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Bible Commentaries

Sermon Bible Commentary

Revelation 1

Verse 4

Revelation 1:4

A reason why the Holy Ghost is called "the seven spirits" is found in that remarkable sevenfold action by which He works upon the soul of a man, for though the influences of the Holy Ghost are indeed very many, and the enumeration of them might be extended very far, they do range themselves, with a very singular exactness, under seven heads.

I. To open the heart like Lydia's; to show us what we are; to make us feel sin, and specially sins done against Christ that is the Spirit's first work.

II. The Spirit shows us Christ. Every day's experience proves that we can only know Christ by the Holy Spirit. There is no other power that ever can or will reveal Christ to the sinner's soul.

III. The Spirit comforts. I place this office here, for all the Spirit's comfortings have to do with Jesus Christ. I believe the Holy Ghost never comforts a man but through Christ. He never uses the commonplaces of men's consolation; He never deals in generalities: He shows you that Jesus loves you; He shows you that Jesus died for you, that God has forgiven you. So He makes Christ fill an empty place. He exhibits the exceeding loveliness and sufficiency of Christ's person.

IV. After this the Spirit proceeds to teach the man, who is now become a child of God. He fits the heart to the subject, and the subject to the heart. Hence the marvellous power and the singular sweetness there is when you sit under the Holy Spirit's teaching.

V. For where He teaches, there He sanctifies. There is never a good desire but it was He who prompted it, and never a right thought but it was He who imparted it. It is He who gives the higher motive, and makes the heart begin to point to the glory of God.

VI. He is the Intercessor who "maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered."

VII. He seals the soul which He has made His temple. As some proprietor when he goes away puts his mark upon his jewels, so the Holy Ghost fastens you to Christ, that nothing may ever divide you. He gives you a comforting assurance that you are a child of God; He makes in the soul a little sanctuary of peace and love.

J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 8th series, p. 156.

Verses 4-5

Revelation 1:4-5

The Catholic Church.

Let us recall what would be the general aspect of the Church of Christ, born into actual life on the day of Pentecost, as it passed away from under the dying eyes and hands of this very last Apostle left on the earth, who had seen the Lord. What would any one have found who had looked in upon it at the close of the century? What picture would he have painted? What would have been his primary impression? A good deal of detail may be hidden from us, but we can be fairly sure of the broad features that strike the eye, and we can be quite certain of the character of its inner secret.

I. And, first, it would show itself to him as a corporate society, a social brotherhood, a family of God. This family, this brotherhood, he would have discovered, had widely over-spread the empire, and in doing so distinctly followed the line of the Roman imperial system. That system, we know, was a network of municipalities gathered together into metropolitan centres. And the Christian society repeated in its own way, on its own methods, the general feature of this imperial organisation. Its life lay in towns; its ideal was civic; each city in which it established itself was a little centre for the suburban and surrounding districts. It was becoming clear its note was to be catholic. That was the outward society.

II. And inside what did the believer find? He found, first, a fellowship of holy and gracious living. To understand what this meant, try to recall the epistles of St. Paul, for you can feel still throbbing, as we know, in those epistles the unutterable ecstacy of the believers' escape out of what had before been their proverbial and familiar existence. St. Paul bids them keep ever in mind the old days from which they have fled fled as men fly from a wild and savage beast whose breath has been hot upon them, whose fangs and claws have been, and are still, too terribly near. We may read and enjoy the noble classical literature in which the old pagan world expressed, through the lips of its prophets and philosophers, its higher aspirations and its cleaner graces; but here in St. Paul we can still touch, and feel, and handle the ghastly history of the common pagan life, such as it was really known in provincial cities. The ideal of holy living, which before had been a weak dream, a dream that became daily more confused and despairing, was now a restored possibility. It had become possible that a whole society, a whole community of men and women, should live together for the purpose of high and clean life, with a positive hope of attaining it. That was the new attraction; that was the great change that had come over the situation a change from losing to winning. To pass from one state of things to the other was to pass from death into life; It was to them an undying and an unutterable joy.

III. It was a society of holiness, and a society of help, and then a society of help and holiness for all alike, out of every race, and at all social levels. Here, again, we know, was the secret of its power. A career of moral and spiritual holiness opened out to all women and to slaves. And how was it held together? Not by being a society of holiness, or a society of help; but its one indomitable and unswerving article of creed was that all this outward and visible organism was the outcome of a life essentially supernatural, invisible, not of this world, unearthly, spiritual, with which life believers stood in unbroken communion; for in their very midst, moving through the golden candlesticks, was an energising presence, loved as a friend is loved, known and clung to as a Redeemer, worshipped as God Himself is worshipped One who was as verily near, present, and alive with them as He was in the days of His flesh among the friends whom He had chosen. From His spiritual life they drank their life, united to it as limbs of one body to the head by inseparable union. Of this unalterable union every good word spoken, every good act done, by each and all, was the true and the natural fruit. This union was sustained by the constant intercourse of worship, and, above all, by that central act in which all worship concentrated itself and round which all services of prayer and praise grouped their office: that act in which the Church on earth ate of the living bread "the bread of eternal life, of which whosoever eateth shall never die."

H. Scott Holland, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xliii., p. 360.

Verse 5

Revelation 1:5

Look at the text

I. As a statement of a fact. "The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin." The reasons for this arrangement are not with the theological reasoners, but they are among the secret things which belong to God. But just as the body is washed by pure water, so are we washed from our sins in Christ's own blood.

II. As the most perfect illustration of Jesus's love. (1) Dying for us was grief, sorrow, self-denial, trouble, a cup of gall to Jesus Christ, just as His temptations were fiery trials. (2) Nothing can be so precious as love thus proved.

III. As a matter of consciousness. "Looking unto Jesus," we begin to hate evil, to be weaned from the love of sin, to love righteousness; we "cease to do evil and learn to do well."

IV. As an incentive to praise and as a theme of praise. Praise is the expression of holy, happy, devout feeling; and such expression must be acceptable to God. Divine revelation is Divine expression. Creation is expression by the absolute and infinite God. "He that offereth praise glorifieth Me."

S. Martin, Comfort in Trouble, p. 232.

References: Revelation 1:5 . W. J. Knox-Little, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xiii., p. 248; Preacher's Monthly, vol. iii., p. 321; vol. viii., p. 240. Revelation 1:5 , Revelation 1:6 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxix., No. 1737; W. Cunningham, Sermons, p. 146; Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iii., p. 87.

Verses 5-6

Revelation 1:5-6

The Christian Priesthood.

I. It is amongst the most common, and certainly not the least dangerous of the errors of the day, to identify the Church with the clergy, as though the laity were not to the full as much one of its constituent parts. Our common forms of speech both encourage and prove the mistake; for we speak of a man as "designed for the Church" when preparing for the clerical profession, and we speak of him as "entering the Church" when he takes holy orders. The whole Christian community is made up of priests. We are not speaking of what that community may be by practice, but only of what it is by profession; of what it ought to be, and of what it would be if it acted faithfully up to the obligations it had taken on itself. When settled in Canaan, the Jews were far from proving themselves a "kingdom of priests," for they turned aside after false gods, and dishonoured, in place of magnifying, the name of Jehovah. But supposing them to have been a nation of righteous men, not only outwardly in covenant with God, but consecrated in heart to His service, then it is easy to perceive that they would have stood to all surrounding countries in the very position in which the tribe of Levi stood to themselves; they would have been witnesses for the Almighty to the rest of the world, standing in the midst of the vast temple of the earth and instructing the ignorant in the mysteries of truth. And beyond question what the Jewish nation might have been, that may be the Christian Church; that would it be if its every member acted up to the vows which were made for him at his baptism. Let a parish of nominal Christians be converted into a parish of real Christians, so that there should not be one within its circuit who did not adorn the doctrine of the Gospel; and what should we have but a parish of priests to the high and living God? Christian nations stand in the same position to heathen nations as Christian ministers to Christian congregations. They have much the same duties to perform the same power of witnessing for God, the same opportunities of supporting the great cause of truth. In the one case as well as in the other there may be a great want of fidelity. The priesthood in the persons of the nation, just as the priesthood in the persons of individuals, may be grievously disgraced, and its obligations forgotten, and its duties not discharged; but all this interferes not with the fact that there has been an ordination, a solemn setting apart to the service of God, whether of a people or an individual.

II. Every man who has been received by baptism into the Christian Church has been invested with a priestly office, and shall be hereafter dealt with according to the manner in which that office has been performed. If the Church as a body is to be a kingdom of priests, it follows that every member of that Church, in his individual capacity, can be nothing less than a priest. The priestly office, indeed, is no longer what it was as regards the ministers of the Church; but it is not one jot altered as regards the members of the Church. It is not what it was as regards the ministers, because they have not to make atonement by the offering up of sacrifice; but it is what it was as regards the members, because their ministrations are still to be those of a holy life and consistency and steadfastness in maintenance of truth.

H. Melvill, Penny Pulpit, No. 1707.

Verse 6

Revelation 1:6

I. "Unto Him." Why unto Him? (1) He loved us from everlasting; (2) He has washed us from our sins in His own blood; (3) He has made us kings and priests.

II. "Glory and dominion" regal rule; imperial rule; rule everywhere; dominion over all; the government seen to be upon His shoulder, the sceptre known to be in His hand, the crown visible on His head.

III. "For ever." How little there is that one would wish to be for ever. What echoes do the words awaken, "To Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever"!

S. Martin, Comfort in Trouble, p. 274.

References: Revelation 1:7 . H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Waterside Mission Sermons, No. 12; Homiletic Magazine, vol. vii., p. 341.Revelation 1:8 . Homilist, 2nd series, vol. iii., p. 481; W. Landels, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxiii., p. 129.

Verse 6

Revelation 1:6

I. "Unto Him." Why unto Him? (1) He loved us from everlasting; (2) He has washed us from our sins in His own blood; (3) He has made us kings and priests.

II. "Glory and dominion" regal rule; imperial rule; rule everywhere; dominion over all; the government seen to be upon His shoulder, the sceptre known to be in His hand, the crown visible on His head.

III. "For ever." How little there is that one would wish to be for ever. What echoes do the words awaken, "To Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever"!

S. Martin, Comfort in Trouble, p. 274.

References: Revelation 1:7 . H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Waterside Mission Sermons, No. 12; Homiletic Magazine, vol. vii., p. 341.Revelation 1:8 . Homilist, 2nd series, vol. iii., p. 481; W. Landels, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxiii., p. 129.

Verse 6

Revelation 1:6

I. "Unto Him." Why unto Him? (1) He loved us from everlasting; (2) He has washed us from our sins in His own blood; (3) He has made us kings and priests.

II. "Glory and dominion" regal rule; imperial rule; rule everywhere; dominion over all; the government seen to be upon His shoulder, the sceptre known to be in His hand, the crown visible on His head.

III. "For ever." How little there is that one would wish to be for ever. What echoes do the words awaken, "To Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever"!

S. Martin, Comfort in Trouble, p. 274.

References: Revelation 1:7 . H. J. Wilmot-Buxton, Waterside Mission Sermons, No. 12; Homiletic Magazine, vol. vii., p. 341.Revelation 1:8 . Homilist, 2nd series, vol. iii., p. 481; W. Landels, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxiii., p. 129.

Verse 9

Revelation 1:9 (R.V.)

I. Note the common royalty: "I John am a partaker with you in the kingdom."

II. Note the common road to that common royalty. "Tribulation" is the path by which all have to travel who attain the royalty.

III. Note the common temper in which the common road to the common royalty is to be trodden. "Patience" is the link, so to speak, between the kingdom and the tribulation.

A. Maclaren, The Unchanging Christ, p. 247.

References: Revelation 1:9 . J. M. Neale, Sermons for the Church Year, vol. i., p. 50. Revelation 1:9-16 . Homilist, 3rd series, vol. v., p. 266.

Verse 10

Revelation 1:10

The Lord's Day.

I. What is the meaning of the expression, "the Lord's Day"? Does it mean the day of judgment, and is St. John saying that in an ecstacy he beheld the last judgment of God? Undoubtedly "the day of the Lord" is an expression often applied to the day of judgment in the Old and New Testaments, but such a meaning would not serve St. John's purpose here; he is plainly giving the date of his great vision, not the scene to which it introduced him, and just as he says that it took place in the isle of Patmos, thus marking the place, so he says that it was on the Lord's Day, thus marking the time. Does the phrase, then, mean the annual feast of our Lord's resurrection from the dead our Easter Day? That day, as we know from the Epistle to the Corinthians, we are to keep "not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth"; but it could hardly have served for a date, because in those days, as some time afterwards, there were different opinions in the Church as to the day on which properly the festival should be kept. If the Lord's Day had meant Easter Day, it would not have settled the date of the revelation without some further specification. Does the phrase, then, mean the Sabbath day of the Mosaic law? If St. John had meant the Sabbath, the seventh day of the week, he would certainly have used the word "Sabbath"; he would not have used another word which the Christian Church, from the day of: he Apostles downwards, has applied, not to the seventh day of the week, but to the first. There is indeed no real reason for doubting that by the Lord's Day St. John meant the first day of the week, or, as we should say, Sunday. Our Lord Jesus Christ has made that day in a special sense His own by rising on it from the dead and by connecting it with His first six appearances after His resurrection.

II. What are the principles which are recognised in the observance of the "Lord's Day" by the Church of Christ? (1) The first principle embodied is the duty of consecrating a certain portion of time, at least one-seventh, to the service of God. This principle is common to the Jewish Sabbath and to the Christian Lord's Day. And such a consecration implies two things: it implies a separation of the thing or person consecrated from all others and a communication to it or him of a quality of holiness or purity which was not possessed before. (2) A second principle in the Lord's Day is the periodical suspension of human toil. This also is common to the Jewish Sabbath and the Christian Lord's Day. The Jewish Sabbath and the Christian Lord's Day, while agreeing in affirming two principles, differ in two noteworthy respects: (1) they differ in being kept on distinct days; (2) in the reason or motive for observing them. The Christian motive for observing the Lord's Day is the resurrection of Christ from the dead; that truth is to the Christian creed what the creation of the world out of nothing is to the Jewish creed; it is the fundamental truth on which all else that is distinctively Christian rests, and it is just as much put forward by the Christian Apostles as is the creation of all things out of nothing by the Jewish creed. (3) A third principle is the necessity of the public worship of God. The cessation of ordinary work is not enjoined upon Christians only that they may while away the time or spend it in self-pleasing or in something worse. The Lord's Day is the day of days, on which Jesus our Lord has a first claim. In the Church of Jesus the first duty of the Christian is to seek to hold converse with the risen Lord.

H. P. Liddon, From the Christian World Pulpit.

Christianity would seem to have altered the law of the Sabbath precisely where we might have expected it might be altered in those parts which were of positive, not of moral, obligation. Our Saviour, who, being the coeternal Son of God, is Lord also of the Sabbath day, modified the mode in which it is to be hallowed partly by relaxing the literal strictness of the precept, "Thou shalt do no manner of work," and permitting works of necessity and of mercy, but principally by removing the false glosses with which superstition and human traditions had disfigured the true meaning of the commandment.

I. Even if the Decalogue or the Fourth Commandment were abrogated by the Gospel, and the Lord's Day were but a Christian ordinance sanctioned by our Lord, either immediately by His own presence and approval, or mediately by His Apostles acting under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we should still be bound to keep it in the same way as if it were the Sabbath transferred from the old dispensation to the new, if, at least, the early Christians may be admitted as witnesses of the meaning of what on this supposition was their own ordinance. With them the first day of the week was not a day of unnecessary work or a day of amusement, but a holy day, set apart from the rest for special public worship and cheerful thanksgiving. So much, indeed, might be inferred from the very name, "the Lord's Day." Chrysostom, Augustine, and others warned Christians against the example of the Jews of their days who made the Sabbath a time for dancing, banqueting, and luxurious self-indulgence. The truth is, Christians held the first day of the week to be the Lord's Day, and kept it as such, not with idle scrupulosity, but with honesty of purpose. Accordingly any work, however laborious, if necessary or compulsory, they would have done with a quiet conscience; but unnecessary work they would have felt a sin. A slave unable to obtain his freedom would have done his master's bidding unhesitatingly and cheerfully; a free man would not have followed his worldly calling on the Lord's Day. Amusements would have been felt more discordant with the Lord's Day than work. They were not necessary; they could not be compulsory; they had nothing to do with the special service of God for which that day was hallowed. They were, therefore, simply wrong. "It is commanded you," writes St. Augustine, "to observe the Sabbath spiritually, not as the Jews observe theirs, in carnal ease for they wish to have leisure for their trifles and their luxuries for a Jew would be better employed in doing something useful in his field than in sitting turbulently in the theatre."

II. It is a matter of little practical moment, then, the obligation on which our observance of the Sunday rests. Whether it is the primal Sabbath, re-enacted on Sinai and continued in the Christian code with modifications in its positive and non-essential details, or whether it is the Christian ordinance of the Lord's Day to be understood and interpreted by the practice of the early Christians, it is undoubtedly a day set apart and holy to the Lord. It is His special portion of our time, dedicated to Him for His glory and for our good. Its peculiar duties are public worship, religious meditation and instruction, and the celebration of the Lord's Supper in remembrance of Christ. Its spirit is a calm and collected mind, undisturbed by worldly cares and unexcited by worldly amusements, in tune with holy thoughts and the exercises of religion, and open to all the cheerful influences of home and family affection, and charity, and benevolence.

III. With this general principle before us, (1) we must be very slow to judge and very cautious to condemn others for their manner of observing the Lord's Day. They have the same rule with us; they are to apply it by the aid of their own conscience. To their own Master they stand or fall. (2) But though indulgent in our judgment of others, we must not be too indulgent of ourselves. Scruples and nice distinctions, indeed, austerity and gloom, the obedience of the letter, not of the spirit, are alien, it has been said, to the true character of the Christian Lord's Day; and he who is free from such scruples and doubts, as he is always the happiest, will often be the holiest man. A healthy faith and a devout heart will usually discern by a kind of spiritual instinct what may and what may not be done. But the important practical rule for all of us is this: "Let every one be fully persuaded in his own mind." (3) We must be careful not to impose needless labour on others, and should help and encourage them, as well as we may, to enjoy rest on the day of rest. "If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on My holy day, and call the Sabbath a delight, holy of the Lord, honourable, and shalt honour Him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words, then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father; for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it."

J. Jackson, Penny Pulpit, New Series, No. 627.

References: Revelation 1:10 . Homiletic Quarterly, vol. ii., p. 267. Revelation 1:10-20 . Expositor, 1st series, vol. ii., p. 115.Revelation 1:12-17 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. vii., No. 357.

Verse 13

Revelation 1:13

Objective Faith.

I. If we were asked to fix upon the most prominent want in the spiritual life of the present time, we might perhaps not untruly say that it is the want of objective faith. We fail to grasp the realities of the spiritual world, and live in shadows. Visions pass before us, and we believe that in them is our life, but where is the entranced consciousness of their reality? Where is the abiding feeling of their substance, their power? Where is the fresh, warm faith which ever sees One like unto the Son of man moving amid sacraments, and taking the shape of human symbols? Where is the rapturous conviction that pierces at once through the veil of visions and sees the well-known features by a perpetual inspiration? And yet this is undeniably the character of the faith which has drawn the soul to God at all times, and it was to perpetuate this life of faith that in the Revelation our Lord chose symbols wherein to enshrine His presence.

II. Consider some of the bearings of this law of spiritual life. (1) The symbolic visions of the Revelation are an argument in favour of the sacramental teachings of the Church, of the system which represents sacraments as outward forms containing and conveying grace. (2) Again, as objective faith is the means of sustaining the spiritual life, so is it the true antidote of one of the great dangers which beset the soul in times of strong religious excitement: that of morbid self-contemplation. Our safety is to lose our own consciousness in the greater consciousness of the unseen world. (3) Once more, the same truth holds good as to our progress in any single grace. We gain more by looking on what is perfect than by striving against what is imperfect.

T. T. Carter, Sermons, p. 170.

References: Revelation 1:13 . Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 343.Revelation 1:14 . Talmage, Old Wells Dug Out, p. 231.Revelation 1:17 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvi., No. 1533; G. Macdonald, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxiv., p. 215.

Verse 17

Revelation 1:17

The Keys of Hell and of Death.

I. Looking back upon His incarnate course below, our Lord testifies that He, the Eternal, Living One, died in the verity of His human nature. The solemnity and grandeur of this allusion to His death and the wonderful way in which it is connected with His person as the fountain of life conspire to make this testimony of the ascended Lord unspeakably impressive. We cannot but be struck with the fact that, in His review of His past among men, our Lord makes His having died sum up all. It is impossible to do justice to the risen Saviour's words unless we make them the measure of the design of the Incarnation itself. God became man that the Living One might become the dead.

II. "Behold, I," the same who died, "am alive for evermore." Undoubtedly there is here an undertone of triumph over death, such as becomes Him who by dying conquered the last enemy. It is as if the Lord, who confesses that He was dead, asserts that notwithstanding He still and ever lives. In virtue of His essential life, He could not be holden of death, but continued in His incarnate person to live evermore. Having died for mankind, He now lives to be Lord over all, or, as St. Paul says, "Christ both died and rose and revived that He might be Lord of the dead and the living." His own testimony is, "I am alive for evermore." It is His eternal encouragement to His troubled Church and to every individual member of it.

III. No Christian dies but at the time when the Lord appoints. There is a sense in which this is true of every mortal, but there is a very special sense in which the death of His saints is cared for. Their life is precious to Him, and He will see that without just cause it shall not be abridged by one moment. To him who is in Jesus there can be no premature end, no death by accident, no departing before the call from above. The Lord Himself, and in person, opens the door and receives the dying saint.

W. B. Pope, Sermons and Charges, p. 19.

Love in the Glorified Saviour.

I. When the Man of sorrows had ceased to walk in sorrow, and He that was acquainted with grief had all tears for ever wiped from His eyes, do we find that He in any degree laid aside His human sympathies, that He had less love, less compassion, less feeling, for our infirmities? Because, as it seems to me, this was an important crisis in His course. He is lifted far above all personal yearning for human companionship. Receiving the homage of the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, does He still invite to Him, will He still give rest to, the weary and the heavy-laden? This demand of our backward, unready, wayward souls He has fully satisfied. He called Mary by her name, and entrusted her with words of comfort to those whom He still knew as His brethren: that He was ascending to His Father and their Father, to His God and their God. Nor was this the only proof given of His love and sympathy on that memorable day: "Go your way; tell His disciples and Peter that He goeth before you into Galilee."

II. We have in the risen Saviour all that our hearts can desire. Not one of His human sympathies has been lost by His resumption of glory; not one of the attributes of Divine omnipotence has been limited by His taking human nature into the Godhead. He remains as He was even when on earth: perfect man. He is in communion with our whole nature. Not a sigh is uttered by any overburdened heart which He does not hear; not a sorrow in the wide world but it touches Him. And herein is the great lesson for our infinite consolation and encouragement: that the Son of God, high as He is above all might, and majesty, and power, is not too high to be a dear Friend to every one among us; that love can never die; that among the glories of the Godhead itself it is uneclipsed, not obscured, but is highest in the highest, and of men, and of angels, and of God Himself, is the brightest crown and the most blessed perfection.

H. Alford, Quebec Chapel Sermons, vol. iv., p. 189.

The Living Christ.

This sublime apocalypse is the climax of revelation. It carries us forward from narrative to prophecy, from facts to truths, from present conditions to permanent issues. It crowns the story of redemptive agencies with a vision of redemptive achievements. It is a book of completions, of finishing touches, of final results. It takes up the broken threads of history, and weaves them into the fabric of eternity. It turns our gaze from what has been and is around us, to what is and shall be before us. Above all, it advances our thought from the Christ of history to the Christ of eternity. It translates for us the Man of sorrows into the crowned and conquering Lord of a supreme spiritual empire.

I. This text is Christ's new introduction of Himself to the Church militant, an introduction of Himself from above to His disciples left below. It is the revelation of Himself in His lordship, clothed with the authority and resource of spiritual empire. On His head are many crowns; in His hands are the keys of mastery; to His service yield all God's powers. But I want you to note that right in the centre of this shining vision the old familiar Christ of the Gospels is made clearly discernible. Not only does He introduce Himself as the Living One with the keys, but as the One who became dead, the One therefore who lived and moved within the range of men's observation. Christ was not content to show Himself in His glory, endowed with the splendour of Divine power. He was careful to claim His place on the field of history, to reaffirm His identity as the Son of man, to revive the facts of His incarnate life, and to link what He is in heaven to what He was on earth. The human brow is visible through the Divine halo. The hand that grasps the sceptre bears the nail-marks of the tragedy. His eyes, albeit that John saw them as flaming fires, recall the tear-drops which fell at Bethany and over Jerusalem. And it is the Christ Himself that throws into promise these lineaments of His humanity. He permits us to look at His crown, but while as yet we turn to look at it He lifts before us the vision of His cross, He unveils for us the splendours of His throne, ay, and He bids us to look at the steps which led up to it and at the inscriptions which they bear, and the heavenly writing spells Bethlehem, Nazareth, Gethsemane, Calvary, Olivet.

II. The historic Christ, who lived, spake, worked, died, and rose again in our midst, is our ultimate ground of verification for the great spiritual truths and hopes which inspire and quicken us today. We are asked to believe that it is possible for us to be just and to believe in lofty and generous thoughts of God and man which today happily fill the Church we are told we can believe these apart from history; we can accept them as sentiments kindled in us by the direct operation of the Spirit of God. There is a truth in the assertion, but only a half-truth. For in the last analysis of things my faith in these high truths about God and about man runs back for verification to the life God lived amongst us and the sacrifice which He wrought in our behalf.

III. But the text tells us we must not stop there, that the Christ of history is only the beginning, that the cross of Christ is only the finger-post that Christ is yonder and lives, that Christ is here inside and lives, and that the faith of Christ bids us turn from distant history when we have built upon it to find Christ here and now, a living presence in our own hearts and in the world. The grand and fatal blunder of evangelical theology is that it stops with the cross of Calvary, stops before Christ. It forgets that He rose again and lives; it forgets that, while by His death we are reconciled to God, it is by His life that we are saved. It forgets, or is only beginning now adequately to remember, that, while our great structure of faith rests upon solid foundations on the earth, it builds and caps its towers away up in the heavens. It will not do for you and me to stand on the slopes of Olivet gazing up at the departing Christ, or our conception of Christ and of His Gospel, and our character, experience, and hope, will suffer disastrous impoverishment. The men of Galilee had all the facts of Christ's life, and after the Resurrection they had some appreciation of their meaning and scope. But they had no adequate Gospel, they had no large and compelling Christian life, until the Christ of eternity revealed Himself unto them. Although Christ's last words to His disciples were, "All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth; go ye out and preach," He immediately checked Himself and said, "Not yet; not yet: tarry ye in Jerusalem until ye be endued with power from on high." And that power was the vision of Christ, that pentecostal baptism of the risen Lord, that personal experience of Christ's return and indwelling.

C. A. Berry, British Weekly Pulpit, vol. iii., p. 49.

References: Revelation 1:17 , Revelation 1:18 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xviii., No. 1028; W. Cunningham, Sermons, p. 187; W. Brock, Christian World Pulpit, vol. x., p. 312; A. M. Fairbairn, Ibid., vol. xxix., p. 97; Homiletic Magazine, vol. x., p. 269.

Verse 18

Revelation 1:18

I. How is the perpetuity of Christ in heaven connected with the work of our justification? The priesthood of Christ being perpetual, yet employing but a single sacrificial act, it must consist in a constant reference to that sacrifice of which His own blessed person stands in heaven as the undying memorial. The interests of the universe are dependent on His fiat, yet, amidst all those complicated interests, He is still a Man and busy for men. The human heir of eternal life is regarded as something altogether peculiar and consecrated. Angels look forward with eager interest to the hour when they who by so singular a connection are now "one in Christ" shall enter into the visible unity of His eternal kingdom.

II. But in relation to His overthrow of sin the eternal life of Christ is yet more distinctly the fountain of blessing to us in being the immediate source, not only of justification, but of holiness, not only of gracious acceptance into the favour of God, but of all the bright train of inward graces by which that favour effectuates itself in us. On Christ's life is suspended the prostration of moral evil in the universe. It shall continue to exist, but only as the dark monument of His triumph; it shall exist, but in chains of feebleness and defeat.

III. Christ is alive as the eternal Conqueror and Antagonist of sin and death. Christ, Himself exalted to glory, fixes the barriers to the energies of pain and death; annihilates not the foe, but imprisons him; makes him the accursed minister of His own dread vengeance, and publicly manifests to the universe that, if misery exists, it exists only as a permitted agent in the awful administration of God. He, the source of life, is still predominant over all and known to be so, known yet more deeply to be so as the life He gives is mantling around Him into intenser glory. Life and happiness again are one, for happiness is bound up in the very essence and nature of the life that Christ bestows; they are inseparable as substance and quality, as the surface and its colour.

W. Archer Butler, Sermons Doctrinal and Practical, 1st series, p. 164.

References: Revelation 1:18 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xv., No. 894; J. Baldwin Brown, Christian World Pulpit, vol. viii., p. 389; Preacher's Monthly, vol. vii., p. 220.

Verse 18

Revelation 1:18

I. How is the perpetuity of Christ in heaven connected with the work of our justification? The priesthood of Christ being perpetual, yet employing but a single sacrificial act, it must consist in a constant reference to that sacrifice of which His own blessed person stands in heaven as the undying memorial. The interests of the universe are dependent on His fiat, yet, amidst all those complicated interests, He is still a Man and busy for men. The human heir of eternal life is regarded as something altogether peculiar and consecrated. Angels look forward with eager interest to the hour when they who by so singular a connection are now "one in Christ" shall enter into the visible unity of His eternal kingdom.

II. But in relation to His overthrow of sin the eternal life of Christ is yet more distinctly the fountain of blessing to us in being the immediate source, not only of justification, but of holiness, not only of gracious acceptance into the favour of God, but of all the bright train of inward graces by which that favour effectuates itself in us. On Christ's life is suspended the prostration of moral evil in the universe. It shall continue to exist, but only as the dark monument of His triumph; it shall exist, but in chains of feebleness and defeat.

III. Christ is alive as the eternal Conqueror and Antagonist of sin and death. Christ, Himself exalted to glory, fixes the barriers to the energies of pain and death; annihilates not the foe, but imprisons him; makes him the accursed minister of His own dread vengeance, and publicly manifests to the universe that, if misery exists, it exists only as a permitted agent in the awful administration of God. He, the source of life, is still predominant over all and known to be so, known yet more deeply to be so as the life He gives is mantling around Him into intenser glory. Life and happiness again are one, for happiness is bound up in the very essence and nature of the life that Christ bestows; they are inseparable as substance and quality, as the surface and its colour.

W. Archer Butler, Sermons Doctrinal and Practical, 1st series, p. 164.

References: Revelation 1:18 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xv., No. 894; J. Baldwin Brown, Christian World Pulpit, vol. viii., p. 389; Preacher's Monthly, vol. vii., p. 220.

Verse 18

Revelation 1:18

I. How is the perpetuity of Christ in heaven connected with the work of our justification? The priesthood of Christ being perpetual, yet employing but a single sacrificial act, it must consist in a constant reference to that sacrifice of which His own blessed person stands in heaven as the undying memorial. The interests of the universe are dependent on His fiat, yet, amidst all those complicated interests, He is still a Man and busy for men. The human heir of eternal life is regarded as something altogether peculiar and consecrated. Angels look forward with eager interest to the hour when they who by so singular a connection are now "one in Christ" shall enter into the visible unity of His eternal kingdom.

II. But in relation to His overthrow of sin the eternal life of Christ is yet more distinctly the fountain of blessing to us in being the immediate source, not only of justification, but of holiness, not only of gracious acceptance into the favour of God, but of all the bright train of inward graces by which that favour effectuates itself in us. On Christ's life is suspended the prostration of moral evil in the universe. It shall continue to exist, but only as the dark monument of His triumph; it shall exist, but in chains of feebleness and defeat.

III. Christ is alive as the eternal Conqueror and Antagonist of sin and death. Christ, Himself exalted to glory, fixes the barriers to the energies of pain and death; annihilates not the foe, but imprisons him; makes him the accursed minister of His own dread vengeance, and publicly manifests to the universe that, if misery exists, it exists only as a permitted agent in the awful administration of God. He, the source of life, is still predominant over all and known to be so, known yet more deeply to be so as the life He gives is mantling around Him into intenser glory. Life and happiness again are one, for happiness is bound up in the very essence and nature of the life that Christ bestows; they are inseparable as substance and quality, as the surface and its colour.

W. Archer Butler, Sermons Doctrinal and Practical, 1st series, p. 164.

References: Revelation 1:18 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xv., No. 894; J. Baldwin Brown, Christian World Pulpit, vol. viii., p. 389; Preacher's Monthly, vol. vii., p. 220.

Verse 20

Revelation 1:20

Note the fitness of the symbol of the golden candlestick.

I. In its position. The golden candlestick stood within the Holy of holies, hidden from the view of all without by the curtain, formed in blending shades of blue, scarlet, and purple, curiously embroidered with figures of cherubim. The high-priest was guided by its soft yet steady light when he entered the holy place once every year to make atonement for the sins of the people. The Church of Christ still waits without the veil, and sheds a blessed light to show the world the Saviour.

II. Again, the symbol of the golden candlestick reminds us very beautifully of the office of the Church. It does not sanctify, nor save, but it does hold forth the true light and shed its brightness on a darkened world. The Holy of holies had no window to let in the light, and had the golden candlestick been taken away, or its lamps left untrimmed, all would have been profoundest darkness. How eloquently does this symbol speak of the necessity for the Church to stand up as the light-bearer of Him who is "the Light of the world."

III. The golden candlestick symbolically taught the unity of the Church. The seven branches were not separate lamp-bearers, but parts of the same candlestick, the seven lights all blending harmoniously into one. And so with the several apostolic branches of the Holy Catholic Church: all belong to Christ, and borrow light from Him.

IV. Again, the symbolical teaching of the text points out the source of life to the Church. Day by day the golden lamp was supplied with fresh oil by the attendant priest oil made from olives bruised in a mortar. Even the consecrated lamp, set apart for the uses of the sanctuary, required to be constantly fed. In like manner the Church would be left in darkness and gloom should the illuminating grace of the Holy Spirit be withdrawn.

V. The symbol suggests the beauty of the Church and its holy services.

VI. The image of the text reminds us of the value of the Church.

J. N. Norton, Golden Truths, p. 105.

Reference: Revelation 1:20 . Expositor, 1st series, vol. viii., p. 202.

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Bibliographical Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Revelation 1". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/sbc/revelation-1.html.