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Bible Commentaries

John Trapp Complete Commentary
Revelation 1

 

 

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Verse 1

1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John:

Ver. 1. The Revelation] Or manifestation of many divine mysteries by the Mediator (who came out of his Father’s bosom) to John, who had the mind of Christ, and that purposely for the behoove and benefit of the family of faith, who are all of his cabinet council, John 1:18; 1 Corinthians 2:16; Galatians 6:10; Psalms 25:14.

Things which must shortly] That is, sooner or later in their proper season. God’s time seems long, because we are short. Nullum tempus occurrit regi, saith the lawyer. The Ancient of days is not to be limited.


Verse 2

2 Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw.

Ver. 2. Who bare record of the word] This John the divine, then, was John the Evangelist, whatever Dennis of Alexandria dispute to the contrary. It was Moses’s honour (saith one), who was God’s peculiar favourite, to be penman of the first book of the Old Testament; and it was John’s honour, Christ’s peculiar favourite, to be the penman of the last book of the New Testament.


Verse 3

3 Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.

Ver. 3. Blessed is he that readeth] sc. With attention, affection, application, and practice; as knowing that this book hath tot sacramenta, quot verba, so many words, so many mysteries (Jerome epist, ad Paulin.); and that these words are vivenda non legenda, not more to be read than to be lived, as one said once of the 119th Psalm. (Aegid. Abbas Norimberg.) Neither must we only live up to the words of this prophecy, but die for it also, and be content to be burned with it, if called thereto; as that holy martyr, who when he saw the Revelation cast into the fire with him, cried out, O beata Apocalypsis, quam bene mecum agitur qui tecum comburar! O blessed Revelation, how happy am I to be burned in thy company!


Verse 4

4 John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne;

Ver. 4. From him which is] An august description of the Father by a manifest allusion to Exodus 3:14. Some critic reading the words απο ο ων και ο ην as they lie in the original, would be apt to complain of an incongruity, and to say, Nove et duriter dictum. But God, methinks, should have leave given him by these Logodaedali, to pronounce his own name undeclined, and by an outrule, who himseff is undeclined, and comes not under any rule. Non debent verba caelestis oraculi subesse regulis Donati. (Greg.)

And from the seven spirits] So the Holy Ghost is here called, for his manifold gifts and operations in the hearts of those seven, and all other Churches. In like sort he is called the seven golden pipes through which the two olive branches do empty out of themselves the golden oils of all precious graces into the golden candlestick the Church, Zechariah 4:2-3. So some interpret those seven eyes upon one stone, Zechariah 3:9, concerning the Spirit in his several operations upon Christ, according to Isaiah 11:2. There is a prophetic perfection of this number of seven, with which the Spirit of God is much delighted in this prophecy; seven Churches, seven stars, seven candlesticks, seven lamps, seven seals, &c.


Verse 5

5 And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,

Ver. 5. And from Jesus Christ] Who is here set last of the three persons, because more is to be said of him; both as touching his threefold office, and a threefold benefit therehence redounding unto us.

That hath loved us] See Ezekiel 16:6-9. Christ, that heavenly pelican, revived his dead young ones with his own heart-blood. (Pierii Hieroglyph.) He saw the wrath of God burning about them, and cast himself into the midst thereof, that he might quench it. Judah offered to be bound that Benjamin might go free. Jonathan risked his life and quitted his kingdom for love of David. Arsinoe interposed her own body between the murderer’s weapons and her children. But what was all this to this incomparable love of the Lord Jesus? When the Jews saw him weeping for Lazarus, "Behold," they say, "how he loved him." When we see him weeping, bleeding, dying for us, shall not we much more say so?


Verse 6

6 And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

Ver. 6. And hath made us kings] To rule in righteousness, to lord it over our lusts, to triumph over and trample on all our spiritual adversaries, being more than conquerors through him that loved us, and laid down his life for us, that we might reign in life by one Jesus Christ, Romans 5:17. And surely if (as Peter Martyr once wrote to Queen Elizabeth) kings are doubly bound to serve God, both as men and kings; what are we, for this spiritual kingdom

And priests unto God] To offer up to him the personal sacrifice of ourselves, Romans 12:1, the verbal of praise, and real of alms, Hebrews 13:15-16. {See Trapp on "1 Peter 2:9"}


Verse 7

7 Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.

Ver. 7. Behold, he cometh] He is already upon the way, and will be with us shortly. Let us hasten his coming, and say, as Sisera’s mother, Why are his chariots (his clouds) so long in coming? Why tarry the wheels of his chariots? 5:28.

Shall wail] Gr. κοψονται, shall smite their breasts or thighs; the elect as repenting, the reprobate as despairing. Iisdem quibus videmus, oculis, flemus; so here, οψονται και κοψονται, they shall look and lament.


Verse 8

8 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.

Ver. 8. Which is, and which was] The Father is called "He that is," Exodus 3:14. The Son "He that was," John 1:1. The Holy Ghost, "He that cometh," John 16:8-13, as Aretius observeth. Or, by this periphrasis may be understood the indeterminable eternity of the Son of God. Much like whereunto both in sound and sense is that which the heathens ascribed to their Jupiter in that solemn hymn of theirs. (Pausan.)

ζευς ην, ζευς εστι, ζευς εσσεται, ω μεγαλε ζευ.

"God was, and God is, God shall be for ever a great God."


Verse 9

9 I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.

Ver. 9. In the kingdom and patience] Christ hath a twofold kingdom; 1. Of power; 2. Of patience. Nec nisi per angusta ad augusta, &c. I have no stronger argument against the pope’s kingdom, saith Luther, quam quod sine cruce regnat, than this, that he reigns without the cross. The glory of Christ’s Church (said George Marsh, martyr) stands not in outward shows, in the harmonious sound of bells and organs, nor yet in the glistering of mitres and copes, &c., but in continual labours and daily afflictions for his name’s sake. (Acts and Mon. fol. 1423.)

Was in the isle Patmos] He tells us not how he came thither, he boasteth not of his banishment. Virtus proprio contenta theatro, Virtue is no braggart. Eusebius telleth us that he was banished thither by Domitian; and that there he wrote his Revelation. In allusion whereunto, Luther called the place Patmos where he lay hidden by the elector of Saxony, when the emperor had proscribed him, and promised a great reward to any one that should bring him alive or dead to the court. Here it was that Luther translated the New Testament into Dutch, and wrote divers useful treatises, viz. at Wartburg, his Patmos. (Scultet. Annul.)


Verse 10

10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet,

Ver. 10. I was in the Spirit] Acted by him, and carried out of himself, as the demoniac is said to be in the unclean spirit, as being acted and agitated by him. {See Trapp on "2 Peter 1:21"}

On the Lord’s day] The first day of the week, the Christian sabbath, Matthew 24:20, called the Lord’s day, from Christ the author of it; as is likewise the Lord’s supper, and the Lord’s Church, kirk, κυριακη, the very word here used. To sanctify this sabbath was in the primitives a badge of a Christian. For when the question was asked, Servasti Dominicum? Keepest thou the sabbath? The answer was returned, Christianus sum, intermittere non possum, I am a Christian, I must keep the Lord’s day. This day was also called anciently dies lucis, the day of light (as Junius observeth), partly because baptism (which the ancients called φωτισμον), was administered on that day; but principally, because by the duties of this day rightly performed, the minds of men are illuminated, and they translated out of darkness into Christ’s marvellous light.

And heard behind me] Not before me; implying that the Spirit calleth upon us, being secure, passing by, and not regarding those things it calls for.

As of a trumpet] To teach us that the things here delivered to the Church must be ever sounding in our ears and hearts, indwelling richly in us, Colossians 3:16. I confess the matter is very mysterious and obscure. Hence Cajetan’s exponat cui Deus concesserit, Let him expound it that can; I can say little to it. Hence Calvin (as Bodine reports him, Method. Hist. vii.) being asked his opinion about the Revelation, ingenuously confessed, se penitus ignorare quid velit tam obscurus scriptor, &c., That he, for his part, knew not what to make of it. Hence also Graserus, Mihi inquit, tota Apocalypsis valde obscura videtur; et talis cuius explicatio citra periculum vix queat tentari; Methinks, saith he, the whole book of the Revelation is wondrous dark, and indeed such as without danger of doing amiss, a man can hardly take in hand to interpret. I confess that I have hitherto profited less by the reading of no part of the Bible than by this so very dark a prophecy: thus he. Howbeit difficulty doth but whet on heroic spirits; and obscurity should not weaken but waken our diligence. God would have us to inquire into these things, though they be far above us; what else meaneth this trumpet, and that blessing so solemnly proclaimed with the sound of a trumpet, to him that readeth, and those that hear the words of this prophecy? Revelation 1:3. All cannot read, but all must hear. And let him that readeth or heareth, understand, Matthew 24:15. What if there be a veil laid over this Revelation, will it not be ratified by reading, and by degrees wholly worn away? Especially, if when we open the book we pray with David, "Lord, open mine eyes, that I may see the wondrous things of thy word:" and not pray only, but weep, as St John did, till this sealed book were opened.


Verse 11

11 Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.

Ver. 11. Send it to the seven] As all Holy Scripture, so this piece especially, may well be called, The Epistle of Almighty God to his creature. (Greg. Mag.) It is directed to these seven Churches, because then the most famous and flourishing. There also this evangelist had long time taught; and, as some say, was president over them.

Which are in Asia] sc. in Asia the Less, which therefore haply bears the name of the whole, because it was the Asia of Asia, like as Athena was called the Greece of Greece.


Verse 12

12 And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks;

Ver. 12. And being turned I saw] It is well observed here by a learned interpreter (Mr Brightman), that every godly endeavour doth receive some fruit greater than a man can hope for; John turned himself to behold the man, and behold (over and besides) seven candlesticks, which he had not the least suspicion of.

Seven golden candlesticks] Candlesticks the Churches are called, for the light they have and give; golden, for their worth and price; as much above other men as gold is above other metals. As God is the gold of his people ("the Almighty shall be thy gold," saith Eliphaz, Job 22:25), so they are his; yea, his peculiar treasure: they comprehend all his gettings, Titus 2:14, they are the people of his acquisition, 1 Peter 2:9.


Verse 13

13 And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.

Ver. 13. And in the midst] Christ is in the holy assemblies, in the beauties of holiness; he walketh in his garden, Song of Solomon 6:1, he comes in to see his guests, Matthew 22:11. The face of God is seen in Sion, Psalms 84:7.

A garment down to the feet] As a counsellor, Isaiah 9:6.

And girt] It implies readiness, nimbleness, handiness, and handsomeness. We also must gird ourselves, and serve the Lord Christ, Luke 17:8.

About the paps] This implies his entire love, seated in the heart.


Verse 14

14 His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire;

Ver. 14. White like wool] Noting his antiquity, or rather his eternity and unspeakable purity. Thales, one of the heathen sages, called God πρεσβυτατον των οντων, the most ancient of beings. (Diog. Laert.)

As a flame of fire] Sharp and terrible, such as pierce into the inward parts, Hebrews 4:13. {See Trapp on "Hebrews 4:13"} The school of nature teacheth, that the fiery eye needeth not outward light; that seeth extra mittendo, by sending out a ray, &c.


Verse 15

15 And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters.

Ver. 15. And his feet] He stood firm then when he was cast into the fire of his Father’s wrath. He trod the winepress alone, and set his feet on the necks of all his and our enemies. He lost no ground, when he grappled with the devil on his own dunghill, Matthew 4:1-11 "He will also bruise Satan under our feet shortly," Romans 16:20.

As the sound of many waters] Audible, terrible, forcible. Some Catadupes are deafened by the fall of this Nile. (Som. Scip.) But the spouse cries out, "O thou that dwellest in the gardens, the companions hearken to thy voice; cause me to hear it," Song of Solomon 8:13.


Verse 16

16 And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.

Ver. 16. And he had in his right hand] See here the dignity and safety of a faithful minister. While a child hath his father by the hand, though he walk in the dark, he fears nothing. Godly ministers not only have Christ by the hand (who as he will not cast away a perfect man, so neither will he take the ungodly by the hand, saith Bildad, Job 8:20), but are held fast in Christ’s right hand, "that teacheth him terrible things," Psalms 45:4, against such as seek to pull them thence. It is well observed by a worthy writer, that about the time of the silencing of ministers, many churches in England were torn at once (within our remembrance) with terrible lightning; and almost no place else but churches were touched, especially in the lower parts of Devonshire, where many were scorched, maimed, and many had their brains struck out, as they sat in churches; as at the church of Anthony in Cornwall, near Plymouth, on Whit Sunday, 1640. (See the account in print.)

A sharp two-edged sword] The word, like a sacrificing sword, slits open, and, as it were, unridgeth the conscience.


Verse 17

17 And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:

Ver. 17. I fell at his feet as dead] The nearer any one comes to Christ, the more rottenness entereth into his bones.

And he laid his right hand] The same right hand wherein he held the seven stars, Revelation 1:16. Christus sic omnibus attentus, ut nulli detentus; sic curat universos quasi singulos, sic singulos, quasi solos. Every godly minister is Christ’s particular care.

Fear not] Till ridden of fear we are not fit to hear.


Verse 18

18 I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.

Ver. 18. That liveth and was dead] So can every regenerate man say, Luke 16:31; Ephesians 2:1. {See Trapp on "Ephesians 2:1"} All saints are "heirs of the grace of life," 1 Peter 3:7.

And have the keys] The pope, therefore, is not key keeper, as he falsely boasteth, telling us, that God hath put under his feet the beasts of the field, the fowls of the air, and the fish of the sea; that is (as he interprets it), all the souls in earth, heaven, and purgatory. Christ, as a conqueror, hath the keys of hell and death delivered unto him.


Verse 19

19 Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter;

Ver. 19. Write the things which thou hast seen] That is, the gospel, the history of Christ (as some think), which he wrote at Ephesus after his return from Patmos, over forty years after our Saviour’s death.


Verse 20

20 The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.

Ver. 20. The mystery] In this whole book there are so many words, so many mysteries, which made Cajetan forbear to comment upon it; {a} though many monks (far less able than he) thought it a goodly thing to be meddling in these mysteries, which they as little understood as he that derived Apocalypsis of απο, re, et clipsor, quod est velo, quoth Faber the Augustinian monk.

Are the angels] Ministers are fitly called stars, which affect these inferior things by motion, light, and influence.

Are the seven churches] Lighted by Christ the High Priest morning and evening continually; and thereby as much differenced from the rest of the world, as Goshen was from Egypt in that palpable darkness. But now (alas) they have sinned away the light, and are fearfully darkened. Let us take heed how we put our light, not under a bushel but under a dunghill, as do our libertines, so that we may well cry out with Polycarp, Deus, ad quae nos tempora reservasti? Lord, what times are these?

{a} Apocalypsim fateor me nescire exponere iuxta sensum literalem: exponat cui Deus concesserit.

 


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Bibliography Information
Trapp, John. "Commentary on Revelation 1:4". John Trapp Complete Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jtc/revelation-1.html. 1865-1868.

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Monday, December 9th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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