Attention!
Take your personal ministry to the Next Level by helping StudyLight build churches and supporting pastors in Uganda.
Click here to join the effort!

Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Revelation 1:10

I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like the sound of a trumpet,
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Day;   Inspiration;   Jesus, the Christ;   Sabbath;   Trumpet;   Vision;   Scofield Reference Index - Holy Spirit;   Theophanies;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the;   Sabbath, the;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Cherub;   Feasts;   Inspiration;   Prophets;   Sabbath;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Revelation, book of;   Sabbath;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Apocalyptic;   Church, the;   Create, Creation;   Holy Spirit;   Lord's Day, the;   Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Ascension of Christ;   Sabbath;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Lord's Day;   Trumpets;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Lord's Day;   Prophet;   Sabbath;   Synagogue;   Trumpets, Feast of;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Lord's Day;   Revelation, the Book of;   Sabbath;   Worship;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Asia;   Lord's Day;   Time;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Apocalypse;   Calendar, the Christian;   Day;   Holy Spirit (2);   Lord's Day;   Lord's Supper. (I.);   Name ;   Patmos ;   Revelation (2);   Sabbath ;   Time;   Trump Trumpet ;   Voice;   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Lord's Day, the;   The Hawker's Poor Man's Concordance And Dictionary - Golden candlesticks;   Sabbath;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Lord (2);   Sabbath;   Smith Bible Dictionary - Lord's Day, the;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Feasts;   Inspiration;  
Encyclopedias:
International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Gold;   Great;   Inspiration;   Lord's Day;   Parousia;   Revelation of John:;   Sabbath;   Trance;   The Jewish Encyclopedia - Bat Ḳol;   Sabbath and Sunday;  
Devotionals:
Every Day Light - Devotion for October 30;  

Clarke's Commentary

Verse Revelation 1:10. I was in the Spirit — That is, I received the Spirit of prophecy, and was under its influence when the first vision was exhibited.

The Lord's day — The first day of the week, observed as the Christian Sabbath, because on it Jesus Christ rose from the dead; therefore it was called the Lord's day, and has taken place of the Jewish Sabbath throughout the Christian world.

And heard behind me a great voice — This voice came unexpectedly and suddenly. He felt himself under the Divine afflatus; but did not know what scenes were to be represented.

As of a trumpet — This was calculated to call in every wandering thought, to fix his attention, and solemnize his whole frame. Thus God prepared Moses to receive the law. See Exodus 19:16; Exodus 19:19, &c.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Revelation 1:10". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/revelation-1.html. 1832.

Bridgeway Bible Commentary


2:1-3:22 LETTERS TO THE SEVEN CHURCHES

Apart from occasional minor variations, the seven letters follow the same pattern. They begin with a greeting from the risen Christ (whose titles are mostly taken from the vision described in 1:12-16), followed in turn by a statement of praise and/or criticism concerning the current state of the church, a warning, an instruction and a promise. Although each church received the particular message for itself, it would also hear the messages for the other churches if the whole book was read in each church. Therefore, there is a note of warning for all to take heed: ‘Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.’

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Flemming, Donald C. "Commentary on Revelation 1:10". "Fleming's Bridgeway Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bbc/revelation-1.html. 2005.

Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible

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

In the Spirit ... Not much is known of this state of being "in the Spirit"; but, evidently, all of the Scripture writers were in such a state when they received their divine revelation. Jesus said of David, "How then doth David in the Spirit call him Lord?" (Matthew 22:43). Many speculations about this have yielded little or no valuable information.

On the Lord's day ... This expression is found only here in the New Testament, "and beyond all reasonable doubt it means on Sunday."[33] "There is every reason to believe the church used the word in protest against Caesar-worship."[34] Some have thought this means the day of judgment, indicating that John was transported by the vision to the time of the final judgment; but the judgment is invariably "the day of the Lord" in the New Testament. Here, "Lord's day" is a similar construction to "Lord's supper" (1 Corinthians 11:20). "It means `belonging to the Lord', or `consecrated to the Lord'."[35] The Greek construction rules out the interpretation that would make this mean the judgment.[36] According to Deissmann, from A.D. 30 and continuing until 98-117, one day of every month was called "Augustus Day" ([@hemera] [@Sebaste]); and it certainly could have been that the Christians started referring to the first day of the week as "the Lord's day" in opposition to the current idolatry directed toward Roman emperors. It is preposterous to suppose that "the Lord's day" is a reference to the Jewish sabbath. Saturday was a day of the week upon which Jesus spent the entire twenty-four hours of it in the tomb! On the other hand, Sunday was the day Jesus rose from the dead, the very same day the apostles met him in the upper room, and a week later on another Sunday the Lord appeared to his assembled apostles again. Sunday was the day the Holy Spirit came on Pentecost; it was the day the disciples came together to break bread (Acts 20:7); it was the day the collection was taken up (1 Corinthians 16:2); and, added to all of this, the invariable Christian tradition of more than nineteen centuries makes Sunday the day of Christian assemblies, a custom still observed all over the world. "The Lord's day" is thus an exceedingly appropriate title for the day.

A great voice, as of a trumpet ... "This voice was presumably that of the Son of man."[37] Dake counted over sixty usages of the word "great" in the Book of Revelation.[38] Bruce, however, did not believe the great trumpet-like voice mentioned here was that of the Lord, basing his opinion on the fact that the Lord's voice is said to be like the sound of many waters (Revelation 1:15).[39] He viewed it as a herald-like prelude to the appearance of the Great Conqueror. This would appear to be the better interpretation.

[33] T. Randell, op. cit., p. 5.

[34] Finis Jennings Dake, Revelation Expounded (Lawrenceville, Georgia: Dake, 1950), p. 32.

[35] Ralph Earle, op. cit., p. 479.

[36] Ibid.

[37] G. R. Beasley-Murray, op. cit., p. 1282.

[38] Finis Jennings Dake, op. cit., p. 33.

[39] F. F. Bruce, A New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1969), p. 535.

Copyright Statement
Coffman's Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Revelation 1:10". "Coffman's Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/revelation-1.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

I was in the Spirit - This cannot refer to his own spirit, for such an expression would be unintelligible. The language then must refer to some unusual state, or to some influence that had been brought to bear upon him from without, that was appropriate to such a day. The word “Spirit” may refer either to the Holy Spirit, or to some state of mind such as the Holy Spirit produces - a spirit of elevated devotion, a state of high and uncommon religious enjoyment. It is clear that John does not mean here to say that he was under the influence of the Holy Spirit in such a sense as that he was inspired, for the command to make a record, as well as the visions, came subsequently to the time referred to. The fair meaning of the passage is, that he was at that time favored, in a large measure, with the influences of the Holy Spirit - the spirit of true devotion; that he had a high state of religious enjoyment, and was in a condition not inappropriate to the remarkable communications which were made to him on that day.

The state of mind in which he was at the time here referred to, is not such as the prophets are often represented to have been in when under the prophetic inspiration (compare Ezekiel 1:1; Ezekiel 8:3; Ezekiel 40:2; Jeremiah 24:1), and which was often accompanied with an entire prostration of bodily strength (compare Numbers 24:4); 1 Samuel 19:24; Ezekiel 1:28; Daniel 10:8-10; Revelation 1:17), but such as any Christian may experience when in a high state of religious enjoyment. He was not yet under the prophetic ecstasy (compare Acts 10:10; Acts 11:5; Acts 22:17), but was, though in a lonely and barren island, and far away from the privileges of the sanctuary, permitted to enjoy, in a high degree, the consolations of religion - an illustration of the great truth that God can meet his people anywhere; that, when in solitude and in circumstances of outward affliction, when persecuted and cast out, when deprived of the public means of grace and the society of religious friends, He can meet them with the abundant consolations of His grace, and pour joy and peace into their souls. This state was not inappropriate to the revelations which were about to be made to John, but this itself was not that state. It was a state which seems to have resulted from the fact, that on that desert island he devoted the day to the worship of God, and, by honoring the day dedicated to the memory of the risen Saviour, found, what all will find, that it was attended with rick spiritual influences on his soul.

On the Lord’s day - The word rendered here as “Lord’s” (κυριακῇ kuriakē), occurs only in this place and in 1 Corinthians 11:20, where it is applied to the Lord’s supper. It properly means “pertaining to the Lord”; and, so far as this word is concerned, it might mean a day “pertaining to the Lord,” in any sense, or for any reason; either because he claimed it as his own, and had set it apart for his own service, or because it was designed to commemorate some important event pertaining to him, or because it was observed in honor of him. It is clear:

(1) That this refers to some day which was distinguished from all other days of the week, and which would be sufficiently designated by the use of this term.

(2) That it was a day which was for some reason regarded as especially a day of the Lord, or especially devoted to him.

(3) It would further appear that this was a day particularly devoted to the Lord Jesus; for:

(a)That is the natural meaning of the word “Lord” as used in the New Testament (compare the notes on Acts 1:24); and

(b)If the Jewish Sabbath were intended to be designated, the word “Sabbath” would have been used.

The term was used generally by the early Christians to denote the first day of the week. It occurs twice in the Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians (about 101 a.d.), who calls the Lord’s day “the queen and prince of all days.” Chrysostom (on Psalms 119:0) says, “It was called the Lord’s day because the Lord rose from the dead on that day.” Later fathers make a marked distinction between the “Sabbath” and the “Lord’s day”; meaning by the former the Jewish “Sabbath,” or the seventh day of the week, and by the latter the first day of the week, kept holy by Christians. So Theodoret (Fab. Haeret. ii. 1), speaking of the Ebionites, says, “They keep the Sabbath according to the Jewish law, and sanctify the Lord’s day in like manner as we do” (Prof. Stuart). The strong probability is, that the name was given to this day in honor of the Lord Jesus, and because he rose on that day from the dead. No one can doubt that it was an appellation given to the first day of the week; and the passage, therefore, proves:

(1) That that day was thus early distinguished in some special manner, so that the mere mention of it would be sufficient to identify it in the minds of those to whom the apostle wrote;

(2) That it was in some sense regarded as devoted to the Lord Jesus, or was designed in some way to commemorate what he had done; and,

(3) That if this book were written by the apostle John, the observance of that day has the apostolic sanction. He had manifestly, in accordance with a prevailing custom, set apart this day in honor of the Lord Jesus. Though alone, he was engaged on that day in acts of devotion. Though far away from the sanctuary, he enjoyed what all Christians hope to enjoy on such a day of rest, and what not a few do in fact enjoy in its observance. We may remark, in view of this statement:

(a) that when away from the sanctuary, and deprived of its privileges, we should nevertheless not fail to observe the Christian Sabbath. If on a bed of sickness, if in a land of strangers, if on the deep, if in a foreign clime, if on a lonely island, as John was, where we have none of the advantages of public worship, we should yet honor the Sabbath. We should worship God alone, if we have none to unite with us; we should show to those around us, if we are with strangers, by our dress and our conversation, by a serious and devent manner, by abstinence from labor, and by a resting from travel, that we devoutly regard this day as set apart for God.

(b) We may expect, in such circumstances, and with such a devout observance of the day, that God will meet with us and bless us. It was on a lonely island, far away from the sanctuary and from the society of Christian friends, that the Saviour met “the beloved disciple,” and we may trust it will be so with us. For on such a desert island, in a lonely forest, on the deep, or amid strangers in a foreign land, he can as easily meet us as in the sanctuary where we have been accustomed to worship, and when surrounded by all the privileges of a Christian land. No man, at home or abroad, among friends or strangers, enjoying the privileges of the sanctuary, or deprived of those privileges, ever kept the Christian Sabbath in a devout manner without profit to his own soul; and, when deprived of the privileges of public worship, the visitations of the Saviour to the soul may be more than a compensation for all our privations. Who would not be willing to be banished to a lonely island like Patmos, if he might enjoy such a glorious vision of the Redeemer as John was favored with there?

And heard behind me a great voice - A loud voice. This was of course sudden, and took him by surprise.

As of a trumpet - Loud as a trumpet. This is evidently the only point in the comparison. It does not mean that the tones of the voice resembled a trumpet, but only that it was clear, loud, and distinct like a trumpet. A trumpet is a well-known wind instrument, distinguished for the clearness of its sounds, and was used for calling assemblies together, for marshalling hosts for battle, etc. The Hebrew word employed commonly to denote a trumpet שׁופר showpar means “bright” and “clear,” and is supposed to have been given to the instrument on account of its clear and shrill sound, as we now give the name “clarion” to a certain wind-instrument. The Hebrew trumpet is often referred to as employed, on account of its clearness, to summon people together, Exodus 19:13; Numbers 10:10; Judges 7:18, etc.; 1 Samuel 13:3; 2 Samuel 15:10.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Revelation 1:10". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/revelation-1.html. 1870.

Smith's Bible Commentary

Shall we turn in our Bibles now to the book of Revelation, chapter one?

The Revelation of Jesus Christ ( Revelation 1:1 ),

The Greek word "apokalupsis" is literally the unveiling. So in the very first phrase you have what the book is all about. It is the unveiling of Jesus Christ, the lifting of the wraps.

When I was a child, I lived in Ventura and went to Elementary School in Ventura. I played in the school orchestra. And in front of the city hall they had a sculptor make a sculpture of Father Juan Opero Sierra, who had established the mission there in Ventura. So the day came for the unveiling of the statue, and among other things for entertainment they had our school orchestra there playing. So I was sitting there in the violin section. And the mayor made his speech and the county supervisors made their speeches, and all, and the Catholic priest made his speech.

Then finally the crane that was there, they had a ring in the top of the canvas that was covering this large statue. So they began to crank up the canvas and finally we could see what was under the canvas, the statue of Father Juan Opero Sierra. It was the unveiling. It was the apokalupsis. The unveiling of this statue and we could finally see what was behind the wraps.

Now, there is a common misconception concerning the book of Revelation, and a lot of people will say, "Well, I never deal with the book of Revelation. That is a sealed book." Exactly the opposite, rather than a sealed book, it is an unveiling. It is taking the wraps off. It is taking the seals off. It is allowing you to see what the future holds, as far as Jesus Christ is concerned. So it is the revelation, or the unveiling, of Jesus Christ as far as the future.

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

So for the most part in the book of Revelation, there will be the angel speaking to John and revealing to him the things that were being revealed to him by Jesus Christ. So He sent this revelation by the angel to John. And there are times when the angel appears to John. There are times when John sees the Lord himself. There are times when the elder is explaining aspects of this revelation to John. But the basic format was the revelation of Jesus Christ given to him by God, to show to his servants, and it was sent to John signified by the angel, which is a messenger.

Who bore record of the word of God ( Revelation 1:2 ),

And that of course is John's declaration in his gospel and in his epistles that he was just a recorder, a recorder of the things for which he had seen and of which he had heard. And his job was just to record these things, and he bore record. And he said we know that our record is true, or our witness is true.

Who bare record of the word of God, and the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all the things that he saw ( Revelation 1:2 ).

Now, most of this revelation came to John by way of visions. And a vision is really insight into the spirit world. Now, there is a spirit world that exists about us. We cannot see it with our natural eyes, but God can open our eyes to the realm of the spirit, and the capacity of being able to see the spirit realm is called a vision.

Now, the spirit realm is the eternal realm. So in a vision you can spiritually see things either past, present or future, because the eternal realm is a timeless realm. So John, a little further down, is going to say that he was in the spirit unto the day of the Lord. That is, he saw the things that are going to yet transpire in the future. He saw things that have not yet taken place. Time hasn't yet caught up with it.

Blessed is he that reads, and they that hear the words of this prophecy ( Revelation 1:3 ),

So it is an easy book for me to plunge into, because I know you are going to be blessed, even though I may not say anything worthwhile. Because we are going to be reading the words of this prophecy and hearing the words of this prophecy, and so there is a built-in promise blessing for you. You can't escape it. It is there promised to you by the Lord, those that read and those that hear. So I am going to be blessed. And if you keep up with your reading, you will be blessed, and you will be blessed as you hear.

Not only hearing,

but also keeping those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand ( Revelation 1:3 ).

There has always been in the church the sense of urgency and immediacy as far as the return of Jesus Christ. The time is short, we are told in verse one. Here in verse three, "the time is at hand." And there is a sense in which that is perennially true. Time is always short for each of us. We don't know how much time we do have. If we live to be one hundred years, time is short, such a short time especially in comparison to eternity.

So, now the greeting of John beginning with verse four,

John to the seven churches which are in Asia ( Revelation 1:4 ):

We know that seven is a number that is symbolically used in the scripture often, the number of completeness. It is called the number of perfection, but the Greek word perfection in its use is different from our use of the use perfection. We think of something without flaw. The idea in the Greek is literally fully matured or of full age or complete.

So we find that there are many things that have a seven as a completion. For instance there are seven days in the week, so you have a complete week, seven days. Seven notes on the scale, then you start over again. Doe, ray, me, fa, so, la, tee, doe, and you have to go to doe, ray, me, again. So, the seven makes the complete scale.

The seven churches, there were more churches than this in Asia. There were some very prominent churches in Asia, for instance the church of Galatia also established by Paul. The church of Colossi, which Paul wrote to, which was not really far from the church of Ephesus. So, why seven churches? It is to give you the complete picture of the church.

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 ( Revelation 1:4 );

The first, of course, is a description of God, "from Him which is, which was and which is to come". And this is a way of describing the eternal nature of God. He is, He was, He is to come, but He is all of that at the same time. There is no past and future with God. It is all now for He dwells in the eternal. "I am that I am"( Exodus 3:14 ). Only God can declare that because He is in the eternal. "I am" I may say that, "but than I was," because I said, "I am" a moment ago. But God dwells in the eternal. "I am that I am," the eternally present one. So, in describing the eternal character of God He is, He was, and He is to come are all at once and the same.

"The seven spirits which are before his throne," again the completeness of the work of the Holy Spirit. The seven being the number of symbolism again of completeness.

And from Jesus Christ ( Revelation 1:5 ),

Now when he comes to Jesus Christ, he has quite a bit to say,

who is the faithful witness ( Revelation 1:5 ),

The word "witness" in the Greek is "martys", and is the word from which we get our word "martyr", which has come to mean one who dies for his faith. But originally the idea is one who has a faith so strong that he would die for it. So, Jesus is the faithful witness. What does that mean? He is the faithful witness of what God is.

Do you want to know what God is? You can look at Jesus Christ and know exactly what God is. "No man has seen the Father at any time, but the only begotten Son who was in the bosom of the Father, He hast manifested Him, made Him known" ( John 1:18 ). So that when Philip said to Him, "Lord just show us the Father and we will be satisfied." And He said, "Have I not been so long a time with you and haven't you seen Me. Philip don't you realize that He who has seen Me hast seen the Father"( John 14:9 ). The faithful witness of what God is.

Now we are called to be witnesses for Jesus Christ. That is, it should be that people could look at you and know exactly what Jesus is like. That is God's intent and purpose for your life. That is what the Spirit is seeking to accomplish in conforming you into the image of Christ. So that as the Spirit's work is complete in me, I will respond as He responds. I will love as He loves. I will forgive as He forgave. I will be His representative. I will be His true and faithful witness. The witness of what He is, even as He was the true and faithful witness of what God is.

And so unto Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead ( Revelation 1:5 ),

That is the first of this whole hope that we have of eternal life through Him.

and the prince of the kings of the earth. [King of kings, and Lord of lords we will be proclaiming Him in a few weeks as we get to chapter nineteen.] Unto him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood ( Revelation 1:5 ),

The redemption that is ours through Jesus Christ. More than that He

has made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen ( Revelation 1:6 ).

So, this is the work of Jesus Christ. He was the faithful witness. He is the first begotten from among the dead. He is the prince of the kings of the earth. But He loved you and redeemed you with His blood in order that He might make you a kingdom of priests unto God, in order that He might receive "glory and dominion forever".

Behold, he cometh with clouds ( Revelation 1:7 );

Probably a reference to the church that is coming with Him. In the eleventh chapter of the book of Hebrews, it tells us of all of these Old Testament saints who through faith made their mark upon the world. And then chapter twelve begins, "Seeing we are encompassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses,"( Hebrews 12:1 ) a multitude of people. "Behold He cometh with clouds," the multitudes of people that will be returning with Him, the church. "And when Christ who is our life shall appear then shall we also appear with Him in glory"( Colossians 3:4 ).

Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him ( Revelation 1:7 ),

Contrary to what the Jehovah Witnesses teach that He came privately in 1914 into the secret chamber and only those with spiritual eyes could see Him, and that He now rules the world in the kingdom age from this secret chamber. Satan is bound, cast into the abysso. Well, they left a chain too long. He's got too much freedom to suit me.

every eye shall see him and they also which pierced him ( Revelation 1:7 ):

At His second coming we are told that Jesus came as far as Bethany with His disciples there on the mount of Olives and then He ascended up into heaven and a cloud received Him out of there sight. And while they were standing there two men stood by them in white apparel and said, "Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye here gazing into heaven? For this same Jesus, is going to come again in like manner as you have seen Him go into heaven"( Acts 1:11 ). Every eye shall see Him. He is going to come. It will be a public coming. Jesus is coming in the flesh to establish God's kingdom upon the earth.

every eye shall see him and they also which pierced him shall mourn ( Revelation 1:7 ):

There is a prophecy in Psalm twenty-two concerning Jesus Christ and it said, "they pierced His hands and His feet"( Psalms 22:16 ). They that pierced Him shall see Him.

In Zechariah, another prophecy concerning Jesus Christ, "and they shall look upon him whom they have pierced"( Zechariah 12:10 ). And again in Zechariah, "And they shall say unto him in that day, what are the meaning of these wounds in your hands"( Zechariah 13:6 ). They shall look upon him whom they have pierced.

and all families of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen ( Revelation 1:7 ).

The recognition finally that Jesus is indeed the Messiah, the longed for Messiah that the nation of Israel has waited for and sought. That recognition will come, but only after Jeremiah's prophecy is fulfilled and Jacob has gone through a time of great trouble and great sorrow. But, "they will look upon Him whom they have pierced".

Now Jesus addresses John directly and declares,

I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, saith the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty ( Revelation 1:8 ).

Now whether or not this is Jesus or God, it really is immaterial. But, Jesus addresses John in a moment in verse eleven saying "I am the Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, and what you see write in a book." Now if God declares of Himself that I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the ending, and Jesus declares that I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the ending.

You know I took Geometry back in the ancient days and there was something about equal angles and equal sides make an isosceles triangle or something. If your angles are equal, sides are equal and they become equal.

Now if God says, "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the ending," and Jesus says, "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the ending," then it makes them the same. "In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made" ( John 1:1-3 ). "And the Word was made flesh, and He dwelt among us" ( John 1:14 ). "Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the ending."

Now John gives a little background to the vision. He said,

I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and the patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and the testimony of Jesus Christ ( Revelation 1:9 ).

Now at this time all the rest of the apostles had all been martyred. They had all been put to death by the Roman government. John is the only one of the original left. He is well into his nineties. It is estimated that this was written in 96 AD, and it is estimated that John was probably approximately the same age as Jesus. So John is probably close to ninety-six years old at the writing of this book. He is in a little rocky crag out there in the Mediterranean, offshore a little bit from the area of Ephesus. And he is there for the word of God and the testimony that he has. He was exiled to the island of Patmos.

According to Usibius in his book on church history, as he records the violent death of all of the other apostles, he says concerning John that there was the attempt to boil him in oil, but he survived the experience of being boiled in oil. So they exiled him to the island of Patmos.

God wasn't through with John yet. God had one final word for man. The book of Revelation needed to be written and John was the one that was eminently qualified to write the book. So there on the island of Patmos, the aged John received this vision of the future.

And I was in the spirit on the Lord's day ( Revelation 1:10 ),

Now there is two possible ways to interpret this. One is that on Sunday, he went into a spiritual trance and had this vision. Another possible translation of this same Greek text would be, "I was in the spirit unto the day of the Lord". I prefer that translation myself. For I believe that John was taken in the spirit through a time machine, if you please, which of course is the transition from the natural into the spiritual world; that is a time machine, because you enter into the timelessness of eternity. Something that will take place when you die; you will enter into the timelessness of eternity. Time is only relative to our planet earth, because of its rotation on its axis and its revolution around the sun. So we count time here, but time is relative.

"John was in the spirit unto the day of the Lord"

and heard behind me a voice, as of a trumpet ( Revelation 1:10 ),

Later on he is going to hear a voice as of a trumpet calling him up into heaven. "Come up hither and I will show you things which must be"( Revelation 4:1 ).

Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What you see [again he saw these things. It was a vision.], write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. So I turned to see who it was that was talking to 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 his feet, and gird about his [chest] 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 were like unto fine brass, as if they were burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters ( Revelation 1:11-15 ).

So it is interesting to me that in the New Testament, with all of the gospel writers writing concerning the life of Jesus Christ, there was never an endeavor by any of them to describe Jesus in a physical sense. None of them said he had brown eyes or he had blues; He parted his hair in the middle; He had a beard. No descriptions at all of Jesus Christ so that we are totally without any real knowledge of what Jesus looks like from a physical sense.

Man has often drawn pictures of what he envisions that Jesus might have looked like. But it is hard to really envision what a person looks like just by hearing the words that he said, or by even hearing his voice.

You know, it is an interesting thing when I travel around the country to these radio rallies where we go into an area, where we have been broadcasting on the radio for seven years, and we get a chance to personally meet the people that have been listening to us on the radio. And the moment I walk out, I can sense the shock when people finally see the face behind the voice. And they will come up and say, "I thought you were tall and had curly hair." And they have all kinds of mental pictures of what you must look like because of your voice. And it is amazing how far off you can get in your mental, you know, somehow when you hear a person's voice.

Of course you kids today that grew up in the TV era, you didn't have it like we used to have it when we were kids. All of our entertainment was by radio. And I had a picture of what Little Orphan Annie looked like, and what Jack Armstrong looked like. Somehow you get a mental picture of what they must look like because of their voices.

What you see depicted, as Jesus is just the figment of some man's imagination. The Bible hasn't really described Him in a physical sense. The only real description we have of Jesus in the New Testament is given to us here in the gospel of John, by John himself. And this is Jesus as he sees Him in His glorified form. And he describes Him much as Daniel described Him in the book of Daniel, only a little more fully than Daniel described Him.

And he had in His right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword ( Revelation 1:16 ):

Now the Bible says the Word of God is alive and powerful, sharper than any two-edged sword. So His words are like a sharp two-edged sword, because they are "able to cut between the soul and the spirit. They are a discerner of the thoughts and the intents of the hearts of man"( Hebrews 4:12 ).

and his countenance [or face] was as the sun shineth in his strength ( Revelation 1:16 ).

It would be like looking into the noonday sun. His feet would have been like brass heated to an incandescence. His hair white as snow, eyes like a flame of fire. What a vision. Holding in His right hand the seven stars,

And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last [I am the Alpha and the omega. I am the first and the last. I am the beginning and the ending.]: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, so be it; and have the keys of hell and of death ( Revelation 1:17-18 ).

When Jesus died He descended into hell. Peter, in the second chapter of the book of Acts in explaining to the people of the phenomena that they were observing on the day of Pentecost, declared, "Jesus of Nazareth, a man who proved himself to be of God by the signs and the miracles, which He did in your midst, whom you with your wicked hands have crucified and slain: whom God rose from the dead: because it was not possible that he could be held by death; for the scripture predicted and prophesied in Psalms thou will not leave my soul in hell, neither will you allow the Holy One to see corruption"( Acts 2:22-27 ).

So Jesus descended into hell and preached to the souls that were in prison. And when he ascended He lead those captives from their captivity for He had the keys of death and hell and He concords over death and hell.

Now, there have been a lot of people who have claimed that they were going to come back from the dead. Houdini often made the claim that he was going to escape death, and for several years they had a phone in the crypt where his body was waiting for him to call. They finally disconnected it. The escape artist couldn't escape death, but Jesus did. He has "the keys of death and hell". And this same Jesus has God raised from the dead. It was not possible that He could be held by it.

The prophecy of Isaiah concerning Jesus was He was to set at liberty those who were bound and open the prison doors. He did that. Those who were held by the prison of death, He opened the doors for them and lead the captives from their captivity.

Now the command of John in verse nineteen gives to you the key to the book of Revelation. And the understanding of this book is really dependent upon your using the key, which is verse nineteen of chapter one, for there are three divisions to the book of Revelation.

Write the things which you have seen ( Revelation 1:19 ),

This is past tense; so, it was this vision that he wrote of Jesus Christ that he saw here in chapter one.

Secondly,

the things which are ( Revelation 1:19 ),

These are the present things.

And thirdly,

and the things which shall be hereafter ( Revelation 1:19 );

The words "hereafter" are a translation of the Greek words "meta autos", which literally means "after these things". So you have John writing that which he saw. He will be writing in chapters two and three the things which are during this present age, the things of the church. And then as you begin in chapter four, he is going to write of the things that transpire after the things of the church, the things that will be hereafter, or more literally after these things, so it is significant. You need to watch for it.

Chapter four begins with the Greek words "meta autos". "After these things, I saw a door open in heaven: and the first voice was as of a trumpet saying unto me; Come up hither, and I will show you things which must be". Again the repetition of the Greek words "meta autos", "after these things." So you enter into the third section of the book when you get to chapter four. So, you get into the future aspects of the book.

We are now living in the eras of chapters two and three, "the things which are". The church continues to exist, and the testimony and the witness of the church, and the witness of Jesus concerning His church, which is even more important.

So, there are three divisions of the book. It is important that you catch this, because if you don't you are going to have a constantly confused and garbled view of the future. You will see the church in the midst of the tribulation and the one hundred and forty-four thousand-you'll try to twist to be the church. There are all kinds of twisted and exaggerated concepts that have come from the book of Revelation, because people did not catch the key in this first chapter here.

Now, the Lord explains to John a little bit of the vision that he saw. Remember he turned and he saw Him walking in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks.

The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the [messengers] of the seven churches ( Revelation 1:20 ):

The word "aggelos" in Greek is literally "messengers". It is usually used of a heavenly messenger, but also used of earthly messengers too. Anyone who is bearing a message could be an aggelos, a messenger. The word by usage has come to mean a divine messenger, a heavenly being.

The seven stars are the messengers of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which you saw are the seven churches ( Revelation 1:20 ).

So the seven churches are the complete church and those who are ministering to the church.

Now it is always to me a very comforting, and yet an extremely exciting concept, to realize the place of the seven stars. They were being held in the right hand of Him. And how beautiful and comforting it is to realize that as a messenger to the church, your life is being held in the right hand of the Lord. I don't know of anything more exciting than that and comforting than that. Another thing that is extremely exciting is where Jesus is. He is walking in the midst of the church or the churches, the seven golden candlesticks or the seven churches. So Christ is walking in the midst of His church.

You remember in the Gospels, Jesus said, "Where two or three are gathered together in my name there will I be in the midst"( Matthew 18:20 ), His promised presence with His people. So Jesus is here with us tonight. He has promised to be with His people wherever they have gathered in His name. And that is always just beautiful and comforting to realize the presence of Jesus.

Now He, for a time, sought to familiarize the disciples with the concept that He is there even though you don't see Him. So after His resurrection He would show up and then disappear. And suddenly He would be with them in the midst and then He would be gone.

Two disciples were walking on the road to Emmaus and suddenly Jesus was on the path walking with them. When they got to Emmaus, He pretended like He was going on, and they said it was too late; come in and eat with us. And when He broke bread, their eyes were open and they realized it was Jesus, probably they saw the marks in His hands. Then Jesus disappeared and they said, "Wow, that was the Lord", and they ran all the way back to Jerusalem to share with the disciples. "Hey, we have seen the risen Lord." And they said, "He appeared to Peter and Mary and a bunch of them."

Thomas said, "Ah, don't give me that stuff. I am not going to believe until I, myself, can take my finger and put it right there in His hand. I want to take my hand and put it right there in His side. I need more proof than your stories." So the disciples were gathered and Thomas was present and Jesus suddenly appeared and said, "Hey Thomas, go ahead, take your finger and touch me. See if it isn't me"( John 20:27 ). Hey, wait a minute. How did He know Thomas said that? He must have been standing there when Thomas expressed His doubts. You see Thomas couldn't see Him, but He was trying to get them used to the fact that He is there even though you don't see Me. That was part of the training.

Paul the apostle after fourteen days and fourteen nights on a stormy sea, when all hope of ever surviving was lost, in the morning of the fourteenth day Paul stood up and said, "Hey men, be of good cheer"( Acts 27:22 ). Everybody is seasick and miserable and they think they are going to die and he is saying, "Be of good cheer." He said, "Last night the Lord stood by me." The Lord was with him the whole while. The Lord is with us here tonight. The presence of the Lord is with us. He said, "Wherever two or three are gathered together here I am" ( Matthew 18:20 ).

Now often we wish that we could have been at the Sea of Galilee almost two thousand years ago, or that we could have been at Capernaum or Bethsaida or one of those cities where Jesus visited; that we could actually have seen Him ourselves. How thrilling it would have been to have lived in those days and to have followed him along the sea listening to Him teach. Oh, I know that if I could have only been right there, if I could have only seen Him, I know that He could have reached out and touched me and He could have healed me or helped me. If only I could have seen Him like that, I know He could have helped me.

Like Martha when Jesus finally showed up four days after her brother had died, she said, "Lord if you only had been here my brother wouldn't have died"( John 11:21 ). "If You had just been here. If I could have just seen Him, I know that He could do it".

Hey, He is here. He is here to touch you tonight. He is here to minister to your needs tonight. Wherever the church assembles in His name, He has promised His presence to be there with them. And He is always there to minister to the needs of the people. That is the purpose of His being here tonight, to touch you and to minister to the needs in your life. He said, "Behold I am with you always even to the end of the age"( Matthew 28:20 ).

Now, we come to the messages of Jesus to these churches. There are patterns in the messages. First of all, the messages to each of the churches begin with an address of Jesus naming the church that He is writing to. And then a description of Himself, and the description is usually taken from the first chapter here, and the description of Himself usually is correlated in the body of the message.

So it is Jesus becoming all things to all people, no matter what your need may be. He becomes all things to all men. Even as the name of God, the Yahweh, or Jehovah, or however it may be pronounced, is the thought of the becoming One. "I am the becoming One", where God sought to reveal himself as the One who becomes whatever you may need. So this name Yahweh is used in conjunction with other words. So we have Jehovah Rophi, the Lord our healer. If you need healing, he becomes your healer. He becomes your provider, Jehovah Jireh. He becomes your righteousness, Jehovah Tsidkenu. He becomes your Savior, Joshua or Jehovah Shua.

So, Jesus in the description of Himself, as He writes to the churches again, takes that adaptive form where He adapts to what you might be needing. He becomes all that you might need, so the description of Himself. Then in each of the churches there is the acknowledgment that I know what you are going through. I know your condition. I know what is happening. To five of the churches, there is the call to repentance.

Now, remember the church is less than one hundred years old. We so often hear quoted, "The early church fathers this and the early church fathers that." Well, according to Jesus, the early church fathers became corrupted pretty early. Corrupt systems began to invade the church extremely early, as we will see when we get to the church of Pergamus and Thyatira. These corrupt systems had entrenched themselves within the church before the end of the first century.

So you have some of the renown church fathers' origin and some of the others, who are espousing child and infant baptism, and some of the other things that were borrowed from the pagans. You have an early development of the priesthood. It began before the death of John in Thyatira and in Pergamus.

So you cannot really look back at church history to find the model or the pattern. You have to look right back to the book of Acts to find out God's true pattern. And the true pattern is one of great simplicity. People just being brought to a faith in Jesus Christ and a living relationship to Him, no fancy organizations, no great structures, no seminaries; just a simple trust and faith in the Lord shared from person to person and friend to friend.

In each of the churches there is a group who are victorious, who are overcoming, and they are recognized by the Lord. And there are special promises to those who do overcome and they exist in every church. So no matter how corrupt the church system may become, the Lord always has His true witness within that church. And in each of the churches there is that call of Jesus to pay attention. "He that hath an ear to hear, let him hear what the Spirit is saying to the church"( Revelation 2:7 ).

So seven times we are going to be commanded by the Lord to hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches. So, let us now as we enter into this very awesome solemn territory of the messages of Jesus, Jesus' epistles to the church, and may God by His Holy Spirit give us ears to hear what He is seeking to say to the church, for He is going to tell us that as many as He loves He chastens and He rebukes. Let's not try to defend ourselves or justify our positions, but let's be open to hear what the Spirit would say to us, His church. "



Copyright Statement
Copyright © 2014, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, Ca.
Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on Revelation 1:10". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/csc/revelation-1.html. 2014.

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

I. THE PREPARATION OF THE PROPHET CH. 1

The first chapter contains a prologue to the book, which is similar to the one in John 1:1-18, the prologue to John’s Gospel (cf. 1 John 1:1-4). It also relates a vision that God gave John that prepared him for what follows. This presentation has the effect of showing that Jesus Christ is the culminating figure in human history (cf. Hebrews 1), and it prepares the reader for the revelation of His future acts that constitutes the bulk of this book.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Revelation 1:10". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/revelation-1.html. 2012.

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

1. The first commission to write 1:9-11

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Revelation 1:10". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/revelation-1.html. 2012.

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

B. The commission of the prophet 1:9-20

John next explained a vision of the glorified Christ that God had given him (cf. Isaiah 6; Ezekiel 1). First, he related the circumstances of his first commission to write (Revelation 1:9-11). Second, he provided a detailed description of the source of that commission (Revelation 1:12-16). Third, he explained more about his commission and the one who gave it (Revelation 1:17-20).

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Revelation 1:10". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/revelation-1.html. 2012.

Dr. Constable's Expository Notes

The Holy Spirit appears to have caught John up and projected him in his spirit to a future time in a vision (cf. Revelation 4:2; Revelation 17:3; Revelation 21:10; Ezekiel 3:12; Ezekiel 3:14; Ezekiel 8:3; Ezekiel 11:1; Ezekiel 11:24; Ezekiel 43:5). [Note: See F. J. A. Hort, The Apocalypse of St. John, p. 15.]

The "Lord’s day" probably refers to Sunday. [Note: Swete, p. 13; Morris, p. 51; Newell, p. 24; Johnson, pp. 424-25; Mounce, p. 76; Beasley-Murray, p. 65; Aune, p. 84; Ladd, p. 31; Beale, pp. 203-4; Roger T. Beckwith and Wilfred Stott, This is The Day: The Biblical Doctrine of the Christian Sabbath in its Jewish and Early Christian Setting.] But it could refer to the future day of the Lord spoken of frequently elsewhere in Scripture. [Note: E. W. Bullinger, The Apocalypse or "The Day of the Lord," p. 152; Walvoord, p. 42; Smith, p. 324.] The New Testament writers never called Sunday the Lord’s day elsewhere in Scripture. This term became common after the apostolic age. [Note: Thomas, Revelation 1-7, p. 91.]

A loud trumpet-like voice instructed John to write down what he saw and send it to seven churches in Asia Minor. The trumpet reference probably implies that submission to its command was necessary. The voice belonged to Jesus Christ (Revelation 1:12; Revelation 1:17-18).

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Revelation 1:10". "Dr. Constable's Expository Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/revelation-1.html. 2012.

Barclay's Daily Study Bible

Chapter 1

GOD'S REVELATION TO MEN ( Revelation 1:1-3 )

1:1-3 This is the revelation revealed by Jesus Christ, the revelation which God gave to him to show to his servants, the revelation which tells of the things which must soon happen. This revelation Jesus Christ sent and explained through his angel to his servant John, who testified to the word sent to him by God and attested by the witness borne by Jesus Christ everything which he saw.

This book is called sometimes the Revelation and sometimes the Apocalypse. It begins with the words "The revelation of Jesus Christ," which mean not the revelation about Jesus Christ but the revelation given by Jesus Christ. The Greek word for revelation is apokalupsis ( G602) which is a word with a history.

(i) Apokalupsis ( G602) is composed of two parts. Apo ( G575) means "away from" and kalupsis (compare G2572) "a veiling." Apokalupsis ( G602) , therefore, means an unveiling, a revealing. It was not originally a specially religious word; it meant simply the disclosure of any fact. There is an interesting use of it in Plutarch (How to tell a Flatterer from a Friend, 32). Plutarch tells how once Pythagoras severely rebuked a devoted disciple of his in public and the young man went out and hanged himself. "From that time on Pythagoras never admonished anyone when anyone else was present. For error should be treated as a foul disease, and all admonition and disclosure (apokalupsis, G602) should be in secret." But apokalupsis ( G602) became specially a Christian word.

(ii) It is used for the revealing of God's will to us for our actions. Paul says that he went up to Jerusalem by apokalupsis ( G602) . He went because God told him he wanted him to go ( Galatians 2:2).

(iii) It is used of the revelation of God's truth to men. Paul received his gospel, not from men, but by apokalupsis ( G602) from Jesus Christ ( Galatians 1:12). In the Christian assembly the message of the preacher is an apokalupsis ( G602) ( 1 Corinthians 14:6).

(iv) It is used of God's revealing to men of his own mysteries, especially in the incarnation of Jesus Christ ( Romans 16:25; Ephesians 3:3).

(v) It is specially used of the revelation of the power and the holiness of God which is to come at the last days. That will be an unveiling of judgment ( Romans 2:5); but for the Christian it will be an unveiling of praise and glory ( 1 Peter 1:7); of grace ( 1 Peter 1:13); of joy ( 1 Peter 4:13).

Before we remind ourselves of the more technical use of apokalupsis ( G602) , we may note two things.

(i) This revelation is connected specially with the work of the Holy Spirit ( Ephesians 1:17).

(ii) We are bound to see that here we have a picture of the whole of the Christian life. There is no part of it which is not lit by the revelation of God. God reveals to us what we must do and say; in Jesus Christ he reveals himself to us, for he who has seen Jesus has seen the Father ( John 14:9); and life moves on to the great and final revelation in which there is judgment for those who have not submitted to God but grace and glory and joy for those who are in Jesus Christ. Revelation is no technical theological idea; it is what God is offering to all who will listen.

Now we look at the technical meaning of apokalupsis ( G602) , for that meaning is specially connected with this book.

The Jews had long since ceased to hope that they would be vindicated as the chosen people by human means. They hoped now for nothing less than the direct intervention of God. To that end they divided all time into two ages--this present age, wholly given over to evil; and the age to come, the age of God. Between the two there was to be a time of terrible trial. Between the Old and the New Testaments the Jews wrote many books which were visions of the dreadful time before the end and of the blessedness to come. These books were called Apokalypses; and that is what the Revelation is. Although there is nothing like it in the New Testament, it belongs to a class of literature which was common between the Testaments. All these books are wild and unintelligible, for they are trying to describe the indescribable. The very subject with which the Revelation deals is the reason why it is so difficult to understand.

THE MEANS OF GOD'S REVELATION ( Revelation 1:1-3 continued)

This short section gives us a concise account of how revelation comes to men.

(i) Revelation begins with God, the fountain of all truth. Every truth which men discover is two things--a discovery of the human mind and a gift of God. But it must always be remembered that men never create the truth; they receive it from God. We must also remember that that reception comes in two ways. It comes from earnest seeking. God gave men minds and it is often through our minds that he speaks to us. Certainly he does not grant his truth to the man who is too lazy to think. It comes from reverent waiting. God sends his truth to the man who not only thinks strenuously, but waits quietly in prayer and in devotion. But it must be remembered that prayer and devotion are not simply passive things. They are the dedicated listening for the voice of God.

(ii) God gives this revelation to Jesus Christ. The Bible never, as it were, makes a second God of Jesus; rather it stresses his utter dependence on God. "My teaching," said Jesus, "is not mine, but his who sent me" ( John 7:16). "I do nothing on my own authority but speak thus as the Father taught me" ( John 8:28). "I have not spoken on my own authority; the Father who sent me has himself given me commandment what to say and what to speak" ( John 12:49). It is God's truth that Jesus brings to men; and that is precisely why his teaching is unique and final.

(iii) Jesus sends that truth to John through his angel ( Revelation 1:1). Here the writer of the Revelation was a child of his day. At this time in history men were specially conscious of the transcendence of God. That is to say, they were impressed above all things with the difference between God and man. So much so that they felt direct communication between God and man was impossible and that there must always be some intermediary. In the Old Testament story Moses received the Law directly from the hands of God ( Exodus 19:1-25; Exodus 20:1-26); but twice in the New Testament it is said that the Law was given by angels ( Acts 7:53; Galatians 3:19).

(iv) Finally, the revelation is given to John. It is most uplifting to remember the part men play in the coming of God's revelation. God must find a man to whom he can entrust his truth and whom he can use as his mouthpiece.

(v) Let us note the content of the revelation which comes to John. It is the revelation of "the things which must quickly happen" ( Revelation 1:1). There are two important words here. There is must. History is not haphazard; it has purpose. There is quickly. Here is the proof that it is quite wrong to use the Revelation as a kind of mysterious timetable of what is going to happen thousands of years from now. As John sees it, the things it deals with are working themselves out immediately. The Revelation must be interpreted against the background of its own time.

SERVANTS OF GOD ( Revelation 1:1-3 continued)

Twice the word servant appears in this passage. God's revelation was sent to his servants and it was sent through his servant John. In Greek the word is doulos ( G1401) and in Hebrew 'ebed ( H5650) . Both are difficult fully to translate. The normal translation of doulos ( G1401) is slave. The real servant of God is, in fact, his slave. A servant can leave his service when he likes; he has stated hours of work and stated hours of freedom; he works for a wage; he has a mind of his own and can bargain as to when and for what he will give his labour. A slave can do none of these things; he is the absolute possession of his owner, with neither time nor will of his own. Doulos ( G1401) and 'ebed ( H5650) bring out how absolutely we must surrender life to God.

It is of the greatest interest to note to whom these words are applied in Scripture.

Abraham is the servant of God ( Genesis 26:24; Psalms 105:26; Daniel 9:11). Jacob is the servant of God ( Isaiah 44:1-2; Isaiah 45:4; Ezekiel 37:25). Caleb and Joshua are the servants of God ( Numbers 14:24; Joshua 24:29; Judg 6:49; 2 Chronicles 24:6; Nehemiah 1:7; Nehemiah 10:29; Psalms 105:26; Daniel 9:11). Jacob is the servant of God ( Isaiah 44:1-2; Isaiah 45:4; Ezekiel 37:25). Caleb and Joshua are the servants of God ( Numbers 14:24; Joshua 24:29; Judges 2:8). David is second only to Moses as characteristically the servant of God ( Psalms 132:10; Psalms 144:10; 1 Kings 8:66; 1 Kings 11:36; 2 Kings 19:34; 2 Kings 20:6; 1 Chronicles 17:4; in the titles of Psalms 18:1-50 and Psalms 36:1-12; Psalms 89:3; Ezekiel 34:24). Elijah is the servant of God ( 2 Kings 9:36; 2 Kings 10:10). Isaiah is the servant of God ( Isaiah 20:3). Job is the servant of God ( Job 1:8; Job 42:7). The prophets are the servants of God ( 2 Kings 21:10; Amos 3:7). The apostles are the servants of God ( Php_1:1 ; Titus 1:1; James 1:1; Jude 1:1; Romans 1:1; 2 Corinthians 4:5). A man like Epaphras is the servant of God ( Colossians 4:12). All Christians are the servants of God ( Ephesians 6:6).

Two things emerge from this.

(i) The greatest men regarded as their greatest honour the fact that they were servants of God.

(ii) We must note the width of this service. Moses, the law-giver; Abraham, the adventurous pilgrim; David, shepherd boy, sweet singer of Israel, king of the nation; Caleb and Joshua, soldiers and men of action; Elijah and Isaiah, prophets and men of God; Job, faithful in misfortune; the apostles, who bore to men the story of Jesus; every Christian--all are servants of God. There is none whom God cannot use, if he will submit to his service.

THE BLESSED'S OF GOD ( Revelation 1:1-3 continued)

This passage ends with a threefold blessing.

(i) The man who reads these words is blessed. The reader here mentioned is not the private reader, but the man who publicly reads the word in the presence of the congregation. The reading of Scripture was the centre of any Jewish service ( Luke 4:16; Acts 13:15). In the Jewish synagogue scripture was read to the congregation by seven ordinary members of the congregation, although if a priest or levite was present he took precedence. The Christian Church took much of its service from the synagogue order and the reading of scripture remained a central part of the service. Justin Martyr gives the earliest account of what a Christian service was like; and it includes the reading of "the memoirs of the apostles (i.e. the Gospels), and the writings of the prophets" (Justin Martyr 1: 67). Reader became in time an official office in the Church. One of Tertullian's complaints about the heretical sects was the way in which a man could too speedily arrive at office without any training for it. He writes: "And so it comes to pass that today one man is their bishop, and tomorrow another; today he is a deacon who tomorrow is a reader" (Tertullian, On Prescription against Heretics, 41).

(ii) The man who hears these words is blessed. We do well to remember how great a privilege it is to hear the word of God in our own tongue, a privilege which was dearly bought. Men died to give it to us; and the professional clergy sought for long to keep it to themselves. To this day the task of giving men the Scriptures in their own language goes on.

(iii) The man who keeps these words is blessed. To hear God's word is a privilege; to obey it is a duty. There is no real Christianity in the man who hears and forgets or deliberately disregards.

That is all the more true because the time is short. The time is near ( Revelation 1:3). The early church lived in vivid expectation of the coming of Jesus Christ and that expectation was "the ground of hope in distress and constant heed to warning." Apart altogether from that, no man knows when the call will come to take him from this earth, and in order to meet God with confidence he must add the obedience of his life to the listening of his ear.

We may note that there are seven blesseds in the Revelation.

(i) There is the blessed we have just studied. We may call it the blessedness of reading, hearing and obeying the Word of God.

(ii) Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord henceforth ( Revelation 14:13). We may call it the blessedness in heaven of Christ's friends on earth.

(iii) Blessed is he who is awake, keeping his garments ( Revelation 16:15). We may call it the blessedness of the watchful pilgrim.

(iv) Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb ( Revelation 19:9). We may, call it the blessedness of the invited guests of God.

(v) Blessed is he who shares in the first resurrection ( Revelation 20:6). We may call it the blessedness of the man whom death cannot touch.

(vi) Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book ( Revelation 22:7). We may call it the blessedness of the wise reader of God's Word.

(vii) Blessed are those who do his commandments ( Revelation 22:14). We may call it the blessedness of those who hear and obey.

Such blessedness is open to every Christian.

THE MESSAGE AND ITS DESTINATION ( Revelation 1:4-6 )

1:4-6 This is John writing to the seven Churches which are in Asia. Grace be to you and peace from him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven spirits which are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, the witness on whom you can rely, the first-born of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us and who set us free from our sins at the cost of his own blood, and who made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever. Amen.

The Revelation is a letter, written to the seven Churches which are in Asia. In the New Testament Asia is never the continent but always the Roman province. Once the kingdom of Attalus the Third, he had willed it to the Romans at his death. It included the western sea-coast of Asia Minor, on the shores of the Mediterranean, with Phrygia, Mysia, Caria and Lycia in the hinterland; and its capital was the city of Pergamum.

The seven Churches are named in Revelation 1:11 --Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, Laodicea. These were by no means the only Churches in Asia. There were Churches at Colossae ( Colossians 1:2); Hierapolis ( Colossians 4:13); Troas ( 2 Corinthians 2:12; Acts 20:5); Miletus ( Acts 20:17); Magnesia and Tralles, as the letters of Ignatius, the Bishop of Antioch, show. Why did John single out only these seven? There can be more than one reason for his selection.

(i) These Churches might be regarded as the centres of seven postal districts, being all on a kind of ring road which circled the interior of the province. Troas was off the beaten track. But Hierapolis and Colossae were within walking distance of Laodicea; and Tralles, Magnesia and Miletus were close to Ephesus. Letters delivered to these seven cities would easily circulate in the surrounding areas; and since every letter had to be hand-written, each letter would need to be sent where it would reach most easily the greatest number of people.

(ii) Any reading of the Revelation will show John's preference for the number seven. It occurs fifty-four times. There are seven candle-sticks ( Revelation 1:12), seven stars ( Revelation 1:16), seven lamps ( Revelation 4:5), seven seals ( Revelation 5:1), seven horns and seven eyes ( Revelation 5:6), seven thunders ( Revelation 10:3), seven angels, plagues and bowls ( Revelation 15:6-8). The ancient peoples regarded seven as the perfect number, and it runs all through the Revelation.

From this certain of the early commentators drew an interesting conclusion. Seven is the perfect number because it stands for completeness. It is, therefore, suggested that, when John wrote to seven Churches, he was, in fact, writing to the whole Church. The first list of New Testament books, called the Muratorian Canon, says of the Revelation: "For John also, though he wrote in the Revelation to seven Churches, nevertheless speaks to them all." This is all the more likely when we remember how often John says: "He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the Churches" ( Revelation 2:7; Revelation 2:11, Revelation 2:17; Revelation 2:29; Revelation 3:6; Revelation 3:13; Revelation 3:22).

(iii) Although the reasons we have adduced for the choice of these seven Churches may be valid, it may be still more valid that he chose them because in them he had a special authority. They were in a special sense his Churches, and by speaking to them he sent a message first to those who knew and loved him best, and then through them to every Church in every generation.

THE BLESSING AND ITS SOURCE ( Revelation 1:4-6 continued)

He begins by sending them the blessing of God.

He sends them grace, and this means all the undeserved gifts of the wondrous love of God. He sends them peace, which R. C. Charles finely describes as "the harmony restored between God and man through Christ." But there are two extra-ordinary things in this greeting.

(i) John sends blessings from him who is and who was and who is to come. That is in itself a common title for God. In Exodus 3:14 the word of God to Moses is "I am who I am." The Jewish Rabbis explained that by saying that God meant: "I was; I still am; and in the future I will be." The Greeks spoke of "Zeus who was, Zeus who is, and Zeus who will be." The Orphic worshippers said: "Zeus is the first and Zeus is the last; Zeus is the head and Zeus is the middle; and from Zeus all things come." This is what in Hebrews so beautifully became: "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and for ever" ( Hebrews 13:8).

But to get the full meaning of this we must look at it in the Greek, for John bursts the bonds of grammar to show his reverence for God. We translate the first phrase from him who is; but that is not what the Greek says. A Greek noun is in the nominative case when it is the subject of a sentence, but, when it is governed by a preposition it changes its case and its form. It is so in English. He is the subject of a sentence; him is the object. When John says that the blessing comes from him who is he should have put him who is in the genitive case after the preposition; but quite ungrammatically he leaves it in the nominative. It is as if we said in English from he who is, refusing to change he into him. John has such an immense reverence for God that he refuses to alter the form of his name even when the rules of grammar demand it.

John is not finished with his amazing use of language. The second phrase is from him who was. Literally, John says from the he was. The point is that who was would be in Greek a participle. The odd thing is that the verb eimi ( G1510) (to be) has no past participle. Instead there is used the participle genomenos from the verb gignomai, which means not only to be but also to become. Becoming implies change and John utterly refuses to apply any word to God that will imply any change; and so he uses a Greek phrase that is grammatically impossible and that no one ever used before.

In the terrible days in which he was writing John stayed his heart on the changelessness of God and used defiance of grammar to underline his faith.

THE SEVENFOLD SPIRIT ( Revelation 1:4-6 continued)

Anyone who reads this passage must be astonished at the form of the Trinity which we meet here. We speak of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Here we have God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son but instead of the Holy Spirit we have the seven Spirits who are before his throne. These seven Spirits are mentioned more than once in the Revelation ( Revelation 3:1; Revelation 4:5; Revelation 5:6). Three main explanations have been offered of them.

(i) The Jews talked of the seven angels of the presence, whom they beautifully called "the seven first white ones" (I Enoch 90:21). They were what we call the archangels, and "they stand and enter before the glory of the Lord" ( Tob_12:15 ). Their names are not always the same but they are often called Uriel, Rafael, Raguel, Michael, Gabriel, Saiquael and Jeremiel. They had the care of the elements of the world--fire, air and water--and were the guardian angels of the nations. They were the most illustrious and the most intimate servants of God. Some think that they are the seven Spirits mentioned here. But that cannot be; great as the angels were, they were still created beings.

(ii) The second explanation connects them with the famous passage in Isaiah 11:2; as the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Old Testament, has it: "The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and piety; by this spirit he shall be filled with the fear of God." This passage is the basis of the great conception of the sevenfold gifts of the Spirit.

Come, Holy Ghost, our souls inspire

And lighten with celestial fire;

Thou the anointing Spirit art,

Who dost thy sevenfold gifts impart.

The Spirit, as Beatus said, is one in name but sevenfold in virtues. If we think of the sevenfold gift of the Spirit, it is not difficult to think of the Spirit as seven Spirits, each giving great gifts to men. So it is suggested that the conception of the sevenfold gifts of the Spirit gave rise to the idea of the seven Spirits before the throne of God.

(iii) The third explanation connects the idea of the seven Spirits with the fact of the seven Churches. In Hebrews 2:4 we read of God giving "gifts of the Holy Spirit." The word translated gifts is merismos ( G3311) , and it really means shares, as if the idea was that God gives a share of his Spirit to every man. So the idea here would be that the seven Spirits stand for the share of the Spirit which God gave to each of the seven Churches. It would mean that no Christian fellowship is left without the presence and the power and the illumination of the Spirit.

THE TITLES OF JESUS ( Revelation 1:4-6 continued)

In this passage three great titles are ascribed to Jesus Christ.

(i) He is the witness on whom we can rely. It is a favourite idea of the Fourth Gospel that Jesus is a witness of the truth of God. Jesus said to Nicodemus: "Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen" ( John 3:11). Jesus said to Pilate: "For this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth" ( John 18:37). A witness is essentially a person who speaks from first-hand knowledge. That is why Jesus is God's witness. He is uniquely the person with first-hand knowledge about God.

(ii) He is the first-born of the dead. The word for first-born is prototokos ( G4416) . It can have two meanings. (a) It can mean literally first-born. If it is used in this sense, the reference must be to the Resurrection. Through his Resurrection Jesus gained a victory over death, which all who believe in him may share. (b) Since the first-born was the son who inherited his father's honour and power, prototokos ( G4416) comes to mean one with power and honour, one who occupies the first place, a prince among men. When Paul speaks of Jesus as the first-born of all creation ( Colossians 1:15), he means that to him the first place of honour and glory belongs. If we take the word in this sense--and probably we should--it means that Jesus is Lord of the dead as he is Lord of the living. There is no part of the universe, in this world or in the world to come, and nothing in life or in death of which Jesus Christ is not Lord.

(iii) He is the ruler of kings on earth. There are two things to note here. (a) This is a reminiscence of Psalms 89:27 "I will make him the first-born, the highest of the kings of the earth." That was always taken by Jewish scholars to be a description of the coming Messiah; and, therefore, to say that Jesus is the ruler of kings on earth is to claim that he is the Messiah. (b) Swete very beautifully points out the connection between this title of Jesus and the temptation story. In that story the devil took Jesus up into a high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the earth and their glory and said: "All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me" ( Matthew 4:8-9; Luke 4:6-7). It was the devil's claim that the kingdoms of the earth were delivered into his power ( Luke 4:6); and it was his suggestion that, if Jesus would strike a bargain with him, he would give him a share in them. The amazing thing is that what the devil promised Jesus--and could never have given him--Jesus won for himself by the suffering of the Cross and the power of the Resurrection. Not compromise with evil, but the unswerving loyalty and the unfailing love which accepted the Cross brought Jesus his universal lordship.

WHAT JESUS DID FOR MEN ( Revelation 1:4-6 continued)

Few passages set down with such splendour what Jesus did for men.

(i) He loves us and he set us free from our sins at the cost of his own blood. The King James Version is in error here. It reads: "Unto him that loved us and washed us from our sins in his own blood." The words "to wash" and "to set free" are in Greek very alike. "To wash" is louein ( G3068) ; "to set free" is luein ( G3089) ; and they are pronounced exactly in the same way. But there is no doubt that the oldest and best Greek manuscripts read luein ( G3089) . Again "in his own blood" is a mistranslation. The word translated "in" is en ( G1722) which, indeed, can mean "in"; but here it is a translation of the Hebrew word "be-" (the e is pronounced very short as in "the"), which means "at the price of."

What Jesus did, as John sees it, is that he freed us from our sins at the cost of his own blood. This is exactly what he says later on when he speaks of those who were ransomed for God by the blood of the Lamb ( Revelation 5:9). It is exactly what Paul meant when he spoke of us being redeemed from the curse of the Law ( Galatians 3:13); and when he spoke of redeeming those who were under the Law ( Galatians 4:5). In both cases the word used is exagorazein ( G1805) , which means to buy out from, to pay the price of buying a person or a thing out of the possession of him who holds that person or thing in his power.

This is a very interesting and important correction of the King James Version. It is made in all the newer translations and it means that the well-worn phrases which speak of being "washed in the blood of the Lamb" have little scriptural authority. These phrases convey a staggering picture; and it must come to many with a certain relief to know that what John said was that we are set free from our sins at the cost of the blood, that is, at the cost of the life of Jesus Christ.

There is another very significant thing here. We must carefully note the tenses of the verbs. John says that Jesus loves us and set us free. Loves is the present tense and it means that the love of God in Christ Jesus is something which is continuous. Set us free is the past tense, the Greek aorist, which tells of one act completed in the past and it means that in the one act of the Cross our liberation from sin was achieved. That is to say, what happened on the Cross was one availing act in time which was an expression of the continuous love of God.

(ii) Jesus made us a kingdom, priests to God. That is a quotation of Exodus 19:6 "You shall be to me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation." Jesus has done two things for us.

(a) He has given us royalty. Through him we may become the true sons of God; and, if we are sons of the King of kings, we are of lineage than which there can be none more royal.

(b) He made us priests. The point is this. Under the old way, only the priest had the right of access to God. When a Jew entered the Temple, he could pass through the Court of the Gentiles, the Court of the Women, the Court of the Israelites--but there he must stop; into the Court of the Priests he could not go; no nearer the Holy of Holies could he come. In the vision of the great days to come Isaiah said: "You shall be called the priests of the Lord" ( Isaiah 61:6). In that day every one of the people would be a priest and have access to God. That is what John means; because of what Jesus Christ did access to the presence of God is now open to every man. There is a priesthood of all believers. We can come boldly to the throne of grace ( Hebrews 4:16), because for us there is a new and living way into the presence of God ( Hebrews 10:19-22).

THE COMING GLORY ( Revelation 1:7 )

1:7 Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye shall see him, and the people who pierced him will see him; and all the tribes of the earth shall lament over him. Yea! Amen!

From now on in almost every passage, we shall have to note John's continuous use of the Old Testament. He was so soaked in the Old Testament that it was almost impossible for him to write a paragraph without quoting it. This is interesting and significant. John was living in a time when to be a Christian was an agonizing thing. He himself knew banishment and imprisonment and hard labour; and there were many who knew death in its most cruel forms. The best way to maintain courage and hope in such a situation was to remember that God had never failed in the past; and that his power was not grown less now.

In this passage John sets down the motto and the text of his whole book, his confidence in the triumphant return of Christ, which would rescue Christians in distress from the cruelty of their enemies.

(i) To Christians the return of Christ is a promise on which to feed the soul. John takes as his picture of that return Daniel's vision of the four bestial powers who have held the world in their grip ( Daniel 7:1-14). There was Babylon, the power that was like a lion with eagle's wings ( Daniel 7:4). There was Persia, the power that was like a savage bear ( Daniel 7:5). There was Greece, the power that was like a winged leopard ( Daniel 7:6). There was Rome, a beast with iron teeth, beyond description ( Daniel 7:7). But the day of these bestial empires was over, and the dominion was to be given to a gentle power like a son of man. "I saw in the night visions, and, behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days, and was presented before him, and to him was given dominion, and glory, and kingdom, that all peoples, nations and languages should serve him" ( Daniel 7:13-14). It is from that passage in Daniel there emerges the ever-recurring picture of the Son of Man coming on the clouds ( Mark 13:26; Mark 14:62; Matthew 24:30; Matthew 26:64). When we strip away the purely temporary imagery--we, for instance, no longer think of heaven as a localized place above the sky--we are left with the unchanging truth that the day will come when Jesus Christ will be Lord of all. In that hope have ever been the strength and the comfort of Christians for whom life was difficult and for whom faith meant death.

(ii) To the enemies of Christ, the return of Christ is a threat. To make this point John again quotes the Old Testament, from Zechariah 12:10 which contains the words: "When they look on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a first-born." The story behind the Zechariah saying is this. God gave his people a good shepherd; but the people in their disobedient folly killed him and took to themselves evil and self-seeking shepherds. But the day will come when in the grace of God they will bitterly repent, and in that day they will look on the good shepherd whom they pierced and will sorrowfully lament for him and for what they have done. John takes that picture and applies it to Jesus. Men crucified him but the day will come when they will look on him again; and this time, he will not be a broken figure on a cross but a regal figure to whom universal dominion has been given.

The first reference of these words is to the Jews and the Romans who actually crucified Jesus. But in every age all who sin crucify him again. The day will come when those who disregarded and those who opposed Jesus Christ will find him the Lord of the universe and the judge of their souls.

The passage closes with the two exclamations--"Even so. Amen!" In the Greek the words are nai ( G3483) and amen ( G281) . Nai ( G3483) is the Greek and amen ( G281) is the Hebrew (comapre H539) for a solemn affirmation--"Yes, indeed! So let it be!" By using the expression both in Greek and Hebrew John underlines its awful solemnity.

THE GOD IN WHOM WE TRUST ( Revelation 1:8 )

1:8 I am alpha and omega, says the Lord God, he who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.

Here is a tremendous description of the God in whom we trust and whom we adore.

(i) He is alpha and omega. Alpha ( G1) is the first letter and omega ( G5598) the last of the Greek alphabet; and the phrase alpha ( G1) to omega ( G5598) indicates completeness. The first letter of the Hebrew alphabet is aleph and the last is tau; and the Jews used the same kind of expression. The Rabbis said that Adam transgressed the Law and Abraham kept it from aleph to tau. They said that God had blessed Israel from aleph to tau. This expression indicates that God is absolutely complete: he has in himself what H. B. Swete called "the boundless life which embraces all and transcends all."

(ii) God is he who is and who was and who is to come. That is to say, he is the Eternal. He was before time began; he is now; and he will be when time ends. He has been the God of all who have trusted in him; he is the God in whom at this present moment we can put our trust; and there can be no event and no time in the future which can separate us from him.

Nor death nor life, nor earth nor hell,

nor time's destroying sway,

Can e'er efface us from his heart,

or make his love decay.

Each future period that will bless,

as it has bless'd the past;

He lov'd us from the first of time,

He loves us to the last.

(iii) God is the Almighty. The word for Almighty is pantokrator ( G3841) which describes the one who has dominion over all things.

The suggestive fact is that this word occurs in the New Testament seven times. Once it occurs in 2 Corinthians 6:18, in a quotation from the Old Testament, and all the six other instances are in the Revelation. This word is distinctive of John. Think of the circumstances in which he was writing. The embattled might of Rome had risen up to crush the Christian Church. No empire had ever been able to withstand Rome; what possible chance against Rome had "the panting, huddled flock whose crime was Christ"? Humanly speaking the Christian Church had none; but if men thought that, they had left the most important factor of all out of the reckoning--God the pantokrator ( G3841) , in the grip of whose hand were all things.

It is this word which in the Greek Old Testament describes the Lord of Sabaoth, the Lord of hosts ( Amos 9:5; Hosea 12:5). It is this word which John uses in the tremendous text: "The Lord our God the Almighty reigns" ( Revelation 19:6). If men are in the hands of a God like that, nothing can pluck them away. If behind the Christian Church there is a God like that, so long as she the Church is true to her Lord, nothing can destroy her.

My times are in thy hand:

I'll always trust in thee;

And, after death, at thy right hand

I shall for ever be.

THROUGH TRIBULATION TO THE KINGDOM ( Revelation 1:9 )

1:9 I, John, your brother and partner in tribulation, in the kingdom, and in that steadfast endurance which life in Christ alone can give, was in the island which is called Patmos, for the sake of the word given by God and confirmed by Jesus Christ.

John introduces himself, not by any official title but as your brother and partner in tribulation. His right to speak was that he had come through all that those to whom he was writing were going through. Ezekiel writes in his book: "Then I came to the exiles at Telabib, who dwelt by the river Chebar, and I sat there overwhelmed among them" ( Ezekiel 3:15). Men will never listen to one who preaches endurance from the comfort of an easy chair, nor to one who preaches heroic courage to others while he himself has sought a prudent safety. It is the man who has gone through it who can help others who are going through it. As the Indians have it: "No man can criticize another man until he has walked for a day in his moccasins." John and Ezekiel could speak because they had sat where their people were sitting.

John puts three words together--tribulation, kingdom, steadfast endurance. Tribulation is thlipsis ( G2347) . Originally thlipsis meant simply pressure and could, for instance, describe the pressure of a great stone on a man's body. At first it was used quite literally, but in the New Testament it has come to describe that pressure of events which is persecution. Steadfast endurance is hupomone ( G5281) . Hupomone ( G5281) does not describe the patience which simply passively submits to the tide of events; it describes the spirit of courage and conquest which leads to gallantry and transmutes even suffering into glory. The situation of the Christians was this. They were in thlipsis ( G2347) and, as John saw it, in the midst of the terrible events which preceded the end of the world. They were looking towards basileia ( G932) , the kingdom, into which they desired to enter and on which they had set their hearts. There was only one way from thlipsis ( G2347) to basileia ( G932) , from affliction to glory, and that was through hupomone ( G5281) , conquering endurance. Jesus said: "He who endures to the end will be saved" ( Matthew 24:13). Paul told his people: "Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God" ( Acts 14:22). In Second Timothy we read: "If we endure, we shall also reign with him" ( 2 Timothy 2:12).

The way to the kingdom is the way of endurance. But before we leave this passage we must note one thing. That endurance is to be found in Christ. He himself endured to the end and he is able to enable those who walk with him to achieve the same endurance and to reach the same goal.

THE ISLAND OF BANISHMENT ( Revelation 1:9 continued)

John tells us that, when the visions of the Revelation came to him, he was in Patmos. It was the unanimous tradition of the early church that he was banished to Patmos in the reign of Domitian. Jerome says that John was banished in the fourteenth year after Nero and liberated on the death of Domitian (Concerning Illustrious Men, 9). This would mean that he was banished to Patmos about A.D. 94 and liberated about A.D. 96.

Patmos, a barren rocky little island belonging to a group of islands called the Sporades, is ten miles long by five miles wide. It is crescent-shaped, with the horns Of the crescent pointing to the east. Its shape makes it a good natural harbour. It lies forty miles off the coast of Asia Minor and it was important because it was the last haven on the voyage from Rome to Ephesus and the first in the reverse direction.

Banishment to a remote island was a common form of Roman punishment. It was usually meted out to political prisoners and, as far as they were concerned, there were worse punishments. Such banishment involved the loss of civil rights and all property except enough for a bare existence. People so banished were not personally ill-treated and were not confined in prison on their island but free to move within its narrow limits. Such would be banishment for a political prisoner; but it would be very different for John. He was a leader of the Christians and Christians were criminals. The wonder is that he was not executed straight away. Banishment for him would involve hard labour in the quarries. Sir William Ramsay says his banishment would be "preceded by scourging, marked by perpetual fetters, scanty clothing, insufficient food, sleep on the bare ground, a dark prison, work under the lash of the military overseer."

Patmos left its mark on John's writing. To this day they show visitors a cave in a cliff overlooking the sea, where, they say, the Revelation was written. There are magnificent views of the sea from Patmos, and, as Strahan says, the Revelation is full of "the sights and the sounds of the infinite sea." The word thalassa ( G2281) , sea, occurs in the Revelation no fewer than twenty-five times. Strahan writes: "Nowhere is 'the voice of many waters' more musical than in Patmos; nowhere does the rising and setting sun make a more splendid 'sea of glass mingled with fire'; yet nowhere is the longing more natural that the separating sea should be no more."

It was to all the hardships and pain and weariness of banishment and hard labour on Patmos that John went for the sake of the word given by God So far as the Greek goes, that phrase is capable of three interpretations. It could mean that John went to Patmos to preach the word of God. It could mean that he withdrew to the loneliness of Patmos to receive the word of God and the visions of the Revelation. But it is quite certain that it means that it was John's unshakeable loyalty to the word of God, and his insistence on preaching the message of Jesus Christ which brought him to banishment in Patmos.

IN THE SPIRIT ON THE LORD'S DAY ( Revelation 1:10-11 )

1:10-11 I was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day, and I heard behind me a great voice, like the sound of a trumpet, saying: "Write what you see in a book, and send it to the seven Churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna, and to Pergamos and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea."

Historically this is an extremely interesting passage for it is the first reference in literature to the Lord's Day.

We have often spoken of the Day of the Lord, that day of wrath and judgment when this present age with all its evil was to be shatteringly changed into the age to come. Some think that John is saying that he was transported in a vision to that Day of the Lord and saw in advance all the astonishing things which were to happen then. Those who hold that view are very few and it is not a natural meaning for the words.

It is quite certain that when John uses the expression the Lord's Day he is using it as we use it--its very first mention in literature.

How did the Christian Church cease to observe the Sabbath, Saturday, and come to observe the Lord's Day, Sunday? The Sabbath commemorated the rest of God after the creation of the world; the Lord's Day commemorates the rising of Jesus from the dead.

The three earliest references to the Lord's Day may well be the following. The Didache, The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles, the first manual of Christian worship and instruction, says of the Christian Church: "On the Lord's Day we meet and break bread" (Didache 14: 1). Ignatius of Antioch, writing to the Magnesians, describes the Christians as "no longer living for the Sabbath, but for the Lord's Day" (Ignatius, To the Magnesians, 9: 1). Melito of Sardis wrote a treatise Concerning the Lord's Day. By early in the second century the Sabbath had been abandoned and the Lord's Day was the accepted Christian day.

One thing seems certain. All these early references come from Asia Minor and it was there that the observance of the Lord's Day first came in. But what was it that suggested to the Christians a weekly observance of the first day of the week? In the east there was a day of the month and a day of the week called Sebaste ( G4575) , which means The Emperor's Day; it was no doubt this which made the Christians decide that the first day of the week must be dedicated to their Lord.

John was in the Spirit. This phrase means that he was in an ecstasy in which he was lifted beyond the things of space and time into the world of eternity. "The Spirit lifted me up," said Ezekiel ( Ezekiel 3:12), "and I heard behind me the sound of a great earthquake." For John the voice was like the sound of a trumpet. The sound of the trumpet is woven into the language of the New Testament ( Matthew 24:31; 1 Corinthians 15:52; 1 Thessalonians 4:16). There is no doubt that in the mind of John there is here another Old Testament picture. In the account of the giving of the Law it is said: "There were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast" ( Exodus 19:16). The voice of God sounds with the commanding, unmistakable clarity of a trumpet call.

John is told to write the vision which he sees. It is his duty to share the message which God gives to him. A man must first hear and then transmit, even if the price of the transmission is costly indeed. It may be that a man must withdraw to see his vision, but he must also go forth to tell it.

Two phrases go together. John was in Patmos; and John was in the Spirit. We have seen what Patmos was like, and we have seen the pain and the hardship that John was undergoing. No matter where a man is, no matter how hard his life, no matter what he is passing through, he may still be in the Spirit. And, if he is in the Spirit, even on Patmos, the glory and the message of God will come to him.

THE DIVINE MESSENGER ( Revelation 1:12-13 )

1:12-13 And I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me; and, when I had turned, I saw seven golden lampstands, and, in the midst of the lampstands, one like a son of man, clothed in a robe that reached to his feet, and girt about the breasts with a golden girdle.

We now begin on the first of John's visions; and we shall see that his mind is so saturated with Scripture that element after element in the picture has an Old Testament background and counterpart.

He says that he turned to see the voice. We would say: "I turned to see whose was the voice which was speaking to me."

When he turned, he saw seven golden lampstands. John does not only allude to the Old Testament; he takes items from many places in it and out of them he forms a composite picture. The picture of the seven golden lampstands has three sources.

(a) It comes from the picture of the candlestick of pure gold in the Tabernacle. It was to have six branches, three on one side and three on the other, and seven lamps to give light ( Exodus 25:31-37).

(b) It comes from the picture of Solomon's Temple. In it there were to be five candlesticks of pure gold on the right hand and five on the left ( 1 Kings 7:49).

(c) It comes from the vision of Zechariah. Zechariah saw "a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl on the top of it, and seven lamps on it" ( Zechariah 4:2).

When John sees a vision, he sees it in terms of scenes from the Old Testament places and occasions when God had already revealed himself to his people. Surely there is a lesson here. The best way to prepare oneself for new revelation of truth is to study the revelation which God has already given.

In the midst of the lampstands he saw one like a son of man. Here we are back to the picture of Daniel 7:13, in which the kingdom and the power and the dominion are given by the Ancient of Days to one like a son of man. As we well know from Jesus' use of it, Son of Man became nothing less than the title of the Messiah; and by using it here John makes it plain that the revelation which he is to receive is coming from Jesus Christ himself

This figure was clothed with a robe which reached down to his feet, and he was girt about the breasts with a golden girdle. Here again we have three pictures.

(a) The word which describes the robe is poderes ( G4158) , reaching down to the feet. This is the word which the Greek Old Testament uses to describe the robe of the High Priest ( Exodus 28:4; Exodus 29:5; Leviticus 16:4). Josephus also describes carefully the garments which the priests and the High Priest wore when they were serving in the Temple. They wore "a long robe reaching to the feet," and around the breast, "higher than the elbows," they wore a girdle which was loosely wound round and round the body. The girdle was embroidered with colours and flowers, with a mixture of gold interwoven (Josephus: The Antiquities of the Jews, 3.7: 2, 4). All this means that the description of the robe and the girdle of the glorified Christ is almost exactly that of the dress of the priests and of the High Priest. Here, then, is the symbol of the high priestly character of the work of the Risen Lord. A priest, as the Jews saw it, was a man who himself has access to God and who opens the way for others to come to him; even in the heavenly places Jesus, the great High Priest, is still carrying on his priestly work, opening the way for all men to the presence of God.

(b) But other people besides priests wore the long robe reaching to the feet and the high girdle. It was the dress of great ones, of princes and of kings. Poderes ( G4158) is the description of the robe of Jonathan ( 1 Samuel 18:4); of Saul ( 1 Samuel 24:5; 1 Samuel 24:11); of the princes of the sea ( Ezekiel 26:16). The robe the Risen Christ was wearing was the robe of royalty. No longer was he a criminal on a cross; he was dressed like a king.

Christ is Priest and Christ is King.

(c) There is still another part of this picture. In the vision of Daniel, the divine figure who came to tell him the truth of God was clothed in fine linen (the Greek Old Testament calls his garment poderes, G4158) and girt with fine gold ( Daniel 10:5). This, then, is the dress of the messenger of God. So this presents Jesus Christ as the supreme messenger of God.

Here is a tremendous picture. When we trace the origins of the thought of John, we see that by the very dress of the Risen Lord he is showing him to us in his threefold eternal office of Prophet, Priest and King, the one who brings the truth of God, the one who enables others to enter into the presence of God and the one to whom God has given the power and dominion for ever.

THE PICTURE OF THE RISEN CHRIST ( Revelation 1:14-18 )

1:14-18 His head and his hair were white, as white as wool, like snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; and his feet were like beaten brass, as if it had been refined in a furnace; and his voice was as the voice of many waters; he had seven stars in his right hand; and out of his mouth there was coming a sharp two-edged sword; and his face was as the sun shining in its strength. And when I saw him, I fell at his feet like a dead man. And he put his right hand on me and said: "Stop being afraid. I am the first and the last; I am the living one although I was dead, and, behold, I am alive for ever and ever; and I have the keys of death and of Hades."

Before we begin to look at this passage in detail, there are two general facts we must note.

(i) It is easy to miss seeing how carefully wrought the Revelation is. It is not a book which was flung together in a hurry; it is a closely integrated and artistic literary whole. In this passage we have a whole series of descriptions of the Risen Christ; and the interesting thing is that each of the letters to the seven Churches, which follow in the next two chapters, with the exception of the letter to Laodicea, opens with a description of the Risen Christ taken from this chapter. It is as if this chapter sounded a series of themes which were later to become the texts for the letters to the Churches. Let us set down the beginning of each of the first six letters and see how it corresponds to the description of the Risen Christ here.

To the angel of the Church in Ephesus, write: The words of him

who holds the seven stars in his right hand ( Revelation 2:1).

To the angel of the Church in Smyrna, write: The words of the

first and the last, who died and came to life ( Revelation 2:8).

To the angel of the Church in Pergamum, write: The words of

him who has the sharp two-edged sword ( Revelation 2:12).

To the angel of the Church in Thyatira, write: The words of the

Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feel

are like burnished bronze ( Revelation 2:18).

To the angel of the Church in Sardis, write: The words of him

who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars ( Revelation 3:1).

To the angel of the Church in Philadelphia, write: The words of

the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens

and no one shall shut, who shuts and no one opens ( Revelation 3:7).

This is literary craftsmanship of a very high standard.

(ii) The second thing to note is that in this passage John takes titles which in the Old Testament are descriptions of God and applies them to the Risen Christ.

His head and his hair were white, as white wool, like snow.

In Daniel 7:9 that is a description of the Ancient of Days.

His voice was as the sound of many waters.

In Ezekiel 43:2 that is a description of God's own voice.

He had the seven stars in his hand.

In the Old Testament it is God himself who controls the stars. It is God's question to Job: "Can you bind the chains of the Pleiades, or loose the cords of Orion?" ( Job 38:31).

I am the first and the last.

Isaiah hears the voice of God saying: "I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no God" ( Isaiah 44:6; compare Isaiah 48:12).

I am the living one.

In the Old Testament God is characteristically "the living God" ( Joshua 3:10; Psalms 42:2; Hosea 1:10).

I have the keys of death and of Hades.

The Rabbis had a saying that there were three keys which belonged to God and which he would share with no other--of birth, rain and raising the dead.

Nothing could better show the reverence in which John holds Jesus Christ. He holds him so high that he can give him nothing less than the titles which in the Old Testament belong to God.

The highest place that heaven affords

Is his, is his by right,

The King of kings, and Lord of lords,

And heaven's eternal Light.

(1) THE TITLES OF THE RISEN LORD ( Revelation 1:14-18 continued)

Let us look very briefly at each of the titles by which the Risen Lord is here called.

His head and his hair were white, as white wool, like snow.

This, taken from the description of the Ancient of Days in Daniel 7:9, is symbolic of two things. (a) It stands for great age; and it speaks to us of the eternal existence of Jesus Christ. (b) It speaks to us of divine purity. The snow and the white wool are the emblems of stainless purity. "Though your sins are like scarlet," said Isaiah, "they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool" ( Isaiah 1:18). Here we have the symbols of the preexistence and the sinlessness of Christ.

His eyes were as a flame of fire.

Daniel is always in John's mind, and this is part of the description of the divine figure who brought the vision to Daniel. "His eyes like flaming torches" ( Daniel 10:6). When we read the gospel story, we get the impression that he who had once seen the eyes of Jesus could never forget them. Again and again we have the vivid picture of his eyes sweeping round a circle of people ( Mark 3:34; Mark 10:23; Mark 11:11); sometimes his eyes flashed in anger ( Mark 3:5); sometimes they fastened on someone in love ( Mark 10:21); and sometimes they had in them all the sorrow of one whose friends had wounded him to the quick ( Luke 22:61).

His feet were like beaten brass, as if it had been refined by fire

in a furnace.

The word translated beaten brass is chalkolibanos ( G5474) . No one really knows what the metal is. Perhaps it was that fabulous compound called electrum, which the ancients believed to be an alloy of gold and silver and more precious than either. Here again it is the Old Testament which gives John his vision. In Daniel it is said of the divine messenger that "his feet were like the gleam of burnished bronze" ( Daniel 10:6); in Ezekiel it is said of the angelic beings that "their feet sparkled like burnished bronze" ( Ezekiel 1:7). It may be that we are to see two things in the picture. The brass stands for strength, for the steadfastness of God; and the shining rays stand for speed, for the swiftness of the feet of God to help his own or to punish sin.

His voice was as the sound of many waters.

This is the description of the voice of God in Ezekiel 43:2. But it may be that we can catch an echo of the little island of Patmos. As H. B. Swete has it: "The roar of the Aegean was in the ears of the seer." H. B. Swete goes on to say that the voice of God is not confined to one note. Here. it is like the thunder of the sea, but it can also be like a still small voice ( 1 Kings 19:12), or, as the Greek version of the Old Testament has it, like a gentle breeze. It can thunder a rebuke; and it can croon with the soothing comfort of a mother over her hurt child.

He had seven stars in his right hand.

Here again, we have something which was the prerogative of God alone. But there is also something lovely. When the seer fell in awed terror before the vision of the Risen Christ, the Christ stretched out his right hand and placed it on him and bade him not to be afraid. The hand of Christ is strong enough to uphold the heavens and gentle enough to wipe away our tears.

(2) THE TITLES OF THE RISEN LORD ( Revelation 1:14-18 continued)

There was coming forth from his mouth a sharp, two-edged sword.

The sword referred to was not long and narrow like a fencer's blade; it was a short, tongue-shaped sword for close righting. Again the seer has gone here and there in the Old Testament for his picture. Isaiah says of God: "He shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth" ( Isaiah 11:4); and of himself: "He made my mouth like a sharp sword" ( Isaiah 49:2). The symbolism tells us of the penetrating quality of the word of God. If we listen to it, no shield of self-deception can withstand it; it strips away our self-deludings, lays bare our sin and leads to pardon. "The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword" ( Hebrews 4:12). "The Lord will slay the wicked with the breath of his mouth" ( 2 Thessalonians 2:8).

His face was as the sun shining in its strength.

In Judges there is a great picture which may well have been in John's mind, The enemies of God shall perish, "but thy friends be like the sun as he rises in his might" ( Judges 5:31). If that is true of them that love God, how much truer it must be of God's beloved Son. Swete sees something even lovelier here, nothing less than a memory of the Transfiguration. On that occasion Jesus was transfigured before Peter, James and John, "and his face shone like the sun" ( Matthew 17:2). No one who had seen that sight could ever forget the glow and if the writer of this book is that same John perhaps he saw again on the face of the Risen Christ the glory he had glimpsed on the Mount of Transfiguration.

When I saw him, I fell at his feet like a dead man.

This was the experience of Ezekiel when God spoke to him ( Ezekiel 1:28; Ezekiel 3:23; Ezekiel 43:3). But surely we can find again a memory of the Gospel story. On that day in Galilee when there was the great catch of fish and Peter glimpsed who Jesus was, he fell down at his knees, conscious only that he was a sinful man ( Luke 5:1-11). To the end of the day there can be nothing but reverence in the presence of the holiness and the glory of the Risen Christ.

Stop being afraid.

Surely here, too, we have reminiscence of the Gospel story, for these were words which the disciples had heard more than once from the lips of Jesus. It was thus he spoke to them when he came to them across the water ( Matthew 14:27; Mark 6:50); and it was thus above all that he spoke to them on the Mount of Transfiguration, when they were terrified at the sound of the divine voice ( Matthew 17:7). Even in heaven, when we come near the unapproachable glory, Jesus is saying: "I am here; do not be afraid."

I am the first and the last.

In the Old Testament this is nothing other than the self-description of God ( Isaiah 44:6; Isaiah 48:12). It is the promise of Jesus that he is there at the beginning and the end. He is there in the moment of birth and at the time of death. He is there when we set out upon the Christian way and when we finish our course. As F. W. H. Myers makes Paul say:

Yea thro' life, death, thro' sorrow and thro' sinning

He shall suffice me, for he hath sufficed:

Christ is the end, for Christ was the beginning,

Christ the beginning, for the end is Christ.

I am the living one, although I was dead and I am alive for ever

and for ever.

Here is at once the claim and the promise of Christ, the claim of one who conquered death and the promise of one who is alive for evermore to be with his people.

I have the keys of death and Hades.

Death has its gates ( Psalms 9:13; Psalms 107:18; Isaiah 38:10); and Christ has the keys of these gates. There were those who took this claim--and some still do--as a reference to the descent into hell ( 1 Peter 3:18-20). There was a conception in the ancient Church that when Jesus descended into Hades, he unlocked the doors and brought out Abraham and all God's faithful people who had lived and died in the generations before. But we may take it in an even wider sense; for we who are Christians believe that Jesus Christ has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel ( 2 Timothy 1:10), that because he lives we shall live also ( John 14:19), and that, therefore, for us and for those whom we love the bitterness of death is for ever past.

THE CHURCHES AND THEIR ANGELS ( Revelation 1:20 )

1:20 Here is the secret meaning of the seven stars which you saw in my right hand and the seven golden lampstands. The seven stars are the angels of the seven Churches and the seven lampstands are the seven Churches.

This passage begins with a word which throughout the New Testament is used in a very special case. The King James Version speaks of the mystery of the seven stars and of the seven golden candlesticks. The Greek, musterion ( G3466) , does not mean a mystery in our sense of the term. It means something which is meaningless to the outsider but meaningful to the initiate who possesses the key. So here the Risen Christ goes on to give the inner meaning of the seven stars and the seven lampstands.

The seven lampstands stand for the seven Churches. One of the great titles of the Christian is that he is the light of the world ( Matthew 5:14; Php_2:15 ). But one of the old Greek commentators has a penetrating comment on this. He says that the Churches are called, not the light itself, but the lampstand on which the light is set. It is not the Churches themselves which produce the light; the giver of light is Jesus Christ; and the Churches are only the vessels within which the light shines. The Christian's light is always a borrowed light.

One of the great problems of the Revelation is to decide what John means by the angels of the Churches. More than one explanation has been offered.

(i) The word aggelos ( G32) --gg in Greek is pronounced ng--has two meanings. It means an angel; but far oftener it means a messenger. It is suggested that messengers of all the Churches have assembled to receive a message from John and take it back to their congregations. If that is so, each letter will begin: "To the messenger of the Church of...." As far as the Greek goes this is perfectly possible; and it gives good sense; but the difficulty is that aggelos ( G32) is used in the Revelation about fifty times apart from its use here and in the letters to the seven Churches, and without exception it means angel.

(ii) It is suggested that aggelos ( G32) means a bishop of the Churches. It is suggested, either that the bishops of the Churches have gathered to meet John or that he is directing these letters to them. In favour of this theory there is quoted the words of Malachi: "The lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and men should seek instruction from his mouth, for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts" ( Malachi 2:7). In the Greek Old Testament messenger is aggelos ( G32) ; and it is suggested that the title could very easily be transferred to the bishops of the Churches. They are the messengers of the Lord to their Churches and to them John speaks. Again this explanation gives good sense; but it suffers from the same objection as the first. It attaches aggelos ( G32) to a human person and that John never elsewhere does.

(iii) It is suggested that this has to do with the idea of guardian angels. In Hebrew thought every nation had its presiding angel (compare Daniel 10:13; Daniel 10:20-21). Michael, for instance, was held to be the guardian angel of Israel ( Daniel 12:1). People, too, had their guardian angels. When Rhoda came with the news that Peter had escaped from prison, they would not believe her and said it was his angel ( Acts 12:15). Jesus himself spoke of the angels who guard a little child ( Matthew 18:10). If we take it in this sense, the difficulty is that then the guardian angels of the Churches are being rebuked for the sins of the Churches. In fact Origen believed that this was the case. He said that the guardian angel of a Church was like the tutor of a child. If a child went wrong, the tutor was blamed; and if a Church went wrong, God in his mercy blamed its angel. The difficulty is that, though the angel of the Church is mentioned in the address of each letter, undoubtedly it is the members of the Church who are being addressed.

(iv) Both Greeks and Jews believed that every earthly thing had a heavenly counterpart; and it is suggested that the angel is the ideal of the Church; and that the Churches are being addressed as their ideal selves to bring them back to the right way.

None of the explanations is fully satisfactory; but maybe the last is the best, for there is no doubt that in the letters the angel and the Church are one and the same.

We now go on to study the letters to the Seven Churches. In each case we shall give an outline of the history and the contemporary background of the city in which the Church was; and once we have studied the general background we will go on to study each letter in detail.

-Barclay's Daily Study Bible (NT)

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Barclay, William. "Commentary on Revelation 1:10". "William Barclay's Daily Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dsb/revelation-1.html. 1956-1959.

Gann's Commentary on the Bible

Revelation 1:10

in the Sprit -- inspired, 2 Peter 1:21; 1 Corinthians 12:3 Ezekiel 2:2 Ezekiel 3:12 Ezekiel 37:1; Matthew 22:43

in the Spirit -- Probably describes a visionary state (compare Acts 10:10; 2 Corinthians 12:2-4). John’s visions are framed by his four experiences in the Spirit (Revelation 1:10; Revelation 4:2; Revelation 17:3; Revelation 21:10). - FSB

in the Spirit -- This was not a dream. John was supernaturally transported out of the material world awake—not sleeping—to an experience beyond the normal senses. The Holy Spirit empowered his senses to perceive revelation from God (cf. Acts 10:11). - MSB

In the Spirit -- could also be rendered “in [my] spirit” (cf. Revelation 4:2; Revelation 17:3; Revelation 21:10). That is, he was projected forward in his inner self in a vision, not bodily, to that future day of the Lord when God will pour out His judgments on the earth. - BKC

I was in the Spirit -- This is a special phrase that marks off the different visions that John received (cf Revelation 1:10; Revelation 4:2; Revelation 17:3; Revelation 21:10). It seems to refer to a trance-like state in which a revelation was given (cf. Acts 10:10; Acts 22:17; 2 Corinthians 12:1 ff). This is characteristic of Jewish apocalyptic literature. - Utley

Lord’s Day -- Sunday ? Usage in apostolic fathers.

Lord’s Day -- Sunday, “the first day of the week” (Matthew 28:1), the day Jesus rose. The majority of Christ’s followers see this passage as evidence that already in the first century this day was set aside for worship and fellowship (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2). - NIVZSB [Citations given however say "on the first day of the week" and not "the Lord’s day." -WG]

-- or "Day of the Lord" Joel 2:1; Isaiah 2:12; Usage in the New Testament: 1 Corinthians 1:8 ; 1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:2; Reference to a day of the Lord’s judgment, or retribution.

the Lord’s Day -- John’s revelation occurred on the Lord’s Day while he was in the Spirit. Some have indicated that “the Lord’s Day” refers to the first day of the week. However, the word “Lord’s” is an adjective and this expression is never used in the Bible to refer to the first day of the week. Probably John was referring to the day of the Lord, a familiar expression in both Testaments (cf. Isaiah 2:12; Isaiah 13:6, Isaiah 13:9; Isaiah 34:8; Joel 1:15; Joel 2:1, Joel 1:11, Joel 2:31; Joel 3:14; Amos 5:18, Amos 5:20; Zephaniah 1:7-8, Zephaniah 1:14; Zephaniah 1:18; Zephaniah 2:3; Zechariah 14:1; Malachi 4:5; 1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Peter 3:10). - BKC

The “Lord’s day” probably refers to Sunday, but it could refer to the future day of the Lord spoken of frequently elsewhere in Scripture. ... The New Testament writers never called Sunday the Lord’s day elsewhere in Scripture. - Constable

in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day -- An indication that John was transported in the Spirit to "the day of the Lord" judgment which is unraveled, or revealed, in the book. (cf. Revelation 4:2; Revelation 17:3; Revelation 21:10)- WG

loud voice -- Throughout Revelation, a loud sound or voice indicates the solemnity of what God is about to reveal. - MSB

loud voice -- [great sound] -- The voice of the glorified, exalted Christ. - FSB

    The loud voice like a trumpet blast was an announcement of the Lord’s coming. - NLTSB

behind me -- John first heard the great voice and then turned to see, Revelation 1:12.

as of a trumpet -- The voice was clear, loud, and sent warnings.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Gann, Windell. "Commentary on Revelation 1:10". Gann's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gbc/revelation-1.html. 2021.

Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day,.... Not on the Jewish sabbath, which was now abolished, nor was that ever called the Lord's day, and had John meant that, he would have said on the sabbath day; much less the Jewish passover, but the first day of the week is designed; so the Ethiopic version renders it "on the first day"; and is so called just as the ordinance of the supper is called the Lord's supper, being instituted by the Lord, and the Lord's table, 1 Corinthians 10:21, and that because it was the day in which our Lord rose from the dead, Mark 16:9; and in which he appeared at different times to his disciples, John 20:19, and which the primitive churches set apart for his worship and service, and on which they met together to hear the word, and attend on ordinances,

Acts 20:7; and Justin Martyr z tells us, who lived within about fifty years after this time, that on the day called τη του

ηλιου ημερα, "Sunday", (by the Greeks,) the Christians met together in one place, and read the Scriptures, and prayed together, and administered the ordinance of the supper; and this, he adds, was the first day in which God created the World, and our Saviour Jesus Christ rose from the dead; yea, Barnabas a, the companion of the Apostle Paul, calls this day the eighth day, in distinction from the seventh day sabbath of the Jews, and which he says is the beginning of another world; and therefore we keep the eighth day, adds he, joyfully, in which Jesus rose from the dead, and being manifested, ascended unto heaven: and this day was known by the ancients by the name of "the Lord's day"; as by Ignatius b, Irenaeus c, Tertullian d, Origen e, and others; for it must be some day that was known by this name, otherwise it is mentioned to no purpose, because it would not be distinctive from others; for which reason it cannot merely design the day in which John saw this vision, because the Lord appeared on it to him, for this would not distinguish it from any other day. Some have conjectured that this was not the weekly Lord's day observed by the Christians, but the anniversary of Christ's resurrection; and so the Ethiopians still call Easter "Schambatah Crostos", the sabbath of Christ: to understand it of the former is best. Now, though John was driven from the house and worship of God, and could not join with the saints in the public worship of that day; yet he was employed in spiritual contemplations and exercises, and was under a more than ordinary influence of the Spirit of God; and his spirit or soul was wholly intent upon, and taken up with divine and spiritual things, with visions and representations that were made unto his mind, which he perceived in his spirit, and not with the organs of his body; he was in an ecstasy of spirit, and knew not scarcely whether he was in the body or out of it:

and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet; which was the voice of the Son of God, as appears by what it uttered, Revelation 1:11; and is afterwards said to be as the sound of many waters; and it was behind him, as in Isaiah 30:21, it came to him at an unawares, and surprised him, while he was in deep meditation on spiritual things: and it was a very "great" one; it was the voice of a great person, of the Son of God, and expressed great things, and was very sonorous and loud, it was like the sound of a trumpet; and this was partly to awaken the attention of John to it, and partly to express the certainty of the relation he gives of what it said; had it been a low muttering voice, it might be questioned whether John rightly understood it, and whether he might not be mistaken in the account of what he heard; but it being so loud and clear, there is no room for such a doubt.

z Apolog. 2. p. 98, 99. a Epist. c. 11. p. 244. Ed. Voss. b Epist. ad. Magnes. c. 9. c Apud Script. Quaest. & Respons. ad Orthodox. inter Justin. Opera, p. 468. d De Corona, c. 3. e Homil. in Exod. fol. 41. 7.

Copyright Statement
The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Revelation 1:10". "Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/revelation-1.html. 1999.

Henry's Complete Commentary on the Bible

John's Vision of Christ. A. D. 95.

      9 I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ.   10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet,   11 Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea.   12 And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks;   13 And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.   14 His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire;   15 And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters.   16 And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.   17 And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last:   18 I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and have the keys of hell and of death.   19 Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and the things which shall be hereafter;   20 The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.

      We have now come to that glorious vision which the apostle had of the Lord Jesus Christ, when he came to deliver this revelation to him, where observe,

      I. The account given of the person who was favoured with this vision. He describes himself, 1. By his present state and condition. He was the brother and companion of these churches in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Christ. He was, at their time, as the rest of true Christians were, a persecuted man, banished, and perhaps imprisoned, for his adherence to Christ. He was their brother, though an apostle; he seems to value himself upon his relation to the church, rather than his authority in it: Judas Iscariot may be an apostle, but not a brother in the family of God. He was their companion: the children of God should choose communion and society with each other. He was their companion in tribulation: the persecuted servants of God did not suffer alone, the same trials are accomplished in others. He was their companion in patience, not only a sharer with them in suffering circumstances, but in suffering graces: if we have the patience of the saints, we should not grudge to meet with their trials. He was their brother and companion in the patience of the kingdom of Christ, a sufferer for Christ's cause, for asserting his kingly power over the church and the world, and for adhering to it against all who would usurp upon it. By this account he gives of his present state, he acknowledges his engagements to sympathize with them, and to endeavour to give them counsel and comfort, and bespeaks their more careful attention to what he had to say to them from Christ their common Lord. 2. By the place where he was when he was favoured with this vision: he was in the isle Patmos. He does not say who banished him thither. It becomes Christians to speak sparingly and modestly of their own sufferings. Patmos is said to be an island in the Aegean Sea, One of those called Cyclades, and was about thirty-five miles in compass; but under this confinement it was the apostle's comfort that he did not suffer as an evil-doer, but that it was for the testimony of Jesus, for bearing witness to Christ as the Immanuel, the Saviour. This was a cause worth suffering for; and the Spirit of glory and of God rested upon this persecuted apostle. 3. The day and time in which he had this vision: it was the Lord's day, the day which Christ had separated and set apart for himself, as the eucharist is called the Lord's supper. Surely this can be no other than the Christian sabbath, the first day of the week, to be observed in remembrance of the resurrection of Christ. Let us who call him our Lord honour him on his own day, the day which the Lord hath made and in which we ought to rejoice. 4. The frame that his soul was in at this time: He was in the Spirit. He was not only in a rapture when he received the vision, but before he received it; he was in a serious, heavenly, spiritual frame, under the blessed gracious influences of the Spirit of God. God usually prepares the souls of his people for uncommon manifestations of himself, by the quickening sanctifying influences of his good Spirit. Those who would enjoy communion with God on the Lord's day must endeavour to abstract their thoughts and affections from flesh and fleshly things, and be wholly taken up with things of a spiritual nature.

      II. The apostle gives an account of what he heard when thus in the Spirit. An alarm was given as with the sound of a trumpet, and then he heard a voice, the voice of Christ applying to himself the character before given, the first and the last, and commanding the apostle to commit to writing the things that were now to be revealed to him, and to send it immediately to the seven Asian churches, whose names are mentioned. Thus our Lord Jesus, the captain of our salvation, gave the apostle notice of his glorious appearance, as with the sound of a trumpet.

      III. We have also an account of what he saw. He turned to see the voice, whose it was and whence it came; and then a wonderful scene of vision opened itself to him.

      1. He saw a representation of the church under the emblem of seven golden candlesticks, as it is explained in the Revelation 1:20. The churches are compared to candlesticks, because they hold forth the light of the gospel to advantage. The churches are not candles: Christ only is our light, and his gospel our lamp; but they receive their light from Christ and the gospel, and hold it forth to others. They are golden candlesticks, for they should be precious and pure, comparable to fine gold; not only the ministers, but the members of the churches ought to be such; their light should so shine before men as to engage others to give glory to God.

      2. He saw a representation of the Lord Jesus Christ in the midst of the golden candlesticks; for he has promised to be with his churches always to the end of the world, filling them with light, and life, and love, for he is the very animating informing soul of the church. And here we observe,

      (1.) The glorious form in which Christ appeared in several particulars. [1.] He was clothed with a garment down to the foot, a princely and priestly robe, denoting righteousness and honour. [2.] He was girt about with a golden girdle, the breast-plate of the high priest, on which the names of his people are engraven; he was ready girt to do all the work of a Redeemer. [3.] His head and hairs were white like wool or snow. He was the Ancient of days; his hoary head was no sign of decay, but was indeed a crown of glory. [4.] His eyes were as a flame of fire, piercing and penetrating into the very hearts and reins of men, scattering terrors among his adversaries. [5.] His feet were like unto fine burning brass, strong and stedfast, supporting his own interest, subduing his enemies, treading them to powder. [6.] His voice was as the sound of many waters, of many rivers falling in together. He can and will make himself heard to those who are afar off as well as to those who are near. His gospel is a profluent and mighty stream, fed by the upper springs of infinite wisdom and knowledge. [7.] He had in his right hand seven stars, that is, the ministers of the seven churches, who are under his direction, have all their light and influence from him, and are secured and preserved by him. [8.] Out of his mouth went a two-edged sword, his word, which both wounds and heals, strikes at sin on the right hand and on the left, [9.] His countenance was as the sun shining, its strength too bright and dazzling for mortal eyes to behold.

      (2.) The impression this appearance of Christ made upon the apostle John (Revelation 1:17; Revelation 1:17): He fell at the feet of Christ as dead; he was overpowered with the greatness of the lustre and glory in which Christ appeared, though he had been so familiar with him before. How well is it for us that God speaks to us by men like ourselves, whose terrors shall not make us afraid, for none can see the face of God and live!

      (3.) The condescending goodness of the Lord Jesus to his disciple: He laid his hand upon him,Revelation 1:17; Revelation 1:17. He raised him up; he did not plead against him with his great power, but he put strength into him, he spoke kind words to him. [1.] Words of comfort and encouragement: Fear not. He commanded away the slavish fears of his disciple. [2.] Words of instruction, telling him particularly who he was that thus appeared to him. And here he acquaints him, First, with his divine nature: The first and the last. Secondly, With his former sufferings: I was dead; the very same that his disciples saw upon the cross dying for the sins of men. Thirdly, With his resurrection and life: "I live, and am alive for evermore, have conquered death and opened the grave, and am partaker of an endless life." Fourthly, With his office and authority: I have the keys of hell and of death, a sovereign dominion in and over the invisible world, opening and none can shut, shutting so that none can open, opening the gates of death when he pleases and the gates of the eternal world, of happiness or misery, as the Judge of all, from whose sentence there lies no appeal. Fifthly, With his will and pleasure: Write the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and which shall be hereafter. Sixthly, With the meaning of the seven stars, that they are the ministers of the churches; and of the seven candlesticks, that they are the seven churches, to whom Christ would now send by him particular and proper messages.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Bibliographical Information
Henry, Matthew. "Complete Commentary on Revelation 1:10". "Henry's Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mhm/revelation-1.html. 1706.

Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible

That God should have chosen John to be the instrument of communicating the closing volume of the New Testament is worthy of our consideration. It is not a new thing for God thus to set out the strongest contrasts by the same inspired writer. He who was emphatically the apostle of the uncircumcision was the appointed witness of Christ to those who had been Jews. The final and above all the decisive message of grace, which called the Jews outside all earthly associations to Christ in heaven, was given neither by Peter nor by James, and by no other than Paul. So too the witness of grace and truth which came by Jesus Christ was, in His mind, if not in man's, the most suited medium for revealing the coming judgments of God. In truth, the moral reason lay in this: that Christ, if rejected as the object of faith, and the only channel of grace, becomes an executor of judgment. This we find formally and doctrinally in his gospel. (John 5:1-47) And now that grace and truth were about to be utterly set at naught, as He Himself had been before by that which bore His name on the earth, John was more than any other suited to let us see the solemn visions of God avenging the slighted rights of His own Son; and this, first, by providential judgments; lastly, by Christ Himself coming in the personal execution of judgment.

Hence, although there are the most complete contrasts in form, subject, and issues between the gospel and the revelation of John, after all the person of the Lord Jesus is pre-eminently kept before us as the object of God's care and honour in both; and therefore it is that even the souls that could not enter into the main topics of its prophetic visions have always found unspeakable comfort in the various displays of Christ Himself furnished by this book, especially in times of trial, rejection and persecution. Who that knows ecclesiastical history, who that has present acquaintance with souls, is not aware that the saints of God, with ever so little light, have been exceedingly nourished and helped by the Apocalypse; while men of learning have made it as dry as an old almanac?

It is "the revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him." Even in the gospel, which is so fragrant with His divine love, we have the frequent not to say constant admonition of this remarkable position which Christ takes. In short He is carefully regarded as man on earth, as the sent One who lives on account of the Father in the gospel as a man on earth, in the revelation as a man most truly wherever He may be seen, whether in heaven or on earth. This book then is the revelation of Jesus Christ, "which God gave unto him." In the gospel it is said, God gives Him to have life in Himself. Nothing can more demonstrate. how loyally He accepts, and will not speak inconsistently with, the place of man to which He stooped. For in Him was life: yea, He was that eternal life which was with the Father before the worlds were. Nevertheless, having become a man in divine grace, He speaks according to that lowly position which He entered here. In glory it is just the same, as we see in the book before us. "The revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to show unto his servants." It is not now to bring them whether or not servants out of that position or even worse, and entitling them to take the place of children of God. This characterises the gospel, because it distinctively is the revelation of grace and truth in Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son. Here it is what God was going to do for His glory as the rejected man. He is going therefore to show unto His "bondmen" a term that would suit not only Christians now, but those who might be in another relationship after we have been taken away from the world. Hence, evidently, there is a comprehensive term employed with divine wisdom, "to show unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass." It is not to make known what was in Christ before all worlds, but to disclose the great facts in which God was about to maintain the glory of the First-begotten, when He introduced Him into the world. "And he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John."

The angel, it is needless to say, is not without good reason named in relation to the revelations which God was here giving. In the gospel we bear of eternal life in the Son and this in the grace of God given to the believer. There the Holy Ghost was the only one competent to minister and effectuate such grace according to the counsels of God, and in the ordering of His love.

But here we have visions visions of God's judicial ways visions of what would call for judgment in the ever growing iniquity of man. He therefore "sent and signified this by his angel unto his servant John." It is another and a remarkable difference. In the gospel John may speak, but he speaks as one who had seen the Lord, as one who could bear his own personal voucher for whatever he utters. He may speak but seldom of himself, and this he does so effectually that there are not wanting those who have questioned whether after all he were "the disciple whom Jesus loved." Undoubtedly the inference is mistaken; still there is no possibility of charging the writer with putting himself forward in the manner in which he has written. This is a very significant circumstance, more particularly as in the epistles, which contemplate the Christian company or a family or a friend, the one aim and effort is to place the children of God in immediate communion through Christ with Himself: an inspired apostle writes it no doubt, and the various members of God's family, as well as the servants of the Lord, are owned in their place. At the same time it is manifestly He who is God and Father instructing, comforting, and admonishing His own.

We have intervention on every side. God gives a revelation of Jesus; and Jesus passes it on to His angel, or rather by His angel to His servant John; and then John at last sends it to other servants. Thus we have all sorts of links in the chain. And why so? For it is somewhat novel, especially in the New Testament. How comes this remarkable introduction of God to Jesus, then from Him through an angel to one servant, who sends to other servants? How is it that we here miss that character of direct dealing with us that immediateness of address which is found elsewhere? The reason is as solemn as it is instructive. It is implied indeed in the analogy of the Old Testament; for God did not always address His people there. He did originally, as for instance in the ten words, though afterwards in this very particular intervention came in. But habitually God's messengers were sent to Israel, even when prophets were raised up. At first all addressed the people in His name. The word of Jehovah was sent to Jehovah's people. But what an affecting change took place at length! The time soon came when the message was not sent to the people directly. It was given to a chosen witness no doubt really meant for the people, but delivered to Daniel, and only so.

This prepares us for the true meaning of the remarkable chancre in the Apocalypse as compared with the rest of the New Testament. When the children of Israel had hopelessly betrayed the Lord when their departure was complete before His eyes not only in the first rent-off portion, the ten tribes of Israel, but even the remaining two, when there was a stay and a lengthening of the tranquillity, when not only Judah, but even the house of David, the anointed king, the last regular link between God and His people, failed, then we find that God addressed not His people, but an only chosen faithful servant as His witness. It was a sure token that all was over for the present, for any immediateness of communion between God and His people. God could no longer recognise them as His own. Applying this to the present time, and our own circumstances, is it not most grave? I do not in the least doubt that God proves Himself faithful in the worst of times. It would be the falsest possible deduction to suppose that Daniel and his three companions, possibly others also, were not personally as pleasant to the Lord as David was. Did He not look with exceeding satisfaction in His grace upon that servant who felt and answered to His own feelings about His people? It was precisely because He did that Daniel received so exceptional an honour. In a certain sense it was better to be a Daniel in the midst of ruin than to have had the best position when times were prosperous, and when things looked fair. It was a greater proof of fidelity when all was out of course to stand faithful than to be faithful when all things were regular. Thus grace is always equal to every difficulty.

But it is a solemn thing to feel that such a crisis was even then come, as far as regarded the church of God here below. John stands in a position analogous to Daniel; he becomes now the object of the communications of the Lord Jesus, not that which still bore the name of the Lord here below. However the grace of the Lord might act, however He might animate as well as warn, still the address is made directly to His servant John, and not to the church; and even where we have addresses, as we shall find afterwards in the second and third chapters, they are not immediately to the churches, but sent to their angels. It is manifest that all carries out the same solemn impression.

John then, as it is said, "testified the word of God, and the testimony of Jesus Christ." But this is here restricted: it does not mean the truth in general, nor the gospel in particular, though we cannot doubt that John did preach the gospel, and did nourish the church of God in all His revealed truth; but this is not the subject of the Apocalypse, nor the meaning of our text. All is here limited to what he saw. This is of importance to apprehend the scope of the passage and the character of the book. We may safely strike out the word "and," if we respect the best authorities. The meaning then is that John testified the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. But how are we to describe or understand "the word of God"? Is it any special part, or the word of God as a whole? What exactly is meant by "the word of God, and the testimony of Jesus Christ" in this connection? The answer is given by the last clause when "and" is taken away: the visions that he was going to behold and record in this book whatsoever things he saw. Thus, besides what the apostle had in his ordinary relation with Christians, and his already lengthened tenure in the service of Christ, he receives now a new character of word and testimony.

Accordingly the apocalyptic visions can be slighted only by ignorant unbelief; for they no less than the gospel or epistles are here styled "the word of God, and the testimony of Jesus Christ." They are thus carefully ushered in, but in that prophetic method which was morally fitting, in a series of visions which John saw. This is of so much the greater emphasis, as it is apparently designed in an express manner to counteract the tendency (but too common spite of it) to treat the Apocalypse as if it were of doubtful value and of precarious authority. But no: it is confessed to John by Jesus as the word of God and His own testimony. We know how many scholars have dared to insult the book in their folly, as I think we may say, with the justest rebuke of their offensive language. None the less is it "the word of God, and the testimony of Jesus Christ," even if it consists not of that which ministers directly to the edification of the Christian in his own position, but indirectly as announcing the doom of such as despise God and do their own will in the face of His revelation. Nevertheless it is God's word and Christ's testimony, though as a whole composed of visions.

In order to make this more realised by the believers then or at any other time, be it remarked that we have another word remarkably annexed which lies altogether out of the beaten path of the Lord. May we not presume that it is for the express purpose of graciously encouraging His servants as well as to anticipate the doubts and cavils of unbelief? "Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein."

The stated ground that follows is also to be weighed; for it is not, as men often assume, because we are to be in the predicted circumstances, it is not because the Christian or the church must pass through the troubles it describes: not a word to this effect is implied, but a different reason is given. In short, as the book itself afterwards shows that the church will be on high outside the scene of its varied troubles and inflicted judgments, so the motive assigned in the preface is of a strikingly holy nature, adapted to those who walk by faith, not by sight, and free from all selfish considerations "for the time is at hand." It is not that the time is actually come so that we must go through all or any part; but the time is at hand. God therefore writes for our comfort, admonition, and general blessing in whatever way it may be wanted; He takes for granted that we are interested in whatever He has to say to us. "The time is at hand." It is a false principle therefore that we can only be profited by that which concerns ourselves, and supposes us to be in the actual circumstances described.

Then comes the salutation. Here too all is as peculiar as it is suitable to the book on which we enter: "John to the seven churches which are in Asia." In no other place do we find anything akin to this. We read of the saints in one place or another. A particular assembly, or even the assemblies of a district (Galatians 1:1-24), may be addressed. Never but here occurs an address to a certain number of assemblies, particularly one so definite and significant symbolically as seven. Surely something is meant outside the ordinary course of things, where so unexampled a style of address is found. The spiritual usage of seven in prophetic scripture cannot be questioned. Nor is it confined to prophecy, for the same force holds good wherever symbol is employed. In typical scripture, as well as in prophecy, seven is the regular known sign of spiritual completeness. Who then but uninstructed minds can doubt that the Lord meant more than the actual assemblies that were addressed in the province of Asia? That letters were written to literal congregations from Ephesus to Laodicea seems to be unquestionable; but I cannot doubt that these were chosen, and the addresses so shaped to them as to bring before those who have ears to hear the complete circle of the Lord's testimony here below as long as there should be anything possessed (responsibly if not really) of a church character. The state of things might be ever so ruined; it might be even gross and false (as much was in several); but still there was an ecclesiastical profession if only for His judgment, which we do not find afterRevelation 4:1-11; Revelation 4:1-11. No such condition appears afterwards. The Lord no longer dealt so when this kind of footing vanished for the responsibility of man. In short, as long as church responsibility exists here below, these addresses apply, and no longer.

So says he "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." It is not "from the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." The salutation is from God in His own being, the ever-existing One, He who is, and who was, and who is to come. This of course connects His present existence with the future as well as the past. "And from the seven Spirits which are before his throne." Here again we find a description of the Holy Ghost decidedly different from what meets us in the New Testament generally. The allusion is clear to Isaiah 11:1-16, where the seven-fold power of the Holy Ghost in government is described as connected with the person and for the kingdom of the Messiah. "And the Spirit of Jehovah shall rest," etc. This seems taken up here, and applied in a far larger way for purposes suitable to the Apocalyptic prophecy. Indeed the same remark will be found true of all the use that is made of Old Testament citations and allusions in the Apocalypse. Constant reference is made to the law, Psalms, and prophets, but it is never a mere repetition, as the literalists suppose, of what was found there. This would be in effect to deprive ourselves of the Apocalypse, instead of understanding and gathering its peculiar profit. If one identifies the Jerusalem of Isaiah with the New Jerusalem of the Revelation, or the Babylon of Jeremiah to explain the Apocalyptic Babylon, it is clear that one simply loses all the special instruction that God has given us. This is one of the main sources of confusion on the subject of the Apocalypse to this day. At the same time, if we do not start with the Old Testament revelations of Babylon or Jerusalem, or the instruction derived from the prophets generally, we are not prepared for appreciating or even understanding the Apocalypse as a whole. Thus, either to dislocate the New absolutely from the Old, or to see no more than a repetition of the Old in the New, is an almost equal error. There is a divine link in the sense as there was in the Spirit's mind an undistinguished reference; but then the Apocalypse gives it an incomparably larger range, and a more profound character. The Apocalypse looks on things after the Holy Ghost had taken His place in the Christian and in the church on earth above all, after the Son had appeared, manifested God the Father, and accomplished redemption here below. Hence all the fulness of divine light that had come out in Christ's person and work, as well as by the Spirit in the church of God, is necessary to be taken into account in order to give the Apocalypse its just bearing.

The seven Spirits therefore refer, as I believe, to the Holy Ghost acting in the way of government. It is the fulness of the Holy Ghost's energy as an overruling power. What the application of this may be depends on the context where it is used. We shall find it in relation to Christ dealing with church matters in Revelation 3:1-22; we shall find it in His relation to the earth inRevelation 5:1-14; Revelation 5:1-14: but it is always the fulness of the Spirit in governmental power, and not the same Spirit viewed in His unity forming the church into one body. This we have had already in the Pauline epistles, where the proper sphere of the Christian as a member of Christ's body is treated especially, and indeed only there.

God as such is then introduced in Old Testament style and character, but at the same time applied to New Testament subjects; the Holy Ghost also is similarly brought before us. And so too with our Lord Jesus, as we shall see. Indeed, there is nothing more remarkable, especially when we bear in mind who the writer is, than the absence here of His proper relationship to the children of God. The revelation of grace is precisely what is not found in this book. "Jesus Christ" appears as "the faithful witness." This clearly is what He was on the earth. In a very different form it is the topic of John everywhere: we may trace Him as going up to heaven, where Paul above all contemplated Him glorified; but John's task is ever to point to Christ in connection with what He was here below. If he speaks of Him as the Lamb above, the description is founded on His being the rejected sufferer on earth. "He is the faithful witness, the first-begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth;" the last displayed when He comes from heaven to earth, as He stands in resurrection the first-begotten of the dead. But what He is in heaven is exactly what is not given here. There is the most careful exclusion of His heavenly position from the relationships of the Lord Jesus that are here brought before us. Even that which connects Him with the Christian, as the One that intercedes for him in the presence of God, is here left out, though I doubt not we may see Him as the angel high priest for others in Revelation 8:1-13.

The Lord Jesus, then, is brought before us as man purposely in the last place. God was announced in His own everlasting being; the Holy Ghost in His fulness of governmental power; the Lord Jesus in that which was connected with the earth, even if He were risen from the dead; and this put in the last place, because He is viewed only in an earthly point of view.

But for all that the voice of the Christian is at once heard and so much the more remarkably, because it is one of the few exceptional ripples which cross the ordinary current of the book at the end as well as at the beginning. Thus it is not without example elsewhere; but it is not what we hear when we have fairly entered on the course of the visions. Before they begin the Christian is heard, as also the bride after they close. Here the name of Jesus is enough to stir the heart in a sweet and suited doxology. He may not be described in His relationships to us, but He who is described is the one that we love. And so "to him that loveth us" (for this is the true rendering, and not merely that loved us) "To him that loveth 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 the glory and the might unto the ages of the ages." And as this is the heart's outpouring of its own delight in Jesus, so the next verse gives a warning testimony suitable to the book, lest there should be any weakening of what Jesus will be to those who stand in no such nearness to Him. "Behold he cometh with the clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him." This has nothing to do with His presence for us; but after our own delight and thanksgiving have gone forth towards Jesus, the testimony to others most suitably follows the song of praise that had, I may say, involuntarily burst forth at His name. It is Christ coming in judgment. He shall be seen by every soul if there be any difference to the sorest anguish above all of those that pierced Him ( i.e. the Jews). "Even so, Amen."

"I am the Alpha and Omega, saith the Lord God, that is, and that was, and that is to come, the Almighty." He who is the first and the last, comprehending all in communicating His mind, which includes everything that can be given to man He it is who here speaks the Lord God, the Eternal. He puts His voucher on the book from the beginning.

Then John describes himself in a manner adapted to the testimony he is called to render. "I John, your brother, and companion in the tribulation and kingdom and patience in Christ Jesus, was in the isle which is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus." It must be evident to a spiritual mind how remarkably suited all here is to what was afterwards about to come out. The whole book supposes saints in suffering, and this too in the form of tribulation, with their spiritual experience formed into the associations of Christ's kingdom rather than those of His body the church, yet surely suffering on account of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. Particular care is taken here to show it to us. Not that the full church or Christian relationship was lacking to John personally; but he stands here a representative man for others as well as ourselves. While, therefore, he had all that is properly Christian, he also had very special communications of another character for saints who will follow us at the end of this age. Thus he introduces himself here, not as a joint partaker of God's promise in Christ by the gospel, but in His kingdom and patience in Christ. It is true for us all; but it is in harmony with the latter day sufferers, not what specially linked him with the Christians and the church. Thus the place taken here is of course that of a Christian; but that is put forward which belonged to others who would not be in the same corporate standing as ourselves. At the same time there is the most careful guard against the supposition that he was not in the full enjoyment of his own place in Christ.

This seems to be one reason why it pleased God to give the visions of this book on the Lord's day. "I was in the Spirit on the Lord's day." This is the characteristic day of the Christian; it is the birthday of his distinctive blessing, and it assuredly ought to be the especial joy of his heart, not the less because it is the first day, the resurrection day of grace and new creation, not the seventh day of creation rest and law.

On that day the inspired writer John was in the power of the Holy Ghost with a view to take in and give out the visions he was to see. "And I heard behind me a great voice as of a trumpet." It was significant, I think, that the voice was behind him. The main object of all prophecy tended rather to have thrown him forward. But before the Spirit of God could fitly launch him into the visions of the future, there must be a retrospective glance. In the Spirit he must be, both to shut out every impression from external objects, and to give him an entrance into all that God was about to reveal; but first of all we should recognise the fact that it was on the Lord's day; and next that, before he was shown what was before, he must turn to the voice behind him and learn what the Lord judged of that which bore His name on the earth.

Omit the opening clause and begin, "saying, What thou seest, write in a roll, and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia." The reference of the voice behind is exclusively to the seven churches. When another subject is about to open, the first voice which he heard as of a trumpet talking with him said "Come up hither;" there is no question then of a voice behind. He is forward going to look into the future. But there must first be a retrospective notice, in which the Lord would pronounce His judgment of that which bore the name of Christendom here below. "What thou seest, write in a book, and send it to the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea. And I turned to see the voice which was speaking with me. And having turned, I saw seven golden lampstands." We are told afterwards what those meant.

One like the Son of man is next seen "in the midst of the seven candlesticks," which, as we are told, were the seven churches, but these viewed according to the Lord's mind about them as a standard of divine righteousness. This is the reason why they were golden. Not only is the same principle general or constant, but it is remarkably characteristic of John's own writings. For instance, the standard for the Christian is not in anywise the law (which was so for the Jew); for us it is Christ Himself, and cannot without loss be anything else. "He that saith he abideth in him, ought himself also so to walk" how? Like an Israelite? Not at all: the Christian ought to remember that he is a heavenly man, not an earthly one. He "ought himself also so to walk even as he (Christ) walked." He is not under law but under grace. The reason is manifest, because the way in which we are called to walk is always according to the place and relations in which we stand. Nothing can be simpler. If I am a servant, I ought to behave like a servant. If I am a master, the conduct that might be proper in a servant would not become me. The mixture of relations is always wrong; the oversight of them is loss, their denial ruinous. For every position we are set in, no matter where it is or what, there is always the gracious power of God as our resource; but it is to sustain the person walking in consonance with the relationship in which God has been pleased to put him.

We are not now speaking of anything conventional. Life in Christ, where there is spiritual intelligence, takes one out of the vanities of the world in principle. This remark it may be well to add, because a Christian might say "As I am a gentleman, I must walk like one, and still better now that I have Christ." But nay, this will not do for Christ. Did He thus walk? And are you not to walk as He? Do you not in this merely sink to the world's level? Are you not just taking advantage of an earthly position to escape part of what Christ calls you to? One knows how readily the heart can thus escape from what is really the blessedness of the witness which the Lord has placed in our hands. Is this Christ? We speak then of what Christ has put us in, not about nature and its wishes and feelings. If you have nothing but nature, it would be intelligible; but if you have seen the Son of God and believed in Him, if by grace you have the same life which was in Him, so that this thing is true of Him and of you, no possible standard can suit for you as a Christian short of Christ Himself.

Thus then it is with the seven golden lampstands. All must be and was measured according to God's own mind, and the place in which He set the assemblies. Consistency with Him as a revealed God in Christ is their rule. Therefore they appear as golden lampstands.

But John saw "in the midst of the [seven] lampstands one like the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot." There is not now the sign of activity in service not the robe tucked up, as often remarked. The Son of man is seen clad in the flowing robe reaching to the feet, and He is "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."

Here we have to remark that Christ is seen in a judicial point of view. He is spoken of as Son of man; and, as we know, this is the quality in which it is given Him to execute every kind of judgment. It is expressly so taught in John's own gospel. (John 5:1-47) Yet with all this another feature betrays John, and suits him as the writer most strikingly. He that is seen as Son of man is really described with those marks which belong distinctively to the "Ancient of days." Daniel sees the "Ancient of days" in one way, and the Son of man in quite another. John sees the Son of man with the qualities of the Ancient of days. He is man; but the man seen then and thus is a divine person, the eternal God Himself. Now I ask any fair mind, whose style does this identification of nature suit but the writer that we are now reading? No doubt, morally speaking, He must needs execute judgment; but John could not lose sight of His divine glory, even where the subject is judgment, and the kingdom everywhere prominent.

Another thing is observable, when one looks into what is said here. A threefold glory of Christ appears: what is personal; what is relative; and finally, what is official. But there is more also. John says, "And when I saw him, I fell at his feet as dead. And he laid his right hand upon me, saying unto me, Fear not; I am the first and the last." Such terms alone become one who is divine. He who is first is necessarily God; and He who is first, being God, must certainly be last. Jesus declares Himself to be all this; yea, more than this "the living one, and I became dead." The phrase is the strongest possible way of putting the matter. It is not merely that He died this is not what He says here, though it is said elsewhere, and very truly. But He says that He became dead. This seems to imply His own willingness to die, as indeed He became what did not belong to Him personally, and what in short seemed extraordinarily incongruous with the glorious person that had been already described. This seems conveyed in the peculiarity of the words: so careful is the Holy Ghost to watch over the glory of Christ even in that which told out the depths of His humiliation. "I became dead (records John), and, behold, I am alive unto the ages of the ages." We must leave out the word "Amen" it is spurious, and only mars the sense.

Let it suffice once for all to hope you will understand me always to speak of the text on the basis of the ancient and best authorities. There is positive evidence of the most convincing and satisfactory kind for the insertions, omissions, or changes, which may be mentioned from time to time. Do not imagine that there is anything like arbitrary innovation in this. The real innovators were those who departed by slip or by will from the very words of the Spirit; and the arbitrariness now would be in maintaining what has not sufficient authority, against that which is as certain as can be. The error then is not in seeking the best supported text, but in allowing tradition to tie us to comparatively modern and certainly to corrupted readings. We are bound in everything to yield to the best authorities. So in the next words our Lord really says, "And I have the keys of death and of hades." Not the common text, but this is the true order. No one goes to hades before he dies death being in relation to the body, hades to the separate spirit.

"Write therefore [which is undoubtedly genuine] the things which thou hast seen, and the things which are, and what shall be hereafter." This gives us, as is obvious and familiar to almost every reader, the threefold division of the book of Revelation. The things that he saw were the glory of Christ in relation to this book, as described in the first chapter, on which we have already touched. "The things which are" present the prolonged condition set forth in the addresses to the seven churches. The expression is very striking, because it not unnaturally implies that the churches were somehow to exist continuously. We can see now why it was. It is very possible, when the epistles were sent out in the days of John, that no particular emphasis would be laid on "the things that are;" but inasmuch as these things have been going on from that day to the present, we can see the immense force such a phrase thereby acquires.

At the same time another way of looking at the book is by taking "the things that are" as already past and gone. I do not doubt that God intended this, and that we are thus given a double aspect of the book. I have no intention to enter at any length on this way of looking at the churches as quite by-gone, and the prophecy as at once flowing on; but I mention it because it seems due to truth to name this as well as the other, according to which "what shall be after these" is when the church condition is no longer applicable at all.

"What shall be after these" must be owned as the true translation of the words. "Hereafter" gives vagueness: "after these" makes it precise, and is the plain literal meaning. "The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest on my right hand, and the seven golden lampstands. The seven stars are angels of the seven churches: and the seven lampstands are seven churches."

In each letter the Lord addresses "the angel." Who and what is he? We never hear of angel as an official title in the ordinary arrangements of the New Testament. But it is not at all wonderful as occurring here, where we do find what is extraordinary. The angel is a term that suits such a prophetic book as the Revelation. Does it mean what we commonly call an angelic being? Not so, I apprehend, where angels of the churches are spoken of. If we hear of the Apocalyptic angel of fire, we readily understand this; and if we hear of the angel of Jesus Christ as of Jehovah elsewhere, we find no insuperable difficulty. But it is another thing when we hear of the angel of this or that assembly. Again, we can understand an angel employed a real angelic being as the means of communication between the Lord and His servant John; but it would be harsh to suppose that His servant John writes a letter from Christ to a literal angelic being. This is the difficulty in which those are involved who suppose that angelic beings are here meant. I do not believe it. The meaning appears to be that, as "angel" is used in the sense of representative, whether an angelic being or not, so in reference to the assemblies the Lord here avails Himself of this general truth. An angel setting forth representation (human or not), an ideal representative of each assembly is meant. In certain cases we know that it might be a literal representative; for instance, when John the Baptist sends some of his disciples, there was a representation of his mind by men. The disciples go and give the message of him that they followed. But it assumes a somewhat different shape when it becomes a question of assemblies which had not been, so far as we know, sending messengers at all.

If therefore we look at the abstract nature of the angel of the church, what is implied by the term? I take it to be this: that the Lord had in view not necessarily an elder, nor a teacher, but one who might be either or both, and before His mind truly represented, and was in a special way bound up with the responsibility of the state of the assembly. Whoever that might be (one, or perhaps more,) was meant by the angel.

Revelation 2:1-29. "To the angel of the church in Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right land, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden lampstands." Here we are evidently on broad ground. The characteristics are general. The first epistle, the message to the angel of the church in Ephesus, looks at the state of the Christian testimony on the earth in its most comprehensive form, and, as I suppose, from the days of the apostle John himself. The Lord accordingly presents Himself with similar latitude. "He that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand." It is His position both ministerial and ecclesiastical His relationship to the angels, or those that morally represented the assemblies to His eye, as well as to the churches themselves. The star is that which acted on the assembly; it professedly was the vessel of light from the Lord for bearing on the condition of the saints of God. If that light was ineffectual, if there was evil mixed with it, the state of the assembly would partake of it. If it was bright, the assembly would be elevated morally thereby. This, I think, is meant. Then, in Him that held them all in His right hand, and walked in the midst of the seven golden lampstands, we have Christ not merely as holding fast those ideal representatives, but as also taking interest in the assemblies themselves. In short, it is Christ in His fullest but most general ministerial and ecclesiastical aspect, viewed, of course, according to the tenor of the book.

The state of the church in Ephesus has the same generality. "I know thy works, and thy labour, and patience, and that thou canst not bear evil [men]; and thou didst try them which say they are apostles and are not, and didst find them liars." There was faithfulness, and this very particularly in dealing with the wickedness which Satan sought to bring in at that time. The apostles were disappearing, and perhaps had all disappeared save John. I do not of course affirm this; but naturally as the apostles were departing to be with the Lord, Satan would endeavour to furnish instruments nothing loth to claim succession. The church in Ephesus tried these pretended apostles, specially the angel, as one that helped them much by grace from the Lord. The star, as we are told here, so far acted upon the church for good. When thus tried, they tried and found wanting those who set up to be apostles.

But there is much more here. Persistent faithfulness and devotedness still characterised them at Ephesus. "Thou hast patience, and didst bear for my name, and hast not wearied. But I have against thee, that thou hast left thy first love." This is the Lord's complaint against them. It is plain that it is here as ever the first departure the most general symptom of declension. What injures, and finally ruins, is invariably from within, not from without. In vain does Satan seek to cast down those who resting on Christ's love have Him as the loved object of their life and soul. Was it not thus when the epistle to the Ephesians was written by Paul? Had they not left their first love? It was not as once. There was failure in this respect. They had here relaxed, but not in their works. These went on diligently, as we learn here. There were works, and labour, and endurance. But where was the work of faith? Where was the labour of love? Where was the endurance of hope? That which had produced the mighty results was no longer active, nor could be. The effect went on; the spring was gone. They had abated in their first love. It was all over with them, unless they judged themselves, and in the power of the Holy Ghost Christ regained His place. "Remember therefore whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I am coming to thee quickly, and will remove thy lampstand out of its place, except thou shalt repent." Whether it be Christ that is represented or the description of the state of the church, whether it be the fault that is charged home, or the remedy that is proposed, whether it be the judgment that is threatened or the promise that is held out, all is of the most general description. So thoroughly does the Lord adhere to topics of the largest and most common import in the letter to the angel of the assembly in Ephesus. "But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches. To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of [my] God." Here again it is all comprehensive. What can be wider than to eat of the tree of life which is in the paradise of God?

In the writing to the angel of the church in Smyrna, a totally different state of things meets us. It is essentially a special case instead of the general one we have seen. The Lord was pleased to afflict after the declension from apostolic purity, and above all from first love. He allowed all sorts of trial to befall His people by letting loose the power of Satan, working by Gentile persecutors. And this is seen to be the occasion of the letter to the angel of the church in Smyrna. "And these things saith the First and the Last, who became dead and lived; I know [thy works, and] thy tribulation, and thy poverty, (but thou art rich!) and the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews and are not, but a synagogue of Satan." Here observe it is not now a trial by false apostles. A new evil appears. As long as true apostles were on earth, Satan was never able to have Judaism recognized in the church of God. The council in Jerusalem expressly exempted the Gentiles from being put under the yoke of law. And the apostle Paul showed that it was really to annul Christ to fall from grace if the law, introduced either for justification or for a rule of life, were imposed on the Christian. For justification this is manifest; for a rule of life it is not so apparent, but it is just as real a denial of the gospel. if Christ be the rule of life for the Christian, and the law be the rule of death for a Jew, it is evident that for a Christian to abandon that for this tends to apostacy. The early fathers thus Judaized; and the leaven has gone on working ever since. To take the position of a Jew thus is to be one of those that say they are such and are not, but are alas! Satan's synagogue.

The Lord here contemplates these evil workers (which is what the criers of works come to) forming a distinct party. It is not merely Satan struggling to get in Judaism, but, as He says here, "the blasphemy" (railing, calumny) "from them which say they are Jews, and are not, but a synagogue of Satan." They have now a compact character, and can be spoken of as a synagogue. It was not merely the tendency of individuals. Individuals there were before, but this is much more. It is a formed and known party of the highest possible pretensions. They set up to be more righteous and holy than the rest, whom they denounced as Antinomian because they stood in the true grace of God. They were themselves corrupters and destroyers of true Christianity without knowing it. Deceived by Satan, they were his zealous instruments, so much the more actively deceiving others, because earnest and honest after the flesh.

The patristic party those commonly called "the Fathers" seem to be the leaders of the party here referred to. They have the awful ignominy of Judaizing the church of God. They have exercised this influence in all ages, and this is where, as I judge, their formation as a system is stigmatized by the Lord Jesus Christ. Offensive against Himself, they were wholly opposed in principle to grace. Their character is plain. They dragged down the Christian from his own heavenly associations to that of a spurious Jew. What is still more in John the significant point, they lost all the truth of a real life given to us in Christ. Thus whether it be the depraving of souls or the forming sects after an earthly mould among those who were heavenly according to Paul, or whether it be the taking them away from the life of Christ, and from walking as He walked and simply putting them under Jewish ordinances, the Fathers, I fear, as a class, fully earned the awful distinction here assigned by the Lord.

When man thus regulated after the Jewish pattern, the whole beauty and aim of the church of God was ruined in principle. But the point of interest here is, that succession and ordinances became defined as a system about this very time. It is the great fact, in contrast with the inspired epistle, that you find even among the ante-Nicene Fathers. Here the Lord seems to me to notice its working at the same time that God was in a measure using for good those that were faithful in the heathen persecutions. Even then Satan was not idle in forming his synagogue "of those that said they were Jews, and are not." On the other hand Christ said in view of the sufferer, "Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days." The trial was not unlimited: the Lord defined the term of their endurance. "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life." "He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death." They might be hurt by the first, they would not be by that which follows and is final. It is a question of faith in God. Through much tribulation we must enter the kingdom.

"And to the angel of the church in Pergamos" comes a very different message. This too is special. "These things saith he which hath the sharp sword with two edges; I know thy works, and where thou dwellest." It is a serious thing where and how we dwell. "Thou dwellest even where Satan's throne is." How came this? One can understand their passing through the scene of his power, but to be dwelling there is significant. Did they like to be near a throne, although it were the throne of Satan to dwell there? Did they love the shadow or the glitter of human power?

Yet the Lord owns whatever is good. "Thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith." It is remarkable that after the greatest persecutions, when Christendom and even Christians had been seduced into accepting the patronage of the world, up to that point there remained real faithfulness in refusing all efforts to deny the deity of Christ Under the same Constantine, who was the instrument of thus casting the world's shield over Christianity, was the battle fought and won against the Arian foe. It was under his authority, and indeed by his call, that the famous council sat at Nicea, and the faith of the Trinity was publicly established. I do not mean of course for Christians, who needed no such bulwark as this, but for Christendom. Thus the creed commonly called Nicene, which had for its object the assertion of Christ's consubstantial deity, was published at this same time. I cannot but think that this state of things is referred to here: "Thou holdest fast my name, and hast not denied my faith, even in those days wherein Antipas was my faithful martyr, who was slain among you, where Satan dwelleth." What a solemn conjunction, that there should be this close proximity between Satan's throne without, but withal the mercy of God still maintaining that fundamental faith of Christ's own personal glory!

"But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam." Clericalism came in rapidly after this. The world's authority brought in worldly objects, and now the ministry became a clergy, a more or less profitable profession. The framers of this were those that held the doctrine of Balaam. Simultaneously with this of course there was the introduction of all kinds of compromise with the world. The clergy encouraged by a misuse of scripture every sort of commerce with the world's evil ways; as it is said here, "who taught Balak to cast a stumbling-block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit fornication." I do not doubt that all this is symbolically expressed. But the drift is plain enough where the conscience is not blunted. Where the same evils exist, and all that which would keep the church as a chaste virgin espoused to Christ is gone, no wonder that these warnings are misunderstood. The world had got in, as it still remains, and alas! palliated most by those who owe their professional status to this frightfully corrupt and corrupting influence. And the same spirit of unbelief which let in the mischief keeps it in, decrying the true application of the two-edged sword now as then. The Christians were dazzled by the world's power and glory, which was put forth doubtless in protecting, not themselves only, but the public faith of Christendom in that day. At the same time they fatally compromised Christ by alliance with the world, and there followed the practical return to the world out of which grace had taken the church in order to union with Christ in glory.

"So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate." The first of these epistles to the angel of the church in Ephesus denounced "the deeds of the Nicolaitans;" but now the iniquity in question (Antinomianism it would seem) had become a doctrine. "Repent; or else I am coming to thee quickly, and will war against them with the sword of my mouth." Thus the Lord was no longer fighting in defence of His own people, nor was He employing the enemy's hatred and persecution to nip in the bud or prune evil excrescences. We have seen this just before. A greater trial appears now. Yet, alas! the state of those that bore His own name was such that He was obliged to deal thus sternly with them.

"He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches. To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the hidden manna." When the church was seeking the place of public glory, the encouragement to faith was the hidden manna. Let there be at least individual even if unvalued faithfulness to the Lord Jesus. There were, I doubt not, some saints true to His name, though it was not the time when they were led or forced into the position of a remnant. It was not yet a question of coming out from the public body. There might not be energy of faith for this, but at any rate fidelity to Christ was not lacking, and where this was "To him that overcometh," says the Lord, "I will give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written, which none knoweth save he that receiveth it." To the true heart His approval is enough, and sweeter than triumph before the universe.

Then follows the last of these four churches. "And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write." I cannot doubt that this letter contains an apt adumbration, as far as could be there in present facts, of what was found in mediaeval times. "These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes as a flame of fire, and his feet like fine brass." Christ is revealed now, not only in the all-discerning power of moral judgment, but also judicially prepared to act against evil "His feet like fine brass." "I know thy works, and thy love, and faith, and service, and patience, and thy last works (to be) more than the first." There was considerable devotedness in the middle ages, spite of the darkness and ignorance that prevailed in point of doctrine. But those who loved the Lord showed their love then not so much by intelligence in His ways, as by unsparing and habitual self-denial. I am not now speaking of what was done out of superstition, either to Mary or the church, when each was made a sort of bona Dea, but of the fruit of looking to Christ however simply.

"Notwithstanding I have a few things against thee, because thou sufferest that woman (perhaps 'thy wife') Jezebel." This was a new kind of evil altogether. It is not simply clericalism now, nor persons holding the doctrine of Balaam; but a formal state of things, as the symbol of a woman regularly represents. Examine the use of woman symbolically, and you will find, I believe, that this is true. The man is the agent that goes forward; the woman is the state of things that is produced. Jezebel therefore is the appropriate symbol now, as Balaam was just before. The activity was in the clergy, who brought in the basest compromise with the world, and sold the honour of Christ for silver and gold, for ease and dignity. Here we find Jezebel later. This was the public state of things produced in the middle ages, and tolerated where the Lord was named.

As it is said here, "Because thou sufferest that woman Jezebel, which calleth herself a prophetess." It is precisely the claim of the so-called church, the assumption of permanent infallibility the setting up to be a sort of inspired authority to enunciate doctrine, and to direct everything in the name of God. Is not this exactly what Romanism does? Does it not then stand in the place of Jezebel? "Who calleth herself a prophetess, and teachest and seducest my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed to idols." All was the fruit, doubtless, of what had been works before, but in far greater maturity now. "And I gave her space that she should repent; and she will not repent of her fornication. Behold, I will cast her into a bed, and those that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of their deeds. And I will kill her children with death." Jezebel was a mother indeed a holy mother, said the deceivers and deceived. What said the Lord? what said those who preferred "great tribulation," rather than commit adultery with her? This flagrant church-world corruption was now a settled institution. It is no mere transient cloud of error; it is a body in the highest worldly position a queen, but also pretending to the highest spiritual power a prophetess so-called, that was now permanently settled in Christendom, giving birth to a distinct progeny of iniquity "her children." But says He who has eyes like a flame of fire, "I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he which searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give to each according to your works."

"But to you I say, the rest (or remnant) in Thyatira." The remnant is here plain. Thus we must read the text and translate it. We must leave out "and unto." The common text which gives rise to the current versions spoils the sense completely. It is to the rest, or the remnant in Thyatira, "as many as have not this doctrine," that the Lord turns.

Let us weigh a little more these remarkable words. Here we have for the first time the formal recognition of saints not included in the public state of the assembly, yet not so openly separate as was found at a later day. Still they become a witnessing body more or less in spirit, apart from that which set up the highest pretension but in profoundly wicked communion with Jezebel, as the Lord judged and stigmatized what man called "our mother, the holy Catholic, church." "To you I say, the rest in Thyatira, as many as have not known this doctrine, and which have not known the depths of Satan, as they speak; I will put upon you none other burden. But that which ye have already hold fast till I come." Thus the Lord speaks with exceeding tenderness of those that were true to His name. He did not expect great things from them. I do not the least doubt that those who are commonly called the Waldenses and Albigenses, and others perhaps of similar character, are referred to here. They were true and ardent, but with no considerable light of knowledge if measured by a fuller and richer testimony which the Lord was afterwards to raise up, as foreshown in the next chapter.

The Lord at the close gives a promise suited to the condition. "He that overcometh, and he that keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations." This wicked Jezebel not only persecuted the true saints of the Lord, but sought universal supremacy a world-wide dominion over souls. The Lord bids them in effect to have nothing to do with her, and He will give the true power when He takes it Himself. Let them abide in the place of patience, even though there be tribulation, as there must be if they are content to endure for Christ's sake now. 'But he that overcometh, and he that keepeth my works unto the end, to him will I give power over the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron; as a vessel of the potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father." The faithful will share Christ's power at His coming, and be associated with Himself in His kingdom. But even this is not enough for grace. "And I will give him the morning star." This is not association with Christ in His public reign, but in that which is proper to Him above the world altogether. The heavenly hope of being with Christ is promised as well as part in the kingdom.

And here, it has been well observed, a notable change takes place. The call to hear begins to follow the promise, instead of being before it. The reason is that a remnant is now formed. This does not go along with the public state of the church now. The Lord thenceforth puts the promise first, and this apparently because there is no use longer to expect the church as a whole to receive it. The address is to the overcomer, who is accordingly put before the call to hear. In the three previous churches it may be noticed, the call to hear is first, because the Lord is still dealing with the general conscience of the church. This is given up now. There is a remnant only that overcome, and the promise is for them. The Lord simply takes notice of these in His call. As for others it is all over with them.

Accordingly the division of the next chapter (Revelation 3:1-22) seems to be happy at this point. There is an immense change in turning to the last three churches. The ground of such a thought lies in the fact that the introduction to Sardis indicates the Lord beginning again a new state of things. The ancient ecclesiastical or catholic phase of the church terminates with Thyatira: nevertheless Thyatira in this has the peculiar trait that it is the close of the public state of the church, and the beginning of those conditions which go on till the Lord's coming. Thyatira, I have no doubt, contains within it the mystic representative of Romanism. This can hardly be denied to Jezebel at least; whilst "the remnant" represents those who, without being Protestants, form a witnessing company apart from popery, yet before the rise of Protestantism. The beginning of the third chapter introduces the protestant state of things.

Thus we have had the general condition falling into decline; we have had the early persecution from the heathen; we have had the power of the world patronizing the church; and we have had finally Romanism, which alone (from the allusion to Christ's coming) is supposed to go on to the end.

"And to the angel of the church in Sardis write; These things saith he that hath the seven Spirits of God, and the seven stars." There is an evident allusion to the manner in which the Lord presented Himself to the church in Ephesus. Ephesus was the first presentation of the general public state. Sardis gives the rise of the new state of things, not strictly ecclesiastical the Lord acting in the way of testimony, and not so much in ecclesiastical order. Hence it is not said here that He walks in the midst of the seven lampstands: that was ecclesiastical strictly. But here He has the seven Spirits of God. He is God. All power, all governing might, is in His hands, and the seven stars, that is to say, all the instrumental means by which He acts upon the church. "I know thy works, that thou hast a name that thou livest, and art dead." Such is Protestantism.

"Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain. that are ready to die: for I have not found thy works perfect before God." Hence what judges Protestantism is this, that they have the testimony of God's word much more fully than those who had sunk into the mere ecclesiastical formalism of the middle ages. There the word of God had been kept away, because the clergy and the word of God can never go together thoroughly. It is, and always must be, the effect of the clerical principle to substitute the authority of man, more or less, for that of the Lord, and to weaken and hinder the immediate action of the Spirit by the word of God on the conscience. I am speaking not of individual clergymen at all, but of clericalism wherever found, Catholic or denominational, nationalist or dissenting.

But the Protestant principle is a very different one. People may not be true to their principles, and often are not. Still, after all, one of the grand points fought for at the Reformation, and gained for Protestantism, whatever might be its defects, was this; that man was put fairly, freely, and openly in presence of the Bible. God's word was there to deal with human conscience. I do not speak of justification by faith; for even Luther, as I think, never got thoroughly clear as to the truth of it. And though Catholics are miserably deluded, Protestants do not understand justification to this day. They have the truth in a measure, but not so as to clear souls from bondage, or bring them distinctly into liberty, peace, and the power of the Spirit. Even Luther never had peace in his soul, as the settled state in which he walked. We have most of us heard what conflicts he had, and not merely at the beginning of his career but to the end. I do not mean conflicts about the church, but about his soul, It is needless here to cite passages from his extant writings, which prove how sorely he was tried by inward conflicts of unbelief, which amply prove how far he was from the calm enjoyment of the peace of the gospel; but it is an error to impute them in themselves to any other cause than a lack of clear knowledge of grace. In such a state, all sorts of things may trouble the man who cannot rest without a question on the Lord, no matter how able and honoured he may be. I am sure Luther is one from whom we may all learn much; whose courage, faithfulness, self-renunciation, and endurance are edifying and instructive. At the same time it is useless to blink the fact: energetic as he was and used of God largely, he was far behind in the understanding both of the church and of the gospel.

Yet, spite of drawbacks, an open Bible was won for God's children in particular, and for man also. This very thing condemned the state of Protestantism that resulted; because, while it was freely read, there was scarce any thought of forming all upon the Bible, and regulating all by it. Nothing is more common among Protestants, than to admit a thing to be perfectly true because it is in the word of God, without the smallest intention or thought of acting upon it. Is not this a very serious fact? The Romanists are in general too ignorant to know what is or is not in the Bible. Except the common-places of controversy with Protestants, they know little of Scripture. Tell them that this or that is to be found in the Bible, and they look amazed. They may not know it as a whole, having never read it save (?) under the eye of the directing priest, their confessor. The Protestant reads the Bible more at liberty, which is a real good and precious boon; but for this very reason, the Protestant incurs no light responsibility.

"I have not found thy works perfect before my God. Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief." It is a sweeping intimation of the very same way in which the Lord threatens to come on the world. Now if there be in the state of Protestantism one thing more marked than another, it is that they always fall back on the world to deliver themselves from the power of the priest or the church. This has ever been the chief snare, as it is now. If even what belongs to the world be touched, they are in no small agitation about it. I am far from saying this because I do not feel for them much. Nor is it that I have any doubt that it is a great sin to wipe off all public recognition of God in the world. Impossible to believe that e.g. the unblushing worldliness one sees in the combination of Dissenters with Papists and infidels springs from just, pure, holy, and unselfish motives. It is rather to be imputed to the encroaching spirit of infidelity, where there is not also a truckling to superstition. Doubtless the infidels hope to gain the day, as the superstitious are very confident on their part; but the truth of it is that the devil will get the upper hand to the destruction of them both, and then find that the Lord will appear in His day for His own judgment of all the adversaries.

The Lord then warns the angel at Sardis, that if he should not watch, He Himself will come on him as a thief, and he shall not know what hour Christ will come on him. This is not at all the way in which His coming is spoken of for His own. They are waiting for Him expectantly without such an idea as His thief-like surprise. How can it surprise those who are ever awaiting Him? His coming is their joy, and for this they watch more than watchman for the dawn. The figure of the thief can be employed only for the world or the worldly-minded. So solemnly then does this language suppose that the assembly at Sardis have passed out of the practical attitude of waiting for the Lord as a loved object. All intimates that they are in great, and no doubt just, dread of Him as a judge. They have slipped into the world, and share its fears and anxieties. They have lost the sense of Christ's peace left with them They have not the joy of His coming for them in perfect love, to receive to Himself those whom He loves. The unwelcome visitation of a thief would be utterly incongruous if they were enjoying the sweet hope according to His own word, that He is coming for them quickly.

He that overcomes should be clothed in white, for there were a few in Sardis who had not defiled their garments, and who should thus walk with Him in white; because they are worthy. This has been always the case. Precious souls are there, and our happy service is to help these then, if we can, to a better knowledge of His grace, not, of course, to make light of their being where they are, or of their doing what they do, yet in the fullest love to feel about them as the Lord does. "He that overcometh, he shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot his name out of the book of life, and will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels."

In the next place comes Philadelphia. "And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write; These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shall shut; and shutteth, and no man shall open." Every word of Christ's presentation of Himself differs from the view of Him given inRevelation 1:1-20; Revelation 1:1-20. This marks particularly the change in the chapter, and especially in the part before us. The address to Sardis also, although allusive to that of Ephesus, is nevertheless no less clearly meant to stand contrasted with it. It is a recommencement, and so far is analogous with that to Ephesus: still, the manner in which the Lord is presented is quite new. His having the seven Spirits of God was distinct from the Ephesian picture; nor is anything at all similar in the description of the Lord Jesus given before. It is a new state of things; but when we come to Philadelphia there is far more evidence of all things new. "These things saith he that is holy, he that is true." When the Lord is seen in the vision of chapter 1, these are not the ways in which He is described at all "He that hath the key of David."

In the descriptions of the second chapter what was said about the Lord is a repetition of what was found in the vision John had just seen. The only exception is in Thyatira, where He is described as the Son of God; and, as already remarked, Thyatira is exactly transitional. It is the beginning of the changed condition. It is a church state in responsibility though not in real power, being an ecclesiastical body which presents horrors in the Lord's eyes, but not without a remnant dear to Him. This at the same time goes on down to the end, and brings in the Lord's coming; for, it will be observed, the coming of the Lord is not introduced in any of the first three, but from Thyatira it is, because the condition intended goes on to the coming of the Lord. Ephesus does not, nor Smyrna, nor Pergamos: the only semblance of it is in threats of present judgment. Thyatira does, and so Sardis, and also Philadelphia.

But Philadelphia also prominently brings out the Lord in person as also in His moral glory. It is now Christ Himself, and this as One that faith discovers in new beauty, not dependent merely on visions of glory which had been seen before, but Christ as He really is in Himself "He that is holy, he that is true." But more than this, it is Christ seen according to the largeness of His glory. Faith sees that the blessed One, the holy and the true, is the same that has the key of David. Old Testament prophecy dispensational truth is introduced now. It is "he that openeth, and no man shall shut." There is perfect liberty now liberty for service, liberty for every one that belongs to the Lord. "I have set before thee an open door, and none can shut it: for thou hast a little strength." They are supposed to be not marked by such mighty doings, as Sardis was, Sardis did great exploits, Philadelphia nothing of the sort. Are we content to be little, my friends? to be of no esteem in the world? never to be marked by anything that men can wonder at or admire? I am supposing now a scale which attracts the world's attention.

This is exactly what is not true of Philadelphia, which is rather formed after a rejected Christ. We all know of what small account He was on earth; and so it is with Philadelphia. Has it no price in His eyes? "Thou hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name." Just as Jesus was marked by valuing the word of God, and loving it being the only One that could truly say to Satan as true of Himself, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God," so here Philadelphia is distinguished by the same living by faith. To some it might appear a small thing not to deny Christ's name, but nothing is more precious to the Lord. Once it was a question of not denying His faith, as was found in Pergamos; but here it is Himself personally. What He is is the main point. Mere orthodoxy does not suffice, but His person, though absent, and the glory due to Him.

"Behold, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, which say they are Jews, and are not." Is not this the revival of that dreadful scourge that had afflicted the early church (even Smyrna)? Have we not heard of it? And have we not seen it ourselves? How comes it, that for so many hundreds of years only a part of what the Fathers had laboured at sunk into the minds of men, a certain portion being rejected, as we know, by Protestantism; but now, when God brings out this fresh testimony, there rises a counter-testimony? Satan revives the old Judaizing spirit, at the very time that God re-asserts the true principle of Christian brotherhood, and, above all, makes Christ Himself to be all to His people. And here we have for our instruction the fact, that the synagogue of Satan of those who say they are Jews, and are not revives. How stand the facts? How are they even in this country? What is commonly called Puseyism tends to this; and that system is not confined to this country. You must not think it is merely a question of England; it holds equally abroad, as in Germany and elsewhere in fact, wherever Protestantism is found, and, above all, wherever this is provoked, either by scepticism on the one hand, or on the other by truth that condemns both with the brightness of heavenly light. In order to defend themselves on a religions footing, men fall back on a system of ordinances and of the law. This is, I think, what is meant by the synagogue of Satan here.

But the Lord will compel the recognition of His own testimony. I do not say when, where, or how; but as surely as He lives, will the Lord vindicate the truth He has given, and the testimony He has raised up for His name. "I will make them to come and worship before thy feet, and to know that I have loved thee."

Nor is this all. Not only will the Lord thus vindicate what is of Himself, but, as we know, there is an awful time coming on this world an hour, as it is said here, not simply of tribulation, but of temptation or trial. I am inclined to think that the hour of trial embraces the whole Apocalyptic period; that is, not merely the awful time when Satan in a rage is expelled from on high, and when the beast, energised by him, rises to his full head of power, but the previous period of trouble, seduction, and judgment. In short, "the hour of temptation" is, I conceive, a larger term altogether than the "great tribulation" ofRevelation 7:1-17; Revelation 7:1-17, and still more than the unparalleled tribulation which is to befall the land of Israel. (Daniel 12:1-13, Matthew 24:1-51, Mark 13:1-37) If so, how rich and full is the promise: "Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth." In vain men try to escape! The hour of temptation must come upon all. I dare say that some of us remember when people used to fly to Canada in order to escape "the great tribulation" which they expected to fall on the empire of the beast. Men's scheme was a mistake, their flight foolish. The hour of temptation will catch them, no matter where they may hide. The hour of temptation shall come upon all the habitable world, "to try them that dwell upon the earth," be they where they may.

Who then can escape? Those who at Christ's call are caught up to heaven. They will not be in that hour. It is not only, be it observed, that they will not be in the place, but they will be kept out of the hour, of that coming temptation. What a full exemption! Such is the strength of the promise and the blessedness of it, that the Lord promises His own to be kept from the time. The only possible way I can understand of exempting any from the time is by taking them out of the scene. The Irvingites used to talk about the Lord having a little Zoar. It is not at all however a question of a place of shelter, but of complete removal from the period that is filled by the great trouble or trial that will come upon the habitable world. How can this be secured but by removing them out of the scene before the time arrives? Such I believe the promise here to import. The godly remnant of Jews, having to do with a special and most fierce but circumscribed tribulation, have only to flee to the mountains in order to escape till Jesus appears in glory, to the confusion of their foes. It is quite another thing for Christians.

"Behold, I come quickly!" There is not a word about His coming as a thief now, but with joy. The Lord has revived the true hope of His return; there are those who are thus waiting for Christ, and this epistle seems emphatically to apply to such. "Behold, I come quickly!" In principle it is true of all that are really faithful, but there may be Christians, as we know there are, involved in one or other of the various states which have been described, and which apparently go on to the close. It is in vain therefore to look for a formal obliteration of these co-ordinate conditions, which cannot be till the Lord comes. "Hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown. Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name." He will be as much marked by power in the day of glory, as by contented weakness in the present scene of grace.

We have yet the last epistle to the angel of the church in Laodicea. But of this I would say but a few words, considering the late hour. The Laodicean picture is, in my judgment, the result of dislike and contempt for the testimony that the Lord had previously raised up. If people despise the truth possessed by those who are waiting for the Lord, they are in danger of falling into the awful condition that is here set forth. Christ is no longer the loved and only object of the heart; nor is there the sense of the blessedness of His coming, which leads into waiting for Him; still less is there a glorying in weakness that the power of Christ may rest on them. There is the desire to be great, to be esteemed of men, "rich, and increased in goods, and in need of nothing." You find here a scope, therefore, that leaves ample room for man. Hence it is that the Lord introduces Himself to them as the Amen, the end of every thing human, where all the security is in the faithfulness of God. He only is "the faithful and true witness." That is exactly what the church ought to have been and was not; and therefore He has to take that place Himself. It was so before when He was here below in grace, and now He must resume its power and glory and judgment, than which one can hardly conceive a greater and more solemn rebuke on the condition of those who ought to have been His witnesses. Besides He is "the beginning of the creation of God." It is a setting aside of man altogether; and the reason is that Laodicea is the glorification of man and of man's resources in the church. "I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would that. thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth." They are neutral in principle and practice, being half-hearted about Christ. And I am persuaded there is no place which is more likely to generate neutrality than a sound and true position, if there be not self-judgment maintained and godly sincerity. The more you stand in the forefront of the battle, with the responsible testimony of God, the more you have the grace and truth of God brought out before and by you, if the heart and conscience be not governed and animated by the power of the Spirit of God, through that truth and grace that is in Christ, sooner or later, there will be, beyond a question, a lapse back into a position of neutrality, if not of active enmity. There will be indifference to all that is good; and the only kind of zeal, if there be zeal, will be for what is bad.

This is exactly Laodiceanism. "So then because thou art neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased in goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked: I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire." They wanted everything that was precious: "gold" or divine righteousness in Christ "white raiment," that is to say, the righteousnesses of saints; "that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eye-salve, that thou mayest see." They had lost the very perception of what was for God. All was dark as to truth, and uncertain as to moral judgment. Holy separateness and savour were gone. "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent. Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." The Lord presents Himself even there in the most gracious way to meet their need. But the utmost promised in the word that closes the epistle goes not beyond reigning with Him. It is nothing special. For every one that is in the first resurrection is destined to reign with Christ, as even will the Jewish sufferers, earlier or later, under the antichrist. It is all a mistake, therefore, to suppose that this is a singular distinction, It amounts to this that the Lord will hold, after all, to His own truth, spite of unfaithfulness. There may be individual reality even where the associations are miserably untoward.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Kelly, William. "Commentary on Revelation 1:10". Kelly Commentary on Books of the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wkc/revelation-1.html. 1860-1890.