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The Apocalypse


"The Day of the Lord"

Introduction to the Book of Revelation

IX. Certain expressions in Chaps. 1-3

There are certain expressions used throughout the Apocalypse which are wholly unlike any expressions used in connection with the Church of God or in the Church Epistles.

Some of these are sufficient in themselves to show that the Church is not the subject of the Apocalypse, and have been already noticed. But there are others of importance which require more lengthened treatment; so we group them together under this heading, referring our reader to the Exposition which follows, where supplementary comments on them will be found.

To find these expressions we will not now travel beyond the first chapter, except for one expression which occurs seven times in chaps. 2 and 3.
There are sufficient in chap. 1. to show us how the Holy Spirit has, at the very threshold of this book, used these expressions for our consideration and our guidance.

We find seven of these expressions:-

(1) "Unto Him that loved us" (1:5).

Because "Christ loved His Church and gave Himself for it," we seem unable, from our natural selfishness, to rise above or beyond the thought of ourselves. We, naturally, fill our own vision and see nothing beyond ourselves.

The thought that Jehovah said of Israel, "Yea, he loved the people,"* does not enter into our minds for a moment. Gentile hatred of the Jew, added to our own natural selfishness, quite cuts out the Jew, not only from the Old Testament, but out of the Apocalypse also.

* (...) chavav, a very strong word for love, which occurs only in Deut. 33:3, and is taken by "The Chovevi Zion" (the lovers of Zion) as the title of that modern Jewish society.

And yet is it strange, with the repeated assertions which Jehovah makes of His love for Israel, that not only should Israel be passed over by Bible-students, but this love actually taken from Israel and appropriated to the Church; depriving Israel of God's love and blessing, and leaving for them only the judgments and the curses. And yet we have such passages as these concerning Israel:-

  • Deut. 7:7,8. "The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people. But because the Lord loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the Lord brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you," etc. (See also Deut. 6:37; 23:5, etc.)

  • Hos. 11:1,4. "When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt... I drew them with the cords of a man, with bands of love."

  • Isa. 43:4. "Since thou wast precious in my sight, thou hast been honourable, and I have loved thee."

  • Jer. 31:3. "The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee."

  • And the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel, says (Isa. 54:10), "For the mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy upon thee."

We are quite aware that these passages are all appropriated by the Church to itself; and, therefore, we can hardly expect them to be received in evidence that the words in Rev. 1:5 are not the words spoken by the Church. But we must be content to leave the matter here. "These are the true sayings of God:" and if people will not believe what God says we can hardly expect them to believe what we say.

Of course we can make an a fortiori application of these words; but that is quite another matter. If Israel can say, "unto Him who loveth us," how much more can we say so according to Eph. 5:25, Acts 20:28, etc.? But we are dealing now with interpretation; and we must rest content with simply stating that, by interpretation, these Old Testament passages speak of Jehovah's love to Israel, and not to the Church. And, this being so, the words in Rev. 1:5 may we be spoken by the godly remnant of Israel, as they will afterwards be the language of the whole People.

We would further anticipate, here, what belongs properly to our exposition of chap. 2:4: The first charge brought against His People in this book, viz., "thou hast left thy first love."
What is this, but what Jehovah calls, in Jer. 2:2, "the love of thine espousals," and in Ezek. 16:8, "the time of love." Read the whole of Ezek. 16 and Ex. 19:4-6, and say whether we have not here the true key to Rev. 2:4.

But, before we leave this expression, we must give the correct rendering of the whole verse (1:5), according to all the Critical Greek Texts and RV. (referring our readers to our further comments in the exposition below).

Unto him who loveth us (it is the present tense, (...) (agaponti) loveth, and not (...) (agapesanti) loved; for Jehovah's love for Israel is an ever-present love, yea, it is "everlasting") and loosed us (past tense, (...) (lusanti) loosed, and not (...) (lousanti) washed) from (...) (ek) from or out of; not (...) (apo) away from) our sins by (not "in") his blood."

(2) "Kings and Priests" (1:6)

The correct text and translation is as follows, and read on from the last expression: "And made (not hath made) us (Tregelles read (...) (heemin) for us) a kingdom, (all read (...) (basileian) a kingdom; instead of (...) (basileis kai) kings and) priests to his God and Father (or priests to God, even His Father)."

we have the same expression in chap. 5:10, where the Greek Text has to be corrected in a similar manner. There the alteration of the text has been the parent of all the wrong translations made of it. It is the song, the new song, sung by the four living creatures, and the twenty-four elders.*

* The number four and multiple of four (4X6) marks these and their song as pertaining to the earth and to man as such, not the Church.

They say (ver. 9): "Worthy art thou to take the book, and to open its seals; because thou wast slain and madest a purchase for God (the word "us" must be omitted according to Lachmann, Tischendorf, Alford, Westcott and Hort, and R.V. There is an Ellipsis. The R.V., having taken out "us," has supplied "men" in italics. We may supply "a People," or translate as we have done. All the Texts agree in altering the pronouns that follow in this and the next verse. This necessitates the omission of "us" here. If one is changed, all must be changed for the sake of consistency and sense. But this entirely does away with the supposition that these heavenly beings were themselves redeemed, or were the subject of their own song (See below, on chap. 5:9) by thy blood (a purchase, namely) out of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation, and didst make them (so all the Texts and oldest MSS.) to our God (Alford omits these words) a kingdom (so all the Texts and best MSS.) and priests, and they shall reign (so all the Texts and oldest MSS.) over the earth" (see further on chap. 5:9,10 below).

Here we have again the expression "a kingdom and priests." While we have not a word like this in the Church Epistles, yet we have a passage in the Old Testament where very similar words are used, and truth declared of Israel. Ex. 19:5,6: "Ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation."

True, these words are found in the New Testament; but they are in the Epistle addressed to the sojourners of the Diaspora"* : i.e., "the Dispersion," a believing remnant of scattered Israel. These are the People who are concerned in the promise of Ex. 19:5,6, and Rev. 1:6 and 5:10: and not the Church of God.

* (...), scattered abroad, came to be the technical term for the dispersed portion of Israel. It is found in LXX. Jer. 34 (Sept. 41.) 17. Ps. 147:2 (Sept. 146:2). Judith 5:19. Compare Josephus, Wars, 7.3. In the New Testament we have the word in John 7:35. Jas. 1:1. 1 Pet. 1:1. (We may compare the technical use, in Holland, of the term "The Beggars").

(3) "His Father" (1:6).

This is the part of the expression which we have just considered: and it is important. Twice we have it in this book, spoken of Christ (1:6 and 14:1), but not once in the Pauline, or Church Epistles.

There, in every one of the Epistles addressed to the Churches (seventeen times), it is always "OUR" Father. See Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:3; 2 Cor. 1:2; Gal.1:4; Eph. 1:2; Phil. 1:2, 4:20; Col:1:2; 1 Thess. 1:1,3, 3:11,13; 2 Thess. 1:1,2, 2:16. Also in 1 Tim. 1:2; Philem. 3.

When we say that we have "His Father" in revelation, and never in the Epistles; and "our Father" in the Epistles and never in Revelation, we have said enough to show that we have here a further point, affording its cumulative evidence to our fundamental proposition that the Church of God is not the subject of the Apocalypse.

(4) "Kingdom and Patience" (1:9).

John is the "brother" specially of those who were of the seed of Abraham. The term can hardly be used here, we submit, either of mere human brotherhood, or of Christian brotherhood, when all else in this chapter and in the book is so evidently stamped with a Jewish character.

John says, "I am your brother and fellow-partaker in the tribulation and kingdom and patience with Jesus."

Here (according to all the Critical Greek Texts and the R.V.) the words "in the" before "kingdom" must be omitted; and the word "in" must be inserted before "Jesus": while the word "Christ" must also be omitted after "Jesus." The verse then stands as we have here given it. The R.V. inserts the italics "which are in Jesus." The word (...) (en), in, may well be rendered, with; as it is rendered 138 times in the New Testament; and then there is no ellipsis to be supplied.

Here is companionship in patient waiting. For that is the meaning of the word rendered "patience,"* and it always has the thought of endurance underlying it.

* It occurs seven times in this book: 1:9; 2:2,3,19; 3:10; 13:10; 14:12.

It is a patient-waiting and enduring in tribulation; yet a patient waiting and expectation of the "kingdom;" and all this "with Jesus," for "this man after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God from henceforth expecting till his enemies shall have been placed as a footstool for his feet."

He is "expecting," and He is also patiently waiting (see 2 Thess. 3:5, margin), and so are we with Him, but the waiting referred to here is a patient endurance in tribulation and for the kingdom.

We, too, as members of the Church of God have need of patience, and endurance; but we are looking, not for the kingdom, but for the KING Himself (not as King, for He is not so proclaimed till His enemies are subdued); and though we, too, exercise this patient endurance in tribulation, it is not in "the tribulation," but we are waiting to be taken away before that tribulation comes upon the earth. This expression therefore is worthy of note, and its evidence has to be added to the other expressions used.

(5) "Out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged Sword" (1:16).

There can be no question as to the meaning of this expression. The (...) (rhomphaia) a sharp or two-edged sword, is four times attributed to the Lord in this prophecy, viz., 1:16; 2:12,16; 19:15,21.* And in each case it has to do with slaying and not with speaking; with deeds and not with words.

* It occurs also in Luke 2:35, making five times in all.

It is "the captain of the Lord's host" come with his sword (Josh. 5:13). It is the sword of Jehovah come to execute His judgments (Isa. 34:6); and with which He will plead with His people (Is. 66:16). It is the sword referred to under other titles (Isa. 11:4 and 2 Thess. 2:8), with which, at His coming in judgment, He will destroy the Man of Sin, the Lawless one.

the sword is no priestly weapon; nor can it have any relation to or connection with the Church of God in any aspect whatsoever: for grace characterises all relations between "Christ and His Church."

(6) "A Great Voice" (1:10,12).

This expression links on the book of Revelation to the book of Deuteronomy, especially if we regard it in the connection with the fire, with which it is associated in each case.
Ten times is the voice of God speaking "out of the midst of the fire" heard in Deuteronomy: viz., chaps. 4:12,15,33,36; 5:4,22(19)*, 23(20), 24(21), 25(21), 26(23).

* The figures in a parenthesis denotes the different verse numeration of the Hebrew Text.

Here, in Rev. 1:10, John hears "a great voice," and it is connected with fire, for the eyes of the speaker were "as a flame of fire" (ver. 14) and his feet "as if they burned in a furnace" (ver. 15).

  • In Deut. 4:12 (the first reference) the expression is associated with the giving of the Law, and the declaring of Jehovah's Covenant (4:13).

  • The second is a command to "take heed" to the voice (4:15), and keep from idolatry.

  • The third and fourth are connected with their turning to the Lord when scattered among the nations, seeking Him and finding Him in the "Tribulation;" and the being obedient to that voice in "the latter days" (4:27-36). This tells us of the latter days in Revelation, when they will be brought to hear the "Voice" (4:33,36), and to attend to it.

  • The fifth is again associated with God's Covenant to which He will be true (5:4).

  • The sixth and seventh with the giving of the Law, 5:22(19), 23(20).

  • The eighth with the greatness and the glory of Jehovah (5:24, Heb. 21).

  • The ninth and tenth are references to it by the People (5:25,26).

All these are brought together, and combined, and fulfilled in the Apocalypse, when Israel will again hear that Voice and, take heed to it, and in their Tribulation turn unto the Lord and seek His face and find Him and rejoice in the faithfulness of a covenant-keeping God.

(7) "He that hath an ear, let him hear" (2:7).

This expression is absolutely Hebrew in its character, origin, and use. It is never used with reference to, or in connection with, the Church of God.

By application of course it told those who first read it of the cause of all declension - failure to hear what the Spirit had already said to the Churches by the Apostle Paul. By application also, it reminds us of the same cause today. But the interpretation which will exhaust the seven-fold expression is that which leaps over the present Church period, and links together the Gospels and Acts with the Apocalypse.

The expression (which is slightly varied in form) as first used in the Gospels is connected solely with, and marks, a change of dispensation. When used again in Revelation another great change of dispensation is about to take place. It is to be wrought by "the Son of Man," who has received authority to show it to "His servants."

Such a change could be known only to God, ruled and over-ruled by Him. None but Divine foreknowledge, therefore, could make it known. The Son of Man alone made use of this weighty expression: and on fourteen separate occasions He called for the deepest attention to what was being announced.

Now, the number fourteen is most significant; twice seven, denoting a special Divine revelation made by "the Son of Man." And these fourteen* are divided into six and eight (just as seven is divided into three and four). For six of them occur in the Gospels and eight in the Revelation. Six were spoken by Him as the Son of Man on earth, and eight as the Son of Man from glory. Six being the number pertaining to man, and eight being the number connected with resurrection.**

* The occasions were 14, but the actual occurrences of this example of the Figure are sixteen on account of the repetition of the Parable of the Sower in the parallel Gospel records. Sixteen is a square number (4X4) marking completeness.

** For the significance of these numbers see Number in Scripture.

The six occasions on earth are Matt. 11:15; 13:9,43. Mark 4:23: 7: 16, and Luke 14:35. The eight from Heaven are Rev. 2:7,11,17,29; 3:6,13,22; and 13:9. These, like the six in the Gospels, are Dispensational, and are thus associated with the great change in God's relation to the earth, to "the Jew and the Gentile," which was about to take place.

The first use of the expression in Matt. 11:15 is most significant, and stamps it as belonging to the setting up of the kingdom with power and glory. Elijah's presence on the holy mount characterises the scene there as representing the power and coming of that kingdom (Matt. 16:28; 2 Pet. 1:16,17,18), while Mal.4:5 (Heb. 3:23) connects Elijah's ministry with the setting up of that kingdom.

It has been proclaimed of John before his birth "he shall go before Him (i.e, Messiah) in the spirit and power of Elijah" (Luke 1:17); and again, in Luke 1:76,77, it was announced: "And thou, child, shalt be called prophet of the Highest *: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; to give knowledge of salvation unto his people, by (marg., for) the remission of their sins," etc.

* This title is always connected with dominion in the earth. See Gen. 14:18-22.

John the Baptist was therefore invested with Elijah's "spirit and power" (i.e., Elijah's spiritual power), and was specially designated as "the prophet of the Most High." Therefore our Lord could say in Matt. 11:14,15: "If ye will receive him, this is (i.e., represents) Elijah which was for to come. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear."

But "their ears were dull of hearing" (Matt. 13:15), fulfilling the dispensational prophecy of Isa. 6:10: Therefore they did not "receive him;" and, consequently, "Elijah the prophet" is still to come. Hence it is that, in the Book which relates to the events connected with the ministry of Elijah and his work in connection with the restoration of the kingdom, we again meet with this dispensational admonition: which takes us back not merely to Matt. 11:15, but to Mal. 4:5, "He that hath ears to hear, let him hear."

Thus we have in the expression another proof that the Church of God is not the subject of the Apocalypse; and that we are reading here, not of the period belonging to the ministry of Paul the Apostle, or of the period of present Church history, as the historicists assert; but, of that which belong to the ministry of "Elijah the Prophet."


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