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Bible Commentaries

Lange's Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical
Revelation 1

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-8

SPECIAL DOCTRINO-ETHICAL AND HOMILETICAL NOTES (ADDENDUM)

Section First

Prologue ( Revelation 1:1-8)

General.—Of God.—Of Revelation.—Of witness [Martyrium].—Of visions.—Of Divine service.—Of the Church.—Of the Trinity.—Of salvation.—Of the destination of Christians.—Of the Coming of Christ, in order to the complete revelation of God.

Special.—[ Revelation 1:1.] Revelation as the Apocalypse, the end and crown of revelations.—-The end and crown of the Biblical Books.—The end and crown of the doctrines of the Christian faith.—The end and crown of paræneses.

[ Revelation 1:2.] The Apostles as the great martyrs or witnesses of Christ:—Of His past, present, future [or coming].— John, in respect to his import in a doctrinal and a homiletical point of view.—John as the Seer of spirit in realities (the Gospel) and of realities in spirit (the Apocalypse).—The vision as a sign of the depth of the inner human life, and the height of the ripened Christian life.—[ Revelation 1:3.] Blessedness of the Christian in anticipation of the Coming of Christ.—The always certain nearness of the last time in the rapid course and change of Christian times.—The Coming of Christ in every Christian age.—Christian worship in the simple ground-form of readers and hearers.—Common blessedness of the leading and the led in a true cultus.—[ Revelation 1:4-5.] As the all-embracing idiocrasy of Christ is divided and reflected in the Apostles, so the idiocrasies of the Apostles are divided and reflected in those of the Church.—The Seven Churches in the deepest reality One Church.—The Trinity of God in the glory of its revelation: The Father, as the Primal Source of grace and peace—Who Isaiah, Who was, and Who cometh; The Holy Ghost in the manifestations of the Seven Spirits before the Throne of the Divine Rule; The Son of God, as the Faithful Witness, the First-born from the dead; as the Prince of the kings of the earth; as He Who hath loved us and washed us from our sins in His blood.—The grace which is upon Christians, and the peace which is in them, an eternally new benedictive greeting from the Triune God.—[ Revelation 1:6.] The high calling of Christians, by which they are made a kingdom of priests; how this calling is realized for them, and how it becomes realized in them.—Kings and priests considered in respect of their connection: 1. Kings and priests, in the sense of their degeneracy, alternately war and conspire against each other; 2. Kings and priests, in the sense of the worldly order of things, mutually balance and limit each other; 3. Kings and priests, as servants of God, in the sense of the spiritual life, are one, and mutually condition each other.—A man becomes a king, in the service of God, only when he continually sacrifices or surrenders all things to Him in pure self-renunciation, as a priest.—A man becomes a priest of the Eternal Spirit only when he can administer kingly possessions in kingly freedom.—The first doxology: 1. Glory; 2. Dominion; 3. Both to continue into the æons.—Whereby can I perceive that God is glorified on earth? 1. When no earthly glory obscures, like a cloud, this heavenly Sun2. When His glory is duly seen and appreciated in the reflected lustre of all that is holy and glorious on earth.—In God’s Kingdom, His dominion is based upon His glory, as is His glory upon His dominion.—What is the meaning of eternities [æons? the G. V. has: von Ewigkeit zu Ewigkeit=from eternity to eternity]? Infinite revelation of the Divine Essence. Infinite unfolding of a blessed life. Infinite development and unveilment of the world.—The Biblical Amen: The perfected Personality of Christ; Perfected phase of the Kingdom; Perfected certitude of prayer.—[ Revelation 1:7.] The Theme of the Book: He cometh.—Also the theme of worldly history; of religious presentiments; of science and of art.—With the clouds. As high and free as are the clouds as they emerge to view out of the depths of Heaven; as hidden and as manifest as the lightning in the cloud; as elevated above the earth, and as surely destined for the earth.—And every eye shall see Him. One day these eyes of ours shall show to each and all of us the Lord.—How this announcement finds its incipient fulfillment in every act of worship that we perform: We look up to Him. We perceive ourselves to be guilty in respect of the cross of Christ. We celebrate His Passion and His Death with sacred lamentations for the Dead.—This prophecy shall one day become a completed reality.—With Christ’s Coming Sunday comes; true and unceasing worship comes; the word of revelation comes upon the whole earth.—Even His enemies must see Him; must recognize their guilt in respect of Him in their guilt in respect of their inmost selves; must join, in one way or another, in the last lamentation over Him.—[ Revelation 1:8.] In the Coming of Christ, God shall perfectly manifest Himself as Jehovah, the Covenant God:—faithful to Himself—faithful to His people—faithful to His justice toward all.—Alpha and Omega; or the most profound idea elementarily illustrated. As the whole expression embraces the entire spirit-world, so the Spirit of God comprehends the beginning, the middle, and the end of things.—Import of the fact that God will not perfectly manifest Himself until the end of the course of this world; that He is utterly distinct from (1) fate, (2) despotism, (3) arbitrariness, (4) chance.—On the Martyrs.—On Divine Service.—On the Feast of Trinity.—On Confirmation.

Comp. Exodus 19.; Isaiah 6.; Ezekiel 1.; Daniel 7.; Zechariah 12.; Matthew 24:30, et al.

Starke: All revelations of God come to us through Christ.—The most eminent function of an Apostle or Teacher is to testify of Christ.—Such a reading and hearing of Holy Scripture as is pleasing to God, confers blessedness.—The wish: 1] The utterer of the wish; 2] The objects of the wish; 3] The subject of the wish; 4] The One to Whom the wish is addressed.—Cramer: The condition of a Christian a noble condition.—Ναὶ, ἀμὴν est gemina confirmatio, una græca, altera hebraica.

Sander (“Versuch einer Erklärung,” 1829, see p73): If the Revelation of John be compared with the rest of the Sacred Writings, especially those of the Prophets, it will be found that John uses scarce any image that is not contained in these and that might not be explained through them. Compare Revelation 1. and Ezekiel 1:26; Isaiah 6, etc. (Moreover, the homogeneousness of the images presupposes the homogeneousness of the facts.) Only in John’s writings all those things which in the other Prophets are more scattered, are concentrated; he catches, as it were, in the focus of a burning-glass all the rays of individual Prophets, so that it is not to be wondered at that the brightness thence resultant dazzles many.

Waechtler (see p74): A knowledge of the Revelation of St. John is highly important for all Christians ( Revelation 1:1-3)—Grace and peace from God, the inexhaustible Fountain of all comfort ( Revelation 1:4-6).

Böhmer (see p73): In the Christian creed, the Holy Ghost is placed after the Father and the Song of Solomon, as proceeding from Them both. John, however, is writing, not a system of divinity, but a sacred history, in which the general point of departure is the all-sovereign eternal God; next are revealed the powers which prepare the way for the fulfillment of His counsel of salvation, and last comes Christ Himself—first, as the true and highest Prophet, the “faithful Witness,” then as the “First-born of the dead,” and finally as the “Prince of the kings of the earth.”

[Barnes: Revelation 1:7. And every eye shall see Him. Every one has this in certain prospect, that he shall see the Son of Man coming as a Judge.]

On the literature (see above, p74). Lilienthal, Bibl. Archivarius, p808.—Danz, p57 and Supplement, p6.


Verse 6

[EXCURSUS ON THE BASILEIA, Revelation 1:6.]

By the American Editor

[The expression Kingdom of God (and its manifest synonyms, Kingdom of Heaven.[FN31] The Kingdom, Kingdom of Christ, etc.) is of most frequent occurrence in the New Testament, and apparently of greatest importance. It is the phrase employed to designate that—(1) which the Baptist heralded ( Matthew 3:2); which our Lord, in the beginning of His ministry, proclaimed as at hand ( Matthew 4:17; Mark 1:14); (3) to the exposition of which His life before His Crucifixion was mainly devoted ( Luke 4:43, and the Gospels pass.); (4) concerning which He gave prëeminent instruction throughout the forty days that followed His Resurrection ( Acts 1:3); (5) which He sent forth His disciples to herald before His Passion ( Matthew 10:7; Luke 9:2; Luke 10:9); (6) concerning which His ministers, after His Ascension, went everywhere giving instruction ( Acts 8:12; Acts 14:22; Acts 19:8; Acts 20:25; Acts 28:23; Acts 28:31; and the Eps.

It might naturally be supposed that some one objective would be represented by this oft-recurring and apparently important phrase, and yet there is no expression which the great mass of interpreters regard as having been used in so many varied and mutually exclusive senses. In some instances it is represented as designating something established on earth in New Testament times, either before the Crucifixion, or at the Ascension, or on the day of Pentecost; in others (and by the same interpreter), as something to be established in the future. Where it is regarded as indicating something already established—in some instances it is viewed as representing true religion in the heart; in others, the vital Church; and in others still, the apparent Church. Where viewed as designating something future—sometimes it is held to signify the millenial era on earth; and sometimes the Kingdom of glory in Heaven. Dr. Robinson, who may be regarded as a representative of the most numerous school of evangelical interpreters, and who, through his Greek and Hebrew Dictionaries, exerts a most powerful influence upon the theological thought of the ministry of this country, under the title Βασιλεία, thus writes: “We may therefore regard the kingdom of heaven, etc. in the New Testament as designating in its Christian sense, the Christian dispensation, or the community of those who receive Jesus as the Messiah, and who, united by His Spirit under Him as their Head, rejoice in the truth, and live a holy life in love and communion with Him. This spiritual kingdom has both an internal and an external form. As internal, it already exists and rules in the hearts of all Christians (it is then a principle.—E. R. C.) and is therefore present. As external, it is either embodied in the visible church of Christ, and in so far is present and progressive; or it is to be perfected in the coming of the Messiah to judgment and His subsequent spiritual reign in bliss and glory, in which view it is future. But these different aspects are not always distinguished, the expression often embracing both the internal and external sense, and referring both to its commencement in this world and its completion in the world to come.” In his following digest of passages he gives instances of all these alleged uses. Now it is evident that a dispensation, a principle, and a people actuated by that principle, are distinct, mutually exclusive objectives. To suppose that they were designated by one and the same expression, and that expression manifestly one of the most important in the Book of Life, is to attribute to the inspired writers a looseness in the use of language which, to say the least, would be thought strange in an uninspired teacher, and which, in the case of men writing under the influence of the Spirit for the instruction of the Church in all ages, is scarce conceivable. To such a supposition we should be driven only by most urgent considerations. The question naturally arises—Is there not some one objective which the expression may be regarded as indicating in each instance of its occurrence, and which objective shall satisfy all the demands of the expression—grammatical and contextual—in all its occurrences in the word of God? If such an objective can be set forth, it must, manifestly, be regarded as the one contemplated by the Spirit of the Lord. The writer believes that there is such an one—complex indeed, as is the objective of the term Church—but which, in all its fullness, may be regarded as designated by the expression wherever it occurs.—To the exposition of that objective this Excursus is devoted.

As preliminary, however, to this consideration of the nature of the Basileia (which, for the sake of precision, that Kingdom of God heralded by John and preached by Jesus will, in this article, be styled) it will be necessary to discuss another topic, viz.: its futurity. The generally received opinion that the Scriptures teach that it, in some one of its phases, was established in the days of our Lord, or shortly after His Ascension, lies at the basis of the prevalent idea as to its nature; and, consequently, until that opinion is at least shaken, and several of the texts which, almost without question, are assumed so to teach, are shown to have no such force, it cannot be expected that due weight will be given to those expressions which set forth its nature in language inapplicable to aught that now exists, or has ever existed, on earth.

I. THE FUTURITY OF THE BASILEIA

Before presenting the scriptural argument it is proper to premise that—

(a). The fact that the natural Kingdom of God includes the earth as a revolted province, affords no proof that the Basileia prophesied by Daniel as future was established by Jesus. That natural Kingdom existed from the beginning.

(b). The mere fact that the existing order of things on earth—an organized Church, grace in the heart—can be spoken of as a Kingdom, does not imply that the Basileia has been established; a similar state of things existed when Daniel prophesied of the establishment of the Basileia as future.

With these remarks we proceed to the argument.

1. Our Lord and His Apostles at every stage of New Testament history referred to its establishment as future:

(1). Indefinitely as to accompanying event (only the leading passages will be cited): Jesus preached that it was at hand (i.e, not then established) Matthew 4:17; Mark 1:14 : He taught His disciples to pray “Thy Kingdom come,” Matthew 6:10; Luke 11:2 : He sent them forth to preach the coming Kingdom, Matthew 10:7; Luke 9:2; Luke 10:9 : near the close of His ministry He spake a parable for the instruction of those who thought it “should immediately appear” (μέλλει αναφαίνεσθαι), Luke 19:11 : in the institution of the Supper He again and again referred to its futurity Matthew 26:29; Mark 14:25; Luke 22:16-18; Luke 22:24-30 : it is declared that, after the Resurrection, “He opened their (the Apostles’) understanding, that they might understand the scriptures” ( Luke 24:45), and also that “He was seen of them forty days, (and) speaking of the things pertaining to the Kingdom of God,” Acts 1:3;—on the last day of His sojourn with them, they, illuminated and instructed, asked a question, “Lord, wilt Thou at this time restore the Kingdom unto Israel,” evidently based upon the belief that it had not already been established, and He gave an answer that implied the correctness of that belief; is it conceivable either that they were mistaken, or that, if they had been, He would have so answered as to confirm them in their mistake? The Apostle James speaks of believers as heirs of a promised Kingdom, Revelation 2:5 : Paul, of his being preserved unto God’s heavenly Kingdom, 2 Timothy 4:18; of inheriting the Kingdom, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10; 1 Corinthians 15:50; Galatians 5:21; Ephesians 5:5; of his fellow-workers unto (εἰς) the Kingdom, Colossians 4:11 : Peter exhorts believers so to walk that they might enter into the everlasting Kingdom, 2 Peter 1:11.

(2). By representing it as synchronous with the second glorious Advent of the Messiah: This intimation was first given by Jesus just before the Transfiguration and after He had begun to show to His disciples that the first Advent was to be one of humiliation, comp. Matthew 16:21; Matthew 16:27-28; Mark 8:31; Mark 8:38; Mark 9:1; Luke 9:22; Luke 9:26-27. It is evident from a comparison of our Lord’s last discourse (the Greek text) on the Mount of Olives ( Matthew 24, 25; Mark 13; Luke 21:5-33), with the LXX. of Daniel ( Daniel 7:9-17, Daniel 9:27, Daniel 12:1-13), that He had those prophecies in view throughout; and that Hebrews, as did Daniel ( Daniel 7:13-14), connected the establishment of the Basileia with a future glorious Advent of the “Son of Man;” comp. Matthew 24:3; Matthew 24:27; Matthew 24:30; Matthew 24:39; Matthew 25:1; Matthew 25:31; Matthew 25:34; Mark 13:26; Luke 21:27-28 (and note especially) Revelation 31: see also 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10; 2 Timothy 4:1. (There was probably an allusion to this in the institution of the Supper; comp. Matthew 26:29; Mark 14:25; Luke 22:16; Luke 22:18, with 1 Corinthians 11:26).

2. Jesus implied that the offer of immediate establishment was withdrawn from the Jewish Church because of its rejection of Him, and that the establishment itself was postponed; comp. Luke 19:41-44 (the weeping over Jerusalem and the accompanying remarks) with the subsequent addresses in the temple, Matthew 21:23 to Matthew 23:39, especially Matthew 21:42-43, Matthew 23:37-39. The preceding scriptures do not in themselves imply more than the withdrawal of the offer from the Jewish Church, in order to an immediate establishment amongst Jewish and Gentile converts; but, in connection with the words of Jesus referred to under the preceding head, the implication of an indefinite postponement becomes manifest. This view finds confirmation in the prediction of the humiliation of the Church until the day of Christ’s glorious appearing, 1 Peter 4:13; (see also Acts 14:22; 2 Timothy 2:12; 2 Timothy 3:12, etc.).

3. There is no critically undisputed passage in the Scriptures which declares, or necessarily implies, even a partial establishment in New Testament times ( Revelation 1:6, is not contemplated in this argument, as the correct reading is uncertain).

The passages which have been referred to as proving the doctrine of a present establishment may be divided into two classes, viz.: those which it is alleged (1) logically imply it, (2) directly declare it. These will be examined in the order indicated. It should be distinctly noted that it is not denied that many of these passages are consistent with the hypothesis of a present establishment. All that is now claimed (save in reference to one or two of them) is that they are also consistent with the hypothesis of an entirely future establishment.

(1). Those passages which, it is alleged, logically imply a present establishment of the Basileia.

a. Those in which our Lord, and others, declare it to be near (ἐγγίζειν), as Matthew 3:2; Matthew 4:17, etc. Admitting that any reference in argument to the distinction between prophetic and historic nearness would, in this connection, be out of place, it is enough to say that the offer of an immediate establishment, an offer subsequently withdrawn because of virtual rejection, fully satisfies all the requirements of the language referred to.

b. Those which declare that Jesus was a King, Matthew 2:2; Matthew 21:5; John 1:49; John 18:37, etc. Reference need only be made to the manifest distinction between a King de jure and a King de facto. He was born King of the Jews, and yet confessedly for thirty years He did not establish His Kingdom. A similar explanation may be given to the fact that believers are styled a βασίλειον ἱεράτευμα, 1 Peter 2:9. (The fact that He is now exalted to the throne of universal dominion, Ephesians 1:20-22, no more proves that the Basileia is now established on earth, than did the universal government of God in the days of Daniel prove that the Kingdom of God was then established on earth. We must distinguish between a Kingdom on earth, and a Kingdom over earth—which includes earth as a revolted province.)

c. The exhortations of our Lord to “seek the Kingdom of God,” Matthew 6:33; Luke 12:31. It is manifest that both these exhortations are consistent with the hypothesis of a future Kingdom—as though He had said, So Acts, that when the Basileia is established you may enter it. Indeed the contexts of both exhortations require that we should put that interpretation upon them: the one in Matt. follows the direction to pray “Thy Kingdom come” ( Revelation 1:10), and that in Luke is manifestly parallel with the exhortation to wait for an absent Lord ( Luke 1:35-40).

d. The declaration “this generation shall not pass,” etc, Matthew 24:34; Mark 13:30; Luke 21:32. The term γενεά is one of the most indefinite in the Greek language. It is used to represent a race of men, a generation (of which three make a century, an age (see Liddell and Scott). Immediately after the preceding utterance our Lord declared that the time of His second coming was concealed ( Matthew 24:36); is it not probable that, in using this indefinite term, He did so designedly, that no note of time might be given?

e. The declaration of Jesus, “There be some standing here,” etc, Matthew 16:28; Mark 9:1; Luke 9:27. This, according to the opinion of Chrysostom and others (see Lange Comm. on Matthew 16:28), may find its fulfillment in the immediately following Transfiguration. In this event the Basileia was not merely symbolized, but in all its glory was for a moment set up on earth (comp. 2 Peter 1:16-18).

(2) The passages which, it is alleged, declare a present Basileia.

a. Matthew 11:12; Luke 16:16. It is assumed that βιάζεται and ἁρπάζουσιν are taken in a good sense, as in the E. V. Against this assumption may be urged—(a) the established usage of the words: βιάζειν occurs in the New Testament only in the passages under consideration; in the LXX. it occurs (undisputed) ten times, it represents rape ( Deuteronomy 22:25; Deuteronomy 22:28; Esther 7:8), the breaking through the barriers around Sinai ( Exodus 19:24), simple violence ( Sirach 4:29; Sirach 31:24; 2 Maccabees 14:41), urging ( Genesis 30:12; Judges 19:7; 2 Kings 5:23); the leading idea of the word when applied to persons Isaiah, inimical violence; ἁρπάζειν occurs thirty-three times in the LXX, and (with possibly four exceptions) is always used in a bad sense; it represents the violence of the robber, the ravening of the lion and the wolf ( Genesis 37:33; Leviticus 6:4, etc.); in the New Testament (besides the instance under consideration) it occurs, Matthew 13:19; John 10:12; John 10:28-29; John 6:15; Acts 8:39; Acts 23:10; 2 Corinthians 12:2; 2 Corinthians 12:4; in all these instances the idea is that of overmastering force, and in the first four, which (with the one under consideration) are the only instances of its use by our Saviour, it indicates sinful force: (b) The unfitness of the terms, when used in a good sense, to represent the approach of a penitent sinner to Christ: the disciples were captives—not conquerors; (c) Their unfitness in a good sense, and their fitness in a bad sense, to represent the condition of things then existing. It is true that in the beginning of our Lord’s ministry the people crowded around Him; but few, however, in the modern sense of the phrase, “entered the kingdom;” on the occasion indicated by Matthew 11:12, the people were deserting Him ( Revelation 1:12-20), and their leaders were engaged in that system of opposition and persecution that culminated in His crucifixion. Must we not conclude that by these words our Lord intended to indicate that violent opposition to, and ravening upon, the offered kingdom in the person of Him, its representative, which resulted in the withdrawal of the offer ( Matthew 21:43) and the fearful denunciations of Matthew 23:13-39?

b. Matthew 12:28; Luke 11:20. The original is both cases is ἔφθασαν ἐφ’ ὑμᾶς, not ἔρχεται ( Luke 17:20), nor ἀναφαίνεσθαι ( Luke 19:11). “In the New Testament, with the exception of 1 Thessalonians 4:15, (?) φθάνειν occurs only in the later, weakened sense of reaching to” (Lange Com. on 1 Thess, p43, E. V.). The phrase is similar to the one in 1 Thessalonians 2:16, where, manifestly, it was not designed to represent the wrath spoken of as already poured forth upon its objects—they were living men, but as having reached unto, overhanging them, comp. also Romans 9:31; 2 Corinthians 10:14; Philippians 3:16; 1 Thessalonians 4:15, in all which, however, the prepositions are different. The passages under consideration aptly accord with the idea of a near approach of the Basileia to the Jews in the person of Christ, implying an offer of establishment which might be withdrawn; they are equivalent to the declaration of Luke 10:9; Luke 10:11.

c. Luke 17:20-21. This passage, probably, by the advocates of the prevalent theory of the Basileia, is regarded as their most important proof-text, both as to its nature and present establishment. In this portion of the Excursus, only its bearing on the latter of these points is to be considered. In the E. V. there is a difference in tense between the question of the Pharisees and the answer of Jesus—they asking, when the Basileia should come, and He answering, it cometh not with observation, it is within you—which necessarily implies a declaration of then existing establishment. This difference is altogether unauthorized—both the question and the answer are in the present; the question of the Pharisees should be translated “when cometh (ἕρχεται) the kingdom of God?” The question was asked in the vivid, dramatic present; it manifestly had reference to the future; it would be in defiance of every conceivable law of language to suppose that our Lord, in following the lead of His questioners, intended to indicate a different tense. The question and the answer are but illustrations of that law proper to all languages, but pre-eminently to the Greek, by which a certain future may be represented by a verb in the present; illustrations may be found, Matthew 26:2 (after two days is the feast of the passover, and the Son of Man is betrayed, etc.); 1 Corinthians 15:42-44 (it is sown in corruption, it is [in the future resurrection] raised in incorruption), (see Jelf, Winer, Kühner, and grammarians generally). To the conclusion that the language of our Lord must be understood as having reference to the future, it may also be remarked, we are shut up by the following considerations: The supposition that He indicated an existing Basileia (a) implies that it was set up in (or among) the Pharisees; (b) disconnects His words from the immediately-following address to the disciples, whilst the contrary supposition brings them into manifest and beautiful connection therewith, and with His other utterances.[FN32]

d. In this connection may be considered that class of passages which are regarded as teaching the doctrine of a present Basileia from their use of present verb when mentioning it. (Reference is not now had to those in which there is aught in the context that apparently requires the hypothesis of a present kingdom—each of these receives an independent consideration). These passages are: all those parables which thus refer to the Basileia, Matthew 13:31; Matthew 13:38; Matthew 13:44-45; Matthew 13:47, etc.; also Matthew 11:11; Romans 14:17. These, it is admitted, are all consistent with the hypothesis of a present kingdom; but, under the rule set forth under the preceding head, they are all grammatically consistent with that of a certain future establishment. That there is nothing in the nature of the Basileia as set forth in the parables to require the hypothesis of a present kingdom, but the contrary, will appear in the second general division of this Excursus.

e. Acts 2:29-36. It is assumed by many that the exaltation of Acts 2:33 constitutes the session on the throne of David of Acts 2:30. But the assumption is wholly gratuitous. Nowhere in his sermon did the apostle declare the oneness of the two events; and most certainly the exaltation there spoken of does not imply the session as already existing—it may be an exaltation begun, to culminate in a visible occupancy of the throne of David. (The visible establishment by an emperor of the seat of his government in the heart of a once revolted province, does not derogate from his dignity—does not imply an abdication of government in the rest of his empire.) But beyond this, not only is the assumption gratuitous; it is against probabilities that amount to certainty. The apostle, be it remembered, was arguing with Jews, to prove that the absent Jesus was the Messiah ( Acts 2:36); he was arguing with those, one of whose most cherished beliefs it was that the Messiah should occupy a visible throne. To suppose that, under such circumstances, he should advance a doctrine at war with this belief without a word of explanation or proof, and that too in a sentence capable of an interpretation consistent therewith, is inconceivable. The interpretation suggested by the writer is confirmed not only by its consistency with the previous teachings of our Lord, but by the address delivered by the Apostle Peter shortly after, Acts 3:19-20. The literal translation of the passage referred to is as follows (see Lange Com. and Alford): “Repent ye, therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, in order that the times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send the Messiah Jesus, who was appointed unto you, whom the heavens must receive until the times of the restitution of all things,” etc. It is also confirmed by the subsequent teachings of the apostle in his epistles; comp. 1 Peter 1:4-7; 1 Peter 1:13; 2 Peter 1:11; 2 Peter 1:16; the κληρονομία and ἀποκάλυψις of the I Epistle are manifestly synonymous with the βασιλεία and παρουσία of the II.

1 Thessalonians 2:12. The preposition in the Greek is εἰς. But since believers on earth are not yet in glory, the whole expression is manifestly proleptical, and the E. V. gives the translation, unto.

Colossians 1:13. At first glance, the passage apparently teaches that believers are already translated de facto into the Basileia; it may however legitimately be regarded as teaching a de jure translation. Not only does this interpretation bring the passage into harmony with the great mass of Scripture, but it seems to be required by the immediately preceding and succeeding contexts; believers are not yet delivered de facto from the ἐξουσία of Satan ( Ephesians 5:12), nor have they yet received de facto, certainly not in completeness, the ἀπολύτρωσιν (comp. Luke 21:28; Romans 8:23; Ephesians 1:14; Ephesians 4:30; see Lange Comm. in loc.).

Hebrews 12:28. The reception of the Basileia herein spoken of manifestly may be de jure. Believers on earth receive a sure title to their future possession.

II. NATURE OF THE BASILEIA

When the Baptist and our Lord began to preach “the Kingdom of God is at hand,” the subject of their discourse was no novelty. The Jews were then expecting the establishment of a Basileia, which had been foretold by the prophets. The phrases “Kingdom of God,” “Kingdom of Heaven,” do not indeed occur in exact form in the Old Testament; cognate expressions, however, appear, which may be divided into two classes—(1). Those which refer to the natural Kingdom of God over the universe, Daniel 4:3; Daniel 4:34; Daniel 6:26; Psalm 145:12-13; (LXX. Daniel 3:33, Daniel 4:31, Daniel 6:27; Psalm 144:12-13). (2). Those in which the then future Basileia of the Messiah was predicted, Daniel 2:44; Daniel 7:14; Daniel 7:27, (LXX. as Heb.); allied to the prophecies from which these citations are made, are Isaiah 11; Isaiah 32; Isaiah 59:20 to Isaiah 66:24; Psalm 2; Psalm 72, etc. There can be no doubt that the Basileia foretold in the latter class was the one contemplated by Jesus, especially in view of the distinct reference to the prophecies of Daniel, and the quotations therefrom, in His great eschatological discourse on the Mount of Olives.

1. The apparent characteristics of the Basileia as deduced from a normal[FN33] interpretation of the prophecies referred to, are as follows:

It was a government to be established.—(1) in a glorious, visible advent of “the Son of Prayer of Manasseh,Daniel 7:13-14; (2) in the συντέλεια τοῦ καιροῦ, Daniel 9:27; Daniel 12:4; Daniel 12:13; (3) after a period of great θλῖψις. Daniel 12:1; Daniel 11:26-27; (4) whose members should be governors (the subject nations were under, not members of the Basileia), Daniel 7:18; Daniel 7:22; Daniel 7:27; (5) as œcumenical, Daniel 7:14; Daniel 7:27, et pass. the other prophecies; (6) as political, in the proper sense of the term, as indicating an external government exercised, as are now merely human governments, over the persons and property of men, (passim the prophecies; (7) whose members should be the saints (spiritually holy ones) of the covenanted people of the preceding æon or καιρός, Daniel 7:18; Daniel 7:22; Daniel 7:27 (comp27, Daniel 9:27, Daniel 12:4; Daniel 12:13); (8) in which righteousness (spiritual and external) should prevail, (pass. the prophecies).

Let it be observed concerning these characteristics—a. That no one is exclusive of any other; all may co-exist in one and the same objective. b. That if fairly deduced from the normal sense of the Old Testament Scriptures they are to be regarded as the true characteristics, unless it can be shown that the New Testament teachers declared that the prophecies are not to be normally interpreted, at least in reference to the points specified. c. That whilst the first six accord with those presented in what is universally recognized as the old Jewish scheme, the 7 th and 8 th are different—for the Saints of the covenanted people, the Jews substituted the natural seed of Abraham, and for spiritual, mere ceremonial righteousness.

2. Jesus and the other inspired New Testament teachers recognized the truth of the foregoing characteristics.

They did so not only by positive affirmation in respect to each one; but also by direct condemnation of the Jews for misinterpreting the Scriptures, where they substituted different doctrines, and by silence at times, as well as occasional affirmation, in respect to all those other points on which the Jewish belief accorded with them. (In the following exhibit, for purposes of compactness and distinctness in argument, the 7 th and 8 th of the characteristics will be considered first, and in the inverse order—the preceding notation, however, being preserved.)

(8). The Basileia was to be a government in which righteousness (spiritual and external) should prevail.

It is a universally recognized fact that the great mass of the Jews of our Saviour’s day regarded all righteousness as consisting in ceremonial observance. Our Lord in rebuking this opinion, and in declaring to the people, “Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees ye shall in no case enter into the Kingdom of heaven,” ( Matthew 5:20), proceeded on the ground, not that the true meaning of the Old Testament had been hidden beneath a mystic veil which He came to remove, but that they had “made the law of God of none effect (i. e. had set aside its normal interpretation) through their (your) traditions” ( Matthew 15:6). Throughout the whole of His ministry, as lies on the surface of the New Testament, He taught the great doctrine previously taught by the prophets, that into the Basileia nothing impure should enter. (As to the special force, as bearing on this point, of the parables in Matthew 13, 12, 25, see below.)

(7). Whose members should be the saints (spiritually holy ones) of the covenanted people of the preceding æon.

The Jews believed that the members of the Basileia were to be selected from the members of the covenanted people of the preceding æon, and on this point our Lord uttered no denial. He referred not merely to those then living as entering into the future Kingdom, but to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as having a place therein, Luke 13:28. His teachings manifestly accorded with their beliefs. The Apostle Paul declared, “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God,” and, further, that upon those who remain upon earth until the coming of the Lord a resurrection change should pass (comp. 1 Corinthians 15:50-52 with 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17), implying that those who inherit the Kingdom are the changed Saints of a former dispensation.

For the Saints, however, the Jews substituted the ceremonially righteous, and for the covenanted people, the natural seed of Abraham. Both these substitutions Jesus condemned, and that in accordance with the normal interpretation of the Old Testament. The former condemnation and its ground were virtually considered under the preceding characteristic.

As to the latter, the Baptist declared: “God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham,” Matthew 3:9, and our Lord declared to the Chief Priests and Elders, “The Kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation (ἔθνος=gentile people) bringing forth the fruits thereof,” Matthew 21:43. Now, in making these declarations, Jesus and His forerunner were not uttering new revelations—they were proceeding on the platform of Old Testament Scripture, whose normal sense was ignored by the Jews. It is true that the covenant belonged pre-eminently to the natural seed of Abraham; yet, from the beginning, on the one hand, great branches of that seed had been cast aside; and, on the other, provision had been made for the reception of proselytes, and it had also been prophesied that in process of time Jehovah would call them His people (צָם=λαός) who had not been His people, Hosea 2:23. In that portion of the epistle to the Romans (9–11) in which the Apostle establishes the covenant relations of converted Gentiles, their true engrafting into the covenanted people ( Romans 10:17-21), he does not speak of it as a strange thing, but argues it as the fulfillment of prophecy, quoting the prophecy of Hosea above cited ( Romans 9:24-26). Manifestly the New Testament teachers not merely approve this characteristic, but the Apostle Paul approves it as in accordance with the Old Testament.

(1). It was to be established in a glorious visible advent of “the Son of Man.”

This is universally recognized as one of the most prominent doctrines of the Jews. If it had been an error, it is inconceivable that our Lord would not have rebuked it in terms as decided as those employed in reference to other errors. But on the contrary He affirmed it, and affirmed it, manifestly, as the fulfillment of the prophecy of Daniel (see under section1, (2), of the I. division). The only instances in which it is claimed that He denied it (or spoke of a Basileia as coming in any other mode) are Luke 17:21-22, and those few passages in which He referred to the Kingdom in the use of a present verb. The passage in Luke is best explained as being in harmony with His other teachings (see above), and the other passages, as we have seen, are grammatically consistent therewith.

(2). In the συντέλεια τοῦ καιροῦ ( Daniel 9:27; Daniel 12:4; Daniel 12:13). This was directly taught and in manifest reference to the prophecy of Daniel, comp. Matthew 24:3; Matthew 24:6; Matthew 24:13; Matthew 24:34; Mark 13:7; Luke 21:9; Luke 21:31; see also Matthew 13:39-40; Matthew 13:49, with context.

(3). After a period of great θλῖψις ( Daniel 12:1; Daniel 7:26-27). Confirmed in the New Testament, Matthew 24:21; Matthew 24:29; Mark 13:19; Mark 13:24; 1 Peter 4:12-13; 2 Thessalonians 1:4-7.

(4). The members to be governors ( Daniel 7:18; Daniel 7:22; Daniel 7:27). This was a doctrine never controverted by our Lord; but, on the contrary, He again and again so spake as to manifest that He took its truth for granted. See Matthew 19:28; Matthew 24:47; Matthew 25:21; Matthew 25:23; Luke 12:44; Luke 19:17; Luke 19:19; Luke 22:29-30. The counsel that He gave His disciples on the occasion of the ambitious request of the Sons of Zebedee, Matthew 20:25-28, and the rebuke He administered at the Last Supper, Luke 22:24-27, cannot be understood as negativing that doctrine. His design on both these occasions was, not to teach that there should be no ruling in the Basileia, but to rebuke the ambitious spirit that seeks after authority for the sake of self, and to teach that the true idea of ruling is that of rendering service. This is evident from the fact that He presented Himself, the acknowledged Master, as their model; and from the further facts that, on the first of the mentioned occasions, He implied that one was to sit on His right hand and another on His left (to share in superior authority), Matthew 20:23, and that, in the latter, immediately after the rebuke, He declared to His Apostles that they should sit on thrones, Luke 22:29-30. (See also 1 Corinthians 6:2-3; Judges 14, 15; Revelation 3:21; Revelation 5:10; Revelation 20:6; Revelation 22:5.)

(5). As œcumenical. No one affirms that this characteristic was ever denied by our Lord. It was not, indeed, directly declared by Him that the saints should be associated with Him in the rule of all the earth; it was manifestly implied, however, in His evident reference to the prophecies of Daniel as of normal interpretation without any qualification, and in His association of His disciples with Himself in government, in connection with the known belief of the Jews. It seems to be directly affirmed, 1 Corinthians 6:2-3; Judges 14, 15; Revelation 20:6.

(6). As political, (i. e., an external government exercised over the persons and property of men).

There can be no question as to the apparent teaching of the Old Testament on this point; all the prophecies bearing on the Basileia present the idea of an external, political government. And it is also universally admitted that the Jews were expecting such a kingdom of the Messiah, an expectation which was shared by the Apostles. It is utterly inconceivable that if they had been mistaken on this point, especially as their mistake was confirmed by the apparent teaching of the prophecies, the Great Teacher would not have distinctly undeceived them. And yet throughout His whole ministry He continually so spake as to leave them in error if they were in error. On the occasion of the Last Supper, He employed language which must have confirmed them in their belief on this point, Luke 22:29-30,—a belief not shaken by His forty days teaching on the subject of the Basileia after His resurrection, as is evident from their last question, and in which He must have still further confirmed them by His answer, Acts 1:3-7. The alleged instances of His teaching a contrary doctrine will be considered in the following division.

III. Our Lord and His disciples taught no doctrine of the (or a) Basileia (either complete or inchoate) as lacking any one of the preceding characteristics.

It is alleged that this was done in those utterances in which the Basileia is spoken of in the use of a present verb, and also in Luke 12:14; Luke 17:20-21; Matthew 13:31-52; John 18:36; Romans 14:17. All these passages, it is contended, set forth a Basileia having a merely internal character. As to those texts whose force in this direction is derived merely from their grammatical form, we have seen that they are consistent with the idea of a future Basileia. We have also seen that Luke 17:20-21, is consistent with the theory maintained in this excursus. The other passages will be considered in their order.

Luke 12:14. “Who made Me a judge or a divider over you?” The kingdom had not then been established; our Lord at that time occupied simply the position of a teacher.

Matthew 13:31-52. It is contended that in the parables of the mustard seed and the leaven especially, Jesus taught concerning the Basileia, that it begins silently and imperceptibly in the heart and in the community, and gradually increases. The force of the argument is derived from the assumption that in these parables the thing next to the verb of comparison is that to which the Basileia is compared—that in one case it is compared to the mustard seed, and in the other to the little leaven which the woman hid. But if this rule hold good in one case, it must in all others; and under its operation we have the kingdom likened ( Matthew 1:24) to the sower, ( Matthew 13:45) to the merchant-man, ( Matthew 20:1) to the householder. ( Matthew 22:2) to the king, etc. Manifestly, in all these instances, we must pass over the next thing to the verb of comparison, to seek for the object of comparison. Doubtless the true explanation of the phrase “the kingdom is likened, etc.,” is the one given by Alford on Matthew 13:24, “is like the whole circumstances about to be detailed,” i. e., the entire parable presents a truth concerning the kingdom. With this explanation, unity as to the nature of the Basileia (which on the current interpretation is lacking) is brought into this whole series of parables, and these and all the other parables are brought into beautiful consistency with all the other teachings of our Lord. The series in Matt. may be regarded as setting forth that nothing impure, imperfect, or immature, can have place in the Basileia—in such case the good grain, the mighty tree, the thoroughly leavened lump, the treasure separated from the field, the pearl, the good fish, will represent it.

John 18:36. In this utterance, it is contended that our Lord intended to declare to Pilate that the kingdom He came to establish was not after the manner of the kingdoms of this world, i. e., not external, political. It is admitted that the utterance considered in itself will bear this interpretation; but it will also bear one consistent with the theory herein advocated, especially in view of the introduction of νῦν in the last clause of the verse, which may be regarded as a particle of time—My kingdom is not now established. Which of these interpretations are we to adopt? The one supposes that our Lord whispered into the ear of a heathen (neither the disciples nor the Jews were in the Pretorium, John 1:28), the great truth concerning His kingdom, which he had not only concealed from His disciples (hid from them in a bewildering enigma) but a few hours before on the solemn occasion of the institution of the Supper, Luke 22:29-30; but which, also, He continued to conceal throughout the forty days of His subsequent continuance with them, during which time He is represented as “speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God,” Acts 1:3, and as opening “their understanding, that they might understand the Scriptures,” Luke 24:45! The other interpretation supposes that He spake in consistency with His previous and subsequent teaching.

Romans 14:17. This passage is perfectly consistent with the hypothesis of a merely internal Basileia, but manifestly it is also consistent with the hypothesis of a perfectly holy external government. “Meat and drink” do not necessarily infer externality, they may refer to mere fleshly enjoyment which has no place in the Basileia as set forth in this excursus.

In conclusion of the whole subject it may be remarked:

(1). If it has been fairly shown that the great mass of Scriptures in which the term Basileia occurs, require as the objective thereof the one set forth in this excursus, then is it utterly illogical, from the possible force of a few scattered passages, which may, without straining, be interpreted in consistency with the others; either, on the one hand, to deny the validity of the objective established, or, on the other hand, to hypothesize a second and variant objective—to conclude that the term was used ambiguously.

(2). The theory herein defended is not liable to the objection that it presents a “carnal” or “material” doctrine concerning the nature of the Basileia. Most certainly the doctrine is not “carnal” in the bad sense of that term, nor as teaching that gross flesh and blood shall inherit the kingdom; nor is it “material” save so far as the doctrine of the resurrection of the body is so. It agrees with this latter doctrine in implying that the redemption of Christ respects the body as well as the soul, and also with the doctrine set forth in Romans 8:18-23.

(3). Much important matter bearing on this subject, connected with the scriptural use of the terms συντέλεια, παρουσία, ἐπιφάνεια, ἀνάστασις, παλιγγενεσία, ἀποκατάστασις, κληρονομία, ζωὴ αἰώνιος, has necessarily been passed over. Fully to discuss the subject in connection with all these terms would require a volume.

(4). If the foregoing reasoning be valid, increased doubt is thrown upon the reading ἡμᾶς βασιλείαν, Revelation 1:6, of this chapter. Should, however, the now generally accepted reading be sustained, the passage may be rendered consistent with the theory herein supported by attributing to ἐποίησεν a proleptical, or rather de jure, force.

And, lastly, this excursus has been written in a spirit of deep conviction, but not, it is trusted, in one of dogmatism. The writer feels that any man should study so vast and important a subject with the deepest humility and self-distrust, and express his conclusions with the utmost modesty; and he more keenly feels, as he finishes his work, than in the beginning, how unfit he is to grapple with it. If aught of dogmatism should have appeared in the expression of his views, he trusts that it will be attributed to the necessity of his situation, where brevity in expression is of prime importance.—E. R. C.]

Footnotes:

FN#31 - The phrase Kingdom of Heaven occurs only in the Gospel of Matthew. That it is strictly synonymous with Kingdom of God is manifest from the following comparisons— Matthew 4:17 with Mark 1:14-15; Matthew 5:3 with Luke 6:20; Matthew 13:11 with Mark 4:11, Luke 8:10; Matthew 13:31 with Mark 4:30-31; Matthew 19:14 with Mark 10:14, Luke 18:16; Matthew 19:23 with Mark 10:23, Luke 18:24. Matthew himself uses Kingdom of God five times ( Matthew 6:33, Matthew 12:28, Matthew 19:24, Matthew 21:31; Matthew 21:43). It needs but a glance at these passages to perceive that he uses the phrase as synonymous with the one more frequently employed by him.—E. R. C.]

FN#32 - Fully to appreciate this remark, we must appreciate the force of the terms παρατηρήσις and ἐντός. The former of these occurs nowhere else in the New Testament, and only in one disputed passage in the LXX. Its verbal root, however, occurs several times, and always has the force of close watching or observation ( Mark 3:2; Luke 6:7; Luke 14:1; Luke 20:20; Acts 9:24; Galatians 4:10). In accordance with the meaning of the verb, the Lange Com. (Van Oosterzee) translatesμετα παρατηρήσεως: “with or under observation,” remarking “so that it can be recognized and observed by outward tokens, and that one could exclaim with assurance, Lo here! lo there!” The translation doubtless is correct, and also, in the main, the accompanying remark. The latter, however, might be so modified as to distinctly set forth the twofold idea of observation—(1) as to essence (as that which in itself is visible), and (2) as to manifestation or approach (as the dawn, whose approach is with or under observation). With this modification; not under observation, would mean either without visibility (as the wind), or without the signs of gradual approach (as the lightning). The strict meaning of ἐντός is within, in the midst of, as in Matthew 23:36; that which is ἐντός men individually, is that which is internal to them individually; that which is ἐντός them collectively (viewed as one whole), is that which is internal to them as a whole—in the midst of them—among them individually. This latter use of the term occurs Xenophon Anab. i10, 3—ἀλλὰ καὶ ταύτην ἔσωσαν (οἰ Ἒλληνες) καὶ ἄλλα ὁπόσα ν τ ς α τ ν, etc.. (see Alford in loc.) Now. remembering the close connection in the Jewish mind between the establishment of the Basileia, and the glorious coming of the Son of Man—a connection established by the prophecy of Daniel ( Revelation 7:13-14), and not previously rebuked but approved by Jesus ( Luke 9:26-27)—let any one hypothesize as the meaning of μετὰ παρατηρήσεως with the signs of a gradual approach, and of εντὸς in the midst of, and read the entire passage, Revelation 1:20-20. The Pharisees ask our Lord “when cometh the Kingdom of God?” He answers, “It cometh not with the signs of a gradual approach; neither shall they say, Lo here, or lo there, for lo the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.” Then turning to His disciples He says: “The days will come when ye shall desire to see one of the days of the Son of Prayer of Manasseh, and ye shall not see it. And they shall say to you, Lo here, lo there; go not after nor follow. For as the lightning that lighteneth (flashing) from one part under heaven shineth to the other part under heaven (comes not with the signs of a gradual approach), so also shall the Son of Man be in his day,” etc. Does not the very unity perceptible in the entire address—the vividness of the scene it presents—the manifest oneness of the doctrine with that elsewhere taught by our Lord, especially on the Mount of Olives—place the stamp of truth on the hypothesis? Does it not become manifest that this passage, so far from teaching the doctrine of a present establishment of the Basileia, must be numbered amongst those that connect the establishment with the Second Advent?—E. R. C.]

FN#33 - Normal is used instead of literal (the term generally employed in this connection) as more expressive of the correct idea. No terms could have been chosen more unfit to designate the two great schools of prophetical exegetes than literal and spiritual. These terms are not antithetical, nor are they in any proper sense significant of the peculiarities of the respective systems they are employed to characterize. They are positively misleading and confusing. Literal is opposed not to spiritual but to figurative; spiritual is in antithesis on the one hand to material, on the other to carnal (in a bad sense). The Literalist (so called) is not one who denies that figurative language, that symbols, are used in prophecy, nor does he deny that great spiritual truths are set forth therein; his position Isaiah, simply, that the prophecies are to be normally interpreted (i. e. according to the received laws of language) as any other utterances are interpreted—that which is manifestly literal being regarded as literal, that which is manifestly figurative being so regarded. The position of the Spiritualist (so called) is not that which is properly indicated by the term. He is one who holds that whilst certain portions of the prophecies are to be normally interpreted, other portions are to be regarded as having a mystical (i. e. involving some secret meaning) sense. Thus, for instance, Spiritualists (so called) do not deny that when the Messiah is spoken of as “a man of sorrow and acquainted with grief,” the prophecy is to be normally interpreted; they affirm, however, that when He is spoken of as coming “in the clouds of heaven” the language is to be “spiritually” (mystically) interpreted (see the quotation from Robinson in the introduction to the Excursus). The terms properly expressive of the schools are normal and mystical.—E. R. C.]


Verses 9-20

SPECIAL DOCTRINO-ETHICAL AND HOMILETICAL NOTES (ADDENDUM)

Section Second

First Vision. Heaven-picture of the Seven Churches ( Revelation 1:9-20)

General.—The pastoral fidelity of man here appears in reciprocal action with the pastoral fidelity of God. John on Patmos thinks of his seven churches in the spirit of prayer. But the Lord, through the Spirit of Revelation, changes his glance at the seven churches into a vision of the whole future of the Church.—Heavenly blessedness in the midst of earthly martyrdom.—The prophetic visions as the theocratic higher reality of the Platonic ideas, the lofty mysterious source-points of all fundamental spiritual currents, or of the stream of salvation in the history of the world.—Preliminary conditions of prophecy—external affliction, internal solemn joy, loneliness, prayer.—Forms of revelation.—Development of revelation from the auricular to the ocular wonder.—Appearance of Christ in His glory in respect of its fundamental features. Christ, the Son of God, also eternally the glorified Son of Man—The shock experienced by the Seer at the appearance of the Lord in His Revelation, a species of death, and hence a source of new, high life. How this shock—a. In its original form runs through the history of the prophetic callings ( Exodus 3:6; Exodus 4:24; Exodus 34:30-35; Isaiah 6:5; Jeremiah 1:6; Ezekiel 3:14-15; Daniel 10.); b. Is reflected in Jewish tradition (Ju13:22) and in Greek manticism, in which the manticist himself represents death, whilst the priest who expounds his oracle is representative of new life; c. Is shadowed in the history of apostate prophets, especially in that of Balaam ( Numbers 24:4); d. Is crystallized in the fundamental forms of regeneration; repentance and faith—death of the old, resurrection of the new, man.—Doctrine of the kingdom of the dead, and of death.—Hades is to be distinguished from Gehenna.—The appearance of Christ, deadly for the moment, conferring life for ever.—Sacred literature ( Revelation 1:19).—Key of symbolism ( Revelation 1:20).

Special.—[ Revelation 1:9.] John, an exile on earth, at home in Heaven.—The great Prophet, a brother and companion [fellow-partaker] of all Christians, (1) in tribulation, (2) in the glory of the Kingdom, (3) in the endurance of Jesus.—Patmos, so poor in geography, so glorified in the Theocracy, like Bethlehem and Nazareth. The like is true of Palestine and the earth itself. [ Revelation 1:10.] Sunday in its apostolic radiance: The day of the spirit; of transport; of complete revelation.—Sunday quiet, absorption of life in its profoundest depths, and thereby, at the same time, in the richest retrospect, and the clearest fore-view.—The sacred voice.—[ Revelation 1:11.] The sacred Book.—The Bible reposing upon Divine voices and trumpets.—The Christian who, through deep absorption of spirit, finds the three times [the past, present and future] in the present, thereby learns to know God as He Who Isaiah, Who was and Who cometh.—The seven churches or representatives of all churches—primarily, of all those in Asia Minor—or the one Church in its seven-fold form.—The sacred septenary of the churches, founded upon the septenary of the Spirits of God, and ever recurring in the subsequent sevens.—[ Revelation 1:12-13.] Christ Isaiah, therefore, here in the midst of the candlesticks, as well as in the other world. The same hierarchism which sunders doctrine and life, belief and morals, clergy and laity, spirit and nature, faith and culture, body and soul, also tears earth and Heaven apart. As the deist confines God to the other world, so the Hierarchy banishes the Lord Jesus Christ thither.—Christ is the living unity of the seven individual golden candlesticks, and through this unity alone is the type of the one seven-branched candlestick fulfilled ( Exodus 25:31-37).—[ Revelation 1:14-16.] The form of Christ, considered in regard to its attributes; or the difference between theocratic symbolism and humanistic æsthetics.—[ Revelation 1:17.] Fear not, a groundword of Christianity from beginning to end ( Luke 2:10; Matthew 28:5; see the Concordances, Title, Fear not).—The history and operation of the Death and Resurrection of Christ lift all fear from all believers.—[ Revelation 1:18.] Christ, the Living One, (1) in respect of His spiritual essence and mission (the First, the Last, the Life of life); (2) in respect of His history (having been dead, and having become alive forever); (3) in respect of His power (having the keys of Death and Hades),—[ Revelation 1:19.] “Write what thou seest.” All Scripture a copy of Divine reality.—[ Revelation 1:20.] The key of symbolism must form the starting-point for the disclosure of all Apocalyptic mysteries.—The Angels of the churches, neither presbyteries, nor bishops, nor preachers, but the spirit of the churches in symbolic personification—the spirit which, undoubtedly, should be represented by the heads of the churches, but which is very frequently not represented by them. This spirit represents their idiocrasy, their ideal, the quality of their spiritual life, and is the local invisible church.—The churches as candlesticks.—Celebration of Sunday.—Bible festivals.—Celebration of Easter.—Festival of the dead.—Celebration of church consecration (or consecration of the angel of a church).—Celebration of the ministry.—See the succession of the visions, Revelation 4:2 (individual items) Revelation 17:3 (individual items).—Parallels: Acts 10:10 sqq.; Revelation 20:7; Zechariah 4:2; Daniel 7.; Daniel 10.; Isaiah 41:10; Isaiah 48:12; Malachi 2:7.*

*[The G.V. here reads “Engel”=angel, instead of the “messenger” of the E. V.—Tr.]

Starke: A man is in the Spirit (1) ordinarily, when he permits himself to be governed by the Spirit of God ( Romans 8:9; Galatians 5:5); (2) extraordinarily, by transport and a Divine revelation of things to come ( Matthew 22:43).—Christ is always present with His Church, to enlighten, sanctify and defend it ( Ephesians 5:26).—He has, therefore, no need of any vicar.—The Church has for its foundation-pillar the invincible power and strength of Christ.—Christ’s servants are in His hand, honored by Him and assured of His help.

Richter (see p73): In Revelation 1:17-18, Jesus declares, in different words, the same thing that is expressed in Matthew 28:18, “All power [authority] is given unto Me in Heaven and on earth,” and the same that is expressed in that other saying of His, “I and the Father are one” [ John 10:30]. After the lapse of nearly two thousand years, we find ourselves in a different posture toward this saying—so far as belief in it is concerned—from that occupied by the Church in John’s time. Has there not been a considerable progress in the setting up of Christ’s Kingdom? (It is true that we must not overlook the fact that, together with the furtherances of faith during the course of the centuries, there has been a constant new formation of apparent hindrances.)

Gaertner (see p73): With the trumpet-sound of the voice of Christ, the Revelation was opened for the ear;—with the seven candlesticks, it was opened for the eye.—These seven candlesticks precisely correspond to the seven lamps on the seven-branched candlestick in the Holy Place of the Tabernacle. The independent candlesticks, having each one its own standard, denote the greater perfection of the New Testament Church; furthermore, the Lord walks in the midst of them, which would be impossible, so far as the figure is concerned, in the case of the one seven-branched candlestick (rather, this fact is declaratory that there shall be, in the New Covenant, no external visible hierarchic unity of the churches). What is there more beautiful and more cheering than a bright light upon a candlestick in a dark and gloomy night! So the Church is a light in the darkness of this world, shining into the gloom and obscurity of mankind. Where there is a church that has the pure word of God and acts in accordance therewith, there is a golden candlestick; just so the faithful Church in Israel was a light to the Gentiles throughout the whole of the Old Testament time. The seven candlesticks are indicative of a perfect Church, into which the Holy Spirit from God’s inner world streams seven-fold (seven-fold, and yet singly, through Christ).

[Bonar ( Revelation 1:17): And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. O sinner, learn to know this Christ now as the Saviour, ere the day arrives when you shall see Him as the Judge! His love would save you now; His majesty will crush you then.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Lange, Johann Peter. "Commentary on Revelation 1:4". "Commentary on the Holy Scriptures: Critical, Doctrinal, and Homiletical". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/lcc/revelation-1.html. 1857-84.

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