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Bible Commentaries

E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

Revelation 1

Verse 1

Rev 1:1 ---General remarks. In approaching this book for the purpose of writing comments thereon, I am resolved not to resort to speculation or guesswork. True that should be one's purpose regarding every part of the Bible. But the various extremes to which so many would-be interpreters have gone make it especially important to observe this safety principle with this book. One extreme has the position that the book is a deep mystery that the Lord never• intended to be understood. The fact that it is a part of the Sacred Volume and that He pronounces a blessing on those who read and hear and keep the things written therein (chapter 1:3) Shows the error of this position. An opposite extreme is that it is "just as simple and easy as any other part of the Bible." At first thought one might not realize the evil of the statement, but it will be manifest by the manner of reasoning that is resorted to, in order to carry out what is thought to be required by the law of consistency. In pursuing such a course it is claimed that the prophecies of the book are literal and attempts are made to find such facts in the history of the world. This theory ignores the statement in chapter 1:1 which says the book was revealed by being "signified" or by signs and symbols, which rules out literalism in explaining the book as a whole. We should avoid both extremes mentioned above and seek an explanation that will be consistent with the facts and other truths that are available to us. A sign or symbol must stand for something that is literally true or else its use can accomplish nothing. We should understand, therefore, that the ones in this book point forward to facts that were destined to occur literally in the then future years of the world. Since God knows the future as well as the present or past (Isa 46:9-10) it was possible for Him to look forward from the time of John and see the events that would occur in the world, including those of the religious and political domains of human activities. It would be unreasonable to suppose that He would direct a man to write a book with symbols which were not in harmony with the facts of history. The business of the student, therefore, is to read the symbols and then seek the explanation in the statements of authentic history. That is the task I have set for myself in writing a commentary on this book. I shall here write a brief outline of the facts of history, to show the general program that has been and is now and will be carried out, in fulfillment of the predictions that John was told to write in the language of symbols. Many of the specific and detailed incidents of history will be reserved to be cited as the particular passages are reached in our studies. Among the sources of my information are the following: Ancient Monarchies, by George Rawlinson; Mommsen's History of Rome; Josephus' History of the Jews; Myers' Ancient History; Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, by Edward Gibbon; Mosheim's Ecclesiastes History; Jones' Church History; Eusebius' Church History; and many others. Due to the wide field of historical material, it will not be expected that I can cite the actual text of the sources except in particular cases. The Roman Empire was at the height of its power in the time of Christ and the apostles, and continued so through several centuries. Religion was a state affair, being protected and regulated by the government under the direction of the emperor. That of Rome was the pagan or heathen and its worship was in devotion to idolatry. Other religions were tolerated as long as they did not become too conspicuous and did not show signs of interference with the state religion. Among the religions tolerated was Christianity, started by Christ. and propagated by the apostles. At first it was regarded as an insignificant movement and little attention was paid to it by the leaders in Rome. But as it grew in numbers and influence the Empire began to fear for its effect on the state and tried to counteract it by persecution. After a few centuries the church or leaders therein began to grow corrupt, and they sought to concentrate their power with a view to reaching a condition where one man would dominate the entire brotherhood. This ambition for power was held back by the power of Rome whose religion was the pagan or heathen. But a change took place in this Empire that removed the hindrance. In the beginning of the fourth century the emperor was Constantine the Great. He finally professed to be converted to the Christian religion and accordingly gave it the endorsement of the Empire. That resulted in the union of church and state so that the emperor over the government and the bishop over the church, both of whom resided in the city of Rome, were joined in a mutual interest and hence took away the rights or privileges of both the local leaders in the congregations, and those of kings and governors over smaller sections of the Empire. There is a lengthy note under "General remarks" at 2 Thessalonians 2 which the reader should see again. After the union of church and state was formed there followed a period of twelve centuries known as the apostasy or Dark Ages. During that time the Bible was virtually taken from the common people and everyone both in religious and civil matters had to bow to the dictates issued at Rome by the joint power of the emperor and bishop (who finally took the title of pope). This condition continued until the time of Martin Luther and the other Reformers, who gave the Bible back to their respective countries in the language of their people, resulting in the dissolving of the union of church and state. The preceding paragraphs give a general picture of what actually occurred according to history, and of course the symbols of the book of Revelation should be interpreted in a way that agrees with the facts of history. Various details and specific instances will be related as occasion arises in our study of the book. Before taking up the chapters and verses on the plan that has been followed throughout the Commentary, it should be noted that the symbolical part of the book of Revelation is included in chapters 4 through 20. The three in the beginning and the two at the close of the book will be considered very much like the rest of the New Testament. Rev 1:1. The word revelation occurs 12 times in the King James Version. It is from APOKALUPSIS and Thayer defines it as follows: "An uncovering; 1. properly a laying bare, making naked." The revelation is said to be of or from Jesus Christ and God gave it unto him. It was to show things that were to come to pass or that were in the future. Shortly is a comparative term, for while some things predicted did take place in a short time literally, some of them were hundreds of years in the future. Signified is from SE-MAINO, which Thayer defines, "To give a sign, to signify, indicate." (See the comments on "symbols" in General remarks at the beginning of the chapter.) The revelation was sent to John and the bearer of it was an angel of the Lord. The writer is one of the twelve apostles but he uses the term servant which indicates his attitude of modesty. In a later verse he refers to himself as a brother to his readers in the king. dons of the Lord Jesus Christ. Comments by Foy E. Wallace: Verse 1 INTRODUCTION--Rev 1:1-3. (1) The source of the visions. 1. "The revelation of Jesus Christ"--Rev 1:1. It was made known by Jesus Christ, that is, it was not concerning Christ himself. The language does not refer to the person of Christ, as the subject of the vision, but to the One by whom it was communicated to John--by Jesus Christ "the faithful witness," through the agency of his angel. 2. "Which God gave unto him"--Rev 1:1. God, the Father, was himself the source of the vision. This reverence for God was always manifested by Jesus, as he affirmed in all of the gospel records while he was on the earth, that he did not speak of, or from, himself, but from his Father who sent him. (Joh 12:49) This vision was first a revelation that God sent to his Son, Jesus Christ, who, in the second place, sent it by an angel, in the third place, to John, in the fourth place of the numerical declension. The angel signified the vision to John, that is, communicated it to him in the signs directed by Jesus Christ. (2) The object of the visions. 1. "To show unto his servants"--Rev 1:1. It was on the principle that to be forewarned was to be forearmed. So the things signified, or symbolized--set forth in signs--were explained to the members of the churches for their needful information concerning the immediate events which pertained to the persons and churches addressed, and which would be fulfilled in the period of their own lives and experiences; else the language addressed to them served no purpose to the people for whom "God gave it," and to whom it was sent. 2. "Things which must shortly come to pass"--Rev 1:1. Reference to things indicated a definite form of events then shaping, and the word must is not a speculative or conjectural term; it was factual, and the word shortly denoted immediacy. These events applied to them, not to centuries after their time, and even yet to come. The object of the entire revelation was to inform and forewarn, to comfort and encourage the church in the time of this vision --the apostolic age, the period of the churches addressed. (3) The method of the delivery and communication. 1. "And he sent and signified it by an angel""--Rev 1:1. The revelation was sent by an angel--that is, it was delivered by a special messenger. And it was signified, indicating how it was communicated; that it was not merely made known, but was transmitted in code by signs and symbols. It was a special message, delivered by special messengers, in the special medium of code language. It was thus dispatched unto his servant John. 2. "Unto his servant John""--Rev 1:1. There is a difference in the meanings of the words show and signify. Jesus Christ signified the vision unto John to show unto his servants. That is, it was revealed to John in code for explanation to the churches, which could, of course, have been accomplished by the spiritually gifted teachers of that period in each church. The meaning is that as a message, it was special and not general; it was for the churches, and not for the public. As an example, the Comforter (Joh 14:16; Joh 13:13) was a special promise to the apostles alone, and not to all of the disciples, nor for the world in general--only the apostles. So it was with the apocalypse; it was a message for the early churches, not for the Jewish world nor the Roman public--and that is why it was written in code instead of the use of literal language, as in all of the other epistles. 1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ,--This expression evidently is a title for the entire book, being comprehensive enough to include all its contents. The Greek word Apocalypse --here rendered "Revelation"--properly means the uncovering of anything; an unveiling, so that what is hid may be known. Spiritually it denotes the making known of divine truth that had not before been understood, as the following passages indicate: Rom 16:25; Gal 1:12 Eph 3:3. If it had not been intended that the contents of this book should in some measure be understood, it would not have been called a Revelation. It does not mean a revealing of things concerning Christ, but a revelation which Christ himself made of things involving his church. The book is often referred to by its Greek name--Apocalypse. As its contents clearly show, the revealing is done through words, signs, and symbols, and includes things both present and future at the time John wrote. which God gave him to show unto his servants,--These words clearly indicate that God is the original source or fountain of truth. Notwithstanding the unexplained unity between God and Christ (Joh 17:20-21), as mediator between God and man, Jesus recognizes his dependence upon the Pathen He said: "My teaching is not mine, but his that sent me." (Joh 7:16.) Again he said: "For I spake not from myself; but the Father that sent me, he bath given me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak." (Joh 12:49.) In Joh 5:20 he said the Father "showeth" all things to the Son. Paul shows that a dependence upon the Father still exists by saying that when all things were put under Christ it is evident that God was excepted. (1Co 15:27.) Hence, though at God's right hand, he is represented as receiving from the Father the revelation he was to communicate to man. All Christians are "servants" of God in some sense (1Pe 2:16), and the revealing here promised was intended, doubtless, for all God's children. All would need the encouragement which such a disclosing of events would produce. It would also serve as a protection against being overcome by the disasters that were certain to come upon the church. even the things which must shortly come to pass:--The words "must shortly come to pass" indicate that the things to be revealed to John in vision would most certainly take place. It does not mean that all the things would "shortly" come to pass, but that they would begin to transpire soon after the time John wrote. This must be the correct view since the seals, trumpets, and vials necessarily imply a series of events. To imagine all the things depicted as occurring at exactly the same time is out of the question. The thousandyear period (chapter 20) would prevent any such theory. Since there was to be a succession of events, they began to transpire when the first one commenced. The period covered by the word "shortly" varies according to the nature of the subject in question. A short time could be a few hours, a few days, a few years, or even many years if compared with several centuries. and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John; --He (Christ) signified the things shortly to come to pass, sending them to John by his angel. The term "signify" comes from the word "sign" and indicates that the things to be revealed to John would be presented through signs and symbols. This word is used in the same sense by John in the following passages: Joh 12:33 Joh 21:18-19. It is an appropriate word to express a revelation which was to be made largely through symbols. The symbolic nature of much of the book is evident from even a casual reading of it. The word "angel" means messenger, and this shows that the visions were conveyed to John through the medium of some heavenly messenger. How this was done is a matter that must be left to the secret things known only to divine wisdom. (Deu 29:29.) It is a matter of first importance in the study of God's word to stop where Revelation ends. In no part of the sacred record is this more important than in the study of the Apocalypse.

Verse 2

Rev 1:2. Who is a pronoun that stands for John in the preceding verse and he is the writer of this book. Bare record means he is making a record of what tie saw, which was according to the testimony of Jesus Christ. It is also the word of God because he gave Christ the authority to make the revelation known to John by an angel. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 2 (4) The witness of the visions. 1. "Who bare record of the word of God"--Rev 1:2. The word of God, to which John was to be the witness, was the message of the revelation itself, the word which God gave unto Jesus Christ (verse 1) at this time and in this apocalypse, not the word of God which had already been preached by the other apostles or that which was in the general epistles. This was the word of God in the special sense, belonging to the special message, for the special time. These were the special things which Jesus Christ signified to John, which did not belong to the revelation of the gospel contained in the other epistles. It was an apocalyptic revelation to the churches that were on the threshold of their peril--in that period called the hour of trial. 2. "And of the testimony of Jesus Christ"--Rev 1:2. As previously intimated, this is a specific reference to the testimony of Christ to John, not John's testimony of or concerning Christ. It was the testimony of this apocalypse, as stated in the first line of the first verse, the testimony of Jesus Christ. 3. "Even of all things that he saw"--Rev 1:2. Thus it is that both the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ refer to the things that John saw, of which John bare record, not the past witness of the word which all the other apostles had made, nor the testimony of Christ in the sense of the gospel which they had preached. It was the word of God and the testimony of this apocalypse only of the things to which John was bearing witness and of which he was making a record. Rev 1:2 --- who bare witness of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, even of all things that he saw.--This language shows that John regarded himself simply as a witness of God's revelation. In general God's word means any declaration or truth coming from him. But here he means that John was giving a true record of the things recorded in this book. This is evident from the explanatory clause "even of all things that he saw." Of course, John was a witness of the things he had seen in the personal ministry of Christ. (Joh 19:35 Joh 21:24.) The "testimony of Jesus Christ," as indicated in verse 1, was the witness that he bore to the word of God; or, that this revelation came through Christ and was delivered by John.

Verse 3

Rev 1:3. Blessed means happy and it is said of those who read the words of this prophecy or book. But the blessing is not on those who read it only, but they also must hear it which means to give heed to it. The writer does not stop there but adds the condition that they shall keep ( "observe"--Thayer) them. These three significant terms certainly do not agree with the notion that the book of Revelation is one to be ignored by Bible students. Time is at hand. That is, the general program that was to extend down through the centuries was soon to begin. Comments by Foy E. Wallace (5) The admonitions of the visions. 1. "Blessed is he that readeth and they that hear--Rev 1:3. This is, first, a reference to the person whose task it was to explain the visions, designated as he that readeth; and second, to the auditors assembled to receive it, as they that hear. As previously mentioned, there were specially endowed teachers, spiritually gifted men, in all of the churches (1Co 12:1-31), who could read and decode the revelation that was signified. The language of verse 3 indicates the need of the explanatory reading. 2. "The words of this prophecy"--Rev 1:3. These words were prophetic in the sense of being visional. In this use of the word prophecy, it was apocalyptic only of things already beginning to occur. It was not the foretelling of far future events not connected with the experiences of his servants to whom and for whom the apocalypse was delivered. 3. "And keep those things which are written therein" --Rev 1:3. The manifest meaning of this phrase is that his servants should remember the signified portents, and the monitory exhortations of the visions, for they would come within the experiences of their own time. 4. "For the time is at hand"--Rev 1:3. There can be no reason to assign any other meaning to this phrase at hand than that which it had in the announcement of John the Baptist that the kingdom of heaven was at hand (Mat 3:2), or of Jesus that the kingdom of God was at hand (Mar 1:14-15). The language and the context of it can mean only one thing--that these events were imminent. The sole reason for the admonition to read and hear and keep the things signified is stated in the clause of this verse: for the time is at hand. If the things written therein pertained to the remote future rather than to the immediate future, there was no application for such a warning. Rev 1:3 ---Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear--In that early time copies of the sacred writings were scarce and doubtless much truth was imparted through public readings. Many think the language here refers to that custom, because he that readeth and they that hear imply that one read while many listened. This did not exclude individual and private reading ; but, since the other was probably more common, the blessing was pronounced on both reader and hearers. No special blessing is mentioned, but there are always benefits to come to those who are obedient. Nothing is more conducive to hearty obedience than a faithful hearing of God's word. the words of the prophecy,--The word "prophecy" here is synonymous with "Revelation" in verse 1 and the "things saw" in verse 2. It is 'used in its narrow sense of disclosing future events, for the main part of the book is devoted to such matters. John did not say that all who read the book would understand it, for that is not true of any part of the Bible written in literal language. But there would be no point in saying a blessing would come to those who heard it unless some degree of understanding were possible; at least enough to make the study profitable. and keep the things that are written therein: for the time is at hand.--To keep things written meant that they should not forget what related to the future as a matter of encouragement and warning, and they should obey any duty that the book required. Present-day Christians should maintain the same attitude toward the teachings of this divine volume. It came from God through Christ and was delivered through an inspired apostle. No book of the Bible has stronger claims for its authority. Disobedience is inexcusable when God speaks. Since the visions presented to John unquestionably cover a long period of time, the expression "at hand" cannot mean that the completion of all the events was near. The thought must be then that the things that were to come to pass would begin to transpire in a relatively short time. "At hand" should be understood in the same sense as "shortly," verse 1.

Verse 4

Rev 1:4. Let the reader note the statements at the close of General Remarks, which show that the three chapters will be given before the symbolical part of the book begins. They will consist of letters or epistles sent to a group of churches not far from where John was in exile. The seven churches does not mean there were no others in that territory for there were several. It means as if it said "write to the seven that will be named." The number seven was regarded as of special significance in old times, so that it came to be used as a symbol of completeness in many instances. Smith's Bible Dictionary says it was so regarded even among the Persians, Greeks, Indians and Romans. Doubtless the seven churches selected were representative of the general condition in the brotherhood at large, and hence the letters written to them may serve as important instruction for the congregations everywhere and at all times. Asia is a small province in what was known as Asia Minor until late years. It was one of the districts to which Peter addressed his first epistle (1Pe 1:1). The familiar salutation of grace and peace is given and it is from the same source. However, it is stated in different words, namely, from the One who is, was and is to come. This means that God always was and always will be. Seven Spirits. Paul says there is "one Spirit" (Eph 4:4), so the term is figurative and used in the sense of completeness as symbolized by the number seven. This unit of seven Spirits is before the throne because the Spirit has always been an agency of God and Christ in carrying out the divine plans, and it would be appropriate for it to be always near at hand to receive orders. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 4 II THE SALUTATORY INTERMISSION (Rev 1:4-8) (1) The salutation of John to the churches. As John was known to them all, familiar by name and person, it was not necessary to distinguish himself from others by any descriptive titles or designations, such as an apostle of Christ. The use of the word apostle as introductory to the epistles of Paul had a specific reason, to affirm his apostolic credentials which Judaizers had attempted to discredit. No such circumstances existed with John, and he simply said John to the churches. If the author of Revelation had been another John than the apostle, some descriptive appellation would have been required for identification. (2) To the seven churches. The claim that seven dispensations are indicated by seven letters to seven churches, covering all Christian centuries, is reversed by the factual character of the names and the events corresponding in date to the period of the apocalypse. Though addressed to the seven churches in the Asian provinces of Mysia, Lydia, Caria and Phrygia, its contents would apply to all the early churches, as did the teaching in the apostolic epistles. The Asia of these churches is generally considered to be where John went after the martyrdom of his brother James (Act 12:2-3), which was said to be "pleasing to the Jews," and which connects with the Jewish persecutions belonging to the apocalypses of Revelation, and with John's association with the seven churches of this Asian region. The geographical designation of the text, in Asia, does not include the continent of Asia, nor the whole of Asia Minor, but rather a small Roman province in the west coastal part of Asia Minor, of which Ephesus was the capital, and which included the lesser provinces named. A look at the map will settle this point in the minds of the reader who is geographically interested. (3) From the eternal God and the living Christ. 1. "From him which is, and which was, and which is to come"--Rev 1:4. This sublime statement refers to God, and the description which is, and which was affirms his eternal Being; and which is to come has reference to his predicted judgments and events. 2. "And from the seven spirits which are before his throne"--Rev 1:4. The seven spirits are a designation of the spirit of each of the seven churches, having already been described as seven golden candlesticks, and later referred to (Rev. 4:50 as seven lamps before his throne. Thus the seven spirits before his throne are identical with the seven lamps before his throne. It is the continuation of the apocalyptic aspect of the seven-branched lamps (or candlesticks) which represented the seven churches, and being before his throne signified a unison with God and Christ in these salutations.

Verse 5

Rev 1:5. The faithful witness does not imply there are no other witnesses who tell the truth since we know there are many. We therefore must take this to mean that Jesus was the bearer of testimony for God in a preeminent degree. First begotten of the dead to die no more (Rom 6:9). Prince of the kings of the earth. All power in heaven and in earth was given to Christ (Mat 28:18) thus making Him a Prince above all. Jesus showed his love for men by giving his blood for their cleansing. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 5 Rev 1:5 3. "And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness" --Rev 1:5. It was Jesus Christ who had borne witness to the truth of his Sonship before Pontius Pilate, as mentioned in 1Ti 6:13. And he was associated with God in the salutatations to his servants who were on the brink of that hour of trial, which would bring death to them, for the same confession before men that Jesus had made before Pilate. 4. "The first begotten of the dead"--Rev 1:5. The language here does not affirm that Jesus was the first person to be raised from the dead, for several names can be mentioned who were miraculously raised up out of their graves, by the prophets of the Old Testament, and by Jesus and Peter in the New Testament, all of which were for the purposes of divine demonstration. They were not resurrected to die no more, but returned to corruption -therefore they were not begotten of the dead. To him alone, who conquered death by a resurrection to die no more, belongs the title, the first begotten of the dead. 5. "The prince of the kings of the earth"--Rev 1:5. The four appellations together accentuate first, who he was, and second, what he was, from whom this message came. 6. "Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood"--Rev 1:5. The release from sins as the result of the shedding of his own blood, represented here as the element in which the sins of man are washed away, is the heart of the remedial plan.

Verse 6

Rev 1:6. Made us kings and priests. The word kings is from BASILEUS and I shall quote the definitions of a number of lexicons as follows: Greenfield, "A king, monarch, one possessing regal authority." Robinson, "A king." Thayer, "Leader of the people, prince, commander, lord of the land, king." Groves, "A king, monarch, sovereign, prince, chieftain." Donnegan, "A king." Hickie, "A king." I have quoted thus extensively because there is a tendency upon the part of some to deny that Christians should be called kings since Christ only is king. Yet it is freely admitted that Christians are priests although Christ is our priest also. There should be no difficulty on this point, for Jesus is High Priest, while Christians are inferior priests under Him. Likewise they are inferior kings under Christ who is "King of kings and Lord of lords." Peter says Christians are a royal (kingly) priesthood (1Pe 2:9), and Paul told the Corinthians they had "reigned as kings" and furthermore he would that they "did reign" (1Co 4:8). Since Christ accomplishes all His spiritual work through the church (Eph 3:10 Eph 3:12; 1Ti 3:15), it is logical that if He is to be a king his servants are to cooperate in the work. That would make them secondary kings acting under their Chief. Glory means grandeur and dominion denotes scope or domain; John ascribes them to Christ to be everlasting. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 6 7. "And hath made us kings and priests"--Rev 1:6. The God unto whom all members of the church are priests is here affirmed to be his Father, thus ascribing deity to Jesus Christ. The offices of royalty and priesthood are united in the members of the churches, as typified in Exo 19:6, and finds its spiritual fulfillment in 1Pe 2:9. The allusions to the "kingdom of priests," in the Exodus passage, was to emphasize that Christ has made us new kings and priests in contrast with what once was but is no more. The church is the kingdom of Christ, and all the members are priests unto God--hence, the church is a kingdom of priests. The Syriac New Testament reads: "And hath made us a priestly kingdom." 8. "Unto God and his Father"--Rev 1:6. The eternal dominion of God is here pronounced. Although it is Christ who is King, and has made us into a new kingdom and a new priesthood, it was so done unto God and his Father. This was true of the old Israel whose kingdom, though ruled by appointed heads, was unto God; and this universal dominion of God has existed from the beginning as an eternal truth. 9. "To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen."--Rev 1:6. The glory and the dominion of God is never ending. He had unlimited dominion in all things of the past; he holds dominion over all things of the present; and he will exercise dominion over all events of the future. The dispensations changed from one age to another, from the old to the new, but the dominion of God remains the same. The things of men and of angels, and of the Son himself, are and ever shall be subservient to God, the Supreme Being and Absolute Ruler of the universe.

Verse 7

Rev 1:7. Behold is a call to attention because something of great importance is about to be said. He cometh with clouds. The two men in white apparel (Act 1:9-11) announced the same thing, and .lesus also made the announcement before leaving the earth (Mat 24:30 Mat 26:64). Every eye shall see him. The fact that the writer next specifies the executioners of Christ as among those who shall sec him proves that it will not be restricted to His faithful followers. That explodes the arrogant heresy taught by a group of materialists that Jesus came but that only they have seen Him, and that is because they are Jehovah's Witnesses. All kindreds shall wail because they will realize that Christ has come to judge the world. But John and all other faithful servants will not wail because they will "love His appearing" (2 Timothy 4 : S). That is why lie exclaims even so, A men; both terms mean virtually the same in effect. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 7 (4) The ominous announcement. 1. "Behold he cometh with the clouds"--Rev 1:7. The reference here is not to the second advent, or return of Christ, but to the coming events about to be delineated, as in the Lord's reply to Caiaphas, the high priest in Mat 26:64 : "Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter ye shall see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven." This high priest would live to see the event here foretold, the fulfillment of which occurred in the figurative coming of Christ in the destruction of Jerusalem, as previously foretold in Mat 24:1-51, and centuries before by the prophet Zechariah in chapter 14. The prophet referred to the destruction of Jerusalem as "the day of the Lord," and in Mat 24:1-51 Jesus designated it as his coming. And Jesus told Caiaphas that he would live to witness it. The words behold he cometh are an announcement of warning, a call to expectancy, an alert to the impending developments. The added expression "with the clouds" is not to be literally taken for a material display of his bodily presence. In the description of God's judgment on Egypt, in Isa 19:6, the prophet said: "Behold, the Lord rideth upon a swift cloud, and shall come into Egypt." Also, in Eze 38:16, the prophet said that the latter days God would come up against Israel "as a cloud to cover the land." And in Mat 24:30, Jesus describes the events in the destruction of Jerusalem as "the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory." This is precisely what Jesus told Pilate that he should see, and it is the meaning of Rev 1:7, pointing to the destruction of Jerusalem. 2. "And every eye shall see him"--Rev 1:7. Both the impact and the import of the occurring events would be of universal knowledge. The siege and fall of Jerusalem would be known to the entire population of the Roman empire both Jewish and pagan. 3. "And they that pierced him"--Rev 1:7. The act and the fact here declared refer not merely to the Romans who wielded and thrust the sword into the Lord's body on the cross, but also to the Jews who, through the officials of their nation, had performed the deed. The truth of this statement is affirmed by the officials of the Jews themselves in Mat 27:25, and it is confirmed by the apostle Peter in Act 2:23. 4. "And all the kindreds (tribes) of the earth shall wail because of him"--Rev 1:7. The families of the Jews all over the Roman world are here mentioned. The Gentiles were never referred to as tribes; the tribes belonged to the Jews, who were dispersed into every part of the earth. Yet the events foretold of what would happen to their city and their nation, in Jerusalem and Judea, would become known wherever they were scattered, and all the Jews in every part of the earth would wail over this calamity. They would all mourn over the ruin of their city Jerusalem, and for the destruction of their system of Judaism, and for the overthrow of their theocracy in the demolition of their temple, and for the termination of their Jewish state-their national distinction and existence. And they would wail (or mourn) because of him, for it was in fulfillment of the fearful woes that he had pronounced against Jerusalem and which were figuratively ascribed to his coming. This piercing and mourning were the subjects of the prophecy of Zec 12:9-11; Zec 14:1, described as "the day of the Lord." The quotation of the first reference is made in Joh 19:37. These scriptural applications show that the fulfillment of the coming with the clouds in Rev 1:7 was accomplished in the events of the fall of Jerusalem. These fulfilling events, at and after the destruction of Jerusalem, have unmistakable bearing on the contents of Revelation, and the period to which it belongs.

Verse 8

Rev 1:8. The pronoun I refers to Christ because he is the one who is to come in the clouds. Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet (the language in which the New Testament was written). It is a figure to indicate completeness, similar to saying a man knows his business "from A to Z." Beginning and ending denotes the same idea as the other figure, the particular words being selected because Christ was present at all of the works of God from the beginning (Joh 1:1-3; Eph 3:9). Is, was and is to come has the same meaning as in verse 4. The Almighty. This phrase belongs primarily to God the Father, but since God is a name for the Deity or Godhead, and Christ is a member of that family, it is proper to ascribe the title to Him also. He is called "The everlasting Father" in Isa 9:6, and it can be understood only because of His relation to the Deity. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 8 5. "I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending"--Rev 1:8. These are the first and the last letters in the Greek alphabet, and they correspond to the Yea and Amen of the Hebrew equivalent. The one in Rev 1:7, and the other in verse 8, appear to be an affirmation and ratification of the things about to be signified as being the irrevocable testimony of Jesus Christ.

Verse 9

Rev 1:9. John says he is in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ. It is impossible to be in something that does not exist, hence the kingdom of Christ was in existence in John's day; that disproves the heresy of pre-millennialists. Patmos. A number of reference works give a description of this place which agrees in substance. I shall quote from the Rand-McNally Bible Atlas as follows: "Patmos, to which the apostle John was banished. This lies 20 miles south of the island of Samos, 24 miles west of Asia Minor, and about 70 miles southwest of Ephesus. It is about 20 miles in circumference, and is rocky and barren. Its loneliness and seclusion made it a suitable place for the banishment of criminals; and to it the apostle John was banished by the emperor Domitian, near the close of the first Christian century." John says he was in this isle for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. The word for is from DIA, which the Englishman's Greek New Testament translates "because of." In other words, John was banished to this lonely spot as a punishment by the Roman emperor, because of his preaching the word of God. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 9 III THE PREFATORY VISION (Rev 1:9-18) (1) The place of the vision. The location of the vision was "in the isle that is called Patmos." This island has been described as a small rocky and rugged region off the barren coast of Asia Minor, approximately twenty-five miles from the mainland in the Aegean sea--a gulf of the Great Sea (the Mediterranean), which formed the coastal provinces of Mysia, Lydia, Phrygia and Caria, and in which were situated all the seven churches of Asia, mentioned in the vision. Tradition claims that John was banished by the Roman government and exiled on Patmos. There is no conclusive scriptural evidence nor verified factual history to sustain this traditional claim, and it stands somewhat on the same basis as the Petrine tradition that the apostle Peter once resided in Rome. It is not said in the text, nor necessarily implied in the contents of Revelation, that John was a prisoner on Patmos. If John was a prisoner on Patmos, as Paul was a prisoner in Rome, it is singularly strange, if not unaccountable, that no mention was made of it, and no reference was made to it, by himself or in any other New Testament epistle. (2) The purpose of the vision. "For the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ"-- Rev 1:9 . The English preposition for in this passage is dia, which Professor Terry states that, by its established usage with the accusative, means for the sake of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. It gives the ground or the reason for John's presence on Patmos: that the reason for being there was no other than to receive the revelation, that is, for the vision itself--for "the testimony of Jesus Christ" and "of all things that he saw," and not because of banishment and exile. The coupling of the testimony with the vision in verse 2, supports the view that he was there to receive the things that he saw, and that these things were themselves the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ, for which he was there. A further evidence of this concept in John's own statement, in chapter 10:11, of his intention to leave Patmos for an active itinerary among the people of many nations, to carry to them in personal evangelism the testimony of this apocalypse. If John had been prisoner in exile, no such liberty existed on which to base such an announcement, for he was imprisoned on Patmos, and his status would have been no different from Paul's imprisonment in Rome. Further comparisons in the context will support the purpose, not the consequence, of the determinative expression for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. It is worthy of notation here that the similar expressions "for the word of God" and "for the witness of Jesus," in Rev 6:9; Rev 20:4, are in another context and carry another connotation, therefore do not warrant the same construction as in Rev 1:2; Rev 1:9. In one the testimony was being received; in the other it was being upheld. (3) The companionship of suffering and citizenship. 1. "I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation"-- Rev 1:9. The common ground of fellowship between John and the members of the Asian churches was not his apostleship. It was the brotherhood relation and the mutual participation in the sufferings existing and anticipated. He was speaking not of the incident of his presence on Patmos, or of imprisonment there, but rather to the threat of the gathering and darkening clouds of persecution, such as mentioned in the letters to Smyrna, Thyatira and Philadelphia; particularly as related to its then present and incipient stage; and as in Heb 10:31-39, the portent of the things to come. 2. "And in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ" -- Rev 1:9. The preposition in with the conjunction and--that is, the phrase in tribulation and the kingdom and the patience of Jesus Christ--joins the three together as existing and present. It follows that if John was not in the kingdom then, and if we are not in the kingdom now--then John was not in Jesus Christ then, and we are not in Jesus Christ now. But the apostle, in Col 1:13-14, declares that all the Colossians who were delivered from darkness had thereby been translated into the kingdom when they received redemption in Christ.

Verse 10

Rev 1:10. In the Spirit means he was in a spiritual rapture in which he could hear and see things that could not ordinarily be heard and seen. Lord's (lay. The New testament religion has no holy days as did that of the Old. However, the Lord arose from the dead on the first (lay of the week (Mar 16:9), the church was started on the first (lay of the week (Lev 23:16; Acts 2), the disciples met on the first day of the week to break bread (Act 20:7), and the congregational collection of money was made on the first day of the week (1 Corinthians 1 G:1, 2). These facts would give the first day of the week some distinction that is said of no other day. The conclusion is clear that the same day is what is meant by the Lord's day in our verse. As of a trumpet. The comparison is made because that kind of instrument had a vibratory sound that was intense in quality and far-reaching in volume. John does not mean he thought he heard a trumpet, for verse 12 says lie turned to "see the voice." But the voice was so impressive that John likened it to a. trumpet. Heard behind me is significant. By coming up behind John he could hear the voice before seeing the tremendous display of spiritual imagery accompanying it. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 10 3. "I was in the spirit on the Lord's day"--Rev 1:10. The claim that John was in the spirit means that he was in visional rapture, not in the Holy Spirit, but in the state described of Paul in 2Co 12:1-21, and of Peter in Act 10:1-48. As though out of the body, John was in a state in which the external objects and material surroundings were as though they did not exist--he had for the time passed out of the physical world into the spiritual state. This was not the effect of any natural cause, but rather the result of the interposition of supernatural power. The words visions and dreams are not synonymous, and their meanings are not identical, though sometimes they are used indiscriminately in the Scriptures, as in Gen 46:2; Num 12:6; Job 20:8; and Dan 2:28. In the vision, the subject may be awake, as in 2Ki 6:17; Act 23:11; Act 27:23 --in a state of supernatural ecstasy. But in the dreams through which God revealed his purposes and his will, and in the divine purpose, to him was also imparted the powers of interpretation. The examples of such dreams were numerous, as in Gen 20:3-6; Gen 28:12-14; 1Sa 28:6; Dan 2:1-45; and Joe 2:28. This power to interpret was, of course, supernatural and, therefore, the dreams and visions belonged only to the supernatural prophetical and apostolic ages and ceased with them. Since the complete revelation of God's will for the redemption of man and the edification of his church has been delivered, and its inspired documents committed to the apostolic records of the New Testament, there can be no need or reason for their existence, and no confidence can be held in the claims and pretensions of individuals and cults presuming to employ them, and such presumption can only be labelled as false and impious. The verse under consideration states that John was in the spirit on the Lord's day. The preposition on is the same in the Greek as in, and the context must determine the distinction. The use of it here means in the midst of the Lord's day. It is not a reference to the first day of the week, but to the day in which the Lord accomplished these events, as used in Isa 13:9 in which Isaiah described the destruction of ancient Babylon as the day of the Lord; and in Zec 14:1 where Zechariah referred to the destruction of Jerusalem as the day of the Lord. The phrase meant the day of events connected with the judgments of the Lord. 2Ti 1:18 referred to the day of God's mercy, meaning the time in which his mercy is extended to men. In this sense the phrase in the Lord's day is used in Rev 1:10; it means in day of the rapture into which the Lord had placed John--that he had been transported into the midst of the scenes of the vision as though he was, himself, in the day of their happening. (4) The voice of the Son of man. 1. "And heard behind me a great voice"--Rev 1:10. This part of the scene was not occult, but auditory. John heard this voice, and it came from behind him, from a point where he was not looking. The great voice was "as a trumpet"--a signal, as if to announce the approach of a solemn epiphany, a divine presence.

Verse 11

Rev 1:11. Before turning round the voice delivered the names of the churches to which he said in verse 4 he was writing. The remarks were repeated that are at the beginning of verse 8. What thou seest, write. This did not mean only what his eyes would behold, but also what he would hear, for later he is told what to put in the letters to the seven churches. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 11 2. "What thou seest, write in a book"--Rev 1:11. The voice appointed John to be only the amanuensis of Jesus Christ--only the scribe of documents that were not his own; the mere chronicler of events of a supernatural apocalypse. 3. "And send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia"-- Rev 1:11 . This oracular command of the Addresser in this scene specified the seven churches as the addressees, and named them. Again, here is the indication of the period and date of the visions. If the seven churches were figurative, as some authors claim, why this factual designation of the actual names and locations of figurative churches. The argument for the early date of Revelation, as previously shown, is in the historical fact that there were only the seven churches in these western Asian provinces before the destruction of Jerusalem, but after that event the churches became numerous by the diffusion of Christianity over the empire, the opportunity for which was greatly enhanced by the removal of Judaism, its greatest foe, from the path of the church. It has been more than once mentioned that such eminent scholars as Schaff, Terry and MacDonald (and others) verify the historical fact that after the Great Earthquake (before the destruction of Jerusalem) the churches at Colosse and Hierapolis did not again maintain a separate existence, but consolidated with the nearby Laodicean church. Concluding his remarks on this point in The Life And Writings Of John, page 154, MacDonald says: "There appear to have been but seven churches in Asia . . . when the book was written. It is dedicated to these seven alone by the careful mention of them one by one by name, as if there were no others. . . . The expression ???the seven churches' seems to imply that this constituted the whole number, and hence affords one of the most striking incidental proofs in favor of an early date. . . . Those who contend for the later date, when there must have been a greater number of churches than seven in the region designated by the apostle fail to give any sufficient reason for his mentioning no more. That they mystically or symbolically represented others is surely not such a reason." Again, Doctor Tilloch, in his work entitled Dissertations, says "There were but seven churches in Asia when the Revelation was written." The historical evidences from these, and many others, cannot be spurned or waived aside with a theoretical assertion. It is weighty evidence that the visions of Revelation were composed before the destruction of Jerusalem. The history of these cities and churches supports John's specific statement. It is a vital point in the divergence of view on the chronology of Revelation. It involves the claim that the church at Colossae is an example of another Asian church than the seven mentioned, but as previously proven by historical data, Colossae was destroyed by the earthquake in the reign of Nero, and was not thereafter identified by that name, but merged with the Laodiceans, as was true of other cities and churches in the region. In his own one volume work titled A Dictionary Of The Bible, Philip Schaff, commenting on Laodicea, makes the following statement: "When, in the middle of the first century of our era, an earthquake destroyed Colossae, Hierapolis and Laodicea, the latter was rebuilt by its own inhabitants without any aid from the Roman senate." The casual reader cannot fail to observe the significance of the statement that "the latter (Laodicea) was rebuilt," which, mentioned in direct connection with Colossae and Hierapolis, can only mean that these two were not rebuilt. Laodicea was rebuilt, but Colosse and Hierapolis were not. This accounts for the disbanding of the two churches as separate congregations, and refutes the claim that there were more than the seven churches in the period when the Apocalypse was composed. If the facts of history mean anything at all, there is firm proof here for the pre-Destruction of Jerusalem date for John's Patmos apocalypse.

Verse 12

Rev 1:12. Turned to see the voice. That is he turned to see the source from which the voice was coming, and when he did he saw something more than the speaker. Candlesticks (or lampstands) for the purpose of light were used in the tabernacle services (Exo 25:31-37), but in that case there was only one unit that had seven parts to it. In the present the candlesticks are separate pieces, the reason for which will be seen in the next chapter. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 12 Verses 12-16 (5) The Son of man in the midst. 1. "In the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man"--Rev 1:12-13. When John turned to see the voice, he saw one who had the appearance of Jesus. From his own memory John knew Jesus. He could recognize the countenance of the Lord and his personal appearance by his constant association with him in the days of his flesh. And he had seen him in majesty, glory and power in his ascension. Now he beheld in the vision One who was like him--he had known his incarnate person; he saw him in ascended glory; he knew his coronated majesty; he knew his kingly power--and he recognized the Son of man! 2. "He was clothed with a garment."--Rev 1:13. The royal garment was in keeping with appropriate royalty, a royal garment which was indicative of monarchial dignity. 3. "And girt with a golden girdle"-- Rev 1:13. It represented the source and sway of the truth, as the girdle of truth suggests in Eph 6:14. 4. "His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow"--Rev 1:14. These figures symbolized his sinless purity and his sublime majesty, as employed in Isa 1:18 : "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." 5. "And his eyes were as a flame of fire"-- Rev 1:14 . The same symbols are used in the prophetic apocalypses to designate divine omniscience, that He is the penetrator and the discerner of all things. 6. "And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned it in a furnace"--Rev 1:15. The reference here is to the method of refining metals and minerals in a crucible, and it is the emblem of untarnished and unmingled truth of which Jesus Christ is the source and the administrator. 7. "And his voice as the sound of many waters"-- Rev 1:15 . In this metaphor John saw Jesus as the combination of unison and rhythm in its perfect flow, signifying the accord and harmony of divine utterance, set to the melody of divine love and grace and blessing. 8. "And out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword"--Rev 1:16. The same theophany is presented in the flaming sword of Eden. It stood for divine justice, and here it means that Jesus Christ was, and is now, the executor of righteous judgment and justice. 9. "And his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength"--Rev 1:16. The sun of the solar system is the light of the world. As the monarch of the universe it rules the solar system as the earth and all planets revolve around it. So was the Son of man in this high point in the vision. In all his grandeur, as in the last prophetic glimpse of Malachi, he was the sun of righteousness, with all the spiritual benefits to mankind that the sun can bestow in its rays upon the earth.

Verse 13

Rev 1:13. Like unto the Son of man. Much of the language addressed to John is worded as if Christ did the talking personally. That is not the case, for He has been on his throne in heaven since his ascension and will remain there until He comes to judge the world (Heb 10:12-13). All that is said as coming from and concerning Christ is done through the instrumentality of an angel. (See chapter 22:8.) The long garments were worn by the priests, and the girdle of gold around the breast betokened a king. All this was very appropriate because Christ is both High Priest and King (Zec 6:13), and this angel was representing Him. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 13 Verses 12-16 (5) The Son of man in the midst. 1. "In the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man"--Rev 1:12-13. When John turned to see the voice, he saw one who had the appearance of Jesus. From his own memory John knew Jesus. He could recognize the countenance of the Lord and his personal appearance by his constant association with him in the days of his flesh. And he had seen him in majesty, glory and power in his ascension. Now he beheld in the vision One who was like him--he had known his incarnate person; he saw him in ascended glory; he knew his coronated majesty; he knew his kingly power--and he recognized the Son of man! 2. "He was clothed with a garment."--Rev 1:13. The royal garment was in keeping with appropriate royalty, a royal garment which was indicative of monarchial dignity. 3. "And girt with a golden girdle"-- Rev 1:13. It represented the source and sway of the truth, as the girdle of truth suggests in Eph 6:14. 4. "His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow"--Rev 1:14. These figures symbolized his sinless purity and his sublime majesty, as employed in Isa 1:18 : "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." 5. "And his eyes were as a flame of fire"-- Rev 1:14 . The same symbols are used in the prophetic apocalypses to designate divine omniscience, that He is the penetrator and the discerner of all things. 6. "And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned it in a furnace"--Rev 1:15. The reference here is to the method of refining metals and minerals in a crucible, and it is the emblem of untarnished and unmingled truth of which Jesus Christ is the source and the administrator. 7. "And his voice as the sound of many waters"-- Rev 1:15 . In this metaphor John saw Jesus as the combination of unison and rhythm in its perfect flow, signifying the accord and harmony of divine utterance, set to the melody of divine love and grace and blessing. 8. "And out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword"--Rev 1:16. The same theophany is presented in the flaming sword of Eden. It stood for divine justice, and here it means that Jesus Christ was, and is now, the executor of righteous judgment and justice. 9. "And his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength"--Rev 1:16. The sun of the solar system is the light of the world. As the monarch of the universe it rules the solar system as the earth and all planets revolve around it. So was the Son of man in this high point in the vision. In all his grandeur, as in the last prophetic glimpse of Malachi, he was the sun of righteousness, with all the spiritual benefits to mankind that the sun can bestow in its rays upon the earth.

Verse 14

Rev 1:14. When white is used as a symbol, it indicates purity and glory. Flame of fire. The first word indicates that the eyes are active and penetrating. Fire will consume dross and rid a situation of that which is objectionable. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 14 Verses 12-16 (5) The Son of man in the midst. 1. "In the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man"--Rev 1:12-13. When John turned to see the voice, he saw one who had the appearance of Jesus. From his own memory John knew Jesus. He could recognize the countenance of the Lord and his personal appearance by his constant association with him in the days of his flesh. And he had seen him in majesty, glory and power in his ascension. Now he beheld in the vision One who was like him--he had known his incarnate person; he saw him in ascended glory; he knew his coronated majesty; he knew his kingly power--and he recognized the Son of man! 2. "He was clothed with a garment."--Rev 1:13. The royal garment was in keeping with appropriate royalty, a royal garment which was indicative of monarchial dignity. 3. "And girt with a golden girdle"-- Rev 1:13. It represented the source and sway of the truth, as the girdle of truth suggests in Eph 6:14. 4. "His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow"--Rev 1:14. These figures symbolized his sinless purity and his sublime majesty, as employed in Isa 1:18 : "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." 5. "And his eyes were as a flame of fire"-- Rev 1:14 . The same symbols are used in the prophetic apocalypses to designate divine omniscience, that He is the penetrator and the discerner of all things. 6. "And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned it in a furnace"--Rev 1:15. The reference here is to the method of refining metals and minerals in a crucible, and it is the emblem of untarnished and unmingled truth of which Jesus Christ is the source and the administrator. 7. "And his voice as the sound of many waters"-- Rev 1:15 . In this metaphor John saw Jesus as the combination of unison and rhythm in its perfect flow, signifying the accord and harmony of divine utterance, set to the melody of divine love and grace and blessing. 8. "And out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword"--Rev 1:16. The same theophany is presented in the flaming sword of Eden. It stood for divine justice, and here it means that Jesus Christ was, and is now, the executor of righteous judgment and justice. 9. "And his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength"--Rev 1:16. The sun of the solar system is the light of the world. As the monarch of the universe it rules the solar system as the earth and all planets revolve around it. So was the Son of man in this high point in the vision. In all his grandeur, as in the last prophetic glimpse of Malachi, he was the sun of righteousness, with all the spiritual benefits to mankind that the sun can bestow in its rays upon the earth.

Verse 15

Rev 1:15. The original for brass is defined by Thayer as follows: "Some metal, like gold if not more precious." As if they burned in a furnace is said to indicate the brightness of the appearance. When used figuratively many waters means great numbers of people. The significance of this and the preceding verse is to show the dignity and authority of Christ as represented by this person. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 15 Verses 12-16 (5) The Son of man in the midst. 1. "In the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man"--Rev 1:12-13. When John turned to see the voice, he saw one who had the appearance of Jesus. From his own memory John knew Jesus. He could recognize the countenance of the Lord and his personal appearance by his constant association with him in the days of his flesh. And he had seen him in majesty, glory and power in his ascension. Now he beheld in the vision One who was like him--he had known his incarnate person; he saw him in ascended glory; he knew his coronated majesty; he knew his kingly power--and he recognized the Son of man! 2. "He was clothed with a garment."--Rev 1:13. The royal garment was in keeping with appropriate royalty, a royal garment which was indicative of monarchial dignity. 3. "And girt with a golden girdle"-- Rev 1:13. It represented the source and sway of the truth, as the girdle of truth suggests in Eph 6:14. 4. "His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow"--Rev 1:14. These figures symbolized his sinless purity and his sublime majesty, as employed in Isa 1:18 : "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." 5. "And his eyes were as a flame of fire"-- Rev 1:14 . The same symbols are used in the prophetic apocalypses to designate divine omniscience, that He is the penetrator and the discerner of all things. 6. "And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned it in a furnace"--Rev 1:15. The reference here is to the method of refining metals and minerals in a crucible, and it is the emblem of untarnished and unmingled truth of which Jesus Christ is the source and the administrator. 7. "And his voice as the sound of many waters"-- Rev 1:15 . In this metaphor John saw Jesus as the combination of unison and rhythm in its perfect flow, signifying the accord and harmony of divine utterance, set to the melody of divine love and grace and blessing. 8. "And out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword"--Rev 1:16. The same theophany is presented in the flaming sword of Eden. It stood for divine justice, and here it means that Jesus Christ was, and is now, the executor of righteous judgment and justice. 9. "And his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength"--Rev 1:16. The sun of the solar system is the light of the world. As the monarch of the universe it rules the solar system as the earth and all planets revolve around it. So was the Son of man in this high point in the vision. In all his grandeur, as in the last prophetic glimpse of Malachi, he was the sun of righteousness, with all the spiritual benefits to mankind that the sun can bestow in its rays upon the earth.

Verse 16

Rev 1:16. Had in his right hand denotes the ability to grasp and support the things named. It is similar to a familiar saying that "God holds all things in the hollow of His hand." We will learn in verse 20 what the seven stars represent. Sharp twoedged sword is the word of God (Heb 4:12). The original for countenance means the appearance in general, but in this passage Thayer defines it, "Face, countenance." In comparing this person's face to the shining sun (a, condition when the sun is not obscured by clouds), the purpose is to indicate the penetrating brilliance of the Lord's face. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 16 Verses 12-16 (5) The Son of man in the midst. 1. "In the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man"--Rev 1:12-13. When John turned to see the voice, he saw one who had the appearance of Jesus. From his own memory John knew Jesus. He could recognize the countenance of the Lord and his personal appearance by his constant association with him in the days of his flesh. And he had seen him in majesty, glory and power in his ascension. Now he beheld in the vision One who was like him--he had known his incarnate person; he saw him in ascended glory; he knew his coronated majesty; he knew his kingly power--and he recognized the Son of man! 2. "He was clothed with a garment."--Rev 1:13. The royal garment was in keeping with appropriate royalty, a royal garment which was indicative of monarchial dignity. 3. "And girt with a golden girdle"-- Rev 1:13. It represented the source and sway of the truth, as the girdle of truth suggests in Eph 6:14. 4. "His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow"--Rev 1:14. These figures symbolized his sinless purity and his sublime majesty, as employed in Isa 1:18 : "Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." 5. "And his eyes were as a flame of fire"-- Rev 1:14 . The same symbols are used in the prophetic apocalypses to designate divine omniscience, that He is the penetrator and the discerner of all things. 6. "And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned it in a furnace"--Rev 1:15. The reference here is to the method of refining metals and minerals in a crucible, and it is the emblem of untarnished and unmingled truth of which Jesus Christ is the source and the administrator. 7. "And his voice as the sound of many waters"-- Rev 1:15 . In this metaphor John saw Jesus as the combination of unison and rhythm in its perfect flow, signifying the accord and harmony of divine utterance, set to the melody of divine love and grace and blessing. 8. "And out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword"--Rev 1:16. The same theophany is presented in the flaming sword of Eden. It stood for divine justice, and here it means that Jesus Christ was, and is now, the executor of righteous judgment and justice. 9. "And his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength"--Rev 1:16. The sun of the solar system is the light of the world. As the monarch of the universe it rules the solar system as the earth and all planets revolve around it. So was the Son of man in this high point in the vision. In all his grandeur, as in the last prophetic glimpse of Malachi, he was the sun of righteousness, with all the spiritual benefits to mankind that the sun can bestow in its rays upon the earth.

Verse 17

Rev 1:17. The sight and sound of this wonderful being so overcame John that he was prostrated with fear. Not that he was rendered unconscious for then he could not have been benefited by encouraging words which were spoken to him. Fear not indicates that John was affected with a feeling that perhaps something was about to happen for which he was not prepared. Hence he was given this assurance that the one who was before him was He that was the first and the last. Verse 8 tells us that the phrase refers to the Lord who is being represented by this angel. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 17 Verse 17-18 10. "I am alive for evermore . . . and have the keys of hell (hades) and death"-- Rev 1:17-18 . This is the awe-inspiring declaration that by his own death of the cross, he became Lord of Death, and of the hadean world, because its gates could not prevail against him. He is therefore the Lord of "both the dead and the living" (Rom 14:9)--by his death and resurrection, of which his appearance to John was the visible proof.

Verse 18

Rev 1:18. This verse gives further items of the dignity and power of the person speaking to John. Liveth, and was dead identifies him as Christ since the Father was never dead. Alive for evermore is further proof that it is Christ because that is declared of him (Rom 6:9). The person who holds a group of keys has the power or authority to open and shut. The places where Christ can use these keys will next he named. Hell is from HADES, which is the abode of departed spirits. Death is from THANATOS, which is the state of the body after the spirit leaves it. The passage as a whole means the Lord has the power or control over the bodies and souls of men. That is why Jesus said what he did in Mat 10:28. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 17-18 10. "I am alive for evermore . . . and have the keys of hell (hades) and death"-- Rev 1:17-18 . This is the awe-inspiring declaration that by his own death of the cross, he became Lord of Death, and of the hadean world, because its gates could not prevail against him. He is therefore the Lord of "both the dead and the living" (Rom 14:9)--by his death and resurrection, of which his appearance to John was the visible proof.

Verse 19

Rev 1:19. The subject matter of what John is to write is divided into three parts, namely, what he hast seen, are, and shall be; past, present and future. However the past goes back only to the things he had seen since coming as an exile to Patmos. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 19 Verse 19-20 THE INTERPRETATION OF THE MYSTERY (Chapter 1:19-20.) (1) The import of the mystery. 1. "Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter" -- Rev 1:19. Underlining the word things, used three times in this verse, it gives emphasis, first, to the past--the things thou hast seen; and second, to the present--the things which are; and third, to the future--the things which shall be hereafter. But in each case it has reference to the revealed things of Revelation itself, not to the known events of the past, or present. The things seen were not optical or perceptive, but revealed, they were seen by Revelation. The things which are, were not the knowledge of present things, but a reference to that part of the vision, or the revelation, which involved the present. The things which should be thereafter were declared to be immediate-shortly to occur. It would not require an apocalypse to reveal the past events, but it was imperative that the churches should know the present, and those things which were immediately at hand. 2. "The mystery of the seven stars . . . and the seven golden candlesticks"-- Rev 1:20 . The use of the word mystery in Revelation comports with the meaning of the word as used elsewhere in the New Testament--that is, the spiritual truths not discoverable by human reason; understandable, but hidden from human knowledge until revealed. The word has the connotation of "secret doctrine," hence, prior to revelation it was a hidden thing; but when revealed, it was brought within human intelligence and understanding. The gospel mystery imbedded in the old dispensation, as in Rom 16:25; Eph 3:3-9; and Col 1:26, was hidden beneath the types and sacrifices of the law and the prophecies and promises, which were radiant with hope and joy to a guilty world, but were rather concealed than revealed, because of the metaphorical costume and figurative style they could not be discerned, and had to await revelation. The word mystery did not mean mysterious. It meant that which could not be known until it was made known, or revealed, and in the references cited, it meant the gospel plan of salvation. The doctrine of the New Testament is in this sense called a mystery--"the mystery of the gospel," as in Rom 11:25; Rom 16:25; 1Co 15:51; 1Ti 3:9; Eph 3:9. The truths thus requiring revelation and elucidation are classed as mysteries, as numerous other passages could be used to exemplify. But let it be emphasized, that in all of these examples the basic meaning inherent in the word mystery is that which cannot be known by the human mind, until by superhuman source it is made known to it. (2) The explanation of the mystery. The seven golden candlesticks denoted, that as organized bodies, a congregation receives light and reflects it. It is a significant illustration of the functions and the ministries of the local churches. The emblem of gold underscored the evaluation Jesus Christ makes of his church, and the estimate he has placed upon it. The seven stars were representative of position, such as Christ at the right hand of God, indicating that there is something in the symbol that has this representative place in the right hand of Christ. The figure calls for pause and reflection, by all who hold position in the church, lest we should become falling stars! The angels of the churches are not to be taken as single representatives of the respective congregations, but rather the individual spirit of each church. It is the same in meaning as the description elsewhere of "the seven spirits before his throne." It is a symbolic angel, and it refers to the spirit of the church itself. When Paul commanded the Corinthian church to exclude the incestuous person from their congregation, he gave the reason: "that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." It seems the apostle's reference to the spirit applied to the Corinthian church--that it might be saved from corruption, and thus to receive approval in standing before him. It is well to consider the spirit that is manifested in a congregation, and that motivates and controls all of its worship and service. The connotation of the word angel may signify various ministries of physical and spiritual beings, both earthly and heavenly. It is used in Mat 24:31 in reference to the emissaries of the gospel; and in Heb 1:14 it refers to immaterial and spiritual but intellectual beings whom God employs to execute the orders of divine providence, as also employed in Rev 1:1; Rev 22:8. The apostle Paul applied the word, in 1Co 11:8-10, to the venerable men in the Corinthian church; and the angels (spirits) of little children are said by Jesus, in Mat 18:10, to behold the face of the Father in heaven. In Jud 1:6 it is used as an appellation for the early representatives of the race of man in an unnamed period, who forfeited their high estates by apostasy, and were condemned to darkness and judgment, and in Mat 25:41, and 2Co 11:14-15, it is used to describe the devil and his demons. But in Rev 20:1 the word applies to Jesus Christ himself. This is rather a wide classification of the word angel, but it is used in all of these senses. In the vision of the first chapter of Revelation it seems evident that the word refers to the spirit of each church. The stars in the vision are its members, every member --all members in the body of Christ, of the true spirit, are stars in His hand. There is no teaching that exalts one class in the church to any position above all the others, as all the members of Christ stand in equal relation to Him. For one to be exalted above another would "not be so among you," Jesus said to his disciples, in Mat 20:26. As each of the seven churches was individual in character and conduct, they were so in spirit also, and the letters of Jesus to these seven churches were addressed to the angel or spirit of each congregation respectively. The word angel, therefore, does not designate a representative person, but symbolically the representative spirit of each church-- the spirit of the church. (3) The central figure. Jesus Christ was Himself the abiding presence in the churches, directing their work, walking and dwelling in their midst, as the centrifugal and the centripetal spiritual force in each congregation. He was holding the stars in his hand; he was walking among the candlesticks; he was the guiding presence, the moving energy, the inspiring influence, the infinite indweller in every faithful churchand that is true of every true and faithful church of Christ today. The threefold description of the church was as gold in purity and worth--a golden candlestick; and as stars of glory in his possession, shining in his hand; and He Himself in the midst, as the sun around which the spiritual planets revolve.

Verse 20

Rev 1:20. A mystery is anything not revealed or understood, and it is here applied to some of the things which John hast seen and which until now had not been explained to him. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches and the seven candlesticks represent the churches. Since the angel is telling John what are represented by the stars and candlesticks it is foolish for men to offer speculations on the subject. Angels of the seven churches. The word for angel in the New Testament is AGGELOS, which means primarily "a messenger." But it has several shades of application and each case must be considered separately. We should adhere to what the text says and then we will be on safe ground. The angels of these churches are spoken of in the singular number for each church. The churches were estabilshed ones and hence had elders who are always spoken of in the plural. Therefore all we know and all we need to know is that these angels were not elders but were persons who were responsible for getting the letters before the respective congregations. For that reason John was instructed to write the letters to these angels, and they in turn would see that the documents would be delivered to the churches in the proper way to make them responsible for the admonition and/or encouragement contained therein. Comments by Foy E. Wallace Verse 20 Verse 19-20 THE INTERPRETATION OF THE MYSTERY (Chapter 1:19-20.) (1) The import of the mystery. 1. "Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter" -- Rev 1:19. Underlining the word things, used three times in this verse, it gives emphasis, first, to the past--the things thou hast seen; and second, to the present--the things which are; and third, to the future--the things which shall be hereafter. But in each case it has reference to the revealed things of Revelation itself, not to the known events of the past, or present. The things seen were not optical or perceptive, but revealed, they were seen by Revelation. The things which are, were not the knowledge of present things, but a reference to that part of the vision, or the revelation, which involved the present. The things which should be thereafter were declared to be immediate-shortly to occur. It would not require an apocalypse to reveal the past events, but it was imperative that the churches should know the present, and those things which were immediately at hand. 2. "The mystery of the seven stars . . . and the seven golden candlesticks"-- Rev 1:20 . The use of the word mystery in Revelation comports with the meaning of the word as used elsewhere in the New Testament--that is, the spiritual truths not discoverable by human reason; understandable, but hidden from human knowledge until revealed. The word has the connotation of "secret doctrine," hence, prior to revelation it was a hidden thing; but when revealed, it was brought within human intelligence and understanding. The gospel mystery imbedded in the old dispensation, as in Rom 16:25; Eph 3:3-9; and Col 1:26, was hidden beneath the types and sacrifices of the law and the prophecies and promises, which were radiant with hope and joy to a guilty world, but were rather concealed than revealed, because of the metaphorical costume and figurative style they could not be discerned, and had to await revelation. The word mystery did not mean mysterious. It meant that which could not be known until it was made known, or revealed, and in the references cited, it meant the gospel plan of salvation. The doctrine of the New Testament is in this sense called a mystery--"the mystery of the gospel," as in Rom 11:25; Rom 16:25; 1Co 15:51; 1Ti 3:9; Eph 3:9. The truths thus requiring revelation and elucidation are classed as mysteries, as numerous other passages could be used to exemplify. But let it be emphasized, that in all of these examples the basic meaning inherent in the word mystery is that which cannot be known by the human mind, until by superhuman source it is made known to it. (2) The explanation of the mystery. The seven golden candlesticks denoted, that as organized bodies, a congregation receives light and reflects it. It is a significant illustration of the functions and the ministries of the local churches. The emblem of gold underscored the evaluation Jesus Christ makes of his church, and the estimate he has placed upon it. The seven stars were representative of position, such as Christ at the right hand of God, indicating that there is something in the symbol that has this representative place in the right hand of Christ. The figure calls for pause and reflection, by all who hold position in the church, lest we should become falling stars! The angels of the churches are not to be taken as single representatives of the respective congregations, but rather the individual spirit of each church. It is the same in meaning as the description elsewhere of "the seven spirits before his throne." It is a symbolic angel, and it refers to the spirit of the church itself. When Paul commanded the Corinthian church to exclude the incestuous person from their congregation, he gave the reason: "that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." It seems the apostle's reference to the spirit applied to the Corinthian church--that it might be saved from corruption, and thus to receive approval in standing before him. It is well to consider the spirit that is manifested in a congregation, and that motivates and controls all of its worship and service. The connotation of the word angel may signify various ministries of physical and spiritual beings, both earthly and heavenly. It is used in Mat 24:31 in reference to the emissaries of the gospel; and in Heb 1:14 it refers to immaterial and spiritual but intellectual beings whom God employs to execute the orders of divine providence, as also employed in Rev 1:1; Rev 22:8. The apostle Paul applied the word, in 1Co 11:8-10, to the venerable men in the Corinthian church; and the angels (spirits) of little children are said by Jesus, in Mat 18:10, to behold the face of the Father in heaven. In Jud 1:6 it is used as an appellation for the early representatives of the race of man in an unnamed period, who forfeited their high estates by apostasy, and were condemned to darkness and judgment, and in Mat 25:41, and 2Co 11:14-15, it is used to describe the devil and his demons. But in Rev 20:1 the word applies to Jesus Christ himself. This is rather a wide classification of the word angel, but it is used in all of these senses. In the vision of the first chapter of Revelation it seems evident that the word refers to the spirit of each church. The stars in the vision are its members, every member --all members in the body of Christ, of the true spirit, are stars in His hand. There is no teaching that exalts one class in the church to any position above all the others, as all the members of Christ stand in equal relation to Him. For one to be exalted above another would "not be so among you," Jesus said to his disciples, in Mat 20:26. As each of the seven churches was individual in character and conduct, they were so in spirit also, and the letters of Jesus to these seven churches were addressed to the angel or spirit of each congregation respectively. The word angel, therefore, does not designate a representative person, but symbolically the representative spirit of each church-- the spirit of the church. (3) The central figure. Jesus Christ was Himself the abiding presence in the churches, directing their work, walking and dwelling in their midst, as the centrifugal and the centripetal spiritual force in each congregation. He was holding the stars in his hand; he was walking among the candlesticks; he was the guiding presence, the moving energy, the inspiring influence, the infinite indweller in every faithful churchand that is true of every true and faithful church of Christ today. The threefold description of the church was as gold in purity and worth--a golden candlestick; and as stars of glory in his possession, shining in his hand; and He Himself in the midst, as the sun around which the spiritual planets revolve.
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Bibliographical Information
Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on Revelation 1". E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/znt/revelation-1.html. 1952.