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Bible Commentaries
Revelation 1

The Expositor's Greek TestamentExpositor's Greek Testament

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Verse 1

Revelation 1:1 . δούλοις , in specific sense of Revelation 10:7 , Revelation 11:18 , after Daniel 9:6 ; Daniel 9:10 ; Zechariah 1:6 , and Amos 3:7 ( ἀποκαλύψῃ παιδείαν πρὸς τοὺς δούλους αὐτοῦ τοὺς προφήτας ). Jesus Christ is used only in Revelation 1:1-5 (Revelation 22:21 ?), Lord Jesus only in Revelation 22:20 , Lord ( i.e. , Jesus) only in Revelation 11:8 and Revelation 14:13 ; elsewhere either ὁ Χριστός (Revelation 20:4 ; Revelation 20:6 ) αὐτοῦ (Revelation 11:15 , Revelation 12:10 ) or (as in Hebrews) the simple Jesus . ἃ δεῖ κ . τ . λ . (from Daniel 3:28-29 ), either object of δεῖξαι (Vit. ii. 229) or more probably in opposition to ἥν . ἐν τάχει = “soon” (as in Clem. Rom. 23:5 and the instructive logion of Luke 18:8 ). This is the hinge and staple of the book. When the advent of Jesus is hailed as a relief, it is no consolation to say that the relief will come suddenly; sudden or not, it must come soon (Revelation 10:7 ), if it is to be of any service. The keynote of the Apocalypse is the cheering assurance that upon God’s part there is no reluctance or delay; His people have not long to wait now. καὶ ἐσήμανεν (so of what is future and momentous, Ezekiel 33:3 , Acts 11:26 , etc.: Heracleitus on the Delphic oracle, οὔτε λέγει οὔτε κρύπτει ἀλλὰ σημαίνει ) ἀποστείλας (from seventh heaven, in Asc. Isa. vi. 13), a loose Heb. idiom for “he ( i.e. , Jesus here and in xxii. 16, God in xxii. 6) sent and signified it”. διὰ (as in Asc. Isa. xi. 30, etc.) τοῦ ἀγγέλου αὐτοῦ ( cf. Test. Jos. vi. 6). Jesus is the medium of all revelation, but ἀποκάλυψις is further conceived of as transmitted through the angelus interpres , a familiar and important figure in rabbinic ( cf. E. J. i. 592, 593) and apocalyptic tradition (see reff, and on Acts 7:30 ), who stands here between Jesus and the prophet as a sort of double of the former. Like Hermas ( Mand. xi. 9), the post-exilic tradition required the executive function of this angel, in order to ( a ) satisfy the yearning for some means of divine communication, and ( b ) at the same time to maintain reverence for the divine glory (Baldensperger, 48 f.). But John’s Christian consciousness here and elsewhere is too large for the traditional and artificial forms of its expression. Unless this angel is identified with that of Revelation 10:1 f., he plays only a scanty and tardy role (Revelation 17:1 f., Revelation 21:5 f.) in the series of visions; the prophet’s sense of direct experience ( e.g. , in Revelation 1:9 f.) bursts through the cumbrous category of an intermediate agent between himself and Christ. It is by a conventional form of religious symbolism prevalent in this genre of literature, that Jesus, like Yahweh in Ezekiel ( cf. Ezekiel 10:1 ; Ezekiel 10:3 , Ezekiel 44:2 ), is represented both as addressing the prophet directly and as instructing him indirectly. The latter mode of expression ( cf. Milton’s Uriel and 4 Ezra 4:1 ) was due to a hypostatising tendency which was not confined to Judaism. As Plutarch points out ( cf. below on Revelation 8:5 and Revelation 15:8 ), the daemons in Hellenic religion are a middle term between the divine and the human; they prevent the former from being disturbed or contaminated by direct intercourse with men, and they also act as interpreters who communicate the divine will to men ( cf. De Iside 25; Oakesmith’s Religion of Plutarch , pp. 121 f., 163 f.). Wherever the reaction against materialism prevailed, especially in the popular religion of the empire, the belief in daemons or spirits as intermediate agents gave expression to the conviction that human weakness could not come into direct touch with the divine glory ( cf. Friedländer, iii. 430 f.; Hatch’s Hibbert Lectures , 245 f.).

Verses 1-3

Revelation 1:1-3 . The superscription. Ἀπ . Ἰωάννου is the ecclesiastical title (distinguishing it from the apocalypse of Peter, or of Paul, etc.) of what professes in reality to be an ἀπ . Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ (subjective genitive), i.e. , a disclosure of the divine μυστήρια (Daniel 2:19 ; Daniel 2:22 ; Daniel 2:28 , Theod.) in the immediate future ( ἃ δεῖ γ . ἐν τάχει ) which has been communicated ( ἔδωκεν , cf. on Revelation 3:9 ) by God to Jesus ( cf. Revelation 5:7 ) and which in turn is transmitted by Jesus (Galatians 1:12 ) to John as a member of the prophetic order.

Verse 2

Revelation 1:2 . ἐμαρτ . (epistol. aor., cf. Philemon 1:19 , cf. further Thuc. i. 1 ξυνέγραψε ). λόγ . τ . θ ., like דבר יהוה (LXX λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ , e.g. , Jeremiah 1:2 ), a collective term for God’s disclosures to men ( τοὺς λόγους , 3), or as here for some specific revelation more exactly defined in ὅσα εἶδεν , all that was seen or even heard (Amos 1:1 ) in visions being described by this generic term. The double expression the word of God and the testimony borne by Jesus Christ (Revelation 22:16 ; Revelation 22:20 ; cf. Revelation 19:10 ) is an amplified phrase for the gospel. The subject upon which Jesus assures men of truth is the revelation of God’s mind and heart, and the gospel is that utterance of God that expression of His purpose which Jesus unfolds and attests. The book itself is the record of John’s evidence; he testifies to Christ, and Christ testifies of the future as a divine plan. For the revelation of God, in the specific form of prophecy, requires a further medium between Jesus and the ordinary Christian; hence the role of the prophets. On the prophetic commission to write, cf. Asc. Isa. i. 4 5 and i. 2, παρέδωκεν αὐτῷ τοὺς λόγους τῆς προφητείας οὓς αὐτὸς εἶδεν , κ . τ . λ . The primitive sense of μαρτ . (= oral confession and proclamation of Jesus by his adherents) thus expands into a literary sense (as here) and into the more sombre meaning of martyrdom (Revelation 2:13 , John 18:37-39 ; John 19:19 ; cf. Lightfoot on Clem. Rom. v.). It is significant that the λόγος τ . θ . of Judaism was not adequate to the Christian consciousness without the μαρτυρία Ἰησοῦ .

Verse 3

Revelation 1:3 . The first of the seven beatitudes in the Apocalypse (Revelation 14:13 , Revelation 16:15 , Revelation 19:9 , Revelation 20:6 , Revelation 22:7 ; Revelation 22:14 ), endorsing the book as a whole. In the worship of the Christian communities one member read aloud, originally from the O.T. as in the synagogues, and afterwards from Christian literature as well (apostolic epistles, Colossians 4:16 , and sub-apostolic epistles), while the rest of the audience listened (Eus. H. E. iv. 23). In its present form the Apocalypse was composed with this object in view. Cf. Justin’s description of the Christinn assemblies on Sunday, when, as the first business, τὰ ἀπομνημονεύματα τῶν ἀποστόλων ἢ τὰ συγγράμματα τῶν προφητῶν ἀναγινώσκεται (Apol. i. 67). The art of reading was not a general accomplishment in the circles from which the Christian societies were for the most part recruited, and this office of reader ( ἀναγνώστης ), as distinct from that of the president, soon became one of the regular minor positions in the worship of the church. Here the reader’s function resembles that of Baruch ( cf. Jeremiah 22:5-6 ). τηροῦντες τὰ , κ . τ . λ ., carefully heeding the warnings of the book, observing its injunctions, and expecting the fulfilment of its predictions, instead of losing heart and faith (Luke 18:8 ). Cf. Hipp. De Antich. 2 and En. civ. 12, “books will be given to the righteous and the wise to become a cause of joy and uprightness and much wisdom”. The content of the Apocalypse is not merely prediction; moral counsel and religious instruction are the primary burden of its pages. The bliss of the obedient and attentive, however, is bound up with the certainty that the crisis at which the predictions of the book are to be realised is imminent; they have not to wait long for the fulfilment of their hopes. This, with the assurance of God’s interest and intervention, represented the ethical content of early Christian prediction, which would have been otherwise a mere satisfaction of curiosity; see on Revelation 1:19 .

[ Note on Revelation 1:1-3 . If this inscription (absent from no MS.) is due to the author, it must have been added (so Bruston, Jülicher, Hirscht, Holtzm., Bs.), like the προοίμιον of Thucydides, after he had finished the book as a whole. But possibly it was inserted by the later hand of an editor or redactor (Völter, Erbes, Briggs, Hilg., Forbes, Wellhausen, J. Weiss, Simcox = elders of Ephesus, John 21:24 ) rather than of a copyist (Spitta, Sabatier, Schön), who reproduced the Johannine style of the Apocalypse proper. At the same time, the change from the third to the first person (Revelation 1:9 ) is not unexampled ( cf. Jeremiah 1:1-4 f.; Ezekiel 1:1-4 ; Enoch repeatedly), and forms no sure proof of an original text overlaid with editorial touches; nor is a certain sententious objectivity ( cf. Herod, Revelation 1:1 , Revelation 2:23 , etc.) unnatural at the commencement of a book, when the writer has occasion to introduce himself. The real introduction begins at Revelation 1:4 ( cf. Revelation 22:21 ).]

Verse 4

Revelation 1:4 . ταῖς ἑπτὰ ἐκκλ ., seven being the sacred and complete number in apocalyptic symbolism ( E. Bi. 343 6 ). The ταῖς must refer proleptically to to Revelation 1:11 ; for other churches existed and flourished in proconsular Asia at this time, e.g. , at Troas, Magnesia, Hierapolis and Colossae, with which the prophet must have been familiar. These seven are selected by him for some special reason which it is no longer possible to disinter (see above, Introd., § 2). ἀπὸ ὁ ὢν , κ . τ . λ ., a quaint and deliberate violation of grammar (Win. § 10, IC.; Moult, Revelation 1:9 ) in order to preserve the immutability and absoluteness of the divine name from declension, though it falls under the rule that in N.T. and LXX parenthetic and accessory clauses tend to assume an independent construction. The divine title is a paraphrase probably suggested by rabbinic language ( e.g. , Targum Jonath. apud Deuteronomy 32:39 , ego ille, qui est et qui fuit et qui erit); the idea would be quite familiar to Hellenic readers from similar expressions, e.g. , in the song of doves at Dodona ( Ζεὺς ἦν , Ζεὺς ἔστιν , Ζεὺς ἔσσεται ) or in the titles of Asclepius and Athene. Simon Magus is said to have designated himself also as ὁ ἐστὼς , ὁ στὰς , ὁ στησόμενος , and the shrine of Minerva (= Isis) at Sais bore the inscription, I am all that hath been and is and shall be: my veil no mortal yet hath raised (Plut. de Iside , 9), the latter part eclipsed by the comforting Christian assurance here. ἦν , another deliberate anomaly (finite verb for participle) due to dogmatic reasons; no past participle of εἰμί existed, and γενόμενος was obviously misleading. ὁ ἐρχ ., instead of ὁ ἐσόμενος , to correspond with the keynote of the book, struck loudly in Revelation 1:7 . In and with his messiah, Jesus, God himself comes; ἐρχ . (the present) acquires, partly through the meaning of the verb, a future significance. For the emphasis and priority of ὤν in this description of God, see the famous passage in Aug. Confess , ix. 10. τ . ἑπτὰ πνευμάτων : a puzzling conception whose roots have been traced in various directions to ( a ) an erroneous but not unnatural interpretation of Isaiah 11:2-3 , found in the Targ. Jonath. (as in En. lxi. 11, sevenfold spirit of virtues) and shared by Justin ( Dial . 87, cf. Cohort, ad Grace , c. 32, ὥσπερ οἱ ἱεροὶ προφῆται τὸ ἓν καὶ τὸ αὐτὸ πνεῦμα εἰς ἑπτὰ πνεύματα μερίζεσθαί φασιν ), or more probably to the later Jewish notion ( b ) of the seven holy angels (Tobit xii. 15; cf. Gfrörer, i. 360 f.) which reappears in early Christianity ( cf. Clem. Al. Strom , vi. 685, ἑπτὰ μέν εἰσιν οἱ τοῦ μεγίστου δύναμιν ἔχοντες πρωτόγονοι ἀγγέλων ἄρχοντες ). modified from ( c ) a still earlier Babylonian conception, behind ( b ), of the seven spirits of the sky the sun, the moon, and the five planets. The latter is not unknown to Jewish literature before 100 A.D. ( cf. Jub. ii. 2; Berachoth, 32, b ), corresponding to the Persian Amshaspands (Yasht, xix. 19, 20, S. B. E. xxxi. 145) and reflected in “the seven first white ones” or angelic retinue of the Lord in Enoch xc. 21 f. (Cheyne, Orig. Ps. 281 2, 327 f., 334 f.; Stave, 216 f.; Lüken, 32 f.; R. J. 319). Whether the prophet and his readers were conscious of this derivation or not, the conception is stereotyped and designed to express in archaic terms the supreme majesty of God before whose throne ( i.e. , obedient and ready for any commission, cf. Revelation 5:6 ) these mighty beings live. They are not named or divided in the Apocalypse, but the objection to taking the expression in the sense of ( a ) denoting, as in Philo (where, e.g. , ὁ κατὰ ἑβδομάδα ἅγιος or κινούμενος is a characteristic symbol of the divine Logos), the sevenfold and complete energy of the Spirit in semi-poetic fashion, is the obvious fact that this is out of line with the trinity of the apocalypse, which is allied to that of Luk 9:26 ; 1 Timothy 5:21 ; Just. Mart. Apol. i. 6. The Spirit in the Apocalypse, as in Jude, 2 Peter and the pastoral epistles, is wholly prophetic. It has not the content of the Spirit in Paul or in the Fourth Gospel. Since the writer intends to enlarge upon the person of Jesus, or because the seven spirits stood next to the deity in the traditional mise-en-scène , he makes them precede Christ in order.

Verses 4-8

Revelation 1:4-8 . The prologue.

Verse 5

Revelation 1:5 . ἀπὸ , κ . τ . λ ., another grammatical anomaly; as usual the writer puts the second of two nouns in apposition, in the nominative. ὁ μ . ὁ π . Jesus not merely the reliable witness to God but the loyal martyr: an aspect of his career which naturally came to the front in “the killing times”. ὁ πρωτότοκος (a Jewish messianic title by itself, Balden-sperger, 88) τ . ν ., his resurrection is the pledge that death cannot separate the faithful from his company. The thought of this and of the following trait ( cf. Matthew 4:8 f.) is taken fröm Ps. 88:28, κἀγὼ πρωτότοκον θήσομαι αὐτόν , ὑψηλὸν παρὰ τοῖς βασιλεῦσιν τῆς γῆς . On the two allied functions of ruling and witnessing (Isaiah 55:4 ) cf. the different view of John 18:37 . At the inspiring thought of Christ’s lordship the prophet breaks into adoration ἀγαπῶντι κ . τ . λ . The eternal love ( cf. Revelation 3:19 ) which Christ bears to his people is proved by his death, as a revelation of ( a ) what he has done for them by his sacrifice, and ( b ) what he has made of them (so Ephesians 5:25-26 = Revelation 19:7-8 ). The negative deliverance from sins ( cf. Psalms 129:8 ) at the cost of his own life ( ἐν instrumental) is a religious emancipation which issues in (6) a positive relationship of glorious religious privilege. βασιλείαν , ἱερεῖς , a literal ( cf. Charles on Jub. xvi. 18) and inaccurate rendering of ממלכת כחנים (Exodus 19:6 ) to emphasise the royal standing of the Christian community in connexion with their Christ as ἄρχων , κ . τ . λ ., and also (Titus 2:3 ) their individual privilege of intimate access to God as the result of Christ’s sacrificial death. καὶ ἐποίησεν , the harsh anacolouthon breaks up the participial construction, ἡμᾶς , emphatic. “We Christians are now the chosen people. In us the Danielic prophecy of a reign of the saints is fulfilled and is to be fulfilled.” This is a characteristically anti-Jewish note. Persecution ( cf. 1 Peter 2:5 ) deepened the sense of continuity in the early Christians, who felt driven back on the truth of election and divine protection; they were the true successors of all noble sufferers in Israel who had gone before ( cf. the argument of Hebrews 11:32 to Hebrews 12:2 ). In the Apocalypse the Christian church is invariably the true Israel, including all who believe in Christ, irrespective of birth and nationality. God reigns over them, and they reign, or will reign, over the world. In fact, Christians now and here are what Israel hoped to become, viz. , priest-princes of God, and this position has been won for them by a messiah whom the Jews had rejected, and whom all non-Christians will have to acknowledge as sovereign. According to rabbinic tradition, the messianic age would restore to Israel the priestly standing which it had lost by its worship of the golden calf; and by the first commandment (Mechilta on Exodus 20:2 ), “slaves became kings”. There may also be an implicit anti-Roman allusion. We Christians, harried and despised, are a community with a great history and a greater hope. Our connection with Christ makes us truly imperial. The adoration of Christ, which vibrates in this doxology ( cf. Expos . ver. 302 307), is one of the most impressive features of the book. The prophet feels that the one hope for the loyalists of God in this period of trial is to be conscious that they owe everything to the redeeming love of Jesus. Faithfulness depends on faith, and faith is rallied by the grasp not of itself but of its object. Mysterious explanations of history follow, but it is passionate devotion to Jesus, and not any skill in exploring prophecy, which proves the source of moral heroism in the churches. Jesus sacrificed himself for us; αὐτῷ ἡ δόξα . From this inward trust and wonder, which leap up at the sight of Jesus and his grace, the loyalty of Christians flows.

This enthusiasm for Jesus naturally carries the prophet’s mind forward (Revelation 1:7-8 ) to the time when the Lord’s majesty will flash out on mankind. He resumes the line of thought interrupted by the doxology of 5 b 6.

Verse 7

Revelation 1:7 . A reminiscence and adaptation of Daniel 7:13 (Theod.) and Zechariah 12:10-14 . The substitution of ἐξεκέντησαν (so John 19:37 , Justin’s Apol. i. 52, Dial , xxxii., cf. 61., 118., adding εἰς ) for κατωρχήσαντο (70 mistranslation in this passage, though not elsewhere, of דקרו ) shows that the original text was used (though Lücke and Ewald hold that ἐξ . was the LXX reading till Origen), and that it was interpreted in some (Johannine? Abbott, Diatessarica , 1259 1262, 2317) circles as a prophecy of the crucifixion. Only, the reference is no longer to repentance (Zech.), but, by a turn of characteristic severity, to remorse and judgment. There is a remarkable parallel in Matthew 24:30 , where patristic tradition ( cf. A. C. 233 36) early recognised in τὸ σημεῖον τ . ὑ . ἀ . the cross itself, made visible on the day of judgment. The first of the three signs preceding Christ’s advent in the clouds, acc. to Did. xvi. 6 ( cf. Zechariah 2:13 LXX), is σημεῖον ἐκπετάσεως ἐν οὐρανῷ (Christ with outstretched arms, as crucified?); and, acce. to Barn, vii. 9, “they shall see him on that day wearing about his flesh τὸν ποδήρη κόκκινον ”. Note ( a ) that the agreement with John 19:37 is mainly verbal; the latter alludes to the crucifixion, this passage to an eschatological crisis, ( b ) No such visible or victorious return of Christ is fulfilled in the Apocalypse, for visions like Revelation 14:14 f., Revelation 19:12 f., do not adequately correspond to Revelation 1:7 , Revelation 22:12 , etc. ( c ) No punishment of the Jews occurs at Christ’s return, for the vengeance of Revelation 19:13 f. falls on pagans, while Revelation 11:13 lies on another plane. καὶ , κ . τ . λ .: the monotonous collocation of clauses (Vit. i. 9 16) throughout the Apocalypse with καί , is not necessarily a Hebraism; the syntax of Aristotle ( e.g. , cf. Thumb, 129), betrays a similar usage. καὶ οἵτ . κ . τ . λ ., selected as a special class ( καὶ τότε μετανοήσουσιν , ὅτε οὐδὲν ὠφελήσουσι , Justin). The responsibility of the Jews, as opposed to the Romans, for the judicial murder of Jesus is prominent in the Christian literature of the period (Luke Acts, cf. von Dobschütz in Texte u. Unters. xi. 1, pp. 61, 62), though the Apoc. is superior to passages like 2 Clem. xvii. πᾶσαι κ . τ . λ .= the unbelieving pagans, who are still impenitent when surprised by the Lord’s descent ( ἐπὶ = “because of,” cf. Revelation 18:9 in diff. sense); a realistic statement of what is spiritually put in John 16:8-9 . This forms an original element in the early Christian apologetic. To the Jewish taunt, “Jesus is not messiah but a false claimant: he died,” the reply was, “He will return in visible messianic authority” (Mark 14:62 = Matthew 26:64 , significant change in Luke 22:69 ). In several circles this future was conceived not as a return of Jesus, nor in connexion with his historical appearance, but as the first real manifestation of the true messianic character which he had gained at the resurrection ( cf. Titius, 31, 32). See on Revelation 12:4 f. ναὶ , ἀμήν : a double (Gk. Heb.) ratification of the previous oracle.

Verse 8

Revelation 1:8 . Only here and in Revelation 21:5 f. is God introduced as the speaker, in the Apocalypse. The advent of the Christ, which marks the end of the age, is brought about by God, who overrules ( παντοκράτωρ always of God in Apocalypse, otherwise the first part of the title might have suggested Christ) even the anomalies and contradictions of history for this providential climax. By the opening of the second century πατὴρ παντοκράτωρ had become the first title of God in the Roman creed; the Apocalypse, indifferent to the former epithet, reproduces the latter owing to its Hebraic sympathies, ἐγώ εἰμι : Coleridge used to declare that one chief defect in Spinoza was that the Jewish philosopher started with It is instead of with I am . τὸ ἄλφα καὶ τὸ ὦ : not the finality (Oesterley, Encycl. Relig. and Ethics , i. 1, 2), but the all-inclusive power of God, which comes fully into play in the new order of things inaugurated by the second advent. The symbolism which is here put in a Greek form had been developed in rabbinic speculation upon תא . With this and the following passage, cf. the papyrus of Ani ( E. B. D. 12): “He leadeth in his train that which is and that which is not yet.… Homage to thee, King of kings, and Lord of lords, who from the womb of Nut hast ruled the world and Akert [the Egyptian Hades]. Thy body is of bright and shining metal, thy head is of azure blue, and the brilliance of the turquoise encircleth thee.” For the connexion of a presentiment of the end (Revelation 1:7-8 ) with an impulse to warn contemporaries (9 f.) see 4 Esd. 14:10 f., where the warning of the world’s near close is followed by an injunction to the prophet to “set thine house in order, reprove thy people, console the humble among them”; whereupon the commission to write under inspiration is given.

Revelation 1:9 to Revelation 3:22 , an address to Asiatic Christendom (as represented by seven churches) which in high prophetic and oracular style rallies Christians to their genuine oracle of revelation in Jesus and his prophetic spirit. At a time when local oracles (for the famous one of Apollo near Miletus, see Friedlander, iii, 561 f.), besides those in Greece and Syria and Egypt, were eagerly frequented, it was of moment to lay stress on what had superseded all such media for the faithful. Cf. Minuc. Felix, Oct. 7, “pleni et mixti deo uates futura praecerpunt, dant cautelam periculis, morbis medelam, spem afflictis, operam miseris, solacium calamitatibus, laboribus leuamentum”.

Revelation 1:9-20 , introductory vision.

Verse 9

Revelation 1:9 . The personality of the seer is made prominent in apocalyptic literature, to locate or guarantee any visions which are to follow. Here the authority with which this prophet is to speak is conditioned by his kinship of Christian experience with the churches and his special revelation from God. ἀδελφός ( cf. Revelation 6:11 , Revelation 12:10 ): for its pagan use as = fellow-member of the same (religious) society, cf. C. B. P. i. 96 f., and Dittenberger’s Sylloge Inscr. Graec. 474, 10 ( ἀδελφοὶ οἶς κοινὰ τὰ πατρῷα ). θλίψει , put first as the absorbing fact of their experience, and as a link of sympathy between writer and readers; καὶ βασιλείᾳ , the outcome of θλίψις in the messianic order: distress no end in itself; καὶ ὑπομονῇ , patient endurance the moral condition of participation in ἡ θλίψις and ἡ βασιλεία , by which one is nerved to endure the presence of the former without breaking down, and to bear the temporary delay of the latter without impatience. While μακροθυμία is the absence of resentment at wrong, ὑπομονή = not giving way under trials. See Barn, ii., “the aids of our faith are fear and patience, long-suffering and self-control are our allies”; also Tertullian’s famous aphorism, “ubi Deus, ibi et alumna eius, patientia scilicet”. ἐν Ἰησοῦ (a Pauline conception, only repeated in Apocalypse at Revelation 14:12 ), either with all three substantives or merely ( cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:5 ) with ὑπομονή . In any case ὑπ . is closely linked to ἐν Ἰ .; such patience, as exemplified in Jesus, and inspired by him, was the cardinal virtue of the Apocalypse and its age. In the early Christian literature of this period “we cannot name anything upon which blessedness is so frequently made to rest, as upon the exercise of patient endurance” (Titius, 142). ἐγενόμην ἐν (“I found myself in”: implying that when he wrote he was no longer there), not by flowing waters (as frequently, e.g. , En. xiii. 7), but in the small, treeless, scantily populated island of Patmos, one of the Sporades, whither criminals were banished sometimes by the Roman authorities (Plin. Hist. Nat. iv. 12, 23). Relegatio to an island was not an infrequent form of punishment for better-class offenders or suspects under the black régime of Domitian, as under Diocletian for Christians ( cf. Introd. § 6). No details are given, but probably it meant hard labour in the quarries, and was inflicted by the pro-consul of Asia Minor. Why John was only banished, we do not know. As “the word of God and the witness of Jesus” are not qualified by any phrase such as ὅσα εἶδεν (Revelation 1:2 , and thereby identified with the present Apocalypse), the words indicate as elsewhere ( cf. διὰ , κ . τ . λ ., reff.) the occasion of his presence in Patmos, i.e. , his loyalty to the gospel ( cf. θλίψις ), rather than the object of his visit. The latter could hardly be evangelising (Spitta), for Patmos was insignificant and desolate, nor, in face of the use of διὰ , can the phrase mean “for the purpose of receiving this revelation” (Bleek, Lücke, Düsterdieck, Hausrath, B. Weiss, Baljon, etc.). Either he had voluntarily withdrawn from the mainland to escape the stress of persecution (which scarcely harmonises with the context or the general temper of the book) or for solitary communion ( cf. Ezekiel 1:1-3 ), or, as is more likely, his removal was a punishment ( cf. Abbott, 114 16). The latter view is corroborated by tradition ( cf. Zahn, § 64, note 7), which, although later and neither uniform nor wholly credible, is strong enough to be taken as independent evidence. It can hardly be explained away as a mere elaboration of the present passage (so, e.g. , Reuss, Bleek, Bousset); the allusion to μαρτύριον is too slight to have been suggested by the darker sense of martyrdom, and it is far-fetched to argue that the tradition was due to a desire to glorify John with a martyrdom. Unless, therefore, the reference is a piece of literary fiction (in which case it would probably have been elaborated) it must be supposed to be vague simply because the matter was perfectly familiar to the circle for whom the book was written. It is to those exercised in prudence, temperance, and virtue that (according to Philo, de incorrupt, mundi , § 1, cf. Plutarch’s discussion in defect. orac. 38 f.) God vouchsafes visions, but John introduces his personal experience in order to establish relations between himself and his readers rather than to indicate the conditions of his theophany.

Verse 10

Revelation 1:10 . Ecstasy or spiritual rapture, the supreme characteristic of prophets in Did. xi. 7 (where the unpardonable sin is to criticise a prophet λαλοῦντα ἐν πνεύματι ), was not an uncommon experience in early Christianity, which was profoundly conscious of living in the long-looked for messianic age (Acts 2:17 f., cf. Ephesians 3:5 ), when such phenomena were to be a matter of course. Throughout the Apocalypse (Revelation 21:5 , etc.) John first sees, then writes; the two are not simultaneous. While the Apocaiypse is thus the record of a vision ( ὅρασις , Revelation 9:17 ), the usual accompaniments of a vision i.e. , prayer and fasting are significantly absent from the description of this inaugural scene, which is reticent and simple as compared, e.g. , with a passage like Asc. Isa. iv. 10 16. It is possible, however, that the prophet was engaged in prayer when the trance or vision overtook him (like Peter, Acts 10:9-11 , cf. Ign. ad Polyc. ii. 2, τὰ δὲ ἀόρατα αἴτει , ἵνα σοι φανερωθῇ ), since the day of weekly Christian worship is specially mentioned on which, though separated from the churches (was there one at Patmos?), he probably was wrapt in meditations (on the resurrection of Christ) appropriate to the hour. The Imperial or Lord’s day, first mentioned here in early Christian literature (so Did. xiv., Gosp. Peter 11, etc.) contains an implicit allusion to the ethnic custom, prevalent in Asia Minor, of designating the first day of the month (or week?) as Σεβαστή in honour of the emperor’s birthday (see Thieme’s Inschr. Maeander , 1906, 15, and Deissmann in E.Bi. 2813 f.). Christians, too, have their imperial day ( cf. Introd. § 2), to celebrate the birthday of their heavenly king. With his mind absorbed in the thought of the exalted Jesus and stored with O.T. messianic conceptions from Daniel and Ezekiel, the prophet had the following ecstasy in which the thoughts of Jesus and of the church already present to his mind are fused into one vision. He recalls in spirit the usual church-service with its praises, prayers, sudden voices, and silences. (Compare Ign. Magn. ix. εἰ οὖν οἱ ἐν παλαιοῖς πράγμασιν ἀναστραφέντες εἰς καινότητα ἐλπίδος ἦλθον , μηκέτι σαββατίζοντες ἀλλὰ κατὰ κυριακὴν ζῶντες , ἐν ᾗ καὶ ἡ ζωὴ ἡμῶν ἀνέτειλεν διʼ αὐτοῦ καὶ τοῦ θανάτου αὐτοῦ … καὶ διὰ τοῦτο ὑπομένομεν .) John’s service of God (Revelation 1:2 ) involved suffering, instead of exempting him from the trials of ordinary Christians; the subsequent visions and utterances prove not merely that in his exile he had fallen back upon the O.T. prophets for consolation but that ( cf. 2 Corinthians 11:28-29 ) he was anxiously brooding over the condition of his churches on the mainland. Cf. Dio Chrys. Orat. xiii. 422, where the philosopher dates the consciousness of his vocation from the period of his exile. Upon the other hand, the main criterion of a false prophet (Eus. H. E. Revelation 1:17 ; Revelation 1:2 ), apart from covetousness, was speech ἐν παρεκστάσει , i.e. , the arrogant, ignorant, frenzied rapture affected by pagan Cagliostros, who were destitute of any unselfish religious concern for other people. ὀπίσω μου , the regular method of spiritualistic voices and appearances: σάλπιγγος , loud and clear, not an unusual expression for voices heard in a trance ( cf. Martyr. Polyc. xxii. 2, Moscow MS). The following Christophany falls into rhythmical expression. As a revelation of the Lord (Revelation 1:1 , cf. 2 Corinthians 12:1 ), with which we may contrast Emerson’s saying (“I conceive a man as always spoken to from behind and unable to turn his head and see the speaker”), it exhibits several of the leading functions discharged by Jesus in the Apocalypse, where he appears as ( a ) the revealer of secrets (Revelation 1:1 f., Revelation 5:5 ), ( b ) the guardian and champion of the saints (Revelation 1:2-3 , etc.), ( c ) the medium, through sacrifice, of their relationship to God, ( d ) associated with God in rewarding them, and ( e ) in the preliminary overthrow of evil which accompanies the triumph of righteousness. Compare the main elements of the divine nature as conceived by the popular religion of contemporary Phrygia, viz. , ( a ) prophetic power, ( b ) healing and purifying power, and ( c ) divine authority (symbolised by the axe): C. B. P. , ii. 357.

Verse 11

Revelation 1:11 , γράψον ( cf. Herm. Vis. II. iv. 3); this emphasis put upon the commission to compose and circulate what he sees in the vision, is due to the author’s claim of canonical authority and reflects a time when a literary work of this nature still required some guarantee, although at an earlier date smaller oracles had been written and accepted ( e.g. , that which determined the flight of the early Christians to Pella, Eus. H. E. , iii. 5, 3). John’s role, however, is passive in two senses of the term. He seldom acts or journeys in his vision, whereas Jewish apocalypses are full of the movements of their seers; nor does his vision lead to any practical course of action, for unlike most of the O.T. prophet he is not conscious of any commission to preach or to reform the world. The prophet is an author. His experience is to be no luxury but a diffused benefit; and as in Tob 12:20 (“and now … write in a book all that has taken place”) and 4 Esd. 12:37 (“therefore write in a book all thou hast seen, and thou shalt teach,” etc.), the prophet is careful to explain that composition is no mere literary enterprise but due to a divine behest. The cities are enumerated from Ephesus northwards to Smyrna (forty miles) and Pergamos (fifty miles north of Smyrna), then across for forty miles S.E. to Thyatira, down to Sardis, Philadelphia (thirty miles S.E. of Sardis), and Laodicea (forty miles S.E. of Philadelphia). Cf. on Revelation 1:4 and Introd. § 2. Except Pergamos and Laodicea, the churches lay within Lydia (though the writer employs the imperial term for the larger province) which was at that period a by-word for voluptuous civilisation.

Verse 12

Revelation 1:12 . The seven golden lamp-stands are cressets representing the seven churches (20), the sevenfold lamp-stand of the Jewish temple ( cf. S. C. 295 99) having been for long used as a symbol (Zechariah 4:2 ; Zechariah 4:10 ). The function of the churches is to embody and express the light of the divine presence upon earth, so high is the prophet’s conception of the communities ( cf. on Revelation 2:4-5 ); their duty is to keep the light burning and bright, otherwise the reason for their existence disappears (Revelation 2:5 ). Consequently the primary activity of Jesus in providence and revelation bears upon the purity of those societies through which his influence is to reach mankind, just as his connexion with them on the other hand assures them of One in heaven to whom out of difficulties here they can appeal with confidence.

Verse 13

Revelation 1:13 . The churches are inseparable from their head and centre Jesus, who moves among the cressets of his temple with the dignity and authority of a high priest. The anarthrous ὑ . ἀ . is the human appearance of the celestial messiah, as in En. xlvi. 1 6 (where the Son of man accompanies God, who, as the Head of Days, had a head “white as wool”) and Asc. Isa. xi. 1. The difficult ὅμοιον is to be explained (with Vit. ii. 127, 223, 227) as = ὡς (Revelation 2:18 , Revelation 6:14 , Revelation 9:7-8 ; Revelation 9:11 ) or οἶον , “something like,” a loose reproduction of the Heb. (“un être semblable à nous, un homme”). The whole passage illustrates the writer’s habit of describing an object or person by heaping up qualities without strict regard to natural or grammatical collocation. ποδήρης (sc. χιτὼν or ἐσθής ), a long robe reaching to the feet, was an oriental mark of dignity ( cf. on Revelation 1:7 , and Ezekiel 9:2 ; Ezekiel 9:11 , LXX), denoting high rank or office such as that of Parthian kings or of the Jewish high priest who wore a purple one. High girding (with a belt?) was another mark of lofty position, usually reserved for Jewish priests, though the Iranians frequently appealed to their deities as “high-girt” ( i.e. , ready for action = cf. Yasht 15:54, 57, “Vaya of the golden girdle, high-up girded, swift moving, as powerful in sovereignty as any absolute sovereign in the world”). The golden buckle or πόρπη was part of the insignia of royalty and its φίλοι ( 1Ma 10:8-9 ; 1Ma 11:58 ). The author thus mixes royal and sacerdotal colours on his palette to heighten the majesty of Christ’s appearance. New, golden (as in Iranian eschatology), shining, white are the usual adjectives which he employs throughout the book for the transcendent bliss of the life beyond and its heavenly tenants; “golden” had been used already in Greek as a synonym for precious, excellent, divine.

Verse 14

Revelation 1:14 . ὡς χ .; another conventional simile for celestial beings. ἡ κ . κ . αἱ τ ., a pleonastic expression; either = “his head, i.e. his hair,” or “his forehead and his hair”; scarcely a hendiadys for “the hair of the head” (Bengel). Jewish tradition rationalised the white hairs into a proof of God’s activity as a wise old teacher (Chag. 14, cf. Proverbs 20:27 f.), and the Daniel-vision might suggest the fine paradox between the divine energy and this apparent sign of weakness. But such traits are probably poetical, not allegorical, in John’s vision; they body forth his conception of Jesus as divine. In Egyptian theology a similar trait belongs to Ani after beatification. The whole conception of the messiah in the Apocalypse resembles that outlined in Enoch (Similitudes, xxxvii. lxxi.), where he also possesses pre-existence as Son of man (xlviii) sits on his throne of glory (xlvii. 3) for judgment, rules all men (lxii. 6), and slays the wicked with the word of his mouth (xlii. 2); but this particular transference to the messiah (Revelation 1:14 ; Revelation 1:17-18 , Revelation 2:8 , Revelation 22:12-13 ), of what is in Daniel predicated of God as the world-judge, seems to form a specifically N.T. idea, unmediated even in Enoch (xlvi. 1), although the association of priestly and judicial attributes with those of royalty was easy for an Oriental (it is predicated of the messiah by Jonathan ben Usiel on Zechariah 4:12-13 ). ὡς φλὸξ πυρός , like Slav. En. i. 5, from Daniel 10:6 ; cf. Suet. August . 79, “oculos habuit claros et nitidos, quibus etiam existimari uoluit inesse quiddam diuini uigoris; gaudebat-que si quis sibi acrius contuenti quasi ad fulgorem solis uultum submitteret”. Divine beauty was generally manifested (Verg. Aen. ver. 647 f.) in glowing eyes (insight and indignation), the countenance and the voice; here also (Revelation 1:15 ) in feet to crush all opposition. The messiah is not crowned, however ( cf. later, Revelation 19:12 ). χ . = some hard (as yet unidentified) metal which gleamed after smelting. The most probable meaning of this obscure hybrid term is that suggested by Suidas: χαλκοίβανον · εἶδος ἠλέκτρου τιμιώτερου χρυσοῦ , ἔστι δὲ τὸ ἤλεκτρον ἀλλότυπον χρυσίον μεμιγμένον ὑέλῳ καὶ λιθείᾳ ( ἤλ . actually occuring in LXX, Ezekiel 1:27 ). The reference then is to amber or to some composition like brass or (copper) bronze; only, it contains gold ( cf. vulg. = aurichalcum, a valuable and gleaming metal). Abbott (201) sees a corruption of some phrase like χαλκὸν ἐν κλιβάνῳ , while others suggest χαλκός and לבן ( i.e. , glowing white brass). Haussleiter would upon inadequate grounds omit ὡς ἐκ . κ . πεπ . (219 24).

Verse 16

Revelation 1:16 . The care and control exercised by Christ over the churches only come forward after the suggestions of majesty and authority (13 15) which followed the initial idea of Christ’s central position ( ἐν μέσῳ ) among the churches. Cf. Revelation 5:6 ( ἐν μέσῳ ) for another reference to Christ’s central authority ἔχων , κ . τ . λ . For the astrological background of this figure, cf. Jeremiah 24 f. The traditional symbol, of which an interpretation is given later (Revelation 1:20 ), probably referred to the seven planets rather than to the Pleiades or any other constellation. If the description is to be visualised, the seven stars may be pictured as lying on Christ’s palm in the form of the stars in the constellation of Ursa Major ῥομφαία , κ . τ . λ . By a vivid objectifying of the divine word (corresponding to that, e.g. , in Isaiah 9:8 f., Revelation 9:4 , and suggested by the tongue-shaped appearance of the short Roman sword or dagger), the figure of the sharp sword issuing from the mouth is applied (in Ps. Sol. 17:27, 39, as here) to the messiah, as in Jewish literature to God (Psalms 149:6 , etc.) and to wisdom ( Sap. 18:15), elsewhere to the λόγος τοῦ θεοῦ (Hebrews 4:12 , cf. Revelation 19:13-15 ): Christ’s power of reproof and punishment is to be directed against the church (Revelation 2:12 f.) as well as against the world of heathen opposition (Revelation 19:21 , where the trait is artistically more appropriate). As a nimbus or coronata radiata sometimes crowned the emperor (“image des rayons lumineux qu’il lance sur le monde,” Beurlier), so the face of Christ ( ὄψις as in John 11:44 , cf. below, Revelation 10:1 ) is aptly termed, as in the usual description of angelic visitants (reff.), bright as sunshine unintercepted by mist or clouds. This is the climax of the delineation.

Verse 17

Revelation 1:17 . ἔπεσα κ . τ . λ ., the stereotyped behaviour ( cf. Numbers 24:4 ) in such apocalyptic trances (Weinel, 129, 182, R. J. 375 f.; for the terror of spiritual experience cf. Schiller’s lines: “Schrecklich ist es Deiner Wahrheit | Sterbliches Gefäss zu seyn”); Jesus, however, does here what Michael (En. lxxi. 3) or some other friendly angel does in most Jewish apocalypses. There is no dialogue between the prophet and Christ, as there is afterwards between him and the celestial beings μὴ φ . The triple reassurance is (1) that the mysterious, overwhelming Figure reveals his character, experience and authority, instead of proving an alien unearthly visitant; (2) the vision has a practical object (“write,” 19) bearing upon human life, and (3) consequently the mysteries are not left as baffling enigmas. All the early Christian revelations which are self-contained, presuppose the risen Christ as their source; the Apocalypse of Peter, being fragmentary, is hardly an exception to the rule. The present vision presents him as superhuman, messianic, militant and divine. But the writer is characteristically indifferent to the artistic error of making Christ’s right hand at once hold seven stars and be laid on the seer (Revelation 1:16-17 ). Cf. the fine application of the following passage by Milton in his “Remonstrant’s Defence”. The whole description answers to what is termed, in modern psychology, a “photism”.

Verse 18

Revelation 1:18 . Not “it is I, the first and the last” (which would require ἐγώ εἰμι before μὴ φοβοῦ ), but “I am, etc.” The eternal life of the exalted Christ is a comfort both in method and result; ἐγενόμην νεκρός (not ὡς ; really dead), his experience assuring men of sympathy and understanding; καὶ ἰδοὺ , κ . τ . λ ., his victory and authority over death = an assurance of his power to rescue his own people from the grim prison of the underworld (Hades, cf. 3Ma 5:50 , the intermediate abode of the dead, being as usual personified in connexion with death). A background for this conception lies in the primitive idea of Janus, originally an Italian sun-god, as the key-holder ( cf. Ovid’s Fasti , i. 129, 130, Hor. Carm. Sec. 9, 10) who opens and closes the day (sun = deus clauiger), rather than in Mithraism which only knew keys of heaven, or in Mandæan religion (Cheyne’s Bible Problems , 102 106). The key was a natural Oriental symbol for authority and power ( cf. in this book, Revelation 3:7 , Revelation 9:1 , Revelation 20:1 ). Jewish belief (see Gfrörer, i. 377 378) assigned three keys or four exclusively to God (“quos neque angelo neque seraphino committit”); these included, according to different views, “clauis sepulchorum,” “clavis uitae,” “clauis resurrectionis mortuorum”. To ascribe this divine prerogative to Jesus as the divine Hero who had mastered death is, therefore, another notable feature in the high Christology of this book. For the whole conception see E. B. D. ch. 64. (fifth century B.C.?): “I am Yesterday and To-day and To-morrow … I am the Lord of the men who are raised again; the Lord who cometh forth from out of the darkness.” It is based on the theophany of the Ancient of Days in Daniel 7:9 f. (yet cf. Revelation 10:5-6 ), who bestows on the ideal Israel ( ὡς υἱὸς ἀνθ .) dominion. John changes this into a Christophany, like the later Jewish tradition which saw in υἱὸς ἀ . a personal, divine messiah. When one remembers the actual position of affairs, the confident faith of such passages is seen to have been little short of magnificent. To this Christian prophet, spokesman of a mere ripple upon a single wave of dissent in the broad ocean of paganism, history and experience find unity and meaning nowhere but in the person of a blameless Galilean peasant who had perished as a criminal in Jerusalem. So would such early Christian expectations appear to an outsider. He would be staggered by the extraordinary claims advanced on behalf of its God by this diminutive sect, perhaps more than staggered by the prophecy that imperial authority over the visible and invisible worlds lay ultimately in the hands of this deity, whose power was not limited to his own adherents. Christophanies were commissions either to practical service (Acts 10:19 , etc.), or, as here, so composition.

Verse 19

Revelation 1:19 . οὖν , at the command of him who has authority over the other world and the future (resuming Revelation 1:11 . now that the paralysing fear of Revelation 1:17 has been removed). Like the author of 4th Esdras, this prophet is far more interested in history than in the chronological speculations which engrossed many of the older apocalyptists. The sense of γράψον κ . τ . λ . is not, write the vision already seen ( ἃ εἶδες , Revelation 1:10-18 ), the present ( ἃ εἰσὶν , Revelation 1:20 to Revelation 3:20 , the state of the churches, mainly conceived as it exists now and here), and the future ( ἃ μέλλει γενέσθαι μετὰ ταῦτα , i.e. , Revelation 4:1 f.), as though the words were a rough programme of the whole book; nor, as other editors ( e.g. , Spitta) unconvincingly suggest, is ἃ εἰσὶν = “what they mean,” epexegetic of ἃ εἶδες , or εἶδες ( cf. Revelation 10:7 , Revelation 15:1 ) in a future perfect sense (Selwyn). The following chapters cannot be regarded merely as interpretations of Revelation 1:10-18 , and the juxtaposition of μέλλει γεν . (from LXX of Isaiah 48:6 ) fixes the temporal meaning of εἰσίν here, even although the other meaning occurs in a different context in Revelation 1:20 . Besides, Revelation 1:10-18 is out of all proportion to the other two divisions, to which indeed it forms a brief prelude. The real sense is that the contents of the vision ( εἶδες , like βλέπεις in Revelation 1:11 , being proleptic) consist of what is and what is to be, these divisions of present and future underlying the whole subsequent Apocalypse. The neut. plur. with a plural verb and a singular in the same sentence, indicates forcibly the indifference of the author to the niceties of Hellenistic grammar. For the whole see Daniel 2:29-30 , also Barn. i.: “The Lord ( δεσπότης ) hath disclosed to us by the prophets things past and present, giving us also a taste of the firstfruits of the future”; v.: “We ought, therefore, to be exceedingly thankful to the Lord for disclosing the past to us and making us wise in the present; yea as regards the future even we are not void of understanding”. Moral stimulus and discipline were the object of such visions: as Tertullian declares of the Mortanist seers: “uidunt uisiones et ponentes faciem deorsum etiam uoces audiunt manifestas tarn salutares quam occultas” ( de exhort. cast. 10).

Verse 20

Revelation 1:20 . μυστ . (as in Daniel 2:27 , LXX; see below on Revelation 10:7 ) = “the secret symbol”. These two symbols, drawn from the lore of contemporary apocalyptic, are chosen for explanation, partly as an obscure and important element in the foregoing vision which had to be set in a new light, partly because they afford a clue to all that follows (especially the opening section, Revelation 2:1 ; Revelation 2:5 ). The seven-branched lamp-stand was a familiar symbol, frequently carved on the lintel of a synagogue. Along with the silver trumpets and other spoils of the temple it now lay in the temple of Peace at Rome. The fanciful symbolism, by which the cressets shining on earth are represented in another aspect as heavenly bodies, corresponds to Paul’s fine paradox about the Christian life of the saints lying hidden with Christ in God; even unsatisfactory churches, like those at Sardis and Laodicea, are not yet cast away. Note also that the light and presence of God now shine in the Christian churches, while the ancestral Jewish light is extinguished (4 Ezra 10:22 ): “The light of our lamp-stand is put out”). It is curious that in Assyrian representations the candelabrum is frequently indistinguishable from the sacred seven-branched tree crowned with a star ( R. S. 488); Josephus expressly declares ( Ant. iii. 6. 7, 7. 7) that the seven lamps on the stand signified the seven planets, and that the twelve loaves on the shew-bread table signified the signs of the zodiac ( Bell . Revelation 1:5 ; Revelation 1:5 ), while Philo had already allegorised the lamp-stand (= seven planets) in quis haeres , § 45. This current association of the λύχνοι with the planets is bound up with the astral conception of the angels of the churches ( ἀγγ . = “angels” as elsewhere in Apocalypse), who are the heavenly representatives and counterparts or patron angels of the churches, each of the latter, like the elements ( e.g. , water Revelation 16:5 , fire Revelation 14:18 ; see further in Baldensperger, 106, and Gfrörer, i. 368 f.), the wind (Revelation 7:1 ), and the nether abyss (Revelation 9:2 ), having its presiding heavenly spirit. The conception ( E. J. i. 593. 594) reaches back to post-exilic speculation, in which Greece, Persia and Judæa had each an influential and responsible angelic prince (Daniel 10:13 ; Daniel 10:20-21 ; Daniel 12:1 ), and especially to the Iranian notion of fravashis or semi-ideal prototypes of an earthly personality (here, a community), associated with reminiscences of the Babylonian idea that certain stars were assigned to certain lands, whose folk and fortunes were bound up with their heavenly representatives ( cf. Rawlinson’s Cuneif. Inscript. West. Asia Minor , ii. 49, iii. 54, 59, etc.). Afterwards ( cf. Tobit) individuals were assigned a guardian spirit. This belief (Gfrörer, i. 374 f.) passed into early Christianity (Matthew 18:10 , Acts 12:15 , where see note), but naturally it never flourished, owing to Christ’s direct and spiritual revelation of God’s fatherly providence. The association of stars and angels is one of the earliest developments in Semitic folklore, and its poetic possibilities lent themselves effectively as here to further religious applications; e.g. , Enoch (i. 18) had long ago represented seven stars, “like spirits,” in the place of fiery punishment for disobedience to God’s commands. As Dr. Kohler points out ( E. F. i. 582 97), the determining factors of Jewish angelology were the ideas of “the celestial throne with its ministering angels, and the cosmos with its evil forces to be subdued by superior angelic forces,” which corresponds to the punitive and protective rôles of angels in the Johannine Apocalypse. But in the latter they are neither described at length nor exalted. They are simply commissioned by God to execute his orders or instruct the seer. The supreme concern of God is with the earth and man; angels are but the middle term of this relationship, at most the fellow-servants of the saints whose interests they promote (see below on Revelation 19:9-10 , Revelation 22:8-9 ). Christians, unlike the Iranians ( e.g. Bund. xxx. 23, etc.), offer no praises to them; they reserve their adoration for God and Christ. However graphic and weird, the delineation of demons and angels in this book is not grotesque and crude in the sense that most early Jewish and Christian descriptions may be said to deserve these epithets. Here the guardian spirit who is responsible for a church’s welfare, would, roughly speaking, be identified with itself; his oversight and its existence being correlative terms. Hence there is a sense in which the allied conception of ἀγγ . is true, namely, that the ἀγγ . is the personified spirit or genius or heavenly counterpart of the church, the church being regarded as an ideal individual (so Andr., Areth., Wetst., Bleek, Lücke, Erbes, Beyschlag, Swete, etc.) who possesses a sort of Egyptian Ka or double. By itself, however, this view lies open to the objection that it explains one symbol by another and hardly does justice to the naïve poetry of the conception. The notion of guardian angels was widespread in the early church (Hermas, Justin, Clem. Alex., Origen, etc.), independently of this passage. Statius ( Silv. i. 241) says that Domitian “posuit sua sidera” ( i.e. , of his family) in the heaven, when he raised a temple to the Flavians a contemporary parallel upon a lower level of feeling, but indicating a similar view of the heavenly counterpart ( cf. Ramsay, Seven Letters , 68 f.) The Apocalypse, though presupposing the exercise of discipline and the practice of reading, prayer, and praise within the Christian communities, entirely ignores officials of any kind; and the following homilies are directly concerned with the churches (Revelation 2:7 , ἐκκλησίαις , not the angels), their different members ( cf. Revelation 2:24 ) and their respective situations. Hence the poetic idealism of the ἄγγελοι soon fades, when the writer’s practical sense is brought to bear. As the scene of revelation is ἐν πνεύματι and its author the heavenly Christ, the writer is instructed to address not τοῖς ἁγίοις ( e.g. , ἐν Εφέσῳ ), but their patron spirit or guardian angel. The point of the address is that the revelation of Jesus is directly conveyed through the spoken and written words of the prophets, as the latter are controlled by his Spirit.

Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Revelation 1". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/egt/revelation-1.html. 1897-1910.
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