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Bible Commentaries

Expositor's Bible Commentary
Revelation 1

 

 

Other Authors
Verses 1-20

CHAPTER I.

THE PROLOGUE.

Revelation 1:1-20

The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show unto His servants, even the things which must shortly come to pass: and He sent and signified it through His angel unto His servant John; who bare witness of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, even of all things that he saw. Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of the prophecy, and keep the things which are written therein: for the season is at hand (Revelation 1:1-3).

THE first chapter of Revelation introduces us to the whole book, and supplies in great measure the key by which we are to interpret it. The book is not intended to be a mystery in the sense in which we commonly understand that word. It deals indeed with the future, the details of which must always be dark to us; and it does this by means of figures and symbols and modes of speech far removed from the ordinary simplicity of language which marks the New Testament writers. But it is not on that account designed to be unintelligible. The figures and Symbols employed in it are used with perfect regularity; its peculiar modes of speech are supposed to be at least not unfamiliar to the reader; and it is taken for granted that he under stands them. The writer obviously expects that his meaning, so far from being obscured by his style, will he thereby illustrated, enforced, and brought home to the mind, with greater than ordinary power. The word Revelation by which he describes to us the general character of his work is of itself sufficient to show this. "Revelation" means the uncovering of that which has hitherto been covered, the drawing back of a veil which has hung over a person or thing, the laying bare what has been hitherto concealed; and the book before us is a revelation instead of a mystery.

Again, the book is a revelation of Jesus Christ; not so much a revelation of what Jesus Christ Himself is, as one of which He is the Author and Source. He is the Head of His Church, reigning supreme in His heavenly abode. He is the Eternal Son, the Word without whom was not anything made that was made, and who executes all the purposes of the Father, "the same yesterday, and to-day, and forever."l He is at the same time "Head over all things to the Church."2 He regulates her fortunes. He controls in her behalf the events of history. He fills the cup which He puts into her hand with prosperity or adversity, with joy or sorrow, with victory or defeat. Who else can impart a revelation so true, so weighty, and so precious? (1, John 5:19; Hebrews 13:8; 2, Ephesians 1:22)

Yet again, the revelation to be now given by Jesus Christ is one which God gave Him, the revelation of the eternal and unchangeable plan of One who turneth the hearts of kings as the rivers of water, who saith and it is done, who commandeth and it stands fast.

Finally, the revelation relates to things that must shortly come to pass, and thus has all the interest of the present, and not merely of a far-distant future.

Such is the general character of that revelation which Jesus Christ sent and signified through His angel unto His servant John. And that Apostle faithfully recorded it for the instruction and comfort of the Church. Like his Divine Master, with whom throughout all this book believers are so closely identified, and who is Himself the Amen, the faithful and true witness,* the disciple whom He loved stands forth to bear witness of the word of God thus given him, of the testimony of Jesus thus signified to him, even of all things that he saw. He places himself in thought at the end of the visions he had witnessed, and retraces for others the elevating pictures which had filled, as he beheld them, his own soul with rapture. (*, Revelation 3:14.)

Therefore may he now, ere yet he enters upon his task, pronounce a blessing upon those who shall pay due heed to what he is to say. Does he think of the person by whom the apostolic writings were read aloud in the midst of the Christian congregation? then, Blessed is he that readeth. Does he think of those who listen? then, Blessed are they that hear the words of the prophecy. Or, lastly, does he think not merely of reading and hearing, but of that laying up in the heart to which these were only preparatory? then, Blessed are they that keep the things which are written therein, for the season, the short season in which everything shall be accomplished, is at hand.

The Introduction to the book is over; and it may be well to mark for a moment that tendency to divide his matter into three parts which peculiarly distinguishes St. John, and to which, as supplying an important rule of interpretation, we shall often have occasion to refer. There are obviously three parts in the Introduction, - the Source, the Contents, and the Importance of the revelation: and each of these is again divided into three. Three persons are mentioned when the Source is spoken of, - God, Jesus Christ, and the servants of Jesus; three when the Contents are referred to, - the Word of God, the Testimony of Jesus, and All things that he saw; and three when the Importance of the book is described, - He that readeth, They that hear, and They that keep the things written therein.

"John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace to 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, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. Unto Him that loveth us, and loosed us from our sins in His blood; and He made us to be a kingdom, to be priests unto His God and Father; to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. Behold, He cometh with the clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they which pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth shall wail over Him. Even so, Amen. I am the Alpha and the Omega, saith the Lord, God, which is and which was and which is to come, the Almighty (Revelation 1:4-8)."

From the Introduction we pass to the Salutation, extending from ver. 4 to ver. 8 (Revelation 1:4-8). Adopting a method different from that of the fourth Gospel, which is also the production of his pen, the writer of Revelation names himself. The difference is easily explained. The fourth Gospel is original not only in its contents but its form. The Apocalypse is moulded after the fashion of the ancient prophets, and of the numerous apocalyptic authors of the time; and it was the practice of both these classes of writers to place their names at the head of what they wrote. The fourth Gospel was also intended to set forth in a purely objective manner the glory of the Eternal Word made flesh, and that too in such a way that the glory exhibited in Him should authenticate itself, independently of human testimony. The Apocalypse needed a voucher from one known and trusted. It came through the mind of a man, and we naturally ask, Who is the man through whom it came? The enquiry is satisfied, and we are told that it comes from John. In telling us this St. John speaks with the authority which belongs to him. By-and-by we shall see him in another light, occupying a position similar to ours, and standing on the same level with us in the covenant of grace. But at this moment he is the Apostle, the Evangelist, the Minister of God, a consecrated priest in the Christian community who is about to pronounce a priestly blessing on the Church Let the Church bow her head and reverently receive it.

The Salutation is addressed to the seven churches which are in Asia. On this point it is enough to say that by the Asia spoken of we are to understand neither the continent of that name, nor its great western division Asia Minor, but only a single district of the latter, of which Ephesus, where St. John spent the later years of his life and ministry, was the capital. There the aged Apostle tended all those portions of the flock of Christ that he could reach, and all the churches of the neighborhood were his peculiar care. We know that these were in number more than seven. We know that to no church could the Apostle be indifferent. The conclusion is irresistible, that here, as so often in this book as well as in other parts of Scripture, the number seven is not to be literally under stood. Seven churches are selected, the condition of which appeared most suitable to the purpose which the Apostle has in view; and these seven represent the Church of Christ in every country of the world, down to the very end of time. The universal Church spreads itself out beneath his gaze; and before he instructs he blesses it.

The blessing is, Grace to you, and peace; grace first, the Divine grace, in its enlightening, quickening, and beautifying power; and then peace, peace with God and man, peace that in the deep recesses of the heart remains undisturbed by outward trouble, the peace of which it is said by Him who is the Prince of peace, "Peace I leave with you; My peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be fearful."* (*, John 14:27).

The source of the blessing is next indicated, the Triune God, the three Persons of the glorious Trinity, the Father, the Holy Spirit, and the Son. Probably we should have thought of a different order; but the truth is that it is the Son, as the manifestation of the Godhead, who is mainly in the Apostle’s mind. Hence the peculiarity of the first designation, Him which is, and which was, and which is to come, a designation specially applicable to our Lord. Hence also the peculiarity of the second designation, The seven Spirits which are before His throne; not so much the Spirit viewed in His individual personality, in the eternal relations of the Divine existence, as that Spirit in the manifoldness of His operation in the Church, the Spirit of the glorified Redeemer, not one therefore, but seven. Hence, again, the peculiar designation of Christ, Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth; not so much the Son in His metaphysical relation to the Godhead, as in attributes connected with His redemptive work. And hence, finally, the fact that when these three Persons have been named, the Seer fills up the remaining verses of his Salutation with thoughts, not of the Trinity, but of Him who has already redeemed us, and who will in due time come to perfect our salvation.

Now, therefore, the Church, reflecting upon all that has been done, is done, and shall be done for her, is able to raise the song of triumphant thanksgiving, Unto Him that loveth us, and loosed us from our sins in His blood, and He made us to be a kingdom, to be priests unto His God and Father; to Him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen. In these words the possession of complete redemption is implied. The true reading of the original is not that of our Authorized Version, "Unto Him that washed," but "Unto Him that loosed" us from our sins. We have received not merely the pardon of sin, but deliverance from its power. "Our soul is escaped as a bird out of the snare of the fowler; the snare is broken, and we are escaped."* The chains in which Satan held us captive have been snapped asunder and we are free. Again, this loosing has taken place "in" rather than "by" the blood of Christ, for the blood of Christ is living blood, and in that life of His we are enfolded and enwrapped, so that it is not we that live, but Christ that liveth in us. Once more they who are thus spoken of are "a kingdom, priests unto His God and Father," the former being the lower stage, the latter the higher. The word "kingdom" has reference, less to the splendour of royalty than to victory over foes. Christians reign in conquering their spiritual enemies; and then, in possession of the victory that overcometh the world, they enter into the innermost sanctuary of the Most High and dwell in the secret of His Tabernacle. There their great High Priest is one with "His God and Father," and there they also dwell with His Father and their Father, with His God and their God. (*, Psalms 124:7)

The statement of these verses, however, reveals not only what the Christian Church is to which the Apocalypse is addressed; it reveals also what the Lord is from whom the revelation comes. He is indeed the Saviour who died for us, the witness faithful unto death: but He is also the Saviour who rose again, who is the firstborn of the dead, and who has ascended to the right hand of God, where He lives and reigns in glory everlasting. It is the glorified Redeemer from whom the book of His revelation comes; and He has all power committed to Him both in heaven and on earth. More particularly, He is "the ruler of the kings of the earth." This is not a description of such honour as might be given by a crowd of loyal nobles to a beloved prince. It rather gives expression to a power by which "the kings of the earth," the potentates of a sinful world, are subdued and crushed.

Lastly, the Salutation includes the thought that He who is now hidden in heaven from our view, will yet appear in the glory that belongs to Him. He is the Lord who "is to come"; or, as it is expanded in the words immediately following the doxology, Behold, He cometh with the clouds; and every eye shall see Him, and they which pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth shall wail over Him. Even so, Amen. It is of importance to ask what the glory is in which the glorified Lord is thus spoken of as coming. Is it that of one who shall be the object of admiration to every eye, and who, by the revelation of Himself, shall win all who behold Him to godly penitence and faith? The context forbids such an interpretation. The tribes "of the earth" are like its kings in ver. 5 [Revelation 1:5], the tribes of an ungodly world, and the "wailing" is that of Revelation 18:9, where the same word is used, and where the kings of the earth weep and wail over the fall of guilty Babylon, which they behold burning before their eyes. The tones of that judgment which is to re-echo throughout the book are already heard: "Give the king Thy judgments, O God, and Thy righteousness unto the king’s Son. He shall judge the people with righteousness, and Thy poor with judgment"; "Verily there is a reward for the righteous: verily, He is a God that judgeth in the earth."1 (1, Psalms 72:1-2; Psalms 58:11)

And now the glorified Redeemer Himself declares what He is: I am the Alpha and the Omega, saith the Lord, God, which is and which was and which is to come, the Almighty. It will be observed that after the word "Lord" we have interposed a comma not found in either the Authorized or the Revised Version.1 On various other occasions we shall have to do the same, and the call to do so arises partly from the connection of the thought, partly from St. John’s love of that tripartite division of an idea which has been already spoken of. The former does not lead us to the Father; it leads us, on the contrary, to the Son. He it is Who has been described immediately before, and with Him the description which follows is to be occupied. No doubt the thought of God, of the Father, lies immediately behind the words. No doubt also "the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father doing"; yet "what things soever He doeth, these the Son also doeth in like manner."2 By the Son the Father acts. In the Son the Father speaks. The Son is the manifestation of the Father. The same Divine attributes, therefore, which are to be seen in the Father, are to be seen in the Son. Let us hear Him as He seals His intimations of coming judgment with the assurance that He is God, who has come who is and who is to come, the Almighty. (1 Compare the Greek text of Westcott and Hart; 2, John 5:19)

"I John, your brother and partaker with you in the tribulation and kingdom and patience which are in Jesus, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. I was in the Spirit on the Lord s day, and I heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, saying, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it to the seven churches; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamum, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea. And I turned to see the voice which spake with me. And having turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; and in the midst of the candlesticks one like unto a Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about at the breasts with a golden girdle. And His head and His hair were white as white wool, white as snow; and His eyes were as a flame of fire; and His feet like unto burnished brass, as if it had been refined in a furnace; and His voice as the voice of many waters. And He had in His right hand seven stars: and out of His mouth proceeded 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 one dead. And He laid His right hand upon me, saying, Fear not; I am the first and the last, and the living One; And I became dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore, and I have the keys of death and of Hades. Write therefore the things which thou sawest, and the things which are, and the things which shall come to pass hereafter; the mystery of the stars which thou sawest upon My right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches; and the seven candle sticks are seven churches (Revelation 1:9-20)."

After the Introduction and Salutation, the visions of the book begin, the first being the key to all that follow. The circumstances amidst which it was given are described, not merely to satisfy curiosity, or to afford information, but to establish such a connection between St. John and his readers as shall authenticate and vivify its lessons.

I John, he begins, your brother and partaker with you in the tribulation and kingdom and patience which are in Jesus, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. It is no longer only the Apostle, the authoritative messenger of God, who speaks; it is one who occupies the same ground as other members of the Church, and is bound to them by the strong deep tie of common sorrow. The aged and honoured Evangelist, "the disciple whom Jesus loved," is one with them, bears the same burden, drinks the same cup, and has no higher consolation than they may have. He is their "brother," a brother in adversity, for he is a partaker with them of the "tribulation" that is in Jesus. The reference is to outward suffering and persecution; for the words of the Master were now literally fulfilled: "A servant is not greater than his lord. If they persecuted Me they will also persecute you;" "Yea, the hour cometh, that whosoever killeth you shall think that he offereth service unto God."* The scorn, the hatred, the persecution of the world! for such as were exposed to these things was the Apocalypse written, by such was it understood; and if, in later times, it has often failed to make its due impression on the minds of men, it is because it is not intended for those who are at ease in Zion. The more Christians are compelled to feel that the world hates them, and that they cannot be its friends, the greater to them will be the power and beauty of this book. Its revelations, like the stars of the sky, shine most brightly in the cold, dark night. (*, John 15:20; John 16:2).

"Tribulation" is the chief thing spoken of, but the Apostle, with his love of groups of three, accompanies it with other two marks of the Christian’s condition in the world, the "kingdom" and "patience" that are in Jesus. St. John therefore was in tribulation. He had been driven from Ephesus, we know not why, and had been banished to Patmos, a small rocky island of the Ægean Sea. He had been banished for his faith, for his adherence to "the word of God and the testimony of Jesus," the former expression leading our thoughts to the revelation of the Old Testament, the latter to that of the New; the former to those prophets, culminating in the Baptist, of whom the same Apostle who now writes tells us in the beginning of his Gospel, that they "came for witness, that they might bear witness of the light;"1 the latter to "the true light, even the light which lighteth every man coming into the world."2 Driven from the society of his friends and "children," we cannot doubt that St. John would be drawn even more closely than was his wont to the bosom of his Lord; would feel that he was still protected by His care; would remember the words uttered by Him in the most sublime and touching moment of His life, "And I am no more in the world, and these are in the world, and I come to Thee. Holy Father, keep them in Thy name which Thou hast given Me";3 and would share the blessed experience of knowing that, on every spot of earth however remote, and amidst all trials however heavy, he was in the hands of One who stills the tumults of the people as well as the waves of the sea beating upon the rock-bound coast of Patmos. (1 John 1:7; 2 John 1:9; 3 John 17:11)

Animated by feelings such as these, the Apostle knew that, whatever appearances to the contrary might present themselves, the time now passing over his head was the time of the Lord’s rule, and not of man’s. No thought could be more inspiring, and it was the preparation in his soul for the scene which followed.

I was in the Spirit on the Lord s day, and I heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, saying, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it to the seven churches; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamum, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea. The Lord’s day here referred to may have been the Sunday, the first day of the Christian week, the day commemorative of that morning when He who had been "crucified through weakness, yet lived through the power of God."l If so, there was a peculiar fitness in that vision, now to be granted, of the risen and glorified Redeemer. But it seems doubtful if this is the true interpretation, Proof is wanting that the first day of the week had yet received the name of "The Lord’s Day," and it is more in accordance with the prophetic tone of the book before us, to think that by St. John the whole of that brief season which was to pass before the Church should follow her Lord to glory was regarded as "The Lord’s Day." Whichever interpretation we adopt, the fact remains that, meditating in his lonely isle upon the glory of his Lord in heaven and the contrasted fortunes of His Church on earth, St. John passed into a state of spiritual ecstasy. Like St. Paul, he was caught up into the third heavens; but, unlike him, he was permitted, and even commanded, to record what he heard and saw.2 (1, 2 Corinthians 13:4; 2Compare 2 Corinthians 12:4)

And I heard behind me, he says, a great voice as of a trumpet, saying, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it to the seven churches; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamum, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea. We need not dwell now upon these churches. We shall meet them again. They are "the seven churches which are in Asia" already spoken of in ver. 4 [Revelation 1:4]; and they are to be viewed as representative of the whole Christian Church in all countries of the world, and throughout all time. In their condition they represented to St. John what that Church is, in her Divine origin and human frailty, in her graces and defects, in her zeal and lukewarmness, in her joys and sorrows, in the guardianship of her Lord, and in her final victory after many struggles. Not to Christians in these cities alone is the Apocalypse spoken, but to all Christians in all their circumstances: "He that hath an ear, let him hear." The Apostle heard.

And I turned to see the voice which spake with me. And having turned I saw seven golden candlesticks; and in the midst of the candlesticks one like unto a Son of man. It was a splendid vision which was thus presented to his eyes. The golden candlestick, first of the Tabernacle and then of the Temple, was one of the gorgeous articles of furniture in God’s holy house. It was wrought, with its seven branches, after the fashion of an almond tree, the earliest tree of spring to hasten (whence also it was named) into blossom; and, as we learn from the elaborateness and beauty of the workmanship, from the symbolical numbers largely resorted to in its construction, and from the analogy of all the furniture of the Tabernacle, it represented Israel when that people, having offered themselves at the altar, and having been cleansed in the laver of the court, entered as a nation of priests into the special dwelling-place of their heavenly King. Here, therefore, the seven golden candlesticks, or as in ver. 4 [Revelation 1:4] the one in seven, represent the Church, as she burns in the secret place of the Most High.

But we are not invited to dwell upon the Church. Something greater attracts the eye, He who is "like unto a Son of man." The expression of the original is remarkable. It occurs only once in any of the other books of the New Testament, in John 5:27, although there, both in the Authorized and Revised versions, it is unhappily translated "the Son of man." It is the humanness of our Lord’s Person more than the Person Himself, or rather it is the Person in His humanness, to which the words of the original direct us. Amidst all the glory that surrounds Him we arc to think of Him as man; but what a man!

Clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about at the breasts with a golden girdle. And His head and His hair were white as white wool, white as snow; and His eyes were as a flame of fire; and His feet like unto burnished brass as if it had been refined in a furnace; and His voice as the voice of many waters. And He had in His right hand seven stars; and out of His mouth proceeded a sharp two-edged sword: and His countenance was as the sun shineth in His strength. The particulars of the description indicate the official position of the Person spoken of, and the character in which He appears, (1) He is a priest, clothed with the long white garment reaching to the feet that was a distinguishing part of the priestly dress, but at the same time so wearing the girdle at the breasts, not at the waist, as to show that He was a priest engaged in the active service of the sanctuary. (2) He is a king, for, with the exception of the last mentioned particular, all the other features of the description given of Him point to kingly rather than to priestly power, while the prophetic language of Isaiah, as he looks forward to Eliakim the son of Hilkiah, language which we may well suppose to have been now in the Seer’s thoughts, leads to the same conclusion: "And I will clothe him with thy robe and strengthen him with thy girdle, and I will commit thy government into his hand."* The "Son of man," in short, here brought before us in His heavenly glory, is both Priest and King. (*, Isaiah 22:21; comp. also Isaiah 22:22 with Revelation 3:7)

Not only so. It is even of peculiar importance to observe that the attributes with which the Priest-King is clothed are not so much those of tenderness and mercy as those of power and majesty, inspiring the beholder with a sense of awe and with the fear of judgment. Already we have had some traces of this in considering ver. 7 [Revelation 1:7]: now it comes out in all its force. That hair of a glistering whiteness which, like snow on which the sun is shining, it almost pains the eye to look upon; those eyes penetrating like a flame of fire into the inmost recesses of the heart; those feet which like metal raised to a white heat in a furnace consume in an instant whatever they tread upon in anger; that voice loud and continuous, like the sound of the mighty tea as it booms along the shore; that sword sharp, two-edged, issuing from the mouth, so that no one can escape it when it is drawn to slay; and lastly, that countenance like the sun in the height of a tropical sky, when man and beast cower from the irresistible scorching of his beams, all are symbolical of judgment. Eager to save, the exalted High Priest is yet also mighty to destroy. "Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; Thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel. Be wise now, therefore, O ye Kings; be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and ye perish from the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him."* (*, Psalms 2:9-12).

The Apostle felt all this; and, believer as he was in Jesus, convinced of his Master’s love, and one who returned that love with the warmest affections of his heart, he was yet overwhelmed with terror. And when I saw Him, he tells us, I fell at His feet as one dead. In circumstances somewhat similar to the present, a somewhat similar effect had been produced upon other saints of God. When Isaiah beheld the glory of the Lord he cried, "Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts."1 When Ezekiel beheld a vision of the same kind, he tells us that he "fell upon his face."2 When the angel Gabriel appeared to Daniel in order to explain the vision which had been shown him, the prophet says, "I was afraid, and fell upon my face."3 Here the effect was greater than in any of these instances, corresponding to the greater glory shown; and the Apostle fell at the feet of the glorified Lord as one "dead." But there is mercy with the Lord that He may be feared; and He laid His right hand upon me, adds St. John, saying, Fear not: and then follows in three parts that full and gracious declaration of what He is, in His eternal pre-existence, in that work on behalf of man which embraced not only His being lifted on high upon the cross, but His Resurrection and Ascension to His Father’s throne, and in the consummation of His victory over all the enemies of our salvation, - 1. I am the First and the Last, and the Living One; 2. And I became dead, and behold, I am alive for evermore; 3. And I have the keys of death and of Hades. (1, Isaiah 6:5; 2, Ezekiel 1:28; 3, Daniel 8:17)

A few more words are spoken by the glorified Person who thus appeared to St. John, but at this point we may pause for a moment, for the vision is complete. It is the first vision of the book, and it contains the key-note of the whole. As distinguished from the fourth Gospel, in which Jesus clothed as He is with His humanity is yet pre-eminently the Son of God, the Saviour while here retaining His Divinity is yet pre-eminently a Son of man. In other words, He is not merely the Only Begotten who was from eternity in the bosom of the Father: He is also Head over all things to His Church. And He is this as the glorified Redeemer who has finished His work on earth, and now carries it on in heaven. This work too He carries on, not only as a High Priest "touched with the feeling of our infirmities," but as One clothed with judgment. He is a man of war, and to Him the words of the Psalmist may be applied:

"Gird Thy sword upon Thy thigh, O Mighty One, Thy glory and Thy majesty.

And in Thy majesty ride prosperously,

Because of truth and meekness and righteousness:

And Thy right hand shall teach Thee terrible things.

Thine arrows are sharp;

The peoples fall under Thee;

They are in the heart of the King’s enemies."* (*, Psalms 45:3-5)

Yet we cannot separate the body of Christ from the head, who is Son of man as well as Son of God. With the Head the members are one, and they too therefore are here contemplated as engaged in a work of judgment. With their Lord they are opposed by an ungodly world. In it they also struggle, and war, and overcome. The tribulation, and the kingdom and patience "in Jesus,"1 are their lot; but living a resurrection life and escaped from the power of death and Hades, salvation has been in principle made theirs, and they have only to wait for the full manifestation of that Lord with whom, when He is manifested, they also shall be manifested in glory.2 (1, Revelation 1:9; 2, Colossians 3:4)

Thus we are taught what to expect in the book of Revelation. It will record the conflict of Christ and His people with the evil that is in the world, and their victory over it. It will tell of struggle with sin and Satan, but of sin vanquished and Satan bruised beneath their feet. It will be the story of the Church as she journeys through the wilderness to the land of promise, encountering many foes, but more than conqueror through Him that loved her, and often raising to heaven her song of praise, "Sing unto the Lord, for He hath triumphed gloriously, the horse and his rider He hath cast into the sea."* (*, Exodus 15:1)

Now then we are prepared to listen to the closing words of the glorious Person who had revealed Himself to St. John, as He repeats His injunction to him to write, and gives him some explanation of what he had seen: Write, therefore, the things which thou sawest, and the things which are, and the things which shall come to pass hereafter; the mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest upon My right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches; and the seven candlesticks are seven churches. The golden candlesticks and the stars, the churches and the angels of the churches, will immediately meet us when we proceed to the next two chapters of the book. Meanwhile it is enough to know that we are about to enter upon the fortunes of that Church of the Lord Jesus Christ in the world which embraces within it the execution of the final purposes of the Almighty, and the accomplishment of His plans for the perfection and happiness of His whole creation.

 


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Bibliography Information
Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Revelation 1:4". "Expositor's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/teb/revelation-1.html.

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