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Bible Commentaries

Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament
Revelation 1



Other Authors

ἀποκάλυψις ἰωάννου

This title is according to the evidence (C. 2, al. b. Wetst.; also א [T., Tr., W. and H.]), and, since it is derived simply from Revelation 1:1; Revelation 1:4; Revelation 1:9, the oldest. Further statements concerning the author run: ἀποκ. ἰωάννου τοῦ θεολόγου (Elz.), καὶ εὐαγγελιστοῦ

ἣν ἐν πάτμῳ τῳ νήσῳ ἐθεάσατο

ἀποκ. τοῦ ἁγίου ἰωάννου τ. θεολ.

ἀποκ. τοῦ ἁγίου ἐνδοξοτάτου ἀποστόλου καὶ εὐαγγελιστοῦ παρθένου ἠγαπημένου ἐπιστηθίου ἰωαννου θεολόγου (cf. Wetst., Griesb., Matthäi).


[Revelation 1:1, א*, W. and H., ἰωάνει.]

Revelation 1:2. The τε after ὅσα (Elz., Ewald) is properly deleted already by Griesbach, after A, B, C, min. The particle does not generally occur in the Apoc., for Revelation 21:12 undoubtedly is found improperly in the Rec.; and even though Revelation 19:18 after ἐλευθ. has good evidence ( א), yet it is absent in A, and is not found in the parallel Revelation 13:16. At the close of the verse it is added: καὶ [ ὅσα ἤκουσε] καὶ ἄτινα εἰσι καὶ χρὴ γενέσθαι μετὰ ταῦτα (min. edd., b. Mill, Wetst.; cf. Revelation 1:19.

Revelation 1:3. ἀναγινώσκων κ. οἱ ἀκούοντες. Thus the preponderating evidence. The singular and plural also are found in both words.

Modification of the correct lectio media (Beng.).

The additions of τούτους to λόγους (C), and of ταύτης (min., Vulg. 2, Syr., Ar., Primas), should be here noted.

The reading τὸν λόγον τ. πρ. in B, א, Tisch. IX., also deserves consideration.

Revelation 1:4.(450) The τοῦ before ὤν, κ. τ. λ. (Elz.), in opposition to A, C, א, min., is, like the θεοῦ (B, min.), an attempted interpretation. In the same way, the ὃς (Erasm. 1) before ἠν, instead of the correct .

Instead of πνευ΄. ἐστιν (Elz.), not πνε΄. τῶν (Lach., sm. ed. according to A so also א), but πνευ΄. (B, C, al., Matthäi, Lach., Tisch., Lücke). The variations seem to originate with Andreas and Arethas.

Revelation 1:5. The ἐκ (Elz.) is, according to A, B, C, א, min., Vulg., etc., to be deleted (Griesb., Lach., Tisch. [W. and H.], etc.; cf. Colossians 1:18).

Instead of ἀγαπήσαντι (Elz.), according to A, C, א, min., with Beng., Griesb., Lach., Tisch., read ἀγαπῶντι. The reading λούσαντι ἡ΄ᾶς ἀπὸ τῶν ἀ΄αρτιῶν ἡ΄ων is uncertain. Even Lach. and Tisch. have vacillated in their edd. For λούσαντι (Beng., Matth., Ew., Treg., De Wette, Tisch.) are B and Vulg.; but for λύσαντι (Mill, Lach., Tisch. IX. [W. and H.]) are A, C, א, 6, 7, 28, Primas. The ἐκ which suits better λύσαντι is well supported by A, C, א, 12. No decision is afforded by the remark of Andreas: τῷ διʼ ἀγάπης τῶν δέσ΄ων τοῦ θάνατου λύσαντι ἡ΄ᾶς καὶ τῶν τῆς ἁ΄αρτίας κηλίδων λούσαντι. Arethas says expressly, in repeating both conceptions: διττογραφεῖται τοῦτο πρὸς διάφορον ἔννοιαν. So also, in Revelation 2:2, he trifles with a dittography of κόπος and σκόπος, of which the latter has no value in a critical respect. Ewald unjustly suspects λύσαντι as the easier reading. Perhaps λούσαντι has entered the text, because probably with a reference to Revelation 7:14 written on the margin. Andr. and Areth. place λύσαντι first, so that the λούσαντι may appear as an interpretation. The idea following, in the context (Revelation 1:6), suits better λύσαντι.

The ἡ΄ῶν after ἁ΄αρτ. is omitted in A, 12, 16, but stands in C, א, Lach. large ed., Tisch.

Revelation 1:6. Undoubtedly in the rec. reading, ἐποίησ. ἡ΄ᾶς βασιλεῖς καὶ, κ. τ. λ., the βασιλείς is incorrect, against A, C, א, 2, 4, 6, etc., which offer βασιλείαν, and that, too, without the succeeding καὶ; cf. Revelation 5:10. The more difficult reading, ἡ΄ᾶς with βασιλείαν (Tisch., Ew. 2) is well attested by B, א (cf., on the other hand, Lücke, p. 471), and deserves, perhaps, the preference to ἡ΄ῖν (A, Syr., Ar., Lach. small ed.) and ἡ΄ῶν (C, Lach.), because both forms could serve as an interpretation. At any rate, the testimony of Cod. C, here confirmed by the Vulg., is more important than that of A cf. Beng., Fund. cris. Apoc., sec. viii.

Revelation 1:7. For μετὰ (A, א, Vulg. edd.), C has επὶ from Matthew 24:30, etc.

Revelation 1:8. The discredited addition αρχὴ καὶ τέλος is an interpretation.

Instead of κύριος (Elz.), the reading according to all the testimonies is κύριος θεός (Beng., Griesb., Lach., Tisch. [W. and H.]).

Revelation 1:9. After ὑ̔ πομονῇ, do not read ἰησού χριστοῦ (Elz.), but ἐν ἰησοῦ (C, א, Vulg., Copt., Orig., Treg., Lach., Tisch. [W. and H.]). Cod. A has ἐν χριστῷ; several minusc. (according to Wetst.), ἐν χριστῷ ιησ. (Tisch., 1854).

Revelation 1:11. The addition after λεγούσης, ʼεγώ εἰμι τὸ α καὶ τὸ ω, πρῶτος καὶ ἔσχατος καὶ (Elz.), is without attestation.

Revelation 1:13. Instead of μαστοῖς (B, א, C, Elz., Tisch. [W. and H.]), it is more proper κυρίως ἐπὶ ἀνδρὸς">(451) to write ΄αζοῖς (A, 10, 17, 18, And., Areth., Lach.). Possibly, however, the author of the Ap. wrote ΄αστ, contrary to the general usage.

χρυσᾶν; so Lach., Tisch., Revelation 1:12, according to A, C, א. Tisch., in 1854, had received the form χρυσῆν (Elz.).

Revelation 1:15. πεπυρω΄ένῃ. To this reading, the meaningless clerical error in A, C, points; viz., πεπυρω΄ένης (originating from N, H, I), which form Lach. has received. The modified πεπυρω΄ένοι (B, Elz., Tisch.) is without sufficient attestation. πεπυρω΄ένῃ, perhaps πεπυρω΄ένῳ (Mill, Prol., 371, 507; Beng., Gnom., in loco), is supported by the in camino ardenti of the Vulg. (cf. Syr.). The Mas. ( א, Tisch. IX.) would belong to the χαλκολ., but incorrectly; see exposition.

Revelation 1:20. ὀὓς, Elz., Tisch.: ὧν incorrect, and opposed to A, C, א, 8, and the usage of the Apoc. Bengel already, like Lach., Tisch. IX., has οὓς. ἐπὶ τῆς δ. μ. Elz., Tisch., after C, א. ἐν τῇ δ. μ. occurs (A, Lach.) because of Revelation 1:16.

καταχρηστικῶς δὲ καὶ ἐπὶ γυναικὸς, μασθὸς καὶ μαστὸς κυρίως ἐπὶ γυναικός, κ. τ. λ. [“ μαζὸς, properly of a man, but by catachresis also of a woman. μασθὸς and μὰστος, of a woman”]. Cf. Wetstein, who has still more authorities. Luke 23:29, in Cod. C, has against this usage, μαζοί.

Verse 1

Revelation 1:1. ἀποκάλυψις, i.e., revelation, unveiling of things concealed as divine mysteries, which are presented to the prophetic view of John, and interpreted to him.(454) Heinrichs incorrectly: ἀποκ. = παροισία or ἐπιφάνεια, viz., of Jesus Christ.

ἰησοῦ χρ. in no way an objective,(455) but a subjective genitive,(456) but not the possessive(457) or the genitive of reception;(458) but by the context Jesus Christ is designated as the author and the communicating witness.(459) ἣν ἕδωκεν αὐτ. θ. To the clause which has been concluded, since ἕδωκεν has ἣν as its object, the next clause δεῖξαι

τάχει is connected, as the infinitive δεῖξαι marks the purpose of the ἣν ἕδωκεν(460) and the words δεῖ γεν. ἐν ταχ., are combined as the object of δεῖξαι. On the contrary, Heinr.: ἣν

δεῖξαι, so that ἕδωκεν is combined with δεῖξαι in the sense of permitted, and then this infinitive is regarded as repeated with the object δεῖ γεν. ἐν ταχ. With the conception ἣν ἔδωκεν, cf. especially Revelation 5:7, and in general Acts 1:7; John 1:18; John 3:11; John 12:49; John 17:7 sqq.; Matthew 11:27. In conflict with the text, and in itself incorrect, is the remark of Calov.: “It was given to Christ according to his human nature;” still more, that of C. a Lap. and Tirin: “Christ received the revelation from the Father in his conception and incarnation.”(461) The revelation described in this book, Christ received from the Father, not in the flesh, but when exalted and glorified,(462) the perpetual mediator between God and man,(463) in order to communicate it by his testimony to the prophetic seer,(464) and thus besides to all his servants. Not so far as he is man, but so far as he is the Son, does the Father give to him.(465) [See Note XV., p. 121.] δεῖξαι. According to the constant usage of the Apoc.,(466) and the context in which the expressions ἀποκάλυψις and σημαίνειν occur,(467) to which δεὶξαι, κ. τ. λ., are correlate, this word can be understood not only in general, as Matthew 16:21, by “to point out, to give to know,”(468) but must have also the additional reference to the prophetic vision.(469) But it does not follow hence, that by the τοῖς δούλοις αὐτοῦ, the prophets are specially meant, of whom John would here appear as the representative.(470) The particular idea shadowed in this conception of the δεῖξαι is justified, inasmuch as it is immediately explained that it is through the service of the prophet beholding Christ, that future things are proclaimed.

τ. δουλ. αὐτ., viz., not God’s(471) but Jesus Christ’s; as we find directly afterwards, τ. ἀγγ. αὐτου and τ. δουλ. αὐτου.(472) The parallel, Revelation 22:6, cannot be decisive as to the reference of the pronoun to us, as Jesus Christ is not mentioned there as the one who communicates. By the “servants of Jesus Christ,” believers in general are to be understood (cf. Revelation 22:9, where the angel calls himself the fellow-servant not only of the prophets, but also of those τηροῦντες τ. λογ. τ. βιβλ. τουτ.). So Ebrard against Hengst. Cf. besides Revelation 22:16, according to the more correct reading.

δεῖ γενέσθαι ἐν τάχει. The object of δεῖξαι, and therefore, according to the connection with the first part of the sentence, forming the chief contents of the αποκάλυψις as written in the present book. Cf. Revelation 1:19, where there is fuller mention made, besides the future, also of present things.

The δεῖ(473) depends upon the (not fatalistic) idea of “the divine ordination which could not be frustrated.”(474) The idea of Divine Providence is the essential presupposition of all prophecy.(475) But when Klief. presses the δεῖ in such a way as though thereby the facts of prophecy belonging to the sphere of human freedom were excluded, the reason is entirely unbiblical, and inapplicable for interposing a false interpretation derived from ecclesiastical or secular history.

ἐν τάχει designates neither figuratively the “certainty” of the future,(476) nor the swiftness of the course of things, without reference to the proximity or remoteness of time in which they were to occur. So Ebrard, who appeals in vain to Romans 16:20 and Luke 18:8, since not only those passages, particularly Luke 18:8 (where the subject is not the concrete future, but a constant rule), are dissimilar to ours, but especially because by the ἐγγύς,(477), Revelation 1:3, it is decided that the speedy coming of what is to happen is meant. When in addition to this idea reference is made on the one hand explicitly,(478) and on the other by the very organism and contents of the book, to the patient waiting, it does not follow that we dare not understand the “quickly” in its strict sense,(479) but that the prophet himself distinguishes the beginning of future things, as the beginning of the ultimate completion,(480) from that distant completion itself. The evasion that the ἐν τάχει is to be understood “according to the divine method of computation,” as in 2 Peter 3:8,(481) is contrary to the context.(482)

With the words καὶ ἐσήμανεν, κ. τ. λ., the construction changes. As the ση΄αίνειν corresponds in meaning to the preceding δεῖξαι, because of which not τὴν ἀποκάλυψιν,(483) but δεῖ γεν. is to be regarded the object,(484) so not θεός,(485) but the one who is to show, viz., Jesus Christ, is the subject of ἐσή΄ανεν. The δεῖξαι occurs in the way peculiar to ση΄αίνειν, i.e., the indication of what is meant by significative figures.(486)

ἀποστείλας belongs to διʼ ἀλλέλου, and that too without supplying “this prophecy,”(487) etc.: on the contrary, the ἀποστ. διὰ is absolute,(488) and to be understood according to the analogy of the Hebr. שָֹׁלח בִּיד.(489) Thus Ew. and Ebrard. Hengstenb., whom Klief. follows, tries to combine the διʼ ἀγγ. with ἑση΄., because in the N. T. the ἀποστείλας is regarded as requiring the accusative of the person.(490) But Matthew 11:2, according to the more correct reading,(491) is πέ΄ψας διά; by the parallel passage, Revelation 22:6, the combination of ἀποστ. with διʼ αγγ. is maintained, while it is also to be noticed, that, according to the analogy of all the examples cited by Hengstb., ἀποστείλας must stand before ἐσημ and that thereby the inner connection with ἐση΄. is in no way obscured.

διὰ τοῦ ἀγγέλου αὐτοῦ. Grot. incorrectly: “Learn hence that even when God or Christ is said to have appeared, it ought to be understood of the angel of God or Christ, acting in his name, and representing his attributes.” But God and Christ appear everywhere separated from all angels.

A difficulty lies in the fact that it is not everywhere the same angel who is the interpreter, as might be expected from our position.(492) Cf. Revelation 17:1; Revelation 17:7, Revelation 19:9, Revelation 21:5; Revelation 21:9, Revelation 22:1; Revelation 22:6, and besides Revelation 1:10 sqq., Revelation 4:1 sqq., Revelation 6:8 sqq., Revelation 7:13 sqq., Revelation 10:8 sqq. Hence Ewald thinks that the angel of Revelation 1:1, and also mentioned in all the visions, even where not named, and where another is presented, is to be regarded as the attendant of the Apostle John. But wherefore this superfluous attendance if a third one undertakes the showing and interpreting? That the angel(493) has no more to do than to transport John into a state of ecstasy,(494) is an arbitrary conception directly contrary to Revelation 1:10 sqq., because there John is already in the Spirit when he hears the voice of the angel. The explanation of De Wette,(495) that the angel is meant who shows John the chief subject of the entire revelation, the judgment upon Rome,(496) as all that precedes is only preparatory thereto, has against it, first, that also the important preparations are shown and interpreted to the prophet, and, secondly, that even in Revelation 17:1 to Revelation 22:6, the same angel does not always appear as interpreter; for it is difficult to regard the angel coming forth at Revelation 21:9, who continues from that time to remain with the seer, identical with the one speaking already in Revelation 21:5.(497) Klief. refers to our position, and ascribes to the angel mentioned again in Revelation 22:8 the office of bringing the full revelation which is still uncertain to angels otherwise occupied. All difficulty vanishes, if, as is undoubtedly grammatical,(498) the διὰ τοῦ ἀγγέλου αὐτοῦ be generically conceived(499) This appears at Revelation 22:6 doubly supported by the τὸν ἄγγελον αὐτοῦ in the mouth of the angel speaking at that place.(500) The ἄγγελος αὐτοῦ thus understood can apply to all the individual angels who in the different visions have the office of significative declaration.(501) [See Note XVI., p. 122.] τῷ δούλῳ αὑτοῦ ἰωαννῃ. The seer designates himself as the servant of Jesus Christ in respect to his prophetic service.(502) The addition of his own name(503) contains, according to the old prophetic custom, an attestation of the prophecy.


XV. Revelation 1:1. ἥν ἔδωκεν αυτῷ θεὸς

Alford presents the argument on the other side: “Stern asks, ‘How are we to understand this? Is not Christ very God, of one essence with the Father from eternity? Did he not, by virtue of the omniscience of his divine nature, know as exactly as the Father what should be the process of the world’s history, what the fate of the Church? What purpose was served by a revelation from God to Jesus?’ He proceeds to say that the words cannot refer to the revelation as made to us, but are clearly against such an interpretation; and gives, at some length and very well, that which, in one form or other, all will accept as the true explanation, in accordance with John 7:16; John 14:10; John 17:7-8. The man Christ Jesus, even in his glorified state, receives from the Father, by his hypostatic union with him, that revelation which, by his Spirit, he imparts to his Church. For (Acts 1:7) the times and seasons are kept by the Father in his own power; and of the day and the hour knoweth no man, not the angels in heaven, nor even the Son, but the Father only (Mark 13:32). I may observe that the coincidence, in statement of this deep point of doctrine, between the Gospel of St. John and the Apocalypse, is at least remarkable.”


XVI. Revelation 1:1. διὰ τοῦ αγγέλου

Gebhardt (p. 40) maintains that the transference into an ecstasy cannot be regarded as showing the future; and, indorsing Düst.’s generic conception, defines the angel here as “the personification, so far as it respects the seer, of the whole revealing activity of God or Christ. With this idea alone, can we reconcile the fact that now this angel, and now that, sometimes, indeed, a voice, the voice of God, or Christ himself, speaks to the seer; and it is only on this principle that we can explain the manner in which, Revelation 22:6, the angel speaks of the angel of God being sent.” This conception of the angel as a personification harmonizes with the interpretation of the angels of the churches.

Beck, however, says, “The article before ἀγγ., according to the natural idiom, definitely presents an individual from the genus of angels, and the αὐτοῦ refers to Jesus Christ who sends; cf. Revelation 22:16. The designation ‘his angel’ is thoroughly consistent according to 1 Peter 3:22; cf. Matthew 13:41.”

Verses 1-3

Revelation 1:1-3. Title and commendation of the book.(452) But it is not the words ἀποκαλ. ἰης. χρ. that declare the title; but in Revelation 1:1-2, the prophetic character and chief contents are given,(453) and in Revelation 1:3 follows its corresponding commendation to Christians.

Verse 2

Revelation 1:2. What Christ showed the seer, and what the latter beheld ( ὅσα εἰδε), that he has testified(504) as a revelation of God through Christ ( τ. λογ. τ. θ. κ. τ. μαρ. ἰης. χρ.; cf. Revelation 1:1) in this book, in order that it may be read and kept.(505) According to the connection borne by the clear correspondence of the individual parts, the entire Revelation 1:2 belongs to no other than the present book.(506) But not a few expositors have referred the entire Revelation 1:2 to the Gospel of John.(507) Others understand τ. λογ. τ. θ. as referring to the Gospel, and τ. μαρτ. ἰησ. χρ. to the Epistles of John; and, finally, the ὅσα ( τε) εἷδε to the present revelation.(508) To the former, then, the εἱδε is understood in the sense of 1 John 1:1, as referring to the immediate eye-witness of the apostle who had seen the miracles, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ. With this false view of the whole are connected particular errors; viz., that τ. μαρτ. ἰης. χρ. is explained as “the testimony concerning Christ,”(509) or when the correct recognition of the subjective genitive is applied to a special testimony,(510) and τ. λογ. τ. θ. is understood(511) of the hypostatic Logos.(512) The occasion for referring Revelation 1:2 not, or not exclusively, to the present book, lies in the aor. ἐμαρτυρ. and the false reading ὄσα τε εἰδε. So formerly by Ewald: “who professed the Christian religion, and declared the visions which he saw.” He must thus regard the ἐμαρτ. repeated by a species of zeugma, in order to be able to refer the ὅσα ( τε) εἷδε, according to Revelation 1:19, to the present revelation; while he must interpret the preceding words, as he cannot properly refer to the Fourth Evangelist,(513) in an entirely general sense. But the connection between Revelation 1:1-3, is decisive against Ebrard, while the aor. ἐμαρτυρ. is very easily explained by the fact that John pictures his readers(514) to himself.(515) Besides, that the revelation of Jesus Christ(516) belongs to the Christians who are to hear it,(517) is necessary, from the fact that John by his testimony(518) brings it to them; this occurs in the present book,(519) whose contents he therefore charges them to hear and keep. Against Ebrard and Klief, who acknowledge the correct reading, ὅσα εἶδε, testimony is given especially by the indubitable significance of the expression in Revelation 1:19, and all other passages in which John designates his reception of the vision of the revelation by εἶδον. But if the ὅσα εἶδε belongs to the visions here described, and yet cannot designate the position of the writer as an apostolic eye-and-ear witness,(520) and if the τε is false, then these words must form a suitable apposition to τ. λογ. τ. θ. κ. τ. μαρτ. ἰησ. χρ. These two expressions are, however, perfectly clear already from Revelation 1:1. The entire revelation, as here published in writing(521) in various λόγοι τ. προφ.,(522) is a λόγος τ. θεοῦ, because it was originally given by God;(523) it is further a μαρτυρία ἰησ. χρ., since Christ, the faithful witness,(524) “shows” it.(525) Discrepant with this is Ewald, ii.: “The testimony of Jesus Christ to the truth of this word.” The ἐμαρτύρησε, according to its meaning, finally can be said as well of the Prophet John(526) as of the angel,(527) who in like manner interprets to the gazing prophet the revelation made in the visions, as the latter interprets it to Christians.(528) Even to Christ, as the communicator of the revelation, is the μαρτυρεῖν to be ascribed.

Verse 3

Revelation 1:3. Commendation of the book, which, to those who receive and keep it, may be a source of blessedness in the near impending and decisive time.

΄ακάριος refers alone(529) to the participation in the kingdom of glory, which follows the conflict and tribulation of the preceding judgments, but not at the same time,(530) that the godly are to be preserved amid these judgments.

ἀναγινώσκων καὶ οἱ ἀκούοντεσ, κ. τ. λ. These are not, in spite of the change of singular and plural, to be regarded the same subject;(531) but by the ἀναγιν. the public reader, and by the οἱ ἀκούοντες the hearing congregations, are designated.(532) This exposition is not “more tasteless,” but is far more natural, than that according to which ἁκούειν(533) means, not simply “to hear,” but “to lend the ear of understanding.”

τ. λογ. τ. προφ. By this John names this book,(534) because what he is to publish in the same in writing ( τὰ γεγρ. ἐν αὐτῆ) is a divine revelation, of which he as a prophet is the interpreter.(535)

By the mere hearing, of course, nothing is accomplished: hence John adds to what is said elsewhere only in Revelation 22:7 : καὶ τηροῦντεσ, κ. τ. λ. The τηρεῖν is properly explained in conformity with its meaning by supplying mentally, “in their hearts;”(536) only, still further, that so far as what is written in the book contains, directly or indirectly, the commandments of fidelity, patience, etc., the additional relation which prevails in the combination τηρ. τὰς ἐντολάς(537) results.(538)

γὰρ καιρὸς ἐγγύς. Foundation for the commendation of the book which has just been expressed: the time(539) which will bring blessedness to the faithful is at hand;(540) blessed, therefore, he who takes to heart the instruction here offered.(541) Notice here how in Revelation 11:18, Revelation 22:10, cf. Revelation 12:12; Revelation 12:14, the expression καιρός is used, i.e., the fixed, expected point of time; while χρόνος, on the other hand, is time in general, according to the conception of duration, and is otherwise more external and chronological.(542)

Verses 4-8

Revelation 1:4-8 contain the epistolary dedication of the entire book to the seven congregations of Asia,(543), Revelation 1:4-6, and its fundamental thought, Revelation 1:7-8. Thus the reference of Revelation 1:4-8 to the whole of the book has been correctly expressed in essentials by Beng.(544) So, also, Klief, who, however, separates Revelation 1:7-8, from Revelation 1:4-6, and tries to refer Revelation 1:7-20 a to the fundamental vision. The opinion of Hengstenberg,(545) that Revelation 1:4-6 have reference only “to the group of the seven epistles,” since everywhere, from Revelation 1:4 to Revelation 3:22, the treatment is concerning the wide province of the entire Church, and there is no special reference to the seven churches, is incorrect, for the reasons that not the contents of the seven epistles, but only those of the entire book, satisfy the announcement of Revelation 1:7; Revelation 1:19; and that, in a formal respect, the correspondence between the introduction, Revelation 1:1 sqq., and the conclusion, Revelation 22:6 sqq.,(546) makes manifest as a whole all that intervenes.

The epistolary introductory greeting, Revelation 1:4-5, is similar to the Pauline form,(547) but, in its contents, corresponds to the book which follows, with significative references to which it is filled.

John(548) writes to the seven churches in Asia. ἀσία(549) is Proconsular Asia, consisting of the provinces of Phrygia, Mysia, Caria, Lydia, Ionia, and Æolis. Ephesus(550) was regarded the metropolis. In this Asia, Paul had planted the gospel; also, the First Epistle of Peter had its first readers there.(551)

In the greeting, χάρις and εἰρήνη are combined, as in all the Pauline Epistles except 1 and 2 Timothy, where, as in 2 John 1:3, ἔλεος is inserted. χάρις always stands in the foreground as the fundamental condition whence all salvation, all Christian χαίρειν, alone proceeds; the εἰρήνη, the effect of divine grace, has an important significance at the head of the book which treats in an especial way of the conflicts of believers. Falsely, N. de Lyra: “grace in the present life; peace in the future, for there human appetite will be altogether quieted.” Rather is the peace which believers already have, through grace, of such nature that they maintain it through patience and victorious perseverance in all tribulations.(552)

ἀπὸ ὤν, κ. τ. λ. Description of the divine name יהוה, εἰμι ὤν.">(553) but not under the cabalistic presupposition, that in that name itself, in a mystical way, the three tenses are indicated.(554) As to the form of the expression, neither is the manifestly intentional combination of the nom. ὤν, κ. τ. λ., with ἀπό to be impaired by the insertion of τοῦ,(555) or by supplying τοῦ λεγομένου ὤν, κ. τ. λ., τοῦ ὅς ὤν, κ. τ. λ., τοῦ θεοῦ ὅς ὤν, κ. τ. λ., etc.;(556) nor is the irregularity, that, in the absence of a necessary preterite participle in the formula ην, the finite tense is treated as a participle, to be accounted for by the false conception that stood for ὅς;(557) nor, finally, is ἐρχόμενος to be taken as precisely equivalent to ἐσόμενος(558) by an accommodation of the use of הכָּא, perhaps with an allusion to Mark 10:30, John 4:21; John 5:25; John 16:25; John 16:31 : but, in that inflexible firmness of the divine name, ὤν, κ. τ. λ. Cf. Revelation 1:5.">(559) there is something mysterious;(560) viz., an intimation of the immutability of the eternal God [see Note XVII., p. 122], who, as is shown also by the idea itself of eternity, and especially by the ἐρχό΄ενος,(561) rules the destinies of his people, as well as of the hostile world, brings his prophecy to fulfilment, and especially holds in his firm hand the entire development of the judgment. Accordingly, John writes not ἐσό΄ενος, but with living reference to the fundamental thoughts of the book,(562) ἐρχό΄ενος, as also Revelation 1:8; Revelation 4:8. [See Note XVIII., p. 122.] The question whether, by the formula ὤν κ. ἡν κ. ἐρχό΄ενος, the triune God, or only God the Father, be designated, can be answered only in connection with the two following members of the sentence. The ἑπτὰ πνεὑ΄ατα, κ. τ. λ., are, at all events, to be regarded not as angels, neither(563) as “the entire body of angels” (universitas angelorum), who are the ministers of our salvation,(564) nor(565) as the seven archangels(566) found again in Revelation 8:2;(567) against this, the expression,(568) its occurrence before ἰησοῦ χρ., and the circumstance that from the ἑπτὰ πνεύματα, as well as from ὤν, κ. τ. λ., and from ἰησ. χρ., grace and peace are to proceed.(569) The seven spirits are, according to Revelation 4:5, where they appear “before the throne of God,” “spirits of God” himself; according to Revelation 1:6, they are “the sent upon the whole earth,” and peculiar to the Lamb, as the seven eyes thereof. Christ “hath” the seven spirits.(570) Thus they belong to God and Christ himself in a way other than can be conceived of any creature. But they cannot be regarded mere attributes or manifestations, “the (seven(571)) virtues of God’s providence,”(572) “the seven members, as it were, of Divine Providence,”(573) “the most perfect nature of Jehovah,”(574) “the virtues, or what is proclaimed, of the Supreme Divinity,”(575)—which is neither clear in itself, nor consistent with John’s concrete mode of view; nor can the cabalistic personifications of the divine glory, nor the ten Sephiroth, be here thought of.(576) Essentially, by the seven spirits before the throne of God, nothing else can be understood than “the Spirit” who speaks to the churches,(577) and the Spirit of Christ(578) who makes men prophets.(579) Nevertheless, the sevenfoldness of this one Spirit is not to be explained, and, least of all, by an appeal to Isaiah 11:2, of the assumed “seven energies” of the Spirit;(580) but(581) John’s type is Zechariah 3:9; Zechariah 4:6; Zechariah 4:10. The Spirit cannot be beheld in his essential unity as he is before God’s throne, or as sent forth into all lands; besides, there is need of a concrete presentation,(582) which occurs according to the holy number of seven, representing the divine perfection; thus the one Spirit, who, as in Zechariah, is the treasure of the Church,(583) appears as seven eyes, lamps, or even as seven spirits.

This view of “the seven spirits before the throne of God” gives the answer to the question whether ὤν κ. ἦν κ. ἐρχ. be God the Father,(584) or the triune God(585) The question itself is properly more of a dogmatical than of an exegetical character, because nothing is more distant from John than the dogmatic reflection whence that question originates. Yet the answer must be given, on the one hand, that the expression ὤν, κ. τ. λ., as a description of the name יהוה designates the God who in Revelation 1:1 is called θεός,(586) and in like manner is represented to be distinct from Christ, as Revelation 1:4-5, treat of the seven spirits and of Christ; and, on the other, that the threeness of “him who is,” etc., of the seven spirits, and of Jesus Christ, not only has “an analogy with the Trinity,”(587) but actually includes, in itself and in the doctrinal connection of the entire book,(588) the fundamental idea of the Trinity, which, if developed and dogmatically expressed, yields the result that the designation of the divine nature ( ὤν, κ. τ. λ.,) is confined to the representation of the Father. [See Note XIX., p. 122.]


XVII. Revelation 1:4. ἀπὸ ὢν

So also Trench: “Doubtless the immutability of God is intended to be expressed in this immutability of the name of God, in this absolute resistance to change or even modification which the name presents.” Beck: “The name of the Immutable is presented in the form of immutability.”


XVIII. Revelation 1:4. ἐρχόμενος

Gebhardt (p. 21): “John does not use ἐρχόμενος as synonymous with ἐσόμενος, but in the sense of coming to judgment for the final completion of the eternal world-plan.” Cremer (Lexicon): “In Revelation 1:4; Revelation 1:8; Revelation 4:8, ἐρχόμενος denotes God as the God of the future revelation of salvation; cf. Isaiah 40:9 : and the title (viz., ὤν, κ. τ. λ.), as a whole, is given to God, as the God of an eternal and unchangeable covenant.” Tait: “The word ἐρχόμενος is the keynote of revelation. It runs like a silver thread throughout the entire book. It enters into it at the beginning, and it is summed up at the end by ‘Surely I come quickly.’ ”


XIX. Revelation 1:4. τῶν ἑπτὰ πνευμάτων

Trench: “There is no doubt, that, by ‘the seven spirits,’ we are to understand, not, indeed, the sevenfold operations of the Holy Ghost, but the Holy Ghost sevenfold in his operations. Neither need there be any difficulty in reconciling this interpretation, as Mede urges, with the doctrine of his personality. It is only that he is regarded here not so much in his personal unity as in his manifold energies, 1 Corinthians 12:4. The matter could not be put better than it is by Richard of St. Victor: ‘Et a septem spiritibus, id est, a septiformi Spiritu, qui simplex quidem est per naturam, septiformis per gratiam.’ ” Gerhard (Loci Theologici, xviii. 234): “By the seven spirits, the Spirit is to be understood metonymically, of whom the Church sings that he is septiformis munere. This paraphrase is to be understood by synecdoche; viz., in the sense that the Holy Spirit is the author and giver, not only of seven but of all spiritual charisms. John, however, employs the number seven, because it is the number of perfection, and denotes multiplicity (Amos 1:6; Proverbs 24:15; Psalms 119:164; Isaiah 4:1). This interpretation is proved: 1. From the quality and condition of what is predicated. John prays for grace and peace to the seven churches, from the seven spirits. But the bestowment of grace and peace, i.e., spiritual and heavenly blessings, is the part of no creature, but of God alone; and hence the apostles, in their epistles, never pray that grace may be given those to whom they write, from angels or from any other creature, but only from God, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, because it is only God who is the author of grace and peace. 2. From the equal conjunction of the seven spirits with God the Father and the Son. John prays that grace and peace be given the churches equally ‘from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven spirits, and from Jesus Christ;’ and that, too, by a mode of invocation in which the ἀπὸ is thrice repeated, and the seven spirits assigned the same degree of dignity with the Father and the Song of Solomon 3. From the order and position. The seven spirits are interposed between the Father and the Son. Therefore created spirits or angels cannot be understood; for, whenever angels are joined with God and Christ as ministers, they are subjoined (1 Timothy 5:21; Revelation 3:5 : the intention of the passage, Mark 13:32, is different, where the discourse rises to a climax),” etc. Cf., also, in the “Veni Creator Spiritus,” ascribed by many to Charlemagne, by others to Gregory the Great, referred to above by Gerhard,—

“Tu septiformis munere,”

as paraphrased in the most widely used English translation,—

“Thou the anointing Spirit art,

Who dost thy sevenfold gifts impart.”

Luther’s rendering—

“Du bist mit Gaben siebenfalt”—

more closely conforms to the original and the strict meaning of the passage, although the “sevenfold gifts” or “operations” is a necessary inference, and is sustained by such passages as Isaiah 11:2-3.

Verse 5

Revelation 1:5. As from the seven spirits of God, as the Spirit of God and of the Lamb beheld in living concretion, comforting, warning, strengthening believers, but judging the world, grace and peace are wished; so also, finally (Revelation 1:5-6), from Jesus Christ, since he is μάρτυς πιστὸς, κ. τ. λ. The construction with the genitive is not abandoned in order to indicate “the immutability of the testimony,”(589) neither is it aided by supplying ὅς ἐστίν:(590) but the importance of the ideas breaks through the limitations of regular form; the abrupt mode of speech makes prominent the intense independence of all three predicates. Compare the energetic change of construction in the sentences immediately following. All three predicates of Jesus Christ stand in pragmatic connection with the contents of the entire ἀποκάλυψις communicated through him, but not(591) in correspondence with the three themes of the ascription of praise, τ. ἀγαπῶντι, λύσαντι, and ἐποίησεν ἡμ. βασιλ., κ. τ. λ. Inconsistent with the conception and reference of the three predicates, is also the opinion that in them Christ “is characterized according to the consecutive series of his works, and therefore according to his threefold office.”(592)

Christ exalted to his majesty is first μάρτυς πιστός, i.e., the trustworthy(593) witness, and not because in his earthly life he testified, in general, to the divine truth,(594) and maintained it even unto death;(595) nor because what he has threatened and promised in the flesh(596) he will execute: but also, not alone because of the attestation to apocalyptic truth,(597) which reference, of course, must not be omitted, but absolutely as the very one through whom each and every divine revelation occurs, who communicates predictions not only to the prophets in general,(598) as at present to the writer of the Apoc.,(599) but also testifies to the truth(600) by reproving, admonishing, and comforting the churches. That, just on this account, Christ was the faithful witness in the flesh, is self-evident, but lies here beyond the sphere of the visions.

πρωτότοκος τῶν νεκρῶν. This figurative expression(601) agrees, as to its essential meaning, with the figure, ἀπαρχη τῶν κεκοι΄η΄ένων, 1 Corinthians 15:20.(602) The figure is obliterated if πρωτότοκος,(603) without any thing further, be received like ἀρχή, the first.(604) Grot. already justly remarks, “The resurrection is a birth.”(605) Yet the view according to which the resurrection to a new life(606) appears as a birth is to be maintained in its simplicity, and not, as with Ebrard, to be further portrayed.(607) But, since Christ is the πρωτότ. τ. νεκρ., he may represent himself as in Revelation 1:18; Revelation 2:8; and that applies to him as returning, which Revelation 1:7 represents as the fundamental thought of the book. [See Note XX., p. 123.] καὶ ἄρχων τῶν βασιλέων τῆς γῆς. This, Christ—to whom, as the Messiah, and that too as one dead and risen again, the dominion over all things belongs(608)—will prove himself to be, in the judgment, at his advent.(609)

If the three predicates of Christ just mentioned are presented without formal opposition, because in this way the unconditional objectivity of the ideas is the more forcibly marked, the subjective references in the following expressions, τ. ἀγαπ. ἡμᾶς, λυσ. ἡμας ἐκ τ. ἁμαρτ. ἡμῶν, ἐποιησ. ἡμῶν βασιλ., require that they be made in the form of a doxology. The new clause, τῷ ἀγαπῶντι ἡμ., looks from the very beginning to the close ( ἀυτῷ) δόξα, κ. τ. λ.; the ἀυτῷ restoring the original form of the sentence after it had been interrupted, after a Hebraistic manner, by the finite tense, καὶ ἐποίησεν.(610)

The present, τ. ἀγαπῶντι, is neither to be accounted for by the false reading ἀγαπήσαντι, nor to be explained in the sense of an imperfect participle; but, on the contrary, the certainty that Christ continues to love his people is just as significant in the connection of the book as that of his being the faithful witness.(611) The bride is comforted, and rejoices in the coining of Him whom she loves.(612)

καὶ λύσαντι ἡ΄ᾶς ἐκ τῶν ἁ΄αρτ. ἡ΄., κ. τ. λ. The loosing which Christ has accomplished(613) by means of his blood(614) [see Note XXI., p. 124] represents our sins as a power enchaining us.(615) For the thought, cf. the similar conception of ἀγοράζειν, Revelation 5:9.(616) The reading λούσαντι(617) yields, according to another figure,(618) essentially the same idea, in both of which(619) the forgiveness of sins and liberation from their power(620) are comprised. Yet, even in an exegetical respect, the reading λύσαντι is preferable. As in Revelation 5:9 the allied idea of the ἀγοράζειν, so also here the λύσαντι ἡμ. is followed by the declaration which, in most forcible opposition to the bondage of the sins from which we are delivered, ascribes to us a royal dominion and holy priesthood with God.


XX. Revelation 1:5. πρωτότοκος

Cf. Meyer on 1 Corinthians 15:20; Colossians 1:18. Others, indeed, were raised from the dead before Christ’s resurrection, e.g., the daughter of Jairus, and Lazarus; yet they were not raised to immortal life, but their souls were re-invested with mortal bodies. See the contrast drawn by Romans 6:9; also, in this chapter, Revelation 5:13.


XXI. Revelation 1:5. καὶ λὐσαντι

Beck, who, however, prefers the reading λούσαντι, adds on the ἑν τῷ αἵματι: “For it is not the material, lifeless blood of one dead, but the spiritually quickened blood of the risen One, i.e., of one born anew by the resurrection, of the spiritually glorified Son of man. The sin-cleansing efficacy of the blood of Christ is, therefore, one that works inwardly, cleansing the heart and mind, towards God (Hebrews 9:14; cf. Hebrews 7:16; Hebrews 10:19-21). λούειν is, therefore, not merely judicial liberation from sin as a debt, nor moral liberation from the bondage of sin (as two parties of exegetes here try to maintain), but one divine act accomplished in the person, whereby the habitual, sinful nature of the human heart and mind, discontent with God, and hostility towards him, are removed, and changed into a communion of peace and love with God, into a new habit, whence, at last, the personal freedom from sin, and sanctification in God, result.” Tait: “Tell us not, then, that the death of Christ was merely that of a martyr, a spectacle before men and angels of the dignity of self-sacrifice,—that it was intended to reconcile man to God by preaching to us, through a mortal, the evil of sin and the majesty of sorrow.”

Verse 6

Revelation 1:6. In the reading ἡμῶν βασιλείαν, as well as the variation ἥμιν, the βασιλεία designated is undoubtedly the royal sovereignty of believers,(621) to whom, therefore, Revelation 5:10, a βασιλεύειν is directly ascribed.(622) Were the reading ἡμᾶς βασιλείαν, which is certainly that of Revelation 5:10, to be received here, upon grammatical considerations, the words could not signify that the redeemed are a “kingdom” in the sense of “a people of kings,” as ἱεράτευμα(623) is “a people of priests,”(624) or “a royal power opposed to the world.”(625) (If this idea is to be reached, we must read either ἡμῖν, or,(626) in conflict with all the testimonies, with the Rec., ἡμᾶς βασιλεῖς); but only that the redeemed are the “kingdom” of God, the subjects, and, of course, also the blessed sharers in God’s kingdom.(627)

ἱερεῖς τῷ θεῷ καὶ πατρὶ αὐτοῦ. These words stand in apposition to ἡμῶν βασιλείαν. The formal inconsequence that the ἱερεῖς is in apposition with a ἡμᾶς supplied from the ἡμῶν βασιλείαν,(628) each of the two points shows with especial force and independence.

The αὐτοῦ belongs not only to the πατρί,(629) but to the entire conception τῷ θεῷ καὶ πατρί, as also Romans 15:6.(630) In the first case, the article must be repeated before the πατρί. But, on the other hand, John could not write as Ebrard, according to the analogy of Revelation 6:11, Revelation 9:21, John 2:12, expects, τῷ θεῷ αὐτοῦ καὶ τ. πατρὶ αὐτ., because thus two different subjects would be presented; viz., first, the God of Jesus Christ, and, secondly, the Father of Jesus Christ.(631)—“Priests unto God”(632) are the redeemed of Christ, and invested with the kingdom, in no way for the reason that they help to complete the sufferings of Christ;(633) for, while the suffering of believers must be considered the suffering of witnesses or martyrs, just in this is the idea of the suffering of a priest, which belongs absolutely only to one High Priest,(634) surrendered. But the priesthood of all the redeemed(635) lies in this, that they come immediately to God, offer to him their prayers, and further give themselves peculiarly to him in holy obedience and spiritual service.(636) A similar idea occurs, when, in Revelation 21:22, the new Jerusalem appears without a temple. [See Note XXII., p. 124.] αὐτῷ; viz., τῷ αγαπῶντι ἡμάς, κ. τ. λ., therefore Jesus Christ. To δόξα, κ. τ. λ., ἐστίν is understood.(637)


XXII. Revelation 1:6. ἱερεῖς τῷ θεῷ

On the relation of ἱερεῖς to the preceding verse, Plumptre refers to the consecration, as priests, of Aaron and his sons, by the sprinkling of blood, and adds: “The two ideas of being cleansed with blood, and of entering on a priest’s work, were accordingly closely linked together. But, in that baptism of blood of which St. John thought, the washing was not limited to any priestly family, but was co-extensive with the whole company of believers. They, therefore, had become what the older Israel of God was at first meant to be in idea and constitution, ‘a kingdom of priests.’ That sprinkling of blood upon the whole people, before the great apostasy of the golden calf, had been the symbol that they, too, were all consecrated, and set apart for their high calling (Exodus 20:6; Exodus 20:10; Exodus 24:8). So John (in this instance, also following in the track of the Epistle to the Hebrews) looked on the true priests’ work as not limited to any order of the Church’s ministry.”

Verse 7-8

Revelation 1:7-8. Just as Amos (Revelation 1:2), by a forcible expression, concentrates the chief contents of his book at the very head; so here the writer of the Apoc., who in this also follows the mode of the ancient prophets, by adding to the passage Revelation 1:7, containing the sum of his entire prophecy,(638) the full authority of the name of God, of whose message he is the prophet, Revelation 1:8.(639) Klief. incorrectly denies that the parousia is the proper theme of the Apocalyptic prophecy, and therefore combines Revelation 1:7-8, not with Revelation 1:4-6, but with Revelation 1:9 sqq.

Already the ἰδού is an indication that something important is presented.(640)

ἔρχεται. He (Christ) cometh;(641) this is the theme of the Apoc.,(642) which is expressed here not in indefinite generality, but directly afterwards its chief points, as they are further unfolded in the book, are stated. For the coming of the personal Christ is a coming to judgment,(643) and indeed not only for hostile Jews ( οἵτινες αὐτὸν ἐξεκέντησαν), but also for the heathen ( καὶ κοψ. πᾶσαι αἱ φυλαὶ τῆς γῆς). Christ cometh “with the clouds.” The μετά(644) designates the coming one as accompanied by clouds; whether we are to regard these as beneath(645) or about him,(646) is not expressed. The ἐρχ. μετὰ τῶν νεφελῶν does not form an apposition to “arising out of the sea,” and is not simply a descending from heaven,(647) for the conception, Revelation 13:1, is too unique to correspond to the stereotyped idea in our passage;(648) also, the μετὰ τ. νεφ. is too significant for “down from heaven.” But, according to the O. T. mode of representation, God coming to judgment appears surrounded by clouds.(649) [See Note XXIII., p. 124.] When he comes, absolutely all ( πᾶς ὀφθαλμός) will see him; not only his believers, who have remained steadfast to him, and whom he, their Judge, their Deliverer, will introduce into his glory,(650) but also—as is expressly declared by the words οἵτινες

τῆς γῆς,—unbelievers. Among these, the first to be especially mentioned are καὶ οἵτινες αὐτον ἐξεκέντησαν, i.e., the Jews. Volkmar and Hilgenf.(651) incorrectly think here chiefly of the heathen, since heathen hands directed the plunge of the lance into the Crucified. [Note XXIV., p. 124.] But decisive against this is not only the relation to the subject, but also the expression, κ. κοψ.

πᾶς αἱ φυλ. τ. γῆς. Here, as in John 19:37, the prophecy, Zechariah 12:10, forms the foundation, where the words אֶת אַשֶר־דָּקָרוּ וְהִבִּיטוּ אֵלַי are rendered by the LXX., καὶ ἐπιβλέψονται πρὸς ΄ὲ, ἀνθʼ ὦν κατωρχήσαντο. According to Zechariah, the converted people are to look towards their God, whom they had wounded by their infidelity and disobedience, i.e., as the LXX. correctly explain, had despised; but in this passage the “seeing,” i.e., the actual beholding of the coming Christ, is understood in the sense that then, at the commencement of the judgment, repentance is no longer possible, and only terror remains concerning sins that have then undoubtedly occurred. Against the pragmatism of this passage, Ebrard wishes here to find the meaning: “When he cometh, Israel shall be converted,(652) and the nations of the earth shall certainly lament,(653) as those who have fallen away.” Bengel falls into the same error, when he remarks of the κόψονται in the second member, “Undoubtedly with hostile, or even, on the part of some, with penitential, terror.” How John 19:37 is in this respect related to this passage, is not manifest; since there only the fact of the ἐξεκέντησαν, i.e., the thrust of the lance, is stated. The difference between John 19:37 and this lies in the fact that there ( εἰς ὃν ἐξεκέντ.) the special point of the thrust of the lance is emphasized; while here ( αὐτὸν ἐξεκέντ.) the subject is the death—“the slaying”(654)—in general, as the most manifest proof of hostile unbelief. As to ἐκκεντεῖν in this sense, cf. Numbers 22:29, Judges 9:54, 2 Maccabees 12:6. Partly because of this difference, and also partly because Aquila, Symmachus, and Theodotion translate the word דקר, Zechariah 12:10, by ἐκκεντεῖν,(655) we dare not infer the identity of the Evangelist and the writer of the Apoc.

καὶ κόψονται ἐπʼ αὐτὸν πᾶσαι αἱ φυλαὶ τῆς γῆς. Although this expression may comprise also the Jews, yet, according to the connection, it is to be limited to the anti-theocratic and antichristian heathen. The κόψονται(656) obtains, by the construction with ἐπὶ and the acc.,(657) a graphic clearness, such as is peculiar to the entire style of the writer of the Apoc., by representing the mourning, not according to its inner reason ( ἐπʼ αὐτῷ), but according to its external direction,—towards the coming Judge.(658)

Not only by the twofold assurance in both Greek and Hebrew,(659) at the close of Revelation 1:7, but still more completely and solemnly by the entire Revelation 1:8,(660) is the main sentence, Revelation 1:7, sealed. This verse contains a significant unfolding of the old prophetic formula נְאֻם יִהוָה. For the Eternal, who is at the same time Lord of all, will execute his prophecy, Revelation 1:7. ἐρχόμενος.">(661)

The formula τὸ ἀλφὰ καὶ τὸ (662) is, according to its meaning,(663) correctly explained by the gloss ἀρχὴ και τέλος.(664)

παντοκράτωρ. Cf. Amos 4:13, where the LXX. have it for אֱלֹהְֵי־צְבָוֹת.

Revelation 1:9 to Revelation 3:22. John receives in a vision the command from Christ to write down the revelations communicated to him, and to send them to the seven churches of Asia (Revelation 1:9-20). This is to be done in such a way that to each one of these churches, in a special letter (Revelation 2:1 to Revelation 3:22), the contents of the revelation are to be applied for encouragement, consolation, and warning.


XXIII. Revelation 1:7. μετὰ τῶν νεφελῶν

Luthardt interprets the clouds as “in heavenly glory.” Trench, on the other hand, maintains that they belong “not to the glory and gladness, but the terror and anguish, of that day. The clouds have nothing in common with the νεφέλη φωτεινή (Matthew 17:5), ‘the glorious privacy of light,’ into which the Lord was withdrawn, for a while, from the eyes of his disciples at the transfiguration; but are rather the symbols or fit accompaniments of judgment (Psalms 97:2; cf. Psalms 18:11; Nahum 1:3; Isaiah 19:11).” Both ideas, however, are reconcilable, according as those who contemplate Christ’s coming are believing or unbelieving.


XXIV. Revelation 1:7. οἵτινες αὐτὸν ἐξεκέντησαν

Alford: “The persons intended in this expression are, beyond doubt, those to whom our Lord prophesied in like terms, Matthew 26:64; viz., those who were his murderers, whether the Jews who delivered him to be crucified, or the Romans who actually inflicted his death.”


XXIV. Revelation 1:7. οἵτινες αὐτὸν ἐξεκέντησαν

Alford: “The persons intended in this expression are, beyond doubt, those to whom our Lord prophesied in like terms, Matthew 26:64; viz., those who were his murderers, whether the Jews who delivered him to be crucified, or the Romans who actually inflicted his death.”

Verse 9

Revelation 1:9. ἐγὼ ἰωάννης. The name as in Revelation 1:3. [See Notes on Introduction, pp. .] The combination of the ἐγώ with the name(667) is after the manner of Daniel.(668) In the same way, the authors of 4 Ezra(669) and the Book of Enoch(670) conform to Daniel’s model. The formula must not be regarded as determined by the intention of the composer to distinguish himself from the speaker in Revelation 1:8.(671)

John not only calls himself the brother of the readers, in the sense justified by the communicative style of Revelation 1:5-6,(672) but especially emphasizes what is supposed in the relation of a brother: καὶ συγκοινωνὸς ἐν τῇ θλίψει, κ. τ. λ. The inner combination of this idea with ἀδελρὸς ὑ΄ῶν is to be inferred from the fact of the non-repetition of the article. The έν(673) designates the θλῖψις, etc., as the sphere in which the fellowship(674) occurs, in distinction from the objective conception of the customary genitive. So, too, the ἐν stands in the ἐν ἰησοῦ, belonging to all three terms, θλιψ., βασιλ., and ὑπομ., whereby the Lord and Saviour represents himself as the personal ground of the tribulation and kingdom and patience of all those to whom Revelation 1:5-6 pertain. A comparison has here been incorrectly made with the dissimilar ideas of Colossians 1:24, 2 Corinthians 1:15.(675) Cf., on the other hand, Philippians 2:1, παράκλησις ἑν χριστῷ.

The θλῖψις ( ἐν ἰησοῦ) is the affliction,(676) which, “for the name of Christ,”(677) has been infallibly prepared for believers, on the part of the hating and persecuting world.(678) But, as this suffering, so also does the royal glory possessed already by believers, and yet hoped for(679) in its full manifestation, lie “in Jesus” himself. Hence, e.g., Revelation 3:21, the promise in the mouth of Christ.

Finally John adds yet the ὑπομονή ( ἐν ἰησοῦ), as the item ordinarily mediating between the two preceding,(680) which, therefore, is an important subject of the prophetic exhortation.(681) There is no hendiadys, either in the first or the last of the two conceptions.(682)

In connection with the self-designation of the composer as ἀδελφὸς ὑμῶν, the entire expression καὶ συγκοιν.

ἰησ., whose fundamental universality is marked by the three terms θλῖψις, βασιλεία, and ὑπομονὴ, cannot be decisive as to the words ἐγενόμην

μαρτυρίαν ἰησοῦ having definite reference to the θλῖψις just mentioned, and therefore being understood necessarily of the banishment of John, whether of the apostle(683) or another John.(684) The incorrect emphasizing and specializing of the θλῖψις likewise leads N. de Lyra to think of the legend according to which the apostle was cast into seething oil. As most plausible for the traditional explanation, the usage of the δία, Revelation 6:9, Revelation 20:4, is cited: but in these passages we find the determinative expressions ἐσφραγμ., πεπελεκισμ.; and a comparison may also be made with Matthew 13:21; Matthew 24:9; John 15:21. But the exposition proposed by Bleek, Lücke, and De Wette, according to which the δία indicates that John was in Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus,—i.e., to receive the same [see Notes on Introduction, p. 91],—is decided to be correct by: (1) The in any case near parallelism of Revelation 1:1-2. (2) The circumstance that μαρτυρία ἰησοῦ, according to the usage of the composer of the Apoc., cannot in any way be “the testimony concerning Jesus:”(685) for what Wolf remarks on 1, 2, is entirely wrong; viz., “As often as the word μαρτυρία occurs in the Apoc., so often does it signify the testimony concerning Christ given by others.” But the genitive with μαρτυρία is always subjective; so that the expression μαρτ. ἰησοῦ signifies regularly(686) that given by Jesus (the faithful witness, Revelation 1:5), and the μαρτ. αὐτῶν the testimony given by the αὐτοί,(687) in which latter case the contents of the μαρτυρία are synonymous. This firm rule, Revelation 6:9(688) by no means invalidates. The testimony proceeding from Jesus, because of which John was in Patmos,(689)—according to Volkmar, only an item in the account,—is, thus, that which he was to receive(690) in the Spirit.(691) Thus, even in an exegetical way, the opinion(692) is incorrect, that John had gone to Patmos in order to preach, which even in itself would be highly improbable on account of the character of the small, sparsely inhabited island. John himself intimates that the island is insignificant, by writing ἐν τῇ νήσῳ τῇ καλουμένῃ.(693) Patmos, to-day called Patino or Palmosa, belongs to the Sporades. Tournefort(694) found on it only a small town; there is pointed out, besides a sarcophagus with John’s remains, the grotto in which the apostle is said to have received the Apoc.(695) By the aorist form ἐγενόμην,(696) it is clearly implied,(697) that when John wrote the Revelation he was no longer on Patmos. To make the command (Revelation 1:11) conflict with this conception,(698) is only to say,(699) that, “as the revelation came to an end, the book also was finished.” Regard for the readers(700) cannot explain(701) the aor. ἐγενό΄ην, because in this word there is no reference to writing.

Verses 9-20

Revelation 1:9-20. As the ancient prophets report their call,(665) in order to prove the divine authority of their declarations,(666) so John presents, in the beginning, the commission given him by Christ himself, in order that the entire book may be acknowledged as that which it directly professes itself to be in Revelation 1:1.

Verse 10

Revelation 1:10. With ἐγενόμην ἐν πνεύματι we dare not immediately combine ἐν τῇ κυριακῇ ἡμέρᾳ, in the sense: “I saw in the Spirit the day of judgment;” i.e., “I foresaw it represented.”(702) In contradiction with this(703) are, the fact that the presentation of γίνεσθαι ἐν πνεύ΄ατι is in itself complete, the expression κυριακὴ ἡ΄έρα, and the circumstance that the contents of the book are not limited to the day of judgment. The ἐν πνεύ΄ατι(704) designates essentially nothing else than the ἐν ἐκστάσει of Acts 22:18; Acts 11:5. Yet by πνεῦ΄α,(705) the Divine Spirit, in his objectivity,(706) cannot be understood,(707) but the πνεῦμα must by all means be interpreted subjectively.(708) The antithesis is γιν. ἐν ἑαυτῷ,(709) or, according to 1 Corinthians 14:14 sqq., ἐν τῷ νοί.(710) The ἐν πνεύματι is understood in one way, Romans 8:9, and in another also in Matthew 22:43; Mark 12:36, where the subjective πνεῦμα is designated as sanctified or prophetically illumined by the objective Spirit of God; while in the present passage, as well as in Revelation 4:2, and especially Revelation 21:10, the reference to the efficacy of the Holy Ghost is in no way removed, but by πνεῦμα is understood only the higher, spiritual nature of man,(711) in virtue of which he is capable of receiving a revelation, having visions, and being ἐν ἐκστάσει.

The κυριακὴ ἡμέρα(712) is the first day of the week, the Sunday, which was celebrated as the day of the Lord’s resurrection.(713) On the holy day, John was especially well prepared to receive the divine revelation. [See Note XXV., p. 125.] But there is no foundation for understanding the κυριακὴ ἡμ. of an Easter Day,(714) or for assigning to that Sunday(715) the fulfilment of the expectation, attested by Jerome, that Christ will return on Easter Day.(716)

ὁπίσω μου refers not to the fact that a revelation of the invisible God is presented,(717) nor that John must first be prepared by hearing for the impending sight, as no one can see God without dying.(718) Against both these views, is the fact that John not only actually sees Christ, but also experiences the complete effect thereof.(719) It is also not to be said that “here clearly the awakening to ecstatic consciousness is described,” as though John at first had seen nothing, “at least, nothing remarkable,” but only first heard;(720) for “the awakening to ecstatic consciousness,”(721) which is not everywhere represented, has already occurred, since John hears or sees,(722) viz., in the Spirit. It is only the unexpected, surprising utterance of the divine voice that is here stated.(723) A comparison may, at all events, be made with Ezekiel 3:12, where, however, the presentation seems to be conditioned by the development of the scene itself.

The mighty, loud(724) voice is like the sound of a trumpet. In connection with the use of the ὡς σάλπιγγος(725) purely as a comparison, the remark is not applicable that the assembling of congregations, and the appearances or revelations of God and Christ, are announced with the sound of a trumpet.(726)

The voice which imparts the command, Revelation 1:11,(727) belongs not to “an angel speaking in the person of Christ,”(728) nor to the angel mentioned in Revelation 1:1,(729) nor to God speaking in distinction from Christ, who speaks in Revelation 1:15.(730) It has been thought that the voice proceeds from him whom John, Revelation 1:12 sqq., sees, and therefore from Christ himself;(731) but on account of Revelation 4:1, this cannot be admitted. It is therefore, as in Revelation 4:1, Revelation 10:4; Revelation 10:8, entirely undecided as to whom this voice belongs. This also agrees very well with the ὁπίσω μου.

κυριακὴν ἁγίαν ἡμέραν διάγομεν (“We keep the holy Lord’s day”). Barnabas, Ep., c. Revelation 15 : ἄγομεν τὴν ἡμέραν τὴν ὀγδόην εἰς εὐφροσύνην, ἐν καὶ ἰησοῦς ἀνέστη ἐκ νεκρῶν, κ. τ. λ. (“We devote the eighth day to gladness, on which also Jesus rose from the dead”), etc.


XXV. Revelation 1:10. ἐν τῇ κυριακῇ ἡμέρᾳ

Trench: “Some have assumed, from this passage, that ἡμέρα κυριακή was a designation of Sunday already familiar among Christians. This, however, seems a mistake. The name had, probably, its origin here. A little later, we find ἡμέρα κυριακή familiar to Ignatius, as Dominica solemnia to Tertullian (De Anima, c. 9; cf. Dionysius of Corinth, quoted by Eusebius, H. E., iv. 23, 8; Clement of Alexandria, Strom., vii. 12; Origen, Con. Cels., viii. 22). But, though the name ‘the Lord’s Day’ will very probably have had here its rise (the actual form of the phrase may have been suggested by κυριακὸν δεῖπνον, 1 Corinthians 11:20), the thing, the celebration of the first day of the week as that on which the Lord brake the bands of death, and became the head of a new creation, called therefore sometimes ἀναστάσιμος ἡμέρα,—this was as old as Christianity itself (John 20:24-29; 1 Corinthians 16:2; Acts 20:7; Epistle of Barnabas, c. 17).” A refutation of the interpretation as “the day of the Lord’s coming” is given in Alford.


XXV. Revelation 1:10. ἐν τῇ κυριακῇ ἡμέρᾳ

Trench: “Some have assumed, from this passage, that ἡμέρα κυριακή was a designation of Sunday already familiar among Christians. This, however, seems a mistake. The name had, probably, its origin here. A little later, we find ἡμέρα κυριακή familiar to Ignatius, as Dominica solemnia to Tertullian (De Anima, c. 9; cf. Dionysius of Corinth, quoted by Eusebius, H. E., iv. 23, 8; Clement of Alexandria, Strom., vii. 12; Origen, Con. Cels., viii. 22). But, though the name ‘the Lord’s Day’ will very probably have had here its rise (the actual form of the phrase may have been suggested by κυριακὸν δεῖπνον, 1 Corinthians 11:20), the thing, the celebration of the first day of the week as that on which the Lord brake the bands of death, and became the head of a new creation, called therefore sometimes ἀναστάσιμος ἡμέρα,—this was as old as Christianity itself (John 20:24-29; 1 Corinthians 16:2; Acts 20:7; Epistle of Barnabas, c. 17).” A refutation of the interpretation as “the day of the Lord’s coming” is given in Alford.

Verse 11

Revelation 1:11. βλέπεις. The present is neither to be changed into the future,(732) nor to be explained by the fact, that, with the hearing (Revelation 1:10), the seeing, in the wider sense, has already begun;(733) but is without relation to time, i.e., it is not formally noted that the visions upon which the presentation depends(734) are yet to follow. There is a similar use of ἀποστέλλω, Matthew 23:34. The book into which John, according to the command, wrote what he had seen,(735) is the entire Revelation before us.(736)

The πέμψον in no way necessitates the conception, conflicting with the double ἐγενόμην,(737) that the book was written on Patmos;(738) but rather the sending of the book is explained in accordance with the epistolary superscription, Revelation 1:4 sqq., even if one of the seven cities—perhaps Ephesus—must be regarded the author’s place of abode, from the preponderating consideration shown it above the other cities. It is, of course, in itself improbable that John wrote long after the reception of the revelation, but he rather wrote “while the ἐν πνεύματι still continued in effective operation:”(739) but it would have been impossible(740) for him to write while in the condition which he designates by ἐγεν. ἐν πνεύματι; for an essential element of this condition is the cessation of the activity of the νοῦς, upon which nothing less than every thing pertaining to the literary form and character of the book throughout depends.

The seven cities named are clearly introduced according to their geographical situation. According to the adjustment of vision from the standpoint of one directing the sending of the book,—not of the one writing,—two lines moderately direct appear from Patmos, in which the cities lie. In the first line, from south to north, are Ephesus, Smyrna, and Pergamos; in the second line, which extends from north to south,—since Thyatira, which is in the neighborhood of Pergamos, naturally stands first,—lie Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. (See on Revelation 1:20.)

Verse 12

Revelation 1:12. καὶ ἐπέστρεψα. John turns,(741)—viz., according to the connection, backwards,(742)—in order to see. This is correctly explained according to its meaning, as “the one who uttered the voice;”(743) the βλέπειν has its foundation in the liveliness and directness of the presentation, which immediately penetrates from the perception of the voice to the speaker himself, just as in Revelation 4:1 λέγων is written, while the subject speaking is only φωνή.

John now sees, after turning, seven golden candlesticks,—but in no way a candlestick(744) with seven branches,(745)—and, in the midst of them, Christ himself (Revelation 1:13). [See Note XXVI., p. 125.]


XXVI. Revelation 1:12. ἑπτὰ λυχνίας χρυσιᾶς

Alford notes the change from the seven-branched candlestick of the temple, as symbolizing the loss of outward unity, so that “each local church has now its own candlestick.” So Trench: “The Christian Church is at once ‘the Church’ and the ‘churches.’ ” Plumptre: “What he needed was to bring out clearly the individuality of each society.” Tait: “These candlesticks were of gold, to denote the preciousness of every thing connected with the Church, and, we may add, the beauty of the Church and her holy services.”

Verse 13

Revelation 1:13. The entire appearance of Christ expresses essentially what has been said of him in Revelation 1:5-6,(746) and is likewise as highly significant as that declaration, as to the entire contents of the book. Hence each of the seven epistles is introduced “by a sketch of his form,”(747) as the majesty of Christ here presented, who holds his people in his hand,(748) is the real foundation and support of the apocalyptic hope.(749)

Christ appears in the midst of the seven candlesticks, not walking,(750) but rather, if any thing dare be imagined, standing. He is not named, but is infallibly designated already by the ὅμοιον υἱῷ ἀνθρώπου.(751) The ὅμοιον is incorrectly urged by those who wish to infer thence that not Christ, the Son of man himself, but “an angel representing Christ,”(752) is meant. In this expression the dogmatic thought is not present, that Christ is essentially more than a mere son of man;(753) but John had to write ὅμοιον, which does not correspond to the simple כְּ, Daniel 7:13 (LXX., ὡς),(754) as the type of the form of the Son of man was to be recognized in the divine majesty of the entire manifestation.(755)

The Lord, who makes his people priests and kings (Revelation 1:5), appears clad in the sublime splendor of the high priest and of kings. He wears the robe of the high priest, reaching down to his feet,(756) which, according to Wisdom of Solomon 18:24,(757) was a symbol of the world; yet God himself also appears, as he is royally enthroned, in a similar long robe.(758) To this is added the entirely golden girdle.(759) The girdle of the high priest was only adorned with gold.(760) That Christ wears the girdle πρὸς τοῖς μαζοῖς,(761) not about the loins,(762) is in no way to be urged in the sense of Ebrard: “The twofold nature of the unglorified body, in the nobly endowed upper part of the body, and in the lower part of the body serving the purposes of reproduction, nourishment, and discharge, vanishes in that higher girding, as it is first correctly marked by the girding above the loins.” For, is Daniel 10:5 to be understood of an unglorified body? Cf., besides, Josephus, Antiqq., iii. 7, 2, as to why the priests bind their girdles κατὰ στέρνον.

Verse 14

Revelation 1:14. To the general conception δὲ κεφαλὴ αὐτοῦ, the part which properly pertains to the description is attached by the more accurately determining καὶ.(763) Thus there is a dependence on the δὲ κεφαλὴ αὐτοῦ, corresponding to which are the special particulars, each of which is designated with the addition of αὐτοῦ; viz., οἱ ὀφθ. αὐτοῦ, οἱ ποδ. αὐτοῦ, and φων. αὐτοῦ, while the καὶ αἱ τριχ. is without the αὐτοῦ.(764) The order of thought is not, therefore, as De Wette proposes, first concerning the whole of the head, to which also face and beard belong, and then especially to the hair of the head.

The whiteness of the hair signifies neither the freedom from sin of Christ’s earthly life,(765) nor in general the holiness peculiar to him;(766) nor does it designate merely the heavenly light-nature.(767) Christ rather appears here to the Christian prophet in the same divine brilliancy in which Daniel(768) beheld not the Son of man, but the Ancient of days, whose eternity is designated by the whiteness of his hair. This interpretation(769) is justified not only by the type in Daniel, but also by the fact that Christ represents himself as the Eternal One, like the Father, Revelation 1:4; Revelation 1:8, in his words, corresponding to his manifestation, Revelation 1:17-18; cf. Revelation 2:8. The eyes, “as a flame of fire,”(770) are, as all the other features, not without significant reference to the revelation itself.(771) By Revelation 2:18, Revelation 19:12,(772) the idea is presented not of omniscience in general,(773) also not of punitive justice,(774) or of holiness consuming all that is impure(775) without regard to omniscience, but of omniscience combined with holy wrath directed against all that is unholy.

Verse 15

Revelation 1:15. To such eyes of flame,(776) belong feet ὅμοιοι χαλκολιβάνῳ ὡς ἐν καμίνῳ πεπυρωμένῃ, which tread down unholy enemies.(777) De Wette is wrong in finding in this feature no other meaning than that of the splendor.

The word χαλκολίβανος,(778) which the Vulg. renders by orichalcum,(779) and Luther by Messing, is of doubtful derivation and meaning. Ewald follows an ancient testimony(780) which says that one of the three kinds of incense is so called.(781) As the entire picture has to do with more than color,(782) and as the type of Daniel 10:6(783) leads to the idea of brass,(784) incense can in no way be thought of. This is also, within the comparison itself, highly unnatural. The feet appear like brass, but at the same time, as the second member,(785) ὢς ἐν κα΄. πεπυρω΄ένῃ, says, “as in a furnace glowing with fire,” and therefore like the feet of the angel, Revelation 10:2, which are ὡς στύλοι πυρός. But whether the word(786) be a hybrid term composed of χαλκός and לָכָן, and therefore mean glowing white;(787) or “brass from Lebanon;”(788) or be taken as an intentionally mysterious designation of the ambiguous ἤλεκτρον, which denotes an alloy,(789) and also amber,(790) and therefore corresponds in some degree to the former as well as to the second part of χαλκολίβανος,(791)—cannot be certainly decided. The intentional mysteriousness is improbable; even though the idea were possible, that—of course, only in the provincialism of Asia Minor—the word were popularly formed and used in the sense received by Züllig. Wetzel,(792) by recurring to the root λὶβ, i.e., running, flowing, reaches the explanation of molten metal (Erzfluss); perfectly adapted to the meaning, but without sufficient justification in the language.

καὶ φωνὴ αὐτ., κ. τ. λ. Cf. Daniel 10:6; Ezekiel 43:2; Ezekiel 1:24. The force of the voice is represented (cf. Revelation 1:10), but the majesty peculiar to the peaceful murmur of the sea(793) is not to be thought of.

Verse 16

Revelation 1:16. καὶ ἔχων, κ. τ. λ. Not for καὶ είχε, κ. τ. λ.;(794) but the participle occurs in violation of syntax, while John with a few strong touches of his pencil(795) portrays the sublime manifestation.(796) Christ appears, having seven stars(797) in his right hand.(798) The stars are neither to be changed into precious stones which shine like stars, and to be sought in a ring, or seven rings, on Christ’s fingers,(799) nor is it to be said that “the stars soar so easily, freely, and steadily, on or over his right hand, that he might confidently place them(800) upon John’s head.”(801) To ask at all where these stars in Revelation 1:17 must be regarded, is a question both paltry and unpoetic. That Christ has the stars in his right hand, shows that they are his property. This is presented for the consolation of believers,(802) but not in the sense as though the power of Christ over the churches, from which no one can deliver, should he wish to punish,(803) were portrayed. This is entirely foreign to the present passage, and even in Revelation 2:1 sqq. is conceivable only as Christ, who graciously rules and defensively walks in the midst of the candlesticks, can cast a faithless church from its candlestick,(804) or even reject a star.

καὶ ἐκ τοῦ στό΄ατος

ἐκπορευο΄ένη. Again, a new feature of the sublime picture is stated in an asyntactical way. “Who can portray this form? And yet it has occurred, alas! a thousand times, and the form of the God-man is represented as the most miserable cripple.” Thus Herder; while Eichh.,(805) just in the present feature of the description, would find an offence against the laws of painting. The sharp two-edged sword which proceeds from the mouth of the Lord is, in a way similar to the feet like brass, a plastic representation of the divine power of Christ, in complete accordance with the image of the vision according to which he “slays the godless with the rod of his mouth.”(806) Of the power of the word of God, preached by Christ’s ministers, striking the conscience and otherwise divinely efficacious,(807) there is nothing said here. The entire description is purely personal. The sword from the mouth(808) of Christ is directed against his enemies both within(809) and without(810) the Church.(811) What a consolation for those whom he holds in his hands!

καὶ ὄψις αὐτοῦ designates not the countenance,(812) as ὄψις is used in John 11:44 but not in John 7:24, but(813) the appearance in general. The description is not concluded by a single feature, but so that the entire form appears as surrounded with the brilliancy of the sun. We are forbidden to take ὄψις in the sense of πρόσωπον by the comparison of Revelation 10:1, where this word, frequently found in the Apoc.,(814) is regularly used; also Daniel 10:6, where πρόσωπον occurs, and that, too, in the beginning of the detailed description, is throughout against Hengstenberg’s opinion. In like manner, in the description, Daniel 10:6, τὸ σῶ΄α αὐτοῦ ὡσει θαρσίς, the entire form of the Lord is to be regarded: ῶς ἥλιος φαίνει ἐν τῇ δυνά΄ει. The additional designation,(815) of course, is not necessarily to be referred to the noonday brilliancy(816) of the sun, but is correctly paraphrased by De Wette: “when its light is at the strongest.”(817) The sun shines in its strength when neither mist nor clouds intercept its rays.(818)

Verse 17

Revelation 1:17. The impression made by the appearance of the Lord(819) is that of mortal terror; for, since death is the wages of sin, no sinful man can stand alive before God.(820) Yet John is supported by Him who is not only absolutely the living, but also, since he himself has passed into death,(821) and has overcome it, has redeemed his people therefrom, as he has the keys of death and hell.

De Wette finds a contradiction in the fact that “the seer beholds all this in spirit, and so represents things as though he had stood opposite to these appearances in his bodily form, and with his ordinary human powers of conception and feeling: cf. Revelation 5:4, Revelation 17:6, Revelation 19:10, Revelation 22:8; Daniel 7:15.” But by the ἐν πνεύ΄ατι (Revelation 1:10), his being in the body is not removed. Just as the feeling of those who dream is also customarily expressed in a bodily way, e.g., by actual weeping, it may readily be thought that while John actually sees ἐν πνεύ΄ατι—i.e., in prophetic ecstasy—the actual appearance of the Lord, he bodily sinks down.(822)

ὡς νεκρός is not “like one dying,”(823) but “like one dead.” The laying-on of the right hand is, like in Christ’s miracles of healing,(824) an accompanying friendly sign of the aid peculiarly offered through the Word.

The Lord begins his words just as heavenly beings have ordinarily to address men: ΄ὴ φοβοῦ. Cf. Luke 1:13; Luke 1:30; Luke 2:10; Mark 16:6 (Matthew 17:7). This, as also in general Revelation 1:17 sqq., suits the opinion of Ebrard, that the falling-down of John was not merely an effect of terror, but “an act of love.”

ἐγώ εἱ΄ι πρῶτος, κ. τ. λ. Incorrectly, Wetst., Grot., etc., from dogmatic prejudice: “the highest in dignity—the most despised.” Three times after εἶ΄ι, Eichh. mis-points “I am,”—as, Matthew 14:27; John 6:20, which is entirely inapplicable here; and then, πρ. κ. εσχ. = “the only one in his class,” καὶ ζῶν = “with respect to life, among the living”! Christ is, as the Father (Revelation 1:8), the First and the Last, i.e., he is personally the A and the ω;(825) and in this lies that which is epexegetically(826) added, that he is absolutely the Living One,(827) who, just on that account, can also give life. This reference of the conception ζῶν,(828) which is in itself already necessary, since the personal Eternal One must have his eternity as an energetic attribute, is yet specially emphasized by Revelation 1:18; and that, too, in such way that what is said in both halves of the verse, even though not according to form, yet according to meaning, is related as foundation ( καὶ ἐγεν.

αἱώνων) and consequence ( καὶ ἕχω, κ. τ. λ.). For, just because Christ who suffered death,(829) after having risen,(830) henceforth does not die,(831) but is living to eternity,(832) he has the keys of death and of hell, i.e., power over them, so that he can preserve and deliver therefrom, but also can cast therein.(833) The figurative presentation of the keys(834) must not be regarded a personification of the θάνατος and the ᾅδης;(835) but, on the other hand also, both can be regarded only as a place, when it is said that “both designate one and the same idea.”(836) Yet the θάνατος, after which the ᾅδης, Revelation 6:8, appears, is, more accurately speaking, to be distinguished from the latter.(837) To think of θάνατος as a place, is inadmissible. The gates of death(838) are spoken of in opposition to the gates of the daughter of Zion;(839) here death is personified, and regarded as a possessor or lord of the gates. The place of death, which appears closed in with gates, is ᾅδης.(840) In this double and not completely symmetrical delineation of the idea, according to which “gates” are ascribed to personal death as well as to local hell, the κλεῖς must here be understood.

The intention of this entire detailed address is so far in advance of merely freeing John from his terrors of death, as John is the prophet, who himself must experience and understand the majesty of the Lord, whose coming he is to proclaim, in order that he may bring to the churches full testimony concerning the same.(841) Thus Revelation 1:19 suitably concludes.

Verse 19

Revelation 1:19. It is impossible for the οὐν, without reference to Revelation 1:17-18, to serve only to recall the command, Revelation 1:11.(842) Hengstenb. better combines the reference to Revelation 1:11 with that to Revelation 1:17-18 : “When, therefore, this fear is removed, do what I have bidden thee.” But, apart from the fact that it is very doubtful whether, Revelation 1:11, Christ himself has spoken, this reference to Revelation 1:17-18, which even does not correspond to the meaning of these verses, is highly unsatisfactory. Grotius seems with greater correctness to remark, “Because you see that I am so powerful.” The Lord, therefore, bases upon the revelation of his own majesty (Revelation 1:17-18) communicated to the prophet, the command to write, i.e., to give written witness to the churches (Revelation 1:1 sqq.); since the contents of this revelation, which is to be communicated, is essentially nothing else than the full unfolding of what has been beheld by the prophet (Revelation 1:12 sqq.), and the majesty of Christ disclosed by the Lord himself in significant words (Revelation 1:17-18). For the Living One will come; who was dead (Revelation 1:18), whom they have pierced (Revelation 1:7), but who is alive in eternity, whom John beheld, and was commissioned by the Coming One himself to proclaim his advent.

This is also given by the sense of the following words, which more accurately designate the subjects to be written of: εἰδες, κ. τ. λ. There can be no doubt that the εἰδες refers to the vision above narrated. The καὶ εἰσὶν, moreover, after its reference to εἰδ., or to κ. μελλ., κ. τ. λ., is fixed, means either “and what it is,” i.e., signifies;(843) or, “and what is,” i.e., the present relations.(844) The latter is far more natural, especially as the antithesis between εἰσὶν and μέλλει γεν. is marked particularly by the retrospection of the μετὰ ταῦτα to the εἰσὶν. Yet it must not be said that the εἶδες in ch. 1, εἰσὶν in chs. 2 and 3, and μελλ., κ. τ. λ., are comprised; but, rather, the epistles already contain the future, and the succeeding chapters the present; yea, the entire book bears the true prophetic stamp in this, that what is future is also prophesied of the present.(845) That in Revelation 1:20 a point of the vision, Revelation 1:12 sqq., is actually indicated,(846) can be decided concerning the meaning of the εἶδες the less, as by the εἶδες the entire vision, Revelation 1:12 sqq., is meant.(847)

Verse 20

Revelation 1:20. τὸ μυστήριον τῶν ἑπτὰ ἀστέρων, κ. τ. λ., is to be regarded as dependent upon γράψον. This idea is already correctly explained by N. de Lyra: “the sacrament of the stars, i.e., the sacred secret signified by them.” ΄υστήριον and ἀποκάλυφις are correlate ideas; for a μυστήριον is all that man understands, not by himself, but only by divine publication and interpretation,(848) such as immediately follows.(849) When, now, John has seen the mystery of the seven stars which are at the Lord’s right hand,(850) and is to write of the mystery of the seven golden candlesticks, this is in no way undone by the second half of Revelation 1:20, where only the simple explanation of the mysterious symbol is given. As the words τὸ μυστηρ.

χρυσᾶς(851) are formally equivalent to the words εἶδες

ταῦτα, so, also, the mystery of the seven stars and candlesticks in substance corresponds thereto. The command to write this mystery is fulfilled by nothing else than the entire book: for the prophetic development of the hope of the victorious completion of the Church of Christ by his return depends upon the mystery of the seven stars in Christ’s hand, and the seven candlesticks in whose midst Christ walks; i.e., that Christ is the protector of his Church, vanquishing all enemies. This consolatory hope, perceptible only to believers, is the chief matter in the mystery of the stars and candlesticks which the prophet beholds, and whose meaning he is to testify to the churches.(852) If now, before the mystery of the seven stars with the entire treasures of prophetic admonition, warning, and comfort, be stated in this sense,(853) an express interpretation of the symbols beheld by John be given,(854) this is just the key to the entire mystery,—the fundamental meaning, from which the correct application of all that follows depends. The essential meaning of the two symbols is unmistakable: the candlesticks are an easily understood figure of the churches,(855) which have received their light from Christ, and continue to be sustained by the Lord, who walks in their midst.(856) An allied idea must lie, however the ἄγγελοι be understood, in the symbol of the stars in Christ’s right hand, whereby, at all events, the ἄγγελοι of the churches are described, and that in such a way that to the churches themselves belongs(857) what is ascribed to their angels.(858) So far, all interpreters are unanimous. The controversy centres upon the word ἄγγελοι. This must mean either “messenger”(859) or “angel.” To the former meaning, Ebrard holds, by understanding messengers of the churches to John: not “ordinary letter-carriers, but delegates of the churches, who report to him, and are again to convey his apostolic prophecies to the churches; who therefore hold a similar position between him and the churches to that which Epaphroditus probably held between Paul and the Philippians;”(860) yet these messengers are represented as existing not in reality, but “only in vision.” “Beneath the stars, John is to regard himself the ambassador of the churches.” Against the unnaturalness of such an opinion, Vitr.,(861) Wolf, Schöttgen, Beng., Eichh., Heinr.,(862) Ewald, etc., have guarded, who understand the “messenger” of the Christian churches, after the manner of the Jewish שְׁלִיחֵ צִבּוּר, of an officer subordinate to the priest, who has to read, pray, and care for external matters of many kinds. But apart from the question as to whether this messenger of the synagogue existed already in apostolic times, the same can only with difficulty be regarded a type of the Christian bishop or elder; for only that officer, and not the deacon,(863) dare at any rate be regarded such representative of the entire church, as the ἄγγελος appears in the seven epistles. The latter view is taken by those who, appealing to Malachi 2:7; Malachi 3:1,(864) and, as to what refers to the symbol of the stars, to Daniel 12:3, understand the ἄγγελοι, i.e., angels, as superintendents (Vorsteher), teachers, as bishops or presbyters.(865) So also R. Rothe,(866) who, however, in the angels of the churches perceives only “a prolepsis of bishops in the idea,” i.e., regards the bishops as an ideal whose realization is still to be expected. Here finally belongs, also, Hengstenb., who nevertheless(867) regards the angels of every individual church, not as an individual, but as “the entire church government,” i.e., the body of presbyters,—eventually with a bishop at the head,—together with the deacons. This manner of exposition, which in its original simplicity always commends itself more than in its elaborate modifications by Rothe and Hengstb., is at variance partly with the use of the word ἄγγελος otherwise in the Apoc., and partly with the decisive circumstance, that, in the epistles which are directed to the ἄγγελος of each congregation, the relations of the congregations themselves are so definitely and directly treated, that, for the full explanation of this appearance, the view that the bishops or the entire governing body of the church are the representatives of their churches, besides not being in itself entirely justified, is not at all sufficient. Thus the view still remains, that, as Andr. and Areth. already say, the angel of the church is the church itself. In a certain analogy with Revelation 14:18, Revelation 16:5,(868) where the angel of the elements, as the nations and the individuals are called, the ἄγγελος of a church can be regarded(869) the personified spirit of the church.(870) This conception is not identical with that of the ἄγγεγος ἔφορος,(871) according to which, e.g., among the rabbins, the fundamental principle obtains, “God does not punish any people below without first casting down its chief from above,”(872) but has been formed in dependence thereon.(873) Against this, the objection cannot be made valid, that the article is absent before ἄγγελοι: for the question has to do only with what is comprised in ἄγγελοι τ. ἐκκλ., which is symbolized by the figure of the stars, without its being expressly marked here that the seven stars signify at any time one angel of the seven churches; just as, in the succeeding words, it is only expressly said that the seven candlesticks mean the seven churches, but not that the precise churches mentioned in Revelation 1:11 are meant. But, as this designation of the conception is self-evident from the connection, so it is clearly inferred, from the superscription of the epistles which follow, that the angels of particular churches are meant. The most plausible objection against our exposition is made by Rothe; viz., that it is not proper, that, by the symbol of the stars, another symbol, viz., that of the angels, should be represented, especially alongside of the real ideas of the churches, which, also represented by a special symbol, are clearly distinguished from the ἄγγελοι τ. εκκλ. But(874) the ἄγγελοι τ. εκκλ. are to be regarded not at all as a symbol, but as—of course ideally—reality; and, according to this conception, to be in fact distinguished from churches that have been observed. If the ἐκκλησία, which is symbolized by the candlesticks, is considered, it appears variously composed of individual elements of various kinds, each of which is especially judged and treated of by the Lord; while, on the other hand, the ἄγγελος τ. ἐκκλησίας appears as the living unity of the one organism of the church, which, as it were, in mass clings to the Lord. Thus it is, that the epistles are directed, not to the angels of the churches, and besides to the churches, as must be expected even according to Rothe’s meaning, but only to the angel of each church; and yet in such way that their entirety as one person, one spiritual body, is declared. [See Note XXVII., p. 125.]

In conformity with the vision, Revelation 1:12 sqq., and the epistles which in chs. 2 and 3 are directed to the seven churches,(875) must be the answer to the question as to what is the significance of these churches in the sense of the writer of the Apoc. Of the two chief views that are possible, according to which they appear either in purely historical definiteness, or in a certain typical position, the latter in the nature of the case has to be presented with many modifications, which, taken together, depend more or less upon an historical view; while, according to the former view,(876) there is no denial of a more general significance of the seven churches, at least in the sense that the epistles directed to them share the universal ecclesiastical relation of all the apostolic writings to particular congregations.(877) But against this opinion of Hengstenb.,—who, in accordance with his false view of the relation of the section Revelation 1:4 to Revelation 3:22 to the whole book,(878) comprehends the seven churches collectively with the utmost limitation,(879)—is, first, the number seven;(880) and, secondly, the meaning of that vision wherein Christ appears in the midst of the seven candlesticks, i.e., churches, which therefore cannot be without a typical significance, since Christ is Lord and Saviour of all the churches (with which it also harmonizes well, that Christ writes to the angels of the churches; a conception, which, since it is of a more ideal nature, especially adapts itself to the fact that the churches, while appearing in all their historical definiteness, yet at the same time are found in a typical sense); and, thirdly and finally, the contents themselves of the letters, whose pertinence to the universal Church(881) is not only expressly emphasized,(882) but also concurs in its essential leading features with the chief thoughts of the entire book. But the significance of the seven churches is not to be limited to the entire Church of Asia Minor,(883) which only then, through this intermediate member, attains its further reference to the Church universal: rather, in the seven churches, the entire Church of Christ is regarded,(884) since it is a peculiarity of the writer of the Apoc. to present the general and ideal realistically, and in a definite, plastic way.(885) But with this it is also established, that all further determinations which have been connected, even by a play of words, with the names of the individual congregations,(886) are entirely arbitrary. This applies especially to the strange controversy as to whether, in the seven epistles, the conditions of the Church of Christ be understood synchronistically, and that, too, eschatologically, i.e., so that only “at the end of Church history,” immediately before Christ’s return, are we to expect the corresponding forms of Christian Church-life;(887) or whether the prophetically portrayed conditions are to be understood consecutively of seven periods of Church history, succeeding one after another;(888) or, finally, whether they be partly consecutive and partly synchronistic.(889) The sort of foundations upon which such artificial interpretation is supported is shown, e.g., by Ebrard, who explains the first four epistles consecutively, because the promises in them(890) are regarded as derived “from consecutive epochs of O. T. history: Paradise, Death, the Departure from Egypt, the Kingdom of David.” The context shows that John has in view particular circumstances of churches present to him, and therefore that the number seven of these churches is contemplated as a mirror of the entire Church.(891) In a chronological relation, the apocalyptic prophecy of these seven epistles extends just as far, and is limited in the same truly prophetic way, as the apocalyptics of the entire book, which gives the full explanation of the fundamental thought contained already in the vision, Revelation 1:12 sqq., and the epistles belonging thereto; viz., the unfolding of the prophecy, “The Lord cometh.”


XXVII. Revelation 1:20. ἄγγελοι τῶν ἑπτὰ εκκλησιῶν

In harmony with Düst., Gebhardt (p. 39): “ ‘The angel of the church’ represents it as a unity, an organization, as a moral person, a living whole, in which one member depends upon and affects the others, in which a definite spirit reigns, and by which one church is distinguished from another.” Lange: “The personified character or life-picture of the Church.”

Weiss (Bibl. Theol. of N. T., ii. 270) regards the angels of the churches as “their protecting angels.” Alford’s long argument is to the same effect.

Supporting the view that the angels are the superintendents, pastors, or bishops, are: Cremer (Lexicon): “To see in ἄγγελοι here a personification of the spirit of the community in its ‘ideal reality’ (as again Düsterdieck has recently done), is not merely without any biblical analogy,—for such a view derives no support from Daniel 10:13; Daniel 10:20; Deuteronomy 32:8; LXX.,—but must also plainly appear an abstraction decidedly unfavorable to the import and effect of the epistles. It would have been far more effective, in this case, to have written τῇ ἐνἐκκλησία γράψον. Assuming the ἄγγ. τῶν ἐκκλησ. to be those to whom the churches are intrusted, the only question is, To what sphere do they belong, the terrestrial or the super-terrestrial? Their belonging to the earthly sphere is supported above all by the address of the epistles; secondly, by the circumstance that the writer of the Apocalypse could not act as messenger between two super-terrestrial beings (cf. Revelation 1:1; Revelation 22:6); and, further, by the consideration that, as the candlesticks, so also the stars, must belong to one and the same sphere. But, if by this expression we are to understand men, it is natural to think of Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:2; and that, too, so that these ἐπίσκοποι or πρεσβύτεροι are those whose business it is to execute the will or commission of the Lord, in general as well as in special cases, to the churches, as those whom the Lord has appointed representatives of the churches, and to whom he has intrusted their care: cf. Acts 20:28; Malachi 2:7.” Stier: “Persons who stood before the Lord’s view, as the representative leaders of the church, with or without prominent office, but in prominent spiritual position, and therefore assumed to be the receivers of that which was to be said in the church. They are by no means collectively the ‘teaching order,’ or ‘the eldership,’ or any thing of the kind, but actual individual persons.” Philippi (Kirchl. Glaubenlehre, v. 3, 287): “The ἄγγελος here is neither to be spiritualized as the personification of the spirit of the congregation, nor also to be taken collectively as the entire official body, or presbytery, of the church. But, as the spirit of the congregation is represented in the presbytery, so was the spirit of the presbytery in its official body, or bishop; and therefore he also, as not merely the official, but, at the same time, the spiritual summit of the entire body, is chiefly responsible for its spirit.” Luthardt: “God’s messengers, who speak in God’s name, therefore here die Vorsteher.” Trench argues at length (pp. 75–83) that the term can refer only to a bishop, and that, too, “not merely a ruling elder, a primus inter pares, with only such authority and jurisdiction as the others, his peers, have lent him.” Plumptre: “The word ‘angels’ might well commend itself, at such a time, as fitted to indicate the office for which the received terminology of the Church offered no adequate expression. Over and above its ordinary use, it had been applied by the prophet whose writings had been brought into a new prominence by the ministry of the Baptist, to himself as a prophet (Malachi 1:1), to the priests of Israel (Malachi 2:7), to the forerunner of the Lord (Malachi 3:1). It had been used of those whom, in a lower sense, the Lord had sent to prepare his way before him (Luke 9:52), and whose work stood on the same level as that of the seventy. Here, then, seemed to be that which met the want. So far as it reminded men of its higher sense, it testified that the servants of God, who had been called to this special office, were to ‘lead on earth an angel’s life;’ that they, both in the liturgical and the ministerial aspects of their work, were to be as those who, in both senses, were ‘ministering spirits’ in heaven (Hebrews 1:14). It helped also to bring the language of the Revelation into harmony with that of the great apocalyptic work of the Old Testament, the prophecy of Daniel. On the other hand, we need not wonder that it did not take a permanent place in the vocabulary of the Church. The old associations of the word were too dominant, the difficulty of distinguishing the new from the old too great, to allow of its being generally accepted.” Tait: “This name is not, certainly, applied elsewhere in the New Testament to a bishop, nor is it applied to a presbyter; but it is in perfect accord with the symbolical character of the book in which it occurs, and is admirably adapted to express the nature of the office, and the responsibilities of those to whom the spiritual charge of the several churches was committed.”


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Bibliography Information
Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on Revelation 1:4". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. 1832.

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Tuesday, October 27th, 2020
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30
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