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After a short Preface of what the Apostle is called to, in the Ministry of this Book of Revelation, he addresseth the Seven Churches of Asia, with the Salutation of Grace and Peace. He speaks most blessedly of the Person and Glory of Christ, in his appearing to Him, and relates what passed at this Interview.
(1) The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John: (2) Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw. (3) Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.
This is most properly assigned to Jesus Christ, the revelation herein given to John. For as none was found worthy to open the book and to loose the seals, but Christ himself as Mediator, so all revelation, primarily and effectually, must be in him and from him. And I beg the Reader by the way, not to overlook in this relation given of Christ, how very fully it proclaims, his eternal power and Godhead, since none but one that hath foreknowledge, could foretell future events. And although in this place, Christ is here spoken of, as the Christ of God, the Mediator, yet such powers demonstrate, what all the scriptures, with one voice declare, that Christ is both God and Man, in this most blessed character. No sooner was Christ set as Jehovah's Ring in Zion, than he instantly acts in that high office, and saith, I will declare the decree. Compare Revelation 5:6 and Revelation 5:8 with Psalms 2:6-7 .
By the phrase of things which must shortly come to pass, can mean no more, than their beginning to be accomplished. For very certain it is, that we are now arrived into the opening of the nineteenth Century; and though much hath been fulfilled, much remains yet to be accomplished. But the commencement of the predictions and events then delivered to John, were shortly to be accomplished in part, and thus go on from generation to generation, until the whole were finished.
John was specially chosen, to have these sacred things brought before him, and to deliver them to the Church, for he had enjoyed a more than ordinary acquaintance with the Person of his Lord, during his ministry upon earth. And under the Holy Ghost, had borne a most decided testimony to the Lord Jesus and his office - character, as the uncreated Word and the Christ of God, Joh 1:14 ; 1 John 1:1-3 . Reader! do not overlook the blessedness pronounced on reading, hearing, and keeping in remembrance the glorious records, here given to the Person, and Ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a great encouragement to be diligent in our attention, to this most precious book of God. Oh! may the Holy Ghost open its blessed contents to my view, and write them in my heart; that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ.
(4) John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne; (5) And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,
The names of these seven Churches we have enumerated in the eleventh verse. And, awful to relate, they are now all of them in the hands of the Turks, and under the horrible delusion of the infamous doctrine of Mahomet; called in this scripture, the false Prophet! Revelation 16:13 . See Reader! how sure are God's judgments! While the Church of Christ must stand forever, neither can the gates of hell prevail against it, Nations, that is, professing nations, where that Church hath once flourished, as Ephesus, may be given up to utter ruin. The house of God standeth sure, but the Candlestick is a moveable article in the house; and may be removed, when the iniquity of a land (as Sodom was before its destruction) is full. Oh! who that seriously lays at heart, the deplorable state of our highly favored nation, but finds cause to tremble, lest God should give it up to barrenness, for the wickedness of them that dwell therein. Psalms 107:34 . A Christ-despising generation, in which his Godhead is impudently denied in open day, and now, no law to punish the daring offenders!
I admire the very blessed expressions in the Apostle's salutation. What a degree of elevation, the souls of Prophets and Apostles arrived at, under divine influence, when speaking the praises of Jehovah. And how much they all delighted, to celebrate each Person of the Godhead; and each office-character belonging to each Person of the Godhead, as revealed to the Church in the Covenant of grace? And wherefore should New Testament, saints come short of sounding forth, the high praises of the Holy Three in One, who have such increasing causes, in the increasing testimonies of their grace; accumulating, as that grace must daily do, in the swelling tide continually running from age to age through the Church?
I would not insist upon a single point of doctrine, as being confirmed, but upon evidences the most incontestable. But I would humbly ask, are not the sacred Three in One distinctly spoken of in those hallowed words; from Him which is, and which was, and which is to come? From Him, in allusion, as may be supposed, to the divine Unity, and in which the whole Three Persons are included. Which is, and which was, and which is to come; meaning God the Father, Son, and Spirit, in the eternity and unchangeableness of their essence, as God, and in which, each, and all these divine properties; belong to each, and to all. And in their office-character also, which they have most graciously entered into in the Covenant, those distinctions belong to each and to all. For, as their nature and the engagements to each other, respecting the Church, are everlasting; so, to the Church in Christ, it may and must be said of them, which is, and which was, and which is to come. Reader! what a sweet thought is it, that our mercies are everlasting and unchangeable; for the Lord Jehovah from whom they come, is everlasting and unchangeable!
But while we thus give equal glory to the Holy Three in One, both as we contemplate each, and fall in their Personal distinctions, and in their united glory, as the One Eternal Jehovah; we have in this scripture also, very blessed views of each, in those distinctions of character, as they stand in relation to the Church. God the Father in his choice of the Church, in his gift of the Church to Christ, and in all his purposes of grace and mercy flowing from his everlasting love to the Church, both is, and was, and is to come. What God the Father now is, such he always was, and such he always will be, to his Church in Christ. And what God the Holy Ghost, in his everlasting love to the Church now is, such he always was, and such he always will be; and such the Son as God, and as God-Man Mediator. There can be no change in either.
But there is another blessed view this scripture furnisheth, namely, where God the Holy Ghost, in his office-character, as it concerns the Church, is called the seven Spirits which are before the throne. That is not seven persons, for God the Holy Ghost is One in his Person, as are the Person of the Father, and of the Son, but it means God the Spirit, in his sevenfold gifts and graces, diversified to the Church as they are imparted. Seven is a perfect number. And by this perfection, this number is specified, as implying a fullness and perfection of all the gifts and blessings, he imparts to the Church in Christ. And it is blessed to observe, that as the Holy Ghost gives his unction, both to the great Head of the Church, and to all his members, and of the same grace, though not in the same degree; (See John 3:34 with Ephesians 4:7 ) so, when he anointed Christ and abode upon him, (See John 1:32 ) as was prophesied, the Lord, the Holy Ghost is said to have done it, in this sevenfold manner. First. He is said to have rested upon him. Secondly. The Spirit of wisdom. Thirdly. Understanding. Fourthly. The Spirit of Counsel. Fifthly. Might. Sixthly. Knowledge. Seventhly. The fear of the Lord, Isaiah 11:2 . Reader! what beauties are in the scripture! What wonders do they unfold!
One word more on this glorious beginning of the book of Revelation. John saith also: And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the Prince of the kings of the earth. Here it is very plain, that what is said of Christ, is said of him in relation to his Person and offices, as God-Man Mediator. Not as God only, for then, in that sense, he could not be called the first begotten of the dead. Neither as man only; for then, he could not be the faithful witness, in revealing things of eternity, and testifying to the eternal truths of Jehovah, by his Spirit, in the hearts and consciences of his people. But, by the union of both, God and Man in one Person, he is the faithful witness God hath given to the people; and the Amen, in whom the Church is blessed forever, Isaiah 55:4 ; Revelation 3:15 ; Isaiah 65:16 . In this sweet and gracious point of view, all that is here said of Christ, is truly blessed. He is t he first begotten of the dead, as he is the first in the beginning of the creation of God. All things were made by him, Colossians 1:15-17 . And in resurrection, the first fruits, and the first and sole cause of resurrection, to his members. For though several instances are on scripture record, of the raising of the dead, before Christ arose; yet these were all by his power. This Jesus explained and proved, at the resurrection of Lazarus; when, having called him forth from the grave, he declared himself to be the resurrection and the life: and having said it, gave the specimen of it, by the immediate miracle that followed, John 11:43; John 11:43 . By the Prince of the kings of the earth, doth not simply mean, his government of his Church only, but his universal and everlasting monarchy over the whole creation of God. All power is given to me (Jesus himself said) in heaven and earth. So that our Jesus, as God-Man Mediator, hath unlimited sovereignty and dominion, over all the departments of nature, providence, grace, and glory, Matthew 28:18 ; Ephesians 1:20-23 . And add to these, there is a special blessing here spoken of, in reference to his Church; and the Apostle breaks out into an hymn of praise, while he mentions it. Unto him (saith he) that hath loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood; and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Reader! do observe the blessedness of what is here said, with a special relation to Christ's Church. The Apostle had before spoken of Christ's unlimited government over all things, but here it is in his relationship to his body the Church. And do observe yet further, the beautiful order of these unspeakable blessings. Unto him that hath loved us, and washed us. Remark, I pray you, that it is his love which is the cause. And his washing us is the effect. I never can say enough to you, nor my own heart also, on all the blessed properties of redemption. What would have become of the whole Church, the whole body of Christ's members, fallen in the Adam-nature of sin and ruin, had not Jesus redeemed them, and washed them in his blood? But, when we have carried this to the highest pitch of our admiration and praise; still the cause of all this is to be extolled and delighted in, before the effect. Reader! let you and I daily, hourly, minutely, bless the whole Godhead, for all our mercies; pardon and peace with all that are connected with this blessedness, in the blood of the cross; but above all these, let us bless God for his love! Oh! who shall describe, what heart shall conceive, the love of God, and of Christ, which passeth knowledge?
(7) Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.
How beautifully the Apostle breaks off at this verse, from what he had been saying before, to honor, and glorify the Son of God. He is indeed still on the same subject; for his whole heart seemed to be on fire, at what he had been meditating, concerning Christ's love, in the redemption of his people. But at this verse, he breaks out in a devout rapture of holy joy, as though he beheld Christ as immediately appearing to his view. He connects the blessed subject of washing his people with his blood, as now coming in the clouds, to receive them to himself; and, overpowered with the contemplation, he cries out: Behold he cometh! Reader! ponder well the several weighty things in this blessed verse. First, The certainty of Christ's coming. So the Angels, which attended the ascension of Christ assured the Church of the certainty of his descension, Acts 1:11 . Secondly, The object of his coming. To judge the world in righteousness, and minister judgment to the people, Psalms 9:8 . Thirdly. The different effects produced by his coming; every eye shall see him, they also which pierced him, and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him; that is, everlasting horror will come upon all his enemies, all the Christ-despisers; all of this description, in all kindreds where they are; shall be tremblingly alive, in the anguish of their souls, at his appearing. But his people shall shout aloud with holy joy at his approach, and put their hearty even so, Amen, in Confirmation of it. Reader what saith your heart to these things? If you can welcome Jesus, approach now in ordinances; if his Person, blood, and righteousness, be dear to you now, surely His coming will be so then! If Jesus saith I come quickly! Can you answer, even so, come Lord Jesus? Surely our knowledge and love of Jesus here, are sweet testimonies of our delight in him, both here and hereafter.
(8) I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.
What a blessed verse is here! It should seem, that no sooner had the beloved Apostle ended, as in the verse before, his rapturous expressions, in contemplating the Person of his Lord; but Jesus instantly appeared, and delivered himself in these most precious words, as if confirming all that his servant had said of him. I am Alpha and Omega. Thrice in this Chapter, here, and again at Revelation 1:17; Revelation 1:17 , the Lord Jesus takes to himself these characters of distinction. And, to confirm it yet more finally, and fully, in the last Chapter of this book of the Revelation, as if to leave the impression in full force upon the minds of his people through all ages of his Church, he repeats those names, and puts the whole together: I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last, Revelation 22:13 .
Now let us pause, and consider these solemn words as they are. And then say, what can be stronger, in proof of eternity, and all divine perfections? Alpha is the first letter in the Greek Alphabet, and Omega the last. There is none that comes before, neither any that comes after. Now, these are the distinguishing characters of Jehovah. None is before, none after. Hence we find the Lord taking to himself these attributes, as so many standards of character, in confirmation of his Godhead. Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God; I know not any! And this is said at a time when the Lord had been using the same language as is here used saying: I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God. Let the Reader compare the scriptures, and he must be led to see, that the language is one and the same, and from the same Almighty speaker, Isaiah 44:6-8 ; see also Isaiah 41:4 and Isaiah 48:12 .
(9) I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. (10) I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, (11) Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea. (12) And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; (13) And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. (14) His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; (15) And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. (16) And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength. (17) And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last: (18) I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive forevermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death. (19) Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter; (20) The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.
The Apostle now enters upon his work, to which the Lord had called him, and begins his relation of it, with an account of himself Where he was, how he was engaged, and the time in which those visions began. There is somewhat very interesting in the Apostle's plain, and artless narrative. A brother, and companion in tribulation to the Church, being at that time in banishment, for the truth as it is in Jesus. It was the Lord's day, not the Jewish sabbath; for though John was by birth a Jew, yet, after the resurrection of Jesus, the followers of Christ changed the seventh day of the week into the first, in honor of Christ, and called it the Lord's day. Reader! this is a full confirmation of the Lord's approving the change. And it is a blessed recommendation to the honoring the Lord's day, when we find, as in the instance of John, on this day the Lord was pleased to make this glorious manifestation of himself to his servant. May not all regenerated believers in Jesus, humbly expect visits, sweet and gracious, from the Lord, on the Lord's day? Who that reads this account of John, in Jesus's mercies toward him on that day of the Lord, but are encouraged to hope, that in honoring those holy seasons, in the congregation of the faithful, we may be also blest, and be in the Spirit on the Lord's day?
I do not venture to enter upon a description, beyond what is here given by the Holy Ghost, concerning the Person and glory of the Lord. It is infinitely sublime, as represented in these words. All attempts to add to it must fail. I shall only beg to call the Reader's attention to some of the many blessed things contained in it; and may the same Almighty Spirit, which was then with John, be with all his people, to give them a right understanding in all things!
And, first. Our grand concern in this, and all other manifestations given of the Lord Jesus Christ is, to pray for a proper, and just apprehension of his Person. Faith's object is Christ. And, therefore, in order to have a right foundation to our faith we must first know Christ, Or our faith in him, will not be correct. We find here, the Lord Jesus taking to himself all divine perfections. The Alpha, and Omega, the first and the last, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty. We no less hear him declaring himself under the same distinction of attributes, in his Mediator-character; and, in the moment when he had laid his right-hand upon John, and when he added, I am he that liveth, and was dead, and behold I am alive forevermore! Now, what can more plainly, or more fully confirm all the great and leading truths of our most holy faith, than that Christ is God, and that as Christ, in our nature, he is come forth, from the invisibility of the Godhead, to reveal the will of God to his people. If no man hath seen God at any time, if no man can see the face of God and live, and if the only begotten Son, who lay in the bosom of the Father, hath come forth, and he only, to declare him; can there be a proof wanting, that it is the Son of God, who is one with the Father, and the Holy Ghost, in all the divine attributes, which makes all the revelations that are, or can be made, of himself, and Father, and Spirit, in our nature; and in the moment of such discoveries, manifests his Godhead, by assuming all the perfections of the Godhead and thereby proves that blessed scripture, where it is said, that in Him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily? Colossians 2:9 . Reader! what are your apprehensions of the Person of Christ? Remember, it is the very bottom, and foundation of every other article of faith. Bear with me, while I venture to say to you one plain truth of scripture. No man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost, 1 Corinthians 12:3 . When John, as here stated, saw Christ; and when he heard, and received, and recorded the things he had seen; he was in the Spirit. Mark that! And it is God the Spirit now, as much as then, that can alone cause the spirits of men to the belief of this great truth. When the Son of God was upon earth, he referred all his proofs of himself to this divine teaching. The works that I do in my Father's name, they bear witness of me, John 10:25 . And as Jesus by the Spirit wrought his miracles, every act of this nature, carried the Spirit's testimony with it, to his Godhead. And I pray the Reader to observe what I am going to add on this subject. John, we are here told, was in the Spirit when he gave this testimony to the Godhead of Christ. And David, we are also told, was under the same blessed teaching, when in Spirit he called Jesus Lord. It is Christ himself which refers to Psalms 110:0 in confirmation of it, when in conversation with the Jews he quoted it: The Lord said unto my Lord; said David. A plain proof of those Persons in the Godhead, and which can be explained on no other ground. Reader! let me take the words of our God and Savior, and put the question to your heart, which He did to the Pharisees: What think you of Christ? Matthew 22:41-46 .
Secondly. Next to the right apprehension of Christ's Person, as the great, object of faith, is the conviction of all the leading points, which belong to his office, and relations, and character. His full, and finished salvation, is here most completely set forth, and set forth under these strong expressions: Fear not, I am the first and the last. I am he that liveth, and was dead, and behold I am alive forevermore: Amen, and have the keys of hell and of death. Observe, what immense things are here spoken of by the Lord Jesus, for his redeemed to rest with full assurance upon. And observe, how the Lord Jesus puts one of his glorious names, the Amen, the faithful witness, in the very middle of what he saith, by way of stamping, signing, sealing, and delivering this blessed Charter. It becomes like the Patent of heaven. It confirms, and establisheth the Royal Society of his Kings and Priests, whom he hath made in his Kingdom. It is what I call the everlasting Indenture of the Covenant. And faith gives a right of holding, a present fee-simple, in the inheritance by Christ, which is incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away. Oh! the blessedness, when He who laid his right hand upon John, confirms with equal assurance, by his Holy Spirit, the princely grant in every heart of his people, which is to the same effect; saying, Fear not! Precious, and Almighty Jesus! thou hast indeed the key of all authority and power, even the Key of David; to open, and none can shut; to shut, and none can open, Isaiah 22:22 . Lord! do thou open thy word to my soul! and do thou open my heart, to thy word. Oh! the blessed assurance! My God, my Saviour, hath the key of death, the key of hell, the key of heaven. At his girdle they all hang and none can open either, but by his authority. How secure are all thy redeemed! Precious Jesus! all power is thine, in heaven and in earth!
One word more on this blessed Chapter! Jesus commanded John to write the things he had seen. And we have reason to bless the Lord, that he both wrote, and by the Lord's authority, hath sent what he saw, to his Church. And what a delightful instruction the Church gathers from the whole? Jesus holds aft his truly ordained ministers, ordained by God the Holy Ghost, in his Almighty hand, as stars; and he is in the midst of his people, as here he appeared in the midst of the golden candlesticks, to bless them with his presence and his grace. From whence we plainly perceive, where the one gains all his ability to preach, and the other the ability to hear. Hence those sweet words to the former: As the Father hath sent me, even so send I you, John 20:21 . And to the latter: Lo! I am with you alway, even to the end of the world! Matthew 28:20 . Reader! what saith your soul's experience to these things? It is blessed, yea, very blessed, when the written word is accompanied with the engrafted word; and when the child or God, hearing what the Spirit saith to the Churches, can set to his seal, that God is true!
BLESSED! forever blessed, be God the Father, for the gift of his dear Son Jesus Christ. Blessed! forever blessed, be God the Son, for this gracious revelation of himself to his servant John, to comfort, and instruct the Church. And blessed be God the Holy Ghost, for causing so sweet and precious a record, to be handed down to the Church from generation to generation, of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ. Lord! add a blessing to the whole, and give grace to thy people, that they may hear what the Spirit saith unto the Churches.
May it be the blessedness and felicity of the Lord's redeemed, to find grace and peace, according to the Apostle's benediction, from Him, which is, and which was, and which is to come. Yea! may the Church daily find all Covenant blessings, from God the Judge of all, from Jesus the Mediator of the New Covenant, and from the influence of the Holy Ghost, in his sevenfold gifts and graces, which are before the throne. Oh! the unspeakable mercy of God in Christ. He who hath made us Kings and Priests, unto God and the Father, having loved us, and washed us from our sins, in his blood!
Precious Emmanuel! thou who didst bless John with thy presence, and gavest him those blessed revelations, to deliver unto thy Church, condescend to visit thy people now. Thou art still the Alpha and the Omega. Thou art still all the blessedness of thy Church and people. Lord! visit thy Churches. No Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, or Laodicea, ever needed thee more, than the professing Churches of this land, where we dwell. Oh! then, come Lord, and take up thine own cause, lest our Churches, like those of Asia, which are now no more, be desolated, and without inhabitants. If Jesus will come forth with his people, if God the Spirit will ordain ministers, and walk up and down in the midst of his people; then will thy servants be as stars to the right hand of Christ, and his people, like the candlesticks, shining bright with the oil of grace, from Jesus walking in and out among them. Oh! for a little revival in the present day, that the Lord may not remove our candlestick out of its place!
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Revelation 1". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 13 / Ordinary 18