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The Apocalypse


"The Day of the Lord"

Introduction to the Book of Revelation

VIII. The Descriptions of the Book

The descriptive titles given to this book mark it off as being special in its nature, distinct from the other books of the New Testament; and in character and keeping with the prophetic books of the Old Testament. It is called

1. "The Word of God" (1:2).

This is not used as a general term, of the Scriptures or of the Bible, as such:* but in a special sense, not uncommon in the Old Testament, of the "word which comes from God," or which He speaks. Hence, a prophetic message, e.g.,

  • 1 Sam. 9:27. Samuel said to Saul: "Stand thou still awhile, that I may show thee the word of God."

  • 1 Kings 12:22. "The word of God came unto Shemaiah, the man of God (i.e., the prophet), saying." (Compare 2 Chron. 11:2; 12:15.)

  • 1 Chron. 17:3. "The word of God came to Nathan." (So 2 Sam. 7:4.)

* Though, of course, as the Bible is made up of the words of God, we may conveniently and very truly use "the Word of God" of the Scriptures as a whole. See Jer. 15:16.

It is difficult to distinguish between the written Word and the Living Word. Both make known and reveal God.
In Gen. 15:1, we read "The Word of the Lord came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram, I am thy shield," etc. Here, it is evidently the Living Word, though it may include both.

When we come to the Apocalypse, we are at once prepared for both — Vision of the Living Word, and also the prophetic word of the Living God; both making known to the servants of God the visions and words of "this prophecy" (ver. 3). Five times we have this expression in this book.*  Not in the common sense, as in the Gospels and Epistles, but in this special sense of a prophetic message.

* Chaps. 1:2; 1:9; 6:9; 19:13; 20:4.

In 1:9 John tells us he "was in the Isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ." Leaving the latter expression for a moment, we may remark that the popular interpretation of the word "for" is based on a tradition which doubtless sprang from a misunderstanding of these words. There is no idea of banishment in them. It was no accident which lead to the giving of this prophecy. John went to Patmos "for" the purpose of receiving it (as Paul went into Arabia, Gal. 1:17). "On account of" is the meaning of the word here used, for "for."*  If his preaching of "the Word of God" was the cause of this being in Patmos, another expression would have been used. See Exposition below, on 1:9.

* As in Heb. 2:9, "For the suffering of death crowned with glory and honour;" and verse 10 - "For whom are all things and by whom are all things." So Rom. 4:25, "on account of."

Verse 2 tells us that "the word of God" consisted of "the things that he saw." How could John be banished to Patmos because of, or by reason of, the things which he saw in Patmos! No, the truth here recorded is that John was there on account of (i.e., to receive) "the word of God," i.e., the prophetic message, even "the words of this prophecy." There is a second descriptive title which stamps this book. It is called

2. "This Prophecy" (1:3).

Seven times we have the word prophecy in this book,* and prophecy is its one great subject.

* chaps. 1:3; 11:6; 19:10; 22:7,10,18,19.

It is "prophecy" for us, therefore, and not past history. It is prophecy concerning the events which shall take place "hereafter" during the day of the Lord, i.e., during the day when the Lord will be the Judge, in contradistinction to the present day, i.e., "man's day" (1 Cor. 4:3) during which man is judging (to the painful experience of most of us). See Exposition on 1:10.

Even "Historicists" take some part of this book as prophecy. Most "Futurists" take from 4:1 as prophecy. But we fall back on the first blessing in verse 3: "Blessed is he that readeth and they that hear the words of THIS PROPHECY."

That reading commences at once; that hearing commences with the reading. Neither is to be postponed till some future time, or to some particular part of the book: nor are we to be left in ignorance as to where our reading and our blessing commences. We believe that "this prophecy" means "this prophecy," and that we begin at once to read it and to get the blessing. It cannot be that we are to read on and wait till we come to some particular verse where the blessing commences. Our attention to what is written is not to be postponed. All the words are "the words of this prophecy." John was to bear witness of "all things that he saw" (ver. 2); and the command is "what thou seest write in A BOOK." What we have therefore is in "a book;" and that book contains all that John saw and heard; and it is called "this prophecy."

The whole book, therefore, is prophecy for us. It is "those things which are written in it" which we are to keep: and it is as a whole Book that we propose to deal with it. We feel it safer to be guided by what God Himself calls it than by what man tells us as to what part is prophecy and what is not. If they who tell us this were agreed among themselves it would be something; but when they differ, we cannot gain much by listening to them.

The evidence afforded by this title is, that, as the whole book is prophecy, the Church of God is not the subject of it: for, as we have seen, the Church is not the subject of prophecy, but of "revelation." The future of the Church is given and written for our reading and blessing in the Pauline Epistles; especially in 1 Thess. 4., where the Apostle Paul speaks "by the word of the Lord," which means, here as well as elsewhere, a prophetic announcement. Further, we may add that, when John is told that he is to prophesy again (10:11), it is not about the Church, but about "peoples and nations and tongues and kings."

But there is another title given to this book. It is

3. "The Testimoney of Jesus Christ" (1:2,9).

Now, this may mean the testimony concerning Him (the Gen. of the object or relation); or, the testimony which comes from Him (the Gen. of the subject or origin), i.e., which he bore. If we take it as the former, it then agrees with the whole prophetic word, which is concerning Him as "the coming One."

If we take it in the latter meaning, then it refers to the nature of the testimony which the Lord Jesus bore when on earth; and does not go outside it. That testimony related to the kingdom and not to the Church.

The word for "testimony" is worthy of note. It is (...), marturia (fem.), and not (...), marturion (neuter). Now, when there are two nouns from the same root, one feminine and the other neuter, there is an unmistakable difference, which has to be carefully noted and observed: i.e., if we believe that we are dealing with "the words which the Holy Ghost teacheth," as we most certainly do.

The difference here is clear and decided, and a few illustrations will be convincing. The neuter noun, ending in (...)(-ion), denotes something definite and substantial, while the feminine noun, ending in (...)(ia), denotes the matter referred to or contained in or relating to the neuter noun.

For example:

  • Emporia is merchandise; while Emporion is the place or building where the merchandise (emporia) is stored (the Emporium).

  • Apostasia are the matters concerning which there is defection, falling away, forsaking or revolt (Acts 21:21, 2 Thess. 2:3); while Apostasion is the act of falling away, or the document, etc., which contains it. Hence it is the technical term for a bill of divorcement (Matt. 5:31; 19:7; Mark 10:4).

  • Georgia is tillage; georgion is the field where the tillage is carried on. (1 Cor. 3:9 only).

  • Gymnasia denotes the exercises (1 Tim. 4:8); gymnasium, the place or building where the exercises are done.

  • Dokimee is the examination or proof (Rom. 5:4; 2 Cor. 2:9; 8:2, 9:13, 13:3; Phil. 2:22); while dokimion is the trial, at which the examination is made and the proofs given (Jas. 1:3; 1 Pet. 1:7 only).

  • Mneia is remembrance or mention (Rom. 1:9; Eph. 1:16; Phil. 1:3; 1 Thess. 1:2, 3:6; 2 Tim. 1:3; Philem. 4); mneion is the tombstone or sepulchre where the mention or remembrance is made.

  • Soteria is a saving or delivering (and is the general word for salvation in N.T.); while soterion is the act of saving, and almost the person who delivers. See Luke 2:30 (where it is "seen") and 3:6. Acts 28:28; Eph. 5:17.*

* In some cases these references support these facts; in other they must be re-interpreted by them.
    It will be noted that the accentuation of these words in -ion intimates that they are all properly adjectives: hence the actual noun to be supplied in each case will vary with the nature of the noun from which the adjective is formed. The general distinction, however, holds good: that the words in -ia represent a process, or habit, and that, too, under its feminine, not masculine, aspect; while the neuters represent some special act, or instance of this habit or process, or some material or instrument by which, or place in which, the habit is carried out, or the process carried on.

Now, in the Apocalypse, we have maturion (the neuter), testimony, only once (Rev. 15:5), where it is used of a thing, "the tabernacle of the testimony," i.e., the tent and tables of stone which were placed therein. In every other place (nine times) we have marturia, i.e., the testimony given or witness borne (1:2,9; 6:9; 11:7; 12:11,17; 19:10, twice; 20:4). In all these cases therefore, it is testimony or witness borne, as a reference to them will show.

It seems, then, quite clear that, where we read in this prophecy of "the testimony of Jesus" (1:2,9; 12:17; 19:10, twice*), it means the testimony which the Lord Jesus bore or gave on earth as "Jesus" in the days of His humiliation (not as the Christ as raised from the dead).

* In 20:4 it is doubtless the testimony concerning Jesus for which those who gave it were beheaded. (The Gen. of relation.)

The testimony was, as we have already said, concerning His kingdom and concerning Israel (see Rom. 15:8); and it is the same testimony which the same Jesus gives in the book of this prophecy.


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