Bible Commentaries
Revelation 1

Peake's Commentary on the BiblePeake's Commentary

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Verses 1-3

I. The Superscription.

Revelation 1:1-3 . An introductory paragraph describing the purpose and contents of the book.

Revelation 1:1 . Revelation, i.e. unveiling of the future.— God gave him: the Son receives the revelation from the Father ( cf. John 7:16).— shortly come to pass: the writer expected a speedy fulfilment of the prophecies ( cf. Revelation 22:6).— angel: the source of the prophecies in this book is God, who speaks through Christ, who speaks through the angel to His servant John ( cf. Revelation 1:4-9).

Revelation 1:2 . testimony of Jesus: i.e. that to which Jesus bore testimony.

Revelation 1:3 . he that readeth: not the ordinary reader of the book, but the man whose duty it was to read it aloud in public to the church. [On the office of the Reader, see Harnack, Sources of the Apostolic Canons. There is no evidence that the office had been developed by this time.— A. S. P.]

Verses 4-8

Revelation 1:4-8 . The greeting is addressed to the seven churches of Asia for whom the book was written.

Revelation 1:4 . seven churches, i.e. Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea.— Asia: not in the modern sense but the Roman province, which extended along the western coast-line of what is now known as Asia Minor.— which was, etc.: this phrase describes the eternity of God. He is Lord of the past, the present, and the future.— the seven spirits: a startling expression. We expect a reference to “ the Holy Spirit” as in the benediction in 2 Corinthians 13:14. Many scholars think the writer uses this phrase to describe the Holy Spirit in His plenitude and perfection, and with the intention of signifying that each of the seven churches has its special impartation. But it is doubtful whether the Book of Revelation has reached the doctrine of the Holy Spirit as we understand it, and the phrase may refer to “ the seven angels of the presence” ( cf. Revelation 4:5). [If the seven spirits are not to be identified with the Holy Spirit, it is unjustifiable to say, with Bousset, that Christ is placed in the same rank as a similar heavenly being. This is inconsistent with the place elsewhere given to Him in the book. That He is mentioned last is due to the author’ s intention to speak more fully of Him, and he thus avoids the awkwardness of interpolating the description of Him into the middle of his trinitarian formula. 2 Corinthians 13:14 shows that nothing can be inferred from order as to rank.— A. S. P.]

Revelation 1:5 . faithful witness: cf. John 18:37, “ I am come into the world that I may bear witness,” but the word may mean “ martyr,” and there may be an allusion to the death of Christ.— firstborn of the dead: cf. 1 Corinthians 15:20 *, Colossians 1:18.— Unto him: the first of many doxologies ( cf. Revelation 4:8, Revelation 5:9).— loosed us: AV “ washed us.” The presence or absence of a single letter in a Greek word accounts for the difference in the two versions. [Hebrew ritual of purification includes washing with water, and sprinkling with blood. It knows nothing of washing in blood, so that the AV reading is on that ground highly improbable. In Revelation 7:14 render “ through the blood of the Lamb” ; the words are not closely connected with “ washed.”— A. S. P.]

Revelation 1:6 . kingdom . . . priests: the ideal represented by this phrase is the union of the royal and the priestly prerogatives in one set of persons. The king and the priest represent the two highest offices, and here these are combined in the position promised to the Christian ( cf. Exodus 19:6, 1 Peter 2:9).

Revelation 1:7 . with the clouds: cf. Daniel 7:13.— which pierced him: the phrase, as in John 19:37, is borrowed from Zechariah 12:10. We have here a point of contact between Rev. and the Fourth Gospel.

Revelation 1:8 . Alpha and Omega: the first and last letters in the Greek alphabet, and so used to represent the beginning and the end. Here applied to God, but in Revelation 1:11 (AV) and Revelation 22:13 to Christ.

Verses 9-20

Revelation 1:9-20 . The Prologue gives an account of the vision of the Son of Man, and the manner in which the messages to the seven churches came to the seer.

Revelation 1:9 . John your brother: the term “ brother” in the NT is used to signify “ fellow-Christian,” the members of the same Christian community ( cf. the phrase “ our brother Paul,” 2 Peter 3:15; see Harnack, Mission and Expansion of Christianity 2 , i. 405 f.).— tribulation refers to the persecutions. The order of the words is significant, kingdom coming after tribulation and before patience, and reminds us of the words, “ Through much tribulation we must enter the kingdom” ( Acts 14:22).— patience: i.e. patient endurance. We must not only enter the kingdom through the gate of tribulation, but we must maintain our place in the kingdom by “ patient endurance.”— Patmos: a small island off the coast of Asia Minor, about 15 miles from Ephesus. The wild scenery of Patmos and the neighbouring volcanic islands doubtless suggested some of the imagery in the book.— for the word . . . and testimony: the obvious meaning is that John had been exiled to Patmos for preaching the Gospel.

Revelation 1:10 . in the spirit: i.e. in a prophetic trance.— on the Lord’ s day: i.e. the day consecrated to the Lord, the first day of the week, the day of the Resurrection ( cf. Acts 20:7, 1 Corinthians 16:2).— as a trumpet: cf. Ezekiel 3:12.

Revelation 1:12 . seven golden candlesticks: or lampstands; the imagery is suggested by Exodus 25:31, Zechariah 4:2.

Revelation 1:13 . like a son of man: Daniel 7:13 *, but the phrase is misapplied here.

Revelation 1:14 . his head, etc.: from the description of the “ Ancient of Days” in Daniel 7:9.

Revelation 1:15 . his eyes . . . his feet: from the description of the angel in Daniel 10:6.— many waters: cf. Ezekiel 1:24; Ezekiel 43:2, Revelation 14:2.

Revelation 1:16 . a two-edged sword: cf. Revelation 2:12 ; Revelation 2:16, Revelation 19:15. Compare also Hebrews 4:12. The whole description is thus made up of classical phrases mostly borrowed from the OT.

Revelation 1:17 . the first, etc.: the same phrase is applied to God in Revelation 1:8 and Revelation 21:6.— death and Hades: the two words stand for the same thing. Hades is the abode of the dead. For the combination, cf. Revelation 6:8, Revelation 20:13; “ to have the keys” ( Revelation 3:7 *) means to possess authority over.

Revelation 1:20 . mystery: “ the inner meaning of a symbolical vision” ( 2 Thessalonians 2:17 *).— angels of the seven churches: The meaning of this expression has been much disputed. It has often been interpreted as referring to the “ presbyters” or “ bishops” of the churches. But this explanation is contrary to the invariable usage of the word in the book. The word occurs some sixty times, and always in the sense “ of a superhuman being employed in the service of God or Satan.” The phrase can, therefore, only mean “ the guardian angels of the churches.” The angels are represented as personifying the spirit and genius of the different churches, as in Dan. different angels personify the characteristics of different nations. [For connexion with the idea of the Fravashi, see note on Matthew 18:10.— A. S. P.]

Bibliographical Information
Peake, Arthur. "Commentary on Revelation 1". "Peake's Commentary on the Bible ". 1919.