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Bible Commentaries
Revelation 1

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Verses 1-20

Revelation 1:3

It is a great mistake to think that because you have read a masterpiece once or twice, or ten times, therefore you have done with it. Because it is a masterpiece, you ought to live with it, and make it part of your daily life.

John Morley.

References. I. 3. T. C. Fry, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlvi. p. 45. I. 3-20. Expositor (6th Series), vol. ii. p. 347. I. 4. H. S. Holland, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xliii. p. 360. I. 4, 5. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Revelation, p. 114. I. 4-6. C. Anderson Scott, The Book of Revelation, p. 20.

The Great Enfranchisement

Revelation 1:5

I. 'Unto Him that loveth us.' That is the background in which we find the base and the warrant for all our confidence and faith. God loves! The beginning is not to be found in us, in our inclinations and gropings and resolvings and prayers. The primary element is the inclination of God. When did He begin to love? 'I have loved thee with an everlasting love.' Up from the everlasting. This is the Biblical account of our origin, of the primary movement that gave our being its birth: 'He first loveth'. Nobody comes into the world God-hated. Loveth! The affection is continuous: not spasmodic, but unbroken; there is no abatement of its volume. 'God so loved that He gave '! Love is an importation, a giving, sacrifice unconscious of itself. Love is tremendous energy, hungrily keen for the detection of need, that it might fill the gaping gap out of its own resources.

II. What next does He discover, from Whom there is nothing concealed? He beholds His children in the bondage of corruption and night. They are the captives of sin and of death. One of the clearest and calmest thinkers of our time, a man who sees far into the secret springs of human life, has given his judgment that the most real terrors that afflict men are the guilt of sin and the fear of death.

III. How can we obtain deliverance? The primary need of man is not accomplishment but character, and for this we require not the washing of culture but the washing of regeneration. When education and culture have reached their utmost limits, and the mental powers are refined into exquisite discernment, the two black, gruesome birds of the night remain guilt and death, and only the Eternal Son can disturb them, and cause them to flee away. Here comes in the energetic, sleepless ministry of the Eternal Love.

IV. 'And He made us to be a Kingdom, to be priests unto His God and Father.' He 'loosed' and then He ennobled. Now we are made a Kingdom, we become citizens, endowed with a sublime franchise the possessors of unspeakable privileges and rights. We are made a 'kingdom of priests'. Every child has the right to share the sovereignty of Jesus, and to enjoy free access into the most secret place of the Father's presence. This is the issue of the primal loving.

J. H. Jowett, Apostolic Optimism, p. 237.

Revelation 1:5

'The Faithful Witness' demands faith; 'the First Begotten of the dead' incites hope; 'the Prince of the kings of the earth' challenges obedience. Now faith may be dead, hope presumptuous, obedience slavish. But 'He that loved us' thereby wins our love; and forthwith by virtue of love faith lives, hope is justified, obedience is enfranchised.

C. G. Rossetti.

Revelation 1:5

'I am in the habit,' wrote Charles Simeon to a friend in 1827, 'of accounting religion as the simplest of all concerns: "To Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto our God, to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever," expresses the very frame of mind in which I wish both to live and die.'

References. I. 5. R. Flint, Sermons and Addresses, p. 39. Expositor (4th Series), vol. v. p. 124; ibid. (5th Series), vol. ii. p. 24; ibid. (7th Series), vol. v. p. 148. I. 5, 6. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxix. No. 1737, and vol. xxxvii. No. 2230. G. Littlemore, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lvi. p. 38. H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 1707, p. 695. Bishop Gore, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lx. p. 49. J. Stuart Holden, The Pre-eminent Lord, p. 163.

Revelation 1:6 (cf. 20:6)

The whole function of Priesthood was, on Christmas morning, at once and for ever gathered into His person who was born at Bethlehem; and thenceforward, all who are united with Him, and who with Him make sacrifice of themselves; that is to say, all members of the Invisible Church become, at the instant of their conversion, Priests; and are so called in 1 Peter 2:5 and Revelation 1:6 ; Revelation 20:6 , where, observe, there is no possibility of limiting the expression to the Clergy; the conditions of Priesthood being simply having been loved by Christ, and washed in His blood.

Ruskin, On the Old Road , II. sec. 196.

References. I. 6. E. E. Genner, A Book of Lay Sermons, p. 91. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Revelation, p. 136.

Back to Christ (for Advent)

Revelation 1:7

I need hardly remind you that these words give us our Advent message. 'Back to Christ,' that is the motto of today. We commemorate in this season that the Lord has come, that the Lord will come, that the Lord is here. Many have been His comings since He came a child to Nazareth, many they will be before He comes in that last wonderful way of which we know not how to speak, except in such parables as He Himself has given. And we proclaim by our Eucharist this morning to those who have faith and heart to understand, 'The Lord is here today, the same as ever'.

I. Imparting Gifts. The message of advent links itself with the message of St. Andrew's Day, 'We have found the Messiah'. So spoke St. Andrew to his brother Peter; and that, again, is linked with that other saying that follows it so closely of Philip, 'Come and see' (the Christ). For why do we wish that Christian missions should go out? Is it not because we have something so precious that it must be given away? It is the nature of all the precious things upon earth that they must not be kept, but given away. Nothing is too precious too give away. That which you want to have for yourself, that which you cannot enjoy with another is not precious. Think what are the most valuable things. Take two only.

(a) The gift of knowledge. What do you want to do when you know? To impart. And why? Because in teaching you know that you know much better than you thought, and because you have the sympathy of another who knows; but best of all because knowledge is too good a thing to keep to yourself.

(b) The gift of love. What does love consist of but giving love? And love grows by being given away. These two things, knowledge and love, they are what we have of Jesus Christ, and so the divine call 'Back to Christ' is linked with the call of St. Andrew's Day, 'Come and see'. So it is that we want to teach, or to cause other people to teach, because we have something so precious that we must give it away.

II. Back to Christ. Are there any hearts here which are not stirred, are there any hearts here which do hot know that Christ is so precious, that the knowledge and love of Christ are such precious things that they must needs publish them, that they must needs give them to others? Let me be a missionary to these hearts for one or two moments. Let me ask them humbly to go back to Christ. Back to Christ as He was, as you may read of Him, as you may almost follow His steps up and down the country of Galilee, as you may hear Him speak, as you may see Him die. Go back to Him and see what kind of Friend He was. Understand, again, what it was in Him that saved men and women, how He would never despair of anyone who had despaired of themselves, of anyone who would come and not place the confidence of their heart where they had so often placed it and misplaced it before, upon their own hopeless frailty, but upon His strength. 'Believe in Me,' He said throughout His life, 'and thou shalt be saved.' What is the message for men and women who despair, what is the message for men and women who are tired of their perpetual shortcomings? Not in yourself, but in the power which is outside you and yet which is so near, so near that from the outside It can come into the inside and there reanimate you. That is the message which He brought when He came to give life, namely, His own life, that men might live by it as He lived. And then again, as you come back to Christ, you see how, partly in condescension to our frailty, partly because of our Lord's prevision of the dulness of human nature to understand mere words, partly because He knew that no language could convey what was meant as a simple symbol might, He enshrined that very truth, that very promise, that very essence of His healing power, in the simplest of symbols, the symbol, namely, of our eating and drinking, by which our bodily life is sustained. He handed down for all those who followed Him to hand on, this great truth, enshrined in the Sacrament, so much more expressive than any words, that by Him we live. Go back to Christ and learn at the altar that by Him you may live and live His life. And why? Because last of all He claimed and He has substantiated His claim in all these thousands of years and millions of believers He claimed that in Him dwelt the Godhead, and He was one with the Father.

Revelation 1:7

Earth must fade away from our eyes, and we must anticipate that great and solemn truth, which we shall not fully understand till we stand before God in judgment, that to us there are but two beings in the whole world, God and ourselves. The sympathy of others, the pleasant voice, the glad eye, the smiling countenance, the thrilling heart, which at present are our very life, all will be away from us, when Christ comes in judgment. Every one will have to think of himself. Every eye shall see Him ; every heart will be full of Him. He will speak to every one; and every one will be rendering to Him his own account.


References. I. 7. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxiii. No. 1989. Expositor (4th Series), vol. x. pp. 292, 344. I. 8. A. G. Mortimer, The Church's Lessons for the Christian Year, pt. iii. p. 43. E. A. Bray, Sermons, vol. ii. p. 280.

Revelation 1:9

'Sir,' said Dr. Johnson to Boswell in Skye, 'when a man retires into an island, he is to turn his thoughts entirely to another world.'

Revelation 1:9

There is a prolonged conflict to be maintained with temptation to sin, with weariness, with the persistent pressure upon the mind and heart of those transient excitements and interests which make us forget the invisible and eternal kingdom.

R. W. Dale.

References. 1. 9. R. W. Hiley, A Year's Sermons, vol. iii. p. 244. Expositor (6th Series), vol. viii. p. 394.

'Which Is Called Patmos'

Revelation 1:9-10

'I John... was in the isle that is called Patmos for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. I was in the Spirit.' He does not say, 'I was in Patmos,' he says, 'In the isle which is called Patmos' by those who care to give it a name. The scenery of daily life in which the Apostle was moving had passed from his sight. He was in the Spirit. Whatever the earthly name might be, the reality was the gate of heaven, for when the Spirit was there the loneliness was no loneliness and the desolation was no desolation. Even so, though in a lesser way, did Egypt cease to be Egypt when Joseph was there. The poet has written, 'Never the place and the time and the loved one altogether'. But if the loved one be there the place and the time are hardly thought of. The place may be transfigured, perhaps, in some strange fashion, and the hour grow golden, but more likely both vanish quite from the thought. To the Apostle the thought of earthly love and human companionship was exchanged for something higher, for a name and a place better than of sons and daughters. He was in the Spirit, the Spirit of Christ was with him, and because the Spirit was there Christ was there. It was through the revelation of the Holy Spirit that he heard the great voice of a trumpet saying, 'I am Alpha and Omega,' and saw one like unto the Son of Man in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks. What was Patmos then, the little island in the Ægean Sea? What was anything? St. John's eyes were engaged with another vision. He recalled perhaps the place where He saw the Lamb of God dying on a far-off stormy even. He may have thought of the new grave in the spring garden where the Lord had lain, or of the morning when He stood upon the shore, risen from the last abysses. Thoughts of the ecstasy of life and the passion of death would meet and mingle in the Apostle's mind as he saw the glory and triumph of the First and the Last. Then he felt that he was not in the world of poetry and dream, but amidst the everlasting realities. Then he knew the glorious fulfilment of the promise he had written when Christ spoke of the coming Comforter Whom the world could not receive because it saw Him not He was in the Spirit.

I. It is no mere influence that creates and sustains such feelings. It is only the presence of a person of a dear companion. In proportion as love and sympathy are perfected, circumstances sink into insignificance, and we rise into the timeless life. So it was here. And this is the first truth concerning the Holy Ghost that needs to be grasped, that the Holy Ghost is a Person, and that He is a Divine Person. The unveiling of the Adorable Life of the Holy Trinity is, and must be, gradual. We are subjects in the Kingdom of the Holy Ghost, of Whom it may be said that in a manner He rules the world through this dispensation of His power. The final revelation of the Divine life was given when the Holy Ghost came. Christ, and Christ alone, is the subject of the Holy Spirit's teaching; but Christ has returned to the Father, and has sent the Paraclete in virtue of His ascended Manhood, that He may overcome the world.

II. How wonderful, then, that the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity is the least known, the least loved, the least worshipped. Yet it is not so wonderful. It is hard to realise a merely spiritual presence. The Son of God became man, and we have the story of His Incarnation. More than that, we have the Holy Spirit to interpret the story, so that Christ is not merely the Lord of the ancient tale, but the Lord Who holds word with us now. The Holy Spirit does not speak of Himself, and therefore we do not think or speak as we should of Him. And yet He is the Source of every gracious thought and memory and hope and trust that come to our mind. By bringing before us the life and death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, He arms us with the same mind, so that as we think of how the feet of Christ took the hard journey, in which they trampled down the enemies of our salvation, till the iron broke through them and nailed them to the cross, we at last deliver our comings and goings to the same Crucifixion.

III. Yes, though He does not speak of Himself, though He glorifies Christ, yet He makes His claim upon us, His absolute and eternal claim. It is made in a manner to which there is no human parallel. We do know, blessed be God, how the high soul of a brother or a sister in Christ may keep us from falling, may help us to ascend, may mould us somewhat after the pattern of its own spiritual beauty. But the Holy Ghost is not satisfied until He takes possession of the house and fills it with His Presence and His Glory.

W. Robertson Nicoll, Sunday Evening, p. 189.

References. I. 9-20. C. Anderson Scott, The Book of Revelation, p. 34. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Revelation, p. 144.

On the Observance of Days ( for the New Year )

Revelation 1:10

The wonderful book of the Revelation introduces us suddenly to a most picturesque and most pathetic situation. It is Sunday in Patmos, where John is an exile condemned to work in the mines. Sunday was a great day with those early Christians the Lord's Day, the Christian festival of the Resurrection. For that brilliant fact shone behind them but a little distance off, and once a week they laid aside all other thoughts, and lived over again in loving imagination the events that had changed the world for them.

Sunday was not a holiday in the mines, but the spirit of this redeemed man is free, and he has access to the spiritual world. While his feet and hands toil at their dreary tasks, he passes into an ecstatic state, suspending his connection with this material world, and leading him into the other land, unseen of any eyes but his.

In this exalted state the boundaries both of time and space are thrown down, and he moves free in a larger world. He is back again in the morning light of the day of Christ's rising. Again he runs to the empty tomb with Peter; again the woman whom they have left solitary by that empty tomb comes and tells them what she has seen; and again amid the evening shadows he himself hears the words, 'Peace be unto you'. Similarly he escapes from the narrow confines of the island, and shares the life of the infant Church scattered along the coast-lines of the Great Sea. He is their brother and companion, both in the tribulation and in the kingdom of Jesus Christ; with them both in darkness and in glory. He is with them, too, in that patience of the saints which both the tribulation and the kingdom has taught them that wonderful patience of the early Church, which had learned to be patient with life, both in its present trial and its deferred hope.

Such was the spirit of the day for John partly commemoration of the past, partly fellowship with the far distant, in the brotherhood of the patient Church. It was a day of mingled sorrow and exultation, in every sense a very special day.

I. We still keep certain days apart, and break the monotony of the year with their recurring calls to remember and to love. There is sometimes heard a grudge against making much of one day above another, but surely that is but a frowsy way of thinking.

There are others who in a different spirit ask: 'Why select one day above another? Are not all days equally days of the Lord? Rather let us raise the tone of every day till it reaches festival height.' This looks indeed like religion, but it is not human nature. Those who are always at high pressure grow inevitably strained and unnatural. It is quite true that every day is a day of the Lord, for every day is 'full of things offering themselves for our wonder, and understanding, and love, and every person we meet is a traveller between life and death'. So all the interests of life are religious; but we are human, and none of us is capable of bearing more than a certain strain. Such attempts overstrain life to a tension that is neither desirable nor wholesome.

II. In a word, the spirit is tidal, and 'the soul wins its victories as the sea wins hers'. The occasional and fluctuating element in life is not only justifiable but essential to healthy human nature. The tides of the spirit are known to us all the great reactions, the swinging tides of feeling, interest, and energy. These are from above, coming down upon us, unlike the pedestrian guides of common sense and principle which direct us evenly on our way. This does not apply merely to the ebb and flow of sweet or tender feeling, though it includes that also. Rather one thinks of the occasional heightening of life all round, the intensification of its powers in moments when it 'means intensely, and means good'.

We have here a principle which gives its true meaning to the observance of Sunday. Unfortunately the whole question has come to be associated either with laws and forcible restraints, or with the men idea of rest, and the cessation of the daily routine. Both of these are negative conceptions of the day, relating to what we must not do on it. Really such restrictions exist not for their own sake, but in order to make room for the positive Sunday life. That life consists of much that is keenest and most worthy in human nature the fellowship of friends, thoughts of the absent, memories of the dead, aspirations after better life, communion with God. For the sake of these things of the Spirit it is worth while to resist the encroachment of weekday interests. And the resistance must be firm, for much is ever waiting to be completed, and overlapping fragments of workaday life will make it impossible without watchfulness to be in the Spirit on the Lord's Day.

John Kelman, Ephemera Eternitatis, p. 1.

The Lord's Day

Revelation 1:10

If you have ever stood and watched the sea raging and foaming immediately after a great storm, lashing itself with fury, as it were; and then, after the storm has subsided and passed away, you have stood again, perhaps, and watched the sea as it lies out far away at low tide, in that lull and peace which so often succeeds upon a violent storm, you cannot but, I think, be conscious of a peculiar sense of peace; peace without which does not minister to that peace within. Or, if we transfer our metaphor from nature to humanity you may, perhaps, have traversed one of those busy streets of London on a Saturday night, when the barrows are there line upon line, and the salesmen are at their busiest trying to part with their wares; all noise and hubbub, strain, excitement, and activity. And then, on the next morning, Sunday, you see nothing left of all the activity of the previous evening but the wreckage, and the scavengers cleaning it up. What a sense of peace this produces upon the soul. The barrows gone, the men gone, the wares gone, the noise gone and in place of it a wonderful stillness and peace a peace which speaks to the soul of the things of God, which reminds us of His immediate presence, and which causes us to remember that it is the day of God God's own special day dedicated to Him. And as we watch the change I have tried to describe, we see, as it were, a resurrection going on a resurrection reminding us of the first resurrection which was really but a foretaste of the general resurrection to come.

I. Our Sunday is the Foretaste of our General Welfare. But the peace which I have described is not one, or should not be one of inaction. It should mean that whilst parting with much which we are accustomed to encounter in our day by day life, we thereby make room for an activity of another kind, a spiritual activity. And the state in which we find ourselves is not a solitary state. Peace, we know, comes to us as individuals and as a purely subjective message; but we must remember that that is not all. There is a community of hosts in all worship, a community of spirit. 'God is a Spirit; and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth.' That is the highest to which man can attain: to answer to the will of the Father, to be His, to worship Him, and to love Him. And whilst this is the case, or should be, in our everyday life, and whilst every day should be consecrated and dedicated to God, whether in our work, our recreation, our time of physical refreshment or what not; yet there is one day which comes to us with special force as being set apart, reserved, and kept holy for the very special service and worship of Almighty God.

II. There are many Difficult Questions Concerning this Point of Sunday Observance. There is a great deal that may be said, but let us try and pare it down as much as we can.

(a) Hard and fast rules are impossible. What is good or best for one may not be good or best for everybody else.

(b) What we do with our Sundays is more important than what we refrain from doing. If we think Sunday is to be a day, in the first place, when we can put away this and that, and refrain from doing this and the other simply because we rather like it, then we are mistaken; if we think this, we are reducing it to a far lower level than we should. We refrain from doing things merely in order that we may do other things. Life is so full we cannot be doing nothing; we must be thinking of something even if we are not engaged in any special form of activity; and, this being so, if we refrain from doing this or that it should be in order that we may find room and space and time for doing better and higher things.

III. Two General Principles Stand Out yet more Prominently. Each individual may shape his own life; but all will agree, I think, on one point

(a) That man does need at least one day's rest in seven.

(b) Sunday should be a day properly proportioned. If we once give way to enjoyment, pure and simple, in the afternoon, there is danger that we may encroach upon the morning, that time which should be specially set apart for the worship of Almighty God. It is in the morning that we have our great and central act of worship and thanksgiving. In the early days the Christian was known by his attendance at the Lord's own service.

The Lord's Day

Revelation 1:10

This expression, 'The Lord's Day,' bears distinctly the stamp of Christ. Its occurrence here reminds us of the great change that Christianity has accomplished. The day of the week devoted to rest has been changed, and is associated with Christ Himself. On that day He appeared in heavenly majesty to His exiled seer, and gave him the messages to the Churches. John says, 'I was in the Spirit,' literally, 'I became in the Spirit'. But surely we are not to understand that John's spiritual condition was miraculous. If it was exceptional it was only so in degree, and not in kind. The fact of being 'in the Spirit' will issue in the largest blessings.

I. This is an ideal to be aimed at, for the Lord's Day will not necessarily bring the Lord's Day Spirit. Thank God it brings much and it comes surely. It brings rest, and opportunity for rest. But to be 'in the Spirit on the Lord's Day' is another matter. 'The process of the suns' cannot give you that; social customs and religious institutions, much as they may help, cannot guarantee it. It depends not on the day, but on you. It cannot be put on like a Sunday garment, it springs from the heart. Therefore it must be cultivated; it must be trained and nourished, like all the spiritual possibilities of man.

II. Being 'in the Spirit on the Lord's Day' is an experience to be enjoyed. Think of some of its advantages. (1) Whatever blessing and inspiration there may be in the services of the sanctuary you will receive. (2) Then think how much more independent you will be in regard to the kind and quality of what we call the means of grace. Your favourite preacher may be absent from the pulpit, or you may have to worship in some plain, rural sanctuary, with nothing to charm the sense, but you may see wondrous visions of God, and your soul be thrilled with the touch of Christ. (3) Being 'in the Spirit on the Lord's Day' will make the Sabbath a delight to you.

III. If you are 'in the Spirit on the Lord's Day' you are sure to do good. You will help to make an atmosphere in the Church. One question only remains. How is this Sabbatic spirit to be attained? Of course, the answer is, we must live the spiritual life, we must enter into God's rest. Ours must be that Divine fellowship that sanctifies all days.

R. Baldwin Brindley, The Darkness Where God Is, p. 151.

References. I. 10. C. H. Grundy, Luncheon Lectures at St. Paul's Cathedral, p. 57. A. M. Fairbairn, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lii. p. 56. A. P. Stanley, Sermons on Special Occasions, p. 77. A. Rowland, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lx. p. 44. Expositor (5th Series), vol. v. p. 51; ibid. (6th Series), vol. iii. p. 275; ibid. (7th Series), vol. vi. p. 105.

The Golden Candlestick

Revelation 1:12-13

In this vision two things are very prominent the golden candlesticks and the Son of Man walking in the midst. There can be no question as to the meaning of the symbolism of the golden candlesticks. Our Lord settles that in the 20th verse: 'The seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven Churches'. There is an allusion undoubtedly to the candlestick in the Holy Plate in the tabernacle of Moses, which was made at God's command after a Divine pattern. We now propose to trace the analogy between the golden candlestick, the lamp-stand of the Mosaic tabernacle, and the Church of the living God. Let us consider:

I. The position occupied by the golden candlestick. It was not in the Holiest Place, but in the first tabernacle, called the Sanctuary, or the Holy Place. (1) One characteristic of the place was darkness. This fitly represents the condition of the world where God has placed His Church. But darkness is a figure of speech signifying ignorance. (a) The world is ignorant of God. (6) Man is ignorant of himself. (c) Man is ignorant of the way of recovery. (2) The Sanctuary of old, although dark, was nevertheless holy. Dark as may be the world, it is the sacred property of Him who redeemed it with His precious blood.

II. The purpose for which Christ placed His Church in this dark world. The Church is here compared not to anything merely ornamental, but to the homely candlestick or lamp-stand. The Church is not simply a thing of beauty, a mere ornament set up for admiration, but something to render service, a power to lift the world out of darkness into the marvellous light of God.

III. The candlestick had its pipes to convey the oil to the extremities of the branches. The pipes symbolise the means of grace, the ordinances of the Church; these are the appointed channels through which God communicates blessings to humble waiting souls.

IV. Through the golden pipes flowed the Holy Oil, yielding at the top of each branch a pure flame. There can be no doubt whatsoever that the oil symbolises the Holy Spirit.

V. Who supplies the Holy Oil for the golden candlestick? 'The Son of Man' as the High Priest is the minister of the sanctuary, and evermore supplies the Church with the Holy Spirit.

VI. But with all these one thing more is wanting, without which the holy lamp yields no light; we must have Fire to retouch and rekindle the seven lamps. As the lamps were rekindled by contact with altar fire, so the Holy Spirit works through the means of the truth of the Gospel.

VII. There is, however, one point in which the analogy fails. In the tabernacle of Moses there was only one golden candlestick, whereas John in his vision saw seven. This is not without its significance. Under Moses religion was Jewish, limited, local; Christianity, on the other hand, has the stamp of universality.

Richard Roberts, My Closing Ministry, p. 34.

References. I. 12. A. H. Bradford, Christian World Pulpit, vol. 1. p. 120. H. S. Holland, ibid. vol. li. p. 345. Expositor (6th Series), vol. x. p. 154. I. 12-14. J. Bannerman, Sermons, p. 365. I. 12-17. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. vii. No. 357.

The Note of the Heroic

Revelation 1:14

It is notable that in this vision of the ascended Saviour the eyes should have been, as it were, a flame of fire. That is hardly the characteristic we should have expected after hearing of hair that was as white as snow. The snow-white hair suggests to us venerable age; it hints at the passing of unnumbered years, with the inevitable quenching of the fire of youth; but when we should look for eyes that were very gentle, or that were filled with the wise tenderness of age, we find that His eyes were as a flame of fire. Now that contrast at once suggests to me this thought In Christ there is not only a beauty as of silvered age; there is also a fire and a heroism as of youth.

I. Now we cannot turn to the earthly life of Jesus without being struck with one marvellous union there. I refer to the union of what was beautiful and gracious, with all that was in the truest sense heroic. He was gentle, charitable, courteous, kind, a perfect pattern of moral beauty. But the wonder of that beauty is magnified a hundredfold when we remember the heroism with which it went hand in hand. If to be true to one's mission and to stand alone; if to be faithful, and joyful, and quiet, and undaunted; if to challenge all the powers of hell to combat; if to march forward without a falter to a cross if that be heroism in its noblest meaning, then Jesus of Nazareth must have been heroic.

II. In some degree, then, as we grow like to Christ, that union of qualities will be found in us. It is one distinctive mark of that new character that has been built up through the powers of the Gospel, that there is ample room in it for all that is gracious, and at the same time for all that is heroic. We should be poor disciples of a compassionate Lord unless we have eyes that can soften into pity. But we shall be poor soldiers in the warfare mystical unless these eyes are as a flame of fire.

III. It is notable, too, that as the spiritual life of Christendom has deepened, as it has grown richer with the passing of the ages, it has brought with it a deeper and truer conception of what spiritual heroism really is. I close with two remarks. The first is that there is always danger for a Church when the note of the heroic passes from its life. And the second is, I appeal to the young men on the ground of the heroism of Christ Jesus. Mr. Fitzgerald, the translator of Omar Khayyam, in an exquisite little piece he calls 'Euphranor,' has some suggestive words on chivalry. He says that the charm of chivalry was just its note of heroism; and if it appealed as it certainly did appeal to the bravest and noblest and most gallant man, it was just because it put the accent there. May I not do the same with Jesus Christ? I think it is a true appeal to opening manhood.

G. H. Morrison, Sunrise: Addresses from a City Pulpit, p. 300.

References. I. 16. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxiii. No. 1976, and vol. xliii. No. 2498. Expositor (6th Series), vol. ix. p. 316.

At His Feet As Dead

Revelation 1:17

'Now that He ascended,' said the Apostle, 'what is it but that He first descended to the lowest parts of the earth?' There was first the humiliation, then the exaltation; first the descent, then the ascent. Yet it is equally true that while He was descending, He was all the time ascending, and that at the very lowest point of His descent He was already upon His throne. There are strange glimpses of His own consciousness at the supreme moment of crisis. Now, He said, is the Son of Man glorified. This when He was almost forsaken and on the very verge of His last Passion. He taught it to His disciples; He showed them how, and how only, their ambition to be greatest could be reached. The greatest had to be the servant of all, and while serving all was in possession of his greatness. Christ went lower, and yet lower, in quest of His crown, and it waited Him in the lowest parts of the earth. And when it seemed that there was for Him no more of earthly honour and earthly love, He suddenly found all things transfigured in the light of the eternal world. When He yielded His life in the infinite willinghood with which He went to His sacrifice, He knew that from His cross He would draw all men unto Him. As He sank lower and lower still, all things ministered strangely to His ascension. While He lay in the new tomb, with closed eyes, amidst the sweet fragrance of the myrrh and aloes which He left behind Him, He was the very heart of the world. When He rose radiant in the dark and returned to the old surroundings for forty days days full, to the brim, of peace He was conscious all the time that His kingship had been attained. There was indeed the visible enthronement. He led His disciples as far as Bethany. He lifted up His hands and blessed them, and they watched Him for a little as He bore His way upward. Then the cloud stretched itself beneath Him a pure floor on which His feet might rest. And at last He took His seat above all principalities and powers on the right hand of God the Father Almighty. What was visible was only the outward manifestation of what had already come to Him as His reward, of what had been coming nearer and nearer as He descended deeper and deeper into the ocean of suffering. And so it is with all the great spiritual careers. Take Wesley, take St. Francis, and mark how they were ascending while they were descending, and how, the farther they went in their abandonment of the world, they came closer and closer to the Divine Lord and Lordship.

What is true externally is eminently true of the internal life. To the world this inner experience may seem only a silver thread, scarce discoverable but by the eye of God. To those who know it the outer life is little by comparison even when the stream both of the outer and the inner seems full and broad. They scarce gaze upon the passing scene, scarce hear the din of the endless battle. The inner life transfigures the outer life, and gives its own hue to all the external universe. Those who are ignorant of this have never advanced one step in the life of the soul. For them no deep fountain of intellect and feeling has been unsealed. But ere the secret is fully known sharp arrows must pierce the soul, hard teachings must make it wise, life's best blood must seal the sacrifice. The believer must learn to live earnestly and without despair through all, seeking no home till 'home is everywhere'. Let us trace the process of the soul's schooling for the Divine degree.

I. The beginning is to sit at the feet of Jesus and learn of Him, and many go no farther. Yet even that is a great step in the life of the soul. It has hitherto groped in darkness, and has been exiled from the truth. Now it seizes it with the most earnest grasp, and lives in it with the deepest joy. It suddenly awakens to the true aims of existence.

II. The soul makes great advance when it lies at the feet of Christ, worn, sick, wounded, and proves His healing power. When the carelessness of youth passes, when the great trials of life come, we fall at His feet in our trouble and He gives us rest. Working, fainting, striving, finding that there is always something to be done, although no heart is left for us to do it, we come to Him for strength. From the first hopeless sorrow, after the long month where each day wears the night's dull face, when we have 'to clasp to the heart resigned the fatal must,' we seek Christ in our despair and He helps us to hope once more.

III. The life not wholly surrendered may be lived grandly, but it is with a higher beauty that it perishes before God. When we are crushed, emptied, dead at His feet, it is then we begin to live. Then our weakness becomes our strength and our death our life. For it is in that hour that He enters in to live our life for us, He lays His right hand upon us saying, 'Fear not,' and there passes into us all His fulness, so that we are able to say with His servant of old, 'I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me'. Christ is within us not merely as a second conscience, but as another and as the subduing life. Then we know what the Word means when it says that He is made of God unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption. The password is found that admits to full and free initiation.

W. Robertson Nicoll, Sunday Evening, p. 331.

Fear Not

Revelation 1:17

My purpose is to ask your attention to the seven 'Fear nots' of the New Testament.

(1) We take our first 'Fear not!' from St. Luke 8:15 : 'But when Jesus heard it, He answered him, saying, Fear not! believe only, and she shall be made whole'. This is a 'Fear not!' teaching us that we are never to give up hope. If there were ever a seemingly hopeless case, it was this of Jairus's daughter; but when Christ is concerned, or concerns Himself about us, we need never despair. 'Fear not!'

(2) Then the second 'Fear not!' is in St. Matthew 10:28 : 'Fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul'. This is the 'Fear not!' which defies persecution. There is not much opening for violent persecution in this our day, but the enemies of Christ know well enough how to inflict pain upon Christians, upon those who refuse to stay with them. But how little our enemies can do to us. They cannot touch you. Suppose they even mangled and murdered your body, that is not touching you, and after they have done that, there is no more they can do. Therefore, I say, 'Fear not! be bold for Christ, stand up for Jesus in all times, in all situations, and in every place. Fear not! confess Christ and He will bless thee.'

(3) The third 'Fear not!' you will find in St Luke 12:32 : 'Fear not! little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom'. Here we have the 'Fear not!' that drives away anxiety with regard to our earthly supplies. No man, by worrying, can add a cubit to his stature. No man, by worrying or by growing anxious, can help lift a single burden of this life. Let us, therefore, henceforth learn to trust God, not only for the supply of our spiritual needs, but also for the supply of our temporal need.

(4) The next 'Fear not!' is in the Acts of the Apostles (XXVII. 24): 'Fear not, Paul,... lo! God hath given thee all them that sail with thee'. Now this 'Fear not!' is a most important one. It is a 'Fear not!' even when almost certain failure seems to be staring us in the face. God is always better than our fears. Our worst troubles are those troubles that never come at all, those things which we are always afraid are coming, and which do not come. Let us therefore look up and 'Fear not!'

(5) Then we will pass back again to St. Luke 5:10 : 'And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not! from henceforth thou shalt catch men'. Now this is a 'Fear not!' for all weary Christian workers. The disciples said in a desponding tone, 'We have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing' words that are often on the lips of weary Christian workers. The Master said to His disciples, 'Work away!' they did so, and were rewarded with a tremendous haul; and so the Master will come to every weary, discouraged Christian worker, and say, 'My brother, My sister, fear not, work away. Fear not, faint not, henceforth thou shalt catch men.'

(6) The sixth 'Fear not!' is also in St Luke's Gospel (II. 10): 'And the angel said unto them, Fear not! for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people'. This is a 'Fear not!' for each penitent sinner. In a few days we shall look once again upon the Star of Bethlehem, and as we see that Babe there, we realise that God is not against us. We realise that God is for us: nay, more, God is with us our 'Emmanuel'.

(7) And then we come to the 'Fear not!' of our text (Revelation 1:17 ). In this text our Master gives us three reasons, three solid facts why we should at once cease to fear. The first reason why Christ may well bid us 'Fear not!' is on account of His eternal existence: 'I am the first and the last'. He is the living Saviour. The second reason is on account of His victory. He says, 'Behold! I am alive for evermore'. Note that word 'Behold!' It means that, in spite of all that death and hell and the devil can do, Christ, nevertheless, is alive for evermore. They tried to destroy our Master, but He conquered them all, and so His message is to each one of us, 'Fear not!' The third reason is this: He has the right to do so, because He has the power and authority, all power and authority over the unseen universe. He says, 'I have the keys of hell and of death'. Keys there mean authority, power, possession. Christ declares that He has the power, therefore death and the grave can only open as He pleases. One day Christ will shut the door of death, because He came to destroy the work of the devil. One day He will shut the door, and when Christ hath shut it, no man openeth it.


Revelation 1:17

John was a prisoner in the isle of Patmos when he had this revelation of Jesus Christ There are some things we cannot learn in Babylon that become plain to us in sea-girt Patmos. There are some sights we are blind to in the markets; our eyes are only opened in the mines. 'It is adversity,' says Bacon in his priceless essays, 'which carrieth the greater benediction, and the clearer revelation of God's favour.' I want to take this falling-down of John as a true instance of a truly reverent spirit. John saw, John worshipped, John adored.

I. I do not think that the most cheerful optimist would dare to assert this was a reverent age. We are all busy; few of us are reverent. Yet without reverence life is a shallow thing, and true nobility of character is impossible; and without reverence we shall be strangers to the end to all that is best and worthiest in religion. Can we explain the comparative absence of this grace? I think we can. It springs from certain features of our modern life. (1) And the first of these is the wear and hurry of it. It is not easy for an overdriven man to keep a reverent heart. (2) The lack of reverence, too, I cannot doubt, is partly due to the spirit of inquiry of today. We are never afraid to criticise, but we have almost forgotten to adore. (3) But this present lack of reverence has another source; it is the dying-out from heart and conscience of the fear of God. 'Ah, Rogers,' said Dr. Dale of Birmingham to his old friend 'ah, Rogers, no one fears God now'.

II. Now what is reverence? It is the practical recognition of true greatness. It is my attitude of heart and mind when I am confronted by the truly worthy and the truly great. Where does individual irreverence begin? I think that generally it begins at home. When I have ceased to reverence myself it is the hardest thing in the whole world to reverence my brother man, to reverence God. Now there are two things in the life of Jesus that arrest me.

(1) And the first of these is His reverence for God.

(2) But still more arresting than the reverence of Jesus for His God is the reverence that Jesus had for men.

III. So as I think on reverence, and link it with the supreme reverence of Jesus, I learn three lessons that may guide us to a more reverent life. (1) If we are ever to grow reverent again, we must know more. Jesus was reverent because His knowledge was perfect; we are irreverent because our knowledge is shallow.' (2) We must trust more. I cannot reverence a man whom I distrust. I cannot reverence a God. It wants deep faith to make me reverent.

(3) We must love more. Love reveals, love sees, love breaks the bars, love reads the secrets both of man and God. And when I have seen my brother's secret story, and when I have seen into the deep things of God, I never can be irreverent again.

G. H. Morrison, Flood-tide, p. 103.

Revelation 1:17

Mr. Bagehot, after describing the religious opinions of the First Edinburgh Reviewers, sums up his essay in these words: 'A certain class of Liberal divines have endeavoured to petrify into a theory a pure and placid disposition.... With misdirected energy, these divines have laboured after a plain religion; they have forgotten that religion has its essence in awe, its charm in infinity, its sanction in dread; that its dominion is an inexplicable dominion; that mystery is its power. There is a reluctance in all such writers; they creep away from the unintelligible parts of the subject; they always seem to have something behind; not to like to bring out what they know to be at hand. They are in their nature apologists; and as George III. said, "I did not know the Bible needed an apology". As well might the thunder be ashamed to roll, as religion hesitate to be too awful for mankind. The invective of Lucretius is truer than the placid patronage of the divine.'

References. I. 17. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvi. No. 1633. Expositor (5th Series), vol. i. p. 193.

The Ground of Fearlessness

Revelation 1:17-18

The 'Fear nots' of Scripture are part of the inheritance of the Christian. For the Word of God stands, and a promise once made is made for ever. It is to be observed that when He says to John 'Fear not,' He directs the feeling and thought not to anything in John himself, or to anything in his circumstances: on the contrary, He directs the mind of John to Himself. The ground of confidence is altogether in the Lord Himself. This is one of the commonplaces of Christian experience. The meaning of the text grows on us as we dwell on it. As we hear the striking words, and let their meaning and their particulars sink into our minds, a wonderful vista of great meanings opens to our view. 'Fear not, for I am the Living One; fear not, for I became dead: fear not, for I have the keys of death and of Hades. As we think the matter out into detail, we find ourselves thinking of life, of death, and of what comes after death.

I. 'Fear not to live; I am the Living One.' It might be possible for us to say thoughtlessly, Is it necessary to dwell on this, for who fears to live? It is not life which any one fears; it is the difficulties, perplexities, the hindrances of life which one fears and dreads. To every thoughtful man life has its responsibilities, its cares, and its possibilities. As we reflect on this, as we think out the situations and possibilities that open out to us as life proceeds and new horizons are disclosed, we feel the gracious power of this word. 'Fear not to live; for I am the Living One.' It is as if the Lord said, 'Fear not to live; I share your life. Through me you will be able to grasp the opportunities of life, you will rise to the height of your calling, and when duty calls you will be able to answer all its demands. You will be able to say, 'I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me'.

II. 'Fear not to die; for I was dead.' He knew all the secrets of death: every step in the valley of the shadow of death had been trodden by Him. In virtue of that experience and of that victory over death, the risen Lord can say to His people, 'Fear not to die; for I was dead'.

III. 'Fear not what comes after death; for I have the keys of death and Hades.' We may take home the consolation of the Master's words, and gather together the wealth of our inheritance. We may live, we may die, we may appear before the judgment-seat with confidence; for Christ liveth who was dead, and is alive for evermore. Apart from Christ there is no power and no right in any one to expect deliverance from the fear of life, the fear of death, or the fear of what comes after death.

J. Iverach, The Other Side of Greatness, p. 136.

References. I. 17, 18. Bishop Boyd-Carpenter, Christian World Pulpit, vol. 1. p. 81. C. A. Berry, Vision and Duty, p. 191. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xviii. No. 1028.

The Living Lord

Revelation 1:18 ; Matthew 28:6

Each of these two texts tells us of the truth of the Resurrection in the testimony of Jesus Christ Himself. I want you to ask yourselves, on what grounds do you believe in the Resurrection of Jesus Christ? There is a great deal of collateral evidence. For instance, there is the evidence of His enemies. There is the testimony of his friends. There is the testimony of what St Paul witnesses: 'He was seen of above five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep... and last of all He was seen of me also.'

I. Sure Testimony. But that is not the testimony I want to impress upon you this morning. The best testimony that Christ is risen from the dead is that of Jesus Christ Himself. St John had it from His own lips in that wonderful vision, and the angel beside the empty grave announced it to the frightened women, 'He is risen, as He said'. You will remember that He told His Disciples, quietly taking them apart to tell them a truth, that He should be delivered to the Gentiles, scourged, spitted upon, put to death, and the third day He should rise again. So the testimony He gave His Disciples is the testimony I want you to receive as His disciples this Easter morning, 'He is risen, as He said'. Christ has spoken and the matter is settled. We accept it by faith faith in the Word of God Himself, 'He is risen, as He said,' and that is enough.

I know that poets have sung of the Elysian fields beyond the grave. I know that philosophers have speculated on the immortality of the soul, and I know that what the poets have sung, and what the philosophers have speculated upon is worthy of consideration, and may amount to a probability. But do not rest the doctrine of Christ's Resurrection on a probability. We must be absolutely certain. We must know in Whom we have believed, and be persuaded that He is able to keep those committed to Him unto the last day. There must be no 'perhaps' no 'inference,' no 'it may be'. It must not be a matter of opinion but a matter of certainty the certainty of faith in the Word of God; 'He is risen, as He said'. To doubt the Resurrection of Christ is to make Christ a liar.

II. Dead, Buried, Risen. The force of the Resurrection all depends, of course, upon the great fact of Calvary. He was born in order that He might be able to die, and He died; and because He died, He rose again, the circumstances of His death being detailed to us that we might be quite certain. And whenever we say the Creed we enter into the detail; we say, 'Was crucified, dead '. Are you quite certain He was dead? Yes, 'buried' that makes quite sure that He was dead. Yes, He was dead, and the third day He rose again, 'as He said'. I could take you to the cemetery, and say to you, Look at these graves; beneath these graves is the dust of those we love. You know that? Yes. You are certain that they are there? Yes, they are buried there; their dust, just their dust is there, and one day they shall all rise again, and we shall be united again in Christ. Those who sleep in Christ shall rise again from the dead, and Christ will bring them with Him. That is our religion.

III. A Gospel worth Receiving. This is a Gospel worth preaching, is it not? And this is a Gospel worth receiving, is it not? We do not preach it on the faith of the word of man, but it is on the faith of the Word of God. 'He is risen, as He said,' and opened the Kingdom of Heaven to all believers. Believest thou this? And this morning you will ratify here in church your faith in the Resurrection of Christ, and of all who sleep in Him. And wherefore these words to you? Because to men and women, wounded but not weak, the Cross is something more than a refuge; it has changed bereavement into joy.

The Resurrection Change (for Easter Day)

Revelation 1:18

The glories of Easter! The Queen of Festivals! Our worship is full of the blessed truth that 'Jesus Christ is risen today'. What shall be our theme as we stand beside the empty tomb? There are many aspects of the Resurrection which might well engage our attention. We will think of the great changes effected by it.

I. A Change in Our Blessed Lord Himself.

(a) The resurrection of the body means the rising again in some way of that which died and was buried. We carry our dead to the sepulchre, and a lonely and a desolate thing does it appear to leave them in the dull hole which we have dug in the earth, while we go back to the light, and the warmth, and the cheery voices of life. Yet is this but a heathen view. The dust, which was human, hath in it something which involves the development out of itself of a further life.

(b) But, while the teaching of the New Testament establishes a real organic connection between that which died and that which rises again, it intimates also a mighty change. Does not the text (also 1 Corinthians 15:37-44 ) indicate this?

(c) Hence, we may learn to take another and a more blessed aspect of death itself. True, death entered into the world by sin; humanity, that is, was subjected to it as the penalty of transgression. But it has become in Christ the instrument also by which these bodies are changed so as to bear the splendour of the everlasting morning.

II. A Change in our Lord's Relations with His Followers.

(a) If He forbids Mary's touch because He has not yet ascended, He thereby manifestly implies that when He had, ascended, then should she touch Him without rebuke. His ascension would not separate Him from but bring Him nearer to His faithful ones.

(b) Thus Christ draws on the believer from a lower to a higher love; from a carnal to a spiritual touch; from a clinging to Him with the limbs of the body, to an embracing Him with the arms of the soul.

(c) Do you ask, 'How can I touch my ascended Lord? ' The reply is ready.

1. He touches Christ, who, when crushed with the felt burden of sin, conscious of a force of evil continually mastering him, after vain attempts to get rid of his slavery by mere strength of will, or the maxims of worldly prudence, casts himself into the whole system of Christ's religion, clasping unto him alike Christ's commandments and Christ's promises, and looking and calling on Him for health and salvation.

2. Yea, there is a more palpable touching of the Divine Lord still. What is the Blessed Sacrament but the ordinance in which He offers Himself at a given moment, by a definite act, to the spiritual touch, to draw healing virtue out of Him?

References. I. 18. A. G. Mortimer, The Church's Lessons for the Christian Year, pt. ii. p. 343. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xv. No. 894; vol. xlvi. No. 2689. J. Stalker, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlvii. p. 280. W. H. Hutchings, Sermon Sketches, p. 111. A. Ainger, Sermons Preached in the Temple Church, p. 310. W. P. Balfern, Glimpses of Jesus, p. 272. F. J. A. Hort, Village Sermons (2nd Series), p. 139. J. Farquhar, The Schools and Schoolmasters of Christ, p. 12. Expositor (4th Series), vol. iii. p. 246; ibid. (7th Series), vol. vi. p. 427.

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Revelation 1". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/edt/revelation-1.html. 1910.
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