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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae
Revelation 1

 

 

Other Authors
Verse 4-5

DISCOURSE: 2475

EACH PERSON IN THE HOLY TRINITY TO BE ADDRESSED IN PRAYER

Revelation 1:4-5. 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; 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.

THE revelations of St. John are doubtless extremely difficult to be understood: but yet a particular blessing is promised to the study of them: and certainly, in proportion as they are understood, they enlarge the heart towards God, who foresees every thing from the beginning, and ordains every thing for the accomplishment of his own eternal purposes. It is not however my design, at this time, to enter into any of those events which are predicted in this book; but only to draw your attention to this introductory passage, which will be found replete with the most important instruction.

It may be viewed,

I. As a benedictory salutation—

It is customary with the inspired writers to begin almost all their epistles with a salutation similar to that before us. “Grace and peace” comprehend all those blessings which a sinner needs, and which every Christian supremely desires. These are invoked in behalf of the seven churches of the Lesser Asia; and are implored, with remarkable distinctness, from each Person in the ever-blessed Trinity.

1. From God the Father—

[He is described in terms declarative of his essential perfections; and with a peculiarity of language which will perhaps be found in no other writer, nor in the writings of St. John himself, except in this place [Note: The nominative case is put instead of the genitive; ὢν, for τοῦ ὄντος, κ. τ. λ.]. It should seem that the Apostle had in his mind a special reference to the name of the Deity as revealed to Moses, when he was commissioned to declare to his brethren, “I am hath sent me unto you [Note: Exodus 3:14.].” And intending to convey an idea of Jehovah’s self-existence from eternity to eternity, and the absolute unchangeableness of his nature, he expressed himself in the most significant terms that language could afford, yea, and in terms which even violated the proprieties of language, that so he might communicate his idea in a more determined form.

To Him who is, and who was, and who is to come, even the Father, as to the fountain and source of all good, he looked in the first instance, desiring that grace and mercy might descend from him.]

2. From the Holy Spirit—

[It is not to be conceived that the Apostle should unite angels with Jehovah as a source of “grace and peace;” and address himself, as it were, in prayer to them. Nor is there, as far as we know, any more reason for his addressing “seven” of them, than seventy times seven. It must be remembered, that the whole book of Revelation is emblematical and figurative; and therefore the Apostle addresses the Holy Spirit in language suited to the whole character of the book which he was about to write. The number seven, amongst the Hebrews, was considered as expressing perfection: and when the Apostle uses the expression, “the seven Spirits,” he is not to be understood as speaking of seven different persons, but of the Holy Spirit, in all his diversified gifts and operations. And he represents him as “before the throne;” because, in the economy of redemption, both he and the Lord Jesus Christ act in subordination to the Father: the Father sends the Son; and both the Father and the Son send the Holy Spirit; who is therefore represented as “before the throne,” ready to execute any commission that shall be assigned him. He, as the great Agent to convey all that the Father has ordained, and all that the Lord Jesus Christ has purchased for sinful man; he, I say, together with the Father, is also supplicated in behalf of the seven Churches, to impart unto them the blessings which are here implored.]

3. From the Lord Jesus Christ—

[He, too, is here described by the various offices which he performs in behalf of our ruined race. As the great Prophet, he is “the faithful Witness,” who came on purpose “that he might bear witness to the truth,” and who has declared to men all that he was commissioned to reveal. He has made known the Father to us, and has plainly shewn how we are to obtain acceptance with him. “Verily it is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners:” nor is it less true, that, as he is “the way, the truth, and the life,” so “no man cometh unto the Father but by Him [Note: John 14:6.].”

As our great High-Priest, he has offered himself a sacrifice for our sins; and, having risen from the dead, he has entered into the holy of holies, there to present his blood before the throne, and there to make continual intercession for us. He rose, not as others, to die again, but to an immortal life: and in this respect he was “The first begotten from the dead,” and “The first-fruits of them that slept [Note: 1 Corinthians 15:20.].” In this, as in every thing else, “He has the pre-eminence [Note: Colossians 1:18.].”

As our King, also, is he here addressed. For he is exalted above all the principalities and powers both of heaven and earth: he is “the Prince of the kings of the earth,” even “King of kings, and Lord of lords.” And in all these offices he is empowered to act for us, and to communicate to us according to our necessities. He is indeed the living Head, “in whom is all fulness treasured up for us;” and “out of whose fulness we all receive grace for grace.”

I dwell not upon the particular description of the Sacred Three; it being my intention only to shew that we are authorized to look to our Triune God, who is ever ready to hear our supplications, whether for ourselves or for each other, and to grant unto us all that our necessities require. “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, were we baptized;” and for “the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Ghost,” we are taught to pray: and if the passage before us be not so obvious in its import at the first sight, I think that, when viewed aright, it teaches us very strongly the same instructive lesson.]

I proceed, therefore, to consider the words before us,

II. As an instructive admonition—

We see in it,

1. What should be the supreme object of our desire—

[“Grace and peace,” as we have already observed, include all that a sinner needs, or that a saint can desire. In truth, we do need them, no less for our present comfort than for our eternal welfare. That we have all greatly offended God by our innumerable transgressions, can admit of no doubt; and unless his “grace” and favour be extended to us, we must perish. Nor can we turn to him of ourselves: we must receive from him that “grace” and strength, which alone can qualify us for that arduous task. But, till this is effected, we can have no peace, either with God or in our own conscience. God has said, that “there is no peace to the wicked: and I will venture to ask, of all who are here present, whether they know any thing of solid peace in their minds, except as they have sought it in earnest prayer, through the mediation and intercession of the Lord Jesus Christ? Insensibility, indeed, is common enough: but even that can only be maintained in a neglect of all serious thoughts of the eternal world. At the prospect of death and judgment the stoutest stand appalled, unless they have come to God through Christ, and obtained from him that peace which Christ alone can give.

Now then, I say, These are the blessings which we should desire infinitely beyond all earthly good. The godly should affect them as the only means of true happiness. They were necessary for all the seven Churches of Asia, and for the most advanced Christian amongst them. And are they not necessary for the ungodly? They may possibly amuse themselves during this short life, though destitute of grace and peace: but what will they do in a dying hour, and when they shall be summoned to the bar of judgment? How “will they call on the rocks to fall upon them, and the hills to cover them from the wrath of the Lamb,” whom they have so long neglected and despised! I would that the lovers of this present world would bethink themselves what their present vanities will avail them in that awful day; and that now, whilst an opportunity is afforded them, they would flee from the wrath to come, and lay hold on eternal life.]

2. Whence alone they are to be obtained—

[Persons have some general idea of the mercy of God, without ever considering in what way that mercy shall be exercised. But, indeed, my brethren, God must be approached in the way that he himself has pointed out. Did any offender, under the law, come to God without a sacrifice? So neither can ye, without that great Sacrifice which has been offered for the sins of the whole world. Nor did any come but through the mediation of the priest, who was appointed to present his sacrifice to God: so neither can ye, but through the mediation and intercession of the Lord Jesus. Were lustrations and sprinklings appointed by the law? So must ye also have the Holy Spirit poured out upon you, to sanctify you throughout. Do not imagine that these are mere notions, which may be disregarded, without any loss to your souls. Indeed it is not so. To what purpose has God revealed these truths, if they are not to be received and acted upon by us? Know ye, then, that if ye would have “grace and peace” vouchsafed unto your souls, you must come to God through Christ, and by his Spirit; (for there is no other way of “access to him;”) and then will each person of the ever-blessed Trinity impart unto you these blessings, in the way that God has ordained, and in the measure that he shall see fit.]

Two reflections, almost of necessity, obtrude themselves upon us, as arising from this subject—

1. How ignorant are the generality of the Christian world!

[It is surprising how little the peculiar doctrines of our holy religion are considered. The generality of Christians have scarcely any other views of God than such as a Mahometan entertains. Many actually discard all idea of a Trinity of Persons in the Godhead. But, where the doctrine of the Trinity is professedly received, it is, for the most part, regarded as a merely speculative and unimportant tenet. But, indeed, it is a practical and most important doctrine: practical, because the whole life of faith is affected by it; and important, because it is only by maintaining a due regard to it, in our approaches to God, that we can obtain from God any spiritual benefit. And here I will ask of those who have not realized these truths in their minds, What have been your prayers? and, What blessings have they brought down into your souls? True indeed it is, that a poor contrite sinner shall be heard, even though he may not yet have been fully instructed in this mystery: but let those answer, who, whilst they have professed to acknowledge this great mystery, have been regardless of it in their approaches to God: What have been your prayers? Have they not been cold, formal, and altogether destitute of any divine energy? And what have you gained by them? Are you not at this hour as far from God as ever, and as destitute of grace and peace as ever? Look at the great mass of Christians, even of those who would be thought religious: How many are there who, in the course of ten or twenty years, have never advanced a single step in vital godliness! I will not say, indeed, that this is owing to their neglect of this particular doctrine; because, doubtless, there are many other causes to which it may be traced, and the same want of proficiency may be found amongst some of its warmest advocates: but this I will say, that, amongst those who disregard this mystery, the want of proficiency and of spirituality is universal: and it is no wonder that they never make any advance in the divine life; because, if they go not to God in the way in which alone he will be found, they can never hope to receive from him the blessings which they stand in need of. On the other hand, only contemplate the Deity as he is here set forth: think of each Person in the ever-blessed Trinity sustaining distinct offices for you; and possessing each, as it were, a treasure of blessings to pour out on you, the very instant you go to God in his appointed way: what a pledge does this give you of an attention to your supplications, and of success in your endeavours! To all I say, Study with all diligence the character of Jehovah; and improve, for your benefit, the offices which, in your behalf, he is ready to discharge.]

2. How low and grovelling is the taste of the Christian world!

[What do men affect, either for themselves or for those connected with them? They desire nothing beyond this present world. Whatever will advance the welfare of the body, they are anxious to obtain; but for spiritual blessings they have no wish. Indeed, the very idea of “grace and peace,” as derived from the different Persons of the Godhead, and as enjoyed in a man’s own soul, they regard, for the most part, as no better than a fanatical conceit. But such was not David’s sentiment. When the inquiry occurred to him, “Who will shew us any good?” his answer was, “Lord, lift thou up the light of thy countenance upon us.” Yes, to that he looked for happiness, more than to the greatest possible increase of corn or wine or oil. Worldly prosperity was to him no better than dross or dung, in comparison of the welfare of his soul. O! let it be so with you, my brethren. Let the continual language of your soul be, “Whom have I in heaven but thee, O Lord? and there is none upon earth that I desire in comparison of thee.” Remember, I pray you, what is the distinctive character of a true Christian: it is not by any peculiar notions that he is to be known; no, nor by any outward acts. No: it is by his predominant taste: he desires, above all things, an increase of grace and peace: in comparison of these, all other things are but as the small dust upon the balance. O brethren! raise your minds to these things: “set your affections on them, and not on things on the earth.” Then shall these blessings abound in your souls, and earth become to you the very porch of heaven.]


Verse 5-6

DISCOURSE: 2476

THE GROUNDS OF PRAISE TO CHRIST

Revelation 1:5-6. Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.

WHILE men continue in a natural and unrenewed state, they feel very little gratitude for the mercies of Providence, and are altogether unmindful of the blessings of redemption. But when the grace of God has wrought effectually on their hearts, they begin to view his hand in all the comforts they enjoy, and to bless him more especially for the wonders of redeeming love. Whenever they are in a frame of mind at all suited to their character, they are ready to burst forth, like the beloved disciple, into expressions of rapture and adoration.

In the words before us we are led to consider,

I. The grounds of our love to Christ—

Doubtless he is worthy of our love for his own sake, seeing that “he is fairer than ten thousand, and altogether lovely [Note: Song of Solomon 5:10; Song of Solomon 5:16.]:” but he is also to be loved on account of what he has done for us:

“He has loved us”—

[This he has done from all eternity: he has done it, notwithstanding there was nothing lovely in us, neither had we any love for him; yea, notwithstanding there was every thing in us that was hateful, and we were full of enmity against him [Note: Titus 3:3. Romans 8:7.]. Though he never manifested any love to the angels who fell, yet has he loved us: and love has been the one principle that actuated him in all that he has done for us [Note: Ephesians 5:2; Ephesians 5:25. Galatians 2:20.].]

“He has washed us from our sins in his own blood”—

[Rivers of tears were insufficient to wash away one sin: nor was there any fountain in the whole creation that could cleanse a guilty soul. He therefore, rather than we should perish, provided one for us; and suffered his own sacred body to be broken up, in order that we might be washed in his precious blood. This is sufficient, as thousands have experienced, to purge from sins of deepest die; and every believer, however aggravated his past iniquities may have been, may glory, in that he has been made whiter than wool or snow [Note: Isaiah 1:18.].

O what love was this! If he had washed us in the blood of slain beasts, or sent an angel to die for us, it were a wonderful act of mercy: but to wash us in his own blood! O the heights and depths of this incomprehensible love!]

“He has made us kings and priests unto God and his Father”—

[Astonishing is the exultation which the believer now enjoys: even Lazarus was greater than the highest monarchs upon earth, and exercised a government to which their power could not extend. The Christian’s spiritual enemies are under his controul: his lusts are subjected to his dominion [Note: Galatians 5:24.]; and Satan himself flees from him with trepidation, as from a victorious prince [Note: James 4:7].

With this dignity, he bears also that of priesthood. Time was, when God himself would avenge the insult, if even a king had dared to invade the office of the priesthood [Note: 2 Chronicles 26:16-21.]: but now all Christ’s ransomed people are admitted to it [Note: 1 Peter 2:9.]; they are anointed to it with an holy unction; they have access at all times within the vail; and they offer unto God continually the sacrifices of prayer and praise.]

If, on considering these things, we feel love and gratitude rising in our hearts, let us learn from the Apostle,

II. The manner in which we should express it—

We should not rest in the gift, but raise up our minds unto the Donor—

1. We should contemplate him in our minds—

[The abrupt manner in which the Apostle introduces this song of praise, and the energetic way in which he directs our eyes to Christ [Note: “To him, to him.”], sufficiently shew, that his mind was filled with his subject; and that he had a lively sense, not only of the benefits conferred on him, but also of the excellency of that Saviour, from whom they were derived. Now thus it should be with us: “Our hearts should muse, till the fire kindles, and we speak with our tongue.” And is there any other subject in the world so interesting, so noble, so profound? Is there any other being to whom we are so indebted, or in the contemplation of whose glory we can rest with such delight? Let us then keep our eyes fixed on him, till we exclaim with the prophet, “How great is his goodness! how great is his beauty [Note: Zechariah 9:17.]!”]

2. We should adore him with our lips—

[Higher strains of adoration cannot be paid to God the Father, than are here offered to Jesus Christ [Note: Compare 1 Timothy 6:15-16 and 1 Peter 5:11.]. We therefore may worship him as the supreme God, even as all the hosts of saints and angels are doing around his throne [Note: Revelation 5:12-13.]. He has all those perfections that deserve glory, and all that power that is entitled to dominion. To him therefore Jet glory and dominion be ascribed. Let us never be afraid of honouring him too much; for we never more truly exalt the Father than when we honour the Son as the Father [Note: John 5:23.].]

3. We should glorify him by our lives—

[When the Apostle ascribed glory and dominion to Christ, he did not mean to except himself from the number of those who should honour his perfections, and submit to his government: but rather by the addition of “Amen,” he purposely expressed his acquiescence in that which he required from others. Thus, without claiming any exemption for ourselves, we should cordially devote to him the souls which he has purchased with his blood: we should yield to his authority in all that he commands; and seek his glory in all that we perform.]

Address—

1. To those who are unmindful of what Christ has done for them—

[It scarcely seems credible that such persons should be found in a Christian land: but, alas! they abound in every place. But let them blush for their ingratitude. Let them know too, that the very blood which was shed to cleanse them from their sins, will aggravate, instead of removing, their eternal condemnation.]

2. To those who are doubting whether they be interested in what Christ has done—

[We are not to ascertain our interest in Christ first, and then to go to him for salvation; but first to go to him for salvation, and then, from the exercises and fruits of our faith, to conclude that we do indeed belong to him. If the time that is lost in doubting and questioning, were improved in fervent applications to him for mercy, we should soon be enabled to say, “He has loved me, and given himself for me [Note: Galatians 2:20.].” Instead of asking, Am I washed in his blood? go, and wash in it, and be clean.]

3. To those who are glorying in Christ as their Saviour—

[What a heaven upon earth do you enjoy! for, what is the state, what is the employment, of those above? They are kings seated on their thrones: they are priests offering their sacrifices before the mercy-seat: they are singing, in one universal chorus, Salvation to God and to the Lamb. Such is your state, such is your employment, at this very hour. It is not said, that you shall be washed, or shall be made kings and priests unto God, but that you already possess these inestimable privileges. Go on then, ever mindful of these mercies, and of him who procured them for you by his blood: and give him glory and dominion for ever and ever, as well in the rectitude of your lives, as in the devotion of your hearts.]


Verse 7

DISCOURSE: 2477

CHRIST COMING TO JUDGMENT

Revelation 1:7. 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.

THE great subject of the book of Revelation seems to be, to predict the trials and deliverances of God’s Church to the end of time. To a superficial observer, it would appear strange that God should permit his enemies to triumph for so long a period, and in so awful a degree. But there is a time coming when all these inequalities in the Divine government will be rectified, and a righteous retribution be given to those who suffered, and to those also who inflicted the sufferings upon them. To this period our attention is directed in the very commencement of this prophecy; that persecutors may know what tribulation awaits them, and the persecuted may be comforted in the prospect of their eternal rest.

Let us then contemplate,

I. The future judgment of our Lord—

Behold, he is surely coming to judge the world—

[Our blessed Lord is “ordained of the Father to be the Judge both of quick and dead” — — — The time for his future advent, though not known either to men or angels, is fixed in the counsels of the Father: and at the appointed instant it shall arrive. The world will be sleeping in security and carelessness, as much as ever they were in the days of Noah: but it will not on that account be delayed: “it will come as a thief in the night, and as travail upon a woman with child” — — — With inconceivable glory will the Lord Jesus then appear, surrounded with myriads of the heavenly host, and “coming in the clouds of heaven” — — — His judgment-seat will be erected, the books wherein all the actions, words, and thoughts of men are recorded, will be opened, and all the universe be summoned to give an account of themselves to him — — —]

Then “shall every eye see him”—

[All who have ever lived, from the very commencement to the end of time, shall be raised from the dead, each in his own proper body. The sea as well as the land will give up the dead that are in it, and not an individual, however great or however obscure, be wanting — — — All will surround his throne, and behold him in full view: not as unconcerned spectators, but as criminals, whose cause he is about to try, and whose state he will fix in happiness or misery for ever and ever — — —]

Thus certain, and thus awful, will be “our gathering unto Jesus at the last day.” But let us more distinctly consider,

II. Its aspect on the different classes of mankind—

The text more especially refers to the ungodly: but, as all will be equally interested in that event, we shall extend our views to the world at large; and consider the aspect of our Lord’s advent,

1. On the ungodly—

[“Those who pierced our Lord” in the days of his flesh, thought not that they should ever behold his face again: but every one of them shall be summoned to his presence in that day. Pilate with the chief priests, and Herod with his men of war, and all the populace who demanded his crucifixion, and the soldiers who mocked him in gorgeous apparel, and drove the crown of thorns into his temples, and those who ploughed long furrows on his back by scourging, and those who nailed him to the cross, and the soldier that pierced his sacred body after he was dead, and all who approved of those proceedings, shall in that day see him yet once more, with all the marks of their cruelty yet upon him: yes, they shall all recognize in his glorious person the Man whom once they treated with such indignity. But how widely changed the condition both of themselves and him! Themselves, no longer in a capacity to oppress; and him, no longer capable of suffering from oppression: themselves, as malefactors and murderers; and him, as the Judge about to take cognizance of their offences: themselves, as children of the devil; and him, as “the Lord of glory!”O, with what horror will they be struck! with what dread will they be overwhelmed!

But are there not many who “pierce the Lord” at this time also, and “crucify him afresh,” by continuing in their sins? Yes verily, there are many amongst us not a whit less criminal than his very murderers; I should rather say, far more criminal; inasmuch as they who reject him now, sin against incomparably greater light than was enjoyed by any previous to his crucifixion. It is this that makes the sin against the Holy Ghost so heinous, in comparison of the sins committed against the Son of man. The Holy Ghost has borne such testimony to the truth, as nothing but wilful infidelity can resist. And they who at this day hear the Gospel preached to them, and make no account of all the wonders of love and mercy that are set before them, have a measure of guilt which will make their last state worse than that of Sodom and Gomorrha. Think then, ye, who, having heard the truth, reject it, and, more especially, ye, who, having embraced the truth, dishonour it, or depart from it, think, I say, what will be your views and feelings, when you shall behold that Saviour face to face! Will ye not be ready to call upon the rocks and mountains to fall upon you, and to cover you from his wrath? Yes, indeed will ye; and if even the whole earth will wail because of him, much more will ye, who have received all his grace in vain.

The Apostle adds, “Even so; Amen:” by which I understand him, not merely as confirming the truths which he has before asserted, but as acquiescing in them as every way worthy of their Divine Author. It is right that those who once pierced him when on earth should wail because of him; and it is right that they also who reject him now should feel the full weight of his displeasure. St. Paul himself puts that matter beyond all doubt, when he says, “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maran-atha.”]

2. On the godly—

[Blessed be God, though all the unregenerate shall wail, there are some to whom the Saviour’s advent will be a ground of joy! We are told, that the saints “wait for his appearing,” and “love it,” and “look forward and haste unto it,” and in the spirit of their minds are saying, “Come, Lord Jesus, come quickly.” However terrible his advent will be to others, it will not be so to them; for the prospect of being called to “meet the Lord in the air,” is that which St. Paul teaches us to regard as a source of the richest consolation, under whatever trials or losses we may be called to sustain. “Comfort ye one another,” says he, “with these words.”

But here you will naturally ask, Whence arises this difference between the two? Why do the one behold him with such anguish of heart, and the others with such unutterable joy? I answer, The godly have beheld him here, and “mourned before him as for an only Son [Note: Zechariah 12:10.].” They have seen how grievously they have themselves pierced him by their iniquities; and they have bewailed their guilt and folly with the deepest contrition. They have even looked to his wounds as endured for their transgressions; and have sought for “healing to their souls by the stripes inflicted on him:” and having done this by faith, they are accepted before God, and shall “be presented before him faultless with exceeding joy.”

Seek ye then, beloved, “the Spirit of grace and of supplications,” whom God has promised to pour out upon you. Then shall you have such views of the Saviour as shall bring peace to your souls, and such views as will give you confidence before him at his future coming.]


Verse 10

DISCOURSE: 2478

BEING IN THE SPIRIT

Revelation 1:10. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day.

WE are told by our blessed Lord, “Not to fear those who can only kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.” The truth is, that whilst men are wreaking their vengeance upon the body, they cannot obstruct God’s communications to the soul, or destroy the happiness of those whom they desire to torment. Paul and Silas have borne testimony to this: for, with their feet fastened in the stocks, and their backs torn with scourges, they “sang praises to God aloud at midnight.” St. John, too, when he was “banished to the Isle of Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ:” and was there “a companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ,” participating, in his advanced age, the afflictions with which all the seven Churches of Asia had been visited; he, I say, received more abundant manifestations of God’s love to his soul, and was honoured there with revelations more full and complete, than were ever vouchsafed to any other child of man. And we also, if suffering for the sake of Jesus Christ, may expect that, “as our afflictions abound, so also shall our consolations abound by Christ [Note: 2 Corinthians 1:5.].”

In confirmation of this, I will shew,

I. How far this experience of St. John may be realized in us—

When it is said, that “He was in the Spirit” on the Lord’s day, I conceive that we are to understand, he was in a trance or ecstacy, somewhat similar to that of the Apostle Paul, who was “caught up into the third heavens, and knew not whether he was in the body, or out of the body [Note: 2 Corinthians 12:2-4. with Revelation 4:2.].” Yet, as it was the Lord’s day, a day kept sacred by the Christian Church, in commemoration of the resurrection of our blessed Lord [Note: On the first day of the week our Lord appeared to his Disciples: on that day, in the following week, he appeared to them again, John 20:19; John 20:26. From that time the Church assembled on that day for holy exercises, Acts 20:7; and it was ever afterwards kept holy, 1 Corinthians 16:2.], we may be sure that he was in a frame of mind becoming the Sabbath of the Lord. Now, I readily acknowledge, that, as far as relates to any thing miraculous, Christians of the present day have no warrant to expect any communications similar to those which were vouchsafed to John: but of spiritual blessings it is the privilege of every Christian to participate; and on the Sabbath-day he ought to experience a more abundant effusion of them on his soul.

1. The Lord’s day is set apart for that end—

[It is a day on which all worldly business should be suspended, and the soul be wholly given up to divine and spiritual employments. The ceremonial part of the Sabbath may be considered as abrogated, together with the rest of the Mosaic ritual: but the moral observance of it is as much in force as ever. Even in Paradise that was enjoined, and therefore we are assured it is of perpetual obligation: and the kind of observance which it demands, is well described by the prophet: “Thou shalt turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and shalt call the Sabbath a delight; the holy of the Lord, honourable; and shalt honour him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words [Note: Isaiah 58:13.].” Here we see how the Sabbath should be sanctified: every thing that is earthly and carnal should be banished from our minds; and our whole conversation and employment should have a direct reference to God, and to the concerns either of our own souls, or of the Redeemer’s kingdom in the world.]

2. Our frame of mind should be suited to it—

[If we regard the Lord’s day as we ought, “then,” as the prophet says, “shall we delight ourselves in the Lord; and he will cause us to ride upon the high places of the earth, and will feed us with the heritage of Jacob our father [Note: Isaiah 58:14.].” Six days God has given us for earthly labour: the seventh should be wholly his; our thoughts and desires going out after him; our souls rising to him in sweet meditation, and in holy intercourse; our praises ascending from the altar of our hearts, and all our sacrifices doubled. In a word, we should then “dwell in God, and have God dwelling in us;” so near should be our access to him, so intimate our communion with him, so entirely our souls surrendered up to him. On every day we should be “a people near unto God;” but on the Sabbath more especially we should be able to say, “Truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ [Note: 1 John 1:3.].” In this sense we should “be in the Spirit on the Lord’s day.” To “be filled with the Spirit,” is as much our privilege, as it was of the Apostles [Note: Ephesians 5:18.]. To “pray in the Holy Ghost,” to “walk in the Spirit,” and “live in the Spirit,” are not peculiar to any order of men, or any age of the Church: they are duties enjoined on all [Note: Jude, ver. 20. Galatians 5:25.]: and if we serve our God with the fidelity that becomes us, these things will characterize our whole lives, whilst they will preeminently appear on the Sabbath-day.]

That we may not think lightly of this privilege, let me proceed to state,

II. The special call we have to seek it—

To illustrate this, I would observe,

1. Our necessities require it—

[By our intercourse with the world, we are, to a certain degree, clogged and fettered, so that we cannot run our race with the steadiness that we could wish. But, on the Sabbathday, all “these weights are laid aside,” and our garments being girt about us, we make our way with augmented rapidity [Note: Hebrews 12:1.]. If I may be permitted to use so familiar an expression, we are going down, like a clock, throughout the week; and need to be wound up on the Sabbath-day, for further exertions in the service of our God. And who has ever truly sanctified his Sabbaths, without being able to attest, that they have been made effectual for this blessed end? Like Elijah, we have a long journey before us; and we eat richly of the provision which God has made for us. But God sets a second feast before us: and we rise and eat again; and are thus strengthened for exertions, which would have far surpassed our natural strength [Note: 1 Kings 19:5-8.]. Yes, a second ordinance has been the means of completing that, which the first had only begun. Indeed, God often so peculiarly adapts the provisions of his house to our peculiar necessities, that it seems as if the minister had been informed of our particular case, and had been addressing himself to us alone. And here I may put it to the conscience of every individual amongst us, and ask him, Whether he has not actually found that he has suffered loss in his soul, when he has neglected to improve a Sabbath, and spent it in vain pursuits? Nay, I may further ask, Whether a very great portion of the enormities committed, amongst those who call themselves Christians, may not, in a great measure, be traced to a neglect of the Sabbath-day? I may justly say then, that “the Sabbath was made for man [Note: Mark 2:27.],” even for the supplying of our spiritual necessities; and that those necessities loudly call upon us to sanctify that day unto the Lord.]

2. The ordinances are unprofitable to us without it—

[Whence is it that so many attend upon divine ordinances from year to year, and never derive any saving benefit from them? It is because they do not ever seek to be in the Spirit on the Lord’s-day. When they wake in the morning, they have no distinct consciousness, that it is a day to be consecrated wholly to the Lord. When they rise, they do not earnestly implore help from God, to enable them to improve their time aright, and to sanctify to them the ordinances of his grace. When they come up to the house of God, they do not endeavour to get their minds duly impressed with a sense of the importance of the work in which they are engaged. When hearing the blessed word of God, they do not receive it as the word of God himself to their souls: nor, when his seed has been sown in their hearts, do they go and harrow it in by prayer. They attend on the duties of the Sabbath as a form; and never call themselves to an account at the close of the day, how they have improved it, or what blessing they have obtained, or whether they are one jot nearer to heaven. Is it to be wondered at that these persons never make any advance in religion? What kind of a crop would the husbandman have, if he were equally careless about his agricultural pursuits? Here, then, is the true reason why the most faithful ministers labour, as it respects the greater part of their hearers, in vain. A person who has attained to the age of forty-two has had no less than six entire years of Sabbaths. What might not such an one have attained, if he had improved them for the end for which they were given? what knowledge of divine truth, what enjoyment of the Divine presence, and what meetness for the heavenly inheritance? Yet are there many who have made no more advance in any of these things, than if no such opportunities had ever been afforded them. I charge you, brethren, that, whatever guilt you may have contracted by your abuse of past Sabbaths, you begin this day to improve them for your eternal good, that they may not rise up in judgment against you, to your everlasting confusion.]

3. The Sabbath thus improved, will be a foretaste of the eternal Sabbath to our souls—

[There is a rest remaining for the people of God. And, O! what a rest will that be!—an entire rest of the soul in God! a total absence of every disquieting thought! a complete enjoyment of the Divine presence, and a perfect exercise of all our faculties in His service! In proportion as we spend the Lord’s day aright, this is our frame in this life: and our Sabbaths on earth are a preparation for, and a prelude to, our eternal rest. Say, brethren, is it not desirable to enjoy, thus, what I may call a heaven upon earth? Do not grudge the labour or the self-denial that are necessary for the attainment of this state. Richly will the fruit repay the culture, and the recompence reward the toil experienced in the pursuit of it. See on a dying bed those who have employed their Sabbaths according to the will of God: will you find no difference between them and the careless votaries of pleasure? And, follow the two to the bar of judgment; and will you find no great distinction between them there? I say then, to every one amongst you, Fulfil your duties to the world, with zeal and diligence, on the six days that are allotted you, though not without a careful waiting upon God; for you may be “not slothful in business, and yet fervent in spirit, serving the Lord:” but, on the Sabbath, live exclusively for God, and seek to be wholly “in the Spirit on the Lord’s-day.”]

And now suffer, I pray you, a word of exhortation—

[Consider, brethren, how many Sabbaths you have lost; and not one of them can ever be recalled. Consider, too, how few may yet remain to you. It is possible that, to some one here present, this very Sabbath may be the last. O! what bitter regret will arise in your minds, if you are called into eternity before the interests of your immortal souls have been secured! Do not delay this necessary work: do not arm death with terrors so appalling, as those must be which you will have to encounter in a dying hour, on a retrospect of your past advantages, and in the prospect of your future doom. Reflect, rather, how glorious your prospects will be on the borders of eternity, if now you give yourselves up wholly to your God; and how “abundant an entrance will then be ministered unto you into the everlasting kingdom of your Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” I would that you would all set that day before you; and then I should have but little occasion to press upon you a due improvement of the Lord’s day. But, I readily acknowledge, you cannot do this of yourselves. Yet you are not thereby justified: for the Spirit of God. should assuredly be poured out upon you, if you would seek his influences; and through his mighty agency you should be raised to holy contemplations and to heavenly delights. May a Pentecostal effusion of that blessed Spirit be now experienced amongst you, and your present delight in God be a pledge and foretaste of your eternal blessedness!]


Verses 12-17

DISCOURSE: 2479

ST. JOHN’S VISION

Revelation 1:12-17. And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; 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. His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; and his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters. And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp two-edged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength. And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead.

IN order to obtain the Divine blessing, it is necessary that we should wait upon God in all the ordinances of his appointment. Yet God has not so restricted his favours, but that we may expect the communication of them to our souls wherever we be, provided our neglect of his instituted means proceed from imperious necessity, and not from an indifference to his commands. St. John was banished to the Isle of Patmos, where he had no opportunity of assembling with the Church of Christ, and of sanctifying the Sabbath in the way to which he had been accustomed. But he sought the Lord in secret, and “was in the Spirit,” that is, in a holy heavenly frame, “on the Lord’s day:” and what was wanting to him in respect of external advantages, was abundantly compensated by an extraordinary vision of his Lord and Saviour.

We will,

I. Illustrate this vision—

In doing this, it will be proper to notice,

1. The person who appeared to him—

[This, though said to be “like unto the Son of man,” was not a created angel, but the Son of man himself, even that Jesus, “who had been dead, but was living again, and was alive for evermore [Note: ver. 18.].” This glorious person appeared to John in a manner suited to the characters and circumstances of the different Churches; and in the epistles, written to them, reference is continually made to this description of him. He is here described in his situation, habit, appearance, voice, and attitude.

1. In his situation.—There was in the temple a golden candlestick with seven lamps, to which it was the priest’s office to attend [Note: Exodus 25:31-32.]. This candlestick, which on account of the number of the lamps is considered as seven, represented the seven Churches of Proconsular Asia: and “the Son of man standing in the midst of them,” denoted, that he inspected the state of Churches and individuals, to observe how their light shone, to replenish them occasionally with fresh supplies of his Spirit, and, by seasonable trials in a way of providence or of grace, to trim them, as it were, whensoever their dimness called for his special interposition.

2. In his habit.—The garments which he wore were such as were appointed for the high-priest [Note: Exodus 28:4.]: and by this clothing he intimated, that, though he was in glory, he still executed the priestly office, presenting his blood before the mercy-seat, and “ever living to make intercession for his people.” He would have it known to the Church that he is “a Priest upon his throne [Note: Zechariah 6:13.].”

3. In his appearance.—This was august beyond all expression or conception. His hoary “head,” denoting both his majesty and wisdom, marked him out as “the Ancient of days [Note: Daniel 7:9.].” His fiery “eyes” evinced, that he searched the heart and tried the reins, and penetrated the inmost recesses of the soul. His “feet” of fine and burning brass intimated, that, as all his steps were holy, so was his procedure firm and irresistible. His “countenance,” shining as the meridian sun, displayed his excellency and glory, and his worthiness of universal love.

4. In his voice.—This, which was terrible, like the roaring of the tempestuous ocean, shewed, that, however his words had formerly been disregarded, it became all to attend to them with the deepest humility.

5. In his attitude.—He “held in his hand seven stars,” (which represented the ministers of the seven Churches [Note: ver. 20.],) and thereby intimated, that all ministers were under his direction and controul, and that they ought to shine for the good of men without regarding their menaces or assaults, since under his protection they could not but be safe. At the same time, emitting “from his mouth a sharp two-edged sword,” he declared his power and determination to subdue his enemies, and either to subject them to himself as vessels of mercy, or to cut them asunder as monuments of his indignation [Note: Revelation 2:16.].]

2. The effect of the vision—

[On almost all occasions the appearance even of an angel has produced much fear and terror in the minds of those to whom he came: no wonder therefore that such an effect should flow from the appearance of God himself. Manoah concluded that he must die, because he had seen God face to face [Note: Judges 13:22.]. Ezekiel [Note: Ezekiel 1:28.], Daniel [Note: Daniel 10:8-9.], and Paul [Note: Acts 9:4.] fell down before him, unable to sustain the brightness of his glory. Once indeed man could converse with his Maker face to face: but, since the introduction of sin into the world, he has been intimidated by a sense of guilt, and incapacitated for so high an honour; insomuch that the most beloved of all Christ’s Disciples was overwhelmed at the sight of him, and “fell at his feet as dead.”]

Not to insist any longer on the circumstances of the vision, we shall,

II. Deduce from it some pertinent observations—

1. They who suffer much for their Lord may expect peculiar manifestations of his power and love—

[John was now in banishment: yet, though suffering much by reason of hardships and privations, he was infinitely happier than Domitian on his throne. St. Paul also found, that, “as his afflictions abounded, so also did his consolations.” Thus it shall be with all who suffer for righteousness’ sake. What then have they to fear? Need they regard the reproaches of men, when they are so highly honoured by their God? Need they be concerned about losses, when they are enriched with such invaluable communications? Need they fear stripes, or imprisonment, when their trials may lead to such manifestations as these? — — —]

2. We have reason to be thankful that our Lord reveals himself to us now through the medium of men, and of the written word—

[We see from the example before us how much we should be disconcerted by visions; and how unfit they would be, as stated means, of edifying the Church. But when God speaks to us by the instrumentality of men, we can attend with ease, and weigh with care whatever is brought to our ears. It is true, indeed, that many take occasion from this circumstance to despise the word, when otherwise they would tremble at it: but, on the other hand, myriads are “drawn to God by the cords of a man,” who otherwise would only have brought upon themselves, like Pharaoh, an aggravated condemnation. Let us then improve this privilege; and, however weak God’s instruments may be, let us attend to them with reverence, that his agency may be rendered visible in our experience [Note: 2 Corinthians 4:7.] — — —]

3. The brighter discoveries we have of Christ, the more shall we be humbled in the dust before him—

[The appearances of God to man have at all times tended to the humbling of their souls. Abraham and Moses no sooner caught a sight of him, than they hid their faces, from a consciousness of their own extreme unworthiness: and Job, though one of the most perfect of men, confessed himself “vile,” and “abhorred himself in dust and ashes [Note: Job 42:5-6.].” Even the seraphim before the throne make use of their wings to veil their faces and their feet, and confess thereby that they are unworthy either to serve or to behold their God [Note: Isaiah 6:2.]. And would not a view of the Lord in his glory make us also to cry out, “Woe is me, I am unclean [Note: Isaiah 6:5.]!” Yes: a discovery of created things may puff us up: but a sight of God himself cannot but abase us in the dust — — —]

4. There is a day coming when the most stouthearted sinner will tremble before him—

[If John, who had lain in the bosom of his Lord, and had seen him transfigured on the holy mount, and was in himself so eminently holy, so highly beloved; if he fell at the Redeemer’s feet as dead, what will the ungodly do in the day of judgment? If, when God spake from Mount Sinai, the Israelites were so terrified as to desire that he would speak to them no more in such a way; and “Moses himself exceedingly quaked and feared;” how shall not the wicked tremble in that day, when Jesus shall appear in all his glory to judge the world? Let them laugh now if they will: but they will soon “call upon the rocks to fall upon them, and the hills to cover them from the wrath of the Lamb.” O that to-day, while it is called to-day, they would hear his voice, and no more harden their hearts against him!]


Verse 17-18

DISCOURSE: 2480

CHRIST’S POWER OVER THE INVISIBLE WORLD

Revelation 1:17-18. Fear not; I am the first and the last: 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.

MAN, while he continued in a state of innocence, communed freely with his Maker face to face: but from the time that sin entered into the world, he has dreaded the presence of the Most High, and fled from it with fear and trembling. Whenever God has been pleased to appear to any of his people, the sight has uniformly filled them with terror; and, in some instances, almost deprived them even of life. This was the effect produced by a vision vouchsafed to John. Our blessed Lord, in a habit somewhat resembling that of the high-priest, revealed himself to his beloved Disciple: and so august was his appearance, that John, unable to endure the sight, fell at his feet as dead. But our Lord, in condescension to his weakness, dispelled his fears by making known to him the perfections of his nature, and the offices which in his mediatorial capacity he sustained.

In discoursing on his words we shall consider,

I. Our Lord’s record concerning himself—

A more glorious description of Jesus is not to be found in all the sacred writings: he declares himself to be,

1. The eternal God—

[The terms, “the first and the last,” are intended to express eternity [Note: ver. 8, 11and Revelation 22:13.]: and, in this view, it is an incommunicable attribute of Jehovah. It is often used to describe God in places where he contrasts himself with the gods of the heathen [Note: Isaiah 44:6.]: and it always characterizes him as infinitely superior to all creatures. But Jesus here arrogates it to himself. Eternity had been ascribed to him both by Prophets and Apostles [Note: Proverbs 8:22-30. Micah 5:2. John 1:1. Hebrews 13:8.]: but he here claims it himself as his own prerogative; for, notwithstanding he was in the form of a servant, he thought it not robbery to be equal with God [Note: Philippians 2:6.]. Hence then it is evident that Jesus is one with the Father, “in glory equal, in majesty co-eternal,” God over all, blessed for evermore [Note: Romans 9:5.].]

2. The living Saviour—

[He, whose brightness now exceeded that of the meridian sun, once hung upon the cross. But, says he, “though [Note: καὶ.] I was dead, yet I am the living One [Note: ζῶν.], possessed of life in myself [Note: John 5:26.], and the source of life to others; and immutably living, to carry on the work which I began on earth.” “Behold” this with wonder, yet with a full assurance of its truth; for I, the “Amen,” “the true and faithful Witness, declare it unto thee.” Now as the former assertion shews us what he was in his divine nature, this informs us what he is in his mediatorial office. “He died for our offences, and rose again for our justification;” and is, not only our advocate with the Father [Note: Romans 8:34.], but the head of vital influence to all that believe [Note: Ephesians 1:22-23.].]

The universal Sovereign—

[By “hell” we are to understand, not the habitation of the damned only, but the whole invisible world: and “death” is the door of introduction to it. Now to “have the keys” of these, is to have the power over them, together with the entire appointment of men’s states in reference to them [Note: Isaiah 22:22.]. And this power does Jesus exercise. Whomsoever he will, and in whatever time or manner he sees fit, he consigns to death, and fixes instantly in heaven or hell: “He openeth and no man shutteth; he shutteth, and no man openeth [Note: Revelation 3:7.].” Hence it appears that every event in this world also must be under his controul; and consequently, that he is the universal Sovereign.]

From the encouraging address which accompanied this record, we are led to consider,

II. Its tendency to comfort and support the soul—

When a similar vision was vouchsafed to Daniel, its effects, which were also similar, were counteracted in the same manner [Note: Daniel 10:5-12.]. Now this record of our Lord was well calculated to dissipate the fears of John; and may well also be a comfort to us,

1. Under apprehensions of temporal calamities—

[Impending dangers and distresses will often excite terror, and overwhelm the soul with anxious dread. But what ground of fear can he have, who has the eternal God for his refuge? What injury can arise to him, whose soul is in the Redeemer’s hands, and for whose benefit all things are ordered both in heaven and earth? “Not a hair of his head can perish” but by special commission from his best Friend. “Thousands may fall beside him, and ten thousand at his right hand;” but “no weapon that is formed against him can prosper.” If his eyes were opened to behold his real situation, he might see himself encompassed with horses of fire, and chariots of fire [Note: 2 Kings 6:17.]: and, standing as in an impregnable fortress, he might defy the assaults of men or devils. If his God and Saviour be for him, none can be against him [Note: Romans 8:31.].]

2. Under fears of eternal condemnation—

[No man can reflect upon his own character without feeling that he deserves the wrath of God: and every one that is sensible of his own demerits, must tremble lest the judgments he has deserved should be inflicted on him. Yet a just view of the Saviour may dispel his fears, and cause him to “rejoice with joy unspeakable.” Does his guilt appear too great to be forgiven? He that offered an atonement for it, is the eternal God [Note: Acts 20:28.]. Do doubts arise respecting his acceptance with the Father? Behold, that very Jesus who made atonement for him, ever liveth to plead it as his advocate, and to present it before the mercy-seat [Note: 1 John 1:1-2.]. Do death and hell appal him with their terrors? they are altogether subject to the controul of Jesus, whose power and faithfulness are pledged for the salvation of all his ransomed people [Note: John 10:28-29.]. To the weakest then we say in the name of this adorable Saviour, “Fear not:” though thou art “a worm, thou shalt thresh the mountains [Note: Isaiah 41:10; Isaiah 41:14-15.];” and though thou art the smallest grain that has been gathered from the field, thou shalt be treasured safely in the granary of thy heavenly Father [Note: Amos 9:9.].]

Application—

[We cannot conclude the subject without applying it to those who are ignorant of Christ. Surely we must not say to you “Fear not;” but rather, “Fear and tremble,” for he whom ye have despised is the eternal God; and ever liveth to put down his enemies, and to make them his footstool. He has only, as it were, to turn the key of the invisible world, and your souls will be locked up in the prison from whence there is no redemption. O consider this, ye that live unmindful of this adorable Saviour; and prostrate yourselves at his feet, while his offers of mercy are yet extended to you.]

 


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Revelation 1:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/revelation-1.html. 1832.

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Thursday, December 12th, 2019
the Second Week of Advent
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