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Bible Commentaries

Gill's Exposition of the Whole BibleGill's Exposition

- Revelation

by John Gill


That this book was written by the Apostle and Evangelist John, is clear not only from the express mention of his name, and from his office, a servant of Jesus Christ, Revelation 1:1; but also from the character this writer gives of himself, Revelation 1:2; as being an eyewitness of the essential Logos, or Word of God, and who bore a faithful record of him as such, as John did in his Gospel, in a very peculiar and remarkable manner, and from this writer's being in the isle of Patmos when he wrote, Revelation 1:9; for of what other John can this be said? to which may be added the testimonies of the ancient writers, as Justin Martyr a, who lived within fifty years of the apostle, and Irenaeus b, who was the disciple of Polycarp, an hearer of this apostle, and Clemens Alexandrinus c, Tertullian d, Origen e, and others, who ascribe it to him. It was a most monstrously stupid notion of Caius, Dionysius of Alexandria mentions f, that it was written by Cerinthus the heretic, when his heresies concerning the divinity and humanity of Christ are most strongly refuted in it. What seems to have led to such a thought is, that the account of the thousand years' reign, and the descent of the new Jerusalem from heaven, seemed to favour the judaism of this man, and his carnal notions of an earthly paradise, whereas they have no such tendency. And as for its being written by another John, who is said to be presbyter at Ephesus, after the apostle, it is not certain there ever was such a man; and if there was, he must be too late to be the writer of this book; nor to him can the above characters agree. What is observed in favour of him, that the penman of this book is called, in the title, John the divine, and not the evangelist, or apostle, will do him no service; for to whom does this character so well agree, as to the Evangelist John, who wrote of divine things in so divine a manner, and particularly concerning the divinity of Christ? hence this book was sometimes called

θεολογια, "Divinity" g: besides, the title of the book is not original, but is what has been affixed to it by others, and varies; for in the Complutensian edition it runs thus,

"the Revelation of the holy Apostle and Evangelist John the Divine.''

In the Vulgate Latin version it is called the Apocalypse of the blessed John the Apostle; and in the Syriac version, the Revelation which was made to John the Evangelist; and in the Arabic version, the Vision of John, the Apostle and Evangelist, to wit, the Apocalypse. All which acknowledge the Apostle John to be the writer of it, and show the sense of the ancients concerning it. Nor is it of any moment what is alleged, that this writer makes mention of his name several times, whereas it was usual with John, both in his Gospel and epistles, to conceal his name; since there is a wide difference between writing an history and epistles to friends, and prophecy which requires the author's name, on whom the authority and truth of the prophecy greatly depend: and so likewise the disagreement of style observed in this book, with the other writings of John, has no force in it; since the prophetic style is always different from an historical and epistolary one; and yet, after all, in many things, there is an agreement; John in this, as in his other writings, speaks of Christ as the Word and Son of God and under the character of the Lamb; and likewise the following: passages may be compared together, as Revelation 1:2 with John 19:35 and 1 John 1:1 Revelation 1:5 with 1 John 1:7. All which being observed there no room to doubt, neither of the writer nor of the authority of this book; especially when the agreement of the doctrine contained in it with other parts of the Scripture, the majesty of its style, and above all the many prophecies of things to come to pass in it, several of which have been already fulfilled, are considered; and though it was called in question and rejected by some heretical men, because some things in it did not suit with their tenets, yet we have not the least reason to doubt of its being authentic who have lived to see so much of it already accomplished and which could come from no other but God. As for the time of its writing this is not agreed upon on all hands; the place where, seems to be the isle of Patmos, which yet some question. Some think it was written in the times of Claudius Caesar h, before the destruction of Jerusalem. In the title of the Syriac version, this revelation is said to be made to John in the isle of Patmos, into which he was cast by Nero Caesar. But the more commonly received opinion is, that he had this vision there, at the latter end of Domitian's reign i by whom he was there banished, about the year 95, or 96. But be this as it will, the book is certainly of divine authority, and exceeding useful and instructive; and contains in it the most momentous and important doctrines of the Gospel, concerning a trinity of persons in the Godhead, the deity and sonship of Christ, the divinity and personality of the Spirit, the offices of Christ, the state and condition of man by nature, justification, pardon, and reconciliation by the blood of Christ; and it recommends the several duties of religion, and encourages to the exercise of every grace and gives a very particular account of the rise, power, and fall of antichrist, and of the state of the church of Christ in all the periods of time to the end of the world. And though it is written in an uncommon style, yet may be understood, by the use of proper means, as by prayer and meditation, by comparing it with other prophetic writings, and the history of past times, by which many things in it will appear to have had their accomplishment; and it ought to be observed, that it is a revelation, and not a hidden thing; that it is now not a sealed book, but an open one; and that such are pronounced blessed that read and hear it, and observe the things in it, Revelation 1:3; and which is no small encouragement to attempt an explanation of it.

a Dialog. cum Tryph. p. 308. b Adv. Haeres. l. 4. c. 37, 50. & l. 5. c. 30. c Paedagog. l. 2. c. 12. d Adv. Marcion. l. 4. c. 5. e Comment. in Matt. p. 417. Ed. Huet. f Apud. Euseb. Hist. Eccl. l. 3. c. 28. & l. 7. c. 23. g Suidas in voce ιωαννης. h Vid. Epiphan Haeres. 51. i Irenaeus adv. Haeres. l. 5. c. 36. Euseb. Eccles. Hist. l. 3. c. 18.

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