Bible Commentaries
Revelation 1

Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New TestamentsSutcliffe's Commentary

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Verses 1-20

Revelation 1:1 . The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which reaches to the end of time, and is a continuation of the Hebrew, and the christian prophets of the new testament. This revelation properly begins where Daniel ends; and both received their knowledge of the hidden things from Christ, and his angel. The design was to show things which were shortly to come to pass on the Romans, and on the church.

Revelation 1:3 . Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear, as in the Greek. By attention to prophecy the christians were saved from perishing in Jerusalem; and the jews in Babylon had hope of deliverance, and we also have hope in the latter day. The words of Daniel apply here. None of the wicked shall understand, but the wise, the purified and made white, they shall understand. Daniel 12:10.

Revelation 1:4 . Seven Spirits, or seven archangels, as many say: some apply the phrase to the seven states of the church under the seven trumpets. Others with more propriety, from the perfections ascribed to the Messiah, Isaiah 11:2, understand it of the gifts of the Holy Ghost conferred by Christ. This gloss agrees best with the whole Trinity blessing the church; for Jesus is next named, and it seems improper to place angels between the Father and the Son. The seven spirits, and the seven eyes of the Lord, Zechariah 4:5, are one in purpose and design.

Revelation 1:7 . Behold, he cometh with clouds, to judge the jewish nation who pierced him; and from the words of our Saviour we must make the climax, to judge the world. Matthew 24:29.

Revelation 1:8 . I am Alpha and Omega, the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet. This phrase is a translation of the word JEHOVAH, which is God’s name and memorial to all generations. The jews have a saying, He that walks in uprightness, performs the whole law, from aleph to thau, which are the first and last letters of the Hebrew alphabet.

Revelation 1:9 . I John, who also am your companion in tribulation. The Greek και , “also,” has an acceptation equivalent to even, reality, or truth, as in 1 Corinthians 11:23. “I have received of the Lord that which I also delivered unto you.” The sense is, I delivered the order of the sacrament, even as I received it. It is insufferable in Griesbach to omit this expressive particle in his unitarian copy of the Greek testament.

I was in the isle called Patmos. This is an island in the Archipelago of Greece, situate between Icari and Samos, about twenty six miles in circumference: latitude 37.20. Boiste says that the Greeks still pretend to show the hermitage where St. John lodged.

For the word of God, for fervently preaching the gospel, and for the testimony of Jesus. Irenæus gives us a valuable comment here. He says that when he was in Asia, he conversed with the disciples of John, who affirmed that they had heard him say, that he (like the other apostles) had handled the body of Christ after his resurrection. Here is the testimony of Jesus, that he is the Son of God, and risen from the dead. John testifies also that Christ was the faithful and the true witness; the first-begotten from the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. What words of consolation, and what a triumph of faith in the land of exile!

Revelation 1:11 . I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last. This is a more explicit repetition of Revelation 1:8. It is the current language of the Hebrew prophets respecting the Messiah. John the Baptist had said, He that cometh after me is preferred before me; for he was before me. John 1:15. This must regard the deity of Christ, for John was six months older than the Saviour. “Who hath wrought and done it? I the Lord, the first, and with the last; I am he.” Isaiah 41:4; Isaiah 44:6; Isaiah 48:12. The Word that dwelt among the patriarchs was made flesh.

The seven churches. Their situation may be seen in the map, in or near the province of Asia. But Dr. More, and some others, regard the seven churches as mystical designations of future periods. Ephesus, as extending to the year of Christ 110. Smyrna, to 306. Pergamos, to the time of the Waldenses, in 1160. Thyatira, to the reformation, confirmed by law in 1552. The doctor does not proceed farther in his preface.

Revelation 1:12-13 . And I turned to see the voice, to ascertain the person from whom the voice proceeded, that spake with me. This is the first of those stupendous visions with which John was favoured in the isle of Patmos. And I saw one like unto the Son of man. The Son of God, whom Daniel saw exalted on the throne of judgment, and surrounded with myriads of angels. The glory was great, but the divine apostle still recollected the features of his Lord, who was dead, and is alive for evermore, and now clothed with incomparable lustre. The description of Aaron’s dress in Exodus 28:0. is in the LXX very much like this, only it differs as the shadow and the substance. His hair betokens wisdom, and his flaming eyes, an angry judge to the unbelieving world. His feet burned, to mark the refining purity of his walk, or great love; and his roaring voice, the great energy of his gospel, and terror of all his foes.

Revelation 1:14 . His head and his hairs were white like wool. We have here a vision of the Messiah in his manifold characters of prophet, priest, and king. He is the Judge of all the earth, as seen by Daniel. He has eyes of flame, which his enemies cannot endure. He sustains these characters in perpetuity while walking in the midst of his churches. If he allow the wicked, for a moment, to afflict and to scatter his saints, it is to spread his glory abroad in the earth, and to fill the world with the knowledge of God.

Revelation 1:16 . His countenance was as the sun, shining with meridian splendour; the sun of righteousness, the light of the world, to set no more. The Hebrew sun was now darkened, for the new Zion is now the Lord’s delight. In all this vision there is no pectoral of twelve precious stones. Oh no. Israel’s sun was gone down in anger, and the jews shall no more see the light till they look on him whom they have pierced. Moses has denounced the sentence of heaven against the jews. “Ships shall come from Chittim, [Greece and Rome] and shall afflict Heber, [the Hebrews] and he also, [as a nation] shall perish for ever.” Numbers 24:24.

Revelation 1:20 . The seven stars are the seven angels or ministers of the seven principal churches. So the heads of synagogues were sometimes called. The churches are the lamps: all should shine, but ministers must shine more especially.

We cannot conclude this introductory chapter better than in the words of Sirachides. “He who delights in the law of the Most High, and makes it his constant study, will investigate the wisdom of all the ancients, and study the prophecies:” cap. 59.


How awful was Christ’s coming to the jews. How terrible for his crucifiers to see him arrayed as the priest and judge, and themselves divested of the priesthood, and brought as culprits to his bar. What joy was this to the church. They broke forth into singing, and celebrated his love in the grant of all their privileges. But what joy for John to see his Lord again, who is with his people in exile, in the water and in the fire. And who would fear before this wicked world to serve this glorious and gracious Lord and King. Let our faith look at the issue, and make no account of difficulties, for the prince of the kings of the earth is here. He is unfolding in secret the grand mysteries of providence and grace to the end of time, that the church may have a supporting hope of victory in all her conflicts: for the kingdoms of the earth shall surely become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ.

Above all, the glory of Christ as the great high-priest of our profession, in all his regal grandeur enthroned in his church, confirms his saints in their stability. Who after this would go back to the grave of unitarian philosophy? Who would draw back to the impiety of Gallic deism, and live and die in his sins? Who would dare the sharp two-edged sword going out of his mouth? Rather let us dwell in the house of the Lord, and flourish in the courts of our God.

Bibliographical Information
Sutcliffe, Joseph. "Commentary on Revelation 1". Sutcliffe's Commentary on the Old and New Testaments. 1835.