Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Revelation 1:4

John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace, from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne,
New American Standard Version

Bible Study Resources

Concordances:
Nave's Topical Bible - Asia;   Church;   God;   Holy Spirit;   I Am That I Am;   Jesus Continued;   Peace;   Seven;   Throne;   Scofield Reference Index - Christ;   Churches;   Holy Spirit;   Thompson Chain Reference - Churches, the Seven;   Seven;   The Topic Concordance - Cleanness;   Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ;   Jesus Christ;   Love;   Sacrifice;   Witness;   Torrey's Topical Textbook - Titles and Names of the Holy Spirit;   Trinity, the;  
Dictionaries:
American Tract Society Bible Dictionary - Cherub;   Holy Spirit or Holy Ghost;   Bridgeway Bible Dictionary - Pergamum;   Baker Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Holy Spirit, Gifts of;   Numbers, Symbolic Meaning of;   Time;   Charles Buck Theological Dictionary - Ascension of Christ;   Eternity of God;   Holy Ghost;   Easton Bible Dictionary - Jehovah;   Fausset Bible Dictionary - Holy Spirit, the;   Number;   Revelation of John, the;   Holman Bible Dictionary - Archangel;   Grace;   Greeting;   I Am;   John;   Letter;   Peace, Spiritual;   Revelation, the Book of;   Seven Churches of Asia;   Trinity;   Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible - Asia;   Faith;   John the Apostle;   Raphael;   Throne;   Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament - Alpha and Omega (2);   Angels;   Apocalypse;   Asia ;   Church;   Demon, Demoniacal Possession, Demoniacs;   Enoch Book of;   Epistle;   Grace ;   John (the Apostle);   Lamp Lampstand;   Lydia ;   Mediator;   Numbers;   Numbers (2);   Peace;   Unity (2);   Morrish Bible Dictionary - Numbers as Symbols;   People's Dictionary of the Bible - Asia;   Smith Bible Dictionary - A'sia;   Wilson's Dictionary of Bible Types - Fire;   Watson's Biblical & Theological Dictionary - Holy Ghost;   Jehovah;  
Encyclopedias:
Condensed Biblical Cyclopedia - Kingdom or Church of Christ, the;   International Standard Bible Encyclopedia - Chronology of the New Testament;   Number;   Papyrus;   Revelation of John:;   Spirit;   Text and Manuscripts of the New Testament;   Trine (Triune) Immersion;   Unchangeable;   Kitto Biblical Cyclopedia - Asia;  
Devotionals:
Daily Light on the Daily Path - Devotion for January 13;   Every Day Light - Devotion for October 30;  

Adam Clarke Commentary

John to the seven Churches - The apostle begins this much in the manner of the Jewish prophets. They often name themselves in the messages which they receive from God to deliver to the people; e.g. "The vision of Isaiah, the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem." "The words of Jeremiah, the son of Hilkiah; to whom the word of the Lord came." "The word of the Lord came expressly unto Ezekiel, the priest." "The word of the Lord that came unto Hosea, the son of Beeri." "The word of the Lord that came to Joel." "The words of Amos, who was among the herdsmen of Tekoa." "The vision of Obadiah; thus saith the Lord." "The word of the Lord came unto Jonah." So, "The revelation of Jesus Christ, which he sent and signified to his servant John." "John to the seven Churches," etc.

The Asia here mentioned was what is called Asia Minor, or the Lydian or Proconsular Asia; the seven Churches were those of Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea. Of these as they occur. We are not to suppose that they were the only Christian Churches then in Asia Minor; there were several others then in Phrygia, Pamphylia, Galatia, Pontus, Cappadocia, etc., etc. But these seven were those which lay nearest to the apostle, and were more particularly under his care; though the message was sent to the Churches in general, and perhaps it concerns the whole Christian world. But the number seven may be used here as the number of perfection; as the Hebrews use the seven names of the heavens, the seven names of the earth, the seven patriarchs, seven suns, seven kinds, seven years, seven months, seven days, etc., etc.; in which the rabbins find a great variety of mysteries.

Grace be unto you - This form of apostolical benediction we have often seen in the preceding epistles.

From him which is, and which was, and which is to come - This phraseology is purely Jewish, and probably taken from the Tetragrammaton, יהוה Yehovah ; which is supposed to include in itself all time, past, present, and future. But they often use the phrase of which the ὁ ων, και ὁ ην, και ὁ ερχομενος, of the apostle, is a literal translation. So, in Sohar Chadash, fol. 7, 1: "Rabbi Jose said, By the name Tetragrammaton, (i.e. יהוה , Yehovah ), the higher and lower regions, the heavens, the earth, and all they contain, were perfected; and they are all before him reputed as nothing; יהיה והוא הוה והוא היה והוא vehu hayah, vehu hoveh, vehu yihyeh ; and He Was, and He Is, and He Will Be. So, in Shemoth Rabba, sec. 3, fol. 105, 2: "The holy blessed God said to Moses, tell them: - לבוא לעתיד הוא ואני עכשיו הוא ואני שהייתי אני ani shehayithi, veani hu achshaiu, veani hu laathid labo ; I Was, I Now Am, and I Will Be in Future." In Chasad Shimuel, Rab. Samuel ben David asks: "Why are we commanded to use three hours of prayer? Answer: These hours point out the holy blessed God; ויהיה הוה היה שהוא shehu hayah, hoveh, veyihyeh ; he who Was, who Is, and who Shall Be. The Morning prayer points out him who Was before the foundation of the world; the Noonday prayer points out him who Is; and the Evening prayer points out him who Is to Come." This phraseology is exceedingly appropriate, and strongly expresses the eternity of God; for we have no other idea of time than as past, or now existing, or yet to exist; nor have we any idea of eternity but as that duration called by some aeternitas a parte ante, the eternity that was before time, and aeternitas a parte post, the endless duration that shall be when time is no more. That which Was, is the eternity before time; that which Is, is time itself; and that which Is to Come, is the eternity which shall be when time is no more.

The seven Spirits - before his throne - The ancient Jews, who represented the throne of God as the throne of an eastern monarch, supposed that there were seven ministering angels before this throne, as there were seven ministers attendant on the throne of a Persian monarch. We have an ample proof of this, Tobit 12:15: I am Raphael, one of the Seven Holy Angels which present the prayers of the saints, and which go in and out before the glory of the Holy One. And in Jonathan ben Uzziel's Targum, on Genesis 11:7; : God said to the Seven Angels which stand before him, Come now, etc.

In Pirkey Eliezer, iv. and vii: "The angels which were first created minister before him without the veil." Sometimes they represent them as seven cohorts or troops of angels, under whom are thirty inferior orders.

That seven Angels are here meant, and not the Holy Spirit, is most evident from the place, the number, and the tradition. Those who imagine the Holy Ghost to be intended suppose the number seven is used to denote his manifold gifts and graces. That these seven spirits are angels, see Revelation 3:1; Revelation 4:5; and particularly Revelation 5:6, where they are called the seven spirits of God Sent Forth into All the Earth.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Revelation 1:4". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/acc/revelation-1.html. 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

John to the seven churches which are in Asia - The word “Asia” is used in quite different senses by different writers. It is used:

(1)as referring to the whole eastern continent now known by that name;

(2)either Asia or Asia Minor;

(3)that part of Asia which Attalus III, king of Pergamos, gave to the Romans, namely, Mysia, Phrygia, Lycaonia, Lydia, Carla, Pisidia, and the southern coast - that is, all in the western, southwestern, and southern parts of Asia Minor; and,

(4)in the New Testament, usually the southwestern part of Asia Minor, of which Ephesus was the capital. See the notes at Acts 2:9.

The word “Asia” is not found in the Hebrew Scriptures, but it occurs often in the Books of Maccabees, and in the New Testament. In the New Testament it is not used in the large sense in which it is now, as applied to the whole continent, but in its largest signification it would include only Asia Minor. It is also used, especially by Luke, as denoting the country that was called “Ionia,” or what embraced the provinces of Caria and Lydia. Of this region Ephesus was the principal city, and it was in this region that the “seven churches” were situated. Whether there were more than seven churches in this region is not intimated by the writer of this book, and on that point we have no certain knowledge. it is evident that these seven were the principal churches, even if there were more, and that there was some reason why they should be particularly addressed.

There is mention of some other churches in the neighborhood of these. Colosse was near to Laodicea; and from Colossians 4:13, it would seem not improbable that there was a church also at Hierapolis. But there may have been nothing in their circumstances that demanded particular instruction or admonition, and they may have been on that account omitted. There is also some reason to suppose that, though there had been other churches in that vicinity besides the seven mentioned by John, they had become extinct at the time when he wrote the Book of Revelation. It appears from Tacitus (History, xiv, 27; compare also Pliny, N. H., v. 29), that in the time of Nero, 61 a.d., the city of Laodicea was destroyed by an earthquake, in which earthquake, according to Eusebius, the adjacent cities of Colosse and Hierapolis were involved. Laodicea was, indeed, immediately rebuilt, but there is no evidence of the re-establishment of the church there before the time when John wrote this book.

The earliest mention we have of a church there, after the one referred to in the New Testament by Paul Colossians 2:1; Colossians 4:13, Colossians 4:15-16, is in the time of Trajan, when Papias was bishop there, sometime between 98 a.d. and 117 a.d. It would appear, then, to be not improbable that at the time when the Apocalypse was written, there were in fact but seven churches in the vicinity. Prof. Stuart (i., 219) supposes that “seven, and only so many, may have been named, because the sevenfold divisions and groups of various objects constitute a conspicuous feature in the Apocalypse throughout.” But this reason seems too artificial; and it can hardly be supposed that it would influence the mind of John, in the specification by name of the churches to which the book was sent. If no names had been mentioned, and if the statement had occurred in glowing poetic description, it is not inconceivable that the number seven might have been selected for some such purpose.

Grace be unto you, and peace - The usual form of salutation in addressing a church. See the notes on Romans 1:7.

From him which is, and which was, and which is to come - From him who is everlasting - embracing all duration, past, present, and to come. No expression could more strikingly denote eternity than this. He now exists; he has existed in the past; he will exist in the future. There is an evident allusion here to the name Yahweh, the name by which the true God is appropriately designated in the Scriptures. That name יהוה Yahwehfrom היה haayahto be, to exist, seems to have been adopted because it denotes existence, or being, and as denoting simply one who exists; and has reference merely to the fact of existence. The word has no variation of form, and has no reference to time, and would embrace all time: that is, it is as true at one time as another that he exists. Such a word would not be inappropriately paraphrased by the phrase “who is, and who was, and who is to come,” or who is to be; and there can be no doubt that John referred to him here as being himself the eternal and uncreated existence, and as the great and original fountain of all being.

They who desire to find a full discussion in regard to the origin of the name Yahweh, may consult an article by Prof. Tholuck, in the “Biblical Repository,” vol. iv., pp. 89-108. It is remarkable that there are some passages in pagan inscriptions and writings which bear a very strong resemblance to the language used here by John respecting God. Thus, Plutarch (De Isa. et Osir., p. 354.), speaking of a temple of Isis, at Sais, in Egypt, says, “It bore this inscription - ‹I am all that was, and is, and shall be, and my vail no mortal can remove‘“ - Ἐγώ εἰμι πᾶν τὸ γεγονός, καὶ ὅν, καὶ ἐσόμενον καὶ τὸν ἐμὸν πέπλον οὐδείς τω θνητὸς ἀνεκάλυψεν Egō eimi pan to gegonoskai honkai esomenon kai ton emon peplon oudeis tō thnētos anekalupsenSo Orpheus (in Auctor. Lib. de Mundo), “Jupiter is the head, Jupiter is the middle, and all things are made by Jupiter.” So in Pausanias (Phocic. 12), “Jupiter was; Jupiter is; Jupiter shall be.” The reference in the phrase before us is to God as such, or to God considered as the Father.

And from the seven Spirits which are before his throne - After all that has been written on this very difficult expression, it is still impossible to determine with certainty its meaning. The principal opinions which have been held in regard to it are the following:

I. That it refers to God, as such. This opinion is held by Eichhorn, and is favored by Ewald. No arguments derived from any parallel passages are urged for this opinion, nor can any such be found, where God is himself spoken of under the representation of a sevenfold Spirit. But the objections to this view are so obvious as to be insuperable:

(1)If it refers to God as such, then it would be mere tautology, for the writer had just referred to him in the phrase “from him who was,” etc.

(2)it is difficult to perceive in what sense “seven spirits” could be ascribed to God, or how he could be described as a being of “Seven Spirits.” At least, if he could be spoken of as such, there would be no objection to applying the phrase to the Holy Spirit.

(3)how could it be said of God himself that he was “before the throne?” He is everywhere represented as sitting on the throne, not as before it. It is easy to conceive of angels as standing before the throne; and of the Holy Spirit it is more easy to conceive as being represented thus as ready to go forth and convey a heavenly influence from that throne, but it is impossible to conceive in what sense this could be applied to God as such.

II. The opinion held by Grotius, and by John Henry Heinrichs, that it refers to “the multiform providence of God,” or to God considered as operating in seven or many different ways. In support of this Grotius appeals to Revelation 5:12; Revelation 7:12. But this opinion is so far-fetched, and it is so destitute of support, as to have found, it is believed, no other advocates, and to need no further notice. It cannot be supposed that John meant to personify the attributes of the Deity, and then to unite them with God himself, and with the Lord Jesus Christ, and to represent them as real subsistences from which important blessings descend to people. It is clear that as by the phrase, “who is, and who was, and who is to come,” and by “Jesus Christ, the faithful and true witness,” he refers to real subsistences, so he must here. Besides, if the attributes of God, or the modes of divine operation, are denoted why is the number seven chosen? And why are they represented as standing before the throne?

III. A third opinion is, that the reference is to seven attending and ministering presence-angels - angels represented as standing before the throne of God, or in his presence. This opinion was adopted among the ancients by Clemens of Alexandria Andreas of Cesarea, and others; among the moderns by Beza, Drusius, Hammond, Wetstein, Rosenmuller, Clarke, Prof. Stuart, and others. This opinion, however, has been held in somewhat different forms; some maintaining that the seven angels are referred to because it was a received opinion among the Hebrews that there were seven angels standing in the presence of God as seven princes stood in the Persian court before the king; others, that the angels of the seven churches are particularly referred to, represented now as standing in the presence of God; others, that seven angels, represented as the principal angels employed in the government of the world, are referred to; and others, that seven archangels are particularly designated. Compare Poole, Synoptists in loco. The arguments which are relied on by those who suppose that seven angels are here referred to are briefly these:

(1) The nature of the expression used here. The expression, it is said, is such as would naturally denote beings who were before his throne - beings who were different from him who was on the throne - and beings more than one in number. That it could not refer to one on the throne, but must mean those distinct and separate from one on the throne, is argued from the use of the phrases “before the throne,” and “before God,” in Revelation 4:5; Revelation 7:9, Revelation 7:15; Revelation 8:2; Revelation 11:4, Revelation 11:16; Revelation 12:10; Revelation 14:3; Revelation 20:12; in all which places the representation denotes those who were in the presence of God, and standing before him.

(2) it is argued from other passages in the Book of Revelation which, it is said (Prof. Stuart), go directly to confirm this opinion. Thus, in Revelation 8:2; “And I saw the seven angels which stood before God.” So Revelation 4:5; the seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, are said to be “the seven Spirits of God.” In these passages, it is alleged that the article “the” designates the well-known angels; or those which had been before specified, and that this is the first mention of any such angels after the designation in the passage before us.

(3) it is said that this is in accordance with what was usual among the Hebrews, who were accustomed to speak of seven presence-angels, or angels standing in the presence of Yahweh. Thus, in the Book of Tobit (12:15), Raphael is introduced as using this language: “I am Raphael, one of the seven holy angels, which present the prayers of the saints, and which go in and out before the glory of the Holy One.” The apocryphal Book of Enoch (chapter 20) gives the names of the seven angels who watch; that is, of the watchers (compare the notes on Daniel 4:13, Daniel 4:17) who stand in the presence of God waiting for the divine commands, or who watch over the affairs of people. So in the Zendavesta of Zoroaster, seven amshaspends, or archangels, are mentioned. See Prof. Stuart, in loco.

To these views, however, there are objections of great weight, if they are not in fact quite insuperable. They are such as the following:

(1) That the same rank should be given to them as to God, as the source of blessings. According to the view which represents this expression as referring to angels, they are placed on the same level, so far as the matter before us is concerned, with “him who was, and is, and is to come,” and with the Lord Jesus Christ - a doctrine which does not elsewhere occur in the Scriptures, and which we cannot suppose the writer designed to teach.

(2) that blessings should be invoked from angels - as if they could impart “grace and peace.” It is evident that, whoever is referred to here by the phrase “the seven Spirits,” he is placed on the same level with the others mentioned as the source of “grace and peace.” But it cannot be supposed that an inspired writer would invoke that grace and peace from any but a divine being.

(3) that as two persons of the Trinity are mentioned here, it is to be presumed that the third would not be omitted; or to put this argument in a stronger form, it cannot be supposed that an inspired writer would mention two of the persons of the Trinity in this connection, and then not only not mention the third, but refer to angels - to creatures - as bestowing what would be appropriately sought from the Holy Spirit. The incongruity would be not merely in omitting all reference to the Spirit - which might indeed occur, as it often does in the Scriptures - but in putting in the place which that Spirit would naturally occupy an allusion to angels as conferring blessings.

(4) if this refer to angels, it is impossible to avoid the inference that angel-worship, or invocation of angels, is proper. To all intents and purposes, this is an act of worship; for it is an act of solemn invocation. It is an acknowledgment of the “seven Spirits,” as the source of “grace and peace.” It would be impossible to resist this impression on the popular mind; it would not be possible to meet it if urged as an argument in favor of the propriety of angel-invocation, or angel-worship. And yet, if there is anything clear in the Scriptures, it is that God alone is to he worshipped. For these reasons, it seems to me that this interpretation cannot be well founded.

IV. There remains a fourth opinion, that it refers to the Holy Spirit, and in favor of that opinion it may be urged:

(1) That it is most natural to suppose that the Holy Spirit would be invoked on such an occasion, in connection with him “who was, and is, and is to come,” and with “Jesus Christ.” If two of the persons of the Trinity were addressed on such an occasion, it would be properly supposed that the Holy Spirit would not be omitted, as one of the persons from whom the blessing was to descend. Compare 2 Corinthians 13:14; “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all.”

(2) it would be unnatural and improper, in such an invocation, to unite angels with God as imparting blessings, or as participating with God and with Christ in communicating blessings to man. An invocation to God to send his angels, or to impart grace and favor through angelic help, would be in entire accordance with the usage in Scripture, but it is not in accordance with such usage to invoke such blessings from angels.

(3) it cannot be denied that an invocation of grace from “him who is, and was, and is to come,” is of the nature of worship. The address to him is as God, and the attitude of the mind in such an address is that of one who is engaged in an act of devotion. The effect of uniting any other being with him in such a case, would be to lead to the worship of one thus associated with him. In regard to the Lord Jesus, “the faithful and true witness,” it is from such expressions as these that we are led to the belief that he is divine, and that it is proper to worship him as such. The same effect must be produced in reference to what is here called “the seven Spirits before the throne.” We cannot well resist the impression that someone with divine attributes is intended; or, if it refer to angels, we cannot easily show that it is not proper to render divine worship to them. If they were thus invoked by an apostle, can it be improper to worship them now?

(4) the word used here is not “angels,” but “spirits”; and though it is true that angels are spirits, and that the word “spirit” is applied to them Hebrews 1:7, yet it is also true that that is not a word which would be understood to refer to them without designating that angels were meant. If angels had been intended here, that word would naturally have been used, as is the case elsewhere in this book.

(5) in Revelation 4:5, where there is a reference to “the seven lamps before the throne,” it is said of them that they “are,” that is, they represent “the seven Spirits of God.” This passage may be understood as referring to the same thing as that before us, but it cannot he well understood of angels; because:

(a)if it did, it would have been natural to use that language for the reason above mentioned;

(b)the angels are nowhere called “the spirits of God,” nor would such language be proper.

The phrase, “Spirit of God” naturally implies divinity, and could not be applied to a creature. For these reasons it seems to me that the interpretation which applies the phrase to the Holy Spirit is to be preferred; and though that interpretation is not free from difficulties, yet there are fewer difficulties in that than in either of the others proposed. Though it may not be possible wholly to remove the difficulties involved in that interpretation, yet perhaps something may be done to diminish their force:

(1) First, as to the reason why the number seven should be applied to the Holy Spirit:

(a) There would be as much propriety certainly in applying it to the Holy Spirit as to God as such. And yet Grotius, Eichhorn, Ewald, and others saw no difficulty in such an application considered as representing a sevenfold mode of operation of God, or a manifold divine agency.

(b) The word “seven” often denotes a full or complete number, and may be used to denote what is full, complete, or manifold; and might thus be used in reference to an all-perfect Spirit, or to a spirit which was manifold in its operations.

(c) The number seven is evidently a favorite number in the Book of Revelation, and it might be used by the author in places, and in a sense, such as it would not be likely to be used by another writer. Thus, there are seven epistles to the seven churches; there are seven seals, seven trumpets, seven vials of the wrath of God, seven last plagues; there are seven lamps, and seven Spirits of God; the Lamb has seven horns and seven eyes. In Revelation 1:16, seven stars are mentioned; in Revelation 5:12, seven attributes of God; Revelation 12:3, the dragon has seven heads; Revelation 13:1, the beast has seven heads.

(d) The number seven, therefore, may have been given to the Holy Spirit with reference to the diversity or the fulness of his operations on the souls of people, and to his manifold agency on the affairs of the world, as further developed in this book.

(2) as to his being represented as “before the throne,” this may be intended to designate the fact that the Divine Spirit was, as it were, prepared to go forth, or to be sent forth, in accordance with a common representation in the Scriptures, to accomplish important purposes on human affairs. The posture does not necessarily imply inferiority of nature, anymore than the language does respecting the Son of God, when he is represented as being sent into the world to execute an important commission from the Father.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Revelation 1:4". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bnb/revelation-1.html. 1870.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

John to the seven churches that are in Asia: Grace to you and peace, from him who is and who was and who is to come; and from the seven Spirits that are before his throne.

To the seven churches ... It is evidently John's preference for the number seven that lies behind this book's being directed to only seven congregations, because the New Testament names others in the same province, namely, Troas, Colossae and Hierapolis. Among the Hebrews, this was a sacred number often used to symbolize the whole or the completeness of something. Thus, the interpretation of these seven standing for all of the congregations of Christ throughout the world would appear to be correct. "It is certain that while the book is addressed to a limited circle of Asian churches, the author's purpose was to reach beyond these to all the churches throughout the world."[9] The evidence of this universal destination of the book is found in the repeated injunction, "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith to the churches."

Of Asia ... In the New Testament, Asia always means the Roman province located in the western part of what is now known as Asia Minor, with a possibly wider meaning in Acts 2:9.

Grace to you and peace ... Greetings similar to these are found in nearly all the New Testament epistles, especially those of Paul.

From him who is and who was and who is to come ... The Greek words from which this is translated are literally, "The BEING and the WAS and the COMING."[11] There are many examples of such awkward grammar in this prophecy; but "(They) are not due to ignorance of Greek construction, as shown by the predominantly correct uses in the book."[12] This title of God is essentially that of Exodus 3:14, "I AM who I AM." Christ also used this title of himself in Mark 6:50; Mark 13:6; Mark 14:62, and in John 6:35; John 8:12; John 10:7; John 11:25 and John 14:6.

And from the seven Spirits that are before his throne ...; Isaiah 11:2 has this:

And 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 of the fear of the Lord.

There are seven titles of the Holy Spirit in this passage from Isaiah, and from very early times this reference in Revelation has been associated with it. "It denotes the Holy Spirit in the plenitude of his grace and power."[13] The decisive reason for this interpretation was given by Hinds: "It is used in the salutation in direct association with God and Christ, and a blessing is invoked from the three."[14]

[9] Isbon T. Beckwith, The Apocalypse of John (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1919), p. 423.

[11] James Moffatt, Expositor's Greek New Testament, Vol. V (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1967), p. 337.

[12] Isbon T. Beckwith, op. cit., p. 424.

[13] F. F. Bruce, A New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1969), p. 634.

[14] John T. Hinds, A Commentary on Revelation (Nashville: Gospel Advocate Company, 1962), p. 20.

Copyright Statement
Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Revelation 1:4". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bcc/revelation-1.html. Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

John to the seven churches which are in Asia,.... In lesser Asia; their names are mentioned in Revelation 1:11,

grace be unto you, and peace; which is the common salutation of the apostles in all their epistles, and includes all blessings of grace, and all prosperity, inward and outward: See Gill on Romans 1:7. The persons from whom they are wished are very particularly described,

from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; which some understand of the whole Trinity; the Father by him "which is", being the I am that I am; the Son by him "which was", which was with God the Father, and was God; and the Spirit by him "which is to come", who was promised to come from the Father and the Son, as a Comforter, and the Spirit of truth: others think Christ is here only intended, as he is in Revelation 1:8 by the same expressions; and is he "which is", since before Abraham he was the "I am"; and he "which was", the eternal Logos or Word; and "is to come", as the Judge of quick and dead. But rather this is to be understood of the first Person, of God the Father; and the phrases are expressive both of his eternity, he being God from everlasting to everlasting; and of his immutability, he being now what he always was, and will be what he now is, and ever was, without any variableness, or shadow of turning: they are a periphrasis, and an explanation of the word "Jehovah", which includes all tenses, past, present, and to come. So the Jews explain this name in Exodus 3:14,

"Says R. IsaacF11Shemot Rabba, sect. 3. fol. 73. 2. , the holy blessed God said to Moses, Say unto them, I am he that was, and I am he that now is, and I am he that is to come, wherefore אהיה is written three times.

And such a periphrasis of God is frequent in their writingsF12Targum. Jon. in Deut. xxxii. 39. Zohar in Exod. fol. 59. 3. & in Numb. fol. 97. 4. & 106. 2. Seder Tephillot, fol. 205. 1. Ed. Basil. fol. 2. 2. Ed. Amsterd. ,

And from the seven spirits which are before his throne; either before the throne of God the Father; or, as the Ethiopic version reads, "before the throne of the Lord Jesus Christ"; by whom are meant not angels, though these are spirits, and stand before the throne of God, and are ready to do his will: this is the sense of some interpreters, who think such a number of them is mentioned with reference to the seven angels of the churches; or to the seven last "Sephirot", or numbers in the Cabalistic tree of the Jews; the three first they suppose design the three Persons in the Godhead, expressed in the preceding clause, and the seven last the whole company of angels: or to the seven principal angels the Jews speak of. Indeed, in the Apocrypha,

"I am Raphael, one of the seven holy angels, which present the prayers of the saints, and which go in and out before the glory of the Holy One.' (Tobit 12:15)

Raphael is said to be one of the seven angels; but it does not appear to be a generally received notion of theirs that there were seven principal angels. The Chaldee paraphrase on Genesis 11:7 is misunderstood by Mr. Mede, for not "seven", but "seventy angels" are there addressed. It was usual with the Jews only to speak of four principal angels, who stand round about the throne of God; and their names are Michael, Uriel, Gabriel, and Raphael; according to them, Michael stands at his right hand, Uriel at his left, Gabriel before him, and Raphael behind himF13Bemidbar Rabba, sect. 2. fol. 179. 1. . However, it does not seem likely that angels should be placed in such a situation between the divine Persons, the Father and the Son; and still less that grace and peace should be wished for from them, as from God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ; and that any countenance should be given to angel worship, in a book in which angels are so often represented as worshippers, and in which worship is more than once forbidden them, and that by themselves: but by these seven spirits are intended the Holy Spirit of God, who is one in his person, but his gifts and graces are various; and therefore he is signified by this number, because of the fulness and perfection of them, and with respect to the seven churches, over whom he presided, whom he influenced, and sanctified, and filled, and enriched with his gifts and graces,

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Gill, John. "Commentary on Revelation 1:4". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/geb/revelation-1.html. 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

2 John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace [be] unto you, and peace, 3 from him c which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from 4 the d seven Spirits which are before his throne;

(2) This is the particular or singular inscription, in which salutation is written to certain churches by name, who represent the catholic church: and the certainty and truth of this is declared, from the author of it, in (Revelation 1:8). {(3)} That is, from God the Father, eternal, immortal, immutable: wholly unchangeable, John declares in a form of speech which is undeclined. For there is no incongruity in this place, where, of necessity the words must be adapted to the mystery, not the mystery corrupted or impaired by the words.

(c) These three, Is, Was, and Shall be, signify the word Jehovah, which is the proper name for God. {(4)} That is, from the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father and the Son. This Spirit is one in person according to his subsistence: but in communication of his power, and in demonstration of his divine works in those seven churches, perfectly manifests himself as if there were many spirits, every one perfectly working in his own church. Which is why in (Revelation 5:6) they are called the seven horns and seven eyes of the Lamb, as if to say, as his most absolute power and wisdom. In (Revelation 3:1) Christ is said to have those seven spirits of God, and in (Revelation 4:5) it is said that seven lamps burn before his throne, which also are those seven spirits of God. That this place ought to be so understood, it is thus proved. For first, grace and peace is asked by prayer from this Spirit, which is a divine work, and an action incommunicable in respect to God. Secondly, he is placed between the Father and the Son, as set in the same degree of dignity and operation with them, besides, he is before the throne, as of the same substance with the Father and the Son: as the seven eyes and seven horns of the Lamb. Moreover, these spirits are never said to adore God, as all other things are. Finally, this is the power by which the Lamb opened the book, and loosed the seven seals of it, when no one could be found among all creatures by whom the book might be opened (Revelation 5:1-10); Of these things long ago Master John Luide of Oxford wrote to me. Now the Holy Spirit is named before Christ because a long speech about Christ follows.

(d) These are the seven spirits, which are later called the horns and eyes of the Lamb in (Revelation 5:6) and are now acting as a guard waiting on God.

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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Revelation 1:4". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/gsb/revelation-1.html. 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

John — the apostle. For none but he (supposing the writer an honest man) would thus sign himself nakedly without addition. As sole survivor and representative of the apostles and eye-witnesses of the Lord, he needed no designation save his name, to be recognized by his readers.

seven churches — not that there were not more churches in that region, but the number seven is fixed on as representing totality. These seven represent the universal Church of all times and places. See Trench‘s [Commentary on the Epistles to the Seven Churches in Asia] interesting note, Revelation 1:20, on the number seven. It is the covenant number, the sign of God‘s covenant relation to mankind, and especially to the Church. Thus, the seventh day, sabbath (Genesis 2:3; Ezekiel 20:12). Circumcision, the sign of the covenant, after seven days (Genesis 17:12). Sacrifices (Numbers 23:1; Numbers 14:29; 2 Chronicles 29:21). Compare also God‘s acts typical of His covenant (Joshua 6:4, Joshua 6:15, Joshua 6:16; 2 Kings 5:10). The feasts ordered by sevens of time (Deuteronomy 15:1; Deuteronomy 16:9, Deuteronomy 16:13, Deuteronomy 16:15). It is a combination of three, the divine number (thus the Trinity: the thrice Holy, Isaiah 6:3; the blessing, Numbers 6:24-26), and four the number of the organized world in its extension (thus the four elements, the four seasons, the four winds, the four corners or quarters of the earth, the four living creatures, emblems of redeemed creaturely life, Revelation 4:6; Ezekiel 1:5, Ezekiel 1:6, with four faces and four wings each; the four beasts and four metals, representing the four world empires, Daniel 2:32, Daniel 2:33; Daniel 7:3; the four-sided Gospel designed for all quarters of the world; the sheet tied at four corners, Acts 10:11; the four horns, the sum of the world‘s forces against the Church, Zechariah 1:18). In the Apocalypse, where God‘s covenant with His Church comes to its consummation, appropriately the number seven recurs still more frequently than elsewhere in Scripture.

Asia — Proconsular, governed by a Roman proconsul: consisting of Phrygia, Mysia, Caria, and Lydia: the kingdom which Attalus III had bequeathed to Rome.

Grace  …  peace — Paul‘s apostolical greeting. In his Pastoral Epistles he inserts “mercy” in addition: so 2 John 1:3.

him which is  …  was  …  is to come — a periphrasis for the incommunicable name Jehovah, the self-existing One, unchangeable. In Greek the indeclinability of the designation here implies His unchangeableness. Perhaps the reason why “He which is to come” is used, instead of “He that shall be,” is because the grand theme of Revelation is the Lord‘s coming (Revelation 1:7). Still it is THE FATHER as distinguished from “Jesus Christ” (Revelation 1:5) who is here meant. But so one are the Father and Son that the designation, “which is to come,” more immediately applicable to Christ, is used here of the Father.

the seven Spirits which are before his throne — The oldest manuscripts omit “are.”

before — literally, “in the presence of.” The Holy Spirit in His sevenfold (that is, perfect, complete, and universal) energy. Corresponding to “the seven churches.” One in His own essence, manifold in His gracious influences. The seven eyes resting on the stone laid by Jehovah (Revelation 5:6). Four is the number of the creature world (compare the fourfold cherubim); seven the number of God‘s revelation in the world.

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Revelation 1:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfb/revelation-1.html. 1871-8.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

To the seven churches which are in Asia (ταις επτα εκκλησιαις ταις εν τηι Ασιαιtais hepta ekklēsiais tais en tēi Asiāi). Dative case as in a letter (Galatians 1:1). John is writing, but the revelation is from God and Christ through an angel. It is the Roman province of Asia which included the western part of Phrygia. There were churches also at Troas (Acts 20:5.) and at Colossal and Hierapolis (Colossians 1:1; Colossians 2:1; Colossians 4:13) and possibly at Magnesia and Tralles. But these seven were the best points of communication with seven districts (Ramsay) and, besides, seven is a favorite number of completion (like the full week) in the book (Revelation 1:4, Revelation 1:12, Revelation 1:16; Revelation 4:5; Revelation 5:1, Revelation 5:6; Revelation 8:2; Revelation 10:3; Revelation 11:13; Revelation 12:3; Revelation 13:1; Revelation 14:6.).

From him which is (απο ο ωνapo ho ōn). This use of the articular nominative participle of ειμιeimi after αποapo instead of the ablative is not due to ignorance or a mere slip (λαπσυς πενναεlapsus pennae), for in the next line we have the regular idiom with απο των επτα πνευματωνapo tōn hepta pneumatōn It is evidently on purpose to call attention to the eternity and unchangeableness of God. Used of God in Exodus 3:14.

And which was (και ο ηνkai ho ēn). Here again there is a deliberate change from the articular participle to the relative use of οho (used in place of οςhos to preserve identity of form in the three instances like Ionic relative and since no aorist participle of ειμιeimi existed). The oracle in Pausanias X. 12 has it: ευς ην ευς εστι ευς εσσεταιZeus ēnο ερχομενοςZeus estiο εσομενοςZeus essetai (Zeus was, Zeus is, Zeus will be).

Which is to come (ο ερχομενοςho erchomenos). “The Coming One,” futuristic use of the present participle instead of απο των επτα πνευματωνho esomenos See the same idiom in Revelation 1:8; Revelation 4:8 and (without τωνho erchomenos) in Revelation 11:17; Revelation 16:5.

From the seven spirits (αapo tōn hepta pneumatōn). A difficult symbolic representation of the Holy Spirit here on a par with God and Christ, a conclusion borne out by the symbolic use of the seven spirits in Revelation 3:1; Revelation 4:5; Revelation 5:6 (from Zechariah 4:2-10). There is the one Holy Spirit with seven manifestations here to the seven churches (Swete, The Holy Spirit in the N.T., p. 374), unity in diversity (1 Corinthians 12:4).

Which are (ενωπιον του τρονου αυτουtōn article Aleph A, ha relative P).

Before his throne (enōpion tou thronou autou). As in Revelation 4:5.

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Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Revelation 1:4". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/rwp/revelation-1.html. Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Vincent's Word Studies

John

Note the absence of all official titles, such as are found in Paul; showing that John writes as one whose position is recognized.

Seven

Among every ancient people, especially in the East, a religious significance attaches to numbers. This grows out of the instinctive appreciation that number and proportion are necessary attributes of the created universe. This sentiment passes over from heathenism into the Old Testament. The number seven was regarded by the Hebrews as a sacred number, and it is throughout Scripture the covenant number, the sign of God's covenant relation to mankind, and especially to the Church. The evidences of this are met in the hallowing of the seventh day; in the accomplishment of circumcision, which is the sign of a covenant, after seven days; in the part played by the number in marriage covenants and treaties of peace. It is the number of purification and consecration (Leviticus 4:6, Leviticus 4:17; Leviticus 8:11, Leviticus 8:33; Numbers 19:12). “Seven is the number of every grace and benefit bestowed upon Israel; which is thus marked as flowing out of the covenant, and a consequence of it. The priests compass Jericho seven days, and on the seventh day seven times, that all Israel may know that the city is given into their hands by God, and that its conquest is a direct and immediate result of their covenant relation to Him. Naaman is to dip in Jordan seven times, that he may acknowledge the God of Israel as the author of his cure. It is the number of reward to those who are faithful in the covenant (Deuteronomy 28:7; 1 Samuel 2:5); of punishment to those who are froward in the covenant (Leviticus 26:21, Leviticus 26:24, Leviticus 26:28; Deuteronomy 28:25), or to those who injure the people in it (Genesis 4:15, Genesis 4:24; Exodus 7:25; Psalm 79:12). All the feasts are ordered by seven, or else by seven multiplied into seven, and thus made intenser still. Thus it is with the Sabbath, the Passover, the Feast of Weeks, of Tabernacles, the Sabbath-year, and the Jubilee.”

Similarly the number appears in God's dealing with nations outside the covenant, showing that He is working for Israel's sake and with respect to His covenant. It is the number of the years of plenty and of famine, in sign that these are for Israel's sake rather than for Egypt's. Seven times pass over Nebuchadnezzar, that he may learn that the God of his Jewish captives is king over all the earth (partly quoted and partly condensed from Trench's “Epistles to the Seven Churches”).

Seven also occurs as a sacred number in the New Testament. There are seven beatitudes, seven petitions in the Lord's Prayer; seven parables in Romans href="/desk/?q=ro+12:6-8&sr=1">Romans 12:6-8), seven characteristics of wisdom (James 3:17). In Revelation the prominence of the number is marked. To a remarkable extent the structure of that book is molded by the use of numbers, especially of the numbers seven, four, and three. There are seven spirits before the throne; seven churches; seven golden candlesticks; seven stars in the right hand of Him who is like unto a son of man; seven lamps of fire burning before the throne; seven horns and seven eyes of the Lamb; seven seals of the book; and the thunders, the heads of the great dragon and of the beast from the sea, the angels with the trumpets, the plagues, and the mountains which are the seat of the mystic Babylon, - are all seven in number.

So there are four living creatures round about the throne, four angels at the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds; the New Jerusalem is foursquare. Authority is given to Death to kill over the fourth part of the earth, and he employs four agents.

Again the use of the number three is, as Professor Milligan remarks, “so remarkable and continuous that it would require an analysis of the whole book for its perfect illustration.” There are three woes, three unclean spirits like frogs, three divisions of Babylon, and three gates on each side of the heavenly city. The Trisagion, or “thrice holy,” is sung to God the Almighty, to whom are ascribed three attributes of glory.

Seven Churches

Not all the churches in Asia are meant, since the list of those addressed in Revelation does not include Colossae, Miletus, Hierapolis, or Magnesia. The seven named are chosen to symbolize the whole Church. Compare Revelation 2:7. Seven being the number of the covenant, we have in these seven a representation of the Church universal.

In Asia

See on Acts 2:9.

Grace - peace

For grace ( χάρις ), see on Luke 1:30. Both words are used by Paul in the salutations of all his Epistles, except the three Pastorals.

From Him which is, and which was, and which is to come ( ἀπὸ τοῦ ὁ ὢν καὶ ὁ ἦν καὶ ὁ ἐρχόμενος )

The whole salutation is given in the name of the Holy Trinity: the Father (Him which is, and was, and is to come), the Spirit (the seven spirits), the Son (Jesus Christ). See further below. This portion of the salutation has no parallel in Paul, and is distinctively characteristic of the author of Revelation. It is one of the solecisms in grammatical construction which distinguishes this book from the other writings of John. The Greek student will note that the pronoun which ( ὁ ) is not construed with the preposition from ( ἀπό ), which would require the genitive case, but stands in the nominative case.

Each of these three appellations is treated as a proper name. The Father is Him which is, and which was, and which is to come. This is a paraphrase of the unspeakable name of God (Exodus 3:14), the absolute and unchangeable. Ὁ ὢν , the One who is, is the Septuagint translation of Exodus 3:14, “I am the ὁ ὢν (I am ):” “ ὁ ὢν (I am ), hath sent me unto you.” The One who was ( ὁ ἦν ). The Greek has no imperfect participle, so that the finite verb is used. Which is and which was form one clause, to be balanced against which is to come. Compare Revelation 11:17; Revelation 16:5; and “was ( ἦν ) in the beginning with God” (John 1:2). Which is to come ( ὁ ἐρχόμενος ). Lit., the One who is coming. This is not equivalent to who shall be; i.e., the author is not intending to describe the abstract existence of God as covering the future no less than the past and the present. If this had been his meaning, he would have written ὁ ἐσόμενος , which shall be. The phrase which is to come would not express the future eternity of the Divine Being. The dominant conception in the title is rather that of immutability. Further, the name does not emphasize so much God's abstract existence, as it does His permanent covenant relation to His people. Hence the phrase which is to come, is to be explained in accordance with the key-note of the book, which is the second coming of the Son (Revelation 1:7; Revelation 22:20).

The phrase which is to come, is often applied to the Son (see on 1 John 3:5), and so throughout this book. Here it is predicated of the Father, apart from whom the Son does nothing. “The Son is never alone, even as Redeemer” (Milligan). Compare “We will come unto him,” John 14:23. Origen quotes our passage with the words: “But that you may perceive that the omnipotence of the Father and of the Son is one and the same, hear John speaking after this manner in Revelation, 'Who is, etc.'” Dean Plumptre cornpares the inscription over the temple of Isis at Sais in Egypt: “I am all that has come into being, and that which is, and that which shall be, and no man hath lifted my veil.”

The Spirit is designated by

The seven Spirits ( τῶν ἑπτὰ πνευμάτων )

Paul nowhere joins the Spirit with the Father and the Son in his opening salutations. The nearest approach is 2 Corinthians 13:13. The reference is not to the seven principal angels (Revelation 8:2). These could not be properly spoken of as the source of grace and peace; nor be associated with the Father and the Son; nor take precedence of the Son, as is the case here. Besides, angels are never called spirits in this book. With the expression compare Revelation 4:5, the seven lamps of fire, “which are the seven Spirits of God:” Revelation 3:1, where Jesus is said to have “the seven Spirits of God.” Thus the seven Spirits belong to the Son as well as to the Father (see John 15:26). The prototype of John's expression is found in the vision of Zechariah, where the Messiah is prefigured as a stone with seven eyes, “the eyes of the Lord, which run to and fro through the whole earth” (Zechariah 3:9; Zechariah 4:10). Compare also the same prophet's vision of the seven-branched candlestick (Zechariah 4:2).

Hence the Holy Spirit is called the Seven Spirits; the perfect, mystical number seven indicating unity through diversity (1 Corinthians 12:4). Not the sevenfold gifts of the Spirit are meant, but the divine Personality who imparts them; the one Spirit under the diverse manifestations. Richard of St. Victor (cited by Trench, “Seven Churches”) says: “And from the seven Spirits, that is, from the sevenfold Spirit, which indeed is simple in nature, sevenfold in grace.”

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Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on Revelation 1:4". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/vnt/revelation-1.html. Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

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

John — The dedication of this book is contained in the fourth, fifth, and sixth verses; but the whole Revelation is a kind of letter.

To the seven churches which are in Asia — That part of the Lesser Asia which was then a Roman province. There had been several other churches planted here; but it seems these were now the most eminent; and it was among these that St. John had laboured most during his abode in Asia. In these cities there were many Jews. Such of them as believed in each were joined with the gentile believers in one church.

Grace be unto you, and peace — The favour of God, with all temporal and eternal blessings. From him who is, and who was, and who cometh, or, who is to come - A wonderful translation of the great name JEHOVAH: he was of old, he is now, he cometh; that is, will be for ever.

And from the seven spirits which are before his throne — Christ is he who "hath the seven spirits of God." "The seven lamps which burn before the throne are the seven spirits of God." " The lamb hath seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God." Seven was a sacred number in the Jewish church: but it did not always imply a precise number. It sometimes is to be taken figuratively, to denote completeness or perfection. By these seven spirits, not seven created angels, but the Holy Ghost is to be understood. The angels are never termed spirits in this book; and when all the angels stand up, while the four living creatures and the four and twenty elders worship him that sitteth on the throne, and the Lamb, the seven spirits neither stand up nor worship. To these "seven spirits of God," the seven churches, to whom the Spirit speaks so many things, are subordinate; as are also their angels, yea, and "the seven angels which stand before God." He is called the seven spirits, not with regard to his essence, which is one, but with regard to his manifold operations.

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Wesley, John. "Commentary on Revelation 1:4". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wen/revelation-1.html. 1765.

Abbott's Illustrated New Testament

John. The frequency with which this writer uses his name, (see Revelation 1:1,4,9,) contrasted with the circumlocutory manner in which the evangelist John speaks of himself in the Gospel which was unquestionably written by him, (see John 21:20-25,) has been considered as an argument that the two books were written by different authors. The difference, however, in the character of the two works, is amply sufficient to account for this diversity.--In Asia; Asia Minor.--The seven Spirits; spiritual influences. They are represented, in Revelation 4:5, as lamps of fire, that is, as radiations of divine and heavenly light. The plurality expressed by this imagery would seem to refer to the various modes and forms in which the enlightening influences of the divine Spirit diffuse themselves over the moral world.

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Abbott, John S. C. & Abbott, Jacob. "Commentary on Revelation 1:4". "Abbott's Illustrated New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ain/revelation-1.html. 1878.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

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

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

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

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

Sermon Bible Commentary

Revelation 1:4

A reason why the Holy Ghost is called "the seven spirits" is found in that remarkable sevenfold action by which He works upon the soul of a man, for though the influences of the Holy Ghost are indeed very many, and the enumeration of them might be extended very far, they do range themselves, with a very singular exactness, under seven heads.

I. To open the heart like Lydia's; to show us what we are; to make us feel sin, and specially sins done against Christ—that is the Spirit's first work.

II. The Spirit shows us Christ. Every day's experience proves that we can only know Christ by the Holy Spirit. There is no other power that ever can or will reveal Christ to the sinner's soul.

III. The Spirit comforts. I place this office here, for all the Spirit's comfortings have to do with Jesus Christ. I believe the Holy Ghost never comforts a man but through Christ. He never uses the commonplaces of men's consolation; He never deals in generalities: He shows you that Jesus loves you; He shows you that Jesus died for you, that God has forgiven you. So He makes Christ fill an empty place. He exhibits the exceeding loveliness and sufficiency of Christ's person.

IV. After this the Spirit proceeds to teach the man, who is now become a child of God. He fits the heart to the subject, and the subject to the heart. Hence the marvellous power and the singular sweetness there is when you sit under the Holy Spirit's teaching.

V. For where He teaches, there He sanctifies. There is never a good desire but it was He who prompted it, and never a right thought but it was He who imparted it. It is He who gives the higher motive, and makes the heart begin to point to the glory of God.

VI. He is the Intercessor who "maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered."

VII. He seals the soul which He has made His temple. As some proprietor when he goes away puts his mark upon his jewels, so the Holy Ghost fastens you to Christ, that nothing may ever divide you. He gives you a comforting assurance that you are a child of God; He makes in the soul a little sanctuary of peace and love.

J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 8th series, p. 156.


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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Revelation 1:4". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/sbc/revelation-1.html.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Revelation 1:4. John to the seven churches The apostle dedicates his book, Revelation 1:4-6 to the seven churches of the Lydian or Proconsular Asia, wishing them grace and peace from God the Father, as the author and giver; from the seven spirits, the representatives of the Holy Ghost, as the instruments; and from Jesus Christ the Mediator,whoismentioned last, because the subsequent discourse more immediately relates to him. To the dedication he subjoins a short and solemn preface, Revelation 1:7-8 to shew the great authority of the divinePerson who had commissioned him to write the Revelation. Grotius is of opinion, that the nominative case not being varied in the clause rendered from him which is, and which was, &c. into the genitive, as the common rules of grammar require, is designed to represent the everlasting veracity and invariableness of God, and the unchangeable majesty of Christ, in the testimony of his gospel, and the glory of his kingdom. The Holy Spirit, as is above hinted, is meant by the seven spirits which are before the throne. Seven, in the language of prophesy, often expresses perfection, and may better be understood of the most perfect Spirit of God, the Author of all spiritual blessings, than of seven angels, as a more natural interpretation of the expression in prophesy, as well as much more agreeable to the manner of the gospel blessing, from Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

This too is most consistent with the prohibition of prayer to the angels; and, if we do not take this for the true interpretation, it will be a great difficulty to account for the omission of the Spirit, whose dignity must be allowed infinitely superior to that of the highest created angel.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Revelation 1:4". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tcc/revelation-1.html. 1801-1803.

Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament

Observe here, 1. The persons to whom St. John writes, and the particular churches which he does salute, namely, the seven churches of Asia, which were then the most famous and flourishing churches in the Christian world, but now overrun with barbarism. Sin has laid the foundation of ruin in the most flourishing churches and kingdoms.

Observe, 2. The apostolical salutation given to these churches, Grace be unto you, and peace; by grace understand the free favour and rich love of God in pardoning, sanctifying, and saving; and by peace, the inward sense of that love, and all outward mercies and temporal blessings whatsoever.

Observe, 3. The persons in whose name, or from whom this salutation is sent and given;

1. From God the Father, who is described by his eternity and immutability, which is, which was, and which is to come.

2. From the seven Spirits which are before the throne: from the Holy Ghost, who is thus described in regard of the perfection and variety of his gracious operations: the Holy Spirit is called seven, because he is perfect in working; and he is said to be before the throne, because continually present with God, and ready to perform what is needful for the church of God.

3. From Jesus Christ, who is described according to the threefold office, of a prophet, priest, and king; his being called the true and faithful witness, points out his prophetical office, that he is the great prophet of his church, who reveals the will of the Father fully and faithfully to the sons of men; his being styled the first begotten of the dead, points out his priestly office, and intimates that he died, that he rose again from the dead, and that he first arose, or was the first begotten from the dead; that is, the first that arose from the dead by his own power, to a state of immortality, and never to die more; some indeed rose before him, but then they were raised by him, he was the first that ever raised himself: others were raised from the dead, as Lazarus, before Christ, but they died again; whereas Christ rose from the dead never to die more; he entered into a state of immortality after his resurrection, and lives for ever to make intercession for us.

Lastly, Christ is styled the prince of the kings of the earth, which phrase shows both his influence upon them, (as giving laws and rules unto them,) and their dependence upon him, who do recieve their power and government, their protection and dominion, all from his hand.

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Burkitt, William. "Commentary on Revelation 1:4". Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/wbc/revelation-1.html. 1700-1703.

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

Revelation 1:4. ἀπὸ ) Erasmus introduced ἀπὸ τοῦ .(5) This is the first of those passages in which the reviewer says, that I cannot at all be defended. And yet the reading approved of by me, ἀπὸ , is an early one. See App. Crit. Ed. ii. on the passage: When I pray, will they be moved, who, in their ignorance, esteem the press of Stephens of more value than all the traces of John in Patmos?ἀπὸ ὢν καὶ ἦν καὶ ἐρχόμενος, from Him, who is, and who was, and who cometh) In this salutation, James Rhenferd, in his Dissertation respecting the cabalistic(6) style of the Apocalypse, seeks for a description of the Ten Sephiroth,(7) three superior, and seven inferior: and he has proved that there is some resemblance; but he has brought forward from the Cabalistic writers nothing which does not exist in a purer form in the writings of John. Comp. Lamp. Comm. on the Apoc., p. 253. The Hebrew noun יהוה is undeclined; and of that noun this is a periphrasis, ὢν καὶ ἦν καὶ ἐρχόμενος, as we shall see presently at Revelation 1:8. And therefore the periphrasis also is used without inflexion of case. The article , three times expressed, gives to the Greek paraphrase of a Hebrew noun the form of a noun.— ἑπτὰ, seven) The Jews, from Isaiah 11:2, speak many and great things respecting the Seven Spirits of the Messiah.—Lightfoot.

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Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on Revelation 1:4". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jab/revelation-1.html. 1897.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible

John to the seven churches which are in Asia: John, the apostle and evangelist, writes either to all the churches of Asia under the notion of seven, (which is the number of perfection), or to those seven churches mentioned Revelation 1:11, Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamos, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea, seven famous places in Asia the Less, where the gospel was planted; which being the most famous churches in that part of the world, John is commanded to deposit this prophecy in their hands, by them to be communicated unto other churches. These churches were in the most famous cities of the Lesser Asia: some think John was the apostle that preached most in Asia, and founded these churches; others, that though they were founded by Peter and Paul, yet after their death John took upon him the charge of them. It is the opinion of some learned men, that the apostle did not, in the epistles to the churches in Asia, design only to tell them of their error, and prescribe to their cure; but that in writing to them, he assigns both a prophetical instruction of us all concerning the state of the church in all periods from that time to the day of judgment, and also to reprove and counsel all present and succeeding churches; but of this we may possibly speak more afterward.

Grace be unto you, and peace: grace and peace is the common apostolical salutation, as to the sense of which we have often spoken: the apostle wisheth them the free love of God, that is, grace, and the seal of it, Romans 5:1, peace with God and their own consciences, and each with other.

From him which is, and which was, and which is to come: these words are a description of God, particularly of Jesus Christ in his eternity and immutability: he was from eternity; he is now; and he shall be for ever. Or, (as some), he was in his promises before his incarnation; he is now God manifested in the flesh; and he is to come as a Judge, to judge the quick and the dead. This was an ancient name of God, Exodus 3:14, I am that I am.—I AM hath sent me unto you. These words interpret the name Jehovah.

And from the seven Spirits which are before his throne; it is very difficult to determine what is meant by the seven Spirits here before the throne: we read of them also, Revelation 3:1 4:5 5:6. Christ is described, Revelation 3:1, as having the seven Spirits of God. It is said, Revelation 4:5, that the seven lamps of fire burning before the throne, are the seven Spirits of God; and Revelation 5:6, that the Lamb’s seven eyes were the seven Spirits of God. This is all the light we have from Scripture. Some think they are seven angels that are here meant. We read, Revelation 8:2, of seven angels that stood before God; and in Revelation 15:6-8, there is a like mention of seven angels; and Zechariah 4:2,10, Zechariah had a vision of seven lamps, and seven pipes, which, Revelation 1:10, are said to be the eyes of the Lord, which run to and fro through the whole earth. But John saluting the churches with grace and peace from these seven Spirits, and joining them with Christ, they do not seem to be creatures, angels, that are here meant, but such a Being from whom grace and peace cometh. Others therefore understand by them, the seven workings of Divine Providence in his management of the affairs of the world, with relation to the church, of which we shall read after; but this also seems hard. The sense seems to be, and from the Holy Ghost, who, though but one spiritual Being, yet exerteth his influence many ways, and by various manifestations, called here seven Spirits, because all flow from the same Spirit. They are therefore called, Revelation 4:5, burning lamps; the Holy Ghost descending in the appearance of fire, Acts 2:3,4, and being compared to fire, Matthew 3:11. They are called the Lamb’s seven eyes and seven horns, Revelation 5:6. Christ had the Spirit without measure; and the Holy Spirit is oft called the Spirit of Christ. This seemeth the best sense; the reader may find the objections to it answered in Mr. Pool’s Synopsis Criticorum upon this verse.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Revelation 1:4". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mpc/revelation-1.html. 1685.

Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture

семи церквам, находящимся в Асии Территория Асии соответствует территории современной Турции, она состояла из 7 почтовых областей. В центре этих областей находились 7 главных городов, которые служили центральными пунктами для распространения информации. Именно к этим 7 церквам обращался Иоанн.

Который есть и был и грядет Вечное присутствие Бога не ограничено временем. Он всегда был и придет в будущем.

семи духов Существуют два возможных значения: 1) ссылка на пророчество Исаии о семикратном служении Святого Духа (Ис. 11:2) или 2) более вероятно, это ссылка на светильник с 7 лампадами в Захарии – также описание действия Святого Духа (см. пояснения к 4:5; 5:6; Зах. 4:1-10). В любом случае 7 – это число, которое обозначает завершенность, т.е. Иоанн подчеркивает полноту действия Святого Духа.

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MacLaren, Alexander. "Commentary on Revelation 1:4". Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/mac/revelation-1.html.

Justin Edwards' Family Bible New Testament

To the seven churches which are in Asia; we are to understand here the Roman province of Proconsular Asia, embracing the provinces of Mysia, Lydia, Caria, and as it would seem, the western part of Phrygia also, in which Laodicea was situated. From the naming of these seven it does not follow that there were not other churches in Asia. The number seven, which is the symbol of completeness, prevails throughout this book, and is designedly chosen here.

Which is, and which was, and which is to come; that is, the self-existent and eternal God, who has life in himself. The words seem to be an exposition of the meaning of the Hebrew word Jehovah. See note to Exodus 6:3.

The seven spirits which are before his throne; the same as the "seven lamps of fire burning before the throne," chap Revelation 4:5. As this and the following verse contain a benediction from the Father and the Son, we must suppose that it is them, as elsewhere, and not any created spirits. In accordance with the emblematical character of this book, he is described under the number seven, to denote his manifold and perfect divine operations. Compare the seven "eyes of the Lord which run to and fro through the whole earth," Zechariah 4:10; and the seven eyes of the Lamb, "which are the seven spirits of God sent forth into all the earth," chap Revelation 5:6; both which represent one and the same Holy Spirit proceeding from the Father and the Son.

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Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on Revelation 1:4". "Family Bible New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/fam/revelation-1.html. American Tract Society. 1851.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

John sent this letter (the whole book) to the seven churches mentioned in chapters2,3, which were in the Roman province of Asia. The Apostle Paul also wrote letters to churches in seven places: Rome, Corinth, Galatia, Ephesus, Philippi, Colossae, and Thessalonica. The province of Asia lay in the geographic region of Asia Minor (modern western Turkey).

Since this book deals mainly with future events, John described the divine Author as God (the Father) who Isaiah, was, and is to come. This title occurs nowhere else in the Bible except in Revelation ( Revelation 1:8; Revelation 4:8; cf. Revelation 11:17; Revelation 16:5; Exodus 3:14-15). This description stresses the continuity of God"s sovereign dealings with humankind.

The phrase "seven Spirits" may refer to seven principal angelic messengers (cf. Revelation 1:20; Revelation 8:2; Revelation 8:6; Revelation 15:1; 1 Kings 22:19-21; Hebrews 1:14). [Note: Smith, pp314-19; Mounce, p70; Aune, p34; et al.] The apocryphal book of1Enoch ( Revelation 20:2-8) named seven angels who supposedly stand before God: Uriel, Raphael, Raguel, Michael, Saraqael, Gabriel, and Remiel. Another possible view is that the phrase refers to the Holy Spirit in His fullness (cf. Isaiah 11:2-3; Zechariah 4:2-7). [Note: Leon Morris, The Revelation of St. John, p48; Newell, pp10-11; Johnson, pp420-21; Thomas, Revelation 1-7, pp67, 68; Harris, p202; Beasley-Murray, p56; Ladd, p24; and Beale, p189.] If Song of Solomon, this title fills out a reference to the Trinity in this sentence (cf. Revelation 3:1, Revelation 4:5; and Revelation 5:6).

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Revelation 1:4". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/dcc/revelation-1.html. 2012.

Foy E. Wallace's Commentary on the Book of Revelation

II THE SALUTATORY INTERMISSION (Chapter 1:4-8)

(1) The salutation of John to the churches.

As John was known to them all, familiar by name and person, it was not necessary to distinguish himself from others by any descriptive titles or designations, such as an apostle of Christ. The use of the word apostle as introductory to the epistles of Paul had a specific reason, to affirm his apostolic credentials which Judaizers had attempted to discredit. No such circumstances existed with John, and he simply said John to the churches. If the author of Revelation had been another John than the apostle, some descriptive appellation would have been required for identification.

(2) To the seven churches.

The claim that seven dispensations are indicated by seven letters to seven churches, covering all Christian centuries, is reversed by the factual character of the names and the events corresponding in date to the period of the apocalypse. Though addressed to the seven churches in the Asian provinces of Mysia, Lydia, Caria and Phrygia, its contents would apply to all the early churches, as did the teaching in the apostolic epistles.

The Asia of these churches is generally considered to be where John went after the martyrdom of his brother James (Acts 12:2-3), which was said to be "pleasing to the Jews," and which connects with the Jewish persecutions belonging to the apocalypses of Revelation, and with John's association with the seven churches of this Asian region. The geographical designation of the text, in Asia, does not include the continent of Asia, nor the whole of Asia Minor, but rather a small Roman province in the west coastal part of Asia Minor, of which Ephesus was the capital, and which included the lesser provinces named. A look at the map will settle this point in the minds of the reader who is geographically interested.

(3) From the eternal God and the living Christ.

1. "From him which is, and which was, and which is to come"--1:4.

This sublime statement refers to God, and the description which is, and which was affirms his eternal Being; and which is to come has reference to his predicted judgments and events.

2. "And from the seven spirits which are before his throne"--1:4.

The seven spirits are a designation of the spirit of each of the seven churches, having already been described as seven golden candlesticks, and later referred to (chapter 4:50 as seven lamps before his throne. Thus the seven spirits before his throne are identical with the seven lamps before his throne. It is the continuation of the apocalyptic aspect of the seven-branched lamps (or candlesticks) which represented the seven churches, and being before his throne signified a unison with God and Christ in these salutations.

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Wallace, Foy E. "Commentary on Revelation 1:4". "Foy E. Wallace's Commentary on the Book of Revelation". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/foy/revelation-1.html. 1966.

George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary

-6

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Haydock, George Leo. "Commentary on Revelation 1:4". "George Haydock's Catholic Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hcc/revelation-1.html. 1859.

Gary Hampton Commentary on Selected Books

The Seven Churches of Asia

In light of the symbolic nature of this book we have already suggested that seven churches are addressed because it is a perfect number. These seven would seem to stand for all churches and contained a representative sample of all the good and bad characteristics generally found in the churches of that, or for that matter this, day.

The greeting "Grace to you and peace," seems to have been the common Christian greeting of that day (Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:3; 2 Corinthians 1:2; Galatians 1:3; etc.). We are dependant upon the riches of God"s grace for salvation and long for His indescribable peace (Ephesians 1:7; Ephesians 2:8-10; Philippians 4:7). The source of these great blessings is God, the Father, the eternal one. Also, they come from the Holy Spirit by whom the message of grace and peace was delivered (John 16:12-14). He is here designated by the symbolic words, "the seven Spirits which are before his throne" because he has perfectly delivered God"s message and is the perfect Spirit of God (Revelation 1:4).

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Hampton, Gary. "Commentary on Revelation 1:4". "Gary Hampton Commentary on Selected Books". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ghc/revelation-1.html. 2014.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

seven. See App-10and App-197.

churches. Greek. ekklesia. App-120and App-186.

in. App-104.

Asia. Not Europe, and consequently not Christendom.

Grace. App-184.

from. App-104.

Him. . . come. Greek paraphrase of "Jehovah". See App-4.

Which = Who, and so throughout Revelation.

Spirits. App-101.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Revelation 1:4". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/bul/revelation-1.html. 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

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

John the apostle None but he (supposing the writer honest) would sign himself nakedly without addition John - the apostle. None but he (supposing the writer honest) would sign himself nakedly without addition. As sole surviving representative of the apostles and eye-witnesses of the Lord, he needed no designation except his name to be recognized.

Seven churches - not that there were not more churches in that region, but seven expresses totality. These seven represent the universal Church of all times and places. See Trench's 'Epistles to Seven Churches,' note, Revelation 1:20, on seven. It is the number signifying God's covenant relation to mankind, especially to the Church. Thus, the seventh day, Sabbath, Genesis 2:3; Ezekiel 20:12. Circumcision, sign of the covenant, after seven days, Genesis 17:12. Sacrifices, Numbers 23:1; Numbers 23:14; Numbers 23:29; 2 Chronicles 29:21. Compare God's directions, Joshua 6:4; Joshua 6:15-16; 2 Kings 5:10. The feasts by sevens of time, Deuteronomy 15:1; Deuteronomy 16:9; Deuteronomy 16:13; Deuteronomy 16:15. It is a combination of three-the divine number (the Trinity: the thrice Holy, Isaiah 6:3; the blessing, Numbers 6:24-26) - and four: the organized world in its extension (thus the four elements, four seasons, four winds, four corners or quarters of the earth, four living creatures, emblems of redeemed creaturely life, Ezekiel 1:5-6; Revelation 4:6, with four faces and four wings each; the four beasts, and four metals, representing the four world-empires, Daniel 2:32-33; Daniel 7:3; the four-sided Gospel, designed for all quarters; the sheet tied at four corners, Acts 10:11; the four horns-the world's forces against the Church, Zechariah 1:18). In the Apocalypse, where God's covenant reaches its consummation, appropriately seven recurs more frequently than elsewhere.

Asia - proconsular, governed by a Roman proconsul: Phrygia, Mysia, Caria, and Lydia: the kingdom which Attalus III bequeathed to Rome.

Grace ... peace - Paul's apostolical greeting. In his pastoral letters, 'mercy' in addition: so John 2:1-25.

Him which is ... was ... is to come - a periphrasis for the incommunicable name Yahweh (Hebrew #3068), the self-existing, unchangeable. [apo ho oon kai ho een kai ho erchomenos (Greek #2064).] The indeclinability implies His unchangeableness. Perhaps 'He which is to come' is used instead of 'He that shall be,' because Revelation's grand theme is the Lord's coming (Revelation 1:7). Still, THE FATHER (Revelation 1:5) is here meant. But so one are the Father and Son, that the designation, "which is to come," special to Christ, is used here of the Father.

The seven Spirits which are before his throne, ['Aleph (') A read toon (Greek #3588) for ha (Greek #3739) estin (Greek #2076)] - literally, 'in the presence of.' The Holy Spirit in His sevenfold (i:e., perfect and universal) energy. Corresponding to "the seven churches." One in His essence, manifold in His influences. The seven eyes resting on the stone laid by Yahweh (Zechariah 3:9; Revelation 5:6). Four is the number of the creature world (cf. the fourfold cherubim); seven, that of God's revelation.

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Revelation 1:4". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/jfu/revelation-1.html. 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(4) JOHN to the seven churches (or, congregations) which are in Asia.—It is needless to observe that the Asia here is not to be regarded as co-extensive with what we know as Asia Minor. It is the province of Asia (comp. Acts 2:9-10; Acts 16:6-7), which was under a Roman proconsul, and embraced the western portion of Asia Minor. In St. John’s time it consisted of a strip of sea-board, some 100 square miles in extent. Its boundaries varied at different periods; but roughly, and for the present purpose, they may be regarded as the Caycus on the north, the Mæander on the south, the Phrygian Hills on the east, and the Mediterranean on the west.

Seven churches.—It has been maintained by some (notably by Vitringa) that the epistles to the seven churches are prophetic, and set forth the condition of the Church in the successive epochs of its after-history. The growth of error, the development of schisms, the gloom of superstition, the darkness of mediæval times, the dawn of the Reformation, the convulsions of after-revolutions, have been discovered in these brief and forcible epistles. Such a view needs no formal refutation. The anxiety for circumstantial and limited fulfilments of prophecy has been at the root of such attempts. When we read God’s words as wider than our thoughts we stand in no need of such desperate efforts at symmetrical interpretations; for the truth then is seen to be that words addressed to one age have their fitness for all; and that these epistles are the heritage of the Church in every epoch. In this sense the churches are types and representatives of the whole family of God. Every community may find its likeness here. This much is admitted by the best commentators of all schools. “The seven churches,” says St. Chrysostom, “are all churches by reason of the seven Spirits.” “By the seven,” writes St. Augustine, “is signified the perfection of the Church universal, and by writing to the seven he shows the fulness of one.” And the words, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches,” ‘are, as has been well observed, a direct intimation that some universal application of their teaching was intended.

Grace be unto you, and peace.—Three apostles, St. Peter, St. Paul, and St. John, adopt the same salutation. Not only is this a kind of link of Christian fellowship between them, but its adoption by St. John, after St. Paul had first used it, is a slight token that the Apocalypse cannot be regarded (as some recent critics would have it) as an anti-Pauline treatise. As the Christian greeting, it transcends while it embraces the Greek and Hebrew salutations. There is no tinge of the sadness of separation; it is the greeting of hope and repose, grounded on the only true foundation of either, the grace of God, which is the well-spring of life and love.

From him which is, and which was, and which is to come (or, which cometh).—The phrase presents a remarkable violation of grammar; but the violation is clearly intentional. It is not the blunder of an illiterate writer; it is the deliberate putting in emphatic form the “Name of Names.” “Should not,” says Professor Lightfoot, “this remarkable feature be preserved in an English Bible? If in Exodus 3:14 the words run, ‘I AM hath sent me unto you,’ may we not also be allowed to read here, from ‘HE THAT IS, AND THAT WAS, AND THAT IS TO COME?’“ The expression must not be separated from what follows. The greeting is triple: from Him which is, and which was, and which cometh; from the seven Spirits; and from Jesus Christ—i.e., from the Triune God. The first phrase would therefore seem to designate God the Father, the self-existing, eternal One, the fount and origin of all existence. Professor Plumptre suggests that the phrase used here may be used in allusion and contrast to the inscription spoken of by Plutarch, on the Temple of Isis, at Sais: “I am all that has come into being, and that which is, and that which shall be; and no man hath lifted my vail.” The heathen inscription identifies God with the universe, making Him, not an ever-being, but an ever-becoming, from whom personality is excluded: the Christian description is of the personal, everlasting, self-revealing God—who is, who was, and who cometh. We should have expected after “is” and “was” “will be;” but there is no “will be” with an eternal God. With Him all is; so the word “cometh” is used, hinting His constant manifestations in history, and the final coming in judgment. This allusion to the Second Coming is denied by Professor Plumptre, but as he admits that the words, “He that cometh,” used in the Gospels, and applied by the Jews to the Messiah, may be designedly employed here by the Apostle, it is difficult to see how the Advent idea can be excluded. The word appears to imply that we are to be always looking for Him whose “comings” recur in all history as the earnests of the fuller and final Advent.

From the seven Spirits.—The interpretation which would understand these seven Spirits to be the seven chief angels, though supported by names of great weight, is plainly untenable. The context makes it impossible to admit any other meaning than that the greeting which comes from the Father and the Son comes also from the Holy Spirit sevenfold in His operations, whose gifts are diffused among all the churches, and who divides to every man severally as He will. For corresponding thoughts in the Old Testament, compare the seven lamps and seven eyes of Zechariah (Zechariah 3:9; Zechariah 4:2; Zechariah 4:10), “the symbols of eternal light and all embracing knowledge.” It may not be inappropriate to note that Philo speaks of the number seven in its mystical import as identical with unity, as unity developed in diversity, and yet remaining one. This unity in diversity is the thought St. Paul seems anxious to keep before the minds of the Corinthians, lest their gifts should become the source of division. All work that one and self-same spirit (1 Corinthians 12:11). The after-recurrence in this book of the number seven is, I think, selected to support this thought of completeness and variety; the dramatic unity is preserved, though the scenes which are unfolded are amply diversified; and the seven seals, seven trumpets, and seven vials, are not three successive periods, but three aspects of one complete period presided over by that one Spirit whose guidance may be seen in all ages, and in diverse ways. The Spirits are before the throne. This reference to the throne gives a touch of authority to the description. The Holy Spirit who pleads with men is the Spirit from God’s Throne.

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Revelation 1:4". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ebc/revelation-1.html. 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which is, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne;
John
1
to the
11,20; 2:1,8,12,18; 3:1,7,14; Acts 19:10; 1 Peter 1:1
Grace
Romans 1:7; 1 Corinthians 1:3; 2 Corinthians 1:2; 1 Peter 1:2
him
1:8; Exodus 3:14; Psalms 90:2; 102:25-27; Isaiah 41:4; 57:15; Micah 5:2; John 1:1; Hebrews 1:10-13; 13:8; James 1:17
from the
3:1; 4:5; 5:6; Zechariah 3:9; 4:10; 6:5; 1 Corinthians 12:4-13
Reciprocal: Genesis 2:4 - Lord;  Exodus 6:3 - Jehovah;  Exodus 25:37 - seven;  Numbers 6:24 - The Lord;  Joshua 6:4 - seven times;  Psalm 29:11 - bless;  Psalm 102:24 - thy years;  Lamentations 5:19 - remainest;  Matthew 28:19 - the name;  Luke 24:36 - Peace;  John 14:27 - Peace I leave;  John 18:37 - that I should;  John 20:19 - Peace;  Acts 2:9 - Asia;  Acts 16:6 - Asia;  Romans 16:4 - also;  2 Corinthians 13:14 - The grace;  Ephesians 6:23 - Peace;  Philippians 4:7 - the peace;  Colossians 1:2 - Grace;  2 Thessalonians 1:12 - the grace;  2 Peter 1:2 - Grace;  1 John 5:7 - The Father;  Revelation 1:9 - John;  Revelation 11:17 - which;  Revelation 16:5 - which art;  Revelation 21:2 - I;  Revelation 22:21 - General

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Revelation 1:4". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/tsk/revelation-1.html.

E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament

Let the reader note the statements at the close of General Remarks [in eSword see Book Notes], which show that the three chapters will be given before the symbolical part of the book begins. They will consist of letters or epistles sent to a group of churches not far from where John was in exile. The seven churches does not mean there were no others in that territory for there were several. It means as if it said "write to the seven that will be named." The number seven was regarded as of special significance in old times, so that it came to be used as a symbol of completeness in many instances. Smith"s Bible Dictionary says it was so regarded even among the Persians, Greeks, Indians and Romans. Doubtless the seven churches selected were representative of the general condition in the brotherhood at large, and hence the letters written to them may serve as important instruction for the congregations everywhere and at all times. Asia is a small province in what was known as Asia Minor until late years. It was one of the districts to which Peter addressed his first epistle ( 1 Peter 1:1). The familiar salutat.ion of grace and peace is given and it is from the same source. However, it is stated in different words, namely, from the One who Isaiah, ices and is to come. This means that God always was and always will be. Seven Spirits. Paul says there is "one Spirit" ( Ephesians 4:4), so the term is figurative and used in the sense of completeness as symbolized by the number seven. This unit of seven Spirits is before the throne because the Spirit has always been an agency of God and Christ in carrying out the divine plans, and it would be appropriate for it to be always near at hand to receive orders.

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Zerr, E.M. "Commentary on Revelation 1:4". E.M. Zerr's Commentary on Selected Books of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/znt/revelation-1.html. 1952.

Hanserd Knollys' Commentary on Revelation

Revelation 1:4

Revelation 1:4 John to the seven churches which are in Asia: Grace be unto you, and peace, from him which Isaiah, and which was, and which is to come; and from the seven Spirits which are before his throne;

Those seven churches in the lesser Asia, were the true visible constituted particular churches of Jesus Christ. And such were the churches in Judea, in Achaia, in Galatia, and all the churches of Christ that were in the apostles days, that we read of in the Holy Scripture of the New Testament; whom John thus saluted

"Grace be to you, and peace," etc.

All having grace, and all spiritual peace floweth from God, and was, and Isaiah, and is to come; through the mediation and intercession of the Lord Jesus Christ, by the operation of the Holy Eternal Spirit into the hearts of saints and churches of saints. By the grace of God, we are to understand not only the love and favor of God, but also all grace, { 1 Peter 5:10} more and greater measure of every grace; { James 4:6} truth of grace; { Colossians 1:6} growth in grace; { 2 Peter 3:18} and perfection of grace at last. { Ephesians 4:13} And by peace, spiritual peace, which is peace with God; { Romans 5:1} peace in ourselves { Romans 15:13; 1 Thessalonians 5:13} among ourselves. By the seven spirits, which are before his throne, we are to understand the Holy Eternal Spirit with his diversity of gifts, operations, and administrations, { 1 Corinthians 12:4-6; 1 Corinthians 12:11} there called seven, which is a prophetical number in this prophecy, signifying both variety and perfection.

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Knollys, Hanserd. "Commentary on Revelation 1:4". "Hanserd Knollys' Commentary on Revelation". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/hkc/revelation-1.html.

Harold Norris' Commentary on the Book of Revelation

Verse4.

"John to the7 churches"

The number "7" always symbolical of the PERFECT, THE UNIVERSAL, indicates not merely "7" churches in Asia but THE WHOLE, THE UNIVERSAL CHURCH IN ALL AGES. There were more than7 churches in Asia in John"s day. Every congregation in every age may find its likeness here. "And from the7 spirits" Again, God, The Holy Spirit perfect, working in and through His church.

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Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

2. The dedication to the Seven Churches, Revelation 1:4-8.

4.John—Adverse, and we may add, perverse criticism asks, If this were truly St. John, why does he nowhere style himself apostle? We reply that he does not write himself apostle just because he was St. John. There may have been, in the seven Churches, many Johns, but everybody knew that to the Churches there was but one John in Asia. Had any other John than he attempted thus to address, admonish, rebuke, command, and threaten these seven Churches, he would have gained no audience.

Seven—The best treatise in English on the apocalyptic numbers is in Stuart’s first volume, largely taken, with due credit, from Bahr, a condensation of which we have given at the end of our notes on Luke 6.

It has been argued that the Apocalypse was written at an early date, because this address shows that there were as yet but seven Churches in Asia. It might as well be assumed that but “seven trumpets” were sounded because but seven were within reach. Seven Churches, like numerous other apocalyptic sevens, are selected under the symbolic seven-form law that rules in the book. Says Stuart: “Whether the Churches of that day, in Asia, were limited to that number is a question easily solved; for in Colossians 4:13 the Church at Hierapolis is mentioned in connexion with that at Laodicea, and the former is in the neighbourhood of the latter. Colosse also was in the immediate neighbourhood of Laodicea. So, in a few years later than when the Apocalypse was written, we know there were large and flourishing Churches in Tralles, where Ignatius lived, and at Magnesia in its neighbourhood, both in Lydia, and but a moderate distance from Ephesus.” Stuart, be it remembered, maintained the Neronian date of the Apocalypse, but he here fully refutes those who maintain that early date on the ground that there were as yet but seven Churches in Asia when the book was written.

Asia—Proconsular Asia, so called because ruled by a Roman proconsul at Ephesus. Matthew Arnold, in a note to one of his poems, says: “The name Europe ( , the wide prospect) probably describes the appearance of the European coast to the Greeks on the coast of Asia Minor, opposite. The name of Asia, derived from ( , fatal, again comes, it has been thought, from the muddy fens of the rivers of Asia Minor, such as the Cayster or Maeander, which struck the imagination of the Greeks living near them.” Proconsular Asia, as may be seen upon our map, embraces the three provinces of Mysia, Lydia, and Caria, bordering upon the Hellespont. The seven Churches were mostly in Lydia. The different extensions of territory covered by the term Asia are thus well defined by Elliott: “The word Asia was used by the Romans in four senses:

1. For the whole Asiatic continent, as opposed to Europe and Africa; 2. For Asia Minor in its largest sense, including Cilicia and other districts beyond the Taurus; 3. For the same in its smaller sense, embracing only the provinces within the Taurus; 4. For Lydian Asia, or, as it was called towards the end of the first century, Proconsular Asia, extending along the coast from Pergamos to Caria, and inland to the Phrygian frontier, or a little beyond it.

Grace’ peace—This Pauline form of benediction was familiar both to Ephesus and the other Asiatic Churches from the epistles of that great apostle, and John’s adoption of it clearly indicates that there was no antagonism between the two apostles and their friends, as was imagined by such writers as Baur and Renan. Is’

was’ to come—The threefold divisions under which our minds are obliged to think all time, and so used to express the eternity of Him. The threefold phrase expresses the import of the word JEHOVAH. The elevation of the prophetic style induces the seer to refer to this name for God; and from the reverence with which the utterance of the divine name was avoided by the Jews, he gives the import, and not the name itself. The phrase, though dependent on the preposition from, is sacredly preserved by John as a nominative, thus attaining an expressive emphasis above the ordinary rules of grammar.

The seven spirits—Stuart and others maintain that these are “the seven presence angels,” in regard to which see our note on Revelation 8:2. But it seems inadmissible to make grace and peace proceed from mere creatures, and that in position between two of the persons of the Trinity.

As seven is the number of completeness, the one spirit is styled seven in allusion to the perfect manifoldness of his operations. The one Spirit is the seven spirits, as the one atmosphere is “the four winds.” These spirits do not “stand” before Him, like serving waiters or watchers, as Revelation 8:2: they are before his throne, as also is the Lamb.

 

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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Revelation 1:4". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/whe/revelation-1.html. 1874-1909.

The Expositor's Greek Testament

Revelation 1:4. ., seven being the sacred and complete number in apocalyptic symbolism (E. Bi. 3436). The must refer proleptically to to Revelation 1:11; for other churches existed and flourished in proconsular Asia at this time, e.g., at Troas, Magnesia, Hierapolis and Colossae, with which the prophet must have been familiar. These seven are selected by him for some special reason which it is no longer possible to disinter (see above, Introd., § 2). , . . ., a quaint and deliberate violation of grammar (Win. § 10, IC.; Moult, Revelation 1:9) in order to preserve the immutability and absoluteness of the divine name from declension, though it falls under the rule that in N.T. and LXX parenthetic and accessory clauses tend to assume an independent construction. The divine title is a paraphrase probably suggested by rabbinic language (e.g., Targum Jonath. apud Deuteronomy 32:39, ego ille, qui est et qui fuit et qui erit); the idea would be quite familiar to Hellenic readers from similar expressions, e.g., in the song of doves at Dodona ( , , ) or in the titles of Asclepius and Athene. Simon Magus is said to have designated himself also as , , , and the shrine of Minerva (= Isis) at Sais bore the inscription, I am all that hath been and is and shall be: my veil no mortal yet hath raised (Plut. de Iside, 9), the latter part eclipsed by the comforting Christian assurance here. , another deliberate anomaly (finite verb for participle) due to dogmatic reasons; no past participle of existed, and was obviously misleading. ., instead of , to correspond with the keynote of the book, struck loudly in Revelation 1:7. In and with his messiah, Jesus, God himself comes; . (the present) acquires, partly through the meaning of the verb, a future significance. For the emphasis and priority of in this description of God, see the famous passage in Aug. Confess, ix. 10. . : a puzzling conception whose roots have been traced in various directions to (a) an erroneous but not unnatural interpretation of Isaiah 11:2-3, found in the Targ. Jonath. (as in En. lxi. 11, sevenfold spirit of virtues) and shared by Justin (Dial. 87, cf.Cohort, ad Grace, c. 32, ), or—more probably—to the later Jewish notion (b) of the seven holy angels (Tobit xii. 15; cf. Gfrörer, i. 360 f.) which reappears in early Christianity (cf. Clem. Al. Strom, vi. 685, ). modified from (c) a still earlier Babylonian conception, behind (b), of the seven spirits of the sky—the sun, the moon, and the five planets. The latter is not unknown to Jewish literature before 100 A.D. (cf. Jub. ii. 2; Berachoth, 32, b), corresponding to the Persian Amshaspands (Yasht, xix. 19, 20, S. B. E. xxxi. 145) and reflected in “the seven first white ones” or angelic retinue of the Lord in Enoch xc. 21 f. (Cheyne, Orig. Ps. 281–2, 327 f., 334 f.; Stave, 216 f.; Lüken, 32 f.; R. J. 319). Whether the prophet and his readers were conscious of this derivation or not, the conception is stereotyped and designed to express in archaic terms the supreme majesty of God before whose throne (i.e., obedient and ready for any commission, cf.Revelation 5:6) these mighty beings live. They are not named or divided in the Apocalypse, but the objection to taking the expression in the sense of (a) denoting, as in Philo (where, e.g., or is a characteristic symbol of the divine Logos), the sevenfold and complete energy of the Spirit in semi-poetic fashion, is the obvious fact that this is out of line with the trinity of the apocalypse, which is allied to that of Luke 9:26; 1 Timothy 5:21; Just. Mart. Apol. i. 6. The Spirit in the Apocalypse, as in Jude, 2 Peter and the pastoral epistles, is wholly prophetic. It has not the content of the Spirit in Paul or in the Fourth Gospel. Since the writer intends to enlarge upon the person of Jesus, or because the seven spirits stood next to the deity in the traditional mise-en-scène, he makes them precede Christ in order.

 

 

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Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Revelation 1:4". The Expositor's Greek Testament. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/egt/revelation-1.html. 1897-1910.

The Bible Study New Testament

4. John to the seven churches. This is to the Roman province called Asia. Ephesus was the capital. All seven churches are in that province. They are named in Revelation 1:11. There were other churches as well in Asia (Acts 20:17; Colossians 4:13). Seven is the perfect or sacred number, and these churches are symbolic of all the church everywhere at every age of time. Grace and peace. A blessing, directly to the seven, indirectly to all the church. God, whois. See Exodus 3:14. The seven spirits. Symbolic of the fullness and perfection of the Holy Spirit.

 

 

 

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Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on Revelation 1:4". "The Bible Study New Testament". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/ice/revelation-1.html. College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.