Time of the End,” not the “end of time,” but the end of the “Times of the Gentiles.” Daniel 12:4; Daniel 12:9. But the writer of the Book of Revelation was told to “seal NOT” the sayings of the Book, for the TIME IS AT HAND. Revelation 22:10.
The symbolism of the Book of Revelation shows that it was written for a “special class,” for those who are acquainted with the “Word of God,” and who have “spiritual discernment,” and not for the carnally minded reader. “The secret things belong unto the Lord our God, but those things which are REVEALED belong unto us and our children forever.” Deuteronomy 29:29. The Book of Revelation was written to reveal or disclose the purpose of God as to the earth and the nations, and we are not prying into God’s secrets when we read and study it. It being the last prophecy, we naturally would expect it to sum up all previous prophecy, and as all previous prophecy had to do with the CHURCH, ISRAEL, and THE NATIONS, so we should expect this last prophecy to give us the final word as to them; and that is what it does. We find the CHURCH in the beginning, ISRAEL in the middle, and the saved NATIONS at the end. These three are also seen in the construction of the Holy City, New Jerusalem; where we have the CHURCH in the Foundation, represented by the names of the Twelve Apostles, and ISRAEL in the Gates, with the names of the Twelve Tribes of Israel written over them, and the saved NATIONS in the Streets, where they walk in the light of the City’s Glory.
The Book is largely Jewish. This is seen in its “signs” and symbols, such as the Tabernacle, the Ark, the Altar, the Trumpets and Plagues, and the sealing of the 144,000 of Israel. It is Jewish because God in it, after the Church is taken out, deals again with Israel, and in chapters 6 to 19 inclusive He reveals what shall take place during the last or “Seventieth Week” of Daniel’s “Seventy Weeks.”
It is the Book of “CONSUMMATION” and its proper place in the sacred canon is where it is placed, at the end of the Bible. The Book is full of ACTION. Earth and heaven are brought near together. The clouds roll away, thrones, elders, and angelic forms are seen; harps, trumpets, cries from disembodied souls and choruses of song are heard. Earth touches heaven, and alas it touches hell also. Good and evil meet. There is no blending, but sharp contrasts, and a long protracted conflict that ends in victory for the good, and the “BEAST,” the “FALSE PROPHET,” SATAN and his hosts, and “DEATH” and HADES find their place in the “Lake of Fire.” It describes the culmination of the evils foreseen and described in 1. Tim. 4:1; 2 Timothy 3:1-5; 2 Peter 2:1-2; Judges 1:14-19, and declares the CONSUMMATION of that which the Prophets foretold, the creation of a
NEW HEAVEN AND A NEW EARTH
in which righteousness shall dwell. Isaiah 65:17. At last the patience of the patriarchs and saints is rewarded; the longings of faith, and the hope of Israel and the Church fulfilled, and the glory of God shines unhindered on a scene of righteousness and peace. The Bible begins with Paradise LOST, and closes with Paradise REGAINED.
“JOHN to the Seven Churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from Him which Is, and which Was, and which IS TO COME; and from the ’Seven Spirits’ which are before HIS Throne; and from Jesus Christ who is the FAITHFUL WITNESS, and the FIRST BEGOTTEN OF THE DEAD, and the PRINCE OF THE KINGS OF THE EARTH. Unto Him that LOVED US and WASHED (Loosed) US from our sins in His own blood. And hath made us KINGS and PRIESTS unto God and His Father; to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.”
The Salutation is addressed to the “Seven Churches Which Are In Asia.” By Asia is not meant the great Continent of Asia, or even the whole of Asia Minor, but only the western end of Asia Minor bordering on the Aegean and Mediterranean Seas, and about the size of the State of Pennsylvania. Neither do these Seven Churches mean that there were only seven churches in that district, for there were at least three other churches, that of Colosse, Colossians 1:2; Hierapolis, Colossians 4:13; and Troas, Acts 20:6-7. These seven Churches then must be representative or typical churches, chosen for certain characteristics typical of the character of the Church of Christ, not only in that day, but on down the centuries until the Church shall be removed from the earth, and represent seven church periods clearly defined in Church History. This we shall see, in our study of chapters two and three, to be the case.
Map: The Seven Churches
In the Benediction--“Grace be unto you, and peace, from Him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the Seven Spirits which are before His Throne; and from Jesus Christ, who is the Faithful Witness, etc.,” we behold the Trinity. Here Jesus is distinguished from--“HIM (the Father) which Is, and which Was, and which Is To Come,” but in verse 8, He claims the same Title, which only proves that Jesus was God manifest in the flesh, and that He and the Father are one.
It is also worthy of note that the “Threefold Office” of Jesus, as PROPHET, PRIEST, and KING is brought out in the Salutation. He is called the “Faithful Witness,” as such he is a PROPHET. As the “First Begotten From The Dead,” He carried His own blood into the Heavenly Tabernacle, and thus performed the work of a PRIEST. As the “Prince Of The Kings Of The Earth,” as He will be when He takes the Throne, He will be a KING. As Prophet Jesus is God’s WORD, as Priest He is God’s LAMB, and as King He is God’s LION.
John also emphasizes the fact that Jesus LOVED us before He WASHED (Loosed) us from our sins in His own blood, and that He has made us “Kings” and “Priests” unto God, and that we need no human Priest to stand between us and God.
The Apostle John addresses the Churches as their brother and companion in TRIBULATION. This does not mean “The Great Tribulation,” for that is not for the Church but for Israel, and is still future. When John wrote the Book of Revelation in A. D. 95-96 the Christians were undergoing a persecution under the Roman Emperor Domitian, and as a result of this persecution John had been banished to the Isle of Patmos, a small, rocky island in the Aegean Sea 30 miles off the west coast of Asia Minor, and opposite the city of Ephesus. John was pastor of the Church at Ephesus at the time of his banishment, and it was to that Church that the first Message to the Seven Churches was addressed. John was banished for “the Word of God, and his testimony to Jesus Christ.”
He tells us that he was “in the Spirit on the LORD’S DAY.” There has been much confusion as to what is meant here by the “Lord’s Day.” Some hold that the “First Day of the Week” or the Christian Sabbath is meant, others that John meant the “Day of the Lord.”
Both the Old and the New Testament speak of the “Day of the Lord.” Isaiah 2:12, Joel 1:15; Joel 2:1; Joel 3:14, Ezekiel 13:5, Malachi 4:5, Acts 2:20; Acts 2:2. Cor. 1:14, 1. Thess. 5:2, 2. Pet. 3:10. The term applies to the “Day of the Lord’s Return” and includes both the Tribulation and the Millennium. See the Chart on the Prophetic Days of Scripture. The Christian Sabbath was never called the “LORD’S DAY” until after the Book of Revelation was written and got its name from that source. It is always called in the Gospels and Epistles the “First Day of the Week.”
It is hardly likely that John could have been caught up as Paul was into the Third Heaven and seen and heard all that he describes in the Book of Revelation on one Sabbath Day, and as the Book from chapter 5 is a description of the things that are to come to pass in the “DAY OF THE LORD,” what better understanding of the “LORD’S DAY” can we have than that John was projected by the Holy Spirit across the centuries into the “DAY OF THE LORD” and had visualized to him the things that shall come to pass in that day. This is the rational solution of the question. See the Chart, John’s Patmos Vision.
When John thus found himself in the “Day of the Lord” he heard behind him a great voice, as of a trumpet, which said--“I am Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last,” and the repetition of the statement in verses 17 and 18, with the added words--“I am He that Liveth, and WAS DEAD; and behold, I am ALIVE FOR EVERMORE, AMEN; and have the keys of Hell (Hades, the Underworld), and of Death (the Grave),” identifies the speaker as the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. John had his back turned to the speaker, and when he turned around he saw one like unto the
SON OF MAN
standing in the midst of “Seven Candlesticks.” “LAMPSTANDS” is a better translation and is so given in the margin of our Bibles. A candlestick requires a light such as a candle, which is self-consuming, while a “Lampstand” is for the support of a lamp whose wick instead of burning away is fed from the oil within. In the Scriptures oil is emblematic of the Holy Spirit, and as Jesus Himself interprets the “Lampstands” as meaning the Seven Churches to whom He was about to send messages, we see that Jesus looks upon the churches as not the LIGHT, but simply the “LIGHT HOLDER.” From the fact that Jesus speaks of “Stars” and “Lampstands” it is clear that we are living in the NIGHT of this Dispensation, for “stars” and “lampstands” belong to the night.
THE VISION OF THE GLORIFIED SON OF MAN.
The Vision that John saw was that of the GLORIFIED “SON OF MAN.” When Jesus ascended He took up with Him His HUMANITY, and we now have in the Glory the MAN Christ Jesus. 1. Tim. 2:5. When Jesus was on the earth He was, as the “Son of Man,” a PROPHET, now as the “Son of Man” in Glory He is a Priest, and when He comes again it will be as the “Son of Man” to reign as KING.
While Jesus is now a High Priest in heaven, John did not see Him engaged in any High Priestly work. While He was clothed in a High Priestly robe, there was no mitre upon His head, nor
The Prophetic Days of Scripture
Kingly Crown. The description of Him is more that of a JUDGE. This is confirmatory evidence that John was transported into the “Day of the Lord,” and that his vision of Christ is as Christ shall appear after His High Priestly work is finished and before He assumes His Kingly Office. This is seen in that He was girded about the breasts, and not around the waist. The High Priest was girded around the waist, signifying service, but a girdle or sash over the shoulder and around the breasts is an insignia of the Magisterial Office. This is still further revealed when we study the
SEVENFOLD GLORY OF HIS PERSON.
1. HIS “HEAD AND HIS HAIR .”
His “Head” and “Hair” were “WHITE LIKE WOOL,” as “WHITE AS SNOW.” Here there is a correspondence to the “Snow White Wig” worn by English judges. This description of Christ reminds us of Daniel’s vision of the “ANCIENT OF DAYS,” “whose garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the PURE WOOL.” Daniel 7:9. Daniel refers three times to the “Ancient Of Days.” In Chap. 7:13, he distinguishes between the “Son of Man” and the “Ancient of Days,” but in verses 9 and 22 he associates the “Ancient of Days” with a “Throne of Judgment,” and as God the Father has committed all judgment to the Son (John 5:22), and the Father and the Son are one, the title “Ancient Of Days” is used interchangeably. And as the title “Ancient of Days” is applied to the “Son of Man” (Christ) at the time He assumes the Judgeship (Daniel 7:9-10), which is not until after the Rapture of the Church, we have here additional corroborative proof that John’s Vision belongs to the “Day of the Lord.” The “White Hair” of the Son of Man refers to His ANTIQUITY, to His patriarchal dignity, not that His hair was made white by age, for the Eternal never grows old, but it bespeaks wisdom and experience, and the venerableness of His character.
2. HIS EYES .
’“His Eyes were a FLAME OF FIRE.” Those eyes that had often been dimmed with human tears, and that wept at the grave of Lazarus, are here pictured as burning with an “OMNISCIENT FLAME.” How often when on the earth those eyes read the inner-most thoughts of men, and even soldiers quailed before His soul penetrating gaze, so when He sits as the Judge of men all things will be NAKED and OPEN before Him.
3. HIS FEET .
“His Feet like unto fine BRASS, as if they BURNED IN A FURNACE.” In that day those feet that trod the Via Dolorosa of suffering will be like unto INCANDESCENT BRASS, that shall tread and crush Antichrist and Satan when He comes to “Tread the WINE-PRESS of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.” Revelation 19:15.
4. HIS VOICE .
“His Voice as the SOUND OF MANY WATERS.” There is nothing more melodious or musical than the babbling brook, or more thunderous than the rush of the cataract over the falls, and there is nothing more fearful to the criminal than the words of the Judge as he passes sentence; but how terrifying will be the sentence when with a strong voice the Son of Man shall say in the Judgment Day, “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the Devil and his angels.” Matthew 25:41.
5. HIS HAND .
“In His Right Hand SEVEN STARS.”
We are told in verse 20, that the “Seven Stars” stand for the “ANGELS” of the “Seven Churches.” These “Angels” are not angelic beings but the Messengers or Ministers of the churches. What a beautiful and solemn lesson is taught here. It is that the ministers of Christ derive their power and office from Him, and that He holds them in His hand. If they are false to Him, no one can deliver them from His power, and if they are true and loyal, no one can touch or molest, or do them harm.
6. HIS MOUTH .
“Out of His Mouth went a SHARP TWO-EDGED SWORD.” While the “Sword of the Spirit” is the “Word of God” (Ephesians 6:17), and the “Word of God” is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any TWO-EDGED SWORD, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow (the body), (Hebrews 4:12), that is not the sword meant here.
The “Sword of the Spirit” is the Holy Spirit’s SWORD, and He alone wields it. The sword meant here is the Sword of the Son of Man (Christ), and it is the “SWORD OF JUSTICE,” for the Son of Man, out of whose mouth this sword comes, is the “White Horse Rider” of Revelation 19:11-15, “out of whose mouth goeth a SHARP SWORD, that with it He should smite the nations.” And that sword, like the “Sword of the Spirit” will be TWO-EDGED also, for the protection of His people, and the destruction of His enemies. This is still further proof that John’s vision of Christ was as He shall appear in the “DAY OF THE LORD.”
7. HIS COUNTENANCE .
“His Countenance was as the SUN SHINETH IN HIS STRENGTH.” This recalls to our memory His appearance on the Mount of Transfiguration when “His Face did shine AS THE SUN,” Matthew 17:2. And we read of the New Jerusalem that the inhabitants thereof have no need of the SUN, for the LAMB is the Light thereof. Revelation 21:23. And when we recall that the Prophet Malachi tells us that when Jesus comes back He will be the SUN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS (Malachi 4:2), we see that John’s vision of the Son of Man was as He shall appear at the Second Stage of His Return, the “Revelation.” Thus we have in John’s “Seven-Fold” description of the person of the “Glorified Son of Man” circumstantial or indirect evidence that John saw his vision of the Son of Man, not on a Sabbath Day (or the “Lord’s Day” as we now call it), but was projected by the Holy Spirit forward into the “Day of the Lord” and saw Him as He will appear then as the Judge, and the coming “SUN OF RIGHTEOUSNESS.”
THE “KEY” TO THE BOOK.
The “Key” to the Book is its
1. The Things Which Thou Hast “SEEN.”
2. The Things Which “ARE.”
3. The Things Which “SHALL BE HEREAFTER.”
This is the only book in the Bible where the Divisions are given, and they are here given by Christ Himself.
1. The Things Which Thou Hast “SEEN .”
The Vision of the Son of Man in the midst of the “Seven Lamp-stands.” Revelation 1:10-20.
2. The Things Which “ARE .”
The Messages to the Seven Churches, Revelation 2:1-3; Revelation 22. As these Messages were to seven churches that were in existence in John’s day, and to whom he personally wrote, the advocates of the theory that John was in the Spirit on a certain Sabbath or “Lord’s Day,” naturally claim that John at that time could not have been trans-ported into the “Day of the Lord.” But that does not necessarily follow. As we now know (see exposition of chapters 2 and 3) those Churches were REPRESENTATIVE CHURCHES, and were typical of seven well defined periods in Church History, that could not be so understood until the history of the Christian Church would be complete, and that will not be until the “Day of the Lord,” so John could have been projected in vision by the Spirit into the “Day of the Lord,” and after his Vision of the Glorified Son of Man, the “Messages to the Seven Churches” were dictated to him by they Son of Man Himself, that John when he recovered from his vision and found himself back on the Isle of Patmos could send them to the churches.
3. The Things Which “SHALL BE HEREAFTER .”
Literally--“after these.” In other words the “Things” which shall come to pass after the “Church Period” ends. The Book naturally divides into
I. THE SEVEN CHURCHES. Revelation 2:14-22.
II. THE SEVEN SEALS. Revelation 6:1 to Revelation 8:5.
III. THE SEVEN TRUMPETS. Revelation 8:7 to Revelation 11:19.
IV. THE SEVEN PERSONAGES. Revelation 12:1 to Revelation 13:18.
V. THE SEVEN VIALS. Revelation 15:1 to Revelation 16:21.
VI. THE SEVEN DOOMS. Revelation 17:1 to Revelation 20:15.
VII. THE SEVEN NEW THINGS. Revelation 21:1 to Revelation 22:5.
Between these series of “Sevens,” and between some of the parts of a series there are Parenthetical Statements and Episodes or Intervals, as seen in the following Table of Contents.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Larkin, Clarence. "Commentary on Revelation 1". A Study of the Prophetic Book of Holy Scripture. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany